Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report - Mobile
DAILY BUZZ CALENDAR
R & D FREE SIGNUP
NEWS CLIPS LOGIN
PRESS RELEASES LOGOUT
SEARCH FULL SITE


May 23, 2017: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips

All - May 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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


San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 22, 2017

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

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


Politico - May 22, 2017

Trump's budget hits his own voters hardest

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


Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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


State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Border wall funding shrinks in Trump's 2018 budget

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas House tentatively OKs bill to extend STAAR reprieve until 2021

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill to give second chance on some crimes

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Herman: Separate but equal has its day in Texas House

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

School funding bill fate uncertain because of school choice

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Dan Patrick unconvinced by House action on bathrooms, property taxes

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate votes to make child welfare department an independent agency

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas business leaders stayed neutral on "bathroom" amendment

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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


San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Sen. Uresti withdraws from consideration for Senate post after indictment

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


San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House members say voucher plan could kill school finance measure

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


San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House approves bill to limit annexations

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


San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

‘Second chance’ bill gets final OK in state Senate

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


Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Texas bathroom bill could expose secrets of transgender kids

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News


County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Two Harris County election clerks plead guilty to illegal voting

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


City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Texas judge on leave after questions arise about her citizenship

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


National Stories

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 22, 2017

Trump Comes to Israel Citing a Palestinian Deal as Crucial

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


Politico - May 22, 2017

Kabaservice: How Watergate Helped Republicans—And Gave Us Trump

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


Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Trump seeks reconsideration of sanctuary cities ruling

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News


The Hill - May 22, 2017

Chaffetz postpones Oversight hearing with Comey

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


Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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


Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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


Wall St. Journal - May 19, 2017

Americans Doing Better Financially, Except for Non-College Educated

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


Governing - May 22, 2017

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

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


All - May 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court rules North Carolina congressional districts unconstitutional

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


San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

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

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


KXAS - May 20, 2017

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

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


Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Source says Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News


The Hill - May 20, 2017

The Memo: Trump base shows signs of cracking

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

House approves annexation limits, over opposition from Austin leaders

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Barron's - May 18, 2017

Would a President Pence Be Good for Stocks?

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


State Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 19, 2017

FWST: Are gun licensing fees too high? Not really

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Texas House OKs transgender bathroom limits in schools

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

PolitiFact Texas: Going on the record with immigration claims

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown to give UT commencement speech

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

House approves underage-drinking amnesty in reporting sex assaults

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Lawmakers reach budget compromise after Abbott demands incentive money

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Effort to overhaul Texas voter ID rules survives — for now

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

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


Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

In Texas, even possession of a sex toy is regulated

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


Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

Abbott signs bill to protect sermons, delivers one himself

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


San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Wall St. Journal - May 22, 2017

Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 19, 2017

NYT: The Way Texas Treats Women

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


Austin Business Journal - May 18, 2017

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

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


Chronicle of Higher Education - May 18, 2017

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

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


Environmental Protection Online - May 19, 2017

TCEQ Touts Landfill Mining Projects' Potential

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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


Newsline - May 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil and gas sector recovery apparent

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


Corpus Christi Caller Times - May 20, 2017

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

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


County Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

Texas Mexican Mafia members arrested in raids

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


City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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


National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 20, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 20, 2017

NYT: Watergate? We’re Not There Yet

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


Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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


Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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


Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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


Politico - May 21, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

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


Politico - May 21, 2017

An Outrageously Early Field Guide to 2020

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


The Hill - May 21, 2017

Republicans fearing for their safety as anger, threats mount

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


Fox News - May 17, 2017

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

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


The Hill - May 20, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Trump trip to Israel possibly first flight from Saudi Arabia

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


Reuters - May 20, 2017

NAACP civil rights group dismisses chief in mission recast

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


Politico - May 22, 2017

Paging Rahm: House Dems revive 2006 playbook for 2018

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


New York Times - May 22, 2017

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

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


Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Senate Republicans quietly working on health overhaul bill

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

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle


Investor's Business Daily - May 18, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

The Texas Republican helping to calm the waters in Washington

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


Page Six - May 21, 2017

Ted Cruz asked Stephen Colbert to ‘humanize’ him

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


Politico - May 22, 2017

Escalating probes rattle Trump and his aides

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


Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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


All - May 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Budget compromise taps Rainy Day Fund, transportation funding

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


Washington Post - May 19, 2017

Erickson: Here comes the GOP bloodbath

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


New York Times - May 18, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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


State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Bill aims to prevent jail time for unpaid tickets and fines

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Texas' schools chief could get more muscle under legislative proposals

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

House backs property tax changes, but leaves out election requirements

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


Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

School lunch bill revived as an amendment; no longer mandatory

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


Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas House advances bill that would outlaw bestiality

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


Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

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

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


Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

Major ethics reform remains viable in final days of session

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


Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas Republicans fear federal oversight as voter ID overhaul stalls

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Herman: Hypocrisy and sincerely held religious beliefs

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Resolution to legislative standoff emerging as session end nears

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Donna Howard tearfully speaks against further abortion regulations

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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


San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

Texas AG asks EPA to halt environmental court battles

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


Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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


Texas Observer - May 21, 2017

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

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


Texas Observer - May 20, 2017

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

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


County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

John Wiley Price won't be retried, feds announce

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


City Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 19, 2017

Texas replaces Southside ISD board, completing takeover

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


San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

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

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


Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

AG alleges lawyer used deceptive practices in debt collection

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


National Stories

New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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


Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Democrats predict a Trump sellout on NAFTA

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


Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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


Politico - May 20, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

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


Politico - May 20, 2017

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

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


New York Times - May 20, 2017

Douthat: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

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