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Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - August 27, 2014

Local Debt Climbs as Texas Cities Deal With Growth

Eight years ago, officials with the city of Jarrell decided their small community north of Austin needed a new wastewater system. They expected an influx of new residents and businesses to support some debt to pay for the project. “That was about the time the market crashed,” City Manager Mel Yantis said. “Building basically rolled to a stop.” As of 2013, Jarrell’s $10.3 million debt works out to $9,928 for each of the community’s 1,035 residents. It is one of the highest per-capita debt loads among Texas cities, which mostly have debt loads of less than $1,000 per resident.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling says he’s not interested in running for House Speaker

Jeb Hensarling on Tuesday said he’s not planning to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. “There’s an election coming this November and that’s the one I’m focused on,” Hensarling told and audience at a Dallas Regional Chamber luncheon. Last week it was revealed that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, dropped Hensarling’s name as a possible candidate for House Speaker during an interview with Time magazine.

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Washington Post - August 26, 2014

Republicans think they are headed to a big victory this fall. Does that matter?

More than six in ten Republican registered voters expect their side to do better than Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections while just one in three Democrats think their side is positioned to do better this fall. That's according to new polling released Tuesday afternoon by the Pew Research Center. Yes, Republicans are much more convinced that they are headed for a win on Nov. 4 than are Democrats. But, Republicans were also convinced that they were going to beat President Obama in 2012. And that didn't work out so well. So, do expectations -- high or not -- matter? The answer is they can -- especially in a midterm election.

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San Antonio Express News - August 26, 2014

Closing arguments heard in redistricting case

Lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department and minority groups said in closing arguments in federal court Tuesday that state lawmakers illegally targeted Latino and African-American voters when redrawing congressional districts in 2011. Meanwhile, lawyers for the Texas attorney general reiterated their claims that the 2011 redistricting was the product of political concerns — incumbent protection and attempting to secure Republican seats in the GOP-led Legislature — not intentional discrimination. However, the state's attorney making its closing arguments in defense of the Legislature's congressional redistricting plan, came under heavy questioning from the federal three-judge panel hearing the case, with most of the questions asked by the two judges appointed by Republican presidents.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Patrick, Van de Putte grill education chief over state testing

In a rare moment of agreement Tuesday, Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte took a break from wrangling over debate dates and policy disagreements to grill education officials on the continued feasibility of state testing methods. During a four-hour meeting of the Senate Committee on Education, Chairman Patrick and his Democratic opponent in the lieutenant governor's race expressed a shared disquiet with Texas' current testing system. The most heated exchanges came between lawmakers and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams, who addressed the panel on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests. Annual testing is required of 3rd- through 8th-graders under STAAR, first implemented in the 2011-2012 school year, with high-schoolers required to pass five end-of-course exams to graduate.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Falkenberg: Whitmire describes how UH chancellor backed down

He's prickly. He's irreverent. He's belligerent when riled. He listens like a freight train. He's John Whitmire, Texas' longest-serving senator. Those of us who know the Houston Democrat, or have covered him, or have felt like reaching out for popcorn during one of his committee meetings as he theatrically cut some arrogant bureaucrat down to size, are not surprised by much he does or says. We weren't shocked by his recent text exchange with University of Houston Chancellor and President Renu Khator in which he played the pit bull and she the chew toy.

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Corpus Christi Caller Times - August 26, 2014

Oil and gas boom may be long-term, brings challenges

Lawmakers got an update on the tremendous growth, economic sway and ensuing problematic issues of the oil and gas industry in Texas, with one industry advocate saying the industry could keep humming as it has been for the next 25 years. Yet a Democratic lawmaker and the advocate warned of the volatile nature of the industry as employment growth in the field is slowing and the price of oil has been unusually stable lately. Oil and gas lobbyist James LeBas said the state has more than 400,000 oil and gas jobs, which pay an average of $120,000 a year — triple the pay average statewide.

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Politico - August 26, 2014

Steve Schmidt joins Rick Perry's legal team

Republican strategist and former John McCain consultant Steve Schmidt has joined the team helping Texas Gov. Rick Perry with the strategy around his indictment, POLITICO has learned. Schmidt is the latest addition to a team that Perry has been expanding with legal hands. The Republican governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has been indicted for allegedly abusing his power by vetoing funding to the office of a Democratic prosecutor who wouldn’t resign after a drunken driving arrest.

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Center for Public Integrity - August 26, 2014

Democrats embrace 'McCutcheon' decision

Senate Democrats have embraced a new big-money fundraising vehicle — after repeatedly blasting the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it possible — that could help candidates, state parties and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tap wealthy donors for even more cash. The new “jumbo” joint fundraising committee, dubbed the Grassroots Victory Project 2014, marks the Democrats’ first foray into the territory opened up in April after the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

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Washington Post - August 26, 2014

Sullivan: Meet Rick Perry: The fashion-forward governor who really digs nice weather

I spent two days in New Hampshire last week watching Rick Perry mug for the camera in front a spit-roasting pig, rally conservative activists to vote in November, crack wise with business leaders about poaching a local manufacturing facility and somberly address veterans in the hometown of slain photojournalist James Foley. Here's what I learned from following the Texas Republican governor: 1. He really wants to run for president again. Like, really. He says hasn't decided whether he will, but you could just sense he badly wants another chance. He relished the glad-handing and picture-taking, never once seeming impatient. He detailed a hawkish foreign policy like someone itching to be commander-in-chief. He promised to come back in October to help Republicans win in November -- a surefire way to win influential friends.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - August 26, 2014

Perry: To deter grousing, state won't pay lawyers

Indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that he believes taxpayers should have picked up his legal tab but opted to use campaign funds "to keep from having folks grouse about it." The possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate told reporters in Midland that he had considered it appropriate for state funds to pay his legal fees because a criminal investigation dealt with his official duties as governor. Perry has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of abuse of power. At least $80,000 in taxpayer dollars have been spent on his defense so far. Perry said Tuesday that he hadn't yet decided if that money would also come from his campaign funds.

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New York Times - August 26, 2014

Texas v. Perry Emerges From Years of Struggle Over Anticorruption Unit

The trail to Rick Perry’s indictment began with way too many drinks and a drunken-driving arrest for Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County district attorney, that was captured in embarrassing detail on videotape. But the conflict between Republicans who control state government and the Democratic district attorney’s office has been playing out for years, forming a complicated back story to the unfolding legal drama known as the State of Texas v. James Richard “Rick” Perry.

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Politico - August 26, 2014

An Infinite DeLay: The case that should keep Rick Perry up at night.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A nationally known Texas politician gets indicted. His mug shot makes the rounds. And a chorus of otherwise critical voices buck conventional wisdom and scream that he’s getting a raw deal. It happened earlier this month, of course, when Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on two counts. Perry had made good on a threat to zero out the funding of a state investigative office run by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who had refused Perry and others’ call to resign after being arrested for drunk driving. Rushing to the governor’s side were a motley crew of unlikely defenders, including Alan Dershowitz, David Axelrod and the editorial board of the New York Times, who wrote that Perry, though he was one of the “least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America,” was nevertheless a victim of “overzealous prosecution.”

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

HC: Playing to the base

Listening to Gov. Rick Perry muse about the possibility that Islamic terrorists could be slinking into the United States from Mexico is to listen to a man who's not serious about border issues. Of course, any Republican candidate negotiating the mine fields otherwise known as GOP primaries has trouble being serious about anything beyond stoking the party base. Still, we expect more from a long-serving Texas governor, someone who presumably knows more about complex border issues than most other elected officials. How refreshing it would be to hear a candidate speak thoughtfully, candidly and with an open mind about the border and immigration issues instead of resorting to tired, old obstructionism and demagoguery. Unfortunately, the latter was the governor's choice at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., last week.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

Ginn: Bolster the Texas model to sustain prosperity

Texas is the land of opportunity. The Texas Legislature would be wise to enhance the Texas model promoting individual liberty and economic prosperity by advancing pro-growth reforms next session. Citizens residing along the eastern portion of the southern border between Mexico and the U.S have historically considered this area unique. The Texians believed this after winning independence from Mexico, becoming the Republic of Texas in 1836. The Texans understood this when the U.S. annexed this area, making Texas the 28th state in 1845.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

Bridges: Texas lawmakers have to face music on school funding

As teachers and parents filled the state Capitol in 2011 to fight unprecedented education cuts, a reporter asked why we kept on when the odds seemed stacked against us. Our answer was simple: The kids are worth it. Support for their education is not only a moral imperative and economic necessity — in Texas, it is a constitutional mandate. This week, as teachers and students begin a new school year, our kids’ cause could receive powerful reinforcement in state district court in Austin.

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Houston Chronicle - August 27, 2014

Poll: Perry favorability up among Iowa Republicans amid indictment

A new poll suggests the indictment against Gov. Rick Perry isn’t hurting his standing among Republican primary voters in the presidential testing ground of Iowa. In fact, it may be doing the exact opposite. Perry’s net favorability rating in the Hawkeye State has gone up 7 percentage points since May, according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey conducted about a week after a Travis County grand jury indicted the governor on charges he abused his power. The Democratic-leaning PPP, which shared the poll early with the Chronicle, found 59 percent viewed Perry favorably this month and 15 percent saw him unfavorably. Those numbers split 53-16 three months ago.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Creighton sworn in as Texas’ newest senator

State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, was sworn in as Texas’ newest state senator on Tuesday by Gov. Rick Perry, who extolled his strong conservative credentials. “I can think of no one who has been a greater warrior” for conservative principles and the U.S. Constitution than the 44-year-old Republican attorney and developer who fills the Senate District 4 seat vacated by Tommy Williams, Perry told the crowd after being introduced by a Conroe pastor as “our governor and the next president of the United States.” Creighton, who earlier this month defeated a GOP colleague, state Rep. Steve Toth, becomes the latest strong conservative Republican to be elected to the 31-member Texas Senate, a trend that is expected to make the upper chamber much more conservative and, perhaps, partisan in the legislative session that starts in January.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

Dallas Fed: Texas service sector kept rolling in August

Sales at Texas retailers rose at a slightly slower pace in August, but the state’s broader service sector kept up the pace of its rapid expansion and spurred more hiring, according to a monthly report released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The state revenue index, a key measure of activity at private service-providing firms, held essentially steady with a reading of 21.0 in August, just a tick lower than the 21.5 reading in July, according to the Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

TxDOT shelves rules allowing taller billboards

Texas highway officials are shelving a proposal to increase the permissible height for roadside billboards in suburban and rural areas, citing conflicting facts and a deluge of public criticism. The Texas Transportation Commission, meeting in Dallas Thursday, will consider changes to the state's roadway sign rules. Absent from the proposals is a previously released increase in the maximum height of a billboard from 42.5 feet to 65 feet.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Rick Perry's National Guard deployment under way at border

Texas National Guard troops were seen Tuesday in Border Patrol vehicles and observation towers in the Rio Grande Valley, the first sign that Gov. Rick Perry's controversial and much-anticipated deployment is underway. State and Guard officials were tight-lipped Tuesday about the deployment and wouldn't say how many troops are on the ground, where they are stationed or what they are doing. Citing security reasons, Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, the Texas Guard spokeswoman, said it would be "inappropriate" to even share when the deployment began. Troops in the field were seen Tuesday carrying side arms. MacGregor said "the soldiers will be armed for self-defense purposes while on duty."

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Janek accuses Xerox of “reckless” misuse of Medicaid data

Texas Medicaid officials, already in a legal battle with Xerox Corp. over the company’s alleged failure to prevent widespread dental fraud, filed another lawsuit Tuesday accusing Xerox of improperly taking large quantities of medical records and not protecting patients’ confidentiality. The state Health and Human Services Commission said it filed a lawsuit in state district court in Austin seeking return of the patient data. The commission said it also has filed a notice with federal officials that Xerox “is now out of compliance” with privacy rules under the 1996 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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Texas Observer - August 26, 2014

Dewhurst says ‘Someone’s Going to Get Hurt’ in Border Surge

In October 2012, game wardens with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department gave chase to a red pickup truck near La Joya in the Rio Grande Valley, believing the truck was carrying a load of drugs beneath a tarp over the bed. The game wardens called DPS for backup, and soon a DPS helicopter joined the high-speed chase. As the truck sped along near the U.S.-Mexico border, DPS trooper Miguel Avila opened fire on the truck, killing two young Guatemalan men and injuring a third huddling underneath the tarp with six other undocumented immigrants. None of the men were armed and no drugs were found in the truck. The incident provoked international outrage and led DPS to revise its shoot-from-a-helicopter policy.

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Texas Observer - August 25, 2014

A Desire Named Streetcar

On July 28, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro raised his right hand and was sworn in as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That same day, back in the Alamo City, one of Castro’s signature programs, the “Modern Streetcar” project, was going off the rails, undone by the very leaders who’d once backed it. A couple hours after Castro’s swearing-in, the new interim mayor, Ivy Taylor, stepped out of a City Council executive session and announced the controversial streetcar project was effectively dead. Things were quickly changing in this new Julian Castro-free San Antonio. “Castro leaving killed the streetcar but it also opened the floodgates to some crazy politics that is going to impact San Antonio for some time,” said Henry Flores, a political science research professor at St. Mary’s University.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings deliberating on whether to run for a second term

Mike Rawlings has started the process of determining whether he wants a second term as Dallas mayor. Days removed from hip replacement surgery, Rawlings told me that he’s had one extensive conversation with his wife. He’s also talked to his business partners. Now he’s going through some of his projects and initiatives before taking the next month or two to make a final decision. “I have some thinking to do in September and October,” Rawlings said before sitting down for a Dallas Chamber luncheon.

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Texas Tribune - August 26, 2014

Davis Releases Full Tax Return

The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Tuesday publicly released her full 2013 tax return, four days after giving copies to the media with the stipulation that the document couldn't be shared with anyone or published in full. The decision came as The Texas Tribune was preparing to publish a story about Davis' limited release. The tax filing lists Davis’ adjusted gross income for 2013 at $249,754 and shows she paid $70,252 in income taxes. Davis brought in $120,000 from her work as an attorney, down from the $275,000 she made the previous year. And she reported earning an additional $132,000 for a book deal. The upcoming memoir, titled Forgetting to be Afraid, is set to be published in September.

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Texas Tribune - August 26, 2014

Education Commissioner: "The System Needs to Catch Up"

Pressed to explain why the state had delayed a transition away from lower passing standards on state exams, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams told state lawmakers Tuesday that classroom instruction in the state had failed to meet the rigor demanded by the new tests. "I’m not going to say it’s blame, but I am going to say that it is a function of instruction not rising to the level to provide that kind of learning to get to that place," he said at a Senate Education Committee hearing. "We have moved the bar significantly higher than it has ever been, and the system needs time to catch up."

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San Antonio Express News - August 26, 2014

Gallagher: Time to ban driving with hand-held devices

Again and again, all of us see drivers distracted by cell phones or other hand-held electronic devices, dangerous behavior that has resulted in numerous deaths and injuries on streets and highways. More than 90,000 crashes have been linked to distracted driving, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The National Highway Safety Administration concludes that a driver talking on a cell phone is 30 percent more likely to crash. The risk increases when sending a text as it takes a driver's eyes and hands away from the task of driving long enough to travel the length of a football field, a deadly time of distraction that endangers not only the driver but also the passengers and others on the roadways.

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Texas Tribune - August 27, 2014

Ramsey: Despite Calendar, Campaigns Take a Back Seat

The summer is coming to an end. The kids are back in school. And the political ads have started appearing around the TV shows frequented by viewers who are suspected of also being voters. We have arrived at that time of the election year when the big candidates start presenting their pitches to voters, the time when the political class expands — or hopes to expand — to include people who vote in November but do not pay attention to every single little thing that happens in politics between elections.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Senators grill education commissioner over low STAAR passing standards

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams came under fire from members of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday over his decision to retain low passing standards on state achievement tests for the fourth year in a row. Some committee members suggested that social promotion of many students would result from the commissioner’s decision, while others said Williams retreated from an earlier plan to gradually raise passing standards on the STAAR as has been done in previous testing programs.

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Texas Tribune - August 27, 2014

Guard's Arrival on Border Brings Reassurance, Concerns

MISSION — This week at Anzalduas Park, which sits on the banks of the Rio Grande, a Texas Department of Public Safety boat patrolled the calm waters just feet away from the Mexican side of the river. Families picnicked near a parked school bus and listened to Spanish-language radio, not paying attention to the seven-person patrol as it powered through the water in a vessel with machine gun turrets. At the park, where U.S. Border Patrol officers and local sheriff’s deputies are also a common sight, Hidalgo County Constable Lazaro Gallardo Jr. said the recent arrival of hundreds of National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border would add to the overwhelming police presence. He said the troops might temporarily slow illegal traffic across the border but that he wouldn’t be surprised if the traffic began to surge again. Smugglers can only wait so long before they are pressured to make more money, he said.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

Coalition calls for school funding reform, says Austin is singled out

Austin homeowners and businesses will pay $175.5 million in school property taxes this year that will go toward funding districts elsewhere in Texas. It’s more than the taxpayers from any other district in the state are expected to share under the so-called Robin Hood school funding plan, and it puts an unfair burden on Austin’s schools, says a coalition of local lawmakers, business leaders and school officials. The group gathered in the district’s board room Tuesday night to advocate for a reduction in Austin’s payment, saying the current share-the-wealth requirements penalize students here.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

PolitiFact Texas: Greg Abbott celebrates growth in women-owned businesses in Texas, overlooks meaningful details

A reasonable estimate shows the described growth rate in Texas was nearly double the national rate from 2007 into 2013. Then again, Abbott’s trumpeting of Texas under Republicans versus the country under Obama also pokes at the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, which the Abbott email didn’t acknowledge. Also, the implied message that women-owned businesses are booming ignores that most women-owned firms remain extremely small and don’t generate huge revenues. We rate this statement Half True.

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San Antonio Express News - August 26, 2014

South Texas cities have some of the deadliest diets in America

Four of the 11 metro areas with the most dangerous diets in the country are in Texas. Based on six factors such as income, food availability and education, El Paso, Corpus Christi, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission and Port Arthur-Beaumont have some of the most deadly diets in the country, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Each of the cities have an obesity rate of more than 29 percent. San Antonio, which did not crack the top 11 cities for most dangerous diets, has an obesity rate of 31.1. By comparison, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area has an obesity rate of 38.3 percent, according to Gallup.

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San Antonio Express News - August 26, 2014

Wendy Davis slams Abbott as she proposes higher ed initiatives

State Sen. Wendy Davis slammed her opponent for governor as she proposed a higher education plan Tuesday that includes helping students to afford college and putting a spotlight on technical jobs. Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat running against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, couched her proposal in the “insider” criticism against Abbott that's the consistent theme of her campaign. “This election will determine whether we have a governor who fights for all of our sons and daughters, or whether insiders in Austin will continue to hold our kids back,” Davis said at a news conference at Palo Alto College.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Lawmakers hope to fund monitors for quakes in North Texas fracking areas

Lawmakers said Monday that they’re looking for money to add seismic monitors in areas with oil and gas production, following concerns about a series of earthquakes that rattled North Texas last winter. For now, at least, it’s just a pipe dream. The Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production, doesn’t have any plans in the works for more monitors or for permit surcharges to oil and gas operators. That irks some Fort Worth-area residents and environmentalists who say regulators aren’t moving quick enough to address the issue. They contend that the state’s most lucrative industry should be picking up the tab.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Schnurman: Texas powers down

In Texas, growth often seems like a birthright. Jobs, population and gross domestic product keep climbing strong, but one key measure is slowing: electricity use. It peaked in 2011, when the summer was blazing. Texas’ booming economy hasn’t been enough to jolt the market much since. This follows a national trend, with residents and companies using less electricity than in the past. For decades, electricity demand tracked the growth in employment and GDP, but those measures have been separating in recent years.

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National Law Review - August 26, 2014

Texas Court of Appeals Holds There is No Right Under The Administrative Procedure Act to Seek Judicial Review of a State Agency's Denial of a Petition for Rulemaking

A group of individuals filed a petition with TCEQ requesting that it adopt rules aimed at limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels in Texas. TCEQ considered the petition at a public meeting but later denied the petition and issued a written order, listing several independent reasons for denying the petition. The group of individuals filed suit against TCEQ, seeking judicial review of the decision based on provisions in the Texas Water Code. In response, TCEQ filed a plea to the jurisdiction arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction to review TCEQ’s decisions because such a review was barred by sovereign immunity and section 5.351 of the Texas Water Code does not provide a waiver of sovereign immunity for suits challenging a denial of a petition for rulemaking.

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WOAI - August 26, 2014

State Considering Fracking Curbs

The State of Texas, which has seen its economy boom due to hydraulic fracturing, is considering placing new restrictions on the oil extraction process known as fracking, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports. The concerns are being led by north Texas residents who are concerned about a flurry of earthquakes in their area, and are afraid there is a connection to fracking. Dr. Craig Peterson, a seismologist hired by the Texas Railroad Commission, told the Commission that the real problem isn't the horizontal fracking itself, but it is the disposal of water and fracking chemicals in so called 'injection wells' that is leading to the earthquakes.

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County Stories

Dallas Observer - August 26, 2014

Dallas Pays More for Electricity than Austin or San Antonio. Thanks, Deregulation.

There exist, floating around the Internet and stuffed into the filing cabinets of public-interest watchdogs, an trove of eminently credible reports and white papers explaining in painstaking detail why and how Texas' decade-old experiment with electricity deregulation has failed. But there's an easier way to show how the free market has screwed over the state's electricity-using humans: compare rates in the small number of Texas cities (Austin, San Antonio, San Marcos) that own their electric utility and thus weren't directly affected by deregulation with rates in the large number of cities (Dallas and pretty much everyone else) that were.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Emmett proposes Dome become 'world's largest indoor park'

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Tuesday proposed turning the Astrodome into "the world's largest indoor park" and recreation area, a concept he said would preserve a taxpayer-funded asset and honor the reason his predecessor built the iconic stadium nearly 50 years ago: "To provide a place for traditional outdoor activities in a climate-controlled space, a space like none other in the world." "Rather than try to convert the Dome into something it was never intended to be, I think it's time to look back to the vision of Judge (Roy) Hofheinz," Emmett told reporters at a news conference on the floor of the world's first domed stadium, which has sat vacant for five years and not housed a sports team since the Astros left for their new downtown park after the 1999 season.

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Dallas Morning News - August 27, 2014

John Wiley Price federal trial date moved to January 2016

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn moved the trial date of Dallas County commissioner John Wiley Price and his three co-defendants to Jan. 19, 2016 from September of this year. Price, his chief of staff Dapheny Fain and two consultants, Kathy Nealy and Christian Campbell were named in a 12-count indictment last month that alleged bribery, mail fraud and tax evasion. They all pleaded not guilty and were released on a personal appearance bond. Price has said he will not resign.

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McAllen Monitor - August 26, 2014

UT-RGV medical building breaks ground

A spirit of unity and nods to history marked the celebration of the latest milestone in the creation of the Rio Grande Valley’s medical school Tuesday: a groundbreaking ceremony for a medical education building on the University of Texas-Pan American campus. Construction on the site — which will house classrooms and lab space for medical students at UT-Rio Grande Valley — began July 1. The building is scheduled to be completed by December 2015, and will open in the spring of 2016, UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said.

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Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

Cantrell, Jenkins lash out over bid to oust John Wiley Price

A colleague’s effort to oust Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price failed Tuesday without discussion or a vote. But it prompted an angry exchange between two Commissioners Court members, one of whom said the other was acting like a “scumbag.” In dueling news conferences after the commissioners’ weekly meeting, Commissioner Mike Cantrell and County Judge Clay Jenkins provided the court’s most intense and most acrimonious public discussion of Price since he was indicted last month. The rancor started when Cantrell, the only Republican commissioner, read a resolution seeking the temporary removal of Price. It was met with silence from the other commissioners. Jenkins banged his gavel and declared Cantrell’s resolution dead.

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San Antonio Express News - August 26, 2014

George P. Bush stumps in S.A.

With a name that pulls on the heartstrings of Bexar County Republicans, George P. Bush campaigned for land commissioner in the Alamo City on Tuesday, pledging to help the GOP woo more young and Hispanic voters. Bush met with Republican supporters on the North and South sides, making his first campaign appearances here since January. As he often does in campaign speeches, he provided updates on his famous relatives, referred to Ronald Reagan, spoke about national GOP objectives and gave a few highlights about his vision for the General Land Office.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 26, 2014

DMN: Why Dallas police shootings aren’t prompting protests

Two weeks, five police shootings in Dallas. Considering the heightened racial tensions across the nation prompted by the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., why no big protests here? A mix of factors is at play. The Dallas shootings have been spread out geographically; four of the five incidents involved armed individuals. Two were active shooters. Two were potential hostage situations. The public had little reason to question the police reaction. Maintaining open lines of communication is key to that understanding. Dallas Police Chief David Brown has pledged to keep the public informed after police shootings. Ferguson police failed miserably on that score.

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Austin American Statesman - August 26, 2014

Herman: Why Austin’s texting while driving ban won’t affect pedestrians

Looks like we’re headed for an expanded Austin ordinance disconnecting us from our beloved cellphones while driving. Somehow life will go on. In fact, it might go on longer for some people if this law hits the books. Council action is possible Thursday on the law requiring hands-free devices in order to use cellphones for pretty much any purpose while driving. As proposed, and after some back and forth, the ordinance would cover drivers and bicyclists but not pedestrians.

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National Stories

Associated Press - August 27, 2014

4 Kochs took genes, money in different directions

They are an outsized force in modern American politics, the best-known brand of the big money era, yet still something of a mystery to those who cash their checks. Meet the Koch brothers. (Pronounced like the cola.) Perhaps the first thing you need to know is that there are four of them. Charles is the steady, driven one. He's grounded in the Kansas soil of their birth. David is his outgoing younger brother. He's a New Yorker now and pronounces himself forever changed by a near-death experience.

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This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle


Washington Post - August 26, 2014

Braumoeller: The curious case of America’s failing diplomacy

President Obama’s political opponents, and some of his allies, are becoming increasingly vocal about his perceived failings in foreign policy, from Syria to Iraq to Ukraine. The president’s response – that there are limits to American power –has not swayed critics, who see it as a cop-out. It is easy to see why the president’s critics are upset. Having achieved a number of major foreign policy goals in the last quarter-century — the eastward expansion of NATO, the decapitation of al Qaeda, the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the democratization, however tenuous, of Iraq — we now face difficulties that are less daunting but somehow harder to achieve. Far from representing a failure in diplomacy, however, this is precisely the outcome we should expect.

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Politico - August 26, 2014

Joe Biden's secret fundraisers

Vice President Joe Biden has been crisscrossing the country attending closed-door fundraisers and donor events for Democratic House candidates — but you won’t find many on his schedule. In Seattle, Biden worked a photo line at Boeing Field before taking off on Air Force Two. In New York, Biden hit up donors at a hotel in lower Manhattan after addressing the Goldman Sachs energy conference. After a speech in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom, Biden slipped off to a separate room to meet with campaign donors. None of these side events were on the official public schedule — and they came with strict rules from Biden’s office for the elite group of participants: No emails. No Facebook or Twitter posts, before or after. Phone is best, they tell everyone involved. Nothing written at all — that would complicate security and require approval from the White House.

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Houston Chronicle - August 26, 2014

Christians save on health care by joining ministries that share the costs

very month, Nikki Bratton and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, contribute $400 toward someone else's medical expenses in lieu of paying for insurance coverage for themselves and their seven children. Since joining the Peoria, Ill.-based Samaritan Ministries in 2007, the family also has benefited from others, even receiving $35,000 to pay for Stephen Bratton's surgery for kidney cancer. As cash payers, the Brattons negotiated a nearly 46 percent discount for the operation, originally priced at $65,000. There were no pre-authorizations or disputes with insurers over coverage.

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The Hill - August 26, 2014

Ted Cruz supports ALS research that 'respects human life'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last week in support of a research institution that does not use embryonic stem cells. Cruz posted on his Facebook page Tuesday that he and his wife personally support the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which conducts groundbreaking research into a cure for the disease "without using embryonic stem cells" and that "respects human life." The ALS Association, however, is the nonprofit most linked with the viral challenge that urges those nominated to pour a bucket of ice water on their head or donate money to fight ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. In most cases, people do both. The group has raised more than $88 million in the past month.

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Washington Post - August 26, 2014

Bad VA service can be improved, but broken trust is much harder to fix

Mistakes can be corrected. Bad service can be improved. Broken trust, however, can be difficult to fix. President Obama is trying to rebuild confidence in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), where trust has been severely eroded by the coverup of long wait times for care. In a speech to the American Legion convention in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday he used the word “trust” at least a half dozen times. Of course it will take more than words to overcome suspicions left by the ma­nipu­la­tion of waiting lists — pushed by productivity goals employees could not meet. The resulting scandal led to the resignation of the VA secretary, disciplinary action against others and an agency’s reputation in tatters.

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Austin American Statesman - August 24, 2014

PolitiFact: Barack Obama says Congress was going on 'vacation,' on eve of his own vacation

Obama said Congress is on "vacation." Hypocrisy aside -- Obama was about to go on vacation himself just a week later -- he’s stretching it on the terminology. During Congress’ August recess -- mandated by a 1970 law -- lawmakers aren’t debating matters on the floor of the House or Senate. But even if they take some dog days off, the recess isn’t a no-work vacation. Lawmakers continue to attend to their districts by holding town halls and other meetings, and many also campaign. On balance, we rate Obama’s claim the same as Perry’s -- Mostly False.

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The Hill - August 26, 2014

Dems use Gore to fundraise on climate

Former Vice President Al Gore lent his name to a fundraising email Tuesday as Democrats looked to rally support for their climate change agenda. Gore applauded President Obama’s efforts, including his proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants. “In June, President Obama empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon pollution, a move which will help reduce dangerous CO2 from power plants by 30 percent in 2030,” Gore wrote in the email to Democratic supporters. “On top of that, he has established new fuel economy standards that reduce CO2 levels and will save us all money at the pump.”

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Newsweek - August 26, 2014

Man-Made Earthquakes Are Proliferating, but We Won’t Admit Fault

f you jabbed at the center of a map of Oklahoma, your finger might land on Jones City, population 2,500. “Just a little piece of Americana,” as Lewis Moore, the state representative for the area, calls it—Main Street has a firehouse, a pharmacy and a Sonic Drive-In, and beyond downtown are vast, flat fields of pasture. Jones City also happens to be at the epicenter of an unprecedented spate of earthquakes. From 1978 until 2008, Oklahoma averaged only two earthquakes over magnitude 3.0 per year; midway through 2014, the state has already registered 230 quakes of that strength, easily surpassing California as the most earthquake-prone state in the country. These quakes seem to be induced by a step in the hydraulic fracturing process—the disposal of vast volumes of salty, chemical-laced wastewater by injecting it deep into the ground. Texas, Arkansas and Ohio have also recently seen spikes in earthquakes in the vicinity of wastewater injection wells.

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Newsweek - August 26, 2014

Scott: Fracking Taxes Help States Now, But What About The Future?

As bad as the federal budget picture looked during the Great Recession, the fiscal climate in the states was worse. The federal government used stimulus spending to prevent many states from having to make sharp cuts in services because of steep declines in sales, income, and corporate tax revenues. However, the state fiscal picture is looking much better. For the third year in a row, state tax revenues increased, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. While things might be looking up for states, there are causes for concern because much of the increase in some states is driven by energy taxation, related to a boom in the fracking industry that won’t last forever.

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Copyright August 27, 2014, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved