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December 15, 2015: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips | Mid Morning Clips

All - December 15, 2015

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Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Ex-sheriff Garcia to challenge Rep. Gene Green

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia filed Monday to challenge longtime Democratic Congressman Gene Green in the 29th District, a risky intra-party bid against a popular incumbent. The move comes less than two months after Garcia's third-place finish in the Houston mayor's race, which already had created some ill will among local Democrats upset that he gave up his post as sheriff, costing the party its highest-profile countywide office. "What I am doing is with all the intention to strengthen the party and help cultivate a Hispanic electorate that can help move the country forward," Garcia told the Chronicle as he filed his paperwork, less than an hour before Monday's 6 p.m. deadline.

The Hill - December 14, 2015

Ted Cruz isn't just surging — he's winning

Every show has an end. Just like "The Apprentice" — gripping the first few few seasons, tired and contrived in the last — Donald Trump's campaign is aging toward death, one reckless outburst at at time. Although the casual political junkie wouldn't know by the looks of most polls, the media fetish with The Donald and his cultish following. With primaries a bit less than 50 days out, at this point, previously skeptical pundits have assumed not only that Trump is the front-runner in the GOP primary, but that there is no real contest. But while cable news is capitalizing off of kabuki theater, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been backstage outplaying the entire GOP field.

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2015

Biker melee shows challenge of wielding gun in self defense during a shooting

Perhaps the worst place for a shooting to break out is in the middle of a bunch of people with guns, who are flanked by police who have bigger guns and are already expecting trouble. That is one of the scenarios regarding what happened at the Twin Peaks in Waco during a May melee that left at least nine bikers dead, about two dozen wounded, and 177 charged with engaging in organized crime. Ballistics reports recently leaked to the Associated Press conclude that four of the dead were shot by rifle rounds that would be fired from the weapons carried by police. In the days after the shooting, there was a rumor that four had been killed by police, but as far as public proof went, it was a mystery.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Tea party and GOP establishment battling again in Texas House races

Texas Republicans soon will know more about whether the next Legislature is likely to swerve harder to the right after their party’s primary elections next year. As candidates face a Monday night filing deadline, establishment Republicans are hoping Texas’ new relevance in the GOP presidential nominating battle will generate a bigger turnout than usual in the March 1 primary — and specifically more votes for establishment types better known than their tea party-aligned challengers. Staunch conservatives, though, hope disgruntled Texans who are drawn to presidential hopefuls such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will dominate the upcoming primary. They note that very conservative legislative candidates did very well in the 2014 midterm elections, especially on the Senate side.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Experts: King's close race not a sign of GOP resurgence in Houston

Bill King's near-upset over Sylvester Turner in the Houston mayoral runoff stoked the hopes of some Republicans that the party soon could break Democrats' 34-year hold on City Hall. Political experts, however, attributed King's success more to his unique profile as a moderate fiscal conservative than a Republican resurgence in the Bayou City. "King pretty skillfully positioned himself. He didn't run as a Republican but happily accepted the support of Republicans," University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said. "You might get elected with support from Republicans, but that's not enough to win unless the turnout is extremely skewed."

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Gilmore, Pataki Miss Filing Deadline for Texas Primary

Two bottom-tier Republican presidential candidates have missed the filing deadline for the Texas primary. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and former New York Gov. George Pataki did not submit the necessary paperwork to get on the ballot for the March 1 nominating contest. They had until 6 p.m. Monday to do so. A dozen major GOP hopefuls met the deadline, according to the state party. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the first to file, and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was the last.

Austin American Statesman - December 15, 2015

Warrant: Person of interest spoke to others about plans to shoot judge

A man being held in relation to the shooting attack on Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek made plans to kill her and spoke to others about the scheme, according to a search warrant filed in Harris County. The court documents are the first public filings to make a connection between Chimene Onyeri and the Nov. 6 assassination attempt since the Houston native was named a person of interest in Austin police’s investigation that now includes the FBI.

Politico - December 15, 2015

Gun control becomes a litmus test in Democratic primaries

Liberals across the country are challenging fellow Democrats on guns in primaries, opening up divisions within the party on one of the most volatile issues of 2016. In the Ohio Senate primary, a young city councilman is attacking former Gov. Ted Strickland, a popular Democrat who once touted National Rifle Association support. In the Las Vegas suburbs, four Democrats are racing to see who is more anti-gun, including one candidate who renounced his NRA membership. In central Florida — a pro-gun area — a rising star in the Democratic Party is under scrutiny for votes like one that prevented companies from banning guns from their parking lots.

NBC News - December 14, 2015

NBC/WSJ Poll: Terror Fears Reshape 2016 Landscape

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have vaulted terrorism and national security to become the American public's top concern, and they've helped drive President Barack Obama's job rating to 43 percent — its lowest level in more than a year, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. What's more, seven-in-10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction — the highest percentage here since Aug. 2014. And 71 percent say the shootings and random acts of violence that have taken place this year -- from Charleston, S.C., Oregon and Colorado, to the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino, Calif. -- are now are now a permanent part of American life.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Garcia on U.S. House run: 'I'm not challenging Gene Green'

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia filed Monday to challenge longtime Democratic Congressman Gene Green in the 29th District, a risky intra-party bid against a popular incumbent. The move comes less than two months after Garcia's third-place finish in the Houston mayor's race, which already had created some ill will among local Democrats upset that he gave up his post as sheriff, costing the party its highest-profile countywide office. "What I am doing is with all the intention to strengthen the party and help cultivate a Hispanic electorate that can help move the country forward," Garcia told the Chronicle as he filed his paperwork, less than an hour before Monday's 6 p.m. deadline. "I'm not challenging Gene Green. I'm challenging Donald Trump with all of his vitriol, rhetoric, dividing the community and insulting hardworking men and women."

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Cervantes: Patterson gets trumped

When David Porter, the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, abruptly announced he was withdrawing his re-election bid, it shocked political observers and set off a flurry of speculation about who could jump in the race with just a few days before the candidate filing deadline. Whoever would step up, they'd have to put together a statewide election effort incredibly quickly, and that probably was going to be easier for someone who had done it before, unlike, say, a sophomore state representative. The initial chatter, then, centered around a potential bid by Jerry Patterson, the state's former land commissioner. It had been a while since Patterson lost his bid for the Texas GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, and he was already a known quantity among the political class in Austin. He could do it, the conventional wisdom went.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2015

Falkenberg: Time to stop pointing fingers on health care and do something

During a crisis, we expect our political leaders to respond. We expect them to, well, lead. The fact that 88,000 people in Houston have lost their health insurance plans, including thousands in active cancer treatment, is a crisis in my book. Statewide, more than 367,000 Texans are in the same boat after Blue Cross and Blue Shield decided the PPO (preferred provider organization) plans they purchased were losing too much money. People pushed into HMOs may lose family doctors, they may lose quality, and they will certainly lose options. How have Texas' top elected leaders responded? Gov. Greg Abbott hasn't issued one press release. He hasn't talked about potential legislative fixes. He hasn't even used his bully pulpit to urge insurers to grant exceptions for the sickest patients.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Season's first Affordable Care Act deadline is at hand

Those who want to ensure they have health insurance coverage on Jan. 1 must sign up for a new plan or continue an existing one through the Affordable Care Act's exchange by Tuesday. The looming enrollment deadline drew U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to Texas on Monday. She stopped at an H-E-B grocery store on San Antonio's east side to spotlight its approach. This first deadline is especially important for those who have appointments with doctors or clinics in early January. Overall enrollment in this third year of the federally mandated exchange ends Jan. 31. Those who miss the Tuesday deadline can still enroll and get coverage, but the effective date may be later. Those who sign up by Jan. 15 will get coverage beginning Feb. 1, for example, and those who enroll by Jan. 31 will have coverage March 1.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Cervantes: San Antonio showdowns

It was fun while it lasted, Houston. The focus on your high-stakes mayoral runoff race drew national attention, but now that retiring state Rep. Sylvester Turner is making his way to City Hall -- even if he won in a nail biter - we're off to the next political brawl in Texas. Next up: San Antonio. Voters in the Senate districts anchored in the Alamo City will find hotly contested primary fights that include the city's most powerful politicians. Over the weekend, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer let everyone in on the worst kept secret in Texas politics: He will run for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 26, finding himself again in a head-to-head match with freshman Sen. Jose Menendez. Menendez's vote for the Senate budget last session, which passed the chamber in a 30-1 vote, has been Martinez Fischer's not-so-veiled punch. Even Sunday at his announcement, Martinez Fischer went after his former House colleague on the budget vote that no doubt will be at the center of the Democratic debate for months to come.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

How Texas primary congressional races shaped up

North Texas congressmen will mostly face minor opposition on March primary ballots, while two open seats in South and West Texas are teed up for battles. The primary races to replace Reps. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, have drawn a crowd of candidates, including several local officials. Both lawmakers announced earlier this year they would not seek re-election. Candidates to replace Hinojosa include Democrats Joel Quintanilla, a Hidalgo County Commissioner and former mayor of Mercedes; Johnny “JP” Partain, who’s run twice before for the seat; Ruben O. Villarreal, the former mayor of Rio Grande City. Other Democrats on the ballot are Realtor Dolly Elizondo, accountant Rance G “Randy” Sweeten and attorneys Juan Sonny Palacios Jr. and Vicente Gonzalez.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Almost all statewide judges running for reelection

At the end of the filing deadline on Monday, almost all incumbent Supreme Court and Criminal Appeals judges filed for reelection. Just one — Judge Cheryl Johnson of the Court of Criminal Appeals — had not filed to run for office again, according to the Secretary of State’s website. The others want to come back. But they all will face primary challenges. Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann is being challenged by Michael Massengale, a Houston appeals court judge. Massengale boasts the endorsements of Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams and several others.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Abbott selects DISD trustee Mike Morath as Texas’ new education commissioner

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday appointed Dallas Independent School District Trustee Mike Morath, an admittedly nerdy businessman who wants to use data to transform schools, as Texas education commissioner. Abbott said Morath has been a “change agent” during his four years on the Dallas school board and will bring an innovative spirit to the commissioner’s job. Morath will oversee the Texas Education Agency and the state’s more than 1,200 school districts and charter schools. “The state of Texas is exceptional, and our education system must be too,” Abbott said in a statement.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Texas A&M System will open marine research center in Israel

The Texas A&M System announced on Monday plans to open a $5.5 million marine research center in Israel, pivoting away from a planned branch campus in a Northern Israel city. Two years ago, then-Gov. Rick Perry and Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp announced the “Texas A&M Peace University.” It was a planned branch of Texas A&M to be built in Nazareth — a Northern Israel city populated predominately by Palestinian Arabs. But Texas A&M System officials announced they were scrapping those plans at a press conference Monday morning, saying Israeli officials wanted to control the direction of the campus. “We cannot put Texas A&M’s name out and not have Texas A&M call all the shots,” Sharp said on Monday.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Seven candidates file in Railroad Commission race

Seven candidates, four Republicans and three Democrats, on Monday had filed paperwork to run for one of three seats on the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the lucrative Texas oil and gas industry. Monday was the deadline for candidates to seek a spot on the 2016 ballot. Two former state lawmakers were among the most high-profile candidates to join the crowded race. But perhaps more noteworthy were those who chose not to become candidates, including former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who blamed GOP front-runner Donald Trump for his decision to stay out of the race. Incumbent Republican David Porter, chairman of the commission, announced last week that he was withdrawing from the race.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

DMN: ‘Policy wonk’ Morath to take reforms to state’s top education job

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is spot on with the description of his new education commissioner: Mike Morath has been a “change agent” of the highest order in his four years on the Dallas ISD board of trustees. Representing District 2 in North and Near East Dallas since 2011, Morath helped lay the groundwork for significant change throughout DISD. His tenure also has not been without controversy — the data-driven policy wonk is not afraid to disrupt things.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Father of Wimberley flood victim: Better alerts needed

Seven months after the Memorial Day weekend flooding killed his daughter and two grandchildren in Wimberley, Stephen Schultz still has trouble discussing the tragic night. But on Monday, he recounted their story to the Texas Water Development Board and urged state leaders to invest more in flood monitoring and alert systems. “I thought about this long and hard for the last seven months, and what I could do to further the advance of early warning systems around the river,” said Schultz, a land surveyor in Comal County. “They weren’t getting any warnings. They didn’t have warnings, and no TV, so they didn’t see anything on TV. And the house was sitting on stilts about 8 feet in the air, and by the time they noticed the water toward the first floor, they had an 8-foot depth of water.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Whole Foods’ Mackey denies reports company plans to go private

Whole Foods Market co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey on Monday denied reports that the Austin-based company is looking to go private. Speculation about a possible buyout began popping up in November, and last week investing news website Benzinga reported that two private equity firms — Cerberus Capital Management, which owns the Albertson’s grocery chain, and Brazilian firm 3G Capital — were looking to take Whole Foods private in a joint offer.

Austin American Statesman - December 15, 2015

Districts withhold data from state in 15 teacher misconduct cases

State investigators — who say they are sometimes hampered by school districts that decline to provide information about teachers accused of sexual abuse or improper relationships with students — received subpoena power earlier this year, and they have used it 15 times since Sept. 1. The Texas Education Agency has released to the American-Statesman copies of five subpoenas it has issued to the Eanes, Pflugerville and El Paso school districts as well as to the United school district in the Laredo area. The TEA, which can sanction and revoke educator licenses, has declined to release the rest of the subpoenas because they are related to investigations that are still open.

Austin American Statesman - December 15, 2015

Herman: Texas Land Office bans, then unbans concealed weapons at agency

There was a time when Texans proudly elected statewide officials with a certain flair that helped cement the rest of the nation’s fondest impressions or worst fears about our fine state. For example, we once had a state land commissioner who carried a pistol in his boot. But that was another time, dating way, way back to last December. Now Jerry Patterson is out and George P. Bush is in as land commissioner. And last Friday, Bush’s staff announced a new policy in which General Land Office employees would no longer be allowed to carry concealed weapons on the job. (It’s semi-important to note that Patterson, then a state senator, authored the concealed carry law.)

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

DeVore, Furth: Economic freedom close to home

A dozen government policies cost the typical American family $4,440 per year. These costly policies include the ethanol mandate for fuel, vehicle mileage standards, and sugar import quotas at the federal level. At the state and local levels, it includes occupational licensing rules, auto dealership monopolies, renewable energy mandates, and land-use regulation. Austin consumers pay $5,750 more for a car, 50 cents more for a gallon of milk, and 31 cents more for a gallon of gas because of 12 policy mistakes.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2015

Central Texas Research Chimps Face Uncertain Future

BASTROP — Tucked into the semi-wilderness a few miles north of this Central Texas town, within spitting distance of a federal prison, Nahja, a 25-year old chimpanzee at the Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, wraps a handful of woolly nesting material around her head into something that resembles a shawl. When a handler calls her name, Nahja stretches out her massive hands and catches an orange — this morning’s treat — tossed from the observation balcony overlooking the 75-foot wide corral where she and the rest of her social group live. At the 381-acre facility, nearly a dozen groups of 9 to 12 chimpanzees wait for their oranges atop raised wooden platforms in the separated corrals that house the research animals.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Surprise Congressional Challenge Marks Close of Filing

The window for candidates to file for the March 1 primaries closed Monday evening, and Texas Democrats had a last-minute surprise as former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Houston. A race between Garcia and Green is likely to be a high-profile contest in what is expected to be a feisty 2016 primary season in Texas, topped with more than 20 presidential contenders. Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and his often-harsh words about Mexican immigrants, including plans for a border wall, helped push Garcia to file at the last minute on Monday, he said.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Flood Experts Call for Better Warning Systems

As the Blanco River rose rapidly early on May 24th, phones around Wimberley — most of which had 512 area codes — received urgent text alerts: danger, flooding, seek shelter. Laura McComb, who had a 361 area code, did not receive any such text. Her house was eight feet in the air, on stilts, and by the time the family noticed water on the first floor, just after 1:00 a.m., it was too late to evacuate. “They were forced to ride this thing out in the house,” recalled Steve Schultz, McComb’s father. “And unfortunately, a big cypress tree hit. And it was knocked off of its foundation.”

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Patterson, Declining to Run for Commission, Knocks Trump

Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is not running for state railroad commissioner, and he suggests that Donald Trump has something to do with that. Patterson was one of several high-profile Republicans flirting late last week with a bid for David Porter’s open seat on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production. But he removed himself from that discussion on Monday, saying he “has better things to do,” in a statement that also expressed disdain for Trump’s presidential ambitions.

San Antonio Express News - December 14, 2015

Mexican Mafia member sues federal government

Daniel Enrique Cantú doesn’t deny that he’s a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang — he just denies that he knew he was walking into a heroin deal when he was arrested in August 2011 in the Rio Grande Valley. Cantú, 42, is suing agents from the FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety and Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that he was set up after a failed sting and was wrongfully arrested and prosecuted. The lawsuit was initially filed in August, but his attorney made a push for media attention Monday after filing a new petition that alleges that Cantú was targeted by an informant desperate to make a case.

Texas Observer - December 14, 2015

Hooks: Closing Our Doors, Closing Our Minds to Syrian Refugees

As Greg Abbott closes his first year in office, we should note his masterful skill at making us look like fearful dolts. We might have been able to treat the Jade Helm panic as an isolated incident, if not for his deplorable reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis. No statement from the Governor’s Mansion in the last year summoned as much bile in my well-worn throat as Abbott’s vociferous declarations that Texas would never be a home to the people fleeing Syria’s charred remains. In part, that’s because I read his letter while in Germany, where I was watching how Europe is coping with the crisis. The Syrians — and Iraqis and Afghans — are fleeing, in part, the aftermath of America’s wars.

USA Today - December 14, 2015

Patrick: Ted Cruz, true conservative

To suggest that Ted Cruz cannot win the general election demonstrates a complete disconnect with the American electorate. Conservative Republicans, independents and Reagan Democrats have waited a long time to vote for a true conservative candidate. Ted Cruz is that candidate. Ted Cruz will bring out voters from all walks of life. As the first Hispanic presidential candidate, Ted will generate the highest turnout of Hispanic voters in our history. They will vote for him because he shares their values of life, traditional marriage, school choice and economic freedom. He will increase the turnout of faith-based voters because believers know another true believer by their word and deeds. He will turn out Tea Party and grassroots voters because he stands for liberty and the principles this nation was founded on.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2015

Texas' list of failing public schools grows by more than a quarter

By one measure Texas uses to identify its worst public schools, the list of campuses grew dramatically last year. As it did the year before. The new Public Education Grant list released Monday by the Texas Education Agency had 1,532 schools — out of a total of more than 8,500 statewide. Last year’s list had 1,199. The prior year, 892. North Texas school districts with troubled schools generally followed the trend. Dallas ISD has 91, up from 71 the prior year. Fort Worth ISD has 51, up from 39. Grand Prairie has 11, up from six. Richardson has five, up from two.

Texas Public Radio - December 14, 2015

Lawmakers Get Update On Refugee Resettlement Directive

State lawmakers will receive an update this Tuesday on how Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive concerning Syrian refugees is being implemented and whether resettlement groups are complying. The House’s Committee on Human Services is expected to hear from the state agency overseeing the Texas Refugee Resettlement program, the head of the Texas DPS and from faith-based groups that work with Syrian refugees. After being denied a request to ban the resettlement of Syrian refugees by a federal judge in North Texas, the state’s Health and Human Services Commission is moving forward with the other components of the governor’s directive. They will update the legislature about the state’s efforts to assess the risk of each refugee being resettled in Texas.

McAllen Monitor - December 14, 2015

Two candidates jump into 449th District Court race on final day of filing

EDINBURG — A last-minute announcement Sunday night by 449th state District Court Judge Jesse Contreras led to surprise filings on the deadline to file for the March 1 primary election. Renee “Rena” Rodriguez-Betancourt, 34, a private attorney based in Edinburg, filed to run for the county’s juvenile court judgeship following Contreras’ announcement late Sunday. Also filing Monday for Contreras’ seat was private attorney Jaime Aleman, of Edinburg. Meanwhile, several new entrants stepped forward in the wide-open race for Congress to fill the seat that will be vacated by U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa — including one candidate with a Houston address and an almost identical name to the incumbent.

The Hill - December 12, 2017

Julian Castro to Cruz after Ala. Senate election: 'Be afraid'

Julian Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, issued a warning to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after Democratic candidate Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate race Tuesday. “Be afraid, @tedcruz . Be very afraid,” Castro tweeted. Jones’s stunning victory over Republican opponent Roy Moore comes after a closely watched campaign to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Brownwood News - December 12, 2017

Rep. Mike Lang to face primary challenge from the Granbury superintendent

State Representative Mike Lang will face a primary challenge from the superintendent of Granbury ISD. Dr. Jim Largent announced his candidacy for House District 60 on his Facebook page and campaign website Monday. Largent has served as Granbury ISD Superintendent since 2012, previously serving as Rusk ISD superintendent in East Texas. ... Largent has gained attention as Granbury ISD superintendent, writing essays criticizing the politicization of school transgender bathroom policies and the state’s A-F accountability ratings system for public schools.

Phys Org - December 11, 2017

New statistical method links vast records, shows negative effect of Texas voter ID law

"Our evidence suggests a smaller number of people lack ID than recent survey evidence suggests, and it also suggests a discriminatory effect of the law, in line with concerns of those who believe these laws disproportionately affect minorities," noted Eitan Hersh, associate professor of political science at Tufts University and co-author of the paper. "Specifically, we found that white registered voters are significantly more likely to possess a voter ID than African-American or Hispanic voters."

Midland Reporter-Telegram - December 11, 2017

24-year-old to vie for Craddick’s District 82 seat

A 24-year-old veteran of Democratic politics is taking the very large step to challenge former House Speaker Tom Craddick for the District 82 seat in the state House of Representatives. Inspired by a wave of Democratic challengers across the region and across the state, Spencer Bounds of Midland told the Reporter-Telegram on Monday he is ready to run for the Democratic Party nomination and, if successful, take on the daunting task of facing the longest-serving representative in state House history.

San Antonio Current - December 11, 2017

Opponents Say Texas Law Forcing Women to Bury Abortion Remains is Political, Violates Non-Christian Beliefs

Since the Texas Legislature passed a multifaceted anti-abortion bill in June, most of the focus has been on a lawsuit against one piece of the sweeping law that blocks the safest second-trimester abortion procedure. But there's another contested part to the SB 8 bill, aiming to go into effect in February, that's returned to the spotlight — the piece that forces clinics to cremate and bury the remains of an abortion or miscarriage, regardless of the woman's wishes or religion. In some cases, this means cremating and burying fetal tissue around the size of a quarter.

E-Paris Extra - December 12, 2017

Former state representative of Lamar County dies at 82

Lyndon Pete Patterson, former state representative for Lamar County, passed away this weekend at Honey Grove Nursing Center. A Lamar County native, Patterson began his political career in 1972 when he was elected as a Lamar County commissioner. Four years later, Patterson was sworn in as state representative for Lamar, Delta, Fannin, Hopkins and Rains counties where he served from 1976-1999.

Wall St. Journal - December 14, 2015

Why This Home Builder Doesn’t Have to Slip on Oil

LGI Homes has been growing so quickly investors could be forgiven for thinking they had been transported back in time to the housing boom. The way the home builder’s stock has fallen this month, they could also be forgiven for thinking they are back in the housing bust. It doesn’t help, either, that LGI’s home state of Texas represents a big chunk of its business, exposing it to the oil-price rout. Or that LGI builds its houses on “spec”—that is with no identified buyers. Or that it is focused on the exurbs and touts the chance to own a new home “for $0 down.”

KTVT - December 14, 2015

Undocumented Teens Spend First Night In Ellis County

Undocumented minors are finding temporary shelter in Ellis County. About 50 teens arrived Friday afternoon, the first of hundreds expected to stay at the Lakeview Camp and Conference Center over the next three weeks. Organizers say the teens were checked in, assigned rooms and given dinner. “They have an indoor pool up in there. It’s awesome! It’s a really great place. It’s actually perfect for them. It’s just not perfect for us,” said Scott Bailey, who lives about three miles from the property. Like some neighbors in the area, he’s nervous. “We’ve got all this terrorist stuff going on. You don’t know. I mean, we don’t know,” he said.

Associated Press - December 14, 2015

Smuggled immigrants found in fake Border Patrol SUV

A dozen smuggled immigrants have been detained after being crammed into a fake Border Patrol SUV that was stopped by a real officer in Texas. Border Patrol officials say they're investigating who made a white Chevy Tahoe look like a Border Patrol vehicle. A Border Patrol agent from the Laredo sector last Thursday afternoon noticed something wasn't quite right about what appeared to be a government SUV.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

It’s official: John Wiley Price, Dwaine Caraway set to square off for Dallas County commissioner in March

An epochal battle between two of Dallas’s most prominent African-American politicians — John Wiley Price and Dwaine Caraway — is taking shape with both candidates officially set to run for the District 3 Commissioners Court seat. Monday is the filing deadline for candidates running for local, state and national offices at the March 1 primary. But in Dallas County, it’s the race between Price and Caraway that is most significant. The commissioners race pits the two longtime rivals in a contest that will test Price’s political power as he seeks to retain a seat he’s held for 30 years while awaiting trial on federal corruption charges.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

The Dam Called Trouble

The problem — one of many — first appeared as last May’s record rainstorms quickly filled the region’s reservoirs. An instrument at the Lewisville Lake Dam showed pressure building under the downstream side. Jason Vazquez, dam safety program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at the time, collared another engineer, and in pelting rain they raced to the affected area, officially known to the Corps as “Seepage Area No. 1.” Even during the seven-year drought, the area had looked like a swamp, covered with chest-high cattails and weeds. Corps technicians sometimes encountered water moccasins and alligators as they measured seepage. This time, Vazquez and his partner, wearing rain slickers and rubber boots, spotted something far more disturbing: water and sand bubbling up from a tiny hole in the ground.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Greg Hamilton not running for re-election as Travis County sheriff

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton did not file to run for re-election on Monday, the candidate registration deadline. The decision by Hamilton, who initially said he wouldn’t run but floated the possibility of getting in the race this fall, means the popular top cop’s run as sheriff will end at 12 years next year. It also means that his most unpopular policy — cooperating with a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that facilitates deportation proceedings — will likely come to an end as well.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2015

DMN: Army Corps needs to square with region on Lewisville Dam dangers

Underestimating a threat can have catastrophic consequences, as the nation learned when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Poorly maintained levees failed, and nature’s violent forces virtually destroyed a great American city. Dallas doesn’t sit along a coast line, but it does face a catastrophic flooding threat from aging Lewisville Dam, about 30 miles north of the city. When Lake Lewisville is full, the dam holds back 2.5 billion tons of water. If the dam were to fail, the loss of life and consequences for North Texas’ economy would be a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Walls of water would tear through parts of Lewisville, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving all the way to downtown Dallas, which could be under 50 feet of water.

San Antonio Express News - December 14, 2015

Chamber Chairwoman Flores makes jobs her 2016 goal

AT&T Inc. executive Renée Flores boils down her 2016 agenda as San Antonio Chamber of Commerce chairwoman to this simple mantra: Retaining, creating and attracting jobs. Flores, based in San Antonio as AT&T’s regional vice president for external and legislative affairs, unveiled her top three priorities for next year at the chamber’s annual gala Dec. 5 and in an interview. Her one-year term at the helm of the 2,103-member chamber, the city’s largest business organization, begins Jan. 1. One priority has a technology theme — Flores said she is targeting cybersecurity.

San Antonio Express News - December 14, 2015

March 1 primary contenders shape 2016 ballots

Contested races in Bexar County for Congress and the Legislature will generate some of the political sparks going into March 1 primary elections. But there will also be some lively down-ballot rivalries as candidates line up for county commissioner, sheriff, constable and other offices. The Super Tuesday ballots took shape on Monday as filing ended for contenders in the 2016 Republican and Democratic primaries.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Port of Houston reaches a milestone for containers

More than 2 million containers have moved across Port of Houston Authority docks this year, setting a traffic record for the huge shipping units that arrive daily laden with everything from toys and clothes to heavy industrial equipment. Last year, the equivalent of 1.96 million 20-foot containers arrived here, and the Port Authority expects the numbers to keep rising. In anticipation, it has been upgrading and increasing capacity at its two container terminals, Bayport and Barbours Cut. The authority registered the 2 millionth container equivalent on Thursday. "We are so pleased to witness this significant milestone in the port's history as we continue to strive to advance the Port of Houston and solidify its position as America's distribution hub today and for generations to come," Port Commission Chairwoman Janiece Longoria said in a statement.

City Stories

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 13, 2015

It’s time to ‘shame’ panhandlers, Fort Worth leader says

Fort Worth Councilwoman Gyna Bivens is growing more concerned about the number of panhandlers in her district and appears willing to take the matter into her own hands. “I know my panhandlers by name, and they don’t speak to me anymore,” Bivens said. “I’ve cussed enough of them.” Her comments came at the end of last week’s precouncil meeting — and on the heels of Councilman Cary Moon asking the city attorney for a clarification about city ordinances regarding panhandlers — when Bivens chimed in with an admittedly “somewhat illegal” idea to handle the issue.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Third company to join ride-hailing fray in Austin

A new ride-hailing company will join Uber and Lyft in the Austin market Tuesday, just two days before the Austin City Council considers tighter regulations that have caused the two existing companies to threaten a shutdown of operations here. Officials with the third, much smaller company, Dallas-based Get Me, say they have no problem with the fingerprint-based criminal background checks the council is contemplating. And despite having operations in only four cities and just eight full-time employees, Get Me co-founder Jon Laramy said the company can deal with the potential influx of Austin business.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Zimmerman says officeholder account could bypass city campaign rules

Only a few months after his campaign for Austin City Council ended in December 2014 with a narrow victory, Don Zimmerman says he was in the midst of another political campaign. Testifying before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Monday as part of his lawsuit over the city’s campaign finance rules, Zimmerman said political opponents targeted him by filing variousethics complaints against him. “I started to get attacked publicly,” he said, and these stories were covered by a local media that he generally considers biased against him. A single “negative article” in the media can reach not just his district, but the entire state, he said, affecting his ability to raise campaign money.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Ruling by Texas AG doesn't determine Uptown bus project's fate

A Texas attorney general's opinion eagerly awaited by critics and supporters of planned Uptown bus lanes has provided little clarity for either side. The opinion by Ken Paxton's office appears to give the Metropolitan Transit Authority a path to join with the Uptown Houston Management District and an associated tax increment reinvestment zone to build lanes along Post Oak between transit centers near U.S. 59 and Interstate 10. In the ruling, Paxton said the issue centered on the $640 million in bonds voters approved in 2003, part of an overall rail plan for the Houston area. Metro promised voters to develop light rail along the route.

National Stories

Associated Press - December 14, 2015

Clinton outlines immigration reform plan

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton proposed Monday that people applying to be U.S. citizens should get a break in fees and lamented complex immigration laws that she said can tear families apart. In a speech to the annual National Immigration Integration Conference in Brooklyn, the former secretary of state said she wants to give more help to people eligible for citizenship. She said she would waive the fees, increase access to language programs and close privately run detention centers as part of a plan to create a "path to full and equal citizenship." "If you work hard, if you love this country and want nothing more to build a good future for you and your children, we should give you a way to come forward and become a citizen," she said.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

PolitiFact - December 14, 2015

PolitiFact: Ted Cruz misquotes CIA official, makes false claim on bombing ISIS oil and climate change

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz tore into President Barack Obama’s strategy against ISIS in an NPR interview. Cruz, who vowed to "utterly destroy ISIS" and "carpet bomb them into oblivion," said Obama is not serious about defeating the jihadists. The Texas senator brought up Obama’s former CIA deputy director, Mike Morell, to show how Obama has prioritized a green agenda instead. "Mike Morell testified and told Congress that the reason Obama has not bombed ISIS' oil fields is they're concerned about global warming," Cruz said on Dec. 8’s Morning Edition. "This is nonsense." ... We found no instances of Morell testifying before Congress on this point. He did talk about Obama’s ISIS strategy on PBS, but Cruz misquotes what he said. ... We rate Cruz’s claim False.

Bloomberg - December 14, 2015

House Democrats Said to Be Open to Lifting Oil Export Ban

House Democrats are open to lifting the 40-year-ban on U.S. crude-oil exports and are negotiating with Republicans in hopes of extracting trade-offs in exchange for a top Republican priority, a Democratic leadership aide said Monday. Senate leaders from both parties were already near a deal but faced resistance from House Democrats and some Republicans. On Monday, House Democrats said they were willing to discuss lifting the trade restrictions, depending on what concessions they would get in exchange, said the aide, who discussed the private discussions on the condition of anonymity. An agreement could drive the most important change in U.S. oil policy in more than a generation. Repealing the trade limits would allow the United States, now the world’s largest oil and gas producer, to join other nations in allowing unfettered access to its crude.

Washington Times - December 14, 2015

Struggling DNC craves tax dollars for convention

Already struggling with finances, the Democratic Party has drafted a plan to have taxpayers help pay about $20 million for next summer’s nominating convention, reversing a change Congress approved just a year ago. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also a congresswoman from Florida, has drafted a bill to restore money that both parties used to receive from the federal government to help defray the costs of running their quadrennial conventions. The Congressional Budget Office revealed the move in a letter released Friday, which said Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s proposal to tap a presidential campaign fund would likely mean each party could get about $20 million in taxpayer money to help with costs.

The Atlantic - December 13, 2015

How a Family Allowance Could End Poverty

Fifty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned a confident government—on the brink of desegregating the South and granting its black citizens voting rights—that unless “a new and special effort” was made, America’s second Reconstruction would end tragically, like its first. It was the great hope of his (in)famous 1965 report to build support for a number of “radical” programs that would enhance the resources (and, by extension, the marital stability) of low-income black families. Stopping at liberty, in the naïve or dishonest hope that equality would somehow naturally follow, was not enough. Moynihan’s report can be seen as a push for reparations of a kind. He stood out in the government for advocating “unequal favored treatment ... to compensate for past unequal treatment.” But while his report was an unusual, high-level statement of white responsibility, as Ta-Nehisi Coates argues, it also contributed to a mass refusal to face any.

The Guardian - December 13, 2015

How US negotiators ensured landmark Paris climate deal was Republican-proof

At 11.30pm Paris time, a small group of White House officials dashed into a temporary plywood hut in the exhibition hall where, a few hours earlier, a historic legal agreement to cut emissions causing climate change was secured. They were just in time to catch a live feed of Barack Obama declaring “a turning point for the world”. These were the officials who helped set the US negotiating position for the talks – or, perhaps more accurately, helped craft the deal according to US specifications in order to insulate Obama and the agreement from attacks. When it came to Republicans in Congress, they wanted the agreement to be bullet-proof. That was no easy feat in a negotiation over an immensely complicated challenge involving nearly 200 countries, and half a dozen rival negotiating blocs.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2015

With surge in Iowa, Ted Cruz’s plan to win is clicking

For the first time last week, a poll showed Ted Cruz pulling ahead of the Republican presidential pack in Iowa. For him and his ardent fans, it was a validation — and a sign of things to come. A second poll released Saturday confirmed the finding: Cruz is now a solid front-runner in the state that will kick off the voting in February. As in his improbable Senate win three years ago in Texas, Cruz has proved shrewd and methodical in his bid for the White House, tireless and disciplined on the stump, and adept at tapping the anti-establishment currents coursing through the GOP electorate.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Smith: Don't abandon public education; it’s worth it

The accelerating move toward the privatization of public education represents a threat to democratic civil society many may not recognize. Why innovation requires the abandonment of public schools has never been adequately or even logically explained. And the damage privatization does to our social fabric is real. The motivations of many advocates for privatizing public education have long been suspect. Like those who want to privatize Social Security, they are looking for a way to get their private hands on public tax money. Publicly paid tax collectors would pour guaranteed public revenue into private bank accounts.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Mercieca: Donald Trump's rhetorical brilliance -- A communication expert explains how, exactly, he does it

Donald Trump appeals to voters' fears by depicting a nation in crisis, while positioning himself as the nation’s hero — the only one who can conquer our foes, secure our borders and “Make America Great Again.” His lack of specificity about how he would accomplish these goals is less relevant than his self-assured, convincing rhetoric. He urges his audiences to “trust him,” promises he is “really smart” and flexes his prophetic muscles (like when he claims to have predicted the 9/11 attacks). Trump’s self-congratulating rhetoric makes him appear to be the epitome of hubris, which, according to research, is often the least attractive quality of a potential leader. Trump is so consistent in his hubris, however, that it appears authentic: His greatness is America’s greatness.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Hispanic Conservatives: Cruz "Perhaps Worse" Than Trump

LAS VEGAS — After meeting with Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, Hispanic conservative leaders are expressing concern that the Texas senator is in favor of "self-deportation," an immigration position that helped defeat the last Republican nominee. Speaking with reporters Monday ahead of the fifth GOP debate, an influential group of Latino Republicans said campaign officials impressed upon them in a closed-door meeting that Cruz supports "attrition through enforcement." That view, one of the leaders said, assumes that once certain enforcement measures are put in place, "there'll be no need for legalization because there will be no undocumented immigrants in the country."

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

As Ted Cruz surges, he’s dodging potential fights with primary rivals — and even Cher

As Sen. Ted Cruz surges in Iowa, he faces new criticism from front-runner Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, among others. Cruz has touted his record as a fighter against Republican leadership and the Obama administration. But the Texan who’s known for picking fights in the Senate isn’t firing back against primary opponents yet — with one notable exception. Cruz’s recent closed-door comments about Trump’s and Carson’s judgement ticked off Trump, who Cruz has been careful not to antagonize on the campaign trail.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2015

Presidential ballot filling out with familiar names and some that aren’t

By 6 p.m. Monday, the deadline for candidates to file for a spot on the Texas ballot in 2016, 19 White House hopefuls had signed up. Eleven of the candidates are Republicans, including all those you’d expect from their many appearances on crowded debate stages: real estate magnate Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, doctor Ben Carson, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Politicos had been watching to see whether Trump, the GOP front-runner in many polls, might change his status from Republican to independent – just in case he performs poorly in the party primary – but he didn’t.

Austin American Statesman - December 15, 2015

AAS: Texas case challenges standard basic to representative democracy

One person, one vote. It’s a pretty basic democratic principle — one that seems simple enough. Until you ask whether “one person, one vote” means representational equality or voter equality. The meaning of one person, one vote was argued before the Supreme Court last week in the Texas case of Evenwel v. Abbott. Evenwel was brought to the court by the same group that also brought the affirmative action case Fisher v. the University of Texas to the court last week. Where Fisher could bring an end to the use of race as a factor in deciding who gets to attend college, Evenwel threatens to end at the state legislative level representative democracy as we think of it.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2015

Ted Cruz likely to have new role in debate: rivals’ main target

Republican insiders have been brainstorming ways to block Donald Trump. Alas, for them, the only rival who’s managed to put a scare into Trump so far is Sen. Ted Cruz. With Cruz sailing past Trump in Iowa polls, it’s a good bet that at Tuesday night’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, Trump will try to swat down the tea party Texan who for months has served as his biggest ally in the GOP field. The odds also are high that other candidates will treat Cruz as the main target, including Sen. Marco Rubio, who’s already been tangling with Cruz. Others who are gasping for attention and survival may have little choice but to pile on.

