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August 16, 2017: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips | Mid Morning Clips

All - August 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott slams House, doesn't rule out second special session

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday put blame on the House — particularly Speaker Joe Straus — for the shortcomings of the special session and left the door open to calling another one. "I’m disappointed that all 20 items that I put on the agenda did not receive the up-or-down vote that I wanted but more importantly that the constituents of these members deserved," Abbott said in a KTRH radio interview. "They had plenty of time to consider all of these items, and the voters of the state of Texas deserved to know where their legislators stood on these issues."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Trump returns to 'blame on both sides' view of neo-Nazi clash

After a scripted attempt at damage control over his tepid approach to the violence at a rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, President Donald Trump returned Tuesday to the original formulation that drew rebukes from pastors, civil rights leaders and politicians across the spectrum. While he condemned racists and violence, he also insisted that "troublemakers" on hand to protest the fascists caused much of the trouble Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. "There's blame on both sides," the president told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, in a raucous free-for-all. "I have no doubt about it."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Federal court orders Texas congressional map redrawn, finding discrimination of minorities

A federal court has ordered Texas to redraw its congressional district map after finding it had twice been intentionally drawn to discriminate against minorities -- a ruling that the state has vowed to challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. In March, the three-judge panel in San Antonio invalidated three of the state's congressional districts because they were drawn to intentionally discriminate during a redistricting process in 2011. But the court did not order those districts redrawn because it still needed to rule on whether they had been fixed after a court-ordered remedial map-drawing process in 2013. In a 107-page order released Tuesday, the court unanimously ruled that two of those districts --District 27 in Corpus Christi, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold, and District 35 in Austin, represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett -- were again drawn with discriminatory intent in 2013. Judges ordered them redrawn.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Texas House OKs slimmed-down school finance bill, citing need to help retired teachers

The Texas House on Tuesday accepted and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott a slimmed-down pair of bills to give more money to public schools. Reluctant House leaders cited a need to reduce the costs for retired teachers in their health care system. More money for schools became too entangled with a separate effort to quickly cushion retired educators who on Jan. 1 will be slammed with higher health insurance costs, House chiefs explained. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate refused entreaties to increase the $351 million funding for school districts in the two bills, House leaders said.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

5 takeaways from the summer special legislative session

WINGMEN: At the start of the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick promised to be Gov. Greg Abbott’s wingman and he was as good as his word. He may have, along the way, sometime been the hot-headed wingman, blistering fellow Republican House Speaker Straus for being oppositional, but he did nothing to fuel any tension between himself and the governor. STRAUS RULES: Whether he returns for a record-breaking sixth term as speaker in 2019 or not, Straus ended the special session with a flourish, dramatically gaveling out a day early, leaving the Senate to take its grudging version of property tax reform — Abbott’s top priority — or leave it (they left it) and concluding a session in which he had already dashed Patrick’s prized priorities of transgender bathroom legislation and school choice for special needs children.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Early gavel at Texas House forces Senate’s hand on property tax reform

The House adjourned a day ahead of schedule Tuesday evening, leaving it to the Senate to accept the House version of property tax reform or leave the top priority of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick undone and risk a second special session. It was unclear just how scripted the dramatic development was, and whether it was a way out of a House-Senate deadlock over the property tax rollback rate that would trigger an election. The House wants the rate set at 6 percent, the Senate at 4 percent. The Senate was due back Tuesday night for what could be the close of the midsummer special session. Wednesday is the last day lawmakers can meet.

Salon - August 15, 2017

What if the DNC Russian “hack” was really a leak after all? A new report raises questions media and Democrats would rather ignore

Last week the respected left-liberal magazine The Nation published an explosive article that details in great depth the findings of a new report — authored in large part by former U.S. intelligence officers — which claims to present forensic evidence that the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians in July 2016. Instead, the report alleges, the DNC suffered an insider leak, conducted in the Eastern time zone of the United States by someone with physical access to a DNC computer. This report also claims there is no apparent evidence that the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 — supposedly based in Romania — hacked the DNC on behalf of the Russian government. There is also no evidence, the report’s authors say, that Guccifer handed documents over to WikiLeaks. Instead, the report says that the evidence and timeline of events suggests that Guccifer may have been conjured up in an attempt to deflect from the embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that was released just before the Democratic National Convention.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

More than half the country says it will never change its opinion on Trump, no matter what

If you are like most Americans, you have a strong opinion on how President Trump is doing his job. The July Post-ABC poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans had a strong view of Trump’s performance — about a quarter strongly felt he was doing well and about half strongly felt that he wasn’t. A new survey from Monmouth University layers another interesting detail on top of those numbers: Most of those opinions of Trump probably won’t change. Overall, Monmouth found that Trump is doing a bit better on his approval rating than did other recent polls (including Gallup’s, where Trump hit a new low this week). About 4-in-10 Americans approve of Trump’s job performance; about half disapprove.

Politico - August 16, 2017

Poll: GOP voters side with Trump over McConnell

Republican voters are taking President Donald Trump’s side in his war with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that also shows a bump in Trump’s approval rating after last week’s all-time low. The poll shows more GOP voters think Trump is looking out for the party’s best interests than think McConnell (R-Ky.) is. By a more than three-to-one margin, they say that Trump is more in touch with Republican voters and that Trump is more honest.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

One of every 10 new homes in U.S. going up in Dallas, Houston or Austin

In the market for a new home? You'll fare better if you're house-hunting in Texas. Dallas, Houston, and Austin are on pace to build a total of nearly 130,000 new homes in 2017, based on a Trulia analysis of building permits. That's more than 10 percent of all new construction expected in the U.S. this year, and enough to put all three metropolitan areas in the top five for permitting activity. New York and Phoenix round out the group. Dallas and Houston are on track to add nearly 50,000 new homes in each market, while Austin is poised to add 30,000. For Austin, that's more than double its yearly average from 1980 to 2016.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Scorecard: How Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda fared

It appeared late Tuesday that Texas' legislative special session would end a day earlier than expected with only nine of Gov. Greg Abbott's priorities having passed both the House and the Senate and made it to the governor's desk. Abbott ordered the special session in part to pass legislation that would keep open several state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors. Abbott named the so-called sunset bill the first order of business during the special session, after which legislators could consider other items chosen but the governor. Abbott's grab-bag list of 20 items included many issues that appealed to social conservatives, such as the so-called "bathroom bill, which would regulate transgender Texan's bathroom usage.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Criticism pours in from lawmakers, Cuban, LeBron over Trump's 'both sides' stance in neo-Nazi violence

In Texas and beyond, reactions to President Donald Trump's tense press conference in which he blamed -- again -- "both sides" for deadly race-fueled violence in Virginia ranged from outrage to disbelief, with at least one Lone Star Republican calling on the president to apologize. Appearing on CNN, San Antonio Republican Rep. Will Hurd called for Trump, who on Tuesday said both white nationalists and so-called "alt-left" are to blame for the clashes that left one woman dead, to walk back his remarks. "Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that," Hurd said.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

The only Texas CEO on Trump's business council isn't following other top execs in leaving it

The only Texas CEO on a key White House business advisory panel is staying in that role despite fallout from President Donald Trump's handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia. A spokeswoman for Round Rock-based Dell Technologies indicated that chief executive Michael Dell would not join other top executives — including Brian Krzanich of Intel, a fellow tech giant — in leaving the council in the wake of the Charlottesville attack. "There's no change in Dell engaging with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, customers and employees," the spokeswoman said in comments first reported by Marketplace and others.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

The Texas 'bathroom bill' is dead -- for now

In an unexpected move late Tuesday, the Texas House wrapped up its business a day ahead of the official end of the 30-day special session, killing any hopes the legislation could be revived in the 11th hour. This marks the second time the so-called "bathroom bill" failed to pass this year; similar proposals to restrict transgender bathroom use died during the regular session that ended in June. "I'm disappointed," bathroom bill author Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said Tuesday evening. "In our most intimate spaces, there should be some lines drawn." Acknowledging that "there has not been a more contentious issue this session," Kolkhorst said she's ready to "take a few breaths and go home." "It's been a long year."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Hope flagging for Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority of special session as House adjourns to go home

It appeared late Tuesday that lawmakers would end Gov. Greg Abbott's special session a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the Angleton Republican who authored the bill in the House, said negotiations between the House and Senate hadn't gotten anywhere by late Tuesday evening, too late for a final bill to pass before the Wednesday deadline to end the session. The House adjourned "sine die" early Tuesday evening, officially ending the special session in that chamber, a day before the 30-day limit, leaving the Senate with only the option to agree with the House version of the property tax bill, or let the measure die. Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said the property tax bill would be "a good issue for next session," indicating the Senate was unlikely to pass the bill.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Eight Dallas-Fort Worth companies among largest privately owned firms in U.S.

Dallas-Fort Worth is always well-represented on Forbes' annual ranking of largest privately owned companies in the U.S. This year, eight D-FW-based businesses made the cut of 225 private companies with annual revenue of $2 billion or more. And Texas scored 15 firms on the publication's 33rd ranking, putting it third among states. California (29) and New York (25) were the top states. Here are Texas companies on this year's list, along with overall rank, headquarters city and 2016 revenue. Dallas-Fort Worth companies are bolded: No. 12: H-E-B, San Antonio, $23 billion. No. 36: Gulf States Toyota, Houston, $8.8 billion No. 49: Republic National Distributing Co., Grand Prairie, $6.5 billion...

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

DMN: A border wall through this South Texas wildlife refuge would be an environmental tragedy

Just northwest of Texas' southernmost pointy boot tip, nestled tight against against the winding Rio Grande, lies one of our nation's secret treasures. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge isn't a secret to tens of thousands of wildlife experts and birding enthusiasts who visit every year, but to its first-time guests, it's surely a captivating surprise. Small by federal refuge standards, the 2,088-acre preserve is a tiny ecological jewel box, a noplace-else-on-Earth crossroads for hundreds of migratory bird varieties and 450 plant species.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Fletcher: 4 reasons Texas A&M should allow the white supremacist rally

I understand why Texas A&M University would cancel a white supremacist rally, but I don't like it. A White Lives Matter group had planned an event on Sept. 11 that would have included an appearance by alt-right figure Richard Spencer. The group had brought Spencer to the College Station campus in December. This time, university officials said they canceled because of safety concerns, in light of the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., by white supremacist groups and counterprotesters. Still, I think the university should allow the event to take place. I have four good reasons. Hear me out. 1. Canceling the event looks like you are starving the organizing group of oxygen, but you are really fueling them. They now have a legitimate grievance. Their stated grievances prior to this were sad and not warranted. This one isn't.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority, property tax limits, fails as legislators end special session early

Lawmakers called it quits on Gov. Greg Abbott's special session a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the Angleton Republican who authored the bill in the House, said negotiations between the House and Senate hadn't gotten anywhere by late Tuesday evening, too late for a final bill to pass before the Wednesday deadline to end the session. The House adjourned "sine die" early Tuesday evening, officially ending the special session in that chamber, a day before the 30-day limit, leaving the Senate with only the option to agree with the House version of the property tax bill, or let the measure die.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Legislature sends $563 million education bill to Abbott

After hours of closed-door negotiations, the Texas House reluctantly agreed on Tuesday to a Senate plan to inject $351 million into the public education system over the next two years — a far less than House leaders had wanted to spend. “To say I’m disappointed is an understatement,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the author of House Bill 21. “The biggest disappointment that all of us has is that we were unable to find the middle ground that would make sense. But I know for a fact that the things that are in here have to be fixed.” The original version of HB 21 that passed out of the House would have pumped $1.8 billion into the public education system and given almost all public schools extra money, but the Senate voted to gut the bill early Tuesday.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott calls out Speaker Straus for failures of special session

Gov. Greg Abbott laid the blame for the failure of the Legislature to pass half of his 20-item special session agenda on the House and its speaker, Joe Straus, laying the groundwork for a challenge to Straus in the next session. In an interview with KTRH radio in Houston Wednesday morning, Abbott said he was gratified by the progress made in the special session, which ended a day early Tuesday, but unhappy with the failure of the House to even vote on nine of his agenda items. “I’m disappointed that all 20 items did not receive the up or down vote that I wanted,” the governor said.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Texas A&M could be on thin ice in cancelling white nationalist rally

When a white nationalist spoke at Texas A&M University in December, school officials said they were duty-bound to tolerate free speech, even speech they considered repugnant. A&M changed its policy later to bar outside people from using on-campus conference rooms without sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. No such requirement applies to outdoor events at several free-speech zones on the College Station campus, but the university cited safety concerns Monday in cancelling a far-right rally that had been booked through its events staff for next month. Preston Wiginton, who had organized the rally and lined up use of Rudder Plaza in the heart of campus without a university sponsor, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that half of him wants to sue A&M and the other half doesn’t want to bother because “A&M, the Texas Legislature and many white people have proven to me that whites accept their own demise.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Herman: Legislature honors late columnist John Kelso

The Legislature, controlled by a party that gave us a president who believes many journalists are the enemy of the people, honored my late friend and colleague John Kelso on Tuesday. Thank you, Texas Legislature. For you skeptics out there, this is a timely reminder that our lawmakers can do good. Longtime American-Statesman columnist Kelso, 73, died July 28 after an extended bout with cancer and a longer career of pointing out weird stuff about people and institutions, including the sometimes perplexing Texas Capitol.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Special session ends abruptly, with key issue unresolved

The special session of the Legislature came to an abrupt end Tuesday night, a day earlier than expected, when the Texas Senate adjourned without acting on a House-passed version of a property tax bill. The House began the late-session drama when it unexpectedly closed the special session with one item pending — a conference committee on Senate Bill 1, which would have required larger cities and counties to get voter approval for property tax increases. Senate Republicans wanted automatic elections for increases of 4 percent or more. The House settled on a 6 percent trigger, and by adjourning early, House leaders told the Senate to take the 6 percent rate or leave it. Later Tuesday night, the Senate chose to leave it.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Six arrested inside Texas AG Ken Paxton’s building after DACA protest

Six protesters, including the head of Austin’s education union, were arrested in front of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office Tuesday after refusing to move away from the building doors in a show support for an immigration program that Paxton wants gone. State troopers removed the protesters – three of them from Austin, three from Houston – from the building and brought them inside. They were all charged with criminal trespass for failing to leave the premises and were jailed, a Department of Public Safety spokesman said. The six protesters said they had planned to be arrested. They sat, arms linked, in front of the doors as a crowd of about 140 people rallied in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Will Hurd: Trump should apologize for latest Charlottesville remarks

President Donald Trump should apologize for once again placing “blame on both sides” for the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend, said U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in a TV interview Tuesday. “Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable, and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that,” Hurd, R-Helotes, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after Trump’s Tuesday remarks. Hurd represents a swing district that takes up a majority of the Texas’ border with Mexico, and he hasn’t been shy about taking political stances at odds with the president in the past.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Abbott signs bills to limit coverage, expand reporting on abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday signed bills to limit insurance coverage for abortions and to expand reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortion procedures. Under House Bill 214, Texas women would have to pay a separate insurance premium if they want to be covered for abortions that are not a medical emergency. There would no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest or in the case of fetal abnormalities. The law was intended to ensure that other Texans, who object to abortion, are not subsidizing elective abortions through their insurance plans.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Cruz on canceled rally: ‘Texas doesn’t need to listen to their garbage’

State officials and members of Congress from Texas praised Texas A&M University’s decision to cancel a White Lives Matter rally on the campus that was scheduled for September. Following a similar protest in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly over the weekend, lawmakers and other Texas officials urged the university to cancel the event, before university officials did just that. Activist and rally organizer Preston Wiginton said he planned the event months before Charlottesville, but “linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus,” the university said in a news release.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders heads to governor's desk

The Texas Senate on Tuesday evening voted to adopt a House-amended version of Senate Bill 11, which requires doctors to obtain explicit legal permission from patients before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders. The measure has undergone a whirlwind of changes since the Senate first voted to approve it last month — most notably, the addition of legal protections for medical personnel who work with patients receiving end-of-life care. The Senate voted 21–10 to pass the measure, which now advances to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. It is one of only a handful of special session agenda items that have made it all the way to the governor — even as the special session nears its Wednesday conclusion.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

With two days left in special session, comptroller finds extra $196 million

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Tuesday delivered some welcome news to weary state lawmakers: Their coffers should be richer than he previously anticipated. Citing an improving economic outlook, Hegar now projects the Legislature left more than $237 million in general revenue unspent during the legislative session — far more than the $41.5 million he projected in July, according to a letter he sent to state leaders. General revenue is the source of state revenue that lawmakers generally have the most control over.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Texas Legislature ends special session without passing property tax measure

The Texas Legislature closed out the special session Tuesday night amid a stalemate on property tax reform, leaving unfinished Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority. Hours earlier, the House abruptly adjourned sine die – the formal designation meaning the end of a session – after advancing a school finance compromise to Abbott's desk but declining to further negotiate on a key property tax proposal. When the Senate returned later in the night, it rejected the only remaining option to get the bill across the finish line, which was to accept the House's version.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

House Republicans to caucus on speaker rules

Texas House Republicans will meet early Wednesday to discuss procedures for electing a speaker, a move that opponents of current Speaker Joe Straus have heralded as a victory. At issue: whether to require members of the GOP caucus to choose a candidate then stand behind their pick when the speaker vote goes to the full House in January 2019. House Republican Chairman Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, called the meeting after receiving a letter requesting it from the 12 members of the Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers who launched near daily attacks on House leadership during the 2017 regular session. Two other Republicans — Cole Hefner, R- Mount Pleasant, and Scott Sanford, R- McKinney — also signed the letter.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Texas A&M officials canceled a “White Lives Matter” rally. Are they allowed to do that?

Under the First Amendment, A&M can’t shut down an event based on subject matter. But if the school is challenged, there are a couple of approaches it might take to defend itself in court — including emphasizing the public safety risk the event would have posed and the disruption it would have caused on campus. On Sept. 11, self-described “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer was expected to speak at a rally — hosted by white nationalist Preston Wiginton — on the campus of Texas A&M University.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Ramsey: It’s never the ending that you expect

The Texas Legislature finished its special session as it ended its regular session earlier this year — in a fundamental disagreement over how to control the property taxes that Texas voters hate so much, and in political knots that consistently pitted a socially conservative Senate against a House controlled by establishment Republicans. “The blame game is just beginning, and why I’d want to get between two groups of elephants, I don’t know,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, on Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick punctuated the end of the session with a fiery attack on the House in general and on House Speaker Joe Straus in particular, saying the Republicans in the lower chamber will have to answer for their votes in next year’s elections.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Millions consumed potentially unsafe water in the past 10 years

WOLFFORTH, Texas – As many as 63 million people – nearly a fifth of the country – from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution, and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems. Those found to have problems cleaning their water typically took more than two years to fix these issues, with some only recently resolving decades-old violations of EPA standards and others still delivering tainted water, according to data from the agency’s Safe Drinking Water Information System.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Texas Legislature closes out special session without passing tax bill

The Texas Legislature closed out the special session Tuesday night amid a stalemate on property tax reform, leaving unfinished Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority. Hours earlier, the House abruptly adjourned sine die – the formal designation meaning the end of a session – after advancing a school finance compromise to Abbott's desk but declining to further negotiate on a key property tax proposal. When the Senate returned later in the night, it rejected the only remaining option to get the bill across the finish line, which was to accept the House's version.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

White nationalist says he might still march through Texas A&M campus

Less than 24 hours after Texas A&M University officials canceled his plans to hold a rally on a university plaza, white nationalist Preston Wiginton indicated Tuesday that he is planning to sue and remains determined to hold some kind of event on or near the College Station campus. In a statement, Wiginton said he is considering leading a march on a public street through the university instead of his originally scheduled “White Lives Matter” rally. A&M officials said they axed the planned Sept. 11 event out of safety concerns. But Wiginton said he didn’t buy that reasoning. "Their real fear is the fear of words," he said.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

"Disappointed" House accepts Senate's changes to school finance bill

After three hours of private negotiations and almost two hours of public debate Tuesday, the Texas House decided to agree with the Senate's decision to strip funding and reforms from a school finance bill. The House voted 94-46 to accept the Senate's changes to House Bill 21, which would put some immediate funding into public schools. The Senate voted out a bill last night that stripped $1.5 billion of new funding and all reforms to the outdated formulas for allocating that money. It also tasked a commission with studying future reform to the school finance system.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Parents of disabled kids despair of seeing state cuts for therapy services restored

Nine-year-old Aidan Mehta stretches his arm into the air, raising it above the back of his medical stroller, to capture his mom’s attention. “Can we get out of here?” asks Aidan, who has disabilities that affect his immune and cardiac system, energy levels and ability to get around. “It’s just the start, I’m afraid,” Hannah Mehta responds, running her hand through Aidan’s thick, black hair. The pair from Flower Mound have spent countless days during the special session in the basement of the Texas Capitol complex, lobbying lawmakers to restore deep cuts to a Medicaid therapy program that assists about 6,000 medically fragile children, like Aiden, who gets help learning to chew and swallow his food.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

House executes dramatic move, shuts down special session early

The Texas House pulled a dramatic and early final curtain on the special session Tuesday, leaving a number of Gov. Greg Abbott's priority items unfinished and giving senators a take-it-or-leave it choice on a proposal to rein in property tax increases. The House's adjournment came one day ahead of Wednesday's deadline to end the special legislative session called by Abbott to address a slew of issues. The session began July 18, and it could have lasted 30 days. Abbott, if he chooses, can call another special session.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Taylor: Where do Confederate statues belong?

Many of you have likely seen the photo of the tiki-torch-bearing hater who has become the latest face of overt white supremacy and racism. The photo shows the angry face of 20-year-old Peter Cvjetanovic, who defended his actions by explaining that he "cares for all people." He said: "I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E. Lee is a great example of that. He wasn't a perfect man, but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time."

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Abortion bills boost Abbott's record in otherwise spotty special session results

If it were not for abortion rights issues, Gov. Greg Abbott would be looking at a meager list of victories after the Texas Legislature abruptly ended its special session Tuesday night. Texas already has a reputation of being one of the most anti-abortion states in the nation, passing some of the harshest restrictions on abortions in the nation over the last 10 years -- including several more in the special session. It was Abbott's only area of unequivocal victory in the special session. Beyond that, the Republican governor who is up for reelection next year struck out on much of his agenda. Even so, the governor had no plans as of late Tuesday to call lawmakers back for another 30-day special session, as he had warned he might do.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

In Texas, shine of NAFTA dulls

For two decades, if anything was untouchable in Texas politics, it was the North American Free Trade Agreement. Even as bathroom bills, gun rights and abortion divided politicians, Republican and Democrat agreed that NAFTA was a godsend for Texas – with cross-border trade booming and jobs growing nearly 60 percent since the agreement went into effect in 1994. But as President Donald Trump prepares to begin negotiations Wednesday with Mexico and Canada on overhauling NAFTA – much to the trepidation of many within the state's energy, industrial and farming sectors – he is also tapping into a growing skepticism of NAFTA and other free trade deals among the increasingly influential populist wings of both political parties in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

'Dreamers' rally in Austin to defend executive order that shields deportation

AUSTIN -- Wielding banners denouncing deportations, dozens of young immigrants and immigration advocates rallied outside of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office demanding that he stop trying to kill a program intended to protect young people, who entered the country as minors, from deportation. About a hundred people, including at least a dozen from Houston, descended on the capital Tuesday as part of a national effort to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation and allows them to work and study.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

Bexar schools get passing grades; SAISD shows no gains

Bexar County’s 16 traditional public school districts all received passing grades in state accountability ratings released Tuesday. For the second year in a row, though, the San Antonio Independent School District failed in “overall performance,” one of four categories that determine the rating. Out of 93 SAISD schools, the state gave failing grades to 19. The same number failed last year once the district successfully appealed one school’s rating.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

HC: Saving the bay -- A healthy Galveston Bay is needed to sustain all Texans at a time of population growth.

"I dream of Galveston," the late Glen Campbell - who died of Alzheimer's this month at age 81 - first sang in 1969. Thankfully, the waters of Galveston Bay are still worth dreaming about, according to a new report. The Galveston Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, and the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, issued Galveston Bay an "A" on water quality and an overall grade of "C." The report card provides a handy snapshot of Galveston Bay as a place to live, swim, boat and fish, but it's currently incomplete due to lack of data in key areas. Federal and state environmental agencies need to step up their monitoring efforts to ensure that policymakers along with the public can track the health of the bay.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Dallas trustees to consider renaming schools honoring Confederates

The Dallas school trustees will discuss renaming campuses named after Confederates during a briefing on Sept. 14. Board President Dan Micciche posted on social media late Tuesday night that DISD has seen an outpouring of calls for the district to rename such schools following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. "Over the weekend, we witnessed in Charlottesville a terrible tragedy caused by white supremacists. There is no place for the violence and hatred we saw on display this weekend," Micciche wrote in a Facebook post. He later added, "I believe the Board will strongly support the renaming of schools that honor Confederate generals under either the current process or an expedited process."

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Confederate rally set for Austin on heels of Charlottesville outcry

A rally and march are set to take place in downtown Austin at the beginning of September to promote “true Confederate heritage,” according to organizers. A Facebook event page hosted by the Texas Confederate Militia says the Dixie Freedom Rally, scheduled for Sept. 2 at Woolridge Square, on 900 Guadalupe Street, will feature live music, guest speakers and a march to the Capitol and Confederate monuments nearby. “You can bring any Confederate or U.S. Flag. It is open carry and also concealed handguns plus longrifles are permitted. Just go by the State Law,” the page said. “No racism tolerated or will be removed. (Let’s) show everyone true Southern Hospitality.”

KTRK - August 15, 2017

Debate rising over future of Confederate statue at Sam Houston Park

Spurred on by calls from the public, Mayor Sylvester Turner has agreed to begin a full review of Confederacy-related statues on Houston public lands. The announcement came as the future of the "Spirit of Confederacy" statue became the focus of a growing debate. It was 109 years ago when the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated the "Spirit of the Confederacy" statue in downtown Houston.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Charlottesville attack fuels push to rename Austin’s Robert E. Lee Road

City Council Member Ann Kitchen on Tuesday said she will spearhead an effort to rename Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin as a chorus of residents call for the Confederate general’s name to be stricken from Austin streets in light of the Charlottesville, Va., attack. Calls for the street to be renamed have grown since Saturday, when a suspected white supremacist rammed his car into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, many of them calling for the removal of a statue there of Lee. One woman was killed.

Associated Press - August 15, 2017

Dallas spends millions to settle police misconduct lawsuits

Records show that Dallas has spent almost $11 million in the past five years settling more than 20 lawsuits against police, a huge increase compared to the previous five years. The city had spent less than $400,000 to settle less than 10 cases from 2006 to 2011, KDFW-TV reported. Dallas also currently has almost 40 unresolved liability claims against local police officers. Arlington spent less than $2 million settling lawsuits involving excessive police force claims in the past five years. Fort Worth paid $12,000 in the past five years in law enforcement liability claims.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Austin campuses rebound as state raises stakes

Four Austin district schools failed to meet state academic standards, half as many failing campuses in the district as last year, under the latest accountability ratings released Tuesday. Burnet, Martin and Mendez middle schools, as well as Govalle Elementary, received ratings of Improvement Required, according to data released by the Texas Education Agency on Tuesday. “We’re happy that we’ve gone from eight schools to four schools, and it shows that the teachers and principals continue to work hard for our students and families,” said Edmund Oropez, chief officer of teaching and learning.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings calls Confederate monuments 'problematic' but isn't rushing to tear them down

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday he doesn't like the Confederate monuments in the city's public spaces and considers them a "symbol of injustice" and divisive and "dangerous totems." But even after a debate over a Gen. Robert E. Lee statue sparked violent protests and counter-protests and a deadly attack on demonstrators by a white nationalist in Charlottesville, Va., Rawlings isn't ready to say the city should tear down its Confederate monuments next to City Hall or in Lee Park. "It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and say 'tear it down' because it's frankly politically correct and in many ways it makes us all feel good. I feel that way," Rawlings said. "But I hesitate because I realize the city of Dallas is better, is stronger when we are united and not divided. My goal as mayor, my job as mayor, is to continue to unite our city."

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Racial justice group pressures PepsiCo's CEO to exit Trump's business council

PepsiCo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi is being targeted by Color of Change, a nonprofit racial-justice group that has previously gone after Uber Technologies Inc. and Walt Disney Co. The organization is pressuring Nooyi to step down from Donald Trump's business advisory council after the president was slow to condemn white-supremacist violence last weekend in Virginia. Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison, another Trump adviser, will be a target of the campaign as well, said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the group, which claims 1 million online members.

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Far Right Plans Its Next Moves With a New Energy

The white supremacists and right-wing extremists who came together over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., are now headed home, many of them ready and energized, they said, to set their sights on bigger prizes. Some were making arrangements to appear at future marches. Some were planning to run for public office. Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event — a protest, nominally, of the removal of a Confederate-era statue — were organizing efforts to preserve what they referred to as “white heritage” symbols in their home regions. Calling it “an opportune time,” Preston Wiginton, a Texas-based white nationalist, declared on Saturday that he planned to hold a “White Lives Matter” march on Sept. 11 on the campus of Texas A&M — with a keynote speaker, Richard B. Spencer, who was featured at the Charlottesville event.

Daily Caller - August 15, 2017

Left-Wing Agitators Call For Escalated Tactics In Response To Charlottesville

Far-left agitators are calling for an escalation in tactics following this weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Many of the same groups that have organized violent demonstrations in Berkeley, California and elsewhere are now calling for an aggressive response to the violence in Charlottesville. Far-left “anti-fascist” (or antifa) figures are advising agitators to do the job that police won’t: shutting down “fascists” and preventing them from organizing. Radical left-wingers have for months justified violence as a way to fight back against “fascism” and “racism” — terms that they have applied not just to white nationalist fringe groups but to prominent figures on the right as well.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas together? That’s new. Here’s what it means.

At the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, marchers carried Confederate and Nazi flags side by side, protesting plans to remove Confederate statues from the city’s Emancipation Park. That would have surprised Southerners not that long ago. While both the Confederacy and Nazi Germany waged wars to defend white supremacy, those two symbols were mostly kept apart for decades after World War II. How those two symbols of white supremacy have come to overlap tells us a great deal about how white racist extremism developed – and where it might go. In the 1930s and 1940s, Southern whites opposed the Nazis In the 1930s and 1940s, Southern whites who supported Jim Crow racism fervently opposed the Nazi regime. Some Nazi leaders were intrigued by Southern racial politics. On the eve of Operation Barbarossa, a major German offensive against the Soviet Union, Joseph Goebbels apparently passed the time by watching the German release of “Gone with the Wind.”

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Everything you need to know about NAFTA ahead of Wednesday’s talks

On Wednesday, U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials formally begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact between the three nations credited with quadrupling trade since it took effect in 1994. President Donald Trump originally threatened to abandon NAFTA, calling it “economic undevelopment” and “one of the worst deals ever.” Since then, agricultural and industrial trade groups as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been on a loud defensive, stressing that trade under NAFTA has ballooned to $1.3 trillion annually within the bloc.

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Elizabeth Warren’s advice for Democrats: Don’t fall back to the center

On Saturday morning, as the nation’s attention turned to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville and its violent aftermath, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) used a speech at the progressive Netroots Nation convention to lay down a marker for the Democratic Party’s future. There was little buzz in the room about the 2020 presidential primaries — shouts of “Run Warren Run” and “Warren 2020? were short and muted. But Warren, one of the party’s most popular figures, told activists that they could safely ignore any advice about how Democrats could win only through moderation.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Garson: U.S. healthcare is too big to fail. Here’s where to go next.

Republicans won control of Congress and the White House based largely on a single promise: they’d rid the world of Obamacare, despite that law’s reduction of the number of uninsured people in this country by 20 million. “Obamacare is death,” the president told us, shortly before Congress voted to maintain it. After so closely tracking various iterations of GOP healthcare proposals, everyone from patient advocates to healthcare provider groups to policy wonks — and lawmakers themselves — are now scratching their heads. What happens now? Make no mistake: nobody wins by indefinitely preserving the status-quo of Obamacare.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Leubsdorf: On race, Trump's actions speak louder than words

The heated debate over President Donald Trump's initial refusal to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose Charlottesville, Va., rally led to violence and bloodshed may mistakenly focus too much on the man, rather than his policies. It took veteran civil rights leader Al Sharpton, no paragon of virtue himself, to make that crucial point, declaring Monday that it "trivializes" the central issue to argue about Trump's personal attitudes. "He is a proponent of racism," Sharpton said on MSNBC's Morning Joe, adding, "I don't want to put him on a couch and deal with his psychological personal problems. I'm dealing with his public policies."

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

DMN: Charlottesville reminds us how far we have yet to go on race, but we can't let it blind us to how far we've come

It hurts to be reminded of how far America still has to go to deal with the racism that remains so much a part of our national experience. This time the reminder came over a weekend full of protests and counter-protests at the University of Virginia, where a series of clashes was touched off by white nationalists and others who rallied there Friday night under a call to "unite the right." It ended in tragedy the next day when a driver, apparently shouting racist slogans, drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many others. The victims had gathered Saturday to stand up to protesters who use Charlottesville's long connection to Robert E. Lee, the general who led the armies of the Confederacy in a war that ended 152 years ago, as a rallying cry for whites.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Davis: Listen to Trump's actual words because he did not defend Nazis

For a few hours, the commanding topic on Donald Trump's Charlottesville remarks was why he couldn't have delivered Monday's thorough, tone-appropriate condemnations of racists on Saturday. Then came Tuesday. In wide-ranging remarks that sent some TV analysts into conniptions, the president took advantage of having checked the box for rebuking the right villains, and explored some substrata of the Charlottesville controversy that raised eyebrows nationwide. "He just equated Robert E. Lee and George Washington!" gasped one talking head. "He just defended the neo-Nazis!" blurted another.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Hispanic Texan on Trump's diversity council joins call to boot Steve Bannon

As fallout from President Donald Trump’s response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia continues, a Texan and member of Trump's National Diversity Council is calling for him to boot Steve Bannon from the White House. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in a statement said firing Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is the "first step, a needed step to begin the process of healing the bad feelings this administration has engendered.”

Politico - August 15, 2017

Moore, Strange advance to GOP runoff in Alabama special election

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange advanced to a Republican primary runoff in Alabama's special Senate race, which will put President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's political clout on the line in September. Moore had 39 percent of the vote and Strange — who was backed by Trump and McConnell — had 32 percent after The Associated Press called the race. Rep. Mo Brooks trailed at 20 percent. Alabama election laws call for the top two primary finishers to compete in a runoff if no candidate gets a majority.

Politico - August 15, 2017

When Aides Worry Their President Is Unhinged

You watch your boss melt down on a national stage, erasing his attempt at damage control just a day earlier. You hear him talk about the "very fine people" at an overtly racist gathering, where anti-Semitic chants filled the night. You watch him once again demonstrate an inability ever to acknowledge any error, much less an understanding of what white supremacism has meant in this country. If you were a significant player in the White House, and you were becoming more and more convinced that something was seriously wrong with your president’s mental and emotional health, what could you do? Who could you talk to? These aren’t questions that President Donald Trump's White House staff have been asking publicly, or even leaking quietly. But if they did, they wouldn’t be the first. During Lyndon Johnson's presidency, some of his closest aides started to talk privately behind his back about whether the president’s mind was buckling under the pressures of an escalating war in Vietnam, and radical and generational upheaval at home.

The Hill - August 16, 2017

Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP

Congress is bracing for several fights this fall over immigration and border security as the Trump administration struggles to make good on its campaign promises. The battle could pit President Trump against moderates and senators up for reelection in 2018, who want a more comprehensive approach to both issues. Lawmakers must pass legislation by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown. The White House appears poised to use that deadline as leverage to secure progress on its immigration agenda — and particularly on funding for a border wall, Trump’s most famous campaign promise.

Los Angeles Times - August 15, 2017

About 1 in 4 Americans would follow Trump to the end -- about the same share that totally rejects him

Asked if they could "think of anything that Trump could do, or fail to do, in his term as president that would make you disapprove of the job he is doing," about 60% of Trump supporters said no, according to a new nationwide poll released by Monmouth University in New Jersey. That's equivalent to about one-quarter of all Americans overall, given Trump's current level of support. At the other end of the scale, most of those who disapprove of Trump said that they could not "think of anything Trump could do, other than resign, in his term as president that would make you approve of the job he is doing." They made up 28% of the total, just slightly larger than the 24% who said they would support Trump no matter what.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Curran: Charlottesville residents wonder what happened to their police on Saturday

"Why the police didn't do anything?" Originally from the south coast of Turkey, Serhat Peker has lived in Charlottesville, Va., for 11 years and has never felt threatened, never experienced racism as a Muslim or as an immigrant. Until Saturday morning. At around 11 am, a crew of heavily armed camo-clad wannabe stormtroopers stood along the bank of windows outside the new location of the Turkish restaurant that he and his partners have run for several years. They were there for the Unite the Right rally scheduled for the nearby Emancipation Park and its controversial Robert E. Lee statue. But they were also there to start a fight. The restaurant, at the fringes of the historic downtown, is within sight of the historically black neighborhood just south of the area.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Charlottesville women in rammed car sue white nationalists for inciting violence

Two women injured during the chaos surrounding a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last week have filed a $3 million lawsuit against individuals they say were the organizers and naming more than two-dozen right-wing and neo-Nazi groups in a suit accusing them of inciting violence Saturday. Sisters Tadrint and Micah Washington were headed home in their car Aug. 12 when they turned down an open Charlottesville side street where counterprotesters were marching. Within minutes, a Dodge Challenger slammed into the crowd and rammed into the rear of their car, causing a chain-reaction crash that killed one and injured 19 others. Charlottesville police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, with second-degree murder after Heather Heyer was killed in the collision.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Bump: About 1 in 12 Confederate memorials in the U.S. is in a Union state

On June 3, 1907, a new attraction was unveiled in Richmond: a monument to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during its brief existence before being snuffed out by Union forces in 1865. A dispatch in the Bottineau Courant, a North Dakota newspaper, (and picked up in other publications) described the scene. “The unveiling,” the story read, “was the fruition of 18 years of patient and loving effort, and every man who wore the Southern uniform had in his heart a desire to be present. The thanks of the entire south were offered by the orators of the occasion to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, whose work it was that made the monument association a success.” The monument was unveiled by Davis’s daughter Margaret. Texas observed “Davis Day”; Alabama closed all stores for five minutes.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Garces: How legal threats stop colleges from addressing racism

The Supreme Court ruled last summer that colleges and universities can use race as one factor among many in making admissions decisions. The court determined that such policies helped further an institution’s mission to attain the educational benefits of diversity. The Trump administration may be considering a “project” to direct Department of Justice resources to investigate race-conscious admissions, according to The New York Times. While Department of Justice officials said the internal memo did not reflect new department policy, the story has placed colleges and universities “on notice” that their efforts may face renewed scrutiny.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Grigsby: How did so many of our sons get on the wrong road that led to Charlottesville?

How many of our sons' faces were among the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville? So many heartbreaking themes emerged out of the weekend tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., that it's difficult to know where to start in unraveling them. We are all too aware that the white supremacy on display is not a new phenomenon. No doubt the Trump presidency has motivated this movement to come out of the shadows and display its hate with unabashed pride.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Glaser: What Russia can teach us about Confederate statues

Could Russia teach us something about how to deal with difficult aspects of our national history? Many places in the South – from New Orleans to Louisville – are in the process of bringing down statues that glorify the Confederacy. That process raises questions about what to do with these remnants of the past. Do we just toss them into the ash bin of history, purging them as if they never existed? As a student of Southern politics who recently traveled to Moscow, I wondered if we can look to the Russians and how they have treated their Soviet past. The situations are not perfectly analogous.

Politico - August 16, 2017

White House aides wrestle with their own futures after Trump’s race comments

White House aides are wrestling with how to respond to President Donald Trump’s defiant newsconference on Tuesday in which he doubled down on his statement that “both sides” are to blame for the Charlottesville violence and offered what some perceived to be overtures to white supremacists. No aides had yet threatened to resign as of Wednesday morning, according to White House officials and advisers, but a number of White House staffers had private conversations on Tuesday night about how terribly the day went.

National Review - August 15, 2017

Shapiro: Antifa and the Alt-Right, Growing in Opposition to One Another

America has cancer. On Saturday, a crowd of alt-right white supremacists, neo-confederates, and Nazi sympathizers marched in Charlottesville, Va.; they were confronted by a large group of protesters including members of the Marxist Antifa — a group that has time and again plunged volatile situations into violence, from Sacramento to Berkeley. There’s still no certain knowledge of who began the violence, but before long, the sides had broken into the sort of brutal scrum that used to characterize Weimer-era Germany. The two sides then carried the red banner and the swastika; so did the combatants on Saturday. Then a Nazi-sympathizing alt-right 20-year-old Ohioan plowed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19. The president of the United States promptly failed egregiously to condemn alt-right racism; instead, he opted for a milquetoast statement condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”

Wall St. Journal - August 16, 2017

CEOs Rethink Alliances With White House

President Donald Trump’s response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., has sparked a new round of soul-searching in U.S. corporate boardrooms over whether they should keep working closely with the White House. On Tuesday, the number of members who have withdrawn from a White House advisory council grew to five, and executives including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT +0.31% Chief Executive Doug McMillon criticized the president’s initial unwillingness to specifically denounce the racist hate groups that rallied in Charlottesville over the weekend. The fallout is testing already-tense relations between the White House and corporate executives, many of whom face new pressures from employees, consumers and activists to take stands on social and political issues.

All - August 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Doctors have a change of heart on single payer

A majority of doctors questioned nationwide now support a single-payer health care system - an almost exact reversal of their stance nine years ago. Fifty-six percent of the 1,033 physicians who responded to the Aug. 3 Merritt Hawkins survey said they either strongly supported or somewhat supported a single-payer system. That compares with 58 percent of physicians who, in 2008, said they opposed such a system. Back then, only 42 percent supported the concept. The survey findings were released Monday,

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Texas A&M cancels white supremacist rally set for Sept. 11

Texas A&M University cited safety concerns as it cancelled a white supremacist rally planned for Sept. 11 by an outside organizer. University administrators consulted with law enforcement, system leaders and regents before cancelling the rally, spokeswoman Amy Smith said. Gov. Greg Abbott's office said Monday that it had been working with the university on how to handle the event safely as well. The university could cancel the event, Smith said, because organizer Preston Wiginton directly linked his plans for A&M to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., near the University of Virginia with a press release that read "Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M."

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Top leaders meet, Senate makes key votes late into the night

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus met behind closed doors Monday as lawmakers advanced school finance and property tax measures amid intense negotiations as the special session nears its end. “Let’s keep this process going forward,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said as he presented a school finance measure topping $300 million to his fellow senators. “We’re running out of time.” The Senate voted 25-6 for House Bill 21, which was amended to include a provision addressing health care costs for retired teachers at an additional cost of more than $200 million. The tab would be covered by slightly putting off a payment to Medicaid managed care organizations, pushing that expense into the next fiscal cycle.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Texas lawmaker: Bill to protect drivers who hit protesters would not apply to 'jackass' charged in Charlottesville murder

The author of a Texas bill to protect drivers who injure demonstrators found himself the target of outrage on social media this weekend after the hit-and-run death of a young woman protesting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. Last month, Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, filed legislation to protect motorists who hit demonstrators "blocking traffic in a public right-of-way" if the driver exercises "due care." House Bill 250 would protect drivers against civil liability only but would not lessen criminal penalties for deadly hit-and-runs, a second-degree felony in Texas. Fallon's bill has no chance of passing this summer. Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel out the month-long summer special session on Wednesday without even holding a hearing on the measure.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

After Texas House speaker objects, Senate scales back tree bill

Voting shortly after midnight Tuesday, the Texas Senate removed two key provisions from a bill that restricted the ability of cities to regulate the removal of trees. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, had returned House Bill 7 to the Senate over the weekend, ruling that senators had improperly added provisions that were not germane to a bill that allowed landowners to plant new trees to offset local tree removal fees. In response, senators voted Tuesday to remove a section that banned cities from regulating trees and vegetation in their extraterritorial jurisdiction. Senators also struck an amendment that prohibited cities from regulating the removal of trees that are less than 10 inches in diameter, replacing it with a prohibition on cities charging a fee related to the removal of such trees on residential properties.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Brady says polls are wrong on tax reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady Tuesday dismissed polls showing lukewarm public support for tax reform. “I don’t know what those polls, how they’re determined. But in the town halls, the roundtables I make, boy Americans are starved, they’re hungry for something better than what we have in the tax code today,” the Texas Republican said on CNBC’s SquawkBox. “Look, they’re tired of watching our American companies and jobs and research move overseas. They’re tired of their young people getting out of school with very little prospects for good paying jobs. They know something needs to be fixed.”

Houston Business Journal - August 11, 2017

Houston lost most manufacturing jobs in the nation in 2016

Harris County lost 18,900 manufacturing jobs, largely tied to the energy industry, which ranked the county No. 1 in the U.S. for manufacturing job losses in 2016. Meanwhile, Montgomery County in The Woodlands lost 2,100 jobs in 2016, ranking No. 6 for more jobs lost. The data is from Austin-based Headlight Data's analysis of information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dallas County created 3,191 manufacturing jobs in 2016, according to Headlight Data. That ranked No. 3 in the U.S. for most jobs created.

Associated Press - August 14, 2017

New life for Medicaid after GOP's health care debacle

It may not equal Social Security and Medicare as a "third rail" program that politicians touch at their own risk, yet Medicaid seems to have gotten stronger after the Republican failure to pass health care legislation. Reviled by conservatives, the 1960s Great Society program started out as health insurance for families on welfare and disabled people. But the link to welfare was broken long ago, and the federal-state program has grown to cover about 1 in 5 Americans, ranging from newborns to Alzheimer's patients in nursing homes, and even young adults trying to shake addiction. Although Medicaid still serves low-income people, middle-class workers are more likely to personally know someone who's covered.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

State Stories

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

As chambers negotiate on property taxes, intra-Republican tensions flare

Lawmakers moved closer Monday to giving some — but not all — Texans more say over the property taxes they must pay cities, counties and special-purpose districts each year. But long-brewing tensions within the Republican party ignited after the House passed key property tax legislation in a 105-41 vote. Amid accusations that Senate Bill 1 won’t apply to enough Texans, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said the bill is the best bet for getting property tax legislation through both chambers. The chambers’ differences over property taxes partially led to Gov. Greg Abbott calling lawmakers back to Austin for a summer special session.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Special session coming down to school finance, property taxes

With two days left in the special session, the finish line is coming into focus for Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda — though high-stakes negotiations remain pending on a pair of big-ticket items. After a weekend that saw stalled progress on property taxes and school finance, both chambers dislodged key proposals on the issues Monday and advanced them toward conference committees. That means House and Senate negotiators will have the next two days to hammer out their differences on the two items, which top the special session wish lists for Abbott, the House and the Senate.

Texas Tribune - August 12, 2017

Ginn, Matthews: More state spending won’t cure school finance system

Texas’ school finance system is on life support. For the last 30 years, the Texas Supreme Court has urged legislators to resolve the hemorrhaging system. Complicating things is whether the cure is more taxpayer money or something else. Legislators have long chosen to spend more money on public education, which has led neither to more dollars going to classrooms or improved education outcomes. While there are only a few beats left in the heart of the current special session, the 85th Legislature can still equitably fund education and direct more dollars to classrooms so quality teachers receive higher merit-based pay. Unfortunately, inefficiencies plague the school finance system.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Texas House breaks school finance stalemate, tentatively approves study

The Texas House took one step toward an agreement with the Senate on how to improve the state's school finance system Monday, by preliminarily passing a bill that would create a commission to study future reforms. The lower chamber voted 142-2 to tentatively pass Senate Bill 16, which tasks a 15-member commission of legislators and educators with figuring out how to relieve financial pressure on public schools and better fund the education of certain disadvantaged student groups.

Texas Tribune - August 11, 2017

Li, Royden: Ranking Texas gerrymanders

In 2003, Texas House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma for four days in order to scuttle Republican plans to replace the state’s court-drawn congressional map with one of their own. A few months later, Senate Democrats followed suit, spending 46 days in Albuquerque to try to circumvent a special session on redistricting. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, the episodes are remembered fondly today by Democrats as a high point of efforts to stymie Republicans hell-bent on gaining complete control of the state. Republicans, not surprisingly, see it differently. In their eyes, the 2001 map was indefensible, locking in much of the Democratic advantage from an aggressive 1991 gerrymander that the Almanac of American Politics called one of the “shrewdest” gerrymanders of the 1990s. Indeed, under the court’s 2001 map, Democrats still enjoyed a 17-15 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation despite the court’s creation of two new Republican seats.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Oilfield sand miners encroaching on threatened West Texas lizard

A voluntary plan the state of Texas crafted to protect a tiny West Texas reptile — and avoid its listing as an endangered species — is facing a significant threat from companies that mine the fine-grain sand oil producers use for hydraulic fracturing. That’s the central message of a letter Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office sent late last week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updating the federal agency on the status of the “Texas Conservation Plan” for the dunes sagebrush lizard.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

White nationalist Richard Spencer claims First Amendment right was violated by Texas A&M

White supremacist Richard Spencer is a man without a college to speak at after one cancelled his visit and a prominent professor at another declined his invitation after the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va. Texas A&M University cancelled a white supremacist rally planned for Sept. 11 by an outside organizer Monday evening. The university said it maintained the right to ax the event because organizer Preston Wiginton linked his plans to the 2017 Unite the Right rally this past weekend. Spencer called the university's excuse a "heckler's veto."

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

A&M students still plan to rally Sept. 11 after White Lives Matter event called off

Student rallies at Texas A&M University next month will proceed even as university administrators cancelled a White Lives Matter event hosted by an outside organizer. Aggies had planned several rallies to protest that White Lives Matter event, which would have been attended by Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader who spoke on campus in December. Student organizers have kept those event pages active online. They now use that platform to promote causes for donations, and they say they still plan to host speakers and cheers on Sept. 11.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Texas Legislature wrestles with big issues in waning days of special session

Tensions ran high in the Texas Capitol on Monday as the Legislature struggled to break the logjam that has held up key school funding and property tax bills that lawmakers argue Texans are begging for before their scheduled adjournment Wednesday. With time running out, Monday was marked by testy floor debates, back-door meetings and somber denunciations of the violence that had erupted over the weekend in a Virginia college town. After weeks of consternation, the House passed two major Senate bills as an act of good faith as leaders from both chambers attempted to make headway on a public school funding bill that has become the House's flagship issue.

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Senate gives OK to modified annexation bill that protects military bases

Lawmakers are sending a bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that gives landowners power to vote on whether their communities are annexed by big cities such as San Antonio. After that success Sunday evening, however, a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations were unable to produce a compromise on high-profile tax and school funding bills and both chambers put off any action on the measures until Monday, a mere two days before the special session is set to conclude. The Senate approved the annexation bill 21-10, agreeing with changes made by the House to expand a military buffer zone meant to control development around base borders.

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Texas Power Broker: Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos was 8 years old when his father, a dentist in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, decided to bring the family across the bridge to El Paso, Texas so their children could be educated in U.S. schools. Fast forward four decades, and Pablos now has four degrees that run the gamut — a biology degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, an MBA from the University of Texas-San Antonio, a master’s in hospitality management from the Hilton College at the University of Houston, and another degree, a Juris Doctor, from St. Mary’s. He’s married to Dr. Laura San Martin, an orthodontist, and lives Austin with her and their four children.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Scorecard: Where Gov. Abbott's special session agenda stands

With the clock ticking — only two days to go in the special legislative session — five of the 20 items on Gov. Greg Abbott's ambitious agenda have reached his desk. On Friday, Abbott signed bills keeping alive state agencies and combating mail-in ballot fraud. The other items, a bill increasing abortion complication reporting requirements, a measure banning abortion coverage in primary insurance plans, and a measure requiring large cities to hold elections in areas before they annex them await the governor's signature to become law.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Two Texans join conservative push to force Obamacare repeal vote on House leadership

With President Donald Trump pressuring GOP lawmakers to return to the Affordable Care Act fight, a pair of Texas Republicans are backing a call to force an Obamacare repeal in the House. The discharge petition, filed on Friday by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, requires a simple 218-vote majority to push a floor vote on a two-year Obamacare repeal -- with no replacement -- as early as September. The conservative bloc opted for the rarely used tool in an attempt to force House leadership into legislation they've resisted before. Tyler Rep. Louie Gohmert and Austin Rep. Roger Williams lauded the measure, arguing that House Republicans should heed President Trump’s calls for Congress to stay focused on dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Woods: Mental-health initiatives should be a priority of the legislative special session

Texas has a mental-health crisis. Almost 1 million adults in the state have a serious mental illness, and most do not receive treatment. We rank near the bottom for access to mental-health care and spend only $36 per capita on such services. (The U.S. average is $121; we rank 49th.) This is due in part to the decision by Gov. Greg Abbott not to expand Medicaid, leaving Texas with the highest uninsured rate in the country. As a result, mental health was a priority during the legislative session this spring. Multiple bills were passed: parity, training for law enforcement, veterans' care and improved screening through Medicaid as each relates to mental health. In addition, funding for behavioral health services increased by more than $92 million, and the efforts of lawmakers and advocates who pushed for this legislation should be lauded.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

School bill logjam eases, though extra money for schools, retirees still uncertain

The Legislature partially eased a logjam on education bills Monday, as the House tentatively approved a study of school finance sought by the Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott. Late Monday, the Senate was expected to bless a slimmed-down proposal to immediately increase state funding of public schools for the next two years -- a pet cause of the House GOP leadership. The moves would set up appointment of House-Senate conference committees on the three measures expected to advance later Monday night.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

The economy in Texas and across the country rolls right along with the railway industry

Even with the energy industry in a bit of a slump, Forbes magazine ranked Texas the fourth-best state for business. Texas also ranks first for current economic climate, thanks to having the second-fastest economic growth and the third-fastest job growth in the nation over the past five years. And 109 of the 1,000 largest public and private companies in the U.S. are based in Texas. Other states cite our state as their competition for attracting and maintaining jobs. Freight rail infrastructure is another area in which Texas leads. We boast the highest railway mileage and number of railroad employees in the country. The strength of the rail network and the strength of the economy in Texas are not coincidental.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

DMN: Will latest court ruling finally force the truth-telling that Baylor has shunned for so long?

A federal judge in Waco has gashed the "duck and cover" strategy of Baylor University regents hell-bent on keeping secret the school's handling of sexual assault reports. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the school to produce interview recordings, notes, summaries and other evidence from the hush-hush Pepper Hamilton investigation. The ruling came in a Title IX lawsuit brought by 10 former students who say Baylor mishandled their reports of sexual assault between 2004 and 2016. Pitman's decision comes just two weeks after another substantial ruling in which he ordered the school to produce original documents, not summaries, of sexual violence and harassment reports from all Baylor students since 2003.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Poole: How Texas makes it hard for itself to build infrastructure

The long range Texas Transportation Plan 2040 says: “TxDOT estimates that $5 billion more per year in highway investment is needed to generally maintain the current level of congestion and condition of our highway infrastructure.” That’s $5 billion per year on top of what Texas is spending now — and that’s just the money needed to maintain today’s status quo, which is plagued by traffic jams. This massive funding discrepancy makes the Texas Legislature’s recent rejection of private infrastructure funding all the more perplexing.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

House clears bill on property tax elections, top Abbott priority

The Texas House on Monday gave final approval to a bill that will require voter approval when larger cities and counties raise property taxes above 6 percent, but only after a tense fight over a move to cut off debate without considering amendments that would have included smaller jurisdictions. The advance of Senate Bill 1 brought Gov. Greg Abbott one step closer to his top priority for the special session, but not all of Monday’s news favored the governor. It became apparent that Abbott’s call for a cap on state government spending, a high priority for conservatives in the Legislature, had died a quiet death in the House, where time ran out after a Democratic point of order had derailed the legislation days earlier.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Texas Senate OKs $563 million for schools, retired teachers

With two days left in the special legislative session, the Texas Senate early Tuesday morning approved 25-6 a bill to pump an extra $351 million into the public education system over the next two years — a $1.5 billion cut from what the House had proposed. Tuesday morning’s vote sends the watered-down version of House Bill 21 into conference committee where Senate and House members will continue negotiations that began over the weekend. Both chambers have been deeply divided on how much money should be spent on public schools and how to pay for it.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

After tense debate, House OKs bill on property tax election

The Texas House on Monday gave final approval to a bill that will require voter approval when larger cities and counties raise property taxes above 6 percent, but only after a tense fight over a move to cut of debate without considering amendments to include smaller jurisdictions. As debate over Senate Bill 1 began, Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, announced that he had enough signatures to force a vote and “move this bill directly to a conference committee” with the Senate. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of tea party-supported representatives, strongly objected, saying the move was an effort to stifle their voices and avoid voting on amendments that would give more Texans a say over property tax increases.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

As a judge, Abbott blessed SOS ordinance, the epitome of local control

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been on a tear lately against local control. He signed legislation on Memorial Day that pre-empts ride-hailing rules in Austin and other cities. His to-do list for the special session of the Legislature included a crackdown on local rules concerning tree removal, use of a cellphone while driving and access to bathrooms by transgender people. Abbott finds the capital city’s embrace of local control especially galling. “Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different,” he said in June at a Bell County Republican Party dinner. “And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

These Central Texas schools fail state academic standards

Four Austin district schools failed to meet state academic standards, cutting the number of failing campuses in half, under the latest accountability ratings released Tuesday. Burnet, Martin and Mendez middle schools, as well as Govalle Elementary, received ratings of Improvement Required, according to data released by the Texas Education Agency Tuesday morning. “We’re happy that we’ve gone from eight schools to four schools and it shows that the teachers and principals continue to work hard for our students and families,” said Edmund Oropez, chief officer of teaching and learning. “We believe in some areas we’re doing better. There are still performance gaps. There are achievement gaps that still exist.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

UT regents mapping strategy for political support on tuition

University of Texas System regents sketched out a strategy Friday to ensure that proposals to raise tuition and fees in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years are warranted and to seek support from local officials, lawmakers and statewide elected leaders before adopting them. The effort to bolster the tuition-setting process with an eye toward enlisting political support comes after a legislative session that saw the Texas Senate vote 29-2 to freeze academic charges for two years at the state’s public universities and to sharply restrict future increases. But the measure, Senate Bill 19, didn’t emerge from a House committee.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Texas House tentatively approves Senate bill to study school funding

The Texas House on Monday tentatively approved 142-2 Senate Bill 16, which would create a 15-member commission to study and make recommendations on the state’s beleaguered school finance system. The commission would be comprised of lawmakers, teachers and school officials as well those from the business and civic communities. The commission would be tasked with studying tax rates and policy changes to reflect the geographical and racial diversity of the state, among other issues, and making recommendations to the Legislature on how to fix the finance system by next legislative session.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

TABC planning ‘minor stings’ as students return to school

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is gearing up for a series of sting operations near major colleges and universities to catch vendors who sell alcohol to minors as students return to classes for the fall semester. TABC officials announced the planned “minor stings” in a release on Wednesday, saying the commission will send minors into bars, restaurants and convenience and liquor stores through August and September. "Our retailers take the lead in preventing alcohol from falling into the hands of minors," said TABC Executive Chief Robert Saenz. "This year, as in years past, we're urging all retailers to make sure their employees have the tools they need to ensure anyone who purchases alcohol is of legal age to do so."

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to neo-Nazis: ‘Not here, not now, not ever.’

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick led the Texas Senate in a moment of silence Monday for the victims of violence fomented by white supremacists and neo-Nazis at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday. “It’s unspeakable, unacceptable and un-American and we are going to stand in a moment of silence but we’re going to stand as one, one body, to say to those in this state who share those thoughts, to those who would come to our state, not here, not now, not ever,” Patrick said. “We stand and condemn this together, the state of Texas and the Texas Senate, let us stand together and let us take a moment to pray for the victims, for those injured.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Bills are all but dead, but transgender bathroom fight lives on

Bills to limit transgender-friendly bathrooms are on the brink of death, if not dead already, but that didn’t stop opposing sides from traveling to the Capitol on Monday to take a final stab at the special legislative session’s most contentious issue. Opponents of the bills began the day by delivering petitions to Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders that represent 50,124 Texans who have shown opposition to legislation that would require Texans to use restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate or other government document.

Texas Monthly - August 14, 2017

DC2DQ: Will Hurd’s Road Trip for Survival

The Twenty-third Congressional District of Texas sweeps across 58,000 square miles of brush country and desert, reaching from San Antonio to El Paso. The district contains 747,000 people, 189 working oil rigs, four endangered species, and one threatened member of Congress: Republican Will Hurd of Helotes. Hurd holds one of the most competitive congressional districts in the nation, one that changed party hands three times between 2006 and his election in 2014. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee earlier this year made Hurd one of its top targets after realizing presidential nominee Hillary Clinton received 4,500 more votes than Hurd as he eked out a re-election victory over Democrat Pete Gallego.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - August 12, 2017

GE locomotive production jobs leaving Pennsylvania for Texas

ERIE, Pa. — It was on a sweltering day in August 2016 that Donald Trump promised to reverse the city’s decline at the hands of other countries. “They think they’re going to take our companies and rip them out … and go to Mexico [to] employ people other than you,” he told several thousand people inside the Erie Insurance Arena. “That stuff isn’t happening any more.” While GE announced plans to end locomotive production and lay off nearly 600 workers last month, the jobs appear bound for Texas instead. Denouncing foreign competition can overlook the way communities cannibalize each other close to home. “At least they stayed in the States,” said Doug Richardson, a retired welder in the plant.

Oil Price - August 14, 2017

Automotive Giants Are Betting Big On Ride Sharing Tech

A new study is showing consumers are starting to prefer shared mobility services over owning a car and stopping off at a gas station. The study by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Columbia University, surveyed more than 1,200 people in Austin, Texas. They wanted to find out how their transportation habits changed after ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft left the city. Uber and Lyft had pulled out the Austin, Texas, market last year right after their ballot measure failed in a local election. Voters had blocked them from using their own background-check systems to bring in drivers, avoiding the strict guidelines governing the taxi and livery industry.

New York Times - August 14, 2017

Paulikas: Christianity Does Not Justify Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’

Following President Trump’s initial threats of “fire and fury” toward North Korea on Aug. 8, Robert Jeffress, the evangelical pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and a presidential adviser, released a statement claiming that God had given the president authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Jeffress was the president’s selected preacher at the traditional pre-inauguration liturgy at St. John’s Episcopal Church and claims to speak with Mr. Trump “on a variety of issues.” Regardless of his political credentials, Jeffress’s theology is shockingly uninformed and dangerous, and it is a sobering reminder of the power of misguided moral statements to influence matters of life and death in policy. President Trump’s language, which he intensified a few days later, evoked apocalyptic nuclear war. Despite what either of the men claim, there is no possible Christian justification for provoking such a conflict.

Waco Tribune - August 12, 2017

Advocates for disabled children hope for last-minute reprieve on therapy cuts

Margaretta Zuniga tries to keep upbeat about her role as a full-time single mother to two daughters who can’t walk, talk or use the restroom by themselves. Espy, 3, and Malana, 4, suffer from DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder that has delayed their development. “When people ask me what’s wrong with them, ‘why are they sick?’ I say, ‘They’re not sick, they’re healthy. They’re just delayed,’ ” Zuniga said. “I want to, just want them to grow up and get an education. … I don’t want them dependent on a wheelchair all their life. I want them to be little girls and be able to run around.”

County Stories

San Antonio Business Journal - August 10, 2017

Former HUD exec joins SAWS leadership

After nearly three years in Washington D.C., former U.S. Housing and Urban Development executive Jaime Castillo returned to the Alamo City where he has taken a leadership role at the San Antonio Water System. Castillo has been named as chief of staff and chief strategy officer at SAWS. He will report directly to the municipally owned utility company's CEO Robert Puente. ... Castillo served as the assistant secretary for public affairs under HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Prior to his stint in Washington, Castillo served as Castro's chief of staff and held public affairs roles for the City of San Antonio.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Frank Dyson, former police chief of Dallas and Austin, dies at 90

Former Dallas Police Chief W. Frank Dyson brought numerous innovations to the city's police force, including moving women into patrol duty and the launching the department's first helicopter unit. After a 23-year career with the Dallas department, he spend nine years as chief of police in Austin. Dyson, 90, died Thursday at his home in Robinson of complications from an inoperable brain tumor. Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Waco Memorial Park and Chapel on Interstate 35 in Robinson.

Texas Tribune - August 11, 2017

Rodriguez: El Paso: A test case for proposals attacking rooftop solar

Homeowners and small businesses increasingly use rooftop solar to generate power and lower electricity costs. Communities win when more solar is installed. It creates local jobs, reduces reliance on polluting traditional generation and reduces the need for electric companies to build new, costly infrastructure that will be paid for through customers' electric bills. Ignoring these benefits, El Paso Electric (EPE) has tried once already to handicap solar development. Now they're at it again — and, if successful, could begin a trend of anti-solar proposals statewide. All El Paso residential customers, solar and non-solar alike, are charged only for electricity they actually use. Through solar net metering, customers earn credit for self-generated power, lowering their monthly bills.

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2017

Gay couples push to preserve Houston city spousal benefits

A trio of city employees and their same sex spouses filed a federal suit Thursday to require the city of Houston to keep offering health insurance and other benefits for gay couples. The legal action bats back at another ongoing suit that would ban the city from offering benefits to same-sex spouses and even required couples to pay back past benefits. "Here we are in 2017 and we're still having this conversation," said Kenneth Upton, the Dallas-based Lambda Legal attorney representing the three married couples.

KUT - August 15, 2017

Austin Council Members Want To Rename Robert E. Lee Road. What Would It Take To Do It?

Following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, Austin City Council Member Greg Casar is calling for the renaming of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin and Jeff Davis Avenue in North Austin. Over the weekend, someone spray-painted over street signs for Robert E. Lee Road. The city says it will cost $700 to replace the signs. The violence in Charlottesville erupted over the city’s plans to remove a statue of Lee, the top general of the Confederate Army during the Civil War, from a park. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States.

McAllen Monitor - August 14, 2017

Immigrants found inside tractor-trailer in Edinburg

A group of 17 undocumented immigrants were found inside a tractor-trailer Sunday at the Flying J gas station in Edinburg, according to Edinburg police. There were no ambulances observed on the scene, and Edinburg police did not report any injuries or casualties. After receiving a call from a relative of an individual inside the trailer, Edinburg police said they arrived on the scene and began knocking on tractor-trailers. Once officers received knocks back from one trailer, they found 17 immigrants locked inside from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Romania, police said. A male and female of Cuban nationality who were in charge of the tractor-trailer were detained, police said.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

SA officials condemn Virginia violence, hate speech

Councilmen Roberto Treviño and William “Cruz” Shaw on Monday said they plan to continue pushing for the removal of the Confederate statue in Travis Park days after violence erupted at a Virginia protest over a statue of Robert E. Lee. Meanwhile, Mayor Ron Nirenberg condemned the acts that unfolded over the weekend.

National Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Poll: Charters less popular, but vouchers less contentious

Support for opening more charter schools has dropped significantly among Americans, but there's less opposition to expanding private school voucher programs, as the Trump administration continues its push for school choice, according to a survey released Tuesday. About 39 percent of respondents want to see more charters — schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts — according to a study by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard's Kennedy School and Stanford University. That's down from 51 percent last year.

Jerusalem Post - August 14, 2017

American oil tycoons invested in the film Wonder Woman

The Koch Brothers, the famously conservative business family, invested heavily into the film Wonder Woman starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot. An investment that has been paying off in a big way. According to Hollywood Reporter, Steve Mnuchin, President Trump’s current treasure secretary, brought in David and Charles Koch as early private investors for one of Hollywood’s most underrated financial successes. They would also go on to invest in a few of the summer’s biggest blockbusters including Dunkirk.

Politico - August 14, 2017

Trump’s ‘John Wayne’ presidency struggles with tragedy

President Donald Trump has mastered the art of the swaggering politician, but when tragedy strikes, he has struggled to find his footing. By projecting the persona of a chin-out American leader eager to punch first and deal with the consequences later, Trump is missing the softer touch that past presidents have effectively used to bring the country together in times of crisis. The same cycle played out again amid a weekend of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump stated Saturday that “many sides” were to blame for the protests that rocked the college town, and he took to the familiar confines of Twitter to offer his condolences to the families of three people killed over the weekend.

Politico - August 14, 2017

California files suit over Trump sanctuary city policy

California has become the first state to sue the Trump administration over its anti-sanctuary cities policy. Speaking at a San Francisco news conference, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state's suit argues that the Justice Department is violating the Constitution by trying to implement a new policy that would deny grants to jurisdictions that fail to give immigration authorities access to local jails or fail to give immigration officials 48 hours’ notice on the release of prisoners being sought on immigration charges.

Politico - August 14, 2017

Obama team was warned in 2014 about Russian interference

The Obama administration received multiple warnings from national security officials between 2014 and 2016 that the Kremlin was ramping up its intelligence operations and building disinformation networks it could use to disrupt the U.S. political system, according to more than half a dozen current and former officials. As early as 2014, the administration received a report that quoted a well-connected Russian source as saying that the Kremlin was building a disinformation arm that could be used to interfere in Western democracies. The report, according to an official familiar with it, included a quote from the Russian source telling U.S. officials in Moscow, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments and militaries in all of these places."

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Kim Jong Un appears to step back from brink as report says he’ll watch ‘stupid conduct’ of U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to take a step back from the brink of nuclear war Tuesday, when state media reported that he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees.” But, as is often the case with North Korea, the message was mixed: Kim was inspecting the missile unit tasked with preparing to strike near Guam, and photos released by state media showed a large satellite image of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam on the screen beside the leader. “The U.S. should stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer,” the North Korean leader told his missile unit, according to a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency published Tuesday.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

HC: Clean out the White House -- Bannon and Gorka must go.

President Donald Trump's words are not enough. On Saturday in Charlottesville, Va, a white supremacist killed one and injured nineteen, including Natalie Romero, 20, a Bellaire High School graduate and sophomore at the University of Virginia. Trump, a man who exploded with moral certitude when Nordstrom stopped selling his daughter's handbags, first reacted with a statement so limp that many white supremacists took it as a sign of support.

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Why are people still racist? What science says about America's race problem.

What causes people to be racist? "In some ways, it's super simple. People learn to be whatever their society and culture teaches them. We often assume that it takes parents actively teaching their kids, for them to be racist. The truth is that unless parents actively teach kids not to be racists, they will be," said Jennifer Richeson, a Yale University social psychologist. "This is not the product of some deep-seated, evil heart that is cultivated. It comes from the environment, the air all around us." Richeson compares children's instinctive formation of biases to a student at a new school. "When you arrive at a new high school. You are instinctively trying to figure out who's cool, who's not, who's a nerd, who gets beat up? Kids quickly acquire these associations," she said.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Trump may not get the 'win' he seeks in NAFTA talks

As a candidate, Donald Trump constantly called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history and promised “to get a better deal for our workers.” Now that he is president, Trump is about to find out how hard it is to get an agreement that satisfies not only those workers who feel "shafted by NAFTA" but also the powerful business interests currently benefiting from billions of dollars in cross-border sales. Top trade officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico will sit down on Wednesday to begin thrashing over hundreds of issues as distinct as Canadian dairy barriers and digital trade issues affecting both countries.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Cecile Richards to Democrats: Stand Firm on Abortion

Abortion is exactly the kind of debate Democrats don’t want right now: visceral, internally divisive, and more about hypotheticals than any actual candidate or race. And, like on just about every other issue for a party in frantic panic over ever being in power again, it’s about whether the way to win is to proudly and unequivocally take a stand, or to decide they’ve already veered too far toward ideological purity and correct course.

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Outraged in Private, Many C.E.O.s Fear the Wrath of the President

At what point do the C.E.O.s of the largest companies in the United States tell President Trump that enough is enough? Not yet, apparently. On Monday morning, President Trump went on a tirade against Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive of Merck, the pharmaceuticals giant. Mr. Frazier, one of the nation’s most prominent African-American chief executives, had announced through his company’s Twitter account that he was resigning from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in response to Mr. Trump’s refusal over the weekend to immediately and directly condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis carrying swastika flags in Charlottesville, Va. Mr. Trump had pinned the blame for the bigotry and violence — which left one anti-bigotry protester dead — on “many sides.”

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

The Daily 202: Trump acts like the president of the Red States of America

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump often behaves as if he’s first and foremost the president of the states and the people who voted for him. That’s at odds with the American tradition, and it’s problematic as a governing philosophy — especially in a moment of crisis. Trump’s initially tone-deaf response to Charlottesville underscores why. Animated by grievance and congenitally disinclined to extend olive branches, Trump lashes out at his “enemies” — his 2020 reelection campaign even used that word in a commercial released on Sunday — while remaining reticent to explicitly call out his fans — no matter how odious, extreme or violent.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Davis: Trump's comments on Charlottesville were late but that doesn't make him a racist

I believe the appropriate maxim is, "Better late than never." President Donald Trump applied multiple layers of criticism to precisely the right targets in comments Monday morning, after a weekend of being slammed for not doing it Saturday. "Racism is evil," he said in addressing the bleak events in Charlottesville, "and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

Wall St. Journal - August 10, 2017

Democrats and the Permanent Crisis

What are Democrats going to do if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ever learns how to assemble 51 votes? Without significant legislative accomplishments to show for their congressional majorities and with a beleaguered president hovering near historic levels of unpopularity, Republicans are now in the worst shape of any major U.S. political party—except for one. Michael Whitney, who oversaw digital fundraising for the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign and writes today in Politico, isn’t the first to observe that “the Democratic base is energized.” But he also notes that by at least one key measure, the Republican base is more energized. Mr. Whitney writes that Democrats have “a serious fundraising crisis” and adds: "Over the first six months of 2017, the Republican National Committee pulled in $75 million—nearly twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee, which raised $38 million.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Floyd: Confederate memorials are part of my heritage, and I want them gone

A couple of my brothers, on a lark, recently underwent those mail-in genetic ancestry tests. The results are unsurprising: We are as white as a sack of marshmallows. It's hardly remarkable, given that many of our antecedents followed a common migratory trail: From the coal mines and bogs of western Europe, across the Atlantic, and thereafter across what would become the southern United States. And, yes, there are Confederate veterans in my family tree. That's neither a source of pride nor shame; it's a plain statement of fact. Since that gives me at least as much interest as anybody in the fate of public Confederate monuments, here's my vote: I want them gone.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Specter of corruption looms over Mexico as NAFTA talks get rolling

Roberto Martin Guerrero Valdez browsed through a newsstand recently in the nation’s capital and saw headlines about bullet-riddled bodies, a narco blockade in the city, looming trade talks and candidates jockeying in advance of their presidential campaigns. He barely shrugged. But when he glanced at a headline about the latest national corruption scandal, the deliveryman and recent victim of armed robbery pointed to the story, pushed the paper aside and walked away in disgust. “That right there is why we can’t move forward as a country,” said Guerrero, 45, who toils in the underground economy like more than half of Mexico’s workforce. “That’s what keeps me up late at night, worried about the future of my sons.”

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Mathis-Lilley: Trump has cultivated the white supremacist alt-right for years

Donald Trump has done more than any political figure in the United States to propagate the beliefs and court the support of the white supremacist "alt-right" movement, whose adherents held a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, where a white supremacist named James Fields Jr. killed a nonviolent protester named Heather Heyer with his car. Here's an attempt at a comprehensive list of the ways Trump has promoted and benefited from the movement. Birtherism. Trump began insisting in 2011 that Barack Obama may not have been born in the U.S. He once said a "very credible source" had informed him that Obama's birth certificate was fraudulent and claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii to research the matter.

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Neugebauer: The deep state is recklessly supporting bad energy policies

Many of the fiercest battles I fought in Washington were to stop government from creating additional financial burdens on the Texans I represented. The 19th Congressional District of Texas, — stretching from Abilene, through Lubbock to the New Mexico border — boasts some of the hardest working Americans I have known. These men and women are the backbone of our country, but few of these households are especially wealthy. Most are solid middle-class people that value family, honesty and hard work. Recently, I’ve seen Washington officials make another effort at advancing a tired argument that we should shift blindly toward renewable energy sources. The impact of this misguided policy on Texas, and the rest of middle-class America, would be unacceptable.

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Trump declares 'racism is evil' after firestorm

President Trump declared Monday that “racism is evil” in public comments at the White House, and for the first time called out the KKK, Nazis and other hate groups specifically for their role in this weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to what we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in a surprise statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room. He spoke after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The president pledged to hold accountable “anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence.”

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Trump quietly putting his stamp on the courts

President Trump has been quietly making lifetime appointments to fill more than 100 vacancies on federal courts across the country. With five judges confirmed, another 30 pending and 123 seats left to fill, according to one group tracking the numbers, Trump has the opportunity to revamp the judiciary branch and carve out a legacy for himself that could stand the test of time. “It can’t be overstated the impact the individuals he’s appointing will have on millions of people across the country and their children for a generation or two,” said Dan Goldberg, legal director at the liberal Alliance for Justice (AFJ).

Washington Times - August 14, 2017

Gay rights movement goes corporate, pays big business as ally in bathroom bills fight

The Texas Association of Business has been an outspoken opponent of the state’s proposed transgender bathroom bill, predicting the legislation will lead to a massive economic backlash and cost the state as much as $8.5 billion in lost business. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce was similarly alarmed by the 2015 push for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that it would negatively affect the state’s “ability to attract and retain jobs, talent and investment.” ... These small-business coalitions and others across the country share a common source of funding: the national gay rights movement. Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the debate over gay and transgender rights has increasingly been framed in economic terms. ... Tony McDonald, legal counsel of the conservative nonprofit Empower Texans, said the gay rights movement has relied more on corporate influence to implement its agenda since the legalization of same-sex marriage.

All - August 14, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Tomlinson: Texas brings hell on women's health

Fellow Texan and columnist Molly Ivins summed it up best: "Texas is a fine place for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses." About a quarter of Texas women don't have health insurance, and half do not get the care they know they need, according to a devastating article by my colleague Jenny Deam. Women make up half the workforce, and according to census figures a slight majority of the U.S. population, so their suffering and undiagnosed health problems create costs and burdens that ultimately hurt our economy and slow our businesses. About 1.3 million women who need routine checkups and birth control can't afford it and can't access it, according to the Texas Women's Health Coalition.

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

Texas Senate gives final OK to annexation-vote bill

A bill that would require Texas' largest cities to hold a public vote before they annex surrounding property received final approval on Sunday. Moving generally along party lines, senators voted 21 to 10 in accepting House amendments to Senate Bill 6. The changes mean the bill will only cover cities of 500,000 or more, instead of most mid-sized and smaller cities. Those smaller cities could, however, opt to be covered by the new law, giving citizens who they plan to annex a chance to vote.

San Antonio Express News - August 13, 2017

Fikac: Tax bill raising hackles

Gov. Greg Abbott is taking names as lawmakers consider his agenda in this special session, hinting at possible election consequences for Republicans who oppose him. But local officials who would lose authority under Abbott’s agenda are watching their lawmakers closely, too. And at least one, Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker, said he is re-thinking his support for his fellow Republicans. “At this point, I’m not endorsing anyone, including my local elected Republican officials. I’ve said it to all of ‘em,” said Voelker when I caught up with him at the Capitol. “I have three representatives and one senator who represent my city. I have no plans to endorse them if this goes through, and I’ve stated that to them.”

San Antonio Express News - August 13, 2017

House votes for local property tax proposal that author says ‘does not provide one ounce’ of relief

The Texas House voted 98-43 for a bill addressing Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority of curbing local officials’ authority over property tax increases Saturday. The bill’s author said the measure would give taxpayers some protection but not “1 ounce” of relief. People whose local property tax bills are putting a strain on their budgets are crying out for help, say Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and some other champions of the proposal to institute automatic rollback elections when property tax revenues rise above a certain level.

Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2017

Patterson: If we mean to remove memorials of white supremacists that includes Lincoln

"In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country." All Americans would certainly agree with the statement above. In light of the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, maybe knowing who wrote it might help generate, if not agreement, some level of understanding. Sadly, the miscreant dirtbags who perpetrate violence are probably too far gone for that. The effort in Dallas to remove General Robert E. Lee's monument is among many similar efforts underway across Texas and the South. As a descendant of several Confederate veterans, and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I can support the removal of the Lee monument. It may surprise you to learn this.

New York Times - August 14, 2017

NYT: The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of

Let’s discard the fiction that President Trump wasn’t placating white supremacists by responding so weakly to the neo-Nazi violence that killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counterdemonstrator in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. The neo-Nazis heard his message loud and clear. “He didn’t attack us,” crowed The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, about Mr. Trump’s statement after the two days of racist demonstrations. “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” The police said a 20-year-old man, who participated in the long-planned protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, plowed his car into peaceful counterdemonstrators on Saturday, killing Ms. Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Think things will be rosy for Democrats in 2018? Not so fast.

President Trump’s approval rating is at 38 percent. His base is said to be eroding. Average approval of the Republican-controlled Congress is at 16 percent. And the president is at war with his party’s leaders. For Democrats, what’s not to like? The answer isn’t as obvious as it might sound. Trump and the Republicans have concluded one of the least productive first six months of a new presidency. No signature piece of legislation has reached the president’s desk, and the notable failure to enact a health-care bill stands as an indictment against both the president and GOP congressional leaders. That’s not to say Trump hasn’t had successes. On some fronts, particularly the regulatory rollback that he and Republicans have promised, the president has made progress.

Politico - August 13, 2017

Inside the Elizabeth Warren merchandising empire

Prayer candles. Action figures. Temporary tattoos. Coloring books. Elizabeth Warren isn’t just a progressive icon, she’s a merchandising industry unto herself. The Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect is at the center of a sprawling business built around her appeal to liberals across the country — a reminder of the unabashed devotion she inspires on the left and the footprint she’ll cast in the 2020 Democratic primary. "Elizabeth Warren is an increasingly popular brand that people want to associate with,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “She's the Apple of politics."

State Stories

Texas Tribune - August 13, 2017

Legislature advances annexation bill to Gov. Abbott

The Texas Senate advanced a municipal annexation bill to Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday, the fifth bill sent to the governor’s desk during the special legislative session that ends in three days. The measure’s author, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, moved to accept amendments made in the lower chamber – which passed the bill, with changes, on Friday. “Members, this is a great deal," Campbell said Sunday. "... It is a huge victory for property rights of Texans." The legislation allows Texans to vote on whether cities in large counties can annex areas outside of their limits — a contentious issue that prompted a filibuster from state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, in May.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Ramsey: Broken school finance system spawns wild solutions

Whether you feel sorry for them or not, Austin ISD property taxpayers will be sending $533 million of their local school taxes to the state for redistribution to poorer districts in the next school year. That means that about 35 percent of the local school taxes collected in that district are spent elsewhere — the biggest “recapture” rate in the state. And as far out as that might seem, it’s a sign that the state’s school finance system is working just the way state officials designed it to work. The state government puts up some money. The federal government puts up some money. Local school districts put up some money.

Texas Tribune - August 13, 2017

Texas House votes to extend life of maternal mortality task force

Legislation that would extend the life of a state task force studying Texas’ high maternal morbidity rates was tentatively approved by the Texas House late Sunday night. Under Senate Bill 17, the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity would continue its work until 2023. The task force, launched by the Legislature in 2013, found that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, mostly from heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure.

Texas Tribune - August 13, 2017

White nationalist rally at Texas A&M to feature Richard Spencer; counter protest planned

As the nation watched tension between white nationalists and counter protestors turn violent Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, worries began to emerge that the discord would come to a Texas college town next. Richard Spencer, an infamous white nationalist who brought major unrest to Texas A&M University once already, will be coming to College Station again, according to the man who brought him to the university the first time. This time, the event will take place on Sept. 11 at a "White Lives Matter Rally" hosted by Preston Wiginton, a Texan with deep ties to white nationalist movements.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Texas university leaders react to Charlottesville, prepare for A&M

Texas university presidents and student groups expressed solidarity with the University of Virginia this weekend as deadly violence rocked Charlottesville when white supremacists gathered in the city. Meanwhile, students and other university leaders are preparing for a rally that will hit closer to home: A former Texas A&M student announced on Saturday that he would host a White Lives Matter event in College Station on Sept. 11. So far, Texas A&M's president has not issued a statement on the weekend's events -- or on how the university would prepare for another visit by Richard Spencer, whose racist rhetoric brought protests and school-sponsored alternative programming in December.

Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2017

Potential HISD takeover has roots in widely supported 2015 state law

The news seemed to come out of nowhere this past week: If about a dozen Houston ISD schools don't improve by next year, the state will close campuses or take over the district's operations. Board trustees scrambled to defend their district in the aftermath of the state's warning, arguing that progress was already underway. District administrators pledged more resources for the failing campuses. Superintendent Richard Carranza, completing his first year, acknowledged that he only recently learned of the possibility of a state takeover and promised a "robust intervention program."

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

Falkenberg: In Mark White's death, a reminder that we're in this together

One of the most poignant moments of former Gov. Mark White's funeral came when it was over. After the gospel choir had sung its last hymn and the state troopers had carried away the Lone Star-emblazed coffin. Political dignitaries of different parties began filing out of the sanctuary at Houston's Second Baptist Church not as rivals but as fellow Texans. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott wheeled his chair alongside the family of his late predecessor, a Democrat.

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

'Dreamer' executive order faces uncertain future as it turns five

Damaris Gonzalez was anxiously waiting last week at an upscale Houston restaurant for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to arrive for a re-election fundraiser. Gonzalez was very nervous, as she later said in an interview. Surrounded by the same glassware and contemporary art pieces at Tony's restaurant that have enlivened banquets for U.S. presidents and political power brokers, the 32-year-old woman sought to confront Paxton with a crucial question. "Why do you want to deport me?" asked Gonzalez, who came to the U.S. as a 9-year-old with her parents and is now a so-called "dreamer."

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

Poker clubs strive to get foothold in Texas despite strict laws on gambling

Michael Eakman, a poker aficionado from a very young age, has hosted poker tournaments from around the country, but Texas gambling laws have long shut him out of his own state and his hometown of Houston. This year, however, he opened the city's first restricted membership-based poker club, joining several Texas entrepreneurs who believe they have found a way to circumvent those regulations and host everything from friendly poker games to competitive tournaments. Unlike traditional gambling houses, Mint Poker in southeast Houston does not take a share of any gambled money, referred to as raking the pot.

San Antonio Express News - August 12, 2017

Will Hurd strikes moderate tone in tour of massive congressional district

Rep. Will Hurd, the Texas member of Congress with perhaps the most to lose in next year’s midterm elections, wrapped up a seven-day, 20-town-hall tour of his sprawling district in Helotes on Saturday, trying to strike a tone of bipartisanship and moderation. Hurd’s 23rd Congressional District covers parts of 29 counties from San Antonio to El Paso and is considered the most competitive in the state. Speaking to constituents Saturday, Hurd sought to highlight his independence and his willingness to work with members of both parties. During appearances in Helotes and in Castroville, he broke with the administration on key issues: on Russia, “The Russians tried to influence our elections”; on climate change, “Man is having an impact on the environment”; and on the border wall, Hurd trotted out his tried and true line that the border can’t be secured with a wall “from sea to shining sea.”

San Antonio Express News - August 12, 2017

PolitiFact Texas: Abbott’s in the wrong about Jerry Jones stance

Says Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told players: “Stand for the Anthem or you’re off team.” — Greg Abbott on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in a tweet. Gov. Greg Abbott just celebrated what he described as an ultimatum from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to the team’s players: If you don’t stand for the national anthem, you’re gone. ... In a 2016 radio interview, Jones aired disappointment in Kaepernick not standing for the anthem. We spotted no confirmation of Jones telling Cowboys players to stand or be gone. We rate this claim FALSE — The statement is not accurate.

San Antonio Express News - August 10, 2017

Life in Transition, Part III: The legal hurdle

He arrived an hour early at the law office in downtown San Antonio, out of an abundance of caution and excitement. To get there, Joseph spent an hour and a half on city buses he found cumbersome and confusing, carrying with him a legal-size envelope containing his passport and other legal papers. During that time, the 24-year-old transgender man fielded a series of calls from his mother, who was more nervous than he was about what he was going to do that day. Sarah was still wrapping her head around the fact that her daughter had become her son, a radical and dangerous notion in the country they had left behind. But she was his mother, no matter what, and she loved him fiercely. After all, it was his safety and well-being that had brought them to Texas. And so after Joseph had left the squat, brick home, where they were live-in caretakers for terminal patients, and walked to the bus stop, she called him for updates.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

With three days left in Texas' special session, prospects bleak for much of Gov. Abbott's agenda

The climax of Texas' legislative special session has arrived. The Dallas Morning News' weekly political preview — The Look Ahead — has the inside scoop. With only three days remaining in the special legislative session, five of the 20 items on Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda have passed both the House and the Senate and have reached his desk. Abbott has signed bills keeping alive state agencies and combating mail-in ballot fraud. The other items — a bill increasing abortion complication reporting requirements, a measure banning abortion coverage in primary insurance plans and a bill requiring large cities to hold elections in areas before they annex them — await the governor's signature to become law.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Fluor Enterprises, Lane Construction on track to design, build Texas' proposed bullet train

Irving-based Fluor Enterprises and the Lane Construction Corp. have been chosen to operate the high-speed rail line that will carry travelers between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, developer Texas Central Partners said Monday. The announcement comes after more than three years of development by Texas Central, the private company behind the $12 billion-plus venture. The project will be backed by private investors and the company has pledged not to seek public money. The 240-mile high speed rail line would take travelers between the cities in less than 90 minutes, with trains departing every 30 minutes during peak periods.

Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2017

Bennett: Berkshire bid for Oncor is good for Texas business

North Texas power line utility Oncor may have finally found a suitor who understands Texas business concerns. Oncor has been embroiled in the bankruptcy proceedings of its parent, Energy Future Holdings, for several years. The Public Utility Commission of Texas has appropriately scrutinized two prior proposals to buy Oncor, the most valuable asset in the bankruptcy, and is now about to consider a third offer. The bankruptcy court handling the EFH pending bankruptcy will also have a say in who buys Oncor, a decision with tremendous impact for North Texas.

Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2017

Texas House, Senate play 'cat and mouse' on school funding, retirees' health care

exas lawmakers were negotiating late Sunday whether to add about a half-billion more for public schools, ease a looming hit to retired teachers' pocketbooks on health care and create a blue-ribbon panel to study school finance. With the clock ticking on a special legislative session, the Senate's top budget writer and chief education policy writer said they're willing to raise their chamber's offer on school funding -- $311 million over two years. But Flower Mound Sen. Jane Nelson and Friendswood Sen. Larry Taylor, both Republicans, said House Speaker Joe Straus and his allies should expect not a half a loaf -- something closer to one-third.

Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2017

Bill restricting insurance coverage of abortions goes to Gov. Abbott

The Senate on Sunday advanced to Gov. Greg Abbott a bill prohibiting insurance coverage for abortions in private plans, insurance offered to state workers and coverage purchased under the Affordable Care Act, unless the mother’s life is in danger. House Bill 214, which passed the Senate 20-10, would still allow women to purchase supplemental coverage of the procedure, if available. Democrats on Saturday tried unsucessfully to add amendments to make exceptions to the bill, including allowing coverage in instances of rape and incest. They said that the bill would make it difficult for low-income women to pay for the procedure.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

First Reading: No sweat if Gov. Abbott falls shy of special session Shangri-La. The base is chill with Shangri-Lite.

Late last week, in an update on the progress of Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-item agenda as the special session entered its final days, I wrote about the governor’s “attempts to establish Texas as a kind of Shangri-La of conservative ideals and governance.” The allusion to the mystical, mythical heaven on Earth, was intended as a playful reference to the unlikely streak of utopianism that the governor revealed in my interview with him about his special session agenda the previous Friday. “That’s why I said … if we’re going to have a special session I’m going to make it count, and almost to a point of certainty, I can tell you that in 10 days we are going to have a Texas that I consider to be far better, more conservative, that will continue the Texas model for conservative governance.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2017

Tree bill in trouble; annexation bill sent to Abbott

Legislation to limit city tree ordinances ran into a potentially fatal problem and House Republicans scrambled to overcome trouble for the long-sought conservative goal of capping state spending as the Legislature, entering the final sprint of the special session, worked into the night again Sunday. Several of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities were primed to advance, including a bill prohibiting insurance plans from paying for abortions and another requiring voter approval when large cities and counties raise property taxes above a certain level — 6 percent in the House version, 4 percent in the Senate, a disagreement expected to require a conference committee to resolve.

Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2017

Ross: Dan Patrick says cities ruin America. Come see Georgetown

Many people liken Georgetown to the town of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Some even say we’re home to the “Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.” I doubt when folks stand in downtown Georgetown they say to themselves, “You know what? This is what’s wrong with our country.” That’s why I take great offense to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blaming cities for “all our problems in America.” For many years, the city of Georgetown has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing cities in United States. We are perennially ranked as one of the top places to retire in the country. We are repeatedly awarded for our outstanding financial management and innovative governance. People who choose to live in Georgetown expect this trend to continue.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

Garza: Hyped-up border plan comes at the expense of South Texas

It looks to be construction season in South Texas. Along this stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, 31 miles of wall may soon be going up, and companies are wading through the final paperwork for building liquefied natural gas export terminals in the Port of Brownsville. At first glance, these two major projects may not seem to be related beyond dominating local news and promising dramatic results in either the region’s security or economy. Yet, both of these projects will affect the Valley’s economic, landowner and environmental interests — and locals concerns have been largely given short shrift.

Austin American-Statesman - August 12, 2017

Adler: Resist lawmakers’ distractions from broken property tax system

Property tax bills are going up way too much in Austin — but there’s a lot of confusion as to why. Get ready to be surprised. The city of Austin has the lowest property tax rate among Texas’ largest cities — by a wide margin. Ours is 45 cents per $100 of home property value. Next closest are San Antonio at 56 cents and Houston at 59 cents, followed by Dallas at 79 cents and Fort Worth at 84 cents. But wait! If the city of Austin’s property tax rate is so low, why are property taxes going up so much? In fact, the owner of a median-value Austin home will be paying $1,484 more next year than just four years ago.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

Texas governor won’t say whom he blocks from public Twitter account

In June, the American-Statesman sent public records requests to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, among other Austin- and Texas-based politicians, asking for lists of whom they block from following their public, taxpayer-funded Twitter accounts. The governor, citing public safety concerns, said, no. His fear: Russian hackers. Lawyers for each office said they are asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to rule that the information is exempt from required public disclosure. Both argue that divulging the names of the blocked accounts constitute “a computer network vulnerability report.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

CPS veteran Kay Love forged agency through five decades of social work

When Kay Love began her career in social work, she was the youngest among her colleagues. Now, 50 years later, she’s said to be the wisest. Love, 76, has spent nearly 48 of those years in Texas Child Protective Services as a program specialist, developing policy and practices since before there were any. After a half-century in state government, Love was honored for her dedication and service in a ceremony at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offices Friday.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

Fort Worth company’s protest delays border wall prototypes

President Donald Trump is determined to build the border wall. Fort Worth construction company owner Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga wants to build it. But after he was rejected as a bidder, the Texan has thrown up his own barrier, filing a protest that has stopped, for now, the government’s rush to get wall prototypes built. It’s the latest glitch in the halting effort to make good on the president’s signature campaign issue. And plans to build the wall in environmentally sensitive areas in the Rio Grande Valley have spurred activists to organize a rally Saturday in Mission, the first large-scale protest of the wall on the border.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

Wear: Why lawmakers haven’t killed Austin’s ban on phoning while driving

You might be wondering what happened with that proposed bill to undo the phoning-while-driving bans in Austin and about 40 other Texas cities. Well, let me educate you on what has happened since the Senate-approved bill moved to the House chamber a couple of weeks ago. Nothing. Well, almost nothing. And what that means is that, absent another special session call by Gov. Greg Abbott, Austin’s law (which basically bans all use of a hand-held phone behind the wheel) and its kin almost certainly will remain in place.

KUT - August 11, 2017

Science On Oil And Gas Link To Texas Quakes 'Uncertain,' New State Seismologist Says

The science on whether there's a link between oil and gas activity and a surge in earthquakes in Texas isn't clear-cut, says the new seismologist for the agency that regulates the industry here. In an interview with KUT, Aaron Velasco, a professor at the University of Texas El Paso, said he’s excited to influence policy in his new role at the Railroad Commission of Texas – and advise on an earthquake-monitoring system called TexNet. “That’s one of the things that attracted me about doing this, is to use my expertise and to be able to contribute what I can to the state of Texas,” he said.

Associated Press - August 13, 2017

Insurance restrictions for abortion head to Texas governor

Texas lawmakers have sent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott a bill that would restrict insurance coverage for abortion and makes no exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Abbott is expected to sign the measure that was given final approval by the Senate on Sunday night. It requires women to purchase extra insurance to cover abortion except amid medical emergencies. Ten other states already have laws restricting insurance coverage of abortion in private insurance plans. Republican supporters say Texas policyholders who object to abortion shouldn't help pay for insurance coverage for women undergoing the procedure.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - August 12, 2017

Leeson: Mark White and the political courage to lose

Once the numbers started rolling in, and he knew he’d lost, and why he’d lost, Mark White pulled his old chief of staff aside. “You know we did the right thing. We don’t need to apologize for helping school-age children in this state,” the outgoing Texas governor told Pike Powers. “We’re going keep working with other people to get more things done.” The cause of his defeat, the thing for which there would be no apology, was House Bill 72.

CNN - August 13, 2017

17 undocumented immigrants discovered inside a truck in Texas

Seventeen undocumented immigrants were discovered on Sunday locked inside a tractor-trailer parked at a truck stop in Edinburg, Texas, according to Edinburg Police Chief David White. Dispatch received a call from someone in Mexico who reported that a relative was trapped inside a trailer parked at a Flying J Travel Plaza, said White. Edinburg is in southern Texas, along the US-Mexico border. The caller said the relative was accompanied by other immigrants and that it was getting too hot inside the trailer, said White.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 13, 2017

Annual report card gives Galveston Bay a ‘C’

Rapid, near-unabated development is eating away at what remains of the Houston area’s freshwater wetlands, habitat crucial to maintaining a healthy Galveston Bay watershed, leaders of two nonprofit agencies said as part of a “report card” on the bay’s health. The loss of freshwater wetlands was one of the biggest takeaways of the report released last week. It’s the third year the bay has been graded by the environmental advocacy group Galveston Bay Foundation and the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonpartisan research group. The groups graded the overall health of the Galveston Bay watershed — including not only the bay, but the multitude of bayous, creeks and rivers that drain into it in eight counties surrounding Houston — as a “C,” or “adequate for now.”

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

Is Houston missing the next energy wave?

In the basement of an engineering building at the University of Houston, Daniel Araya flips a giant switch and air whooshes through a tunnel, spinning a basket-like gadget that turns on a vertical axis. This unconventional wind turbine with curving blades is designed for urban rooftops, able to generate electricity from shifting winds and turbulence caused by tall buildings. Think of it as wind power's answer to rooftop solar. Araya, 31, began working on turbines as a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. When he completed his Ph.D. in 2015, he said, he decided to bring his research to UH for one main reason: "Houston is known as being the energy capital of the world," he says. But Houston is in danger of losing that distinction, as the world shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy technologies. For all its dominance in oil and gas, and all the brain power devoted to getting more from out of the ground and under the sea, Houston has very few young companies incubating new technologies and very few large ones that conduct clean energy research here.

San Antonio Express News - August 13, 2017

Ozone violation again on the table after EPA walks back delay

The Environmental Protection Agency just did an about-face on a federal ozone standard. Two months ago, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency would extend an October deadline for deciding which U.S. cities do not meet limits on ozone. The EPA now says it will make that decision by Oct. 1, according to Thursday’s Federal Register. That means San Antonio is again at risk of being found not in compliance with a 2015 ozone standard. The city is the largest in Texas and among the largest in the U.S. whose air meets all federal standards.

San Antonio Express News - August 12, 2017

Dueling San Antonio protesters clash with each other, police over Confederate monument

One person was arrested Saturday afternoon and a second detained during competing rallies about the Confederate statue in Travis Park that brought over 300 people downtown. The rallies, which were by turns peaceful, joyous, tense and confrontational, came on the same day of a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead and dozens more injured after a car plowed into the demonstrators and two more deaths when a police helicopter crashed. San Antonio police charged Michael Murphy, 20, who was advocating for removal of the monument downtown, with misdemeanor assault. The second person was not charged, said Sgt. Jesse Salame, a police spokesman.

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

Houston vigil held to support Charlottesville victims

A few hundred people stood at the foot of Houston City Hall to support Bellaire graduate Natalie Romero and the other Charlottesville victims and to denounce the hatred expressed during that rally near the University of Virginia. Many carried signs, a few reading "Houston loves diversity," "White silence = white consent" and "True patriotism fights hate." The organizers handed out miniature American flags, red roses and candles. The crowd was emotional, many tearing up, especially when an organizer led a chant of Heather Heyer's name and when Romero's mother spoke.

Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2017

Did Dallas' Robert Jeffress, a Trump faith adviser, decry Virginia violence more forcefully than the president?

As President Donald Trump takes a tongue lashing for not calling out white supremacists directly in his speech condemning the violence in Virginia, his faith advisers are issuing their own statements -- some blunt, some as vague as the president's. Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress tweeted a request to pray for Charlottesville, where a massive gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with counterprotesters and a driver plowed into a crowd protesting the racist rally Saturday. The leader of First Baptist Dallas went on: "Let there be no misunderstanding. Racism is sin. Period."

Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2017

North Texans gather in solidarity after deadly rally in Charlottesville

Across North Texas on Sunday night people gathered in a show of support following the deadly clash Saturday between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Virginia. In Southlake, about 100 people gathered at the Southlake Town Center and sang "This Little Light of Mine." Dozens also gathered at the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy in Dallas. The crowd planned to light a candle at 9 p.m. in memory of Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday when a car plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville. Several others were injured, including a Houston woman.

Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2017

More than 100 gather in Austin, hold vigil for Charlottesville

More than 100 people gathered at Wooldridge Square Park near the Travis County Courthouse on Saturday to support those who were killed or injured as they protested against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Nathan Simmons, who spoke at the vigil and said he was of Jewish and Chinese decent, called for those against white supremacy to stand together in the face of hate. “A divided left is a winning right,” he said. “We have to stop these Nazis. They will kill us, and they have.” Martha Mercado, member of Democratic Socialists of America and Counter Balance: ATX, became emotional when speaking to the crowd.

National Stories

Associated Press - August 13, 2017

Democratic attorneys escalate legal fight against Trump

The Trump resistance movement cheered when Democratic attorneys general in several states sued to block the president's plan to bar travelers from some Muslim majority countries. But with far less fanfare in the months since, an emboldened coalition of Democratic state attorneys general has unleashed a torrent of lower-profile litigation they argue is necessary to protect public health, the environment and consumers from a Republican White House. State attorneys from Massachusetts to New York to California, often working together, have brought more than 40 legal actions against the Trump administration over the last seven months.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Associated Press - August 13, 2017

Pace: Why won't Donald Trump condemn white nationalism?

Why doesn't President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists? It's a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it's also one made unavoidable by Trump's delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump has faced such a moment before — one that would have certainly drawn swift, almost predictable condemnations from his recent predecessors, regardless of party. As a candidate and now as president, when racial tensions flared or fringe groups rallied around his message, Trump has shown uncharacteristic caution and a reluctance to distance himself from the hate.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Politico - August 13, 2017

Trump aides predicting 'brutal' September

Inside President Donald Trump’s White House, no one seems to be looking forward to September. Senior officials have described the coming month as "brutal," “bad” or “really tough” because of the confluence of complicated issues — but they also say it’s pivotal to getting the presidency back on course. Aides hope to have a better blueprint for how the president wants to proceed on a series of thorny issues — the nation’s debt ceiling, the 2018 federal budget, tax reform, infrastructure spending and perhaps another stab at repealing Obamacare — after a series of meetings in New York this week.

New York Times - August 12, 2017

Katznelson: Making Affirmative Action White Again

Jeff Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee 20 years ago that affirmative action irritated people (he meant white people) because it could cause them to lose opportunities “simply because of their race.” This sense of grievance lies behind the Justice Department’s recent memo seeking lawyers to investigate “race-based discrimination” in college admissions. It also implies that all that stands between hard-working whites and success are undeserving minorities who are doled out benefits, including seats at good schools, by reckless government agents. In fact, today’s socioeconomic order has been significantly shaped by federally backed affirmative action for whites.

New York Times - August 12, 2017

Stay, Hide or Leave? Hard Choices for Immigrants in the Heartland

HAMPTON, Iowa — It was quitting time. Edith Rivera took one last lunch order, dropped off a basket of tortilla chips and set off from work, heading out to the farm roads where other immigrants feared to drive. Like them, Ms. Rivera, 33, had no legal status in the country where she had lived for 18 years. She had no driver’s license, apart from the long-expired North Carolina identification she held safe, like a talisman, in her wallet. But as she skimmed past the northern Iowa cornfields on her way to her son Steven’s seventh-grade track meet, she did not share other immigrants’ fears. Not of being pulled over. Not of raids or deportation. Not of the man in the White House. Not of the new Franklin County sheriff’s quest to make sure this rapidly diversifying community of hog barns and egg farms would never again be known as an immigrant sanctuary. Her American journey was waning, and she had little left to lose.

NBC News - August 12, 2017

Trump White House to look into China's trade practices

President Trump plans to get tougher on trade with China. On Monday, Trump is expected to direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into alleged Chinese violations of U.S. trade, including forced intellectual property transfers and patent thefts, according to senior administration officials who spoke Saturday. Trump informed Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday night of the upcoming memorandum, a senior administration official told CNN Friday. The move, which is not yet an official investigation, could lay the groundwork for one. Lighthizer will recommend whether an official investigation into trade practices is warranted.

The Hill - August 13, 2017

CIA director: 'No intelligence' to suggest US on cusp of nuclear war

CIA Director Mike Pompeo in an interview Sunday said he has seen “no intelligence” suggesting that the United States is on the brink of a nuclear war with North Korea. “I’ve seen no intelligence to indicate that we’re in that place today,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday." “This administration has made our policy very clear. We’ve engaged the world to support that policy,” Pompeo told host Chris Wallace.

The Hill - August 12, 2017

Trump expected to roll back LGBT protections in ObamaCare

The Trump administration appears poised to roll back ObamaCare’s anti-discrimination protections for transgender patients, a move that has activist groups girding for a fight. A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to be released in the coming weeks or months that opponents say would make it easier for doctors and hospitals to deny treatment to transgender patients and women who have had abortions. The proposed rule is expected to roll back a controversial anti-discrimination provision buried within ObamaCare.

The Hill - August 13, 2017

Trump's Democratic tax dilemma

President Trump and GOP leaders in Congress could face a challenge in winning support from Senate Democrats for a tax cut package this fall. On paper, taxes looks like the kind of issue that could be perfect for dividing and conquering Democrats — who are a little more than a year away from an election in which they will be defending three times as many Senate seats as the GOP, many of them in red states. Tax cuts are historically popular, and Democrats backed former President George W. Bush’s tax-cut package in 2001.

Politico - August 12, 2017

News outlets aim to bolster polling amid charges of 'fake news'

Most of the headlines about CNN’s new public-opinion poll this week focused on President Donald Trump’s 38 percent approval rating. But there was also this: After a 2016 election in which most of the data underestimated Trump’s chances, CNN has a new pollster. ... The switch comes at a perilous moment for both the media and the polling industry. Attacked by the president as “fake news” for results he disagrees with, pollsters and the news organizations they work with inspire little confidence from the public. A Marist-McClatchy poll — yes, a poll about polling — back in March found that only 7 percent of Americans have a great deal of trust in polls, and just 29 percent said they have a good amount of trust in polls. A combined majority said they don’t have very much trust in polls (39 percent) or don’t trust them at all (22 percent).

Wall St. Journal - August 13, 2017

Trump Chips Away at Postcrisis Wall Street Rules

Efforts toward financial deregulation are beginning to take concrete shape on rules governing trading desks, bank boardrooms, corporations’ financial disclosures and more. Just over six months into the Trump administration, regulators are setting the stage for a wave of eased rules. Several agencies are reviewing the Volcker rule, a part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that limits banks’ trading. Some regulators also recently dropped a plan to restrict bonuses on Wall Street that had been opposed by banks and brokerage firms. And the Labor Department on Wednesday disclosed an 18-month delay in the so-called fiduciary rule that requires brokers to act in clients’ best interests when they handle retirement accounts.

Wall St. Journal - August 13, 2017

What U.S. Wants From Nafta Talks

President Donald Trump’s trade team this week will begin the complicated task of rewriting the sprawling North American Free Trade Agreement, the 23-year-old pact he has branded a “disaster” for U.S. factory workers. The negotiators’ challenge: finding a way to address workers’ concerns while keeping the promise to “do no harm” to the large number of industries and communities that have benefited. The negotiations with Mexico and Canada, starting Wednesday in Washington, mark Mr. Trump’s first concrete attempt to translate his strong protectionist campaign rhetoric into policy. Early signs have been largely reassuring to business leaders and trade partners, who have worried that the president’s demands would uproot rules that are by now embedded in the continent’s commercial ecosystem.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Half a million chat about end-of-life plans on Medicare's dime, and why that’s a good thing

The 90-year-old woman in the San Diego-area nursing home was quite clear, Dr. Karl Steinberg said. She didn’t want aggressive measures to prolong her life. If her heart stopped, she didn’t want CPR. But when Steinberg, a palliative care physician, relayed those wishes to the woman’s daughter, the younger woman would have none of it. “She said, ‘I don’t agree with that. My mom is confused,’” Steinberg recalled. “I said, ‘Let’s talk about it.’” Instead of arguing, Steinberg used an increasingly popular tool to resolve the impasse last month. He brought mother and daughter together for an advance-care planning session, an end-of-life consultation that’s now being paid for by Medicare.

Washington Post - August 13, 2017

Suspect in Va. death was a Nazi sympathizer, teacher says

A man accused of plowing a car into a crowd of activists here — killing one person and injuring 19 — long sympathized with Nazi views and had stood with a group of white supremacists hours before Saturday’s bloody crash. The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who traveled to Virginia from Ohio, had espoused extremist ideals at least since high school, according to Derek Weimer, a history teacher. Weimer said he taught Fields during his junior and senior years at Randall K. Cooper High School in Kentucky. For a class called “America’s Modern Wars,” Fields wrote a deeply researched paper about the Nazi military during World War II, Weimer recalled.

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2017

How long can the U.S. keep hackers at bay and the lights on?

After it came to light this summer that hackers had infiltrated the computer networks of two U.S. power companies - at a time the country was still reeling from Russian cyberattacks aimed at influencing the 2016 election - the possibility of hackers taking down the U.S. power grid and sending the nation into chaos suddenly seemed a very real possibility. The companies pledged there was no danger. Senators called hearings and wrote letters to the White House demanding to know what it was doing about it. But to the teams of cybersecurity analysts charged with protecting the world's industries from a rapidly evolving deluge of malware, viruses and other tools of the hacker trade, it was just the latest in an escalating cyberwar against power grids and other critical infrastructure around the globe.

Politico - August 13, 2017

Venezuelan leader may have launched Rubio assassination plot

As Marco Rubio helped ratchet up U.S. pressure on Venezuela, a top politician believed to control that country’s security forces began actively discussing a plot to kill the Florida senator last month and may have wanted to use Mexican nationals for the assassination plot, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo sent to state and local law enforcement. The alleged threats from the Venezuelan politician, Diosdado Cabello Rondon, were not specific and weren’t corroborated by enough sources to merit a detailed explanation, according to the memo, but the situation was worrying enough to prompt Capitol Police and law enforcement in Miami-Dade County to provide security for Rubio.

Politico - August 13, 2017

Clapper: Denuclearized North Korea isn't 'in the cards'

James Clapper, a former director of national intelligence, said Sunday that he does not think a denuclearized North Korea is “in the cards” and the U.S. should accept that and focus on controlling it. “Ideally, I love a denuclearized North Korea, but as I learned when I went there and had some pretty intense dialogue with them, that is a nonstarter with them,” Clapper, who served under former President Barack Obama, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That is their ticket to survival, and I don't see any way they're going to give it up.”

Washington Times - August 13, 2017

Chicago still leads nation in homicides; violent crime on rise in other big cities

Violent crime is on the rise this year in some of the country’s biggest cities, according to statistics, which find Chicago still leads as the deadliest city while homicide cases have spiked in Baltimore and New Orleans. The 62 police departments that provided data for the Major Cities Chiefs Association’s midyear crime survey reported 3,081 homicides in the first six months of the year, an increase of 3 percent over the same time last year. The departments recorded nearly 4,000 more aggravated assaults this year than at the same period in 2016, though reports of other violent crime — including rape, robbery and nonfatal shootings — remained about even.

New York Times - August 14, 2017

North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say

North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies. The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Trump fires back after the CEO of Merck resigned from his manufacturing council

The chief executive of Merck said Monday in a tweet that he was resigning from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council, saying he was doing so “as CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience” and that “America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” In the statement, Kenneth C. Frazier, one of the few African American CEOs in the Fortune 500, said, “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism” and touted the power of diversity. “Our country's strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.”

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Even Trump supporters say trade is good for the U.S., new survey shows

Even though politicians as disparate as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders deride free trade these days, a record number of Americans say international trade is good for the United States, according to a new poll by a nonpartisan think tank. When Americans are asked about specific trading partners and trade agreements, however, opinions start to become more negative and partisan divides loom, the survey shows. The poll, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual survey of more than 2,000 adults around the country in late June and early July, comes as the United States prepares for talks this week to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The pact, which President Trump memorably called the worst trade deal in history, covers nearly 30 percent of U.S. exports and 14 million jobs.

Politico - August 14, 2017

The GOP’s Civil War Over Trump

In between threatening nuclear war with North Korea and musing about unspecified military action against Venezuela, President Trump last week took aim at a third, perhaps even more surprising, target in a barrage of tweets and intemperate golf-course press availabilities: the Senate majority leader of his own party. Why would a president whose legislative agenda is so dependent on Senate Republicans bash Mitch McConnell in terms he usually reserves for more predictable enemies like the “fake news” media and Kim Jong Un? Can the Republican Party survive a president who came to office convinced that bashing his own team’s powerbrokers was just as much a reason for his victory as his attacks on the Democrats?