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Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News - March 1, 2015

Third-party forces lining up behind Perry

Rick Perry’s face has flashed on television screens across the country since late 2013, in ads bolstering his business bona fides, preaching the gospel of Red State governors and jabbing at President Barack Obama. Not a single penny for the ads has come from Perry or his political action committee to help the former Texas governor and prospective presidential candidate develop a national audience. Instead, they were paid for by third-party forces linked to Perry and his nascent 2016 presidential push called Americans for Economic Freedom, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.

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Dallas Morning News - March 1, 2015

Texas GOP looks to cut influence of heavily Democratic Travis County's judges

Texas Republicans are moving to stamp out Democratic challenges to their policies, particularly in the legal realm. Some GOP leaders want to strip heavily Democratic Travis County of an anti-corruption unit that has pursued high-profile Republicans such as Tom DeLay and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Gov. Greg Abbott and freshman Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas seek to rein in big-city local governments that they say are imposing “nanny state” rules. And two GOP lawmakers have introduced measures that would deny Travis County judges their usual first crack at deciding multibillion-dollar lawsuits over school finance and politically fraught battles over redistricting.

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San Antonio Express News - March 1, 2015

Fikac: Republican rains on tax-cut parade

As state lawmakers clamber aboard the tax-cut bandwagon, one Republican is raining on the parade that has been so enthusiastically arranged by his party’s leaders. Sen. Kevin Eltife points out repeatedly, publicly and with rhetorical flair that the state has a list of long-neglected problems whose solutions would mean more to Texans than even a couple of hundred more dollars in their pockets from tax relief. His position puts him at odds with Republicans and some Democrats who are championing big tax reductions. They say there’s enough money in these relatively flush times to both meet state needs and cut taxes by billions of dollars.

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Politico - March 2, 2015

Club for Growth plots role as 2016 kingmaker

The Club for Growth couldn’t find a presidential candidate to love in 2008 and 2012. But 2016 may be different. For the first time since forming in 1999, the right’s leading tax- and budget-cutting activist group could marshal their significant supply-sider cred and donor network behind a White House hopeful — if only it can pick a candidate. In a sign of how the GOP has moved rightward in the post-George W. Bush era, even some of the establishment candidates line up relatively well with the Club, which became well known for bucking entrenched party interests and working to defeat incumbent Republicans.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 1, 2015

Wilhelm: Gay-marriage debate shows why government has no business in such matters

Two women grace the cover of the latest Texas Monthly. Both are young and conservatively dressed and wear worried half-smiles. One is pregnant; the other holds a toddler, his face buried in her shoulder. Legos litter the ground beneath their feet. The headline: “Modern Family.” “Cleo and Nicole are a devoted couple,” the cover text declares. “They dote on their son. They have a baby girl on the way. So why won’t Texas let them get married?” Texas, of course, has a constitutional ban on gay marriage. But in a few months, that might not make much of a difference. In June, as USA Today recently put it, the U.S. Supreme Court “will resolve the national debate over same-sex marriage once and for all.”

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - March 1, 2015

FWST: Early learning on fast track in Austin

Early-childhood education has become one of the favored causes in the beginning weeks of the legislative session in Austin, and for good reason. “The literacy and mathematics skills children learn in pre-kindergarten through third grade form the foundation for their futures, both in school and in life,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in the budget he submitted to lawmakers Feb. 17. “Our primary goal should be to ensure all Texas students perform at grade level by the third grade in reading and math.” His points are consistent with his positions in last year’s election campaign. Now the Legislature must follow through with the right programs — and enough funding to give them a real chance to work.

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Houston Chronicle - March 1, 2015

GOP senators pledge help if court bars health law subsidies

Three leading Republican senators are promising to help millions of people who may lose federal health insurance subsidies if the Supreme Court invalidates a pillar of President Barack Obama's health care law. But in a Washington Post opinion article posted online late Sunday, GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah provide no detail on how much assistance they would propose, its duration or how they would pay for it. Nor do they address how they would overcome GOP divisions or Democratic opposition to weakening the law. The article appeared days before Wednesday's oral arguments in a case brought by conservatives and Republicans that could upend the functioning of the 2010 health care law by invalidating the subsidies that help millions afford required health coverage. A decision is expected in June.

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Austin American Statesman - March 1, 2015

Federal judge in Waco investigated after sexual abuse allegations

A federal judge in Central Texas is being investigated after a lawyer filed a complaint alleging the judge engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a deputy court clerk more than 15 years ago. A retired judge and a Dallas attorney have been selected by a special judicial committee to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. They have contacted at least five former employees who worked at the Waco federal courthouse with Smith. The investigation began after Dallas-area attorney Ty Clevenger filed a judicial complaint in September in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The complaint alleges the judge “engaged in abusive sexual contact” with a deputy court clerk in 1998 in his chambers.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - March 1, 2015

FWST: Defining a secure border

Texas legislators talk so often about securing the border it’s almost a cliché. So is it too much to expect they have a clear sense of what “border security” looks like? Turns out, it is. At a state Senate Budget Committee hearing last Monday, lawmakers inquired how exactly the $815 million allocated for border security efforts in the upper chamber’s biennial budget proposal would be spent. Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said those details were “intentionally” omitted “to leave it up to the committee’s discretion how we want to do that.”

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San Antonio Express News - March 1, 2015

Texas law piling work on school counselors — lots of it.

Counselors’ roles as academic advisers, emotional healers and situational referees have long been viewed as critical to student success. But their Texas numbers have shrunk in recent years — even as their workload mushroomed with the 2013 passage of House Bill 5. That bipartisan legislation overhauled the state’s school accountability system and revamped high school graduation requirements. It drew praise for giving students more options and flexibility and sharply decreasing the number of tests they must pass. But few noticed it had an unfunded mandate: starting in the eighth grade, counselors now must help students navigate more graduation options, track their progress and get their parents to sign off on their choices.

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Dallas Morning News - February 27, 2015

Jones: Should this test block a high school student’s future?

Our editorial board is discussing whether to back Sen. Kel Seliger’s bill (SB 149) to create an alternative pathway to a diploma for students who can’t get past the end-of-course exams. I like the bill and think it’s needed. That’s based on the view that the STAAR is an imperfect measure of learning and that there needs to be a safety valve for motivated kids who have passed all their courses and want to go on with their lives. Better jobs and further education hang in the balance for tens of thousands of them in the class of 2015. This is the first class for whom STAAR is the final arbiter. A better arbiter would be the special panel of educators that the bill would allow for each eligible senior.

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Austin American Statesman - March 1, 2015

Lt. Eickmann, USAF, Rear Adm. Neil Morisett: Texas’ energy innovation helps secure a safer future

There aren’t many big global security challenges that you know about decades in advance. It’s even less often that the warnings you receive are verifiable and rooted in scientific evidence. But with global climate change, that’s exactly what we have. That’s the view both from the Pentagon and from the British Ministry of Defense. As the former commander of the Air Force’s Aeronautical Systems Center, now at the University of Texas; and as the former commander of U.K. Maritime Forces with the Royal Navy, we have each seen firsthand how the risks of climate change — sea level rise, drought, extreme weather — affect military operations and national security around the world.

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Texas Tribune - March 1, 2015

Feinberg, Sanborn: Let schools, not the travel industry, set start dates

The Texas Legislature will delve into education this session, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Issues like school finance, investment in pre-kindergarten and high school counseling are already grabbing headlines. As the co-founder of KIPP and the head of Children at Risk, we’re especially interested in one hot debate that’s beginning to boil at the Capitol: local control over school calendars. Many Texas public school parents may be surprised to learn that the travel and tourism industry exerts more influence over school calendars than educators and school boards. Today’s school calendars are mainly determined by what’s most profitable for water parks, cruise ship operators and other parts of the travel industry. While these businesses are important to the Texas economy, they shouldn’t have the power to determine when students learn, and for how long.

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Dallas Morning News - March 1, 2015

Drumm: It’s time for Texas to plan for an inevitable future

Texas will be among the states hardest-hit by climate change, according to projections from the Risky Business Project, a group of business and policy leaders co-chaired by Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson and Tom Steyer. Extreme heat is expected to take a high toll in human lives and on worker productivity, agricultural yields and electricity system performance. According to the National Climate Assessment, we are also expected to experience longer dry spells punctuated by heavy precipitation events and flooding. Dallas and other North Texas cities are taking important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the mitigation side of the climate coin. But we haven’t focused much on the flip side of that coin: Creating a region that can recover from extreme weather events and adapt to the change that has now become unavoidable.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - March 1, 2015

Failing Marci: Investigation raises questions about care and oversight for disabled woman

Second in a two-part series on Marci Garvin, a 39-year-old woman whose life was inspiring and death marked by misery: In the days before her death in March 2013, Marci Garvin received two visitors. Mona Patel, a service coordinator with MHMR of Tarrant County, found the severely disabled woman lying on a sofa, reportedly recovering from the flu, during her Feb. 27, 2013 visit. “She was covered up with a blanket and was lying on a pillow. Her hair covered her ear. I could only see her forehead to her chin of her face,” Patel told investigators. “When I said hello to her she did lift her head up and she went back to sleep.”

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Dallas Morning News - February 28, 2015

Experts looking for middle ground in earthquake-fracking debate

Since earthquakes began rattling North Texas in 2008, some residents have reacted with anger and others with a shrug. In Irving, where on Friday a magnitude 3.1 earthquake hit, one of nearly 50 since April, some residents have called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, which creates large volumes of wastewater that companies inject deep into the ground. Scientists have linked injection wells to two of the four earthquake clusters that have shaken the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Dallas Morning News - March 1, 2015

Water tug-of-war has Central Texans fearing they’ll be sucked dry

Landowners in small-town Central Texas call it a “water grab,” an exploitation of state rules that would cart away millions of gallons a day and destroy the economic viability of their community. “When you can’t flush your toilet, do your laundry, cook, get a drink of water, life comes to a standstill,” said Dan Pickens. His home in the Rolling Oaks subdivision is less than a mile from a project that aims to pull more than 5 million gallons of water a day for nearby suburbs. “People’s life savings are tied up into their homes, and what’s a home worth without water?” Water developers say the plan is a needed — and perfectly legal — way to quench the thirst of future residents in the fast-growing suburbs that are a part of the state’s economic boom.

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Dallas Morning News - March 1, 2015

Anti-toll bills take aim at bureaucracy in Texas transportation

Two bills that North Texas lawmakers hope will one day wean the state off its reliance on toll roads aim to remove bureaucracy between voters and transportation decision-makers. The legislation highlights how most of the transportation planning that shapes how Texas and its cities grow is made not by elected leaders, but appointed officials. “There’s no reason for the bureaucrats, if you will, to really engage the citizens because they’re really not accountable to them,” said Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. “Their salaries aren’t and their careers aren’t.” Sanford and Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, have each filed bills that would require county commissioners courts to sign off on toll projects in their jurisdictions.

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NPR - February 27, 2015

Looking for a Silver Lining in Falling Oil Prices in Texas

And highway-friendly tourist destinations might want to expect more guests this year. Texas’s state parks registered 1,740,000 visitors between September and November 2014, when gas prices were starting to fall, nearly 200,000 more than the same period the year before. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) says the price of gas is just one variable among many that affects park attendance, which is complicated by the state of the economy. All the same, Rob McCorkle of the department suggests that if you are going to take advantage of low gas prices and hit the road, visit Palo Duro Canyon, which he calls “a true gem.” Located in the Panhandle, the park is far from the state’s population centers, but a cheaper opportunity to drive there hasn’t been around for a while.

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Houston Chronicle - February 27, 2015

State finally releases data on crude oil trains in Texas

Millions of gallons of extraordinarily volatile crude oil from the Bakken formation of North Dakota travel through 30 Texas counties in an average week, state officials disclosed Friday, after fighting for months to withhold data on the booming use of rail to transport oil. The largest volumes - between two and six million gallons a week - travel through Harris County, home of much of the nation's refining capacity. Other counties with volumes in the millions of gallons include Grimes, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Austin, Washington, Burleson and Montgomery. The Texas Department of Public Safety released the figures in response to requests made under the state open records law by news organizations including the Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle sought the information as part of an inquiry into safety procedures in Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - February 26, 2015

U.S. Commerce Department: Texas set a record for exports in 2014

Texas business exported a record $289 billion in merchandise last year, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Texas petroleum and coal products led the way with $59 billion in exports, followed by computer and electronic products with $46.6 billion. Texas exports supported over a million jobs last year. Texas’ booming trade is part of a broader national trend. Exports have increased in every state annually since 2009.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - February 27, 2015

King: Frack bans are big government in action

We’ve heard a lot about hydraulic fracking in North Texas, especially after Denton banned the process. As many legal experts attest, that ban runs afoul of state law and puts local taxpayers on the hook for legal bills as the city defends itself in court. But there’s a more fundamental problem with local fracking bans. They threaten something all Texans cherish: private property rights. Before drilling, energy companies must identify the individuals who own the subsurface rights, known as mineral owners. The companies and mineral owners enter into a private contract to develop the property. Mineral owners typically receive a royalty payment based upon production.