Politico - December 15, 2015

GOP bill would require vetting of immigrants' online statements

An influential House committee is preparing legislation to tighten potential loopholes in the vetting of foreigners coming into the United States — following reports that the Obama administration may have been barred from reviewing the pro-jihad online postings of one of the San Bernardino shooters. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said Monday that his panel, which oversees immigration policies, is drafting a bill that would overhaul the screening processes for visas, including the so-called “fiancée visa” that Tashfeen Malik used to enter the United States.

NPR - December 15, 2015

Obamacare Sign-Ups Could Get A Bump As Higher Penalties Kick In

Tuesday is the last day to choose a health plan under the Affordable Care Act if you want insurance coverage to begin by Jan. 1. And officials who have spent the last two years using the carrot of persuasion to get people to buy insurance through the state or federal exchanges say the time has come for the stick. That stick is a hefty fine. Penalties for failing to buy insurance will roughly double. A family of four that makes $250,000 a year could face a fine when tax time rolls around in 2017 that approaches $10,000 if they don't get coverage for 2016. Kevin Counihan, CEO of the federal insurance exchange HealthCare.gov, says he thinks the high fines will induce people who didn't have insurance before to at least shop around before deciding to skip coverage again.

NPR - December 15, 2015

Looking At Violence In America With A Financial Lens

Pain, grief and emotional loss follow mass shootings in America, and there are also other costs that add up to violence's financial toll. It's Ted Miller's job to crunch numbers on social ills like mass shootings. He's a health economist with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. For example, when then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in a 2011 incident that left six people dead and 13 injured (including Giffords), her medical costs alone were well over $500,000, he says. "I haven't calculated [the incident's cost] totally, but we would figure that each death was worth about $7 million," Miller tells NPR's David Greene. "The way we look at that is we have interviews where people have been asked how much they would pay to reduce their chance of being killed or injured in a violent incident. People actually pay that. When you look at housing prices, we pay more for housing in safe neighborhoods."

Washington Post - December 15, 2015

Liberal Hispanic activists assail Rubio, Cruz as ‘traitors’ to their culture

Liberal Hispanic groups have launched a new campaign designed to turn Latino voters against the two Cuban American Republicans who have risen to the top tier of the GOP presidential field — assailing Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as traitors to their own culture. Radio and online ads, social media posts and public discussions with Hispanic leaders in swing states are accusing Cruz and Rubio, senators from Texas and Florida, respectively, of fighting against immigration reforms, a minimum wage increase and other changes that millions of Latinos support. Many of the ads equate the two candidates to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose sharp rhetoric on immigration has until now drawn most of the attention of Hispanic activists.

Christian Science Monitor - December 14, 2015

For migrants, a push for cross-border justice

For decades, foreign workers have traveled to the US on guest worker visas to help pick fruit and vegetables, cut lawns, work in restaurants, and set up carnivals. Workers from Mexico make up the large majority of visa holders for these low-skill categories of guest laborers. Migrant workers say they expected the visa process to protect them from exploitation. But the way the system is designed can make many workers vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. Temporary workers are bound to one employer, and often arrive in the US in debt due to illegal recruitment fees or upfront transit costs.

Washington Post - December 15, 2015

Ted Cruz has been playing the Donald Trump game better than anyone

There's a concept in racing (NASCAR, bicycles, whatever) called drafting. The idea is that two competitors can see mutual benefit if one drives/bikes/runs closely behind the other. The one in front deals with wind resistance as he moves forward; the one behind deals with the drag. It's not a perfect analogy for what's happening between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but it's not terrible either. Trump has been pressing forward and saying things that most other candidates would shy away from (to put it gently). Cruz has slipped in behind him, nodding along. And that's how they stand in the polls now, one-two. As of the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, Trump is at 38 percent and Cruz is in second, with 15 percent.

Politico - December 14, 2015

Trump's next target: Ted Cruz

Donald Trump wants to pick a fight with Ted Cruz. Cruz wants no part of it. As the top two presidential contenders in most national polls prepare to square off in the CNN debate Tuesday night, one of the most important subdramas will be Trump’s attempts to engage Cruz — and Cruz’s efforts to avoid getting drawn in. Cruz fears alienating Trump’s supporters, having painstakingly positioned himself to take possession of the mogul’s large following should Trump’s backers decide he is unfit for the presidency.

San Antonio Express News - December 14, 2015

Funds to care for unaccompanied immigrant children could fall short

The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary has voiced concern that too little money is available to house and care for the unexpectedly high numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, Sylvia Burwell told members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee on Friday that the agency “may face serious funding challenges in meeting the costs of accommodating the increased number of children.” The agency hopes to avoid a repeat of the summer of 2014, when there were inadequate facilities to house tens of thousands of children and families who illegally crossed the Texas-Mexico border then voluntarily surrendered to Border Patrol agents.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2015

Cruz Enters Fifth GOP Debate in Trump's Crosshairs

LAS VEGAS — Don't get Trumped. That's the task facing Ted Cruz as he heads into the fifth Republican presidential debate in the crosshairs of the bomb-throwing billionaire. While Cruz has found himself under scrutiny from a proliferating number of rivals since the last debate, no brewing conflict could be more consequential Tuesday night than the one between the senator and The Donald. In recent days, Trump has turned on Cruz after a months-long truce of sorts, questioning whether he is beholden to the oil industry and has the right temperament to be president.

Politico - December 15, 2015

Donald does Vegas -- His feisty, freewheeling performance sets the stage for Tuesday's debate.

Donald Trump, the consummate campaign showman, came to one of show business’s biggest towns. And Trump did what Trump does: He put on a performance. For more than an hour Monday night, Trump stood center stage and whacked the media, praised the polls, and bashed, over and over, everyone who disagreed with him. And, repeatedly, he fomented fears. Of young Syrian men (“How come they have cell phones?”), of the border with Mexico (“The drugs pour across.”), of terrorism writ large (“These people are animals.”). Story Continued Below “I promise you this: President Trump will never change his tune,” he declared to huge applause at one point. “This country needs to get away from political correctness. It’s killing us. It’s killing us,” he said at another.

Politico - December 15, 2015

Clinton team starts general-election prep by vetting state parties

Top officials with Hillary Clinton’s campaign have started assessing the strength of local Democratic parties and ordering up investments to correct organizational deficiencies and financial shortfalls in the battleground states she will need in her column to win the White House. The calls and visits from senior members of Clinton’s team, who have zeroed in on local party efforts to build political muscle, have left state officials in a “holding pattern” as they wait for guidance from Brooklyn on everything from finance to strategy to hiring, said two dozen Democratic leaders in New York, Washington, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and Colorado. Story Continued Below High-level Clinton aides’ interest in the Ohio Democratic Party’s growing field program as a tool for the lead-up to November 2016 “encourages us, our volunteers and our donors, to put more resources into this effort,” said state party executive director Greg Beswick.

All - December 14, 2015

Lead Stories

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 14, 2015

Oil falls below $35 a barrel for first time since 2009

Oil fell below $35 a barrel in New York today for the first time since 2009 as Iran reiterated its pledge to boost crude exports, bolstering speculation that rising OPEC production will deepen the global glut. Futures fell as much as 3.1 percent to $34.53 a barrel in New York, the lowest since Feb. 18, 2009, in morning trading. Prices lost almost 11 percent last week, the biggest drop in a year. There’s “absolutely no chance” Iran will delay its plan to increase shipments even as prices decline, said Amir Hossein Zamaninia, the nation’s deputy oil minister for international and commerce affairs. Speculators in the U.S. have raised bearish bets to an all-time high. Diesel and gasoline futures led declines as warm U.S. weather curbed heating fuel demand.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 13, 2015

Fort Worth Democrat Lon Burnam files for Texas Railroad Commissioner

Former state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, has joined the race to become the next Texas Railroad Commissioner. Burnam drove to Austin Sunday to file for the post, just days after incumbent Republican Railroad Commissioner David Porter announced he was withdrawing from the race. But Burnam, 62, said he has been thinking about running for this commission since the 1980s and had already made up his mind to get in the race before Porter’s announcement.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Climate accord puts Texas at a crossroads

As the ink dries on a historic international climate deal, Texas faces a choice of whether to continue its status as the largest greenhouse gas emitter or reverse course with the help of its abundant clean energy resources. For the first time, 196 nations reached an agreement in Paris on Saturday to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases each country releases into the atmosphere. The United States pledged a 26 to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020, with a promise to “make best efforts” to hit the higher mark. The agreements are based on voluntary pledges of intent, with regular progress checks, a maneuver some experts said will help the Obama administration avoid submitting the proposal to a Republican-controlled Senate.

The Hill - December 14, 2015

Rubio-Cruz feud takes center stage at GOP debate

The intensifying feud between GOP presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) will be at the center of Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas. The two senators occupy the top tier of the GOP race with front-runner Donald Trump, and have increasingly battled for leverage. Rubio, who spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, will enjoy a home field advantage at The Venetian. The Florida Republican is rising in the polls, and has emerged as the top establishment pick for the GOP nomination.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Texas Commission to Weigh Historical Racing

Texas gambling regulators will decide Tuesday whether to continue a standoff between the state's racetracks and its top political leaders, with a vote on whether to outlaw a new form of gambling at the tracks. The Texas Racing Commission authorized historical racing last year, voting to allow the state's racetracks to set up wagering on past races that have already been run, only with identifying details stripped away. Some historical racing machines resemble slot machines, a detail that has alarmed some gambling opponents. The rules allowing historical racing remain in place — albeit contested in court — but no tracks have actually put the new games in place.

Washington Post - December 13, 2015

It’s Cruz, not Trump, who looks more like favorite to win GOP nomination

The Iowa caucuses are seven weeks away. Donald Trump is still the Republican front-runner. Sen. Marco Rubio is, for now, the establishment’s best (only?) hope. And Sen. Ted Cruz is the guy who looks best positioned to win. Yes, you heard that right. Cruz (R-Tex.), as of today, has the most direct route to the Republican presidential nomination — assuming that the past history of GOP nomination fights works as a broad predictor of where the 2016 race is headed. Let me elaborate. 1. Cruz is positioned as the most conservative candidate in the race. Although Trump gets all the attention for his over-the-top statements, Cruz has staked out a position on the far right on virtually every major hot-button issue, including immigration, Obamacare, national security and the fight against the Islamic State militant group.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Zimmerman’s lawsuit over Austin fundraising rules heads to court

Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman’s unprecedented lawsuit against the city will go to trial Monday, with Zimmerman hoping to upend Austin’s campaign finance rules so he can raise money year-round from donors outside the area. The suit challenges the city’s $350-per-donor contribution limit, the $36,000 cap on total donations from outside the Austin area and the prohibition on fundraising until six months before the election. Zimmerman, who filed the suit in July in federal court, has argued that these rules limit his constitutional right to free speech.

Lubbock Avalanche Journal - December 11, 2015

West Texas Drive host Jay Leeson may run for Texas House District 83

Aside from his day job, Jay Leeson spends his late afternoons as the co-host of the West Texas Drive radio program talking politics and discussing the decisions made at the state Legislature. He may wish to now be part of the decision making, as he told A-J Media on Friday that me may run for Texas House District 83 against incumbent Dustin Burrows who was elected to his first term in November 2014. He has until 6 p.m. Monday to file.

State Stories

San Antonio Express News - December 12, 2015

Pimentel: Rig the game if the numbers work against you

There exist numbers that neatly explain why some in Texas are pulling out all the stops to blunt Latino voting clout. Consider the single largest age category for the state’s racial and ethnic groups. For Latinos, 4-year-old children are the largest; for whites, those age 54. In 2009, there were 201,099 Latino births and 30,825 deaths, a ratio of 6.5 births to every death. For Texas whites, that was 136,257 to 108,607, 1.3 births to every death. By 2019, Latinos are projected to outnumber whites in Texas; by 2050, there will be roughly two Latino Texans for every white Texan.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 10, 2015

Allen: Please, please convince me gun control will work

I am not a gun enthusiast. And I find the tactics used by some pro-Second Amendment groups, particularly those in Texas, to be counterproductive and intimidating. Open carry may have passed the Texas Legislature, but it wasn’t because activists marching through the streets of Arlington with long guns across their shoulders softened the citizenry to the sight of guns as part of daily life. While I don’t own a gun, I know how to shoot one. It’s a skill I’m happy to possess, and one I intend to refine with additional practice and training. That’s what responsible gun owners and users do.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Agency to discuss $6.8 million in emergency flood money

The Texas Water Development Board on Monday will hold a public hearing on how to spend $6.8 million in emergency funding for flood-mitigation projects freed up by Gov. Greg Abbott following the flood events that have devastated Central Texas and other parts of the state this year. The money, which could go to projects like installing rain and river-level gauges, building early warning systems and making risk-evaluation plans, took a long, strange route to get to the water agency. After the deadly Memorial Day weekend floods struck near the end of the legislative session, Abbott and state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, worked together to set aside money for flood-related issues, but the Legislative Budget Board ruled that it could not be distributed.

Austin American Statesman - December 14, 2015

Plumber sues after truck with company logo used by jihadists in Syria

The black Ford F-250 started life as a truck for a Texas-based plumbing company, carrying pipes, toilets and their ilk. But then it was sold to a Ford dealership in Houston, and after that shepherded off to parts unknown. Until, that is, it appeared as the focal point of a tweet from a supposed jihadist last December. The photo indicated that the truck no longer carried ceramic parts; emerging from its cargo bed were a black-cloaked figure and an anti-aircraft gun shooting fire into the distance. According to the tweet, the truck was being used by Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (or, the "Muhaijireen Brigade"), a jihadist group fighting against the Syrian government.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

On eve of Sandy Hook anniversary, Capitol marchers call for gun limits

A mayor, a minister and a mother called for sustained efforts to reduce gun violence in America during a rally at the Capitol on Sunday that was followed by a march down Congress Avenue. The mayor, Austin’s Steve Adler, said people on no-fly lists and some people with mental illness should not be able to obtain guns. The minister, the Rev. John Elford of University United Methodist Church, said a culture that “fetishes guns” must be changed by people with backbone. The mother, Nicole Golden, who leads the Austin chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said her activism was inspired by the killing of 20 children and six educators three years ago Monday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Mackowiak: Innovation, competition are improving education

? I recently attended a fundraising lunch for IDEA Schools in Austin, which are public charter schools that admit predominantly low-income students. IDEA is a nationally recognized network of pre-K through 12 schools that seek to close the opportunity gap that exists for children in underserved communities. Their goal is to first sell these children and their parents on the dream of going to college, then immediately bring them up to their grade level — or above — on reading and math and ultimately prepare them for college. I have been a passionate supporter of education reform for many years, but this luncheon really opened my eyes. Do you know of any public school whose kids have a 100 percent college admission rate?

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2015

Ramsey: Let the Political Games (Officially) Begin

For Republican presidential candidates, Texas is the center of the universe — the biggest of the reliable red states and the source of the most electoral votes. It is to the Republicans what California is to the Democrats; the foundation of victory in national elections. Which is why Monday marks the end of one of Donald Trump’s biggest implied political threats. You know the one, the idea that if he doesn’t do well in the primaries that he might turn around and launch an independent candidacy? Not in Texas.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2015

San Antonio Democrats In Rematch For Senate Seat

Democrats Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez will once again battle over Texas Senate District 26. At a San Antonio restaurant Sunday, Martinez Fischer, a veteran member of the Texas House, announced he would challenge Menéndez, the incumbent and himself a former longtime House member, in the March primary. In their previous matchup, Menéndez beat Martinez Fischer in a February special election runoff to succeed state Sen. Leticia Van Putte, who quit to run for San Antonio mayor.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2015

DMN: Why citations instead of jail for pot make so much sense

David Brown is Dallas’ police chief and, as such, admits he has mixed feelings when the question is whether his officers should write citations instead of booking into jail those arrested for small amounts of marijuana. You can see how this might be. The cop in Brown sees minor busts as one more tool to develop informants or just information that might lead to bigger busts. Every arrest is potential leverage over a suspect, even if it’s just an ounce or two of weed. The manager in Brown sees it differently. Every minor pot arrest means a Dallas police officer must drive the suspect downtown for booking at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. If everything goes well ... and, well, it so seldom does. This means the officer is stuck waiting around, sometimes for hours.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

Bullets that killed 4 bikers in Waco shootout match caliber of rifle used by police

Four of the nine people killed in a melee between rival biker gangs outside a Texas restaurant were struck by the same caliber of rifle fired by Waco police, according to evidence obtained by The Associated Press that provides the most insight yet into whether authorities were responsible for any of the deaths and injuries. The latest trove of potential grand jury evidence reviewed by the AP depicts a chaotic, bloody scene in which police swarmed into the shootout between rival biker gangs on May 17 outside a Twin Peaks restaurant that left about 20 wounded and nearly 200 people arrested. Hours of audio and footage and hundreds of documents including ballistics reports show that four of the dead and at least one of the wounded were struck with bullets from .223-caliber rifles — the only type of weapon fired by police that day.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2015

Water district, cities to meet over removing board directors

The key issue between the North Texas Municipal Water District and its 13 member cities is almost certainly financing and “take-or-pay,” which in times of drought and mandatory conservation means towns pay for millions of gallons of water they don’t use. But in the first of what could be a series of meetings, the cities and the district Wednesday will instead talk about governance, the NTMWD’s original enabling legislation written in the 1950s and how it fits with the various city charters. The thrust, said NTMWD Executive Director Tom Kula, is “about continuing to maintain and improve our relationships with the cities. … There have been a couple of things the cities want to discuss.”

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2015

Mock mass shooting opposed - with farts

Pro-gun demonstrators staging a mock mass shooting near the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday were overwhelmed in number and ferocity by a large group of counter-protesters wielding dildos and machines that generated fart sounds. "This isn't about guns necessarily. This is about scaring our community. This is about a choice between fear and a little bit of good humor," Andrew Dobbs, a UT alumnus who organized the "mass farting" counter-protest, told the crowd. "We are in a scary time right now and lots of scary things are happening, and some people want us to be more afraid."

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2015

Drought, rain combine for terrible oyster season in Texas

The first blow was Hurricane Ike in September 2008. The storm covered nearly half the oyster beds in Galveston Bay with silt. "It suffocated them," said Clifford Hillman, president of Hillman Shrimp and Oyster Co. in Dickinson. "The amount of damage Ike did is not going to be repaired for a number of years." As the oyster reefs damaged by Ike were being rebuilt, another blow landed, this time in the form of a drought that began in 2010 and persists in many parts of the state. The drought slowed the fresh water entering Galveston Bay, thereby increasing the bay's salinity. The higher salt content created a perfect environment for diseases and predators of oysters, especially the parasite Dermo.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Irwin: Colleges favor men — but no one suggests they go to lower schools

The University of Texas is at the center of an affirmative action case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The details can be better found elsewhere, but basically they concern whether the university’s system of admissions — which sometimes includes race — is constitutional. As a professor at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, I would like to address one aspect of the arguments that I find very troubling. During oral arguments on Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school … a slower-track school, where they do well.”

Rio Grande Guardian - December 11, 2015

Rodriguez: A model of border cooperation

The Borderplex region – El Paso, Juarez and Southern New Mexico – is unique in its size, location, and proximity. El Paso, the 19th-largest city in the United States, and Juarez, the fifth-largest city in Mexico, are separated by the Rio Grande, which is no wider than a freeway. This region is known as the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North), the gap in the Southern Rockies where year-round, east-west and north-south passage is possible. Like other border communities, the Borderplex is a hub of activity where residents of the United States and Mexico live, work, and play in close proximity, and where language, culture, social life, and business interact. Each of these communities has its own flavor, whether it’s the sprawl from San Diego to Tijuana, El Paso and its symbiosis with Juarez, or the South Texas communities and their neighbors in Mexico across the widening, brush-trimmed Rio Grande as it flows southeast, meets the broad river delta, and joins the Gulf of Mexico.

Houston Press - December 11, 2015

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter is too soft on energy? Really?

After weeks spent doing all the things a politician does when gearing up to run for re-election, on Thursday Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter abruptly announced that he wasn't going to run for another term after all. Porter made his unexpected announcement with the Monday filing deadline just around the corner — former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and a clutch of other Texas Republicans are all considering jumping into the race now that Porter is out — but what's fascinating is the chatter surrounding why Porter has dropped his re-election bid. Somehow, the head of a commission that is essentially an energy industry mouthpiece has been painted as being a weak supporter of Big Oil and all things energy.

Dallas Business Journal - December 11, 2015

Here's the main reason Toyota is moving from California to Texas

Sure, the low taxes, relaxed regulatory environment and Central Time Zone are nice. But none of those factors tops the list of reasons Toyota decided to plant its North American headquarters in Plano, bringing in more than 3,000 jobs, mostly from California. The main driver of Toyota’s move from Torrance, California, was housing costs, according to Albert Niemi Jr., dean of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, who has inside knowledge about the move. Niemi shared the anecdote at an SMU Cox Economic Outlook Panel on Friday morning.

Rio Grande Guardian - December 10, 2015

Mando Martinez decides against running for Congressional District 15

State Rep. Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez has decided not to run for the open Congressional District 15 seat being vacated by U.S. Rubén Hinojosa. It appeared Martinez would be ideally suited to run because much of the district is situated in eastern Hidalgo County, where the Weslaco Democrat’s base of support resides. Martinez, a firefighter and licensed paramedic, said that while he retains a burning desire to serve in Congress, now is not the right time. “Right now my future path is still with Texas House District 39. I want to continue to represent this district to the best of my ability,” Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Lubbock Avalanche Journal - December 14, 2015

Deadline to file for place on primary election ballot is Monday

The ballot for Lubbock’s 2016 primary election is almost set, as the filing period for candidates ends at 6 p.m. Monday. Unlike the past few elections, Texas is part of ‘Super Tuesday’ — the day in an election year when the most states will hold primaries — with the primary election set for March 1. It’s not just the presidential race that’s attracting multiple names. According to the latest information provided by the Lubbock County Republican party on Friday, six candidates for U.S. Representative District 19 have filed, two for State Representative 84, and two for both seats on the Lubbock County Commissioner’s Court that are up for election.

Texas Public Radio - December 12, 2015

As Immigrant Children Arrive In Ellis County, Residents Have Mixed Reactions

The first group of immigrant children arrived in Ellis County Friday afternoon. Hundreds of kids will stay at the Lakeview Camp and Retreat Center in between Maypearl and Waxahachie. In Maypearl, this has been the talk of the small town. Like many of his neighbors, Bill Gallaher found out on social media that 500 Central American kids were headed to a campsite a couple of miles up the road. The local taxidermist tried going to the sheriff’s press conference on Thursday but wasn’t allowed in. So, like other Maypearl residents, he watched for updates on the news. That’s not good enough, he says.

Texas Standard - December 11, 2015

What Obama's executive order on guns could mean for Texas

Under existing law, anyone who’s in the business of buying or selling guns is supposed to have a federal firearms license. If you have a federal firearms license, then you have to have to run a background check on any gun transfer. But at gun shows, not everyone selling guns is in the regular business of selling them, and not all sellers have to run background checks. Neither do people selling online. The Associated Press, the Washington-based newspaper the Hill, and several other sources are reporting that President Obama is about to try to do what he couldn’t after Sandy Hook: close the loophole himself. Sources say Obama has asked his team to send him a completed plan post-haste. In a state with its own online marketplace for Texas-only gun traders, where just about every weekend one can find a gun show, the President’s move could be a big deal indeed.

County Stories

Brownsville Herald - December 12, 2015

Drainage districts do not aid all

All across Cameron County, there are homeowners who live just outside the coverage area of a drainage district. Cameron County administrator David Garcia refers to these areas as “no man’s land.” “There are a lot of areas that are not covered by a drainage district (in CameronCounty),” Garcia said. “So the question that comes up a lot is: who covers the drainage issues in this area?”

San Antonio Express News - December 13, 2015

Once-popular golf course falls victim to controversial border wall, drug cartel battles

BROWNSVILLE — Robert Lucio stood in the faint glow of a recent autumn sun and lamented the decade of bad breaks that forced him to close the Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course in May. Construction of the border fence a few years ago marooned his golf course in a virtual no man’s land, leading to a sharp drop in club membership, he said. The storied strip of land where generations of golfers sent balls streaking down manicured lawns, and where U.S. and Mexican soldiers once exchanged cannon fire, never recovered from the negative perceptions of being wedged between the fence and Mexico.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

$750K in grants awarded to Medical Center

The Texas Medical Center's Health Policy Institute has awarded $750,000 in grants aimed at promoting collaboration between TMC institutions and improving the lives of Texans. The inaugural awards in the institute's grant program will fund four one-year projects on mobile health clinics, refugee health care, freestanding emergency departments and hospital readmissions. The institute required those seeking the grants to work with individuals they've never worked with before and to include multiple unrelated institutions in the research.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Wear: Austin light rail, after 2014 drubbing, remains off the agenda

Lee Leffingwell, looking simultaneously at the (voluntary) end of his time as Austin mayor and at a crushing defeat for a light rail proposal he had championed, had a gloomy prediction on a Tuesday night in November 2014. “It’s dead until somebody revives it,” Leffingwell said of rail in Austin. “And that will be a long period of time.” A little over a year later, nothing has occurred to disprove his prophecy or to help define just how long that long time might be. Or if it will be. Despite the Austin area’s crushing and ever-worsening traffic, and the firm belief of many city leaders that a full-fledged train system eventually will be needed to handle some of the transportation load, light rail here seems no closer to a reality than it did in the mid-1990s. Or about a million people ago in Central Texas time.

San Antonio Express News - December 13, 2015

Old South is rife with Confederate controversies

Last week’s decision by North East Independent School trustees to not rename Robert E. Lee High School was one of many instances across Texas and the nation that have officials grappling with schools named after figures whose images have tarnished with time. “When you honor a person, you invite a conflict,” said Jay Greene, the head of the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform. “There’s also a risk that, whoever is honored, information will come to light that will prove embarrassing since, after all, people are flawed.” The person whose name graces a school doesn’t have to be long gone to prove controversial. On Wednesday night, Judson Independent School District’s trustees voted 4-3 not to change the name of Dr. Willis R. Mackey High School. Mackey, a former superintendent who is still on the district’s payroll, has been called a bully by some.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2015

Harris County knocked off feds' map of coastal counties hurt by BP spill

The federal body assigned to divvy up civil penalties for restoring the Gulf Coast after the BP oil spill voted this week to exclude Harris County from its calculations of communities that qualify for spill impact money. Eliminating the county's population of 4.3 million from the equation means that Texas likely will draw a smaller portion of the $240 million total set aside for spill impact projects, although how much less is not clear. Based on percentages the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council set for the five Gulf Coast states, Texas will be allocated just over $18 million for spill impact projects.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2015

Turner reflects on mayoral campaign, plans ahead for the office

Q: Twenty-four years ago, you saw your lead in the mayor's race slip away in the final days, and you again came up short 12 years ago. How did you continue believing all these years? A: This morning, returning to church was very instructive. Where it says, 'Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways trust in Him, and he will direct your path.' Sometimes things don't happen when you want them to happen. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will not happen. You learn to be patient. You learn to persevere, continue to search for what your purpose is, what your mission is. If the opportunity should present itself again, fine. If it doesn't, then you just have to move forward. The window opened, and the result was different this time than 24 years ago.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2015

After 2 decades, Turner gets mayoral wish

Although city of Houston political offices are nonpartisan, the two major parties took a keen interest in this race. Turner, 61, was a front-runner from the moment of his announcement. But King touched a nerve with his complaints about the city's finances and the condition of its infrastructure, especially roadways. In the end, political observers said the race was too close to call. They were right - no mayoral election in recent history has seen such a margin. Though King did not win, he said his campaign otherwise did what it set out to do. "We've never had a mayor's election before where the word 'pension' was even mentioned in the mayoral election, and obviously it became one of the central issues in this campaign," King said.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

AAS: San Antonio might hold solutions for Austin’s Uber-Lyft woes

To settle the stalemate with Lyft and Uber, the Austin City Council would be wise to look to San Antonio. Like Austin, the city of San Antonio faced a sticking point with those transportation network companies when it mandated that Lyft and Uber drivers undergo fingerprint-based background checks as a requirement for operating in the Alamo City. That was in April. Following that, the ride-hailing companies — saying that such background checks were overly burdensome and detrimental to their business model — made good on their threats and bolted.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Austin police to deploy first body cameras to downtown officers

When body cameras are rolled out next year, Austin police will deploy the recording technology to downtown cops, who have used force more often than any other officers in the city, according to records obtained by the American-Statesman. In the national conversation about police violence, many have taken a view that body cameras could become something of a panacea for stemming deadly encounters. The idea is based on the theory that if police and the public know they are being recorded, both will be less likely to act hostile. The use of body cameras is widely supported in Austin, and the Austin City Council made their purchase a priority.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2015

Voter mobilization, black turnout drive Turner win

Sylvester Turner's 24-year quest for the mayor's office was realized by a narrow margin Saturday night, driven by overwhelming support from black voters and a robust effort to push supporters to the polls. The tallies showed Houston's long trend of voting in racial blocs held in this year's runoff, by far the closest in 12 years. Conservative businessman Bill King took 71 percent of the vote in the city's majority-white voting precincts, where residents also turned out in the highest numbers. Turner won a whopping 93 percent of the vote in majority-black precincts, however, erasing King's turnout advantage. Turner also had an edge in the city's two predominantly Latino council districts, giving him the boost he needed to secure a 4,100-vote victory.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 13, 2015

Arlington, Rangers considering $200 million development near ballpark

A 300-bed hotel and 35,000 feet of convention space highlight a $200 million development collaboration that the city of Arlington and the Texas Rangers are considering, according to city officials. Details are sparse, but Mayor Jeff Williams said Saturday that the public-private project would be thoroughly evaluated at the City Council’s Tuesday afternoon work session. The council could vote on the proposal at its Tuesday evening regular meeting if the agreement is ready. “It’s a Rangers-led project,” Williams said, “but the city is participating, too, and we’re very excited.”

National Stories

Politico - December 12, 2015

Podesta to donors: Cruz is likely GOP nominee

Donald Trump's apparent belief that the Republican primary contest is now a two-person race between himself and Ted Cruz isn't exactly shared at the top of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta handicapped the GOP race for 90 Democratic donors assembled at a private fundraising event in Berkeley, California, on Thursday night, according to a Clinton backer who was in the room, telling the crowd that he viewed Cruz as the likeliest nominee, followed by Trump, and then Marco Rubio.

Washington Post - December 14, 2015

Fear of terrorism hits highest point in 10 years

The terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have prompted Americans to ascribe a new urgency to the problem of terrorism, according to new data from Gallup. Gallup's November survey of the most important problem the United States faces concluded on Nov. 8, less than a week before gunmen killed 130 people in the French capital. In the survey completed last week, the percentage of Americans who said terror was the most critical problem jumped 13 points, from 3 to 16 percent. That's about one-sixth of the country.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

Wilhelm: Our leaders just don’t understand the danger we face

You’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump: The man knows how to command attention. Just as the country sat on the verge of a real and meaningful discussion about the threat of international terrorism — BAM! Trump re-entered the room. Jaws dropped. Plates clattered to the ground. Ladies gasped. We were off to the races. Journalists were the proverbial golden retrievers; Trump, darting out of the corner, was the giant, man-sized, golden-capped squirrel, yelling in a crazed, man-sized squirrel voice about a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” chortling all the way. Thus, for good or ill — let’s be honest, it’s probably ill — the debate has changed.

Politico - December 13, 2015

Cruz answers Trump insult with a song

Ted Cruz is a maniac, and he’s also a fan of Flashdance, apparently. Responding to comments Donald Trump made earlier on Sunday calling the Texas senator “a maniac,” Cruz opted for sharing a link on Twitter to the song “Maniac” from the 1983 movie Flashdance rather than criticize his fellow contender. In Flashdance, the Michael Sembello song plays over footage of Jennifer Beals’ character dancing, one of a number of such scenes in the unlikely story of a Pittsburgh welder trying to live her dream as an artistic dancer. "Maniac" topped the pop charts for two weeks in 1983 and was the ninth-biggest selling song of the year.

BuzzFeed - December 10, 2015

Univision Poll On “Persuadable” Hispanic Voters Draws Eyerolls From Democrats And Republicans

A Univision poll showed 55% of Hispanics as persuadable voters, an idea based on partisanship levels that isn’t new. But the poll’s spin left members of both parties calling it a vehicle primarily to bring in ad dollars. Univision, the Spanish-language giant, proclaimed on Wednesday that the Latino vote is up for grabs in big bold letters. “Directly contradicting the common assumption that Hispanics always vote Democrat, the study found that 55% of Hispanic registered voters age 25-54 are persuadable and in fact, frequently cross party lines,” read a Univision release for a new poll released by the network with bipartisan polling firms.

Politico - December 14, 2015

The Kochs' war on poverty

The political operation created by the billionaire conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch is quietly investing millions of dollars in programs to win over an unlikely demographic target for their brand of small-government conservatism ? poor people. The outreach includes everything from turkey giveaways, GED training and English-language instruction for Hispanic immigrants to community holiday meals and healthy living classes for predominantly African American groups to vocational training and couponing classes for the under-employed. The strategy, according to sources familiar with it and documents reviewed by POLITICO, calls for presenting a more compassionate side of the brothers’ politics to new audiences, while fighting the perception that their groups are merely fronts for rich Republicans seeking to game the political process for personal gain.

Washington Post - December 13, 2015

Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success

As Cecil Stinemetz walked up to a gray clapboard house in suburban Des Moines last week wearing his “Cruz 2016” cap, a program on his iPhone was determining what kind of person would answer the door. Would she be a “relaxed leader”? A “temperamental conservative”? Maybe even a “true believer”? Nope. It turned out that Birdie Harms, a 64-year-old grandmother, part-time real estate agent and longtime Republican, was, by the Ted Cruz campaign’s calculations, a “stoic traditionalist” — a conservative whose top concerns included President Obama’s use of executive orders on immigration.

CNN - December 14, 2015

GOP establishment worries about Cruz-Trump showdown

Call it the Republican establishment's nightmare scenario. The GOP establishment, confronted by a recalcitrant electorate that refuses to leave Donald Trump, is being forced to take a fresh look at Ted Cruz, a man with grassroots strength in key early primary states and few friends in Washington. Suddenly, the Republican Party's best hope could be a man hell-bent on transforming it: a senator who openly spars with fellow GOP colleagues, and has campaigned by painting its leaders as spineless and feeble.

New York Times - December 14, 2015

Icahn: How to Stop Turning U.S. Corporations Into Tax Exiles

THE Pfizer-Allergan deal is a travesty. Pfizer, which is based in New York, will move overseas by merging with Allergan, based in Ireland, in a maneuver known as a corporate inversion. The point isn’t to find corporate synergy. It is to leave behind our uncompetitive international tax system. FROM OUR ADVERTISERS Not only is this the largest inversion in history, but it will also open the floodgates for other companies to leave the United States, further eroding our tax base, damaging our economy and costing many thousands of jobs. This is not just me speculating. I have spoken to many chief executives who confirm they are planning to follow Pfizer’s lead. But while this inversion has set off a firestorm of public statements by our leading presidential candidates and other politicians, Congress continues to do nothing.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2015

Like Obamacare, climate gives president huge but fragile win

For President Barack Obama, the landmark climate-change deal in Paris should leave a familiar — and familiarly fragile — sense of victory. As with the health care overhaul of his first term, Obama secured a policy win that has eluded predecessors for decades. The climate accord reached by almost 200 countries on Saturday seeks to fundamentally alter the world’s energy system, moving the globe away from reliance on fossil fuels to avoid what scientists say would be catastrophic changes to the environment. The U.S. got much of what it had sought in the final agreement — in particular, commitments by developing nations to shoulder more of the pollution reductions. That followed years of personal diplomacy by Obama with other world leaders and a string of new regulations at home to cut greenhouse gases.

Texas Public Radio - December 12, 2015

Ex-Felons Fight To Restore Their Right To Vote

In the Cabinet meeting room of the Florida Capitol building, there are plenty of shaky legs and fidgety hands as the state's clemency board, whose chairman is Gov. Rick Scott, sits down. Four times a year, ex-felons in Florida petition to get their civil rights restored, including the right to vote. Among the former felons in the room is Justin (NPR is withholding his last name at his request), who drove seven hours for a five-minute chance to make his case. He waits in the back of the room, clutching an Expando file full of court papers that date back to one mistake.

NPR - December 14, 2015

All Across Latin America, Unwed Mothers Are Now The Norm

Latin America is now the region that has the highest percentage of children born out of wedlock. In Colombia, 84 percent of all children are born to unmarried mothers. Argentina, Mexico, Chile and other countries throughout the region have similar numbers, with well over half of all children born outside wedlock. In less than a generation in Argentina, the traditional definition of a family has given way to new interpretations. And it's happening at all economic levels — educated, middle-class women are now among the many choosing to have kids alone or in an informal union. At the apartment where I met Vittar are two of her close friends. They all vacation together and hang out all the time. Vittar explains they are part of her extended family too.

MSNBC - December 13, 2015

CNN announces nine candidates for prime-time debate

Nine Republican presidential candidates will take the main stage for the last primary debate in 2015 for the party on Tuesday night, CNN announced Sunday. GOP front-runner Donald Trump will be in the center, just as he’s been in all the debates. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson will be on Trump’s right and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be on his left. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are the remaining six candidates who will appear on the main debate stage.

Austin American Statesman - December 13, 2015

Vabner: Signs of a tipping point on guns three years after Sandy Hook

Senate Republicans voted down a series of common-sense gun reform bills on Dec. 3, the day after 14 people were killed in a mass shooting in San Benardino, California. One of the bills, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, was reintroduced for the second time after its initial defeat in April 2013 — just four months after my 6-year-old brother, 19 other 6- and 7-year-old children, and six educators were senselessly gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Nearly three years to the day since 26 lives were violently taken on Dec. 14, 2012, politicians made the same decision: to vote down common-sense legislation that could potentially save lives.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2015

Trump on Cruz: "A Little Bit of a Maniac"

Donald Trump is expanding his criticism of Ted Cruz, once his closest ally in the Republican race for the White House. In TV appearances Sunday morning, the billionaire left little doubt the detente is over, bluntly questioning the Texas senator's temperament to lead the nation and his ability to get along with others. “I don’t think he’s qualified to be president because I don’t think he has the right temperament," Trump said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. "Well, you look at the way he’s dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a — you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac."

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2015

Hughes: Trump's Muslim proposal will only strengthen terrorists

Surely the last thing Donald Trump and his supporters want is to strengthen the strategic position of the Islamic State group, Al Qaeda and other affiliated groups in their battle against America and our allies. Yet playing into the terrorists’ worldview and thus strengthening the terrorists’ position is exactly what Trump’s dangerous and misguided proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has done. One of the terror groups’ most powerful recruiting tools is their carefully crafted propaganda asserting that the West is at war with Islam. This is how they attempt to justify their acts of murder: persuading young people their faith is under attack so they must be willing to kill themselves and others to defend it. They roll up all their grievances — hostility toward Israel, concern for the plight of the Palestinian people, anger at their own governments and frustration at the lack of opportunities in their own countries — and lay them at the feet of a powerful West that they portray as hostile to the nations and faith of Islam.

The Hill - December 11, 2015

Trump: Oil companies dictate Cruz’s policies

After a week of tension between the two Republican presidential candidates, front-runner Donald Trump took a shot at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Friday, saying that “oil companies pay him a lot of money.” “With ethanol [Cruz has] gotta come a long way,” Trump said in Des Moines, Iowa. "He’s right now for the oil. But I understand if oil pays him a lot of money, he’s gotta be for oil. Right?” “But I’m with you,” Trump told his supporters, noting he toured ethanol plants in Iowa last month. "If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa," Trump asked. The billionaire businessman also slammed Cruz as a copycat.

San Antonio Express News - December 13, 2015

Fikac: Ted Cruz. Likable enough?

I’ve enjoyed talking with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. I’ve even had a beer with him (sort of). Likability isn’t what this election should be about, but it matters. Presidential elections always address the likability factor. Which candidate best appeals to voters’ let-down-their-hair side? Who’d be fun to talk with over beers? George W. Bush? In 2000, of course (even though he doesn’t drink). Al Gore? Maybe not. Sometimes likability can ebb and flow. Barack Obama drew giant crowds in 2008, inspiring voters with his message of change while Hillary Clinton trudged along, trying to make headway with policy pronouncements.

Austin American Statesman - December 11, 2015

Fritch: The larger problem with 'lesser' schools for black students

? Full disclosure, I am a University of Texas alumna, class of 1997 (I was in the top 10 percent of my high school class, though the top ten rule began in 1996). I also consulted on the Abigail Fisher case in 2008, providing my insights to her public relations team. Even then I was reticent to completely endorse her case; as I told the team, if black people weren’t entitled, neither was Fisher. Fisher and other students like her have been lucky to have the resources to attend equal colleges elsewhere, whereas some less fortunate minorities may have not. Privilege, after all, isn’t only in acceptance, but in having good options.

Boston Globe - December 12, 2015

‘Debate is very important,’ Paul says

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is confident he will be on the primetime Republican debate stage Tuesday, but if he falls short, he will make an announcement this week about what comes next. Asked Saturday by the Globe specifically if he would drop out of the race for president if he didn’t qualify for the main-stage GOP debate, Paul said: “We will make an announcement, on that, on Tuesday.” Later Saturday, Matt Chisholm, New Hampshire communications director for the Paul campaign, insisted his candidate was in the race to win. He said Paul’s quote referred to whether he would participate in a secondary debate on Tuesday if he didn’t qualify for the main-stage event.

McClatchy Newspapers - December 11, 2015

Joe Barton plan to end ban on crude oil exports may be in funding bill

Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s campaign to end the 40-year ban on exporting American crude oil, a potential boon to his home state of Texas, has some real traction and may be included in the catch-all funding bill Congress must pass next week. There is a catch: Negotiators are sparring over what else to include to attract Democratic voters, and the export ban is tied to the restoration of wind and solar energy tax credits, part of a package of dozens of so-called tax extenders, including one important to Texas – the deductibility of state and local sales taxes on federal returns. Barton’s bill passed the House of Representatives in October and was also attached to another bill, but the best chance for passage is in the coming week as lawmakers horse-trade over the omnibus bill, which would fund the federal government this fiscal year.

San Antonio Express News - December 11, 2015

Brodesky: Putting the big chill on climate change research

It’s Lamar Smith’s world, and we’re all just living in it. The chairman of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee is taking deserved heat for trying to put the big chill on climate change research. The latest source of his skeptical ire? A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that found the so-called global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012 is bunk. It turns out we’ve been warming all along, the study says. Smith has dismissed this NOAA study as using altered data, a rushed and flawed product of political manipulation. Well, yes, there is political manipulation here. It’s the so-called warming pause, a frequent skeptic talking point used to refute climate change.

Wall St. Journal - December 10, 2015

Cheap Oil Gives Little Help to U.S. Spending

When oil and gasoline prices began to tumble in mid-2014, experts widely expected it would jolt spending by U.S. consumers and businesses. It hasn’t turned out that way. Instead, the pace of business investment has slowed significantly, due to drags from weak commodity prices, a strong dollar and concern about the global economy. Consumer spending, meanwhile, has been uneven, with car and home sales up, but inflation-adjusted spending at retailers sluggish since the middle of this year. Now, oil and commodity prices are showing still more weakness, with wide ramifications to U.S. industry and the Federal Reserve.

Austin American Statesman - December 12, 2015

PolitiFact: Questionable data behind Scalia’s ‘black scientists’ remark

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is taking heat for comments he made from the bench that some are calling racist. While questioning a lawyer during oral arguments in Fisher vs. University of Texas, a case that has the potential to derail affirmative action across the country, Scalia suggested that the practice might actually harm black students by putting them into a scholastic environment for which they are not academically prepared. ... Regarding the larger point — that black students fare better at “lesser” schools because their academic credentials are better matched to the curriculum — the evidence is mired in controversy. There is some scholarly research that backs up this point, but there is also scholarly research that refutes it. We rate the statement Half True.

Austin American Statesman - December 12, 2015

Doolittle: Don’t let Trump, others speak for you

We are in grave danger, and I don’t mean from terrorists. This week on my Facebook feed, wedged between photos of my friends’ children and news headlines, was a photo of a Quran aflame. The text that accompanied it? “Lets (sic) see how many of you got the balls to share this.” This was not shared by some random stranger, but by someone I know. She is my age, she comments on pictures of my children and she offers me advice on appliances. I’ve known this person for more than 20 years. I see plenty of vitriolic, racist, unprintable commentary and letters to the editor in my role at the American-Statesman, but seeing it in my inner circle means that the cancer of hate is worse than I’d thought.

The Atlantic - December 10, 2015

Epps: Is Affirmative Action Finished?

“If this Court rules that the University of Texas can’t consider race, or if it rules that universities that consider race have to die a death of a thousand cuts for doing so, we know exactly what’s going to happen,” Gregory Garre, the lawyer for the University of Texas, told the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. “Experience tells us that.” When the use of race has been dropped elsewhere, “diversity plummeted.” You say that like it’s a bad thing, Justice Antonin Scalia in essence replied. “There are—there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a ... slower track school where they do well,” he said. “I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer.”

New York Times - December 11, 2015

NYT: Ted ‘Carpet-Bomb’ Cruz

This would have been an instructive Senate hearing for Ted Cruz to attend: “U.S. Strategy to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. Policy Toward Iraq and Syria.” The bellicose senator from Texas blew that one off on Wednesday; he was in New York, shaking his saber on Fox News and courting big-dollar donors at a closed-door luncheon on Madison Avenue. His favorite line on ISIS seems to be, “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion,” which he said in Iowa last week. His irresponsible chatter is of a piece with most Republican presidential candidates, who are busy offering phony prescriptions for the biggest foreign threat the United States faces.

All - December 13, 2015

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2015

Winning was easy part compared to what awaits Turner

Houston's new mayor, Sylvester Turner, will have plenty of opportunities to leave his mark on the city. It just won't be easy, and it certainly will not be immediate. The city's new chief executive will face crumbling roads, shaky finances and a shorthanded police department, with no quick fix, and some of those problems will require help from the Texas Legislature or a two-year wait to amend the city charter. With those policy problems looming, the next mayor will have to acclimate to the culture of City Hall, learning to lead a City Council with at least four rookie members and still respond to day-to-day demands from residents. "A new mayor is going to arrive in office wanting to have a positive effect," said Mark Jones, a Rice University political scientist. "But instead of providing services, they may need to cut spending on police and other services. Even the status quo is going to be difficult to maintain in the current budget climate."

San Antonio Express News - December 13, 2015

Court records: Houston man warned of plans to kill judge

About two weeks before Austin Judge Julie Kocurek was shot last month, a Houston man now linked to the attack had been telling people of his plans to kill a Travis County judge, according to court records. On Nov. 6, Kocurek was found in her car parked in front of her Northwest Austin home. She had been seriously wounded and was taken to a hospital, authorities said. On the following Monday, an investigator with the Travis County district attorney’s office found “several” waiting voice mail messages when he arrived at his office. The messages said a man now identified as Chimene Onyeri, 28, had been telling another person that he had “killed the Travis County district judge,” according to the court documents.

Austin American Statesman - December 12, 2015

UT audit finds Longhorns staff used prime seats to play favorites, help ticket brokers

University of Texas athletics employees systematically abused their access to Longhorns football tickets for years, resulting in preferential treatment for favored donors, secret arrangements with ticket brokers and untold financial losses for the university, an audit obtained by the American-Statesman reveals. Some allegations resulting from a 16-month university investigation point to possible illegal conduct, including employees who accepted gifts and exploited loopholes to pocket immeasurable profits by selling complimentary tickets. The audit says those allegations were referred to police and to the Travis County district attorney, but no charges were pursued. Many practices uncovered by the investigation violate university policy or represent fireable offenses, UT officials said. However, no employees are named and no one is held responsible in the audit, formally completed Nov. 30 and obtained by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

Ellis County’s chief prosecutor joins suit to oust Dallas County DA Susan Hawk, seeks her medical records

The county and district attorney from Ellis County formally joined the lawsuit to oust Susan Hawk on Friday, clearing the way for the case to go before a judge. Patrick Wilson filed paperwork to take control of the case first brought by Hawk’s former employee. He also asked a judge to officially serve the Dallas County district attorney with the lawsuit and indicated that he plans to seek her medical records if the case moves forward. Wilson’s decision to pursue the case on behalf of the state of Texas, instead of dropping it after he was appointed to consider the allegations, keeps the controversial lawsuit alive — for now.

New York Times - December 12, 2015

Ted Cruz Surges Past Donald Trump to Lead in Iowa Poll

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas surged to a 10-point lead in a new poll released Saturday of likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, signaling that his campaign is gathering momentum and suggesting that a long nominating fight is ahead. Donald J. Trump, who continues to lead most national polls, was second in the Iowa poll, with 21 percent naming him as their first choice, compared with Mr. Cruz’s 31 percent. Ben Carson, after leading an October survey by the same pollster, commissioned by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, tumbled to 13 percent, followed by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida at 10 percent.

State Stories

Austin American Statesman - December 11, 2015

PolitFact Texas: David Simpson mostly right about his staunch opposition to driver's licenses for 'illegal aliens'

Republican candidates for an East Texas state Senate seat disagree over whether one of them has endorsed, and voted for, permitting driver’s licenses for Texas residents lacking legal permission to live in the country. State Rep. David Simpson of Longview emailed reporters a Nov. 30, 2015, statement saying Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola had slanderously charged Simpson with supporting licenses for illegal immigrants without delivering the factual goods. Simpson further declared: "I have always opposed driver’s licenses for illegal aliens." ... In 2011, Simpson joined House members in voting for the change in law requiring license applicants to document their legal residency, which we take as a strong indication of his position. But there’s a hint of uncertainty in Simpson’s 2013 vote on a proposal offered in favor of unauthorized residents someday getting resident driver permits as sought by Alonzo and others, which importantly didn’t and don’t exist, and his ambiguous 2014 remark about driver’s licenses. We rate this claim Mostly True.

PolitiFact - December 11, 2015

PolitiFact: Bryan Hughes mostly wrong about David Simpson voting for driver's licenses for 'illegal immigrants'

Republican candidates for an East Texas state Senate seat disagree over whether one of them has voted for permitting driver’s licenses for Texas residents who lack legal permission to live in the country. State Rep. David Simpson of Longview emailed reporters a Nov. 30, 2015, statement saying Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola had slanderously charged Simpson with supporting licenses for illegal immigrants without delivering the factual goods. The two are competing for a chance to succeed Kevin Eltife of Tyler representing the Senate's District 1. Simpson said: "I have always opposed driver’s licenses for illegal aliens." Hughes disputed that in a Dec. 1, 2015, press release stating Simpson "actually voted for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants." ... No such vote occurred. In the clearest vote we could find, Simpson voted to make it harder, not easier, to obtain licenses when, in 2011, he joined nearly every House member in approving a new mandate that applicants for driver’s licenses be required to document their legal residency. ... We rate this claim Mostly False.

San Antonio Express News - December 12, 2015

Garcia: Dist. 116 hopefuls wait on Martinez Fischer announcement

“Sitting in Limbo” isn’t just a classic Jimmy Cliff song. It’s a way of life these days for prospective candidates in Texas House District 116. The seat has been held for the past 15 years by Democratic warhorse Trey Martinez Fischer, but it might be opening up soon. As in very soon. Martinez Fischer will make a “special announcement” Sunday at his holiday bash, and it’s expected that he will declare his intention to challenge state Sen. José Menéndez in the March 1 Democratic primary. The whole situation, however, puts District 116 hopefuls in an awkward spot. The filing deadline is Monday, so they need to be ready if TMF makes his move, but they can’t say too much about it because they’re not sure if the seat will open up at all.

San Antonio Express News - December 12, 2015

El Niño expected to bring wetter, cooler winter to Central Texas

Meteorology Professor Gerald Mulvey describes Earth’s atmosphere as a bowl of Jell-O: If you poke one side, it wobbles out the other. Now the poke is a high-temperature pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean known as El Niño. Central Texas will most likely be feeling the wobble at least through February with higher-than-average precipitation and lower-than-average temperatures, federal climate scientists predict. “We are in the thick of it now,” said Mulvey, chairman of the University of the Incarnate Word’s atmospheric science and physics department. El Niño’s influence on this part of Texas probably started in late spring, National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Hopper said. That’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first declared tropical Pacific temperatures were rising in a certain zone used as an indicator of El Niño activity.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Flu season off to slow start in Texas

The flu season is off to a slow start in Texas, but public health experts warn that could change at any time. According to data gleaned from medical records of some 1,700 practices in Texas, the percentage of primary care visits for influenza-like illness through Dec. 5 is about 1.2 percent. Last year at this time, flu accounted for about 5 percent of visits, peaking in January at nearly 10 percent. "Flu is running lower that what we saw last year," said Josh Gray, vice president of research for Athenahealth, a medical data company. "That doesn't mean it won't catch up."

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

Former undercover CIA officer Rep. Will Hurd touts terrorism-preventing benefits of tightening visa waiver program

San Antonio Republican Rep. Will Hurd has more hands on experience dealing with terror threats then most. Hurd is a former undercover CIA officer, who is touting legislation that passed the House this week to tighten the visa waiver program, which Hurd calls “a weak spot” in U.S. defenses. “I was the guy in the back alleys at four o’clock in the morning, chasing bad guys like al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” Hurd said in the weekly Republican address. “So when we talk about the threat we’re facing right now — from ISIS and other terrorist groups — I know from first-hand experience, that they are a clear and present danger to the United States.” This is second security bill prompted by the Paris attacks to pass the House, but much less controversial than legislation cracking down on the Syrian refugee program, passed last month.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Critical vote next week in standoff between horse racing regulators and legislators

The Texas Racing Commission will get another chance to settle its dispute with state legislators over attempts to add new electronic gambling machines at the state’s horse and dog tracks. The agenda for the commissioners’ meeting next Tuesday includes a proposal to delete references to historical racing terminals from its rules. A no vote on this same issue in August led to standoff with the powerful Legislative Budget Board and a one-day closing of the agency on Sept. 1. That also forced the state’s tracks — including Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie — to shut down for a day.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

A weekend of angst over Islam: Guns in Richardson, marchers in Dallas and a quiet conversation in Irving

A clash over Islam that started in Irving splintered, shifted and spread through North Texas this weekend. Anti-Islam protesters took their guns to Richardson, even as hundreds of peace marchers condemned their message in Dallas. Meanwhile, an Irving mosque at the center of the storm turned crowds and cameras away as it prepared to hold a quiet conversation with its Christian and Jewish neighbors.

Texas Tribune - December 12, 2015

Mock Shootings, Sex Toys Mark UT Gun Protests

A handful of gun rights activists lay down on the ground and doused themselves in ketchup, pretending to fall victim to pistols made from cereal boxes as, about two blocks away, a crowd of about 100 protesters waved dildos and noisemakers in the air. Other than that, it was just a normal Saturday on the University of Texas at Austin campus, where most students were busy studying for exams. Gun rights activists from two sister organizations — Come and Take It Texas and Don’tComply.com — announced their intention to stage a fake mass shooting on UT’s campus earlier this week, generating significant opposition online.

Texas Tribune - December 12, 2015

After Sound and Fury, Planned Parenthood Still Funded

Almost two months after Texas Republican leaders announced they would kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid, it hasn't happened. The organization is still receiving federal and state funds to provide health care for about 13,500 low-income women a year, and the state officials who called for a cutoff, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have fallen silent on why the funding continues. But the state's hesitance to pull the trigger reflects a recent pattern in its dealings with an organization that is a lightning rod for any political debate that even remotely touches on abortion.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2015

Judge Denies Paxton's Motions to Dismiss Charges

A Collin County judge has denied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's requests to dismiss criminal charges accusing him of financial fraud. Paxton’s attorneys had filed six motions arguing on various grounds why state District Judge George Gallagher should dismiss three indictments handed down by a grand jury earlier this year. Paxton pleaded not guilty to the charges of misleading investors in a technology company before he was elected attorney general.

Austin American Statesman - December 11, 2015

Following House lead, Texas Senate erects Christmas tree

Afraid that the lack of a Christmas tree in the Senate chamber was sending the wrong message to Capitol visitors, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did something about it. Using money from his campaign, Patrick purchased a 24-foot Virginia pine from Denison in North Texas and had it set up in the Senate’s central aisle. It’s 2 feet shorter than the Christmas tree in the Texas House, but size doesn’t matter when it’s the sentiment that counts, he said. “I just think it makes it fun. We want to make the Christmas spirit in the Capitol even bigger,” Patrick said Friday after he and staff members finished hanging most of the ornaments.

New York Times - December 13, 2015

Groups Converge for Mock Shooting Near University of Texas

Only a handful of gun-rights advocates and those supporting Texas’ new, less restrictive campus-carry law showed up near the University of Texas campus here on Saturday for a highly publicized but divisive demonstration and mock shooting in favor of ending gun-free zones. A few demonstrators carried legal AK-47 and AR-15 rifles before the first stage of the gathering, a walk that began at a parking garage just west of the 51,000-student campus. They were outnumbered by throngs of reporters, photographers and television cameras, and later by counter-demonstrators. Organizers of what was billed as the Life and Liberty Walk to End Gun Free Zones had agreed not to go onto campus grounds after university officials warned them they would be trespassing.

New York Times - December 12, 2015

Lives in Balance, Texas Leads Scrutiny of Bite-Mark Forensics

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Steven Mark Chaney, who was freed from prison in October after 28 years, had to fight back tears as he watched forensic dentists argue here, before the Texas Forensic Science Commission, whether bite patterns on the skin of murder, rape and child abuse victims can offer valid clues to the perpetrator’s identity. In 1987, he was sentenced to life on murder charges after a dental expert testified that it was virtually certain that his teeth had caused marks on an arm of the victim, a drug dealer who was stabbed to death. This same expert has now repudiated his testimony as unfounded. Mr. Chaney is one of more than a dozen people around the country who have been released or exonerated in cases involving bite-mark testimony that was later debunked. Now, the Texas commission is seeking to develop guidelines on whether bite-mark comparisons should have any role in the courtroom.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 12, 2015

The perils of Pantex: Hundreds of workers sickened at Texas nuclear weapons plant

Bob Ruzich, a 31-year worker at the nuclear assembly plant here, rarely got sick. He had to cash out his sick hours every year because he was so healthy. But in a matter of months, the Pantex Plant worker became so fragile that he had to be rushed by helicopter to the hospital. Ruzich’s 18-year-old son watched from the front yard of their Panhandle home as his father’s motionless body was lifted into the air, said his wife, Barbara Ruzich. “You do what you have to do,” Barbara Ruzich said. “You don’t sit back and cry.” Years ago, it was popular for plant workers to tell spouses and other loved ones that they made soap at the nuclear weapons assembly facility on a 16,000-acre parcel.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 13, 2015

Donald Trump’s outspoken Texas spokeswoman likely will be around for awhile

Donald Trump certainly doesn’t need anyone speaking for him. But there is one person the brash GOP presidential front-runner trusts to be as forthright as he is — Katrina Pierson, a North Texas political activist from Garland and a vocal voice of the Tea Party. Katrina Pierson has been a constant presence on TV news shows, offering analysis and support of candidates and various Tea Party issues. GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in November named Katrina Pierson his national spokeswoman. Katrina Pierson and Ted Cruz Katrina Pierson has been a constant presence on TV news shows, offering analysis and support of candidates and various Tea Party issues. GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in November named Katrina Pierson his national spokeswoman. Pierson, a former congressional candidate and onetime Democrat, is on TV these days almost as much as Trump, defending his proposals such as a ban on Muslims visiting the United States. As interest continues to rise in Trump, political observers say TV watchers should get ready to see even more of Pierson.

KTVT - December 10, 2015

Fort Worth To Host Democratic Party State Convention

Fort Worth will be the host city for the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in 2018. “While Texas Republicans were voting last week on the merits of seceding from the United States, Democrats spent their time working to bring a major event and its positive economic impact to Tarrant County,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples Peoples said. Fort Worth was selected by the Senate District Executive Committee (SDEC), the Texas Democratic Party’s governing body. The two-day gathering will be held at the Fort Worth Convention Center in the summer of 2018, most likely in June.

New York Times - December 13, 2015

Stone: I’m a Responsible Gun Owner? Seriously?

“WHAT are you doing?” I had just shot a gun for the first time. The instructor was yelling at me because he couldn’t understand how a 22-year-old missed a target some four feet tall and two feet wide, standing only nine feet away. But he was completely at ease when, 10 minutes later, he certified me for a concealed handgun license application. In late May, after school let out, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that, among other things, authorized individuals with concealed handgun licenses to carry firearms in most college buildings. “Campus carry” was a hard-fought victory for Republicans. My school — the University of Texas at Austin — continues to largely oppose the law. Administrators, the student government and the faculty council have all publicly regretted our legal reality.

KTXS - December 11, 2015

Abilene attorney enters Texas House District 71 race

The race to replace State Representative Susan King is getting more crowded as an Abilene attorney threw his hat in the ring Friday. Hardin-Simmons University and Texas Tech Law School graduate Chris Carnohan announced his candidacy for Texas House District 71. Carnohan said he is tired of politicians not following through with their promises. “I want to mandate from West Texas, from the 71st District, to go to Austin and change the way business is done,” Carnohan said.

KXAN - December 11, 2015

Southwestern University opts out of ‘Campus Carry’ law

Southwestern University announced Friday it is opting out of Texas Senate Bill 11, more commonly known as “Campus Carry.” Southwestern University President Edward Burger cited the “safety and well-being” of students and a long-standing campus prohibition of firearms as reasons for the decision. Southwestern’s Campus Carry Task Force held several campus-wide meetings with students, faculty, staff and trustees, as required by law, the university said.

Texas Observer - December 11, 2015

Michels: Plenty of Room in the Chamber for Senate Christmas Tree

There are some in the news media who would use the blessed occasion of the first-ever Texas Senate Christmas tree’s unveiling to further their own narrow political interests. Some would crack wise about the House and Senate engaging in a tree-measuring contest, or note the tree’s pagan roots as tributes to such lower-case-g gods as Ra, Saturn and Balder. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will have none of that clatter. Only silver bells and trot-trot-trotting reindeer hooves for this lite guv today. Patrick celebrated his great idea to buy a tree for the Senate chamber at a press availability today. Hanging one small ornament with care (to ensure local TV didn’t miss the shot), he explained that this choice ornament, like the Holy Grail itself, would be the humblest, smallest bauble to adorn those blessed branches. The ornament, hanging from a red bow, offers a rustic depiction of Joseph, Mary and the little baby Jesus.

Longview News Journal - December 11, 2015

Golden drops Texas Senate bid, backs Hughes

A Republican from Carthage has put the brakes on running for the Texas Senate and will let the deadline to file for office pass him by on Tuesday. Dennis Golden, an optometrist with decades of volunteer experience serving on local and state higher education boards, said Thursday that he is throwing support behind state Rep. Bryan Hughes, one of the four Republicans who have filed for Senate District 1. The seat, representing 16 Northeast Texas counties in Austin, is being vacated by Republican Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler.

County Stories

Dallas Observer - December 11, 2015

5 things you should know in the fight over whether Dallas is a sanctuary county

When Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez changed the way her office handled some detention requests from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), charges arose that she created a sanctuary county. On Thursday, she returned to the Texas Capitol to answer charges. It seems increasingly likely that there is going to be a fight over moves like the one made by Valdez during the next session of the Texas Legislature. 1. What is a sanctuary city/county/principality/houseboat? The short answer: It's hard to say. Even Valdez said Thursday afternoon that she had trouble defining the term. The longer answer: The term comes out of the sanctuary movement that arose in the 1960s and 1970s to help men resisting the Vietnam War draft. They found safe haven in churches, on university campuses and in certain cities. The association with immigration began in the 1980s when California cities like Berkeley and San Francisco declared themselves sanctuary cities for refugees fleeing violence in Central America.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2015

Audrey Lawson, church and civic leader, dies at 83

She was a social worker by profession. She helped start two charter schools, put The Ensemble Theater on the map, supported children and families of every description and inspired her husband, the Rev. Bill Lawson, every day of their 61-year marriage. Audrey Lawson died at home of natural causes Saturday. She was 83. "She was candid, a straight-forward thinker and speaker, and said exactly what was on her mind," said the Rev. Marcus Cosby, senior pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. "Without her influence, the church would not be what it is today. So many areas bear her fingerprints."

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

The Dam Called Trouble

The problem — one of many — first appeared as last May’s record rainstorms quickly filled the region’s reservoirs. An instrument at the Lewisville Lake Dam showed pressure building under the downstream side. Jason Vazquez, dam safety program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at the time, collared another engineer, and in pelting rain they raced to the affected area, officially known to the Corps as “Seepage Area No. 1.” Even during the seven-year drought, the area had looked like a swamp, covered with chest-high cattails and weeds. Corps technicians sometimes encountered water moccasins and alligators as they measured seepage. This time, Vazquez and his partner, wearing rain slickers and rubber boots, spotted something far more disturbing: water and sand bubbling up from a tiny hole in the ground.

City Stories

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 12, 2015

Kennedy: Rangers-Arlington hotel deal can hush the Dallas talk

Home of the Texas Rangers for 43 years, Arlington is banking to keep them for years to come. The City Council will vote Tuesday on a $200 million deal for the Rangers to build and share a 300-room hotel and shops next to Globe Life Park in Arlington. To use a baseball term, the city and Rangers are playing small ball. If they can get to first base with a deal that drives revenue for the Rangers and gives them a reason to stay in Arlington, then both partners can work on a home run agreement for a new indoor stadium.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2015

Turner Wins Nailbiter of a Mayor's Race in Houston

State Rep. Sylvester Turner narrowly won the Houston mayoral runoff Saturday night against former Kemah Mayor Bill King, keeping Texas' largest city under Democratic control. With all precincts reporting, Turner led King by just under 2 percentage points in unofficial returns, 50.96 to 49.04. King conceded the race shortly after 10:30 p.m., telling backers, "I encourage you to support Sylvester."

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

Report: Texas using $2.7 million to lure WrestleMania to Arlington

Gov. Greg Abbott is using nearly $3 million to lure “The Showcase of the Immortals” to Texas in 2016, according to a report in the Texas Tribune. According to the report, Abbott has approved more than $26 million from the Events Trust Fund to help lure 20 different events to the state. The bulk of that — $19.5 million — is going towards the Formula One race in Austin. But another $2.7 million is being used to lure WrestleMania to Arlington, Texas. The Events Trust Fund is not without controversy. When Abbott announced his candidacy in 2013, he spoke out against state programs like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund.

National Stories

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2015

In Paris, Negotiators Ink Historic Climate Accord

Negotiators from nearly 200 nations, including the United States, inked an unprecedented climate agreement on Saturday that will require almost every country to cut carbon emissions to help combat the most harmful effects of global warming. The accord was reached at the tail end of a two-week United Nations conference in Paris where delegates from 195 countries, large and small, worked feverishly to strike a deal that has been elusive in the past.

Associated Press - December 12, 2015

Small businesses in limbo as Congress debates tax break

Small-business owners are on edge as they wait to see if Congress will approve a big increase in the tax break they get to buy new equipment. The so-called Section 179 deduction, which is aimed at helping small businesses grow, is caught up in a debate over a number of tax provisions. Lawmakers are haggling over whether to raise the $25,000 deduction to $500,000 for the current tax year only, or to make the higher level permanent for future years. If they can't reach an agreement, the deduction would remain at the lower amount. The inaction has left small-business owners like Vicki and Charles Phaneuf in limbo. The couple wants to purchase $30,000 in chairs for their party rental company, CE Rental. But if Congress doesn't approve an increase in the deduction, they won't be able to afford them. The Phaneufs, whose company is in Raleigh, N.C., have already used up the $25,000 deduction on a truck and other equipment.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

Trump gears up for a fight, but Cruz refuses to get sucked into “cage match” with front-runner

Despite Sen. Ted Cruz’s efforts to avoid openly criticizing Donald Trump and provoking his wrath, Trump is ready for a fight. Cruz, however, refuses to be pulled into a “cage match.” Cruz reportedly raised concerns about Trump’s judgment on foreign policy at a close-door fundraiser in New York on Wednesday. The critique spilled into view, though, threatening to end months of the presidential rivals playing nice.

New York Times - December 13, 2015

Bruni: The Lie About College Diversity

THE Supreme Court listened anew last week to arguments about affirmative action in higher education, and we heard yet again about the push by colleges to assemble diverse student bodies. That’s a crucial effort. It’s also an incomplete and falsely reassuring one. Have you spent much time on campuses lately? Leafed through schools’ promotional literature? Listened to their come-ons? If so, you’ve probably noticed how often they promise students academic and social experiences customized to their already-established preferences, tailor-fitted to their predetermined interests, contoured to the particular and peculiar niches they want to inhabit.

Associated Press - December 12, 2015

States expanded gun rights after Sandy Hook school massacre

The 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a mentally troubled young man killed 26 children and teachers, served as a rallying cry for gun-control advocates across the nation. But in the three years since, many states have moved in the opposite direction, embracing the National Rifle Association's axiom that more "good guys with guns" are needed to deter mass shootings. In Kansas, gun owners can now carry concealed weapons without obtaining a license. In Texas, those with permits will soon be able to carry openly in holsters and bring concealed weapons into some college classrooms. And in Arkansas, gun enthusiasts may be able to carry weapons into polling places next year when they vote for president.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Amarillo Globe News - December 10, 2015

Graham: Affirmative action case shows racial divide

As divided as ever over race, the Supreme Court is considering whether it’s time to end the use of race in college admissions nationwide, or at least at the University of Texas. With liberal and conservative justices starkly divided, the justice who almost certainly will dictate the outcome suggested that the court might need still more information to make a decision in a Texas case already on its second trip through the Supreme Court. “We’re just arguing the same case,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, recalling arguments first held in the 2012 case of Abigail Fisher. “It’s as if nothing has happened.”

Slate - December 12, 2015

Newell: Why the GOP Establishment Would Prefer Ted Cruz to Donald Trump

If none of the Republican “establishment” presidential candidates—Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie, or Gov. John Kasich—is able to show signs of breakout power through the early nominating contests, the establishment will have to consider settling. Barring the ever elusive, last-minute “white knight” play, in which Mitt Romney is somehow declared the nominee by acclamation at the Republican National Convention, this likely means making a choice between Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, for whom the anti-establishment atmosphere this cycle has opened unusual amounts of space. The conventional thinking is that Cruz represents the lesser of two evils for the Republican Party. Cruz may be exceptionally foul to their taste, but he is nevertheless a consistent conservative Republican who just happens, for his own cynical, brand-building purposes, to favor doomed procedural tactics. Whatever.

Washington Post - December 13, 2015

The drug-smuggling case that brought anguish to Marco Rubio’s family

On Dec. 16, 1987, a teenager named Marco Rubio arrived home from school in West Miami to find his mother in anguish. Earlier that day, federal drug agents raided a house a few miles away that his brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, shared with Rubio’s older sister, Barbara. Cicilia, a large, sturdily built Cuban immigrant, had played an intimate role in Rubio’s early life. But as the future senator from Florida was finishing high school and preparing to go to college, his brother-in-law’s illicit career as a cocaine dealer was exposed in a major trial. Cicilia was eventually sentenced to a lengthy prison term in one of the biggest drug cases of Miami’s baroque cocaine-cowboys era.

Politico - December 13, 2015

Rand Paul is flatlining

Start typing the words "is Rand Paul..." into Google, and the search engine's autocomplete function fills in the rest of the question: "... still running for president." The answer, of course, is yes — but barely. Indeed, if Paul were a patient on the operating table, he'd be flat-lining right now. By nearly every measure, the Kentucky senator's White House bid is struggling to find a pulse. Story Continued Below Paul is on the verge of being demoted to the undercard stage in the next Republican presidential debate, the result of poll numbers that haven't moved above single digits since the summer.

Politico - December 13, 2015

How Congress finally killed No Child Left Behind

Speaker John Boehner's September announcement about leaving Congress was a shock to lawmakers who had been deep in painstaking negotiations for months on a bill to replace No Child Left Behind, which President Barack Obama signed into law this week. Getting a new federal education law was hard enough, given the many warring constituencies involved. With the exit of the speaker — a key supporter — lawmakers' plans were again jeopardized. But then came Paul Ryan. The new speaker wanted to bring more old-fashioned legislating to the House. So Sen. Lamar Alexander, an old-fashioned lawmaker, sat next to Ryan during a visit to the senators' weekly Tuesday lunch, just days after Ryan was sworn in. He pitched him on the bill, which would replace the central federal law governing public schools.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2015

Mitchell: Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion story is beyond disgraceful

The last time I heard something as far-fetched as U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s rationale for leaving his post was O.J. Simpson’s vow to search for his ex-wife’s killer…on the golf course. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or be angry. Bergdahl is one troubled young man. Listen to this podcast. I think you will agree. His reason for leaving his post and endangering the lives of soldiers searching for him is remarkably juvenile. He wanted to expose leadership failures, and test whether he could pull off a Jason Bourne adventure, he says. He wanted to draw attention, like a petulant child who hides and panics his parents just to spite them.

Washington Post - December 12, 2015

This is what happens if Republicans face a brokered convention

In election after election, generally (but not always) well before the voting starts, pundits start wondering about the possibility of a "brokered" party convention. For the casual observer, that term is meaningless — in part because casual observers are mostly not paying any attention to low-possibility outcomes of things eight months from now. But from the perspective of those who enjoy chaos and tumult (the media), it's a not totally accurate shorthand for an enticing prospect: a presidential race so close and so hard-fought that even on the night that the balloons are supposed to drop, no one knows whose head they'll land on. A "brokered convention," of the type that The Post reported Thursday had blinked to life on the radar screen of the Republican brass, is a convention in which the delegate (that is, voting attendee) votes of each of the states and territories don't add up to more than 50 percent for any one candidate.

McClatchy Newspapers - December 11, 2015

Irradiated: The hidden legacy of 70 years of atomic weaponry -- At least 33,480 Americans dead

For the last year, McClatchy journalists conducted more than 100 interviews across the country and analyzed more than 70 million records in a federal database obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Among the findings: McClatchy can report for the first time that the great push to win the Cold War has left a legacy of death on American soil: At least 33,480 former nuclear workers who received compensation are dead. The death toll is more than four times the number of American casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

New York Times - December 12, 2015

High Polls for Low-Energy Campaigners (Like Donald Trump)

Donald J. Trump mocks his opponents as “low energy,” but his own campaign travel schedule is relatively sleepy: He left his home base of New York for only 17 public events during a 30-day stretch. After several months of doing mostly pop-in, pop-out visits, Marco Rubio recently made a five-day swing through Iowa — the longest single stretch he had spent there. But in the middle of it, he took a Sunday afternoon off to take in some football. Ben Carson is not only running for president, but he is trying to sell books, too. So for the first five days of November, he ditched the campaign trail to go on tour to promote his latest one.

New York Times - December 11, 2015

Ted Cruz Sees Boon to His Campaign in Donald Trump

Senator Ted Cruz has long cheered Donald J. Trump’s presence in the Republican presidential field, thanking him for focusing national attention on issues like border security. Speaking to donors in New York City on Wednesday, Mr. Cruz suggested a more strategic reason to be grateful: Mr. Trump is bending the race in Mr. Cruz’s direction. “He has framed the central narrative of this primary as, ‘Who will stand up to Washington?’ ” Mr. Cruz, of Texas, said at the private fund-raiser, echoing remarks he has made publicly. “Now if that’s the central narrative, the natural next question is, ‘O.K., who has stood up to Washington?’ ”

All - December 11, 2015

Lead Stories

Politico - December 10, 2015

White supremacist groups see Trump bump

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s. As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.

Washington Post - December 10, 2015

GOP preparing for contested convention

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald J. Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race. More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting. Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.

The Hill - December 11, 2015

Carson: Brokered convention would 'destroy' GOP

Ben Carson is threatening to leave the GOP following a report that senior Republican officials met to discuss the party’s strategy in the event of a brokered convention. “If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning,” Carson said in a statement released by his campaign. “If this was the beginning of a plant to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” he continued.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Lawmakers “Speechless” At Hearing On Contracts

A pair of taxpayer-funded contracts meant to upgrade the state’s antiquated child support enforcement system are behind schedule and at least $50 million over budget, and on Thursday the Texas House’s chief budget writers wanted to know why. At a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, the lawmakers grilled state officials and the tech companies, wondering aloud whom they should hold accountable for the contract failures and questioning why part of that money was paid to workers in India.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Flawed ‘blueprint’ that cost Texas $46 million is blamed for T2 debacle

Legislators got a blow-by-blow rundown Thursday on how a $310 million technology project went off the rails so badly, and their reactions ran the gamut from stunned to confused to frustrated. “I am kind of speechless,” said Rep. Helen Giddings,D-DeSoto. “I’m just going down a rabbit trail to Wonderland,” said Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. And when someone called the project “a challenge,” Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, had this to say: “I’m not going to call this a challenge. There are some other words I’d like to call it, but we’re being videotaped.”

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

At Accenture hearing, Greg Abbott is the unnamed elephant in the room

House budget writers held a four-hour hearing Thursday on a long-running procurement mess at the state attorney general’s office. Guess who completely escaped mention? Gov. Greg Abbott, that’s who. That was curious because Abbott was attorney general for 12 years before January. The attorney general’s child-support division launched its “T2? technology system development project while he was the boss. The project’s price tag has increased by about 40 percent — or $86.4 million — over the past six years, to $310 million. There’s talk that it will take at least another $50 million to rescue the project.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Falkenberg: Patients should be able to focus on fighting cancer, not insurer

The irony is not lost on Duane Rossmann, a health care consultant for 40 years. For the past six days, he lay in a hospital bed at M.D. Anderson, an IV in his arm delivering chemotherapy to fight the Stage 4 lymphoma ravaging his body, while his wife frantically worked the phones to figure out how to pay for the fourth round of treatment after their insurance company discontinued his policy. "I even know the industry," the Conroe resident told me with a tired, dry laugh.

Bloomberg - December 10, 2015

Trump, After Netanyahu Criticism, Says He's Postponing Israel Trip

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday said he's postponing his trip to Israel and will schedule a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at a later date after I become President of the U.S.” Trump's announcement, made on Twitter, follows days of condemnation by rival candidates and world leaders of his proposal to temporarily ban foreign citizens who are Muslim from entering the U.S. after recent terrorist attacks. Those critics included Netanyahu, who said Wednesday he would proceed with the Dec. 28 meeting but “rejects Donald Trump’s latest comments about Muslims.” Thirty-seven Israeli lawmakers had demanded that Netanyahu cancel.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Mitchell: Scalia’s views on race are warped and embarrassing

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia never ceases to amaze me. He’s an armchair sociologist and a self-proclaimed expert on what’s best for African-Americans. He’s also utterly wrong. During oral arguments in the high-profile UT affirmative-action case yesterday, Scalia suggested that black students would benefit from a “slower track” at less prestigious schools and affirmative action puts them into situations where they unable to keep up. “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well — as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” Scalia said from the bench.

Associated Press - December 10, 2015

University of Texas could allow concealed handguns in class

Concealed handguns would be prohibited inside University of Texas dorms in most cases - but allowed in classrooms - under recommendations sent to the school president Thursday under the state's pending campus-carry law. Public universities were told to draw gun-zone maps, but ordered not to ban weapons from an entire campus, under a law taking effect in August that will allow people with concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons into school buildings. Lawmakers approved the law despite strong opposition from students and faculty, including some who threatened to quit or sue if guns were allowed in classrooms. Even University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven - a former admiral and head of U.S. special forces who directed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden - has said it would make his Austin campus less safe.

This article appeared on the KRIS website

State Stories

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2015

Texas Taxpayers Foot $2.7 Million Bill for WrestleMania

Gov. Greg Abbott has agreed to spend up to $2.7 million in taxpayer funds to bring the barrage of blood, sweat and spandex that is WrestleMania to Texas next year. During his 2014 campaign for governor, Abbott expressed discomfort with such taxpayer-funded economic incentives, saying he wanted to get government "out of the business of picking winners and losers.” But last week, his office signed off on the award from the state’s Events Trust Fund, state records show, one of 20 such awards approved since September.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2015

Teacher in Maximum-Security Prison Almost Missed Her Calling

ABILENE – Jody Addy walks through a metal detector, waits for a pat down, shows her ID and passes through locked gates before walking into her classroom, which is in the middle of a maximum-security prison in west central Texas. Since 1995, Addy has walked the same path to teach literacy skills at the Robertson Unit, an all-male prison. It's a job she once spurned but now has held for more than 20 years at the prison. The congenial 47-year-old was honored this fall for teaching excellence in the Windham School District, which serves inmates throughout Texas.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Jail Practices, Fingerprints Focus of House Immigration Hearing

The rumor that she isn’t tough on criminal immigrants who pass through her jail has grown like a well-fertilized plant, embattled Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez told a panel of state lawmakers on Thursday. And the head of Texas’ state police force told the same group that a fingerprint measure championed by Republican lawmakers has only hindered the department’s efforts to identify possible criminals, including undocumented immigrants.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

UIL Gears Up to Hold New Statewide Robotics Competition

High school students creating robotic arms and small electronic vehicles will compete for a new championship title with the University Interscholastic League's launch of a pilot robotics program for Texas schools. The UIL is partnering with state chapters of a pair of national robotics programs — FIRST in Texas and BEST Robotics— to encourage exploration in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, or STEM. The existing competitions held in Texas by the two national organizations will officially be sanctioned by the UIL and end in two new statewide championships — one in the fall and one in the spring.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Marder: What minority students bring to my physics classes

In Wednesday's hearing in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, questioned the need for diversity in academia. Specifically, Roberts asked, "What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" I am a professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin, where I have taught since 1988, and I would like to address his question. In physics classes at UT, particularly large introductory courses, it is very common for faculty to pose questions to students and let them talk among themselves, in pairs or small groups. Admittedly, the questions are of a type that rarely if ever draw upon the diverse experiences our students had growing up — unless one of them happens, say, to have built a tower the height of the radius of the earth and dropped balls from it.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

UT campus carry panel’s gun recommendations prompt lawsuit threat

Despite widespread opposition on the University of Texas campus to guns in classrooms, a university panel on Thursday recommended against designating UT classrooms gun-free zones. The Campus Carry Policy Working Group, composed chiefly of university faculty members, students and staffers, made that recommendation reluctantly as part of a suite of suggestions about how campus officials should implement Senate Bill 11, a new state law that allows students to carry concealed handguns in buildings on public university campuses.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Texas applauds new bill that will take place of No Child Left Behind

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed an overhauled national education bill that ends the era of No Child Left Behind after more than a decade of federal control in education policy, giving much of that control over accountability measures back to Texas and other states. It will be up to states to determine how to measure school performance, how to close achievement gaps and how to address low-performing schools. Earlier this year, Texas decided to hand out A-through-F letter grades to public schools based on performance.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Elliott Naishtat won’t run for re-election to state House

After indicating last week that he wouldn’t run and then saying earlier this week that he would, the 70-year-old Austin Democrat said Thursday that he is withdrawing his name from the ballot. Naishtat’s departure will set off a flurry of last-minute politicking as local Democrats decide whether to run for a seat that has been tied up since the early 1990s. The candidate filing deadline is Monday. Naishtat called several people who may be interested in his seat to tell them about his decision. Potential candidates include: political consultant Katie Naranjo, Austin school board President Gina Hinojosa and legislative aide Huey Rey Fischer. Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen, who was rumored to be mulling a run, said Thursday she will not get in the race.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Planned Parenthood still serving Texans in Medicaid

Almost two months after Gov. Greg Abbott praised state health officials for moving decisively to drop Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid health-care provider, the organization is still seeing patients and being reimbursed under the program. State health officials have not yet delivered a final notification cutting Planned Parenthood off — a delay that led a federal judge to cancel next Monday’s hearing on the organization’s lawsuit seeking to remain in the low-income health program. Without a final notification, there is nothing for U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks to address in Planned Parenthood’s request for a restraining order and injunction against state officials, said Sarah Wheat, a vice president for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Steve McCraw says tea party-backed law hampering Texas law enforcement

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Thursday that a 2015 bill that was changed by a GOP state senator from Georgetown is hindering law enforcement from catching criminals, some of whom are in the country illegally. In a hearing in the Texas House that was called to focus on immigration issues, McCraw said House Bill 1888, which was amended by tea party-backed state Sen. Charles Schwertner, forced the DPS to delete millions of full fingerprint sets taken in 2014 when people in Texas applied for driver’s licenses. Law enforcement officers used a database of the prints to identify people in custody, but since the law went into effect, they must attempt to use the much less reliable process of matching names, McCraw said.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

FBI: 'No doubt' that ISIS is recruiting Texas youth

Even before the terrorist-linked shooting deaths this month in California, the FBI's director in Dallas said there was no doubt that the radical group known as Islamic State was recruiting north Texas youth. In an interview with NBC DFW, Special Agent in Charge Thomas Class Sr. said terrorism is the most significant threat to U.S. national security and the FBI's top priority. Recruitment often starts openly on social media but then moves to encrypted websites or otherwise becomes hard to track, Class told the station.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Abbott says Trump wrong on Muslim immigration ban

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday joined a chorus of leaders in both political parties who are criticizing Donald Trump's call for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States. "Trump's wrong," Abbott told anchor Bill Hemmer on Fox News, insisting that "the real threat here" are radicalized Islamic terrorists, not all Muslims. Asked about his own push to block Syrian refugees from coming into Texas -- a move that federal officials have sidestepped by getting refugee agencies to accept them anyway -- Abbott deflected a direct answer by asserting that the Obama administration needs to better investigate the refugees for terrorist ties.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 10, 2015

FWST: Texas detention centers need watchful eye

Two private South Texas detention centers, where about 2,000 Central American immigrant women and children are being held, apparently have a long way to go before they could be seen as minimally adequate places for kids. That’s the gist of Wednesday’s testimony in Austin, where Texas Department of Family and Protective Services officials held a four-hour licensing hearing focused on the facilities in Dilley and Karnes City. The immigrant women and children are part of a surge of people who were apprehended after crossing the border illegally during the summer of 2014. They’re being held pending immigration hearings to decide whether they can stay in the U.S. or be sent home.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 10, 2015

FWST: Fake mass shooting is a dumb idea

No one should look here for an opinion opposing the reasonable exercise of free speech, but we’ll be the first to agree that some such exercises are simply dumb. Case in point: The gun rights group Come and Take It Texas has announced plans for a fake mass shooting demonstration Saturday near the University of Texas at Austin. It’s a protest against gun-free zones, which public universities can designate before a new state law takes effect Aug. 1 allowing license holders to carry concealed guns on campus.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

DMN: Fake mass shooting planned near UT is headline-grabbing fearmongering

There are bad ideas, and then there are really bad ideas. Gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com plan to stage a fake mass shooting in Austin this weekend using cardboard weapons, fake blood, mass attack victims and recorded gun noises to dramatize the carnage a gunman can do in a gun-free zone. The gun groups call it performance art; we call it headline-grabbing fear mongering, the epitome of bad taste and crassness.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Is Texas the new California?

Hundreds of companies and their workers have left California over the last seven years, trading in their surfboards for cowboy boots in many cases. By far, Texas gained the most from California’s corporate exodus, according to a new report by California site selection consultant Joseph Vranich. Relying solely on publicly available information, Vranich concludes that 1,510 companies moved all or some of their operations out of California from 2008 through 2014, taking with them valuable jobs, investment dollars and tax revenue. Texas was at the receiving end of 219 of those moves, or about 15 percent, more than any other state. Many are household brands like Apple, eBay and Restoration Hardware that moved their headquarters or opened or expanded other operations like a call center or distribution center somewhere in the state.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

KPMG says Texas holiday shopping season ‘lukewarm’ so far

Two weeks before Christmas, there are signs that holiday spending in Texas is fizzling, according to an analysis of the season so far by KPMG. “Most retailers were anticipating that lower energy prices would improve sales, but that hasn’t happened,” said Melisa Denis, consumer/retail partner in KPMG’s Dallas office. While Dallas-Fort Worth hasn’t been hurt as hard, other regions in the state, specifically Houston and Midland, along with Louisiana are reporting weakness, Denis said. Her comments are based on results from KPMG’s dozens of audit, tax and consulting clients in the consumer and retail business based in Texas.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Paxton wants to stick with Accenture and finish Texas child-support technology work

Attorney General Ken Paxton has concluded that his office’s child-support division should stick with technology giant Accenture to finish a troubled revamp of its data system, despite delays and disappointments. First Assistant Attorney General Chip Roy, Paxton’s top aide, said Thursday that he’s recommended to state leaders that they swallow paying about $50 million more to wrap up the overhaul, rather than rebidding the work. Severing ties to Accenture would create more delays and more than double – to at least $100 million — the additional spending needed to complete the project, Roy said.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

Hashimoto: Wendy Davis didn’t flip-flop on open carry. She just made it up for Texas voters

The recent boomlet in Wendy Davis news is a reminder that, for the truly ambitious, forever is only until the next news cycle. Davis, if you’ve forgotten, was the Democrats’ nominee for governor in November 2014, or not that long ago. But despite decent name ID from her 2013 abortion-rights filibuster that failed to derail new restrictions — and, accordingly, suitcases of out-of-state campaign cash — Davis fell a bit short of waking what she insisted was a sleeping giant of non-conservative voters in Texas. How short? An Obama-approved campaign braintrust and aggressive voter-registration efforts produced fewer votes and a smaller percentage than nondescript Bill White drew against Rick Perry in 2010.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Scalia offends black students; black UT grads fire back on Twitter

On Thursday, graduates from the University of Texas at Austin started tweeting photos of themselves in their cap and gowns in response to Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments on the Fischer vs. University of Texas at Austin case. The day before, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the Fischer vs. University of Texas at Austin which will decide whether race-conscious admissions should continue at UT. Justice Scalia made embarrassing comments that black students would benefit from a “slower track,” and less prestigious schools than one like UT: “Those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school — a slower-track school where they do well.”

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

FBI: Suspect in foiled Garland terror attack sent 109 messages to overseas ‘terrorist location’; messages remain encrypted

One of the suspects in the foiled terror attack in Garland in May had exchanged 109 messages with sources in a “terrorist location” overseas ahead of the attack, according to FBI Director James Comey who met twice with members of Congress this week to update them on investigations into recent terrorist attacks. Those messages, however, have not been reviewed by the FBI because they were exchanged on devices equipped with encryption software of a kind that the FBI director and other law enforcement leaders have been arguing should not be available. Comey testified Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and revealed the Garland information. Sen. John Cornyn, who met again with Comey Thursday during an all-member briefing on the attack in San Bernardino, told reporters Thursday that he had found the Garland tidbit shocking.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Lawmaker asks coordinating board to stop UT’s expansion into Houston

In a letter to Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, another lawmaker has raised concerns about the UT System’s planned expansion into Houston. Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said in a letter to Paredes on Wednesday that the board should stop the UT System from moving forward with its plans. She wrote that UT System’s decision to purchase the land without receiving the commissioner’s or the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s approval “undermines and weakens” the commissioner’s authority on higher education in the state.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Judge says he will rule on Wallace Hall’s suit for documents next week

The judge presiding over UT Regent Wallace Hall’s lawsuit said in court on Thursday he would issue a ruling next week on whether University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall has the right to records he requested from the system months ago. Hall wants records underlying an independent report that found several dozen underqualified students were admitted to UT-Austin with the help of connections from big named donors, lawmakers and other powerful figures. Chancellor William McRaven and the UT System was willing to give Hall the records with confidential student records redacted.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Former Ted Cruz “conservative wunderkind” CJ Pearson now backs Bernie Sanders

Just over a month ago C.J. Pearson was a 13-year-old conservative social media sensation, booming support for Sen.Ted Cruz. Now, he has not only disavowed conservatism, he is the new youthful voice of the Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign. “They used to call me a conservative wunderkind. Now, I’m just CJ. The semi-exciting independent from GA feeling the Bern,” Pearson wrote, in his updated Twitter bio. Pearson shot to conservative stardom in February with a viral video questioning President Barack Obama’s love for the United States. It gave Pearson a massive social media following, which Cruz targeted in September when he named Pearson the chairman of Teens for Ted.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Rick Perry talks tough on Trump, talks up Cruz

Though Rick Perry continues to talk tough about the ever-contentious billionaire Donald Trump, the former governor reiterated on Thursday that he will support the eventual GOP presidential nominee. “They are going to be a lot better than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whoever else,” Perry said on Fox News. Host Neil Cavuto interjected, “Even if it’s Donald Trump?” “Absolutely,” Perry responded. “I’m going to support the Republican nominee.”

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Rubin: Legislature must build on children’s health coverage progress

When it comes to making our state healthier, a new report shows that we really can make progress when we roll up our sleeves and get to work – and that we still have more work to do here in Texas. Our state has made progress ensuring that fewer children face a major obstacle when they need to go to the doctor when they’re sick or to get the preventive care that keeps them healthy. That means more smiling kids, more students showing up to class, more kids playing with their friends without spreading germs, and less time parents have to take off of work. A report our Texas Well and Healthy coalition recently released with Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families found that last year the number of uninsured Texas children fell by an estimated 100,000. The progress reflects the success of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid programs, as well as enrollment in health plans through the federal Marketplace.

El Paso Times - December 11, 2015

Drop in water reserves puzzles experts

As long-term well levels plunge, a prominent scientist says the total amount of water stored on, in and beneath the ground in Texas continues to diminish in a way that defies explanation. Water managers are ending a relatively good year. And, with a powerful El Niño continuing to churn in the Pacific, Texas and the Southwest are expecting another wet one. But the wet times come against a backdrop of plummeting groundwater levels, according to an analysis by USA Today and the Palm Springs Desert Sun. And in Texas, satellite data show that “total water storage” — soil moisture, groundwater and surface water — is 65 million acre-feet below its 13-year average.

San Antonio Express News - December 11, 2015

State Board of Education member takes job with charter school

Marisa B. Perez, one of two State Board of Education members representing San Antonio, starts a new job Monday as director of advancement for the IDEA network’s charter schools here. Perez is leaving her position as a governmental and community relations specialist for the San Antonio Independent School District, one that generated some election-year controversy three years ago when Perez’s opponent said it was a conflict of interest for her to work in that capacity. Her new position with IDEA does not require her to push a legislative agenda, charter district officials said. The job description states the employee will focus on fundraising and building relationships with nonprofits, donors and corporations.

San Antonio Express News - December 10, 2015

Texas on track to surpass 2014 enrollment numbers

Nearly a third of a million Texans have signed up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchange, putting the state on pace to overtake where it was at last year’s deadline to ensure coverage on Jan. 1, U.S. Health and Human Services officials said Wednesday. By week five of open enrollment, 317,094 people in the state had chosen plans on the exchange. That number has heartened officials who say there is still nearly a week to go before the Dec. 15 deadline and enrollment typically surges in the final days. “Texas is already about 80 percent of the way there,” Benjamin Wakana, HHS press secretary, said of the roughly 370,000 who had signed up by Dec. 15 last year.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - December 9, 2015

Jiminez: Texas secession talk draws embarrassment

Whenever the rest of the nation needs a chuckle, it can always find one in Texas. Non-Texans must have rolled over in uncontrollable laughter when word got out this past weekend that the Texas Republican Party's top leadership came within just a few votes of putting a referendum on the GOP ballot in March that would have been a national embarrassment. The question? Whether Texas should secede from the United States of America. Wait. There's more. The referendum would have been nonbinding. So it doesn't matter what the GOP voters answered, nothing would have happened anyway.

Environmental Defense Fund - December 10, 2015

“Sustainable Ports” in Texas – an Oxymoron?

Earlier this year, the first “zero-emissions terminal in the world” opened at a port in the Netherlands using equipment that releases no pollutants from a tailpipe and on-site wind energy for power demands. And closer to home, large ports in the U.S. have taken promising steps, like the Port of Seattle’s aggressive energy efficiency initiatives. Texas ports have some work to do, both to keep up with strong economic growth (like the record year the Port of Houston is projecting) and because Texas already leads the country in climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. But the good news is there is a way they could very quickly up their game: the use of renewable energy. And in the midst of historic climate talks in Paris, there is no better time for Texas ports to consider commonsense investments that safeguard both public health and the global climate.

KXAN - December 9, 2015

Texas Ag experts: Food prices to increase with proposed fees

The price of your food will likely increase next year according to agriculture experts and food industry representatives. January 1, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is raising fees by $22 million on certain industries. Inspectors from the Texas Department of Agriculture are responsible for making sure you get a gallon of gas when you pay for a gallon of gas. They’re responsible for the criminal background checks for the people that go into your home and your business to do pest control. Over the last two years they’ve caught more than twelve sex offenders. They also ensure food scanners and scales are accurate.

Midland Reporter Telegram - December 10, 2015

Midland Reporter Telegram: What’s with this drumbeat for Texas to secede?

Today, we offer a “thank you” to the State Republican Executive Committee for rejecting a measure that would have asked Texas voters whether they favor secession. As the Texas Tribune reported last weekend, up for a vote was a measure that would have placed on the March 1 primary ballot a non-binding item on whether they would like to see Texas declare its independence from the United States. Here was the official ballot language: “If the Federal Government continues to disregard the Constitution and the sovereignty of the state of Texas, the state of Texas should reassert its prior status as an independent nation.” Proponents of the measure, according to the Tribune, called the measure harmless and that the item would have helped get out the vote.

Tyler Morning Telegraph - December 7, 2015

Arrest affidavit details explicit messages leading to arrest of Tyler Junior College professor

The arrest affidavit in the solicitation of a minor case involving a Tyler Junior College professor and former Tyler state representative’s chief of staff shows he exchanged sexually explicit messages with a 12-year-old girl and tried to meet with her. Judd Harrison Quarles, 31, of Tyler, was booked into the Smith County Jail on Friday on a charge of online solicitation of a minor under 14. Quarles is a TJC professor and former chief of staff for State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. He was released from jail late Friday on $350,000 bond, according to the Smith County jail.

Oil Price - December 10, 2015

Why Texans Might Soon Be Driving On Mexican Gasoline

The world is changing fast in the energy industry and for no company is that truer than Mexican National Oil Company Pemex. After decades of bloated operations and mismanagement, Pemex has made major moves to improve its operations and attract foreign investors to the Mexican energy sector. This is a major piece of the current administration’s plan to modernize and improve the efficiency of the state-dominated oil sector and simultaneously give a much needed boost to the Mexican economy. Unfortunately oil markets are not cooperating.

KRGV - December 10, 2015

New Facilities May be used for Spike In Illegal Crossings

Border Patrol is seeing more than double the number of people crossing illegally during the October and November months of this year, compared to the same months last year. The new spike in unaccompanied minors crossing into the country illegally is pushing federal officials to open three new housing shelters. Two of them will be in Texas; the third will be in California. Under federal law, children who are traveling alone need special treatment. The two shelters will be outside Dallas. One is at the Sabine Creek Ranch in Rockwall County and the other at the Lakeview camp and Retreat Center in Ellis County.

National Catholic Reporter - December 9, 2015

Syrian refugee families denied parole, now face Christmas in Texas detention centers

Three Syrian families may spend Christmas in Texas detention centers after immigration officials denied their parole request last week. The decision angered immigration advocates who called on the Obama administration to release the refugee families saying it violates a federal court ruling. The families presented themselves last month at the border in Laredo, Texas. Although they passed their background checks and credible fear interviews – an interview for asylum seekers that determines whether they fear persecution or torture upon their return to their home country — the families were denied parole by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, said Jonathan Ryan, director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). (Ryan, an attorney, is representing the families.)

Palestine Herald - December 9, 2015

More than 100 locals turn out for Rep. Cook campaign kickoff

More than 100 people showed up for Rep. Byron Cook's Anderson County 2016 Campaign Kick-Off event at Old Magnolia in downtown Palestine on Tuesday night. Of the event, Cook said, "I was so honored to see such an outpouring of support tonight in Palestine." Cook will be chairing the House State Affairs Committee hearing on Gov. Greg Abbott's initiatives to prohibit “sanctuary cities” in Texas on Thursday. The committee will meet to discuss and examine state and local laws applicable to undocumented immigrants throughout the state of Texas and analyze the effects of those laws in conjunction with federal immigration laws and the policies and practices followed by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement.

New Republic - December 10, 2015

Is it Dangerous to Be a Muslim in Texas?

On Tuesday, dueling groups of protesters, some outfitted in camouflage gear and carrying loaded rifles, clashed outside the Islamic Center of Irving, a mosque serving the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex’s Muslim community. It wasn’t the first time the mosque has been the site of anti-Muslim demonstration: Last month, armed protesters gathered outside the Islamic Center of Irving to protest the “Islamization of America.” The Klu Klux Klan has now vowed to repeat the demonstration sometime in December. “This is worse than what happened after 9/11,” Mona Kafeel, chief operating officer at the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, told the New Republic. “This is a more tense situation. People are afraid. People really are afraid.”

County Stories

KVIA - December 9, 2015

Removing toll roads? -- El Paso's mobility authority to ask TXDOT if it can be done

Members of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) voted Wednesday to send a formal request to the Texas Department of Transportation to investigate what it would take to remove the toll lanes off El Paso's Cesar Chavez Border Highway. State Representative Joe Pickett, who serves as chairman of the House's Committee on Transportation, has led the effort to increase TXDOT's funding by championing changes in the state agency's funding formula. With the passage of two recent state constitutional amendments, Pickett, says, tolls are not necessary to fund the maintenance of roads. Pickett asked the CRRMA, which builds and manages roads in our area, to ask TXDOT to study the feasibility of removing the tolls from the Cesar Chavez Border Highway. He said San Antonio already got rid of its toll roads and El Paso should, too.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Jury awards $5.4 million to couple after finding fraud in foreclosure case

David and Mary Ellen Wolf were several payments behind on their home mortgage and knew that foreclosure loomed. They were puzzled, though, when a foreclosure notice came early in 2011 from Wells Fargo because they hadn't done business with that bank. They asked their West University neighbor, lawyer W. Craft Hughes, for help. After poring over mortgage records, Hughes came to the conclusion that neither Wells Fargo nor its mortgage servicer, Carrington Mortgage Services, had legal claim to the note on the house or the right to foreclose. A state district court jury in Harris County agreed last month and awarded the Wolfs $5.4 million after a four-day trial. "It's very unusual," said Linda E. Fisher, professor of law at Seton Hall Law School who has testified before Congress on the effect of mortgage fraud on consumers.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Dallas County sheriff: ‘Sanctuary cities’ law could lead to Ferguson-like protests

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez warned lawmakers Thursday that a measure to eliminate “sanctuary cities,” supported by Gov. Greg Abbott, could lead to “Ferguson-like” demonstrations in addition to jail overcrowding and economic repercussions. While immigration law enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government, Texas House and Senate committees were tasked with studying how state and local laws effect enforcement and make recommendations before the next legislative session in 2017. Lawmakers and invited witnesses struggled Thursday to nail down an exact definition of a “sanctuary city,” but the term refers generally to a city or county that refuses to fully enforce federal immigration law.

San Antonio Express News - December 10, 2015

Lawyer: DA’s office faces conflict in Flores case

After a video surfaced showing two Bexar County deputies fatally shooting Gilbert Flores while his hands were raised, District Attorney Nico LaHood promised a thorough investigation of the August incident and whether the deputies committed a crime. But even as that criminal investigation proceeded, lawyers for the district attorney’s office defended the county in a lawsuit filed by Flores’ family, and they submitted court papers saying the deputies weren’t guilty of wrongdoing. “The law allows that,” Thomas J. Henry, the lawyer representing the Flores family, said of the dual roles of the DA’s office. “But I do not believe that’s an even-handed approach.”

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2015

Theft of guns from Waller Co. sheriff's vehicle raises questions

Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith says he prays every day that investigators catch the thieves who broke into his marked vehicle in the parking lot of a Katy-area restaurant and made off with his official sheriff's jacket and an arsenal of weapons, including a submachine gun. "I've not enjoyed having it spread over all God's creation that the sheriff lost his guns," Smith acknowledged days after his black sheriff's truck was burglarized in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Saltgrass Steakhouse, where he was attending a holiday banquet. "But I'd rather have the information out there so we can find some witnesses. I am concerned about who got their hands on those guns, and that someone could use my jacket to dress up like law enforcement."

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Montgomery County settles civil rights lawsuit in "Texas Takedown" case

The Montgomery County Precinct 4 constables barged into Perla Carr's home late one night in September 2011 and arrested her for marijuana possession. A team from the Internet reality show "Texas Takedown" was beside the lawmen and recorded the incident, later posting it on YouTube. The video would be the basis for a federal civil rights lawsuit that Carr filed in 2013 against county officials seeking damages for what she called a warrantless search on her New Caney trailer home. On Thursday, one month before Carr's case was scheduled for a federal jury trial, the parties reached a tentative deal for Montgomery County to pay the now 63-year-old woman $100,000.

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2015

Climate change brings good and bad predictions for Houston's future

Few American cities have as much at stake as Houston in the outcome of the United Nation's climate change summit that wraps up Friday in Paris. Houston's metropolitan area is home to major fossil fuel companies and more than 400 chemical plants - comprising the largest petrochemical complex in the country. It also has some of the smoggiest skies in the nation. That combination makes the global fight against climate change a local issue in Houston, and is generating predictions - both positive and pessimistic - about the city's economic future and the potential for fundamental change in the fossil fuel industry.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Audit to look at whether State Fair of Texas, others are doing their fair share for Fair Park

Two Dallas City Council members want the city auditor to take a long, hard look at “the major business partners currently operating facilities at Fair Park,” chief among them the State Fair of Texas. “There is broad skepticism that the State Fair is a legitimate nonprofit,” says Philip Kingston, who vice-chairs the council’s Budget, Finance and Audit Committee. He and Jennifer Gates, who chairs the committee, sent a memo to City Auditor Craig Kinton on Wednesday asking for “an evaluation of financial, operational, or other risks that may currently relate to these business partners.” The memo adds detail and urgency to a recently revealed city effort to look more deeply into the operations of the State Fair.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Board authorizes HISD to borrow $200 million

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier got his way Thursday in some, but not all, matters with the school board. The board voted 8-1 for a Grier-backed proposal to authorize borrowing $200 million to cover a projected shortfall in the district's $1.9 billion construction bond program. Trustees generally agreed that the extra money was needed to cover rising construction costs in the city's booming construction market, although some questioned approving the extra money before the completion of an external audit. It is not expected to be finished until March, at which point HISD expects construction costs to have risen.

KBTV - December 10, 2015

Local Imam says he was forced to resign because he agrees with Trump on Muslim immigration

A political conflict is playing out within the walls of the Muslim community in Southeast Texas. A man who was the leader of Muslims in the area said Thursday the conflict has resulted in his ousting. "Don't get me involved in any political games in the name of religion. I am not here a political man," Dr. Nidal Alsayyed said. But it's political motivations he said have forced him to resign as Imam. "Sadly, it's Clinton versus Trump," he said. Dr. Al Sayyed told KFDM News he was forced to resign as religious director of the Islamic Society of the Triplex after making comments Monday in which he agrees with Donald Trump's statements that the U.S. should temporarily stop accepting any new Muslim immigrants into the country.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2015

How Garland’s Katrina Pierson went from tea party star to Trump spokeswoman of “So what, they’re Muslim” fame

Since her first tea party meeting in North Texas, Katrina Pierson says, she’s been trying to strike a blow against corrupt, inefficient government, while fighting against illegal immigration. The Garland resident was on the ground floor of Ted Cruz’s 2012 underdog victory in the Senate primary against Republican David Dewhurst. And in 2014 she ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Republican Pete Sessions, R-Dallas. As the 2016 Republican presidential race began to take shape, Pierson went on the airwaves defending the candidacy of an outspoken, controversial and sometimes bombastic contender.

National Stories

Associated Press - December 11, 2015

Republican voters on Trump: no compassion, no problem

Republican voters don't think Donald Trump is likable. They don't think he's compassionate. And many don't consider him particularly honest. But he's overwhelmingly viewed as decisive and competent. And that's what matters most — at least for now — to Republicans. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 8 in 10 Republican registered voters call Trump very or somewhat decisive. That's top in the field for the businessman, whose blunt style was featured for years on reality TV. At the same time, it finds much resistance to him from the country at large.

This article appeared in the Dallas Morning News

Politico - December 11, 2015

Insiders: Trump independent bid would ruin GOP chances

If Donald Trump runs for president as an independent, the GOP will lose the White House. That’s according to a majority of Republicans in The POLITICO Caucus, our weekly bipartisan survey of the top strategists, activists and operatives in the four early-nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Story Continued Below Roughly 4 in 5 GOP insiders, 79 percent, said it would be either “impossible” or “very difficult” for the Republican nominee to win the general election if Trump launches a third-party bid, based on electoral math and a general inability for the party’s nominee to focus on the Democratic competitor.

Politico - December 11, 2015

Rand Paul could be booted from main debate stage

Rand Paul, once considered the main contender for the anti-establishment GOP vote, will likely be pushed off the debate stage next week when CNN announces the lineup for the fifth Republican forum. Chris Christie, however, has clawed back in the polling thanks to a rebound in New Hampshire, virtually ensuring he will be promoted to the main event in Las Vegas on Tuesday, according to POLITICO’s calculations. Based on national polls, only five candidates are at 3 percent or higher in surveys conducted since late October: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush.

USA Today - December 10, 2015

Pumped beyond limits, many U.S. aquifers in decline

Time is running out for portions of the High Plains Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas and is the lifeblood of one of the world’s most productive farming economies. The aquifer, also known as the Ogallala, makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry. As less water pours from wells, some farmers are adapting by switching to different crops. Others are shutting down their drained wells and trying to scratch out a living as dryland farmers, relying only on the rains. In parts of western Kansas, the groundwater has already been exhausted and very little can be extracted for irrigation. In other areas, the remaining water could be mostly used up within a decade.

New York Times - December 10, 2015

To Democrats, Donald Trump Is No Longer a Laughing Matter

Mrs. Clinton alternated between tugging at the heartstrings with messages of inclusiveness and capitalizing on Mr. Trump’s comments in ways that some Democrats considered unseemly. After she quickly rejected Mr. Trump’s remarks on Twitter, a fund-raising email went out that night from a top aide, Huma Abedin, under the subject line “I’m a proud Muslim.” The campaign released a “Love Trumps Hate” bumper sticker, and on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton published an open letter on Medium titled “No, Donald Trump, We’re Not Barring Muslims From Entering the County” that pleaded for tolerance. But privately, campaign aides said a day later that the dust had not settled, and they were searching for how best to hit back at Mr. Trump without dismissing the heightened feelings of insecurity that he was playing upon.

Politico - December 10, 2015

Cruz emerges as Iowa's new favorite

Ted Cruz increasingly looks like the man to beat in Iowa. He’s rising in the polls, building on an already extensive field organization and locking down critical conservative endorsements. Story Continued Below Among the biggest yet came Thursday, when Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the conservative group Family Leader, came out for Cruz, citing what he sees as electability in Iowa and nationally. “This is a guy that’s been very consistent in principles, in communications, and his campaign has shown ability to slowly gain ground and build momentum, and appears to have great staying power," he told POLITICO. "I don’t see his numbers going down, I see them going up.”

Associated Press - December 11, 2015

Obama's executive actions could open a door for successors

While the White House has condemned Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslim immigrants as "disqualifying" and "toxic," President Barack Obama may have only himself to blame if a President Trump ever succeeds in putting his plan, or some version of it, into action. In his efforts to work around Congress, Obama has made the aggressive use of executive power, particularly on immigration, an increasingly effective and politically accepted presidential tool. While legal scholars are divided on whether Obama has accelerated or merely continued a drift of power toward the executive branch, there's little debate that he's paved a path for his successor. Depending on who that is, many Obama backers could rue the day they cheered his "pen-and-phone" campaign to get past Republican opposition in Congress. The unilateral steps he took to raise environmental standards, tighten gun control measures and ease the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, may serve as precedent for moves they won't cheer.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - December 11, 2015

Obama's executive actions could open a door for successors

While the White House has condemned Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslim immigrants as "disqualifying" and "toxic," President Barack Obama may have only himself to blame if a President Trump ever succeeds in putting his plan, or some version of it, into action. In his efforts to work around Congress, Obama has made the aggressive use of executive power, particularly on immigration, an increasingly effective and politically accepted presidential tool. While legal scholars are divided on whether Obama has accelerated or merely continued a drift of power toward the executive branch, there's little debate that he's paved a path for his successor. Depending on who that is, many Obama backers could rue the day they cheered his "pen-and-phone" campaign to get past Republican opposition in Congress. The unilateral steps he took to raise environmental standards, tighten gun control measures and ease the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, may serve as precedent for moves they won't cheer.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Cruz vows to end terror threat, calls for “sustained” bombing of ISIS

Vowing to end the terror threat domestically and overseas, Sen. Ted Cruz used a major foreign policy speech today to frame the choice facing America as political correctness and weakness, or blunt talk and decisive action. Cruz called for a “sustained, coherent, directed bombing campaign” in Syria and Iraq as a way to dislodge the Islamic State terror group. And he promises that as president he will restore a sense of security that President Barack Obama has allowed to slip away.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Leubsdorf: Two Texas cases in Supreme Court with big implications

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on two Texas cases, one challenging allocation of state Senate districts and the other questioning affirmative action at the University of Texas. Those two cases, very different in their particulars, are among an unusual number of legal challenges from Texas that stem from initiatives by conservatives both inside and outside the Lone Star state’s government. They could produce significant rulings from the nation’s highest court. Two other important Texas cases are on the court’s docket later in the current term. One results from a suit filed by Texas and 25 other states to block President Barack Obama’s order allowing some 5 million illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. The other would overturn a state law requiring strict new standards for abortion clinics in what abortion rights advocates see as the latest effort to curb the procedure.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015


First they drugged him. Then they sent Mom to the waiting room. Then they strapped his torso and wrists to a padded board. But Junior did not let down his guard. At the sound of the drill, dental records say, the 4-year-old began “whining, crying and moving.” So they pulled a strap across his forehead, then soldiered on to the last breath. His death opens a door into dentistry’s netherworld, where professionals take chances with patients’ lives and the government largely tolerates it. Most of the time everyone wins. And then one day they don’t.

Newsweek - December 10, 2015

Alschuler, Tribe: Who Blew the Lid Off Campaign Contributions?

Federal law bars billionaire Robert Mercer from giving as much as $6,000 to Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Thirty-nine years ago, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court upheld limits on contributions to candidates. But federal law did not block Mercer from giving $11 million to a super PAC whose mission is to urge voters to support Cruz. A federal statute formerly limited contributions to super PACs to $5,000, but in 2010 a federal court held this statute unconstitutional. A super PAC is a political action committee that does not make contributions to candidates but instead places its own “independent” ads supporting candidates and disparaging their opponents. These groups have been called “the attack dogs and provocateurs of modern politics.”

Associated Press - December 10, 2015

US launches trial of facial, eye scans on Mexican border

The federal government on Thursday began collecting facial and eye scans of foreigners entering the U.S. at a busy border crossing with Mexico, a first step in one of its most ambitious efforts to track people who stay in the country illegally after their visas expire. Up to half of the people in the U.S. illegally are believed to have overstayed their visas, but the absence of a checkout system has left authorities with no way to identify them. In a push to change that, Customs and Border Protection began scanning foreigners entering on foot at San Diego's Otay Mesa port of entry. In February, it will start collecting the same information on foreigners walking into Mexico through the checkpoint.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - December 10, 2015

Watchdog files complaint on mystery Bush super PAC donors

Two companies that gave $200,000 to a pro-Jeb Bush super PAC are obscuring the identities of the real donors, a Washington watchdog group alleges in a complaint it filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. The complaint highlights how super political action committees — critical helpers for most of the 2016 presidential candidates — are not always as transparent as voters may think. Super PACs regularly file information about their donors to the FEC. But sometimes those donors are mysterious companies. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a political spending watchdog known as CREW, alleges that two limited-liability companies, or LLCs, are "straw donors" meant to conceal the true sources of the money.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Cruz Talks Foreign Policy, Deflects Question on Trump, Carson

Asked Thursday about a report that he questioned the foreign policy judgment of GOP presidential rivals Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Ted Cruz declined to address the contenders specifically. But as he laid out his own foreign policy vision, the senator from Texas said that voters will have to weigh which candidate’s judgment they trust the most. “I’m not going to comment on what I may or may not have said at a private fundraiser," Cruz replied to a reporter’s question about a recently published New York Times story. "But I will say is this: Over the course of the presidential election, the voters are going to make a decision about every candidate, and ultimately the decision is who has the right judgment — experience and judgment — to serve as commander in chief."

Politico - December 10, 2015

Cruz wins key Iowa evangelical endorsement

Ted Cruz on Thursday received the endorsement of influential Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats, advancing the Texas senator's bid to become the top choice of Iowa's Christian conservatives. Vander Plaats revealed his intention to the Des Moines Register, ahead of a press conference to announce the decision at the Iowa State Capitol. Story Continued Below "At the end of the day, we truly believe that Ted Cruz is the most consistent and principled conservative who has the ability to not only win Iowa but I believe to win the (Republican) nomination," he told the Register.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

Obesity rates drop in states with legal medical marijuana, study says

It may seem counterintuitive, given pot’s reputation for giving users the “munchies,” but researchers say obesity rates have actually dropped in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. The study was conducted by San Diego State University and Cornell University. The researchers looked at nationwide public health surveys from 1990 through 2012. In states that allow medical marijuana, obesity rates were 2 percent to 6 percent lower than had been projected.

National Journal - December 17, 2015

Paul’s Libertarian Support Siphoned Off by Cruz

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is try­ing to launch a comeback for his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign - ex­cept Sen. Ted Cruz (R-FL) is stand­ing in his way. “Cruz has been poach­ing Paul’s liber­tari­an sup­port­ers since last Janu­ary, when the Texas sen­at­or touched down in Iowa for a for­um or­gan­ized by” Rep. Steve King (R-IA). “The first thing Cruz did on that trip — be­fore vis­it­ing with King or any of the state’s evan­gel­ic­al lead­ers — was stop at the Hol­i­day Inn by the air­port for a private roundtable dis­cus­sion with Iowa’s ‘liberty’ lead­ers. In the el­ev­en months since, Cruz has made sig­ni­fic­ant in­roads with this con­stitu­ency — the one” former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) “cre­ated, and Rand Paul had coun­ted on as the back­bone of his cam­paign.”

The Hill - December 10, 2015

Price: Ted Cruz’s climate change hearing and the spreading of misinformation

To see who he’s listening to instead, you can research the witnesses Cruz invited to Tuesday's hearing — Judith Curry, John Christy, William Happer, and Mark Steyn. The first three are all part of the vanishingly small minority of climate denying scientists. William Happer even compared the “demonization of carbon dioxide” to “the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” and Styen is a conservative pundit with no scientific background whatsoever. If you have trouble understanding why Cruz would rather listen to his hearing guests than his own constituents, take a look at his campaign coffers. Cruz has received over $1 million in contributions from the oil and gas industry. His Super PAC’s largest contribution (a whopping $15 million) is from two fracking billionaires and nearly a quarter of his personal wealth is invested in fossil fuels. Given this information, it’s easy to see why Cruz would only want to hear views that support climate change denial.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Porter: The radical green's assault on humanity

As terror rages worldwide, President Barack Obama concluded his tour last week with radical environmentalists from across the globe in Paris for the 21st United Nations climate change conference, while ignoring the most immediate threat to the free world: radical Islamic terrorism. The president used the recently attacked city as a backdrop to promote his environmental agenda on the global stage, claiming that climate change is the greatest danger to humanity and that its effects are comparable to the threats posed by ISIS. His attempt to use this particular city to gain support for his leftist strategies is offensive to those in Paris still recovering from last month's attacks, as well as those in San Bernardino, Calif. Sweeping the immediate dangers of terrorism under the rug, President Obama plans to use the Paris climate change conference to encourage developing countries to commit a total of $100 billion to the Global Climate Change Fund by 2020, $3 billion of which comes from U.S. taxpayers.

The Atlantic - December 9, 2015

The Polls May Be Underestimating Trump's Support

Donald Trump’s persistent lead in the GOP presidential-preference polls has been a great source of confusion for the chattering classes. But Trump is actually just the latest manifestation of a more global trend: Data suggests the appeal of anti-immigrant policies to working-class voters is much deeper than most American elites want to believe. And because Trump draws the bulk of his support from less-educated, working- and middle-class voters, he may be positioned to do even better still—for now. Polling data from Europe shows that parties with similar voter profiles to Trump’s consistently do better in both online polls and at the ballot box than in live-interview polling. And currently Trump is far ahead online. Why does this happen? It starts with working-class voters across developed countries being under severe economic pressure because of competition with foreigners at home (immigration) and abroad (EU/trade).

Kaiser Health News - December 9, 2015

Uninsured People Eligible For Obamacare Face Average $969 Penalty In 2016

The penalty for failing to have health insurance is going up, perhaps even higher than you expected. Among uninsured individuals who are not exempt from the Affordable Care Act penalty, the average household fine for not having insurance in 2015 will be $661, rising to $969 per household in 2016, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Individuals will pay the penalty when they complete their federal taxes the following spring. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.) The individual mandate penalty started out at $95, or 1 percent of family income, whichever was greater, in 2014. In 2016, it will rise to the higher of these two amounts: $695 per adult, plus $347.50 per child, up to a maximum $2,085 for a family, or 2.5 percent of family income in excess of 2015 income tax filing thresholds.

Washington Free Beacon - December 10, 2015

Muslim Cleric with Clinton Ties Taken to Court for False Imprisonment

An Islamic Turkish religious leader whose followers have donated up to $1 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation is being taken to court on charges that he is using U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a reclusive cult that is indoctrinating U.S. children and silencing critics by force, according to a copy of the legal complaint filed Wednesday in a U.S. District Court. Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric whose movement has been described by critics as cult-like, stands accused of using hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds to establish more than 120 charter schools in the United States that are used to proselytize and indoctrinate American youths. Gülen and his followers have long been accused of using these schools to brainwash children and hold hostage scores of Turkish immigrants who come to the United States on visas to teach at these institutions.

Associated Press - December 10, 2015

Lone profitable ACA insurance co-op losing millions

The lone health insurance cooperative to make money last year on the Affordable Care Act's public insurance exchanges is now losing millions and suspending individual enrollment for 2016. Maine's Community Health Options lost more than $17 million in the first nine months of this year, after making $10.9 million in the same period last year. A spokesman said higher-than-expected medical costs have hurt the cooperative. The announcement casts further doubt on the future of the cooperatives, small nonprofit insurers devised during the ACA's creation to inject competition in insurance markets.

NPR - December 9, 2015

How Billionaire Techies Hope To Reshape The Immigration Debate

The immigration-reform advocacy group founded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg — FWD.us (pronounced "forward U.S.") — and funded by fellow Silicon Valley entrepreneurs including Microsoft's Bill Gates and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer — is rolling out a plan for the 2016 election that will include "substantial" investments in battleground states. This primary campaign season, the immigration conversation has been dominated by hard-line rhetoric about border walls, mass deportations and birthright citizenship, and now Donald Trump's Muslim immigration ban. FWD.us says it's trying to refocus the conversation on comprehensive immigration reform. "We are making the case over the next year that immigration reform needs to be something that gets done right away under the next presidency," said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Cervantes: What young people want in 2016

Among the slew of groups that presidential campaigns want to target, young voters can be particularly vexing. That's because voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are notoriously difficult to turn out on Election Day, unlike consistent older votes who lean more Republican than Democratic. The last two White House races, however, have proven that if a campaign puts sustained resources into attracting and mobilizing young voters -- no small ask when other expenses are in play -- it can pay off mightily. Consider a report on the 2012 race from the Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tuft's University which found that had GOP nominee Mitt Romney split the youth vote with President Barack Obama, the Republican could have won. The president won 67 percent support among young voters, while Romney took 30 percent, ensuring the former Massachusetts governor lost crucial battleground states.

All - December 10, 2015

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Texas’ sales tax haul shrinks in three of past four months; Hegar blames oilfield slowdown

Texas’ collection of its main source of state revenue, sales tax, has declined in three of the past four months when compared with receipts a year earlier, according to figures Comptroller Glenn Hegar released Wednesday. November sales tax receipts decreased by 3.3 percent from the same month in 2014, a result of shrinking purchases by oil and gas drilling companies, Hegar said in a statement. But he hastened to add that his office’s revenue estimators expected the drop, which he said came in spite of growth in other parts of the Texas economy.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Waller County is Texas' fastest-growing county – here are the others

In the northwest corner of the Houston Metro Area, little Waller County sports the fastest population growth rate in the past five years of any Texas county with more than 10,000 residents, according to fresh numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationwide, Waller County took ninth place for growth of well-populated counties, and Texas ranked third among states. The figures come from the recently-released American Community Survey, with yearly population estimates between 2009 and 2014. Waller County Commissioner Jeron Barnett said his county's superlative growth was inevitable given the growth in surrounding counties of Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend.

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

Ag commissioner: ‘We will be going forward with fee increases’

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said Tuesday he will charge ahead with multimillion-dollar fee increases despite concerns expressed at a Senate hearing that some proposed hikes are “choke-a-horse large.” The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs was told by the Legislative Budget Board that Miller has authority to raise the fees, as he has said he must do to keep up with his agency’s responsibilities. “We will be going forward with the fee increases,” Miller later told reporters. “Every day that we’re operating, we’re operating in the red … We’ve got to put an end to the bleeding.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Regent suing UT System over records says he needs them to do his job

? Attorneys for University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall argued Wednesday that the embattled regent should be allowed to see certain confidential student documents to test whether new admissions policies are sufficient to address problems found in an investigation. Wednesday was the first hearing in a lawsuit that Hall filed against University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven in Travis County district court in June. Hall is requesting the release of confidential student records that were used in a UT-System-commissioned investigation by Kroll Associates Inc. A summary of the findings was made public in February, stating that Bill Powers, during his time as president at the Austin campus, sometimes overruled admissions decisions to ensure the acceptance of applicants who were touted by legislators, regents, donors and other influential people.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

Housing, sales tax receipts point to continued slowdown

Evidence mounted Wednesday that crude oil's stubborn slump is chilling the economy, with local Realtors reporting the most severe back-to-back declines in home sales in four years and the Texas Comptroller's Office announcing that a statewide dip in sales tax revenue was most pronounced in regions dominated by the energy industry. The local housing market, which has been flirting with a slowdown for most of the year, saw single-family home sales fall by 10.2 percent for the second straight month in November, the Houston Association of Realtors said. And the market is expected to continue to soften into 2016 as more energy-industry job cuts are anticipated. "It's a lot slower," said David Young, president and CEO of Houston brokerage firm David Young & Co. "There's not near as many people looking and they're not quick to pull the trigger. With all the layoffs, it's bound to not only affect the people who have been laid off but to make others cautious."

Los Angeles Times - December 10, 2015

Middle-class families, pillar of the American dream, are no longer in the majority, study finds

The nation’s middle class, long a pillar of the U.S. economy and foundation of the American dream, has shrunk to the point where it no longer constitutes the majority of the adult population, according to a new major study. The Pew Research Center report released Wednesday put in sharp relief the nation’s increasing income divide, which is certain to be a central issue in the 2016 presidential race. It also highlights how various economic and demographic forces have eroded long-held ideals about maintaining a strong, majority middle class. Many analysts and policymakers regard the shift as worrisome for economic and social stability. Middle-income households have been the bedrock of consumer spending, and many liberals in particular view the declining middle as part of a troubling trend of skewed income gains among the nation’s richest families.

Texas Public Radio - December 8, 2015

A Politician Walks Into King Taco ... A Look At The Political Term 'Hispandering'

Hillary Clinton got side-eyed after blasting Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud" at a campaign stop in San Antonio where she called herself "La Hillary" and "Tu Hillary." Jeb Bush earned eye rolls after debuting a Spanish-language ad celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Both were accused of "Hispandering": a mashup of "Hispanic" and "pandering" that means faking interest in Hispanic issues and culture for self-serving reasons. So, what counts as Hispandering, and what doesn't? Who decides? Since Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S., and, as you may have heard, Hispanic voters have the numbers to move the needle in next year's election, we're digging into the history and evolution of a term we'll probably be hearing again.

Washington Times - December 9, 2015

Pew: Muslims 'fastest-growing religious group in the world,' 70% Democrat

Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world, with 23 percent of the global population, and will take over Christianity as the top religion by the end of the century, according to the Pew Research Center. A review of Muslims by the nonpartisan organization also found that Muslims comprise a growing share of the immigrants granted permanent residency in the United States each year. Their share doubled from 5 percent of the annual permanent residency flow in 1992 to 10 percent in 2012, representing 100,000 Muslim immigrants granted permanent residency in the U.S. each year. Pew also found that Muslim immigrants prefer more government services and that 70 percent lean Democratic. Just 11 percent identify with Republicans.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

No one cares about UWEX 16, aka Jade Helm 2

During the height of the Jade Helm 15 hysteria earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott received hundreds of emails from Texans concerned about a possible military takeover. But Texans don’t seem to be as concerned about Unconventional Warfare Exercise 16 — also called UWEX 16 — which is another military training coming to Texas in 2016. The Dallas Morning News filed an open records request to get all the public’s correspondence to the governor about this second military training operation. The request turned up just one email — and that was from a New Yorker. In his email to Abbott, the New Yorker writes “there’s no news reports, oversight and military not being questioned on motives.” He asks Abbott to look into it and provides a link to an article on IntelRevolution.com where a reporter named only “Nate” claims all military exercises “further the agenda of martial law” and “wage psychological warfare on citizens.”

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Floyd: Texas moderates -- We’re here, we vote, and we’re frustrated

Texas moderates aren’t dead yet, but they’re feeling mighty ill-used. We’re fed up, many of them told me this week, after I chose a critically endangered species, the vanishing political moderate, as my 2015 Texan of the Year. We’re tired, they said. It’s hard to blame them. Obsessively fascinated with way incendiary politics have driven American voters into polarized camps, we-in-the-media too often overlook those on the middle ground who now feel trapped in the crossfire. “We’re still here,” said one reader, who, like many I heard from, identifies as fiscally right-of-center, and socially slightly left. “It’s the political parties that have abandoned us. It’s a challenge finding someone that represents my views.”

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Dallas federal judge denies second TRO request to block Syrian refugees

A federal judge in Dallas denied a state of Texas request for a second temporary restraining order to halt the settlement of Syrian refugees here. The move came after Texas Attorney General Kenneth Paxton made the second request today on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in fresh court filings in Dallas, citing evidence that includes statements that “terrorist organizations have infiltrated the very refugee program that is central to the dispute.” The judge zeroed in on the issue of irreparable harm in his denial. It reads: “The Commission argues that terrorists could have infiltrated the Syrian refugees and could commit acts of terrorism in Texas. The Court finds that the evidence before it is largely speculative hearsay.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Federal haze rules target seven Texas coal facilities

New federal rules designed to reduce smog in the country’s national parks will force seven of Texas’ oldest coal plants to make costly upgrades to their smokestacks. With an eye to lifting the haze that hangs over Big Bend National Park and other federal parks and wilderness areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released new air pollution standards Wednesday for Texas — one of a handful of states that had continued to resist government efforts to cut down on the release of visibility-impairing sulfur dioxide. Experts were wary Wednesday of predicting what exact impact the rules would have on the state’s coal power industry, which is already struggling under a natural gas boom that has forced power prices down. But last week the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas released analysis of a draft of the haze rule published by the EPA last year.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Gun rights groups plan to stage mock mass shooting at UT-Austin

Gun rights activists plan to conduct a “theatrical performance” of a mass shooting this weekend near the University of Texas at Austin’s campus – an attention-grabbing effort to highlight their opposition to gun-free zones. Two groups – Come And Take It Texas and DontComply.com – are pitching a “Life And Liberty Event To End Gun Free Zones,” according to a Facebook event posting. The event will include an “Open Carry walk” and then the “Crisis Performance event.” Event organizers said the performance, dubbed by one as a “visual education,” will feature actors “shot” by attackers with cardboard weapons. Props will include fake blood and audio recordings of gun shots. Other actors will play the role of rescuers.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 8, 2015

Gambling expansion remains on chopping block amid new shakeup at Texas Racing Commission

There’s been another shakeup of top leadership at an embattled state agency as the push to derail historical racing — a hotly contested new way to gamble at tracks statewide — continues in Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott has named Rolando Pablos of El Paso to lead the Texas Racing Commission, replacing local orthopedic surgeon Robert Schmidt, who has guided the agency since 2011. Schmidt, who will continue to serve on the commission, resigned as chair after declining Abbott’s request to place the issue of repealing historical racing, the replaying of past races on slot machine-like devices, on next week’s agenda.

San Antonio Express News - December 9, 2015

Immigrant advocates fight effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

Advocates for immigrants and children are fighting a proposal to allow federal detention centers to be licensed by the state as residential child-care facilities, saying Texas shouldn’t lend legitimacy to the operation. “Family detention and detention of immigrants is abuse. It isn’t child care,” said Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership at a hearing by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on the proposed licensing rule. State licensing would help the detention centers comply with a federal court settlement regarding treatment of immigrant children.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Receipts from Texas gun, tactical store found at home of San Bernardino terrorists

Investigators found receipts from Fort Worth-based Cheaper Than Dirt, Inc., an online gun, ammunition and tactical gear retailer, at the home of two terrorists who shot and killed more than a dozen people in San Bernardino, California last week. Authorities have not identified which items Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik purchased from the online store, which has a warehouse in Fort Worth and sells assault-style weapons, camouflaged armored vests, ammunition and high-capacity magazines. It boasts an inventory of $375 million on its website.

San Antonio Express News - December 9, 2015

Permit holders could carry concealed weapons in class at UTSA under preliminary recommendations

Permit holders could carry concealed handguns in classrooms at the University of Texas at San Antonio under most circumstances but not in shared dorms or sporting events, according to preliminary recommendations for implementing a new state law presented at two forums Wednesday. About 60 people attended a morning forum Wednesday at UTSA, where Kathryn Funk-Baxter, the school’s vice president for business affairs and campus carry task force chair, outlined the task force’s preliminary recommendations and took questions. A second forum was held Wednesday afternoon at the school’s downtown campus. So far, the task force’s exclusion zones include places that provide services to minor children; health and counseling centers; various events, including high school, collegiate or professional sporting events; on-campus voting sites; shared dormitory rooms and rooms that connect through a shared bathroom; some labs, including those with combustible or flammable materials; the Recreation Wellness Center; and athletic locker and weight rooms, among others.

Austin American Statesman - December 10, 2015

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat won’t run after all

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat won’t run for reelection after all. After indicating last week that he wouldn’t run and then saying earlier this week that he would, the 70-year-old Austin Democrat said Thursday that he is withdrawing his name from the ballot. Naishtat’s departure will set off a flurry of last-minute politicking as local Democrats decide whether to run for a seat that has been tied up since the early 1990s. The candidate filing deadline is Monday.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

AAS: AG opinion affirms authority of local districts to adopt textbooks

We have found much to disagree with regarding the opinions of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the last year. But on the topic of textbooks, however, we are in lock-step agreement with Paxton’s legal interpretation of state law regarding the State Board of Education’s authority to regulate textbook selection by local school districts and public charter schools. As Paxton makes clear, the state board has very limited authority on that front. Paxton wrote last week: “The Legislature has provided, pursuant to section 11.151 of the Education Code, that with regard to the regulation of school districts, the State Board of Education has only those powers and duties ‘specifically delegated by statute,’ and that the SBOE ‘may not substitute its judgment for the lawful exercise of those powers and duties by the trustees’ of the school districts.”

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Fu: UN summit our best chance to protect Texas from climate change

The United Nations Climate Change Conference currently being held in Paris is our best and last chance for a binding global agreement to cut emissions and help our planet. For Texas, how successful this conference proves to be will directly affect our weather and quality of life. If this conference is successful, it could mean less than 50 days of 100 degree temperature per year by the end of this century compared to 80 days of 100 degree weather a year if nothing happens at the conference. We currently see about 20 days of 100 degree weather now.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

UT-Austin: Fake Mass Shooting Not Welcome on Campus

A Texas gun rights group plans to hold a fake mass shooting demonstration Saturday near the University of Texas at Austin to protest gun-free zones. The group had planned to hold the event on campus but decided to move it just off campus after the university warned that demonstrators could face criminal trespassing charges. The event planned by Come And Take It Texas will feature members of the organization acting out a mass shooting with cardboard guns, fake blood and fake sounds of gun shots, according to a spokesman for the group, which is also known as DontComply.com.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Railroad Commissioner Porter Drops Reelection Bid

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter will not be running for reelection after all. ?Meanwhile, former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson says he might vie for Porter's seat. He plans to make a decision by the end of the week. ? Porter, the Railroad Commission’s chairman, announced Thursday that he will be exiting a primary battle against longtime Republican activist, attorney and lobbyist John Greytok.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Texas Scientist Aims to Revolutionize Electricity Grid

Texas already churns out more wind energy than any other state, and its solar power sector is rapidly growing — in some cases, pushing high-polluting coal plants out of the market. Those trends will need to continue if the fast-growing state plans to meet its carbon-cutting goal under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. But quickly adding large amounts of renewable energy to the grid carries challenges; particularly since the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Staffers Say Texas Regulator Should Nix Oncor Deal

Experts at the Public Utility Commission of Texas are urging its three commissioners to reject plans by a Dallas oilman and real estate tycoon to take over the state’s largest electric transmission company, a recommendation that could loom large for Texas' ratepayers and electric grid. “The proposed transaction is not in the public interest and I recommend that the Commission reject the Applicants' application,” Darryl Tietjen, who oversees rate regulation for the agency, wrote in public testimony submitted Wednesday.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Emotional Testimony Targets Plan to License Detention Centers

Walking earlier this year into the South Texas Family Residential Center, a detention center for undocumented women and children, Satsuki Ina was reminded of her own early childhood — which she spent in internment camps for Japanese Americans. Testifying in front of officials from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Wednesday, Ina, a psychotherapist, said she was horrified by the conditions she saw at the Dilley, Texas, facility during her tour. Ina was born in an internment camp in California during World War II, and was later transferred to a different camp in Crystal City, Texas, where she lived until she was 3.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

For Abbott, A Balancing Act of Religion and Politics

Nearly a week after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he does not want to allow Syrian refugees into Texas, a group of college students who attend Abbott's church — the University Catholic Center in Austin — posted a simple sign in the church’s vestibule. A standard sheet of white office paper, it quoted from the Bible, Matthew 25:35, “For I was ... a stranger and you took me in.” The words “Pray for Syrian Refugees” were typed in bold underneath.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

UT-Austin Panel: Ban Guns in Dorms, But Not Classrooms

A task force at the University of Texas at Austin has recommended guns be prohibited in residence halls, at sporting events and in certain laboratories. But the suggestions, issued in a report Thursday, do not call for banning handguns in classrooms. The report — drafted by a 19-member group of faculty, staff and students appointed by President Greg Fenves — included 25 suggestions for implementing the state's newly passed campus carry law, which goes into effect in August.

Texas Tribune - December 10, 2015

Ramsey: In Redistricting, Somebody Will Be Slighted

Some people think it’s unfair to have more eligible voters in one legislative district than in another — that basing things solely on total population is the wrong way to draw political maps. But that’s only one way the lines might be seen to slight a particular group of Texans. The question stems from a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court this week challenging the current maps for Texas Senate elections. The plaintiffs argue that those maps — drawn to put approximately the same number of people in every district — put them at a disadvantage by including unequal numbers of eligible voters in each district.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

State prepares for influx of kids seeking refuge

Federal agencies are opening two temporary shelters with 1,000 beds in South Texas to cope with the tide of asylum-seeking children that in recent months has risen dramatically. It is the second recent expansion of federal migrant shelter capacity. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday asked the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans for 5,000 additional shelter beds in case the migrant flow continues to grow, a department spokesman said, noting that those beds are not currently needed. The number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the state's southern border in late summer began to tick unexpectedly upward, breaking from typical seasonal trends and raising concerns of an influx like that of summer 2014, when tens of thousands of Central American kids sought refuge in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

HC: There's more Abbott can do when reaching out to Cuba

Gov. Greg Abbott's recent trade trip to Cuba was a refreshing change from his usual kowtowing to the far right and even though he did not return with any immediate deals in hand, he is to be praised for making a fairly early foray into the new world of U.S.-Cuba relations. He was the third U.S. governor to visit the Caribbean island since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro of Cuba agreed a year ago to normalize relations that went bad after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and turned the popular U.S. playground communist. The two countries reopened their embassies this summer and have begun talks aimed at unwinding 56 years of hostility, but must confront a big elephant in the room - the U.S. trade embargo put in place in February 1962 to supposedly run Fidel Castro out of power.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Hostertter, Glod: Workforce options beyond 'ban-the-box' can help offenders

With President Obama's announcement instructing federal agencies to "ban the box" on employment applications, a debate has risen over whether ex-offenders should be required to inform employers about their criminal background. Supporters of "ban the box" argue that the application questions serve as a barrier of entry into the workforce for offenders, making it difficult for them to become a law-abiding citizen. After all, if an offender cannot provide for him or herself, he or she is more likely to resort to criminal activity. However, "ban the box" advocates should carefully consider the damaging ramifications of imposing additional government regulations on the private sector. In cities like Chicago and Baltimore, "ban the box" ordinances are resulting in unnecessary compliance procedures and administrative costs; not to mention the potential criminal and civil litigation to which these laws open small businesses.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

New $46 million academic building will be 'front door' of A&M Galveston

Texas A&M University will break ground Thursday on a $46 million academic building in Galveston that leaders say will serve as a new "front door" for A&M's "Classroom by the Sea." The four-story, 86,000-square-foot building is the first step in a planned expansion at the Galveston campus, which has seen significant growth in recent years. "Like the flagship campus in College Station, Texas A&M's branch campus in Galveston is experiencing tremendous growth and development," A&M President Michael Young said in a news release. "This new building will further solidify Texas A&M at Galveston's reputation as one of the premiere marine-oriented campuses in the nation."

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Texas Racing Commission to take up historical racing again

The Texas Racing Commission has decided to discuss historical racing again next week, the third time the agency has weighed the controversial new form of betting that led to a temporary shut-down of the state's horse racing industry last summer. A repeal of the commission's approval of the game -- which currently is on hold pending a legal battle -- is set for discussion at a regularly-scheduled meeting at 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday, according to an agenda provided to the Secretary of State. A racing commission spokesman confirmed the agenda, but said the repeal was not guaranteed to come up for a vote at the meeting.

Rio Grande Guardian - December 7, 2015

Silva says Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge will be fully operational by 2020

Ernesto Silva, a consultant to the City of Donna, says the Donna-Río Bravo International Bridge should be fully operational by 2018 or 2020. Silva says the federal government has already given permission for southbound empty trucks to use the bridge, which is otherwise known as the Alliance International Bridge. Next comes permission for northbound empty trucks and finally fully-loaded trucks. “Southbound trucks, empty trucks, have already been approved by the federal government. We are in the process of finalizing the construction plans, so the federal government can give us the go ahead to construct the facilities. But, they have already approved for empty trucks to go southbound,” Silva said.

El Paso Times - December 9, 2015

State continues fight against Tigua gambling

The Texas Attorney General’s Office will continue its epic court battle to keep El Paso’s Tigua Indians from offering certain kinds of gambling. In a Wednesday evening filing in U.S. District Court, the state AG opposed the Tigua’s request, in light of a recent opinion by the U.S. Department of the Interior that the tribe be allowed to offer games such as bingo, pull tabs and tip jars. Gambling is a vital tool for the tribe’s economic development, the Tiguas have argued. In its filing, the state Attorney General’s Office cited a 20-year history of court losses and said the Tiguas’ latest arguments are no more likely to succeed.

Texas Public Radio - December 10, 2015

Why Are Health Insurance Companies Losing Money in Texas?

About one million Texans get health insurance through exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Texans account for one-tenth of all Americans insured through the exchanges, a total of 10 million new customers and $84 billion in additional revenue for insurers. However, all these new members don’t equal big profits for insurance providers. The state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, for example, reports losing almost $400 million on exchange business in 2014.

Texas Observer - December 9, 2015

‘Jane Does’ Ask Court to Keep Planned Parenthood in Medicaid

“Jane Doe 8,” as she’s identified in the court documents detailing her story, finally called Planned Parenthood in Houston after several other doctors told her they wouldn’t accept her Medicaid insurance. The 24-year-old single mother, living in a small town in Montgomery County, wanted the Depo-Provera birth control shot, but her list of doctors, provided by Medicaid, was just a list of dead ends, according to a statement she submitted to a federal in Austin.

Texas Observer - December 9, 2015

Experts, Activists Challenge Detention Child Care Licenses

Dozens of activists gathered for a public hearing and press conference in Austin on Wednesday, hoping to block family detention centers from becoming licensed child care facilities. One woman, who was held in a South Texas detention center for 11 months, told reporters that she and her son fled their home country of Guatemala in 2014, hoping to secure asylum in the United States. Upon their arrival, Hilda — who asked that their last name not be used — and 9-year-old Ivan were placed in the Karnes County Residential Center, one of the two federal family detention centers currently housing an estimated 2,000 migrant women and children in Texas.

KTVT - December 9, 2015

North Texas Receiving Approximately 1,000 Central American Children

Ellis County Commissioners Court Judge Carol Bush confirms about 400 unaccompanied minors from Central America will be headed to Ellis County Thursday driven there by the Feds. They will be going to a privately-owned facility in the southwest portion of the county. She says they are unaccompanied minors ages 12-18 from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Two-thirds boys, one-third girls.

County Stories

KDFW - December 9, 2015

Houston company gives every employee $100k bonus

This holiday season a Houston-based company is rewarding its workers with a major bonus. Hilcorp has 1,381 employees total, and all of them were given a one-hundred thousand dollar bonus to top off an excellent year. Amanda Thompson has been the receptionist at Hilcorp for 10 years and she said she along with all of her coworkers have a good reason to give it their all everyday. "It’s just a true gift," said Thompson. "And I think myself, as long as everyone else is not going to give any less than one-hundred percent each day." Hilcorp is one of the largest privately-held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States and was also named to the 2015 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Houston-area residents are rushing to buy weapons

At Clear Creek gun range in League City, 10 customers who had never fired a weapon before came in for instruction on Monday. Many of the new customers coming to the Full Armor Gun Range on the Katy Freeway were not the typical hunters, but older women who seemed "scared of what's been going on," said the owner, James Hillin. Shortly afterward, Michael Nunez was signing paperwork to purchase his first-ever handgun during a robust day of business at Spring Gun Sales and Ammo. "I want more protection," the 22-year-old oil field inspector said.

San Antonio Express News - December 9, 2015

Starr County tax assessor-collector, other county employees charged with theft

Starr County Tax Assessor-Collector Maria Del Carmen Peña and six other county employees were busted Wednesday, charged with theft in connection with an investigation that state and federal officers said showed more than $700,000 had been stolen from the county. The arrests were announced by the 229th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The charges include tampering with government records, theft by a public servant, forgery and organized criminal activity. Several other people have been indicted in connection with the investigation, officials said.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Entertainment wars: D-FW venues complain WinStar casino makes it hard to compete for big names

THACKERVILLE, Okla. — At WinStar World Casino and Resort, it’s common to hear one gambler say to another, “Man, you’re on a roll.” But when it comes to entertainment, the casino itself is on a roll. Since its 3,500-seat Global Event Center opened in 2008, WinStar has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in North Texas’ increasingly crowded cultural-entertainment landscape. Just across the state line on Interstate 35, WinStar is about 80 miles north of downtown Dallas. But it’s less than an hour away from such fast-growing suburbs as Lewisville, Frisco and Plano, which is causing venue operators in Dallas and Fort Worth to take note: WinStar is stiff competition, and the lure of legalized gambling is only one reason why.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 9, 2015

More in Tarrant County are living in poverty even as household incomes rise

Five U.S. states have posted a significant drop in the number of people living in poverty but Texas is not one of them, even though household incomes have climbed in the state, according to U.S. Census data released Wednesday. States that saw a reduction in poverty rates included California, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina and Washington. Poverty rate increases occurred in Alaska, Colorado, Florida and Minnesota, the 2014 data showed. Texas’ rate was mostly unchanged, said Michael E. Cline, associate director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University in Houston.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Lawsuit to remove Dallas DA Susan Hawk to move forward

The prosecutor handling the lawsuit to remove Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk has decided to pursue the case, keeping the controversial suit alive. Patrick Wilson, the county and district attorney for Ellis County, plans to file paperwork calling on a judge to formally serve Hawk with the lawsuit and asking for a pretrial hearing on the matter, lawyers said. Wilson could have opted to drop the suit, ending the ouster attempt. Wilson confirmed Wednesday that he aims to file his request by the end of the week.

El Paso Times - December 9, 2015

Fewer El Pasoans are poor, census data show

Fewer people in El Paso County were poor in 2014 compared with 2010, but the county continues to report higher poverty rates than the state and nation, according to U.S. census data released Wednesday. However, the census data show El Paso and Doña Ana counties saw an increase in poverty rates from 2013 to 2014. About 23.4 percent of El Paso County residents were classified as poor in 2014, an increase from 22.7 percent in 2013. In Doña Ana, 27.9 percent of residents were classified as poor in 2014, an increase from 27 percent the previous year.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Feds could boost payment rates to local Medicare managed care plans

Medicare managed care plans in Harris County may get additional funds due to proposed changes in the way the federal government sets its payment rates. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services adjusts payments to Medicare Advantage plans based on the health and demographics of the people who enroll. The agency has proposed increasing rates in 2017 for low-income Medicare beneficiaries who typically have higher costs. According to a new analysis by health consulting firm Avalere Health, plans in Harris County would likely see a 0.7 percent increase. About 175,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Harris County were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. By contrast, payment rates in Los Angeles County would drop by an estimated 3.4 percent.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Judge plans to release Texas sex offender from civil commitment

A visiting district judge in Conroe intends to release a man from Texas' controversial civil commitment treatment for sex offenders, on the grounds it would be unconstitutional to keep him in the program, a defense attorney and state officials confirmed Wednesday. When the expected order is signed in the matter of Alonzo May, it will be the first time a judge has fully released someone from the program, which is based on a law that allows the state to keep those it deems violent sex offenders under supervision after their release from prison. To date, only one person has been released from the program on a provisional basis since it was created 16 years ago. Another left the state after his civil commitment order was overturned by an appeals court.

City Stories

KUHF - December 8, 2015

Study Would Look At New Options For High-Speed Rail In Houston

The planned route for Texas Central Railway’s high-speed train between Houston and Dallas would only bring the train as far as the 610 Loop. But the Gulf Coast Rail District says to make the system viable the train needs to come into downtown, or there has to be some sort of commuter rail option that would link downtown with the high-speed line. The Rail District now wants to study the possibility of a rail line along the I-10 corridor that would get passengers close to the downtown Amtrak station.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Does Formula One’s expressed commitment to U.S. include Austin?

So which one needs the other more, Formula One or the United States? The answer to that question could help to determine the fate of the United States Grand Prix, which has a tenuous spot on the F1 calendar for 2016. The popular narrative at Circuit of the Americas — especially during race week in Austin — is that Formula One wants to grow its brand in the United States. There are signs that is happening, too. F1 now has an American team — Haas F1 — set to join the grid next season, and an American driver, Alexander Rossi, raced in Austin this year.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Wear: Should Austin change rules for Uber, Lyft? 70 percent say yes — and no

No wonder Austin’s roads are so crowded. Uber and a group affiliated with the taxi industry released competing polls Wednesday about fingerprint-based background checks for ride-for-hire drivers, and in both cases 70 percent agreed with the sponsors’ very different positions. That would add up to 140 percent, if you’re counting. Or perhaps it had something to do with how the questions were asked. TXRidesForHire.org, whose main contact person is Ed Kargbo, the head of Yellow Cab in Austin, was first out of the gate, at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Its emailed press release touted the results of a poll conducted by Austin-based Littlefield Consulting.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Neck and neck in polls, mayoral hopefuls hit the ground

The neck-and-neck Houston mayor's race has become an all-out ground war in the final days before Saturday's runoff election as Sylvester Turner and Bill King turn to local Democratic and Republican party operatives to get out the vote in what is putatively a nonpartisan contest. Democrats, labor groups and local churches have pooled manpower to launch a comprehensive, intricately designed field operation to push Turner voters to the polls, while Republicans have poured resources into mailers, radio ads and phone banks urging Houston residents to back King and his message of fiscal reform. The race carries symbolic weight, both parties say, presenting Democrats with an opportunity to maintain their longtime hold on the mayoralty and Republicans the long-awaited chance to make inroads in municipal politics.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Questions raised over city help for Halliburton

Halliburton got a tax abatement from City Council on Wednesday to help it improve a road that runs by its growing campus in north Houston, assistance critics of the deal say the energy giant simply does not need. Halliburton is six years into a $146 million expansion of its 89-acre headquarters on Beltway 8 just south of Bush Intercontinental Airport, a plan that will add nearly 900 jobs to the 1,800 employees already there. The expansion has increased traffic on adjacent Milner Road, city officials said, prompting city Public Works and Engineering officials to withhold final approval of the Halliburton expansion until the road is improved.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Dallas council member Phillip Kingston endorses Martin O’Malley in Democratic presidential race

Well, you’ve got to start somewhere. In his uphill battle against Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has got the endorsement of Dallas Council member Phillip Kingston for the Democratic presidential nomination. “Governor O’Malley’s record of progressive policy successes in executive roles is unmatched,” according Kingston’s prepared statement distributed by O’Malley’s campaign. I have spent time with him, and on issues from Wall Street to war, he is the future.”

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

U.S. House passes Thornberry’s Red River legislation

Defying a veto threat, the House voted Wednesday afternoon to require Texas land surveys of disputed property along the Red River that the Bureau of Land Management claims is public land. The Red River Private Property Protection Act, which passed 253 to 177, requires the Texas General Land Office to re-survey the 116-mile stretch of land and bars BLM from implementing a resource management plan until the dispute is resolved. Some residents hold deeds to the land and claim it is theirs. The two-year-old dispute affects about 170 property owners. About 30,000 acres along the Red River — spanning Wichita, Wilbarger and Clay counties — could be considered public, according to BLM.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Amid protests, justices hear UT admissions case that could end affirmative action on campus

On Wednesday, the University of Texas was once again in front of the Supreme Court defending its use of race as a factor in a small portion of admissions decisions, when Justice Antonin Scalia made an observation. “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to—to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­advanced school, a less ­­ a slower­track school where they do well,” Scalia said. “Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” he said, attributing the statement to friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re ­­ that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Wendy Davis will campaign for Hillary Clinton in Iowa next week

Late next week, former Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis will campaign for Hillary Clinton in Iowa. According to Clinton’s campaign, Davis is expected to attend seven events where she will discuss Clinton’s track-record on women’s health issues. Earlier this year, Davis endorsed Clinton at an event in Austin. “Hillary has demonstrated for many years her exemplary ability to lead in the face of real challenges,” Davis said at the time. “We need someone like that.”

FiveThirtyEight - December 8, 2015

What If Ted Cruz Wins Iowa?

natesilver: To me, there are four basic cases in Iowa: Cruz wins, Trump wins, Rubio wins, and Carson/Huckabee/Santorum wins. Likewise, there are four basic cases in New Hampshire: Cruz wins, Trump wins, Rubio wins, and Christie/Bush/Kasich wins. Which would yield 16 possible scenarios, except some are implausible — I highly doubt that Rubio wins Iowa but Cruz wins New Hampshire, for instance.

Los Angeles Times - December 8, 2015

California billionaire Tom Steyer has rare access and a big megaphone on climate change

Sitting under a soaring ornamental ceiling in a museum near the Seine, Gov. Jerry Brown gave thanks for the political backdrop that has enabled California's tougher environmental rules. “If it weren’t for sympathetic legislators, and powerful constituencies, then California wouldn’t be where it is today,” he said during a Monday event. One of those powerful constituencies was next to him on stage: Tom Steyer, the environmental activist, former hedge fund manager and deep-pocketed Democratic donor. The U.N. summit on climate change has showcased his political influence, and it has provided him with a new platform for pushing clean energy policies.

Washington Times - December 8, 2015

Jeb suggests Trump part of conspiracy to ensure Clinton presidency

Jeb Bush suggested Tuesday that Republican presidential rival Donald Trump could be part of a conspiracy to put Hillary Clinton in the White House. “Maybe Donald negotiated a deal with his buddy @HillaryClinton. Continuing this path will put her in the White House,” Mr. Bush tweeted to his 388,000 followers Tuesday afternoon. He was reacting to Mr. Trump’s tweet linking to a USA Today poll that indicates 68 percent of his supporters would still vote for him if he left the GOP and ran as an independent. Mr. Bush’s tweet comes one day after he called Mr. Trump “unhinged.” “Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious,” he tweeted Monday after the billionaire called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Marketwatch - December 9, 2015

Smith: Why it’s hard to hold corporate executives accountable for crime

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was found guilty last week of a criminal conspiracy “to willfully violate mandatory mine safety and health standards.” With a paper trail that connected Blankenship directly to the knowledge of hundreds of mine-safety violations, the jury nevertheless absolved him of his alleged campaign to mislead federal mining investigators before an underground explosion killed 29 miners, in April 2010, and of fraud for the press release he approved, after the fact, stating, “we strive to be in compliance with all regulations at all times.” The underlying laws were written in a way that means the conspiracy count—accusing Blankenship of fostering a death trap in the Upper Big Branch mine—amounted only to a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in prison. In contrast, lying to federal investigators and the Securities and Exchange Commission (counts on which he was acquitted) could have meant incarceration for decades.

The Guardian - December 9, 2015

FBI to launch new system to count people killed by police officers

The FBI plans to overhaul its system for counting the number of deaths caused by police in the US, according to federal officials, and will begin releasing information about deadly encounters involving the use of Tasers and other force, in addition to fatal shootings. Responding to months of sharp criticism over its existing program for reporting fatal shootings by police officers, the bureau is to unveil a new system that will publish a wider range of data, resembling that currently collected by an ongoing Guardian investigation.

NBC News - December 8, 2015

More Latino Kids In Low-Income But More Financially Stable Households

Although they are more likely to be poor than other children, Hispanic children in low-income households have had more economically stable homes. But the Great Recession took some toll on the earnings in these low-income families, as well as children in higher-income earning households, according to "Child Trends" reports from the National Research Center for Hispanic Children and Families. The center examined different issues regarding the economics of Hispanic children and their families. Their findings on the economic stability of the children's households from 2004 to 2006, the effects of the Great Recession on Hispanic households and children and the low use of government-subsidized programs by Hispanic families were issued in three separate studies released Monday.

Politico - December 9, 2015

Hamre: The ‘electronic Pearl Harbor’

In November 1997 I was asked to testify at a Senate hearing concerning the growing worry about cybersecurity. At the time, I was deputy secretary of the Defense Department, and that hearing followed an unexplained electricity blackout in San Francisco that left 125,000 people in the dark for a day. Fears were rising that malicious hackers had somehow taken down the grid. I warned the Senate that America was facing the prospect of an “electronic Pearl Harbor.” The phrase became a touchstone in the long national argument over cybersecurity, for better or worse. I was not the author of the phrase. That honor goes to a dear friend of mine, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom Marsh, who had just led a national commission looking at cyber vulnerabilities. Tom came to my office to summarize the findings and used the Pearl Harbor metaphor.

New York Times - December 9, 2015

Supreme Court Justices’ Comments Don’t Bode Well for Affirmative Action

An affirmative action plan at the University of Texas seemed to be in trouble at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. By the end of an unusually long and tense argument, a majority of the justices appeared unpersuaded that the plan was constitutional. A ruling against the university could imperil affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation. In a remark that drew muted gasps in the courtroom, Justice Antonin Scalia said that minority students with inferior academic credentials may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.” “I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” he added.

New York Times - December 9, 2015

Senate Approves Overhaul of No Child Left Behind Law

The Senate on Wednesday approved a sweeping revision of the contentious No Child Left Behind law, sending to President Obama’s desk a proposal that ends an era of federal control in education policy after 14 years. The legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12, would restore authority for school performance and accountability to local districts and states after a lengthy period of aggressive federal involvement. While it keeps the existing annual testing requirements in reading and math and requires that states act to improve the lowest performing schools, it allows more local control to set goals, determine school ratings and decide remedial measures.

New York Times - December 9, 2015

After Making Enemies, Cruz Tries to Make Friends

As his crowd sizes swell in Iowa and he battles with Donald J. Trump to lock down the party’s more conservative voters, Mr. Cruz — appraised as grating and pompous as a matter of bipartisan consensus — is working diligently at the simple task of establishing human connections. It is a bigger lift than it might seem. Mr. Cruz appears keenly aware of his charm deficit, acknowledging in private that his retail campaigning skills can lag behind his grasp of policy. At a debate in October, he became perhaps the first candidate in modern history to declare himself unappealing bar company. “If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy,” he said, when asked to name a weakness. “But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.”

New York Times - December 8, 2015

For Immigrants, America Is Still More Welcoming Than Europe

The United States has some of the most hostile policies toward an immigrant population found in the developed world. Start with the special police forces dedicated to persecuting and deporting over a quarter of the nation’s immigrants, the estimated 11 million who entered the country without authorization. Then there is the lack of labor laws to shield them from wage theft and perilous jobs. And don’t get me started on America’s stingy social insurance: even legal permanent residents are barred from a host of government programs, including Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare programs.

Washington Post - December 9, 2015

Planned Parenthood suspect: ‘I am a warrior for the babies’

The man accused of killing three people and wounding nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado stunned a courtroom Wednesday by declaring he is a “warrior for the babies” and won’t go to trial. Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57, made the outburst before he was formally charged with first-degree murder and other counts in a Colorado Springs courtroom. Dear also repeatedly interrupted his public defender, Daniel King, and objected to King’s attempts to limit publicity in the case. King — who represented Colorado theater shooter James Holmes — has asked the judge to impose a gag order on participants in the Planned Parenthood case before a trial.

Washington Post - December 9, 2015

Jeb Bush’s super PAC burning through money with little to show for it

The super PAC supporting Jeb Bush is racing through its massive war chest much faster than money is coming in, spending close to $50 ­million in a record blitz that has so far failed to lift the former Florida governor’s sputtering presidential candidacy. The group, Right to Rise, has already gone through nearly half of the $103 million it brought in during the first half of the year, records show. It raised only about $13 million in the five months that followed, according to a person familiar with the figure. That leaves the super PAC with around $67 million heading into the first 2016 nominating contests. The sum still surpasses the resources of rival groups, but it is not clear whether Right to Rise’s financial might — viewed earlier this year as Bush’s distinct advantage — will be enough to help separate him from the pack.

Politico - December 9, 2015

Trump's threat to sue Bush donor backfires

Donald Trump's threats to sue just sparked a bigger legal fight. Charlie Spies, the Republican campaign-finance whiz who counsels PACs supporting Jeb Bush, is alleging that Trump illegally mixed business and politics when his corporate attorney warned the billionaire's opponents that attack ads could trigger defamation lawsuits. The claim comes in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission that was obtained exclusively by POLITICO. Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, FedEx'ed bombastic cease-and-desist letters on company letterhead to the Club for Growth, the Right to Rise leadership PAC, and Mike Fernandez, one of Bush's biggest donors. Spies is alleging that Trump crossed a line by using corporate resources to do his campaign's "dirty work."

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2015

New federal education law gives more control to states

No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal education law with Texas roots, gave way Tuesday to a new measure that will give states more control over how to increase rigor, equity and accountability in the nation's public schools. ... Wednesday's vote was the culmination of years of work. It was lauded by nearly every participant in the process, from its GOP sponsor, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who called it "the biggest step toward local control in 25 years," to Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of America's largest labor union, the National Education Association: "The reason we are celebrating is because the national dark cloud that had hung over all of our 50 states for 14 long painful years of tests and punish mandates and not much else, that will be blown away, that will be gone."

Politico - December 9, 2015

Eleven GOP members vie for spots on Steering Committee

Eleven Republicans are vying for spots on the influential House Steering Committee as at-large representatives. Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to overhaul the panel — often dubbed the speaker’s committee in the past — after members complained in the wake of former Speaker John Boehner's retirement that the make-up of the panel didn’t represent the larger GOP Conference. Story Continued Below The candidates are Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, John Culberson of Texas, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Darrell Issa of California, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Mike Rogers of Alabama, David Schweikert of Arizona, Jason Smith of Missouri, Fred Upton of Michigan and Ted Yoho of Florida.

USA Today - December 9, 2015

People with mental illness 16 times more likely to be killed by police

At a time of heightened concern over police shootings, a new report estimates that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely than others to be killed by police. About one in four fatal police encounters involves someone with mental illness, according to the report, released Thursday by the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, which focuses on the needs of people with serious mental illness. The problem stems from a lack of police training, as well as a lack of treatment for those with serious mental illness, said John Snook, the report's co-author and executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

New York Times - December 10, 2015

Ted Cruz Questions Donald Trump’s ‘Judgment’ to Be President

Senator Ted Cruz raised questions on Wednesday at a private fund-raiser about whether Donald J. Trump, his bombastic rival for the Republican presidential nomination, has the “judgment” to be president and mused about “strength,” according to two people who attended the event in Manhattan The remarks from Mr. Cruz came as he has studiously avoided public criticism of Mr. Trump, who is handily beating the rest of the Republican field in opinion polls. Mr. Cruz has positioned himself to be the beneficiary of any erosion of support for Mr. Trump. While he has said he doesn’t agree with Mr. Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the United States, he has taken pains to praise Mr. Trump for making immigration a focal point of his candidacy.

Politico - December 10, 2015

Ted Cruz slams WSJ for negative editorial

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz laid into The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview, remarking upon its support for amnesty that it should change its "header to the Marco Rubio for President Newspaper" for the next three months. In an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" taped Wednesday and aired in segments Thursday morning, co-host Joe Scarborough brought up a Dec. 2 editorial in which The Wall Street Journal called out his positions on Syria and his opposition of the bulk collection of phone metadata by the National Security Agency.

Politico - December 9, 2015

Cruz flips vote on ag issue critical for Iowa

With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, Ted Cruz seemed to have an epiphany Thursday night on one of the state’s — and agricultural lobby’s — biggest issues in Congress. The GOP senator from Texas initially voted with fiscal hard-liners to retain $3 billion in crop insurance cuts that were made as part of a budget deal approved in October. After a visit to the Senate cloakroom, Cruz returned and flipped his vote to side with farming interests, which ultimately prevailed. The crop insurance votes were part of a debate on a highway bill, which Cruz opposed on a final vote, calling it fiscally irresponsible.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Hashimoto: There are good ideas and the other kind, like using the no-fly list to regulate gun sales

If you remain a fan of President Barack Obama or even more laws restricting the right of Americans to keep and bear firearms, there’s good news in Donald Trump: When he sucks up all the oxygen, the really bad ideas are sucked away with everything else. We’re not spending much time this week discussing the president’s call Sunday night to fight terrorism by, among other things, making it more difficult for everyone, terrorists and non, to own weapons. These were his words: "To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 9, 2015

FWST: No Child Left Behind law slips away quietly

The No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush’s signature education initiative overwhelmingly approved in bipartisan congressional votes in 2001, passed away Wednesday after a long illness. Its replacement, after overwhelming, bipartisan congressional votes, is the Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Barack Obama is expected to sign on Thursday. Any day this Congress approves major legislation through bipartisan compromise is a red-letter day. The Every Student Succeeds Act has its detractors and its worrisome points, and it would be a mistake to see it as an education panacea.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Top Perry Strategist Joins Fiorina Campaign

Rob Johnson, a top strategist for former Gov. Rick Perry, has joined Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. Johnson will serve as a senior adviser to Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. “Carly has a blueprint to take back our country and address serious challenges facing our nation," Johnson said Wednesday. "She has the experience and qualifications to be president on day one."

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2015

Weiss: Constitutional? Nevermind that. Trump’s Muslim ban is impossible.

As I hear and read the discussions about whether Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims is unhinged from American values or constitutionality I keep thinking: Aren’t they missing a more basic point? It’s impossible. Not just hard to believe, like getting Mexico to pay for a massive border wall with a beautiful door. But impossible, like calling for the U.S. Army to be staffed by leprechauns and pookas. Here’s what Trump has said: He wants a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he explained the logistics. A would-be traveler would be asked by a customs agent if he or she were Muslim. And if they say they are, they would not be allowed into the United States.

Politico - December 10, 2015

Trump up to 35 percent in CBS/NYT national poll

More than one-in-three Republican primary voters say they would vote for Donald Trump, according to the results of the latest CBS News/New York Times national poll released Thursday morning. Most of the results were collected, however, before the Manhattan businessman called for a temporary halt to Muslims entering the United States. Trump picked up 35 percent, leading Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in second place, with 16 percent. Ben Carson, who led the same poll in October, finished third this time, with 13 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio followed with 9 percent, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at just 3 percent. Story Continued Below Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 20 points — 52 percent to 32 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley earned 2 percent.

All - December 9, 2015

Lead Stories

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Racing Commission chair quits amid disagreement with Gov. Greg Abbott

A disagreement with Gov. Greg Abbott over a new form of gambling ended with the Texas Racing Commission’s chairman abandoning his leadership post. Abbott accepted the request of former Chairman Robert Schmidt late Monday, 10 days after the physician from Fort Worth submitted a letter resigning as chairman. Schmidt will remain on as a commissioner. The governor had wanted Schmidt to schedule a vote of the commission next Tuesday to repeal a previously approved rule to allow historical racing at the state’s race tracks. (The emerging form of gambling allows bettors to wager electronically on horse races that have already been run but have been stripped of all identifying marks.)

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2015

Interstate 14 on its way across Texas

Texas is getting a new interstate, as part of a long-term federal transportation bill. Interstate 14 will be cobbled together mostly from U.S. 190 and other existing roads to create a new freeway from western Texas to the Louisiana border. The Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition, based in Austin, announced the designation Tuesday. The interstate will take years to build as highway segments must be brought up to freeway standards such as no at-grade intersections and various safety upgrades to allow for higher speeds. According to the coalition, I-14 will connect Killeen, Belton, Bryan-College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, Woodville and Jasper before terminating at Texas 63 at the Sabine River.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Judge will hear UT System Regent Wallace Hall’s lawsuit for records Wednesday

All eyes may be turned to Washington, D.C. for UT-Austin’s affirmative action case, but there’s another lawsuit involving the state’s flagship university going on right here in Travis County. After months of delays, lawyers for embattled UT System Regent Wallace Hall and Chancellor Bill McRaven are set to meet in court today. Hall, who filed a lawsuit earlier this summer, is seeking access to records underlying the controversial Kroll Report that found several dozen underqualified students were admitted to UT-Austin with the help of connections from big named donors, lawmakers and other powerful figures.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Duck Dynasty brother waddles into Texas politics, endorses Houston-area Republican

Alan Robertson — the oldest brother in the famous Duck Commanders family from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty — has waddled into Texas politics. Robertson endorsed Houston-area Republican Kevin Roberts, who is running for a district in Spring, Texas. The district’s current representative announced earlier this year that she wasn’t running for reelection. In a statement released on Tuesday, Robertson said “Roberts is the kind of man that embodies what our great country was founded on.”

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offers to use West Texas launch site to send Donald Trump to space

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos lightly responded to attacks from Republican primary candidate Donald Trump by offering to send his fellow billionaire to outer space. Bezos, who owns the commercial space transportation company Blue Origin, made the offer via Twitter with the hashtag “#sendDonaldtospace.” The offer to Trump is Bezos’ fourth tweet ever. He does not mention a return flight. Accompanying the tweet was a YouTube video of Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle launching into space and then safely landing at a West Texas launch site outside of Van Horn, Texas.

New York Times - December 8, 2015

What if Going Viral Matters More Than Iowa?

Of course, Iowa’s own political class has an incentive to prove that the state still matters. But, looking at the data, the candidates themselves don’t seem to take Iowa as seriously as they like to project. The Des Moines Register recently reported that just 3 percent of the total $153.3 million that campaigns have spent so far this cycle has been spent in Iowa. Instead, despite how much candidates clamor to hate Washington, many of them are directing the funnel of their campaign money to their national offices staffed by D.C. political operatives. Such a top-down campaign apparatus means that voters are more likely to engage with a candidate on Facebook or Twitter than on a rope line. As a result, this summer yielded a particularly silly silly season, with candidates creating videos imitating characters from “The Simpsons,” ripping up the tax code with a chain saw, putting a cellphone in a blender and participating in a push-up contest — all in the hopes that the stunts would help boost their name recognition and polling.

Politico - December 8, 2015

Davis: Why I Caved on Guns When I Ran for Governor of Texas

I am a lifelong Democrat. I proudly boast an “F” rating from the NRA. And, yet during my 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Texas, I supported the open carry of handguns in my state. It is a position that haunts me. Story Continued Below Every few months, on the heels of a shooting that devastates a different corner of America, we find ourselves arriving at exactly the same place: Republicans offer their prayers; some offer up the idea of focusing our attention on mental health; almost none of them mention guns. Democrats talk background checks, magazine limits, closing the gun-show loophole and, ultimately, get exasperated. In the wake of the San Bernardino and Planned Parenthood shootings, the conversations we’re having now are almost exactly the same. Meaningful gun reform still seems as distant as it did when the Manchin-Toomey bill, which would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales, failed in 2013, mere months after 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Texas Observer - December 9, 2015

‘Refugees Are Victims of the Very Thing You Are Afraid Of’

Despite an uncertain welcome in Texas, these Syrian families are trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing civil unrest and violence half a world away. The tapestry that hangs on the wall above the sofa in Iyad and Lina Al Afandi’s modest home just north of Dallas is the only physical reminder of the country they’ve left behind: a stitching that depicts a traditional Syrian house with tiled courtyard and fountain, and rugs draped from the balcony. It’s a depiction of a time and place entirely unrecognizable now amid the rubble and dust of the Damascus suburb they once called home.

Texas Natonalist Movement - December 8, 2015

Texas State Rep Candidate Comes Out In Support of Independence

Jim Landtroop, former State Representative in District 85, made a strong statement on independence in his current bid for office. Former Representative Jim Landtroop announced that he's running for the District 84 seat on Monday. Landtroop represented District 85 in the Texas legislature from 2010 to 2012, but he lost a re-election bid when the districts were redrawn. In an interview with KCBD News in Lubbock, Landtroop was asked about the issue of Texas secession. Landtroop's was strong and very clear.

Houston Business Journal - December 7, 2015

Houston billionaire teams up with Bill Gates to invest in clean tech

John Arnold, the Houston billionaire who retired at 38 after leading one of the most successful hedge funds ever, has joined forces with Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and other billionaires to invest in clean energy technology. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition was announced before the global climate summit in Paris that began Nov. 30. It includes Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com Inc.; Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group Ltd.; Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook Inc.; George Soros; and many other wealthy technology entrepreneurs from around the world. The mission of the coalition is to invest in clean energy technology that will help secure reliable, cost-efficient energy sources for the world for generations to come.

State Stories

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court seems closely divided in Texas redistricting case

WASHINGTON — In George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” all animals are equal, but some are “more equal than others.” The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a redistricting case from Texas that might be described as a test of whether some voters are more equal than others. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, concerns boundaries Texas drew in 2013 for 31 state Senate districts, making them roughly equal in total population. That approach, used by most states and local jurisdictions, wound up creating some districts with many more people eligible to vote than in other districts.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

State official says Texas 45 Southwest funding remains on track

The state’s leading transportation official said Tuesday that initial approval of a key $60 million state loan for Texas 45 Southwest likely will be on the Texas Transportation Commission’s December agenda, allaying concerns by some that the proposed tollway had stalled once again. Given the commission’s historic practice — items that reach the agenda are virtually assured of passage — that news signals a construction start for Texas 45 Southwest remains on schedule for summer 2016. The commission would consider final approval for the loan a month or two later, after the Texas Department of Transportation works out specific terms with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the agency that will build the road.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Facing backlash, Sid Miller explains steep fee hikes

Called before a state Senate committee to explain steep fee increases that caught businesses and politicians by surprise, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller insisted Tuesday that the hikes were justified and essential to protecting consumers. Miller’s fee proposal, set to take effect Jan. 1, has been harshly criticized as an end run around the Legislature — an attempt to boost his agency’s budget after lawmakers declined to provide additional money earlier this year. But Miller said the need for higher fees wasn’t fully known until after the legislative session ended in June, when his agency began a systematic study of programs — including food inspections and audits testing the accuracy of grocery store scales — revealing that the current fees didn’t pay for the programs as required by law.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Abbott, Cruz Push New Curbs on Syrian Refugees

Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas teamed up Tuesday to push new curbs on Syrian refugees entering the United States, with Cruz unveiling a new bill that would let states "opt out" of accepting some refugees. "America is a charitable nation, but we cannot allow charity for some to compromise the safety for all," Abbott said during a news conference with Cruz in Washington, D.C. "That is what has happened by the way that the federal government has interpreted and applied the Refugee Act that already exists."

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Could Texas Foster Care Ruling Be Imminent?

One year after a federal district judge heard evidence alleging that Texas Child Protective Services had violated foster children’s civil rights, both lawyers for the state and the advocates who filed suit are anxiously awaiting a potentially sweeping legal decision. Observers say it could arrive any day now. The class-action lawsuit, brought by the New York-based advocacy group Children’s Rights, Inc. on behalf of children currently in long-term foster care, argues that Texas caseworkers are assigned too many children for them to effectively monitor and that kids are placed too far away from home into settings where they do not get appropriate care.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Texas Public Schools Are Poorer, More Diverse

If you stepped into a classroom at one of Fort Bend Independent School District’s campuses, you’d probably find one of the most diverse groups of students in the state. With a 72,000-student population, the school district southwest of Houston is the most diverse among the state’s traditional, non-charter school districts. The makeup of its student population comes closest to having equal shares of the nation’s four major ethnic groups — white, black, Hispanic and Asian.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Affirmative Action at UT and Beyond at Stake in Court Case

Seven years have passed since Abigail Fisher, a white Sugar Land native, applied to the University of Texas at Austin. On Wednesday her lawyers will have one more chance to argue in court that she was unfairly rejected because of her race. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in her case for the second time in three years. If she wins, Fisher would, at best, receive a $100 refund on her application. But a broad ruling in her favor could have major impact for millions of other students, potentially reshaping how they are admitted into college in Texas and beyond.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Ramsey: Equal Numbers of Voters — or Constituents?

The voting rights lawyers who assembled at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday were there to argue about who should be counted when state legislatures draw their political lines. It’s a Texas case — Evenwel vs. Abbott — filed by a couple of voters who contend their political voices are muted because of the nonvoters in their districts. All of that is about voting. It’s not about representation. But if the plaintiffs are successful, then there will be an issue of representation. When districts are based on total population, each state senator (or state House member, or member of Congress) represents the same number of people. If the lines were based instead on voting-age population, the numbers would change.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Willing: Why we're working to bring back Rick Perry

This past July, Gov. Rick Perry presented an economic opportunity plan for minorities and the disadvantaged before the National Press Club as part of his campaign for the presidency. What transpired became known as “The Race Speech,” addressing racial disparity, economic struggle and a dirty history of racism. No Republican in recent memory has spoken so forcefully about the relationship their party has had with the African-American community. Perry reminded us that abolition and integration rose from the Grand Ole Party, but we’d lost sight of our purpose. It was perhaps the most significant policy speech in a generation, since Lyndon B. Johnson articulated his war on poverty in the 1960s. Perry’s widely praised speech provided the counterpoint to that failed vision. Unfortunately, no one predicted the effect Donald Trump would have on the tone of the race, and in a field of 17 primary candidates, a substantive policy speech like Perry's was received with much less fanfare than it would have been in the past.

Texas Tribune - December 9, 2015

Call it "Fisher Fatigue": To Students, Case is Old News

When lawyers argue Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, it'll be just another morning on the campus at the heart of the nation's most closely watched affirmative action case. “I think there are pockets of knowledge — certainly groups of students who are very invested in what’s happening,” said UT-Austin associate professor Richard Reddick, who’s also an administrator for the school's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. “But I think there’s also, you know, ‘Fisher fatigue.’”

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Lawmakers Grill Miller on Ag Fee Hikes

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller faced tough questions from lawmakers Tuesday over his plan to hike fees for a host of licenses, registrations and services that his agency provides. “I’m really boiling inside, and I don’t know who to be mad at,” Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs. “Some of these increases, Sid, they’re choke-a-horse large.” Miller, a Republican finishing his first year leading the Texas Department of Agriculture, largely stuck to his guns, insisting that his “hemorrhaging” agency had to raise more than $22 million through fee increases or neglect services.

Houston Chronicle - December 6, 2015

Williams says State's focus on academic rigor has Texas on right track

Michael Williams recalls hearing vestiges of the state's Confederate past ringing in his ears as a teenager attending Midland's Robert E. Lee High School in the late 1960s. "As a student who was the student body vice president, I went to every student assembly late so I didn't have to hear the singing of 'Dixie,' " he said. "The (Confederate) flag was at every assembly." More than four decades later, the memory remains visceral. Now, as he leaves his post as Texas education commissioner - likely his last post as a public servant - the lifelong Republican is dismayed by how divided the nation has become, and how entrenched the sides, over the issue of race.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Five Texas private colleges opt out of campus carry

Texas Lutheran University has become at least the fifth private institution here to officially opt out of the state's new campus carry law. The university announced the decision on Monday, saying it will continue its previous policy of banning concealed weapons on the Seguin-based campus. Rice University, Texas Christian University, St. Mary's University and the University of the Incarnate Word have opted out of the campus carry since it was signed this summer. Leaders from five additional private schools - Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Trinity University, Austin College and Paul Quinn College - have said they expect or plan to opt out of the new law.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Syrian refugees arrive in Houston, Dallas amid political fight

Two families of Syrian refugees began building lives in Texas on Tuesday after being given homes in Houston and Dallas in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials. In Houston, a Syrian man, his wife and their four children received "a warm and compassionate Texas welcome" after arriving Monday, according a statement by the Refugee Services of Texas, which is assisting that family. The nonprofit declined to provide any more information, citing security concerns. The refugees placed in Dallas appeared more open to attention, as an aid worker helping the family announced a news conference for Wednesday to show that "they are not a threat but rather a simple family." But another official said later that the news conference would not happen.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Parker: Four words for Syrian refugees — Howdy. Welcome to Texas.

As 21 refugees from Syria’s civil war quietly settle into Dallas and Houston this week, I’d like to offer a personal greeting: Howdy. Welcome to Texas. You will find that we Texans are a friendly people. We’ll look you in the eye in and say hello. We’ll pull over when you’ve got a flat. We’re not nearly as mean-spirited as our politicians. As proof I offer this: Arabs have been coming here for centuries. We’ve got more Arab-Americans than 44 other states and the biggest Muslim population in America. So yes, everything is bigger in Texas, which happens to be among the most tolerant states in the country. So, take a load off, friend, and set a spell.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

DiFurio: Is it crazy to adorn kids in armor and teach them to apprehend shooters at school?

Is it going too far to suggest that children in our schools not only learn about history, multiplication and grammar but also strategies for being physically confronted by a killer? After 9/11, the sensitive phrase was saying “bomb” in an airport. Now in our post-Sandy Hook world, the words most Americans dread hearing are “active shooter.” Recently, bulletproof blankets intended to protect children in schools became available for purchase by ProTecht. The company cites the increasing trend in shootings, school shootings in particular, as the unfortunate reason for creating the product.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

UT’s admissions tensions go deeper than affirmative action case at Supreme Court on Wednesday

The affirmative action case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday is the latest chapter in the University of Texas at Austin’s struggle to cope with a high volume of applicants and its process for screening prospective students. The case centers on the university’s consideration of race as part of the admissions process. UT is fighting to keep using it. In 2008, a white Texas woman, Abigail Fisher, was denied admission. She claimed her rejection was based on her race, asserting that minority applicants with lower scores and grades had been accepted. This is the second time the case will be argued before the high court. The decision could affect college admissions across the country. For UT, it could mean reshaping its admissions process to ensure diversity. This is what’s led up to the case:

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

DMN: Is DPS policing Texas troopers for bias?

New questions are arising about Department of Public Safety troopers’ behavior during traffic stops and whether minorities have been targeted for searches more often than whites. A recent Austin American-Statesman statistical analysis suggests racial profiling might have occurred. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger insists the data doesn’t necessarily indicate profiling. “We’re talking about millions and millions of pieces of data,” which could affect the interpretation, he said. The Austin newspaper examined 15 million DPS traffic-stop records filed since 2009. Data showed that people of Hispanic ethnicity were 33 percent more likely to be searched than those identified as white. Yet trooper searches of Hispanics were less likely to result in discoveries of drugs or other contraband.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Lindenberger: Texas narrowly defends one-man, one-vote apportionment stance before Supreme Court

If the best offense really is a good defense, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller began his argument before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in an enviable position. All he had to do was convince at least five justices that the Constitution doesn’t absolutely forbid Texas and every other state from using total population, rather than the number of eligible voters, to divvy up state legislative districts. That’s how every state has been drawing voting maps for half a century, and many state officials and voting-rights advocates say it’s the only fair way to protect non-voters’ rights to be represented in state legislatures. Texas’ position, however, was softer. Keller argued that states could use other measures — such as the number of eligible voters, as the plaintiffs suggested — to draw its maps, but the Constitution doesn’t require it.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

East Texas police chief calls for residents to arm themselves

The police chief of a back-roads East Texas town is urging all citizens to arm themselves, saying the federal government lacks any effective plan for fighting terrorism. In a video he posted Monday night to his personal Facebook page, Hughes Springs Police Chief Randy Kennedy said that listening to President Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech on terrorism left him in despair over the government’s ability to fight domestic terrorism. He urged all law-abiding citizens to apply for concealed handgun permits and stand ready to support any fight against terrorists that might overwhelm the four full-time officers and one part-timer in the Cass County town of about 1,800 residents.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he’s ‘disappointed’ UT-Austin proposed tuition increase

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick threatened to take away Texas universities’ right to set their own tuition following a proposal this week by UT-Austin to increase tuition by 3.1 percent. In a statement to The Dallas Morning News, Patrick said he was “disappointed” with UT-Austin and that tuition has “skyrocketed” since the legislature gave universities the authority to set their own tuition. “If Universities across Texas continue to ignore the increasing financial burden on students and families, and do not look for ways to reduce costs and pass those savings unto students, I have no doubt the Legislature will,” Patrick said. “Furthermore, I believe the legislature, in a bi-partisan effort, will take a serious look at regulating tuitions once again.”

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Cruz and Abbott join forces to denounce Obama on Syrian refugees

Gov. Greg Abbott joined with Sen. Ted Cruz today to denounce the Obama administration’s policy on Syrian refugees – an issue that Cruz has made a centerpiece of his presidential bid. Cruz also rejected GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, though – unlike many presidential contenders in both parties – he refrained from calling out Trump as a bigot. “I disagree with that proposal,” Cruz said. “Certainly in the media there has been no shortage of criticism for Donald Trump. I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics.”

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Study: States should make clear the purpose of their rainy day funds

Most states such as Texas that have created rainy day funds didn’t set out clearly in state law what they wanted to achieve with them, according to a new study. The fuzziness means many states save too little to weather recessions, while others save too much, and thus may be withholding funds from important programs, said a report issued Tuesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Without a stated reason for saving, states frequently struggle to determine how much they should save in their rainy day funds,” said the report, “Why States Save: Using Evidence to Inform How Large Rainy Day Funds Should Grow.”

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

ACA growing pains: Losses for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas are over twice the U.S. average

Even Obamacare losses are bigger in Texas. So who’s to blame — Washington or ourselves? About 10 million Americans, including 1 million in Texas, get health insurance through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Those customers, along with the expansion of Medicaid in most states, added $86 billion in annual revenue for insurers nationwide. Unfortunately for them, most of the business has been a money-loser. And Texas’ largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, has been hit hard — over twice as hard, in fact. The Texas unit lost almost $400 million on exchange business in 2014, the ACA’s first full year.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 8, 2015

Gambling expansion remains on chopping block amid new shakeup at Texas Racing Commission

There’s been another shakeup of top leadership at an embattled state agency as the push to derail historical racing — a hotly contested new way to gamble at tracks statewide — continues in Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott has named Rolando Pablos of El Paso to lead the Texas Racing Commission, replacing local orthopedic surgeon Robert Schmidt, who has guided the agency since 2011. Schmidt, who will continue to serve on the commission, resigned as chair after declining Abbott’s request to place the issue of repealing historical racing, the replaying of past races on slot machine-like devices, on next week’s agenda. The governor accepted that resignation; a proposal to repeal historical racing rules is now on the commission’s Dec. 15 agenda.

KSAT - December 8, 2015

Survey: Majority of UTSA students polled oppose guns on campus

UTSA students are getting the chance to voice their opinion when it comes to the new “campus carry” law that was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2015 and will take effect when they return to college next fall. The law affects four-year state schools in August 2016 and two-year state schools in 2017. According to the study conducted by two UTSA political science professors, the majority of the nearly 3,000 students who responded said they’d feel threatened and less safe with guns on campus.

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

Feds say 3 new facilities for immigrant children and families to open soon

The federal government will open two immigrant shelters in Texas and one in California this month in response to the rising tide of unaccompanied minors caught illegally crossing the border in recent months. The Office of Refugee Resettlement said it would add 400 temporary beds in California and 1,000 more in Texas this December to avoid a repeat of last summer when tens of thousands of Central American migrants, especially families and children traveling without a parent, overwhelmed immigration agencies in the Rio Grande Valley.

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

McCombs assures DRT on Alamo’s future

Local billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs assured members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas that the Alamo will grow and improve as a legendary battle site, advancing the cause the DRT had pursued for 110 years at the state shrine. McCombs, a board member of the Alamo Endowment, a nonprofit working with the city and state to craft a master plan for the state-owned Alamo complex and surrounding area, said the public may not see a well-defined project until 2017. “You’re going to see more and more details come along in the months to come, but I don’t believe you’ll be seeing anything like the proposed project for a year and a half,” he told members of the DRT Alamo Mission Chapter at its annual Siege of Bexar luncheon Tuesday at the San Antonio County Club.

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

State demands information in abuse probes

For the second time since September, a Texas school district has been told it must provide information to investigators using recently obtained subpoena power to look into child abuse allegations, state officials confirmed. Doug Phillips, the Texas Education Agency's director of educator investigations, told the Senate Education Committee yesterday that the Austin-area Eanes Independent School District had not complied with a subpoena for information about a teacher accused of misconduct. “The whole point of having subpoena power is getting to the truth,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who suggested penalizing districts that don't comply. Regarding teacher misconduct with students, he added, “We have to stamp this out, folks.”

New York Times - December 4, 2015

Swartz: Greg Abbott’s Stern Commandments

IF I’ve learned anything living in Texas, lo, these many years, it is that actions that seem nuts or cruel on the surface usually have some rational basis down below. But I’m struggling to see this one. FROM OUR ADVERTISERS Last month, our governor, Greg Abbott, announced that he was joining several other governors in refusing to allow refugees from war-torn Syria to enter Texas. Mr. Abbott wrote the president that the administration’s policy of accepting a measly 10,000 desperate people “irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.” Whether or not Mr. Abbott has the legal right to deny federal authority, he wagged his finger at the leader of the free world and said, “No, sir.”

Longview News Journal - December 3, 2015

U.S. race to top GOP ballot for East Texas

A congressional contest will top local Republican primary ballots in March after the incumbent U.S. representative for Northeast Texas filed Thursday for re-election. Spots down the ballot also are filling, with less than two weeks left for candidates to step up. The March 1 primary battle between U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, and Lufkin rancher Simon Winston heralds Gohmert's first Republican challenge since his first race to represent Northeast Texas in Washington in 2004. Gohmert wrote in a statement that he had hoped to return "to something more financially rewarding in the private sector" by now.

Associated Press - December 9, 2015

Ex-border county commissioner, ex-judge confess to bribery

A former county commissioner and a former justice of the peace have pleaded guilty to bribery charges in an ongoing probe of public corruption in their corruption-plagued South Texas border county. Former Maverick County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jose Luis Rosales pleaded guilty in Del Rio on Monday to receiving a bribe, while former Maverick County Justice of the Peace Cesar Iracheta pleaded guilty to paying a bribe. Rosales took kickbacks after manipulating bidding on Maverick County construction contracts in 2012.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

New York Times - December 8, 2015

Anxiety Grows in Texas With Syrians Due to Arrive Soon

Republican leaders in Texas want to expand the legal authority of the states to bar Syrian refugees, as the expected arrival of 21 of the refugees in Texas this week has intensified concerns and fears about accepting Syrians in the wake of the Paris attacks last month. Governors in about 30 states — most though not all of them Republicans — have called on the Obama administration to stop accepting Syrian refugees into the United States, after terrorists killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13. The attackers included a man who entered Europe with a Syrian passport and posed as a migrant.

Plainview Herald - December 8, 2015

Landtroop announces House District 84 bid

Former Plainview resident Jim Landtroop is seeking to return to the Texas House of Representatives, this time representing District 84. The Lubbock resident on Monday announced his plans to challenge State Rep. John Frullo. Landtroop, who still operates a State Farm Insurance agency in Plainview, served one two-year term in the Texas House as District 85 representative. The Republican lost to current State Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, in the 2012 Republican primary after redistricting in 2011 took away all except Hale County from his original district.

KCBD - December 7, 2015

Rep. Frullo faces primary challenger for District 84 seat

State Representative John Frullo of Lubbock will face at least one challenger in the March primary. Former Representative Jim Landtroop announced that he's running for the District 84 seat on Monday. Landtroop represented District 85 in the Texas legislature from 2010 to 2012, but he lost a re-election bid when the districts were redrawn. Landtroop and Representative Frullo both claim the conservative label but some say they differ on their degrees of conservatism.

USA Today - December 8, 2015

At Texas' flagship university, many fear for diversity

Garrett Maples came to the University of Texas from an almost all-white high school north of here in Liberty Hill. Xavier Rotnofsky arrived from the Mexico border city of Laredo, which is 95% Hispanic. Danielle Smith traveled west from Houston, along with a healthy number of fellow African-American students. Each has thrived at Texas' flagship university, where much of the learning process occurs through osmosis. Maples found an ethnic mix in the Texas Blazers service group. Rotnofsky got elected student body president on a lark, along with his Indian-born running mate, Rohit Mandalapu. Smith assimilated by way of the Black Student Alliance, where she directs public relations.

Los Angeles Times - December 8, 2015

Kahlenberg: Texas' college admissions policies give the well-to-do a leg up

Morally and politically, the well-off minority student has always been the Achilles' heel of colleges' affirmative action programs. Most people agree that applicants who have overcome economic odds deserve a leg up. But as President Obama has acknowledged, daughters like his — who have grown up with privilege — don't need preferential consideration when applying to college. Yet it is privileged minority students who are at the center of Fisher vs. University of Texas II, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. The University of Texas at Austin's legal defense is that it needs to admit “the African American or Hispanic child of successful professionals in Dallas” so as to dismantle stereotypes that all blacks and Latinos are poor.

Courthouse News - December 8, 2015

Langford: Texas Finds Sympathy in Latest Supreme Court Redistricting Saga

The drawing of legislative maps across the country hangs in the balance Tuesday after the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the division of 31 senatorial districts in Texas. When the Texas Legislature carved the state senate districts at issue after the 2010 U.S. census, it used total population, rather than the population of citizens of voting age. The result put Sue Evenwel, of sparsely populated Titus County, into a district with a relatively large percentage of eligible voters. Titus sits in the northeast part of the state, near Arkansas and Louisiana. She complains that the map diluted the strength of her vote, as compared with voters in other districts.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

Inmate death ruled homicide as criminal investigation continues

The death of an inmate earlier this year was ruled a homicide by the Bexar County Medical Examiner as a criminal investigation of the case continues. James Keith, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. confirmed Tuesday that a criminal investigation into the July 26 death of Robert Mosley, 54, has been ongoing since he was found unresponsive in his cell and taken to Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Keith noted that the Medical Examiner’s ruling of homicide doesn’t necessarily mean there was a murder.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Travis County looks to build wind farm on West Texas land

With a population of 1,600, a countywide prohibition on alcohol sales and a conservative Republican electorate, Throckmorton County has little in common with Travis County. But the two have been linked since the 19th century, when the Republic of Texas allotted Travis County thousands of acres of revenue-generating land 140 miles west of Fort Worth to fund schools in the Austin area. On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court took a step toward bringing that relationship into the 21st century by hiring a consultant to explore the possibility of building a wind farm on the land, which currently makes money from grazing and oil-pumping leases.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Syrian refugee family settles into Dallas apartment, grateful to America

A Syrian refugee family has arrived in Dallas, expressing gratitude to America and democracy. Their move into a Dallas apartment came as the state government sued to block their arrival. The newly arrived family consists of six people, the parents, two small children and their grandparents. The family is now living in a Dallas apartment complex where there are other immigrants and refugees who speak Arabic who were waiting to greet the family with fresh food and household goods, two immigrants said last night. The family’s arrival comes as a legal battle plays out in a U.S. District court in Dallas and in the political arena. Texas, through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, became the first state to actually sue to prevent the resettlement of Syrians here.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Sting aimed at nabbing toll violators

Parked on the central shoulder of the Sam Houston Tollway north Tuesday morning, Lt. Dimitrios Fragkias focused on the crackle coming over his radio and not the vehicles causing his Precinct 4 Constable cruiser to sway and sway again as they buzzed past. "Was that a silver Silverado?" he asked the dispatcher, requesting clarification. He scanned the traffic. No Silverado. But maybe that was the red Nissan Altima she'd dispatched? License George-Frank-Henry. Yes. He peeped over his right shoulder at the oncoming surge and gunned the engine, dipping into the fast lane, over to the middle lane and back again, coasting back to a cool 65 mph behind the target. It was a red Altima, but not the right one. Picking out plates amid thick coursing traffic requires patience. In the next couple hours, Fragkias, riding solo, would nab two toll violators as part of a Harris County Toll Road Authority sting. Squad cars from the seven precincts that police the tollways joined forces Tuesday west of Interstate 45, as they do about once a month at rotating locations, to catch drivers who have been blocked from using the toll roads due to unpaid tolls, fines and fees.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Vickery: Six basic facts about refugees and Houston

1) Refugees are fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. The United Nations estimates that nearly 60 million people are currently displaced as a result of wars, conflict and persecution around the world — an all-time high. Half of those displaced people are children. More than 11 million are Syrians, displaced by an ongoing civil war and violence. Of those, more than 4 million are officially registered refugees – mostly women and children — seeking safety and possibly permanent homes in the European Union, and the United States.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Dallas DA Susan Hawk plans to seek re-election, draws potential challenger

For the first time since returning from in-patient depression treatment, Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk said this week that she plans to seek re-election. Hawk, a Republican in her first term, was asked whether she plans to run again while speaking to the Dallas Assembly on Monday. She hesitated briefly, and then said, “I do.” That’s according to Dallas Morning News Editorial Page Editor Keven Ann Willey, a Dallas Assembly member who moderated a Q&A with Hawk. The group’s forums are otherwise closed to the media.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Morris: And what of Turner's plans for pensions?

We've scrutinized mayoral hopeful Bill King's pension reform proposals in recent days, in this Sunday story and in a follow-up post that better explains the math behind his idea. In short, some financial experts worry about the market risks associated with King's plan, and estimates show it may save money over the coming decades but may cost more in the short term. More to the point, however, as the Sunday story explained, King has made himself the details guy. And as the same story also made clear, his opponent in Saturday's runoff, Sylvester Turner, has, well, not. There are personal and political reasons for this, the latter relying in large part on each man's path to the runoff.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Dallas Police Chief David Brown: Swapping arrests for tickets in marijuana possession cases ‘hard to argue with’

Dallas Police Chief David Brown says he has mixed feelings about allowing police to write tickets instead of arresting people caught with small amounts of marijuana. But, the chief said Tuesday, the approach is “just so damn practical.” At a meeting of the Dallas City Council’s Public Safety Committee, police officials and council members discussed whether to try a “cite and release” pilot program. The committee voted to refer the idea to the full council without a recommendation.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Rockwell: Do women file more discrimination complaints at the city of Austin?

A bunch of women who work for the city of Austin wanted an answer to one (seemingly) simple question: Do female employees file more workplace discrimination complaints than men? They submitted an open records request last spring asking for statistics on the number of women employed in executive positions at various city departments, and the number of women and men who submitted complaints related to retaliation, discrimination and harassment. And then they waited. I tracked their request with interest, as these women made the rounds to various city boards and commissions to try to draw attention to the issue of how female employees are treated at the city of Austin.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Mayor's race going down to the wire

The Houston mayor's race appears to be a dead heat after the close of early voting Tuesday, according to a new poll and political experts who have reviewed ballot records, setting the stage for a four-day campaign sprint to usher voters to the polls on Saturday. More than 113,000 voters had cast ballots by the end of early voting Tuesday. Through Monday, turnout had been concentrated in the same African-American and white conservative precincts that vaulted state Rep. Sylvester Turner and businessman Bill King into the runoff to succeed term-limited Mayor Annise Parker. The end of early voting coincided with the release of the first independent poll of the runoff, showing Turner and King tied at 38 percent support among likely voters.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2015

Kubosh, Martin blast HERO-related records request

Councilmen Michael Kubosh and Dave Martin on Tuesday blasted a records request from a D.C.-based nonprofit to those council members who voted against the Houston equal rights ordinance, known as HERO, last year. The Campaign for Accountability's request seeks communication between prominent local anti-HERO activists as well as anti-LGBT groups, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, and the six council members who voted against the law. Kubosh and Martin were joined by Councilwoman Brenda Stardig and councilmen Jack Christie, Dwight Boykins and Oliver Pennington in opposing the law in May 2014.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

Big D gets a ‘D’ for ‘school choice’ in national report

Big D received a grade of “D” in a national report that ranks urban cities by their support of “school choice” to give students more options outside the traditional learning environment. Dallas ranked 25th of 30 urban cities in the America’s Best and Worst Cities for School Choice report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C- based education think tank. New Orleans is the No. 1 ranked city with an “A-”. Albany, New York came in last and got an “F”.

San Antonio Express News - December 8, 2015

Feds mulling whether to charge SAPD officers for beating wrong man

Federal prosecutors are weighing an FBI investigation of three San Antonio police officers accused of severely beating a father of three by mistake while in pursuit of another man on the Northwest Side last year. Roger Carlos, now paralyzed as the result of subsequent surgery, reported the incident to the FBI a couple of months after the May 20, 2014, incident, the agency confirmed Tuesday. San Antonio Police Department officials said they could not directly respond to the allegations Tuesday. “Clearly it was a case of mistaken identity,” SAPD Chief William McManus told KENS 5, which first reported on the matter last year.

National Stories

Associated Press - December 8, 2015

Cruz introduces bill to let governors reject refugees

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation Tuesday to give governors the power to opt out of refugee replacements if they believe there are security risks. Cruz introduced the bill at a news conference in Washington, D.C., with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been one of the most vocal of about 30 governors who have announced they would like to block refugees from Syria in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. Federal law appears to allow federal officials to place refugees wherever they see fit, regardless of the desires of the states, according to legal experts, although Abbott has challenged that interpretation. Cruz's bill would allow for an opt-out if a governor says in writing that he or she believes the feds have failed "to provide adequate assurance that the alien does not present a security risk to the State."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - December 8, 2015

Syrian refugees resettled in resistant Texas, Indiana

Syrian families have been settled in Texas and in Indiana, the groups helping them said Tuesday, defying efforts by the conservative states' governors to stop their arrival. A family of six went to live Monday near relatives already living in the Dallas area, said Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee. "They seem very happy," Carrigan said, noting that they were put up in an apartment with basic furniture and a stocked refrigerator. "And it was almost like breathing a sigh of relief that they have arrived. This has been a long journey for them, and it's been a long journey for a lot of Syrian refugees."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

New York Magazine - December 4, 2015

Jeb Bush Super-Pac Chief Mike Murphy Has $75 Million Burning a Hole in His Pocket

It says a lot about the malaise afflicting the once-high-flying Jeb Bush for President effort that the most upbeat thing two Politico reporters could find to say is that Team Bush has done a good job of convincing key donors to ignore all the objective evidence that the campaign is going nowhere fast. But such acts of hypnosis are not easily extended to the circling media vultures smelling death, or for that matter, to actual voters. So what is to be done by a presidential campaign that still has quite a bit of money over at the super-pac run by veteran political consultant Mike Murphy, but is selling a well-known product that consumers just don't seem to like?

Washington Post - December 8, 2015

Three years after Sandy Hook, more states cut mental health funding

Three years after the Sandy Hook mass shooting prompted public demands for mental health care reform, an increasing number of states have cut funding for mental health services, according to a report released Tuesday by a mental health advocacy group. The report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness said only 23 states increased mental health spending in 2015, compared to 36 states in 2013 and 29 in 2014. The others have been "treading water" or going backwards by cutting funding for services, according to the report, which called out the disconnect between the "great deal of rhetoric in recent years about the broken mental health system in America and the need to invest in services that work in helping people living with mental illness to recover and reach their full potentials."

New York Times - December 7, 2015

After Months of Lying in Wait and Watching Rivals, Ted Cruz Sees Payoff in Polls

Hours after Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy last March at an evangelical university, his team openly cheered his meager position in the polls, where his support registered at around 5 percent. “You have to own a base in the Republican primary,” the campaign manager, Jeff Roe, said then. “If you own the base, then you can grow it.” Less than nine months later — many of them spent drafting behind his rivals, lying in wait — Mr. Cruz’s base of support has swelled, forcing his foes to grapple with the central premise of Mr. Cruz’s bid, a bet many had long dismissed: that he could emerge as the first far-right conservative in recent political history with the strength to withstand a bruising primary.

New York Times - December 8, 2015

Bazelon, Liptak: How Will the Supreme Court Rule on Affirmative Action?

It’s been a season of attention to racial inequality on American college campuses. Across the country, sometimes eloquently and sometimes not (these are 18-to-22-year-olds), minority students and their supporters have channeled the spirit of Black Lives Matter and demanded more. More black and Hispanic and Asian and Native American faculty members. More resources. A greater sense of belonging. The Supreme Court may be poised to make them settle for less, in the most basic form: fewer seats in the future entering college and university classes. The justices will hear arguments on Wednesday in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that challenges the consideration that the University of Texas, Austin, gives to race in admission. This is the second time the court has heard the claims of Abigail Fisher, a white woman who didn’t get into U.T. Austin seven years ago.

Reuters - December 8, 2015

U.S. justices skeptical of Texas 'one person, one vote' challenge

U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant on Tuesday to endorse a conservative challenge to the way Texas draws state legislative districts in a case that could shrink the political clout of Hispanics and boost the power of rural voters. It was not clear after an hour of oral arguments how the nine justices would rule in a dispute that questions a process that all 50 states employ to create electoral districts: using an area's total population as opposed to just eligible voters. The case is closely watched because of its potential to transfer influence from urban areas that tend to be racially diverse and favor Democrats to rural ones with predominantly white voters who often back Republicans.

Daily Texan - December 4, 2015

Professors explain potential outcomes of Fisher v. UT

UT law professor Lino Graglia said when the case is heard again, what it will come to is how Kennedy votes because he has swayed different ways before. “You have four justices, who very predictably, will vote to uphold affirmative action,” Graglia said. “There are four others who are almost just as predictable.” The biggest question that arises is how Kennedy will vote, and Graglia said he expects Kennedy to vote affirmative action unconstitutional. “In other race cases, [Kennedy] is not as strict as [Antonin] Scalia or [Clarence] Thomas … but he has generally been tough on race discrimination,” Graglia said. “A lot of times these cases today come down to how Kennedy votes, which is not entirely predictable.”

Reason - December 7, 2015

Dalmia: A State's Rights Approach to Immigration Reform

Over the last decade, neither Republican president George W. Bush nor Democratic Barack Obama has succeeded in prodding Congress to enact immigration reform. That’s because Congress can’t find a way to balance the contradictory demands of labor, business, and talk-radio restrictionists. Meanwhile, as the economy gathers steam, industries in many states are facing a paucity of workers at all skill levels. But there might be a way out of this logjam. How? By embracing a more federalist approach that gives states flexibility to craft their own immigration policies. This might sound radical but the under-reported story is that states have already been trying to do this and Canada did it 18 years ago. Even Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who has torpedoed many a reform effort, praised Canada’s provincial program at a Heritage Foundation event last year as a model for America because it allows an orderly matching between foreign workers and local labor needs.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Herman: The Cruz-Trump bromance continues

There are moments that test even the most steadfast of relationships, even political bromances born of opportunism like the one Sen. Ted Cruz is carrying on with fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump, being Trump, seems to offer those trying moments on a daily basis, be it a blanket insult of Mexicans or a specific chiding of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for being captured in Vietnam. This week something preposterous, even by Trumpian standards, popped out when he called for a ban on allowing Muslims into the United States.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

AAS: Fisher v. UT, the affirmative action case the Supreme Court can’t quit

Affirmative action might fall on a case that shouldn’t stand. I’ve written about Abigail Fisher’s discrimination lawsuit against the University of Texas several times over the past few years. I here admit that there are only so many ways to write about a case that should have disappeared at least two years ago — so forgive me if what follows reads familiar. The U.S. Supreme Court insists on propping up the feeble case of Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and on Wednesday revisits arguments about the constitutionality of UT’s use of race and ethnicity in its admissions process.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Cruz Revels in Finding Himself Under Siege

For months, Ted Cruz's presidential campaign plodded along largely unscathed by his rivals for the White House, operating in relative obscurity as other candidates traded blows. Those days, it seems, are over. As he rises to the top tier of the GOP field, the Texas senator increasingly finds himself in the crosshairs of rivals from both parties, their allies and even influential institutions in the early voting states. At least publicly, Cruz can hardly contain his glee at the onslaught, categorically dismissing it as proof that his campaign is gaining more traction than ever.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Texas Redistricting Case

As the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday over a Texas case that sought to clarify what “one person, one vote” means in American politics, some justices questioned the argument that the state's current system diminishes the power of some voters. And others considered arguments that would upend how voters are sorted into legislative districts. The question before the high court was "who counts as a person?" when it comes to dividing up Americans in state legislative districts. In Tuesday’s arguments on Evenwel v. Abbott, the state of Texas defended its position that the entire population, including resident noncitizens, felons and children, should be counted — not merely eligible voters, as the plaintiffs argued.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Congress Poised to Pass Rewrite of No Child Left Behind

The end of the widely reviled No Child Left Behind Act — and Texas’ standoff with the federal government over that 2002 law — is in sight, to the elation of the state education commissioner, superintendents and teachers. A rewrite of President George W. Bush’s signature education policy is poised to win final passage in Congress this week after winning preliminary approval in the Senate on Tuesday. The rewrite, dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” has already been overwhelmingly approved by the House. The legislation has been praised for shrinking the federal government’s role — and giving states and local governments more flexibility — in shaping K-12 policy.

CNBC - December 4, 2015

Charts: What's the REAL unemployment rate?

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate stayed flat at 5 percent in November. But does that tell the whole story? Economists look beyond the "main" unemployment number to other indicators included in the report that can give a more textured view of the employment situation. On jobs day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a slew of figures, each of which provide their own view of the economy. One of those figures is the U-6 rate. Many economists prefer the U-6 rather than the main unemployment number (also known as the U-3) because it captures people who work part time but would like to be working full time. The BLS defines U-6 as "total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force," plus all marginally attached workers. ... The U-6 rate ticked up 0.1 point in November, to 9.9 percent.

Wall St. Journal - December 7, 2015

Supreme Court Revisits University of Texas Race-in-Admissions Case

The Supreme Court revisits affirmative action in college admissions Wednesday, the latest racially focused case to go before a court that has pared back government programs intended to benefit minorities. Two years ago, the court passed up a chance to undo affirmative action at the University of Texas, instead asking a lower court to decide whether the Austin campus adequately justified classifying individual applicants by race. Now the case is back at the high court. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the justices have, on issues such as campaign finance and voting rights, taken a partial step in an initial case that later paved the way for a more consequential opinion shifting the law to the right.

NPR - December 7, 2015

Why Has The Death Penalty Grown Increasingly Rare?

The last execution scheduled in the U.S. for the year is set for Tuesday in Georgia. But capital punishment has gown rare in America, to the point of near extinction. Even though polls show that 60 percent of the public still supports the death penalty, and even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it as constitutional, the number of executions this year so far is almost the same as the number of fatalities from lightning strikes — 27 executions versus 26 deaths by lightning. It's an ironic statistic. When the Supreme Court briefly banned the death penalty in 1972, it did so, in part, because, as Justice Potter Stewart put it, capital punishment was being imposed so randomly and "freakishly" that it was like being "struck by lightning."

International Business Times - December 8, 2015

Ted Cruz Climate Change Debate: Mining And Oil Industries Give Big Money To Texas Senator's Campaigns

World leaders attending a global environmental conference in Paris this month may agree that climate change is a real threat, but Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- and his biggest campaign contributors -- aren’t convinced. As United Nations negotiations over how to address global warming continued in France, Cruz scheduled a hearing Tuesday that seeks to undermine the general urgency of the Paris climate summit while simultaneously supporting the position of some of his wealthiest donors. The hearing, titled "Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth's Climate," will feature several climate scientists -- some of whom are climate change doubters -- from U.S. universities, including from Princeton, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The focus will be federal funding for climate change researchers and whether political pressures suppress opposing scientific viewpoints.

Austin American Statesman - December 7, 2015

Hill: Competitive contracting — dull but effective

Competitive contracting isn’t sexy. You will never find it in a self-help book at Barnes & Noble, nor will you see it on late-night TV. It doesn’t generate any particular degree of passion or enthusiasm among the public. It’s a structural concept designed to make government efficient, with no accompanying promises for rock-hard abs, never-ending wealth or caviar in your moisturizer. In short: competitive contracting is dull. But dull or not, competitive contracting has something all the shiny, “As-Seen-on-TV” products lack: It is actually effective. By introducing competition into the bidding process of a government entity, as competitive contracting does, cities across the country have been able to improve the quality of their services while saving money at the same time.

Dallas Morning News - December 4, 2015

West: Hillary Clinton has the right idea on fixing America’s broken infrastructure

Last month here in Texas, we saw how federal investment can elevate our local business community as well as our quality of life. With the completion of Tower 55 in Fort Worth, we have a better-working freight system that can support our state while also providing a cleaner option for our environment. The $104 million project, backed by a $34 million federal grant, replaced interchange portions of our existing rail system, making them safer and more reliable. The project takes our state’s infrastructure one more step into the 21st century and will boost our business community for decades. It’s no secret that Texas’ infrastructure needs an upgrade. Years of neglect haven’t just deteriorated our railways; they’ve also created inefficiencies for our businesses and at times even endangered our families.

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - December 7, 2015

FWST: Court hears key Texas cases on voting, race

The U.S. Supreme Court docket is Texas-heavy this week, with arguments on two key cases out of the Lone Star State. The high court’s rulings on the issues involved — whether the balanced population counts for voting districts should include everyone or be keyed to eligible voters, and whether the University of Texas at Austin properly uses race in its admissions policy — will set important legal precedents. That’s why there’s a Supreme Court, to settle — or at least establish guidelines for — complicated questions of legal right and wrong.

The Atlantic - December 7, 2015

Why Are So Many Preschoolers Getting Suspended?

Walter S. Gilliam, a psychologist and researcher at Yale University’s Child Study Center, led the first expansive study of preschool expulsions a decade ago. In a random national sample of more than 4,500 state-funded pre-k classrooms in 40 states, his 2005 report revealed 3- and 4-year-olds were expelled from pre-k programs more than three times as often as students in kindergarten through high school. The rates of preschool expulsions varied dramatically with age, gender, and race: 4-year-olds were expelled at a higher rate than 3-year-olds; boys were over four times as likely to be ousted from prekindergarten as girls; and black children were expelled about twice as often as Latino and white youngsters, and over five times as often as Asian-American children.

Austin American Statesman - December 9, 2015

Haurwitz: How two justices in UT admissions case could shape race policy

The future of racial and ethnic considerations in undergraduate admissions at the University of Texas — and potentially at public and private colleges across the nation — could hinge in an odd way on just two members of the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday for the second time in a closely watched case. One of the two, Elena Kagan, a member of the court’s liberal wing, isn’t even participating in Fisher v. UT, presumably because she worked on it as solicitor general for the Obama administration, which has sided with the university. Considering that the court tends to be closely divided on matters of race, her absence would seem to put UT at a distinct disadvantage.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2015

McCaul dubious on Ted Cruz plan to defeat ISIS through carpet bombing

Campaigns are a time for would-be presidents to explain how they would approach the role of commander-in-chief. The temptation is powerful to outbid rivals with tough talk. For Sen. Ted Cruz, that meant vowing saturation bombing of territory in Syria and Iraq held by the Islamic State terror group – a proposal that House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul today called off target. “You can carpet bomb all you want, but if you don’t have stability and political reconciliation within Syria, you’re going to continue to have these problems,” McCaul argued.

Washington Post - December 9, 2015

Along with Trump’s rhetoric, the stakes for 2016 have risen dramatically

Politics Along with Trump’s rhetoric, the stakes for 2016 have risen dramatically Resize Text Print Article Comments 7417 Play Video0:28Trump calls for 'total and complete' shutdown of Muslims entering U.S. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump said on Dec. 7 that he was in favor of a '"total and complete" shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. (C-SPAN) By Dan Balz December 8 at 2:26 PM Donald Trump continues to go where no recent candidate for president has gone before, plunging the Republican Party — and the nation — into another round in the tumultuous debate about immigration, national identity, terrorism and the limits of tolerance. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States marked a sudden and sizable escalation — and in this case one that sent shockwaves around the world — in the inflammatory and sometimes demagogic rhetoric of the candidate who continues to lead virtually every national and state poll testing whom Republicans favor for their presidential nomination. Nothing in modern politics equates with the kind of rhetoric now coming from Candidate Trump. There are no perfect analogies.

Associated Press - December 9, 2015

Legal experts agree: Trump's proposal unconstitutional

Donald Trump's call to block all Muslims from entering the United States is not only unconstitutional, but also impossible to carry out, legal experts said Tuesday. Trump's proposed ban, announced to cheers at a rally in South Carolina Monday, would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of a religion practiced by more than a billion people worldwide. Beyond inciting condemnation from Republican presidential rivals, GOP leaders and others, legal and immigration experts said Tuesday that Trump's proposal violated the Constitution's equal protection clause and freedom of religion granted under the First Amendment.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

White House threatens veto of Thornberry’s Red River legislation

The White House threatened Tuesday afternoon to veto a bill brought by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, that would require the Bureau of Land Management to submit to Texas surveys of disputed property along the Red River. The land, which comprises parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, drew contention when the agency proposed updates to its resource management plans along the river in December 2013. Some residents of the 116-mile stretch of land hold deeds and have contested the government’s ownership claims. Thornberry’s bill, dubbed the “Red River Private Property Protection Act,” would require new surveys of the land, conducted by the Texas General Land Office, to determine which parts are public or private. It also would bar BLM from implementing a resource management plan until the land dispute is resolved.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Congressional Hispanic Caucus fears 55 percent of Latinos would be impacted if Texas loses ‘one person, one vote’ case

Hispanic lawmakers are watching a case before the Supreme Court today with alarm, fearing as many as 55 percent of Latinos could be left out when drawing districts, if the state loses. The case centers on whether state lawmaker’s districts should be determined by the total population or just eligible voters. Texas’ practice of counting total population is a common measure used by most states, and one the state is fighting to keep. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus voiced concerns ahead of the case’s oral arguments. Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro, D- San Antonio, said the case puts many non-eligible voters at risk that deserve to be represented equally to voting district constituents. Non-eligible voters are mostly children, but also include legal permanent residents, foreign citizens and convicted felons.

Washington Post - December 8, 2015

Ted Cruz surges into second in national Republican primary polling

Way, way back in this presidential election cycle, eons ago, back in the beginning of November, we noted something: There was an odd way in which 2016 polling looked like 2012 polling. That is, a candidate with steady support was seeing an insurgent rise and then fall against him. In 2012, the steady candidate was Mitt Romney. In 2016, it's maybe Donald Trump. It's a weak, intentionally provocative note (read: a troll), but ... it's perhaps not that far from the mark. The terror attacks in Paris have, as predicted, helped kneecap national support for Ben Carson. Carson's evaporating, likely never to return, his support appearing to go largely to Trump and Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio's been improving, too, perhaps thanks to some Carson withering and perhaps due to the slow-motion Hindenberg that is Jeb!.

BBC - December 8, 2015

Zurcher: Is Donald Trump destroying the Republican Party?

Over the past few weeks, word spread that Republican elders were increasingly anxious at the damage Donald Trump was doing to their party's long-term presidential prospects. With the New York real estate tycoon's latest pronouncement on closing the US borders to all Muslims, that anxiety has become palpable panic. Virtually all of Mr Trump's fellow candidates have condemned him, and Republican officials, past and present - from former Vice-President Dick Cheney to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan - have joined the fray.

New York Times - December 8, 2015

Gov't Survey: Fewer Americans Struggle to Pay Medical Bills

The government says that for the fourth year in a row fewer Americans are struggling to pay medical bills. Data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that most of the progress has come among low-income people and those with government coverage. The number of people in households that faced problems paying medical bills decreased by 12 million from the first half of 2011 through the first six months of this year.

All - December 8, 2015

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 3, 2015

How much money does the NRA contribute to Texas political figures?

A series of Twitter posts by ThinkProgress’ contributing editor Igor Volsky and a provocative New York Daily News front page became two of the most talked about items on social media in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting. Both zeroed in on politicians who offered “thoughts and prayers” to victims in the wake of mass shootings and not much else. Volsky listed the National Rifle Association (NRA) donations those political figures had received. For example, he noted the NRA spent $2.8 million alone “in independent expenditures in 2014 to win the Iowa Senate sent for” Republican Joni Ernst. Overall expenditures in 2014 totaled more than $30 million.

Austin American Statesman - December 8, 2015

Poll: Most oppose defunding Planned Parenthood

Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, a debate that is likely to come to a head this week between the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democratic White House. By 58%-33%, those surveyed Wednesday through Sunday said the group's funding shouldn't be eliminated. The national poll of 1,000 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Both the House and Senate have approved amendments to the budget reconciliation bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Uber-Style Moving Companies Draw State's Attention

While Texas cities debate how to balance regulating traditional taxi companies alongside nimble app-based competitors like Uber and Lyft, state transportation officials are confronting a different kind of disruption from Silicon Valley. A new breed of online moving companies with names like Buddytruk and PICKUP has drawn interest from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which wants to ensure the companies are following state laws requiring moving truck drivers to be licensed.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Houston's economy will sag, but not collapse, in 2016, experts say

After adding jobs at a breakneck pace, Houston's economy has started to sag under the weight of a global crude collapse, shedding thousands of energy-related jobs in 2015 with more on the chopping block next year. But this oil slump bears no resemblance to the ruinous bust of 30 years ago that deeply wounded Houston's economy and left permanent scars on the city's psyche, according to the latest employment forecast by the Greater Houston Partnership. "This is in no way going to look like the '80s and hopefully this is the last time I have to say that to anybody," Patrick Jankowski, the partnership's senior vice president of research, said Monday at a luncheon unveiling the annual report.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Texas Redistricting Case Could Have National Effect

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday over how Americans are sorted into state legislative districts. How the court rules next year on the case could profoundly change the makeup of statehouses across the country. Attorneys representing two Texans before the high court will ask the question: When legislative seats are distributed by the legal dictum, “one person, one vote,” who counts as a person? The entire population, including resident non-citizens, felons and children? Or only eligible voters?

Roll Call - December 3, 2015

Texas Realtor to Run for Hinojosa Seat

Dolly Elizondo, a Texas Realtor and local Democratic activist, said Thursday she will run in the state’s 15th District, a campaign that, if successful, could make her the first Latina to represent the Lone Star State in Congress. Elizondo joined a growing intra-party fight for the seat, rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, which is being vacated by Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, for the first time in two decades. “I am a firm believer that ordinary people such as myself need to participate in government.

USA Today - December 7, 2015

'One person, one vote' case could upend politics

It's a simple concept that has lasted a half century: "One person, one vote." But in today's litigious society, nothing is simple. So the Supreme Court must step in Tuesday and consider this question: When it comes to drawing election districts, who counts as a person? On one side are civil rights groups fighting to keep the rule that emerged from a series of high court cases in the 1960s: Everyone can be counted. On the other side are conservative groups who want tens of millions of children, non-citizens, prisoners, ex-felons and people with intellectual disabilities excluded from the count because they cannot vote.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Cervantes: In first, Cruz gains lead in Iowa

A new poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey shows Texas Sen. Ted Cruz overtaking Trump for the first time ever in a Republican primary race that seemingly has grown more protracted over the last few months. The survey, which includes likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers, has Cruz earning 24 percent support to Trump's 19 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio comes in third, with 17 percent, and Ben Carson is fourth with 13 percent. "This marks the first time Ted Cruz has held a lead in any of the crucial early states. As Ben Carson's stock has fallen, Cruz has been able to corral most of those voters," said Patrick Murray, director of the polling institute that ran the survey. Less than two months until the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, the results reveal what the Cruz campaign has prepared itself for: a ground fight in that state where the most loyal supporters are willing to trek through snow and ice to get out the vote.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

State demands districts cooperate in teacher-student conduct probes

For the second time since September, a Texas school district has been told it must provide information to investigators using recently obtained subpoena power to look into child abuse allegations, state officials confirmed. Doug Phillips, the Texas Education Agency's director of educator investigations, told the Senate Education Committee Monday that the Austin-area Eanes Independent School District had not complied with a subpoena for information about a teacher accused of misconduct. "The whole point of having subpoena power is getting to the truth," said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who suggested penalizing districts that don't comply. Regarding teacher misconduct with students, he added, "We have to stamp this out, folks."

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Texas police use drone to catch armed suspects near school

It appears that the Corpus Christi Police Department has a new tool in its fight against criminals in that area. On Friday the department released video footage of a drone assisting officers in smoking out a pair of suspects that were reported to be carrying firearms near Sam Houston Elementary in Corpus Christi. It all went down just after 9 a.m. on Friday morning. In the black and white video released online, three officers can be seen from above searching a backyard in a nearby neighborhood. That smaller, four-legged figure is a Corpus Christi PD K9 officer.

Houston Chronicle - December 4, 2015

Sanctuary cities? Senate panel can’t define it

The Legislature’s looming battle over so-called sanctuary cities emerged in lawmakers’ first public hearing, with an unexpected twist: No one could exactly define what such cities are. Or even how many there are in Texas. At a meeting of the state Senate’s border subcommittee Thursday, lawmakers openly disagreed on whether police officers should be able to inquire about immigration status during routine traffic stops, though top law enforcement officials said they already can. And they sparred over whether the state can legally boost enforcement of undocumented workers who commit crimes, when immigration is a federal matter.

Houston Chronicle - December 4, 2015

Miller: Texas fails to protect property owners from civil forfeiture

Civil forfeiture is a booming industry in Texas. Every year, police and prosecutors statewide take in more and more cash and property from people without so much as charging them with a crime. Between 2001 and 2013 (the most recent year for which these numbers are available), Texas law enforcement agencies have taken in over half a billion dollars in forfeiture revenue - an average of $41.5 million per year. Make no mistake: Reform is sorely needed. Texas' civil forfeiture laws receive a grade of "D&" in "Policing for Profit," a recently updated nationwide report from the Institute for Justice. Texas scores so poorly for three reasons. First, state laws grant Texas police and prosecutors a strong incentive to seize property. In cases where a default judgment is entered - the majority of forfeiture actions - the agency retains up to 70 percent of the forfeiture proceeds.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Two Texas businessmen rank among the most powerful people in the world

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes global influence. Two Texans were ranked among the world's most powerful people on Forbes annual list, and one of the business titans is no stranger to the list. Irving-based Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson ranks No. 25 on the list of most powerful people in the world after he was placed at No. 20 last year. Austin-based tech mogul Michael Dell made his first appearance on the list this year landing at No. 59. And they're not in bad company. The list is made up of 73 company heads and political leaders such as Barack Obama, Tim Cook, and Angela Merkel.

Houston Chronicle - December 3, 2015

George P. Bush names 4 contenders to be his dad's running mate

George P. Bush has a few ideas about who father Jeb Bush is considering as a running mate in the event that he wins the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination. On a supporters-only video conference call Wednesday, the younger Bush did not hesitate when asked if he knew who was under consideration. The son started his unusually frank answer by noting his dad had dropped a hint earlier in the week by referring to his hypothetical vice president as a "she." "So, we can deduce that it could be Condi Rice, it could be Sen. Ayotte from New Hampshire, Gov. Haley from South Carolina (or), who knows, Gov. Martinez," he said.

Houston Chronicle - December 4, 2015

Empower Texans spent nearly $700,000 on legal fees in 2014

The self-proclaimed “conservative” group operated on a day-to-day basis by Michael Quinn Sullivan and chaired by Midland oilman Tim Dunn spent nearly $700,000 on legal fees in the year 2014, according to tax documents obtained by Quorum Report. As Quorum Report readers who have followed Dunn’s political activities are aware, Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility runs several organizations – a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and a state general-purpose political action committee. The 2014 tax form 990 for the 501(c)(3) shows that it had total revenue last year of more than $2.29 million. Of that, $672,805 was spent with the Houston law firm of Beirne Maynard & Parsons, which employs former Rep. Joe Nixon and attorney Trey Trainor of Dripping Springs.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

The Syrians cited as example of cross-border terrorism risk are Christians

The group of Syrians whose detention at the Texas-Mexico border last month raised fears of a Muslim terrorist invasion were neither Muslims nor terrorists, their lawyer said Monday. The eight people who turned themselves in at the border -- two men, their wives and their four kids -- were all Christians fleeing persecution in the war-torn country, said Jonathan Ryan of the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. Another Syrian family that showed up at the border that same week also is Christian, Ryan added.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Judge indicates he will not rule on Syrian refugee case until January

A Dallas-based federal judge has denied a request by Texas state officials for an expedited hearing regarding Syrian refugees and will not rule on the case until mid-January at the earliest. Judge David Godbey informed lawyers involved in the case of his decision in a closed-door conference Monday morning, according to Rebecca Robertson of the ACLU of Texas, which is representing the International Rescue Committee, the nonprofit that, along with the federal government, is being sued by the state.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Judge defends his actions in Paxton case

A judge accused of mishandling Ken Paxton's criminal case is speaking out, alleging he is being unfairly targeted in an effort to discredit his work and absolve the attorney general. "It's a common tactic for criminal defendants; when they have reached a desperate place, they attack the process," Collin County District Judge Chris Oldner told the Dallas-Fort Worth local ABC news affiliate WFAA News 8 in an exclusive interview. "They attack prosecutors, they attack law enforcement, and they'll even attack the judge." Paxton in July was indicted on two first-degree and one third-degree felony charges of violating state securities laws. Oldner presided over the grand jury, and is accused by Paxton's attorneys of mishandling the process, improperly entering the grand jury room and leaking the news of the indictments to his wife, Cissy, who told others.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

Brown: Dan Patrick is my Texan of the Year

Among members of the in-crowd (even in Texas), there’s one sure way to get yourself uninvited from posh holiday soirees: Tell ‘em you think Dan Patrick should be Texan of the Year. Since I haven’t received many such invitations, this one’s going to be easy. But it should also be obvious to anyone willing to be fair-minded about this thing that no other Texan this year — in politics or out — has had anything close to the kind of impact on life in the Lone Star State as has the lieutenant governor. Which is a curious thing since, well, he is supposed to be the state’s No 2.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

Inglis: Politicians need to butt out of medical board investigations

Texas politicians have a nasty habit of interfering with medical board investigations. They need to butt out. The health professions boards exist to protect you and me from harm, thus are some of the most important agencies in state government. Despite parsimonious funding, they do a fine job of governing, licensing and disciplining doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and many other practitioner groups. Regarding discipline, the job of a medical board is particularly onerous because of the enormous amount of money at stake. A doctor’s career might be worth millions of dollars, so it’s not unusual for a board to face a team of high-powered lawyers representing the doctor. Investigations tend to be lengthy and costly.

Austin American Statesman - December 7, 2015

How one court case could remake the political map in Texas, nationally

Should children and noncitizens count in drawing political districts? No, say two Texans who are suing the state over how districts are created. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday. Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger want the justices to revise the way the Legislature draws state Senate boundaries in the once-a-decade redistricting process, revisiting the long-held principle of “one person, one vote.” If they prevail, legislatures in all 50 states, as well as city councils, county commissioners courts, school boards and any other political entity with population-based districts could be required to undergo the chaotic process of redrawing district lines based on the total number of registered voters (or possibly eligible voters), not the total population, as has been the case for decades in practically every state in the country.

Austin American Statesman - December 7, 2015

UT System regent decries opaque admissions as case heads to high court

Two days before the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case on the use of race in decisions to admit students to the University of Texas, a maverick UT System regent called admissions at UT and most other schools opaque, unaccountable and potentially corrupt. Regent Wallace Hall, a Dallas businessman, was among those on a Washington think tank’s panel Monday evening speaking on the pending case against UT filed by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the university. The Supreme Court in June decided for a second time to review racial considerations in undergraduate admissions at UT, setting the stage for a ruling that is likely to have repercussions in universities across the nation.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Syrians Small Fraction of Refugees Reaching Texas

Despite increased scrutiny of Syrian refugees, and efforts to keep them out of the state, Syrians make up only a tiny portion of the thousands of refugees planting new roots in Texas. Federal resettlement numbers reflect a refugee population in Texas arriving mostly from Myanmar — which the U.S. State Department still classifies as Burma — and Iraq. Most find new homes in the state’s major metropolitan areas. In recent years, the United States has admitted between 60,000 and 70,000 refugees a year, and about 10 percent were resettled in Texas.

Tyler Morning Telegraph - December 7, 2015

Arrest affidavit details explicit messages leading to arrest of Tyler Junior College professor

The arrest affidavit in the solicitation of a minor case involving a Tyler Junior College professor and former Tyler state representative’s chief of staff shows he exchanged sexually explicit messages with a 12-year-old girl and tried to meet with her. Judd Harrison Quarles, 31, of Tyler, was booked into the Smith County Jail on Friday on a charge of online solicitation of a minor under 14. Quarles is a TJC professor and former chief of staff for State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. ...

Texas Public Radio - December 8, 2015

Deepening Anti-Islamic Mood In Texas Rivals Post-Sept. 11 Climate

A backlash against American Muslims is on the rise again after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and last week's attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. Advocates say the number of hate crimes and harassment incidents today is nearly as bad as it was in the weeks after Sept. 11. An anti-Muslim climate seems especially potent in the Dallas area. For instance, take Irving, Texas, a city of 230,000 that borders Dallas on the northwest. More than one-third of its citizens are foreign-born. It's home to the world headquarters of ExxonMobil and Kimberley-Clark, and one of the largest mosques in North America.

Texas Observer - December 8, 2015

State of Texas: What Obamacare Has Done for Texas

As Obamacare enters its third year, we’re getting a clearer picture of how the landmark health insurance law is faring in a state that’s been extraordinarily hostile to it. The good news: From 2013 to 2014, the percentage of Texans without insurance dropped from about 22 percent to 19 percent. The bad news: Texas remains No. 1 in the nation for the total number of uninsured (more than 5 million) and has the highest rate of uninsured. A closer look shows that some areas, especially urban counties, are making a big dent in the number of uninsured, while others have low enrollment rates and stubbornly high uninsured rates.

Business Insider - December 4, 2015

Tani: 'Imperial governor' -- Texas' governor just took his most brazen step yet to block Syrian refugees from his state

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is following through on his promise to take legal steps to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state. But whether he actually has the legal means to do so is under question. On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a temporary restraining order against the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the International Rescue Committee, a Texas non-profit, attempting to halt the resettlement of two Syrian families in the state. Paxton claims the federal government is violating the 1980 Refugee Act, which requires the federal government to communicate "regularly" with state and local governments and non-profits regarding refugee resettlement.

WFAA - December 7, 2015

Six Syrian refugees arrive in Dallas Monday amid political fight

Six Syrian refugees will arrive in Dallas Monday, despite initial protests by the state that refugees might pose safety concerns. The Syrians are part of a larger group of nearly two dozen refugees arriving in Texas this week. Last week Texas sued the federal government and the International Rescue Committee, the agency bringing the family to Dallas. But on Friday the state said it no longer wanted an immediate order stopping the refugees, but it will push forward with the lawsuit.

Reuters - December 7, 2015

Hispanic voter clout imperiled by Texas case before U.S. Supreme Court

The growing influence of Hispanic voters in the United States could be blunted by a case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in which two voters backed by a conservative group are challenging the way Texas draws electoral districts. At issue is whether these districts should contain the same number of people or whether they instead should contain the same number of eligible voters. The distinction may seem mundane, but the court's ruling in the case could be consequential. Hispanic advocates and civil rights groups said a ruling backing plaintiffs Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger could trigger nationwide political upheaval by diminishing the influence of Hispanic voters, who tend to back Democrats, and boosting the power of rural white voters, who tend to back Republicans.

KUT - December 3, 2015

How Interpreters are Helping Refugees Meet Their Health Needs

Just a month ago, service providers in Texas were gearing up to receive some of the estimated 10,000 Syrian refugees scheduled to arrive in the United States in 2016. Last month's terrorist attacks in Paris raised caution flags for many state governors, including Gov. Greg Abbott. Listen Listening...3:35 The state yesterday sued to keep Syrians out of Texas. Politicians are saying that there are too many unknowns about refugees to safely give them refuge in Texas. However, healthcare and other service providers have already laid the groundwork for refugee arrivals, whether those are from Syria or elsewhere. Those refugees who just moved to Texas who find themselves ill need care, but many don't speak English.

UPI - December 4, 2015

Parts of Texas economy slowing, but beating out nation

Parts of the oil-rich economy in Texas are showing signs of slowing down, but still outperforming the rest of the nation, the Dallas Federal Reserve said. A survey from the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers said the number of jobs lost in the state as a result of the depressed oil economy may be worse than initially forecast. Lower crude oil prices have hurt the corporate profits for many companies with headquarters in Texas. When the downturn began in mid-2014, the alliance expected no more than 50,000 jobs would be lost in the state, but its latest forecast gave a conservative estimate of around 56,000. A survey from the Dallas Federal Reserve found mortgage debt in the district declined about 1 percent year-on-year, while auto loan debt burdens increased.

Associated Press - December 7, 2015

Texas Tech veterinary school plan annoys A&M System chief

A Texas Tech University System has proposed development of a veterinary school offering a doctoral program in Amarillo, citing student demand and industry needs in West Texas. The proposal announced Friday has drawn the objection of the Texas A&M University System, which offers the state's exclusive doctoral program in veterinary medicine. According to the Tech announcement, the proposed veterinary school would operate within the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources at Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American Statesman - December 5, 2015

Malfaro: Every Student Succeeds Act a better gauge of academic success

The impending congressional rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act gives Texas an enormous opportunity to recast our public school accountability system into one that better serves students and teachers. We have a chance to leave behind for good the disastrous misuse of standardized testing we’ve endured for some 13 years under the act, also known as NCLB. The new law — named the Every Student Succeeds Act—enjoys broad, bipartisan support in Congress. It passed the House 359-64 on Dec. 2. Senate passage is imminent, and President Obama also supports the bill.

KXAN - December 2, 2015

Paperwork, rules and toads slow down disaster recovery

Texas has more major disaster declarations than any other state in the nation; thirty two statewide disasters since 1998, including three just this year. But awarding grants needed to rebuild after those disasters can sometimes take more than a decade. Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations met to discuss speeding up a process bogged down by paperwork, rules and an endangered species. Each dump from the massive DC-10 plane brought in to fight fires costs $50,000 dollars. Many saw it flying around Bastrop this year as first responders fought the Hidden Pines fire, in between two statewide flooding events. Millions of dollars have been spent on combating fires and floods across the state of Texas.

Texas Monthly - December 7, 2015

Blackburn: Rice University Looks to Implement Mandatory Sexual Education Course

And speaking of Rice, the university is doing as much as it can to address that other much-discussed topic—sexual assault and rape. The student senate introduced and passed Senate Bill #4, legislation that seeks to implement a mandatory sexual education course for first year students by the fall 2016 semester. The course, tentatively titled “Critical Thinking in Sexuality,” will be created by a task force headed by Rice Student Association president, Jazz Silva, to “consist of several undergraduate representatives who, together [with] the Faculty Senate, the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum, and the Office of the Provost, shall develop and implement such a program.” The faculty senate will have a final vote on whether the class will be implemented and what it will entail.* The bill comes in the wake of a survey released by Rice University in September that gathered data about unwanted sexual experiences. Out of the 5,590 students that were asked to participate, 72.3 percent did.

Waco Tribune - December 5, 2015

Garcia: Let’s hope Supreme Court sees through partisan charade in Texas redistricting

Next week, I will travel to Washington, D.C., to hear the opening arguments in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States that could have a huge negative impact on the constituents in my Senate district. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, will examine whether Texas may continue to use total population when apportioning state legislative districts, or whether Texas will instead have to use the citizen voting age population (“CVAP”). I am making this trip because this case is aimed at suppressing the political strength of Latino voters. Historically, the Supreme Court has said that the Equal Protection Clause contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires a state to construct its legislative districts “as nearly of equal population as is practicable.”

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Taxpayers foot Abbott's $175,000 out-of-state travel security bill for first 8 months of 2015

Gov. Greg Abbott in his first year as governor has traveled to destinations including Mexico, Cuba, Italy, France and around the United States. The purpose of the travel ranges from personal to political to official state business, but all rack up travel costs for his security detail. The latest available DPS report — added to expenses reported earlier — shows the total spent on travel costs for Abbott’s security detail to be $174,822.26 for out-of-state trips as of Aug. 31. That total doesn’t include his more recent trips to Mexico and Cuba. But it does include some trips that have flown under the radar, such as a family vacation touching Paris and Rome.

Texas Observer - December 7, 2015

Homeland Insecurity

Special Agent Gus Gonzalez leaned back in the front seat of his truck to get a better angle with his camera. It was December 5, 2011, a chilly day for a stakeout in subtropical South Texas. He’d been waiting for hours in the parking lot of an Academy sporting goods store in Brownsville. A few miles away, across the river in Mexico, a war over drugs and money raged. U.S. residents, paid by the cartels, were supplying most of the guns and ammunition. Gonzalez and his partner, both agents with a federal law enforcement division called Homeland Security Investigations, had gotten a tip that two men they had been investigating would be buying bulk ammunition that day at the store, so they had staked out the parking lot to take photos and gather evidence. The day dragged on and the suspects still hadn’t shown. But now, Gonzalez couldn’t believe what he was seeing through the viewfinder of his camera. It was Manny Peña, a career U.S. Customs inspector.

Texas Tribune - December 7, 2015

Senators Tackle Improper Student-Teacher Relationships

Posed with a troubling, social media-driven trend — a steady rise in improper student-teacher relationships — Texas senators began work Monday to figure out what, if anything, they can do about it. During their first meeting since the legislative session ended, members of the Senate Education Committee wavered between outrage and caution as they took invited testimony on the issue, which is among a slew of public education matters Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked them to study and make policy recommendations on before lawmakers reconvene in 2017. The head of a large suburban school district and a big city prosecutor who handles cases involving educator misconduct downplayed the issue with their testimony.

Austin American Statesman - December 7, 2015

Figure in Kocurek shooting case seeks bail in unrelated murder trial

Chimene Onyeri, a person of “high interest” in the investigation into the attempted killing of state District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, is seeking to have his bail set to an amount within his means in an unrelated murder case. Onyeri, 28, was arrested in Harris County on Nov. 10 and identified as a person of interest in the Nov. 6 attack on Kocurek in front of her West Austin home. Glass and shrapnel injured Kocurek, but she has continued to recover. Last month she announced that she will seek re-election to the 390th District Court, which hears felony cases in Travis County.

Texas Observer - December 7, 2015

New Report Challenges Claims Charters Do More With Less

For years, Texas charter schools have complained they don’t get their fair share of taxpayer money. Claims that charters “do more with less” are part of the conventional wisdom around the schools, which are privately run but depend on public funding. In the last few years, though, charter advocates have called for more money from the state — particularly for facilities — which they say they need to fall in line with traditional schools. And they’ll likely repeat those claims during Monday’s Senate Education Committee hearing on charter funding. But a new report from one of the state’s leading school finance experts shows that many charters — particularly the state’s largest charter networks — get more state funding, not less, than traditional schools. The report, from education consulting firm Moak, Casey and Associates, says Texas generally sends more money to large charter schools — those with more than 1,000 students — than to similarly sized traditional public schools.

Texas Tribune - December 7, 2015

UT-Austin Proposes 3.1 Percent Tuition Increase

University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves is proposing a 3.1 percent tuition increase for next school year, he said Monday in a letter to students. The increase would raise the average per-semester cost for an undergraduate by $152. A full-time student in the School of Undergraduate Studies, for example, currently pays $4,908 in tuition per semester. The tuition hike, which would go into effect in the 2016-17 school year, still needs approval by the UT System Board of Regents.

Texas Tribune - December 7, 2015

High Court: Texas Death Row Inmate Can't Add Lawyer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Texas death row inmate Robert Roberson III's petition to add another attorney to his court-appointed team. Roberson has one more shot at delaying his execution with a petition arguing his rights were violated at trial. Roberson, on death row for killing his two-year-old daughter in 2002, argues that his right to due process was violated when his trial judge did not allow an expert to testify about mental lapses caused by a brain injury Roberson suffered.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

TAPS suspends all bus service in Collin County until further notice

The board of directors for TAPS Public Transit voted Monday afternoon to suspend all bus service in Collin County until further notice. TAPS, which has been struggling financially in recent months, reported that the service is too costly to continue right now since the agency can’t get reimbursed for any current service it is providing. TAPS currently provided on-demand trips in a seven-county area for medical-related reasons only. The board also voted Monday to cap those trips at 120 per day. On a recent day last week, TAPS delivered 116 on-demand trips – 46 of them were in Collin County.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Bexar County to try new approach with Children’s Court

Bexar County’s judicial system soon will try a new approach to help offenders’ families with young children untangle their complex problems. Adapting the same approach that has worked well in the Family Drug Court, the county will implement an early intervention program in the Children’s Court to provide counseling and other services to those with children 3 and younger. Each year, about 1,000 children who are confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect are snared in the county’s judicial process when their parents get in trouble. The abuse, which can lead to other long-term problems, demands early attention, officials said.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Few federal emergency dollars coming to repair Houston roads

Heavy rains this year have done everything from flood roads to delay progress on one of the area’s most anticipated tollway openings, but Houston is receiving relatively little in terms of infrastructure relief. The Federal Highway Administration last week announced $410 million was headed to states to help repair and recover damaged roads. The money is handed out annually as part of emergency allocations, and covers storms from 2015, as well as cleanup from previous years where claims are still being settled. Money is used primarily to rebuild or repair roads and bridges. "Emergency relief funding is an integral part of the federal-aid program," said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau, in a news release. "Part of our mission is to help states get back on track by restoring broken transportation links when disaster strikes."

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Houston energy job losses could hit nearly 19,000, GHP says

The oil collapse has thrust Houston’s economy into upheaval, but the downturn won’t be nearly as bad as the ruinous 1980s bust that left permanent scars on the city, according to the newly released employment forecast by the Greater Houston Partnership. “The only similarities between now and the 80s are the oil glut and price collapse,” GHP analysts wrote in their forecast. “Energy will restructure, but it won’t jettison half its workforce as it did back then. Real estate will soften, but it won’t turn to mush. Houston banks may have nonperforming energy loans on their books, but those loans won’t crater the financial system.” The annual forecast was unveiled during a presentation Monday in downtown Houston, providing a new look at how the downturn has afflicted a city that runs on oil.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Lawsuit accuses New Braunfels of illegal taking of riverfront lots, more

Friction within a high-end neighborhood at the confluence of the Guadalupe and Comal rivers concerning two long-overlooked lots has sparked a lawsuit that includes New Braunfels and one of its councilmembers among the defendants. Although formal responses have yet to be filed in court, City Attorney Valeria Acevedo denied the claims, calling some “outrageous,” and said they are based on erroneous information. At the heart of the dispute are two river-access lots in the Guada Coma subdivision that 1947 deed provisions dedicated to neighborhood residents’ use and enjoyment, specifically excluding them from public use or municipal control.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

Willey: Dallas DA Susan Hawk remains refreshingly candid, but also stubbornly guarded

It probably wasn’t Susan Hawk’s intent to make news when the Dallas District Attorney addressed the Dallas Assembly today, and truth be told, she didn’t. She presented herself as she has in other public settings of late – as resolute, knowledgeable, dedicated. She remains refreshingly candid in some of her reflections about her first year as DA; stubbornly guarded in others. The closest she came to making news was hesitating only briefly before saying “I do” in answer to a question about whether she plans to seek re-election. Full disclosure: Hawk was invited to address the Dallas Assembly over lunch but, according to her friend and adviser, Mari Woodlief, preferred to do so in a Q&A setting rather than with prepared remarks from behind a podium.

City Stories

Valley Morning Star - December 7, 2015

Public school protest: Santa Rosa students support teacher on religion in class

SANTA ROSA — Students chanted their love for Jesus and held their signs high for their high school math teacher as drivers passed and honked their car horns. The students said they were out of class yesterday morning because they are concerned and want to keep teacher Charles Zeissel from being fired or suspended for talking to them about Jesus. The algebra teacher was asked to leave school Friday after he refused to take the Ten Commandments off his classroom wall.

El Paso Times - December 7, 2015

City approves Austin lawyer for investigation

El Paso City Council voted on Monday to hire an Austin lawyer to conduct an independent investigation of the aborted attempt to change the city's financial advisers. The motion passed 6-1; city Rep. Dr. Michiel Noe voted against the motion, and city Rep. Carl Robinson was not present during the vote. Robinson had a medical issue unfold during the hours-long meeting and was taken to an area hospital by ambulance earlier in the day.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Becker: Houston ISD shouldn't kick little kids out of school

At last month’s board meeting, as a part of a group of parents from Community Voices for Public Education, I attended the Houston ISD School Board meeting in order to advocate for parents who are planning to opt their children out of the state-mandated STAAR test. While I felt strongly about that issue, something else captured my attention at that meeting — the debate that the trustees held regarding banning the use of suspensions for our youngest children, ages four through about seven years old. It was fascinating and infuriating for many reasons. You can read the actual policy proposal on Page 154 #3 of November’s board agenda and the type of broad-based support it has here, here and here, but the summary is that the policy would ban suspensions in Grades 2 and below, and for students in Grades 3, 4 and 5, it makes suspension the discipline of last resort.

Marketwatch - December 7, 2015

A $100 million home in Dallas: Is real estate at its peak?

Ever wanted to buy a home with 11 fireplaces, 12 bathrooms and two "staff wings”? The price tag, which started out at $135 million, is now $100 million. This property is on 25 acres in one of the most prestigious areas in Dallas, Preston Hollow. Preston Hollow is home to such billionaires as Kelcy Warren, Ross Perot, Mark Cuban and a handful of other notables. The estate is on such a large piece of land that the entire subdivision is named after the owner, Thomas Hicks. Upon purchasing this home, you would become neighbors with Thomas Hicks's longtime friend, George W. Bush. A sports tycoon, Hicks has been an owner of the soccer club Liverpool F.C., the Texas Rangers baseball team, the Dallas Stars hockey team and the Mesquite Championship Rodeo.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Police, fire unions win court battles with city; appeal planned

A visiting district judge sided Monday with the police and firefighter unions in their separate court battles with the city over a clause in their labor contracts. The city had sued the two unions, asking a judge to rule that the so-called “evergreen clause” violates the Texas Constitution and public policy. In both cases, attorneys for the city argued that the contracts create a debt and tie the hands of future elected officials who are charged with handling the city’s finances. But Judge Martha Tanner notified the city and unions Monday that she is denying the city’s motions for summary judgment. The city plans to appeal the rulings to the Fourth Court of Appeals. It’s possible that these cases could eventually work their way to the Texas Supreme Court.

Huffington Post - December 7, 2015

This Is The Only Major U.S. City That Hasn’t Recently Had A Mass Shooting

In the early morning hours of the day after Thanksgiving last year, a man headed to the streets of downtown Austin, Texas, and began shooting an automatic rifle. He fired more than 100 rounds at several buildings, including the Mexican consulate and Austin Police Department headquarters -- he missed a shot at one detective before aiming at another officer who then fatally shot him. Unlike the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, last week, there was no loss of innocent life, and unlike every other major U.S. city, Austin has not had a single mass shooting in years. Mass Shooting Tracker, which compiles shootings around the country where four or more individuals have been killed or injured in one incident (some criticize the definition as too wide) shows a mass shooting occurring at least once in every other city with a population over 400,000 since they began compiling data in 2013.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Mayor Parker to teach at Harvard next year

Though her long-term plans remain uncertain, term-limited Mayor Annise Parker announced Monday that she will teach at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government next year. KPRC Houston first reported the news Monday, and mayoral spokeswoman Darian Ward confirmed Parker's plans. Parker raised the possibility of the Harvard program last month, saying she still needed to complete a final interview. She said the two-month fellows program would allow her to make a clean break from City Hall after her third and final term. Before becoming mayor, Parker served a combined 12 years as controller, the city's financial watchdog, and a City Council member.

National Stories

NPR - December 7, 2015

Is This Congressman's 'Oversight' An Effort To Hobble Climate Science?

About 600 scientists and engineers, including former employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have signed on to letters urging the head of that agency, Kathryn Sullivan, to push back against political interference in science. For months, Sullivan has been tangling with U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, as he investigates a climate change study done by NOAA scientists. That study, published earlier this year in the journal Science, cast doubt on what some have called a global warming hiatus — the idea that global warming has slowed in the past two decades. Smith says his actions are a legitimate part of his oversight duties, but scientists call it harassment.

Bloomberg - December 6, 2015

Trump Says Political Correctness Helped Enable California Attack

Ahead of President Barack Obama’s Sunday night speech outlining his plan to fight terrorism, Republican presidential candidates called for more surveillance tools for the intelligence community, while frontrunner Donald Trump said political correctness and a fear of profiling may have helped allow last week’s attack in California to occur. In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said Americans have been too politically correct with Muslims in America, arguing that people knew what the San Bernardino attackers were planning, but didn’t want to report them for fear of profiling the individuals. The FBI is investigating the shooting rampage that killed 14 people as a potential act of terror that may have been inspired by Islamic State. “If they thought there was something wrong with that group and they saw what was happening, and they didn’t want to call the police because they didn’t want to be profiling, I think that’s pretty bad,” Trump said. “So everybody wants to be politically correct, and that’s part of the problem that we have with our country.”

Mother Jones - December 4, 2015

Mencimer: The Craziest Thing About This Supreme Court Case Isn't That One Plaintiff Believes Unicorns Are Real

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will examine the bedrock principle of "one person, one vote" in a major case that could yield the Republican Party a critical advantage in future elections. In Evenwel v. Abbott, the court is being asked to change how states draw legislative districts in a way that would boost the electoral power of white, rural voters, who lean Republican, at the expense of Latinos and African Americans, who tend to vote Democratic. The plaintiffs behind this high-stakes legal challenge are an unusual pair. One is a Texas tea party activist who has promoted a conspiratorial film suggesting President Barack Obama's real father was Frank Marshall Davis, a supposed propagandist for the Communist Party. The other is a security guard and religious fundamentalist who believes the Earth doesn't revolve around the sun and that unicorns were real.

The Eagle - December 5, 2015

Terrorism expert at Texas A&M Bush School weighs in on motive of San Bernardino attackers

The married couple who killed 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday were motivated by radical Islamic teachings and were likely intent on carrying out a larger attack, according to a Texas A&M University Bush School terrorism expert. Danny Davis, a lecturer and graduate certificate program director for the Bush School's homeland security program, said the details surrounding the attacks carried out by Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, at the Inland Regional Center are unlike anything he has seen. "There isn't any doubt this is terrorism motivated by radical Islam," said Davis, who served on the Army Staff at the Pentagon in support of special operations. "They had bigger plans, but for whatever reason, when he was at that party, something triggered him and he said 'We're going to do this now.' There might be some workplace violence."

Real Clear Politics - December 6, 2015

Shribman: Gauging the Political Winds in New Hampshire

Then again, New Hampshire has the potential this time of being the early graveyard of once-hopeful campaigns, that of former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida especially. The custom here is that the deceased sometimes are not buried until spring, when the ground softens. That will not be the case for Mr. Bush if he remains at about 5 percent in the polls here. Many others — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Gov. George Pataki of New York and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, all at about 1 percent — almost certainly will suffer the same fate. Another to keep an eye on: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He may be on the cusp of breaking into double digits here, but he’s within the margin of error of Mr. Trump in Iowa, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. That underlines the immutable fact that the two early states are quite different — in character, outlook and ultimately in the political choices they make.

The Hill - December 7, 2015

Extremists have targeted refugee program to enter US, Homeland Security chairman says

Intelligence officials have determined that Islamic extremists have explored using the refugee program to enter the United States, they told the head of the Homeland Security Committee. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) revealed portions of a classified letter from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on Monday, which offered new claims not previously disclosed by the Obama administration. The disclosure could give ammunition to critics of the White House’s refugee plans who have warned that the program is vulnerable to infiltration by adherents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The NCTC has identified “individuals with ties to terrorist groups in Syria attempting to gain entry to the U.S. through the U.S. refugee program,” the intelligence agency told McCaul in a letter.

New York Times - December 7, 2015

Push for Gun Curbs Tied to No-Fly List Puts Republicans on the Spot

The bloody attack in San Bernardino, Calif., last week revived fears about threats from groups such as the Islamic State in America and also fused two fraught policy debates central to the presidential contest: gun control and how far to go in the fight against terrorism. With domestic gun violence becoming increasingly common, Democrats have used the latest attack, apparently by supporters of the Islamic State, to frame the issue as a matter of national security. The tactic has put Republican presidential candidates on the spot and created some fissures within the field as those seeking the nomination try to balance defending Second Amendment rights and protecting the public.

CBS News - December 4, 2015

Ted Cruz draws links "gun-free zones" and mass shootings

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz blamed the Obama administration for failing to prevent the San Bernardino rampage at a campaign rally in Johnston, Iowa. "Why on earth did Obama Administration not know this ahead of time and stop them before they carried out thi terror attack?" Cruz asked incredulously on Friday, citing emerging details about the two attackers' travels to Saudi Arabia and communications with individuals on a terror watch list. The firebrand Texas Senator also rejected criticism from Democrats and others for holding his campaign event at a gun store in the wake of the San Bernardino attack. With paper targets and rifles on the wall behind him, Cruz told reporters before the rally began, "It is very concerning that the Obama administration has failed to adequately secure the residence where hundreds of bombs" were made where Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, planned their attack, referring to the media's remarkable Friday tour through the San Bernardino attackers' residence.

Texas Tribune - December 7, 2015

Lamar Smith's Climate Views Win Flat Earth Award

Christmas elves, pirates and scientists gathered Monday at U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith's office to present the San Antonio Republican, in absentia, with a fake award from the “Flat Earth Foundation of Texas.” The costumed crusaders, all Austin environmental activists, were protesting Smith’s long record of skepticism about climate change which, most recently, has put him in a standoff with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the last six months, Smith has been sparring with NOAA head Kathryn Sullivan over the methodology of a study agency scientists published in the journal Science in June. The study found that a widely publicized “lull” in the rate of global warming, a cornerstone of conservative arguments against climate change related policies, resulted from faulty statistical methods.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Chasnoff: Cruz in unusual position

His time has come: Sen. Ted Cruz is surging. On Monday, a survey put the Texas senator ahead of the apparently indestructible Donald Trump in Iowa, where the first nominating contest is 55 days away. It marked the first time the Lone Star conservative has taken the top spot in an early-state poll for the GOP presidential nomination. Cruz got here the same way he slowly climbed to victory three years ago in his Senate campaign against former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: by positioning himself as a true conservative battling a moderate Republican establishment. Now, the self-anointed warrior of the far right, accused by many in his own party of political grandstanding, finds himself in an ironic position, forced to defend his own conservative bona fides on national security.

Washington Post - December 7, 2015

Rampell: Millennials’ mysterious support for permissive gun laws

A decade or two post-adolescence — as our own preschool-age children now practice “active shooter” drills in which they’re coached to cower in the closet or throw toys at a tactical-gear-outfitted maniac — millennials seem to have neither the desire nor the willpower to pressure our political leaders to do much to prevent such tragedies. If anything, we may be slightly more blasé about them than our elders. Which does not bode well for liberals hoping that the arc of history will eventually bend toward greater gun control. Poll data about views of gun control and specific gun-control measures are mixed, and responses vary depending how questions are asked. But statements about protecting gun rights generally elicit at least as much support from younger Americans as from older ones.

Politico - December 7, 2015

Congress likely to blow budget deadline

With negotiations over a massive $1.1 trillion budget package moving at a glacial pace, GOP leaders are now openly predicting that Congress will blow past a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the federal government. Both sides appear to be notching wins in the high-stakes talks. Republicans are confident they'll be able to lift a ban on exporting crude oil, though the GOP is wary of acceding to Democratic demands on environmental policy in return for allowing such sales. Democrats are relieved Republicans aren't fighting to strip funds from Planned Parenthood.

CityLab - December 7, 2015

The Supreme Court Just Left the Door Open for Local Bans on Assault Weapons

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review a lower court decision upholding a 2013 assault weapon ban enacted in Chicago’s Highland Park suburb. The decision comes in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, the latest of many in which assault weapons were used. The Highland Park ordinance followed the passage of a controversial Illinois state law that allowed gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons. It forbade the suburb’s residents from possessing assault weapons with large capacity magazines, such as AK-47s or AR-15s. Violators of the ordinance would face up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Highland Park Councilman David Naftzger was the only one in the six-member council who didn’t vote for the local bill, citing among other reasons its legality, given the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court decisions protecting the right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment.

NPR - December 8, 2015

Some Muslim Americans Irritated By Obama's Call For Them To 'Root Out' Extremism

President Obama's request that Muslim Americans help "root out" and confront extremist ideology in their communities is getting mixed reactions. Muslim leaders say they want to help, but some are not happy that they are being singled out. "We would never ask any other faith community to stand up and condemn acts of violence committed by people within their groups," said Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, who has worked extensively with the Black Lives Matter movement and other minority groups. "The fact that this is only directed at the Muslim community is something that I personally can't accept."

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Tomlinson: Export-Import Bank is back, jobs saved

Congress and President Barack Obama revived the U.S. Export-Import Bank, saving thousands of jobs in the Houston region and demonstrating the benefits of political compromise. Obama signed a highway funding measure on Friday that includes language to resume the bank's operations after conservatives killed the 81-year-old, job-creating institution in July. The bank does not rely on taxpayer dollars and has actually made money for the government. More than 153,000 jobs in the Houston area benefit from the bank. Conservatives in Congress, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and their financial backers, such as the Koch Brothers, tried their best to kill the bank because they don't think the government should be involved in supporting U.S. businesses.

Houston Chronicle - December 7, 2015

Supreme Court deals blow to gun-rights advocates

In Texas, where the Legislature spent months recently working on new laws expanding gun rights, the notion that some places might want to restrict them seems downright bizarre. But a Chicago suburb did exactly that, and the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to accept the challenge to the city's gun ban that had been upheld by lower courts. The upper-middle class town of Highland Park, Ill., is perhaps best known for architecturally significant homes - including some by Frank Lloyd Wright - and it tends to favor Democrats. In 2013, its City Council enacted a ban on assault rifles, the kind that are often used in mass shootings such as the recent incident in San Bernardino, Calif. Highland Park also outlawed large-capacity magazines. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment provides a guarantee that individual citizens have a right to possess firearms, it did not spell out in detail which weapons a governmental body might rightfully restrict, other than mentioning sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, nor did it curtail the ability of a state or city to ban gun possession in certain areas, such as schools.

Texas Tribune - December 7, 2015

Cruz on Trump's Muslim Ban: 'That's Not My Policy'

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Monday he does not support banning all Muslims from entering the country, distancing himself from an inflammatory proposal by rival Donald Trump. Earlier Monday, the billionaire frontrunner for the GOP nomination called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." Cruz weighed in on the proposal while campaigning in South Carolina, where he was asked if he would support a policy barring Muslims from coming into the United States.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

In SC, Ted Cruz blasts Obama’s ISIS plan for mistakenly aiming at 2d Amendment

Sen. Ted Cruz, surging in Iowa, blasted President Obama for using the terrorism-linked gun rampage in California last week to renew his demands for gun control. And he defended his own threat to carpet bomb the Islamic State – a goal that U.S. military experts say would entail untold civilian casualties. “In the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino,” Cruz said while stumping in South Carolina, “we don’t need a president who goes on national television and lectures the American people like a schoolmarm, who condescends to the American people and says the problem we have is Islamophobia.” “No,” he said, “the problem we have is a president and commander in chief who refuses to recognize our enemy. Our enemy is radical Islamic terrorism.”

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

Bush’s policy institute dives into fray on immigration, trade

George W. Bush hasn’t been on a ballot for 11 years, but the former president’s policy center is taking on some of the hot topics of the 2016 contest: immigration, trade and the economy. Bush and officials at the Bush Institute, for example, are tired of hearing from candidates who say the United States is losing ground to China. “It is so easy to blame problems on somebody else, and China is an easy target,” Bush said during an event last month. “You hear this seeping into the dialogue, this notion about we can’t possibly compete with China. Of course we can compete with China. And we can better compete with China when we work together.”

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

DMN: Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ is Islamophobia at its worst

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made so many contemptuous and outlandish statements that it’s difficult to keep up. But he went completely around the bend Monday afternoon, calling for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until Washington can “figure out what is going on.” And in Trump’s raging world, this ban also goes for Muslim-American citizens currently abroad. Nevermind about coming home anytime soon. Even by his own harsh rhetorical standards, Monday marked a new low in his high-pitched screeds.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

Mitchell: It is simple math -- fewer weapons equal fewer mass deaths

I am not going to repeat all the arguments for tougher gun laws and better mental health treatment, which I think could help reduce mass casualty gun violence. This is a complex subject with no single solution. But I’m pleased that the Supreme Court refused this morning to hear a challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ban on semiautomatic “assault” weapons as an indication that a majority of justices feel such bans are constitutional and that local jurisdictions can tighten gun laws. The Illinois State Rifle Association had challenged an appeals court’s ruling that Highland Park, Ill., could ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Similar bans are on the books in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut and Hawaii.

Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2015

DMN: Tighten security checks for “fiancé visa” applicants

Many questions have arisen in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., about how the husband-wife couple behind the shootings might have become radicalized and whether the wife’s status as a recent immigrant played a role. President Barack Obama called in his speech Sunday night for a review of the visa program that helps U.S. citizens bring in spouses and fiancés from abroad. The K1 visa program, as it’s known, creates a special track for immigrants who are sponsored by the person they’re engaged to marry. White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged last week that the K1 application process is “not as strict” as those for other migrants.

Washington Post - December 8, 2015

U of Michigan offers self as test case for considering race in admissions

If the Supreme Court decides to end university admission programs that consider an applicant’s race, the University of Michigan has advice for other schools: There are plenty of other ways to encourage campus diversity. But there’s a catch: None of the programs Michigan has tried have resulted in as many students of color as before. “We have one hand tied behind our back,” said Robert M. Sellers, UM’s vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs. Amid increasing protests by minority students on the nation’s campuses and renewed debate about racial inequality, the Supreme Court on Wednesday will return to the question of whether and when race may be used in admission policies.

Politico - December 7, 2015

GOP group that hit conservatives changes its tune

The American Action Network is changing with the times. Just months ago, the House Republican leadership-aligned outside group ran a set of sharply controversial ads criticizing conservative Republicans who were holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security over immigration issues. Story Continued Below This week, though, the group is launching a $3 million advertising campaign thanking some of those same lawmakers for working with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to enact what they believe to be a conservative agenda. For example, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a leader of the Freedom Caucus who was critical of AAN targeting conservatives, will have a television spot running in his district. The spot starts out by saying, "It's a new day in America," evoking Ronald Reagan's iconic "It's morning again in America" ad.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2015

Pro-Cruz Super PAC Seeks to Capitalize on Polling Gains

A super PAC supporting Ted Cruz is seeking to capitalize on his recent gains in polling with a new online ad and mail pieces introducing the Republican presidential candidate to voters in Iowa as well as South Carolina. Keep the Promise I, one of four main super PACs backing the Texas senator, announced Tuesday the groups are spending over $600,000 on the new push, which comes as Cruz looks more and more like a top-tier candidate nationally and in the Hawkeye State. On Monday, Cruz took his first-ever lead in an early voting state poll, beating billionaire Donald Trump 24 percent to 19 percent in a Monmouth University survey of likely caucus-goers in Iowa.

Washington Post - December 7, 2015

British, French leaders join world condemnation of Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering U.S.

Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States drew widespread condemnation around the world Tuesday, including from British and French leaders and the U.N. refu­gee agency. Citizens, politicians and refu­gee officials alike slammed the Republican presidential front-runner’s latest controversial statement, calling it hate speech and a disturbing sign of Islamophobia in a country rattled in recent weeks by large-scale terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s official religious body, dubbed Trump’s remarks “hate rhetoric,” and a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency expressed concern that they could jeopardize the ongoing refugee resettlement process.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2015

Jeffers: Trump’s a long way from closing the deal

Donald Trump is continuing his remarkable surge in the race for president. In recent weeks, he has reached his highest point in the polls, leading his closest rival nationwide by more than 20 percentage points in one survey. But it’s far from over. Though Trump has to be considered the favorite to win the Republican nomination, he still has a lot to do to close the deal. Meanwhile, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are positioned for nice runs of their own.

San Antonio Express News - December 7, 2015

Rivals critical of Cruz for backing USA Freedom Act

As concerns over home-grown terrorism push to the forefront of a tightening presidential race, Texas Republican Ted Cruz finds himself increasingly on the defensive for backing legislation that critics say weakened the government’s ability to track potential attackers. At the crux of the debate is the USA Freedom Act, a law passed in June that sets limits on the mass collection of phone records and other telecommunications “metadata” — that is, registers of calls, though not their contents. The law ended a more intrusive program that raised alarms over privacy after it was brought to light by former National Security Agency worker Edward Snowden.

Politico - December 7, 2015

Jeb Bush calls out Cruz for vote curbing NSA surveillance

Jeb Bush on Monday slammed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for his opposition to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone call metadata in the wake of last Wednesday's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, arguing that the authority, which lapsed days before the shooting, is part of protecting the United States. “I completely disagree with Ted Cruz on this. This is part of a comprehensive strategy to protect the homeland," the former governor of Florida said in an interview with "Fox and Friends" from Miami, when asked whether he disagreed with Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. "Civil liberties are not being violated, and to have the NSA have this information is part of an essential tool for us to be kept safe."

Politico - December 8, 2015

Clinton forces see 3 possible GOP opponents

Hillary Clinton’s super PAC backers and operatives who are gearing up for the general election fight are preparing for three possible opponents — Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Though they say they’ll be ready for any outcome of the GOP primaries, they are looking most closely at three scenarios that could unfold in the new year — that Trump is, indeed, as strong as his poll numbers would indicate; that Rubio manages to break through as the reasonable establishment choice; and, lately and with greater focus, that Cruz will consolidate the conservative Christian vote and combine it with the angry-outsider voters who will eventually dismiss Trump, to become his party’s nominee.