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Dallas Business Journal - February 27, 2015

Texas AG opinion barring use of reinvestment zones to fund roads draws flak

El Paso Democrat Rep. Joe Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, expressed disappointment Friday with Attorney General Ken Paxton's opinion that closed the door on counties using reinvestment zones to fund additional transportation options in Texas counties bearing the brunt of oil and gas production. The option would have put one more tool in the hand of counties, and the bulk of the burden on the energy industry, to pay for additional roads. Reinvestment zones typically pull incremental increases in ad valorem taxes brought by new industry or redevelopment to provide additional services. Cities use the tool to aid development, and Houston has taken advantage of the program more than other metropolitan areas of the city.

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Texas Lawyer - February 27, 2015

5th Circuit Takes Case Away From Judge Lynn Hughes

In an extremely rare move, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has removed a case from U.S. District Lynn Hughes' docket after the Houston federal court judge declined to rule the way the appellate court wanted in a case involving Shell Exploration. The recent decision in United States v. Shell Exploration involves a qui tam False Claims Act (FCA) action brought by two individuals against Shell alleging that the company had failed to pay the U.S. government at least $19 million in oil royalties. The government declined to intervene in the case. In 2012, the Fifth Circuit reversed Hughes after he issued a summary judgment for Shell dismissing the plaintiffs' case. The appellate court concluded in a case of first impression that the FCA did not prohibit government employees from filing qui tam actions. The appellate court also concluded in that decision that Hughes erred in dismissing the case by using an overly broad standard of "public disclosure." The FCA bars prosecution of cases based on publicly disclosed allegations.

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KUHF - March 1, 2015

Federal Reserve Bank Of Dallas: Oil Price Drop To Cost Texas About 140,000 Jobs

The price of a barrel of crude oil has fallen by more than 50 percent since last June. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas developed a model to look at the impact on jobs. It predicts the lower prices will translate to a 1.2 percent drop in Texas employment, which equals about 140,000 jobs. “So this would be mining jobs, finance, real estate, legal,"says Jesse Thompson, a business economist at the Dallas Fed’s Houston branch. "This would encompass the entire spectrum of employment impacts as a result of the price declines.” Houston will fare worse than the state on average. But it won’t do as badly as areas closer to the oil fields in South and West Texas.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - February 28, 2015

Bill would allow property owners to sue over drilling ordinances

The latest bill to be filed after Denton banned hydraulic fracturing would make cities that adopt restrictive drilling regulations pay mineral owners for their loss of property. State Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, filed legislation last week that he says would set up a mechanism allowing a qualified group of property owners with a state-issued drilling permit to seek payment if they believe that ordinances make it impossible to profit from the oil or gas underneath their land. “Taking someone’s property without paying for it is wrong. You can’t take people’s property without compensation,” Taylor said. A city can implement any ban it wants and set any distance regulations it like, but should just be prepared to compensate for it, Taylor said.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - February 28, 2015

Trains carrying Bakken crude pass through Fort Worth, records show

As many as four trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota pass through the Fort Worth area each week on their way to the Gulf Coast, according to documents filed with the state by BNSF Railway. The Texas Department of Public Safety released information about crude oil trains crossing the state on Friday after the attorney general’s office last week dismissed one railroad’s arguments for keeping them confidential. The documents show that Fort Worth-based BNSF and Kansas City Southern, based in Kansas City, Mo., operate trains carrying 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil through Texas.

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San Antonio Express News - February 28, 2015

Hammond: Repealing Texas DREAM Act shortsighted

There is an image of President Kennedy holding his daughter that says, “It’s okay to dream.” Fourteen years ago, Texas enacted the DREAM Act (HB 1403), recognizing that the chance to succeed applies to all who live within this great state. Now there is a movement to modify or do away with it altogether. The simple fact is, without the Texas DREAM Act, the dream of a college education will be destroyed for the children of undocumented workers in the state of Texas. Passed with bipartisan support and signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001, HB 1403 allows all graduating Texas high school students, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible for in-state resident tuition.

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USA Today - March 1, 2015

U. of Texas fraternity goes unpunished for 'border patrol' party

The University of Texas at Austin’s Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity — commonly referred to as Fiji – attracted attention from UT students and others after hosting a “border patrol” themed party Feb. 7. Guests reportedly arrived wearing sombreros, ponchos and construction gear. Fiji president Andrew Campbell says the party was intended to have a Western or Old West theme. He admits “there were elements and dress that were insensitive and inappropriate. We understand why people were and are offended.”

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Austin American Statesman - March 1, 2015

Upping adult criminal age to 18 may be Texas non-starter

Jason Wang and Johnny Truong were part of a gang that dressed as utility workers and held a suburban Dallas homeowner at gunpoint, making off with $68,000 in cash, electronics and jewelry before they were eventually caught. Although both were minors, the law treated them very differently because Wang was 15 and Truong was 17, setting their adult lives on very different courses. Wang went to a juvenile lockup, where he took classes that eventually helped him earn a college scholarship. Truong went to prison, where little effort was spent on trying to turn his life around.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 26, 2015

Indecision has not stopped the angling for Garcia's job

The race to replace Adrian Garcia as Harris County sheriff requires winning over only three voters but has been vigorously waged months before the job has even been declared for the taking - if it will be at all. County officials are preparing for Garcia to resign as sheriff, which he is required to do under the Texas Constitution if he chooses to run for mayor of Houston, as he is expected to do. The county attorney's office last month circulated a memo to Harris County Commissioners Court detailing how the process for appointing a Garcia successor to serve to the end of 2016, the remainder of the sheriff's term.

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Austin American Statesman - March 1, 2015

Yes, Austin, Loop 1 could become part of a loop

Some of you folks newer to town — OK, most of you — may wonder why this paper refers to that freeway west of downtown as “MoPac Boulevard” rather than, say, MoPac Expressway. After all, a boulevard calls to mind something fancy, perhaps with cobblestone sidewalks, beautiful trees in the median and Maurice Chevalier strolling along with a smile and song. MoPac, on the other hand, is a by-God freeway with, for a good piece of its 25.7 miles, a freight railroad in the middle of it.

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Austin American Statesman - March 1, 2015

Austin’s Freescale being sold in $11.8 billion deal

In a deal with major ramifications for both the Austin technology sector and the worldwide semiconductor industry, Austin-based Freescale Semiconductor is being acquired by The Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors NV in a cash and stock merger worth more than $11 billion. The combined company would be worth an estimated $40 billion and would allow NXP to expand in the auto and industrial markets, diversifying its business. The purchase price equates to a total equity value for Freescale of $11.8 billion. NXP would also take on Freescale’s debt of about $5 billion, taking the the total value of the deal to about $16.7 billion, the companies said.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 1, 2015

HPD cellphone technology worries privacy advocates

For about seven years, the Houston Police Department has owned devices that can trick your cellphone into sharing its location and call log by pretending to be a cell tower. The department used hundreds of thousands in grant money and later civil forfeiture funds to obtain IMSI catchers, or cell-site simulators, commonly known by their marine creature brand name, Stingrays. But little is known about how they are deployed, only what they are capable of: telling law enforcement where you are and to whom you've been talking. In Texas, police are not required to obtain a warrant before using a Stingray, and the net is indiscriminate. The devices sweep up all nearby information, regardless of whether the cellphone is involved in a crime.

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San Antonio Express News - February 28, 2015

Confusion still reigns on excavated soil

When an environmental firm took soil samples at the Convention Center in July 2013 to test the dirt for contaminants, it said heavy metals such as arsenic and lead “exceed regulatory levels” and any excavated soil should be disposed at a landfill. More than a year later, city officials say they still don’t know which soil samples Geo Strata Environmental Consultants was talking about. At issue was how to handle 150,000 cubic yards of dirt that needed to be hauled off the city’s most expensive project in history — the $325 million expansion of the Convention Center.

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Forbes - February 27, 2015

McAlister: Welcome To Houston, Texas - Still America's Economic Miracle

The numbers don’t lie: Since 2000, Texas has created 2.1 million jobs, more than double any other state – that’s 30 percent of all the jobs created in the U.S. of A. Seven of the top 10 cities for projected job growth through 2015 will be in Texas. Analysts predict during the next five years, Texas will record an annual job growth rate of 2.7 percent – the fastest and best in the country. And corporate America likes what it sees in Texas: Apple AAPL -1.49% is hiring nearly 4,000 more workers for its Austin facility, brokerage Charles Schwab SCHW -1.77% is leaving California in droves for Austin and El Paso , and Toyota is packing up its North American headquarters, saying “sayonara” to California, and moving to the Dallas metroplex.

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National Stories

Washington Times - March 1, 2015

Immigration debate may have increased illegal crossings

The debate over legalizing illegal immigrants was “a primary cause” of last summer’s surge of Central Americans jumping the U.S.-Mexico border, the Government Accountability Office reported Friday, citing surveys of U.S. officials on the ground in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Crime, gang violence and poverty played major roles in pushing tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children to make the trek, and, to a lesser degree, so did abuse at home and lack of access to good schools. But the children were also pulled to the U.S. by ties to family already living here and by the belief that even if they crossed illegally, they would be given citizenship, the GAO said after surveying State Department, Homeland Security Department and U.S. Agency for International Development workers in each of the three countries.

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Salon - February 27, 2015

“The interests of the wealthy”: How the rich control politicians — even more than you think

The American populace, as a whole, is not always a paragon of good judgment. Yet there’s at least one issue that they’ve got a pretty good handle on — the incredible degree of what Lawrence Lessig has described as a form of legalized corruption, and the detrimental effect it has on the U.S. government overall. Polling on this question can get a little tricky, because it can be difficult to know for sure what respondents are thinking of when they answer the question). But when Americans are asked to list the nation’s most pressing concerns, it’s become quite normal to find a dissatisfaction with government, or a concern about ethics and corruption, at or near the top. According to a new study from Brigham Young University professor Michael Jay Barber, Americans’ sense that their government doesn’t work for them but rather for the wealthy and powerful is well-placed.

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National Journal - March 1, 2015

On security, it’s Rand Paul against his party. And the party has a plan

Mike Rogers's frustration was approaching full boil. It was July 2013, and the Intelligence Committee chairman was seated behind a lectern on the House floor, watching a junior Republican invoke the Fourth Amendment to criticize National Security Agency intelligence-gathering procedures. Rogers should have been used to it by now—accustomed to seeing lawmakers who lack top-secret clearances or relevant security experiences lash out against the muscular policies the Republican Party spent decades building. Members of the GOP's nascent libertarian arm had been emboldened in the aftermath of George W. Bush's presidency, by controversies over drone warfare and mass data collection—and were being encouraged by their Senate patron, Rand Paul, to make noise.

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The Hill - February 27, 2015

Sullivan: XL -- Vetoing energy security and the environment

I testified to Congress in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline system in March 2011. That gives a sense of how long this issue has been dragging on. My argument was that Canada is a great and secure neighbor. It is a democracy. It is peaceful. Our strongest trade, investment, security and other relations with our neighbor to the north, Canada. NORAD is with the Canadians. The Canadians have been a big part of our energy security, our overall security, our economy and even our culture for a very long time. Canada is our biggest source of imported oil. Most of that is already from the oil sands of Alberta. Much of that oil sands oil, after processing, is brought to us by train, which is a lot more dangerous than brining it by pipeline as the many oil train accidents recently attest. The US has been the market for almost all Canadian oil exports for a very long time. They are a reliable energy partner for the natural gas, coal and energy trade that we have with them. Why slap the Canadians in the face?

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Washington Post - March 1, 2015

Conservatives are more likely to believe that vaccines cause autism

In the recent political flare-up about vaccines, a persistent topic of debate is how attitudes toward vaccines are shaped by political ideology. Some research finds little association between perceptions of vaccine risk and political ideology — suggesting that vaccines are less politicized than many other scientific issues. But a recent survey also finds that a partisan gap has emerged since 2009 on the question of mandatory vaccinations. We bring new data to bear on this question, drawing on an October 2014 YouGov survey conducted as part of the just-released Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Our results suggest that an erroneous belief in the link between vaccines and autism is most prevalent among conservatives.

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New York Times - March 1, 2015

As Common Core Testing Is Ushered In, Parents and Students Opt Out

On Monday morning, a few hundred students will file into classrooms at Bloomfield Middle School, open laptops and begin a new standardized test, one mandated across New Jersey and several other states for the first time this year. About a dozen of their classmates, however, will be elsewhere. They will sit in a nearby art room, where they will read books, do a little drawing and maybe paint. What they will not do is take the test, because they and their parents have flatly refused.

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Wall St. Journal - March 1, 2015

Hillary Clinton Seen Launching Presidential Bid in April

Hillary Clinton and her close advisers are telling Democratic donors that she will enter the presidential race sooner than expected, likely in April, a move that would allay uncertainties within her party and allow her to rev up fundraising. Clinton aides have spoken of the earlier timetable in private meetings, according to people engaged in recent discussions about the presumed Democratic front-runner’s emerging 2016 campaign. Many within her camp have advocated her staying out of the fray until the summer. Jumping in sooner would help the Democratic field take shape, reassuring party leaders and donors that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is running. A super PAC loyal to Mrs. Clinton has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she is a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces.

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Houston Chronicle - March 1, 2015

Uber fights pushback on ride service with politics

After spending months securing a spot on Houston's roadways, Uber is stepping on the gas in Austin: hiring at least 23 lobbyists and paying them as much as $700,000 to make sure its on-demand ride service gets favorable treatment in the Legislature, according to records with the Texas Ethics Commission. Uber is the boldest among ride-on-demand competitors that include Lyft and Sidecar, companies selling not only rides but a lifestyle that is heavily online dependent with a willingness to cast off conventions. The company is fighting lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders, piling up fines and exasperating officials as it trumpets a new business model and the so-called sharing economy.

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Austin American Statesman - February 28, 2015

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry lag as race nears starting line

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz roused the hundreds of young people who packed the “Big Government Sucks” reception Thursday night at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference with a typically provocative appeal. “Each of you has an ability to spread a fire; I am asking you to be an arsonist,” Cruz said. “I encourage you to light fire of liberty in other young people, so it burns and rages and spreads from one young person to another. That is how we turn the country around.”

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Washington Post - March 1, 2015

Hatch, Alexander, Barrasso: We have a plan for fixing health care

Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about whether the Obama administration used the IRS to deliver health insurance subsidies to Americans in violation of the law. Millions of Americans may lose these subsidies if the court finds that the administration acted illegally. If that occurs, Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions. When the court rules in King v. Burwell, we anticipate that it will hold the administration to the laws Congress passed, rather than the laws the administration wishes Congress had passed, and prohibit subsidies in states that opted not to set up their own exchanges, as the language in the law clearly states. Such a ruling could cause 6 million Americans to lose a subsidy they counted on, and for many the resulting insurance premiums would be unaffordable.

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Washington Post - March 1, 2015

Fact Checker: Obama’s claim that Keystone XL oil ‘bypasses the U.S.’ earns Four Pinocchios

When Obama first started making the claim that the crude oil in the Keystone pipeline would bypass the United States, we wavered between Three and Four Pinocchios — and strongly suggested he take the time to review the State Department report. Clearly, the report remains unread. The president’s latest remarks pushes this assertion into the Four Pinocchios column. If he disagrees with the State Department’s findings, he should begin to make the case why it is wrong, rather than assert the opposite, without any factual basis. Moreover, by telling North Dakota listeners that the pipeline has no benefit for Americans, he is again being misleading, given that producers in the region have signed contracts to transport some of their production through the pipeline.

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Washington Post - March 1, 2015

Why a DHS shutdown won’t stop Obama’s immigration orders

The Department of Homeland Security this week remains on shutdown alert after Congress approved another seven days of funding for the agency on Friday. That leaves Republicans continuing an internal debate over whether to partially close the department to protest President Obama’s controversial immigration actions, which he announced in November. The party has virtually no chance of forcing Obama to roll back his immigration plans, which would shield an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

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Copyright March 02, 2015, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved