Quorum Report News Clips

View By Date
Printable Version of This Page

Newsclips - August 23, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - August 22, 2019

‘Everyone is nervous’: Trump muddles his message on U.S. economy

Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year, stopping short of a recession but complicating his path to reelection in 2020.

The private forecast, one of several delivered to Trump and described by three people familiar with the briefing, contrasts sharply with the triumphant rhetoric the president and his surrogates have repeatedly used to describe the economy. Even as his aides warn of a business climate at risk of faltering, the president has been portraying the economy to the public as “phenomenal” and “incredible.”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2019

Michael Quinn Sullivan's secret audio of Texas House speaker blurs line between journalism, activism

For the past month, Michael Quinn Sullivan has been the narrator of this year’s most explosive Texas political firestorm. On his website the Texas Scorecard, Sullivan broke news of the scandal involving the powerful and popular Speaker Dennis Bonnen, forcing the lawmaker to publicly apologize for trashing his colleagues in a secret meeting.

Sullivan boasts that he’s a watchdog, shedding light on politicians behaving badly. But before Sullivan made a name for himself in politics, he was a card-carrying member of what he’d today describe as the “Fake News” media. Sullivan declined comment for this story, as he has for every request for an interview from The Dallas Morning News for at least 19 months. From 2001 to 2009, Sullivan registered as a lobbyist with the state. But in 2010, he stopped.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2019

Governor under fire for letter asking supporters to ‘defend Texas’ from illegal immigration

Days after a gunman opened fire at an El Paso Walmart and killed 22 people in the deadliest attack targeting Latinos in modern U.S. history, some Texans opened their mailboxes to find a fundraising letter from Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign. Dated Aug. 2, the day before the massacre, the letter began: “If we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.”

The letter asks for urgent donations so Abbott can fight illegal immigration, which he contends will cause a political and economic “disaster” if not stopped. He blames Democrats in Congress for refusing to tackle immigration reform and the media for failing to report on the “innocent young Americans” who are murdered by people who should’ve “never been in our country in the first place.” The “ national Democrat machine” is trying to turn Texas blue, he said.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 23, 2019

Cyberattacks on Texas cities put other governments on guard

Cyberattacks that recently crippled nearly two dozen Texas cities have put other local governments on guard, offering the latest evidence that hackers can halt routine operations by locking up computers and public records and demanding steep ransoms.

Government agencies that fail to keep reliable backups of their data could be forced to choose between paying ransoms or spending even more to rebuild lost systems. Officials are increasingly turning to cybersecurity insurance to help curb the growing threat. "I think we're entering an epidemic stage," said Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute, which provides training and other support for local government technology employees. "The bad actors have been emboldened."

Top of Page

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 23, 2019

Canceled flights, wrecked vacations and leaky planes: Passenger frustrations rise as American Airlines struggles

Delays, cancellations and angry passengers peaked this summer as American Airlines saw its fleet squeezed by the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets and a dispute with union mechanics that a federal judge said was responsible for taking more planes out of service. Passenger horror stories spread through angry Twitter rants and distressing posts on Facebook.

And as summer winds down, another stress test awaits American and other U.S. carriers. Trade group Airlines for America expects a record 17.5 million U.S. passengers to fly over the upcoming Labor Day weekend — a 4% increase over last year. Friday (Aug. 30) is expected to be the busiest day leading into the three-day holiday. Southwest Airlines, the other major carrier based in North Texas, also has struggled this year with on-time arrivals and cancellations. It endured springtime strife with its mechanics union and lost a large portion of its fleet to the Max grounding.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2019

Texas task force convened after El Paso shooting discusses 'welfare checks,' private gun sales in first meeting

Top Texas leaders charged with responding to the El Paso mass shooting held a far-reaching discussion on gun safety and community security Thursday, including instituting "welfare checks" on suspicious individuals.

Recapping the first meeting of his Texas Safety Commission, Gov. Greg Abbott said its members talked about everything from cracking down on stolen guns and straw purchases to enforcing existing laws that bar domestic abusers and others from having firearms. The commission, which includes law enforcement officials, state lawmakers, tech company executives and advocates in both sides of the gun control debate, reached no agreement on the most contentious issues such as assault weapons bans or restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2019

Release the audio, says former Texas GOP House chair who resigned over political hit list scandal

Former GOP House caucus chairman Rep. Dustin Burrows broke his month-long media blackout on Thursday to publicly discuss allegations he asked a GOP activist to target members of his own party. The Lubbock lawmaker said on the Chad Hasty radio show that he attended the June 12 meeting with Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan in an effort to protect the Republican majority.

"I went in there in good faith, and I'll tell ya, he didn't have the best of intentions," Burrows said. That meeting was secretly recorded by Sullivan, who has since alleged that Burrows asked him to target 10 members of their own party in the coming election. Burrows called for the audio to be released, and questioned Sullivan's motivations for keeping the recording under lock.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 23, 2019

Will state officials backtrack on protections for a rare lizard in the West Texas oil patch?

In a clash between habitat conservation for a rare lizard native to West Texas and oil and gas interests, the Trump administration, in league with officials from a major subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, appears close to quashing a state proposal favoring beefed-up species protections, according to multiple people involved in negotiations.

The tactic comes as the Trump administration this month announced it was weakening endangered species protections, clearing the way for more oil and gas development. The Texas issue concerns protections for the dunes sagebrush lizard, a species environmental groups want to be designated an endangered species.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2019

Rick Perry falls victim to Instagram hoax

Former Gov. Rick Perry was caught up in a widespread Instagram hoax Tuesday. Perry, the U.S. energy secretary, posted on Instagram a screenshot of a memo claiming, incorrectly, that Instagram is revising its privacy policy and that the social media giant will publicly release all photographs and “use your photos,” including “in court cases in litigation against you.”

“Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from today,” the memo reads. “Even messages that have been deleted or not allowed.” The memo, which has been spreading on various social media platforms, urges people to repost the message to oppose the policy change. “Instagram DOES NOT HAVE MY PERMISSION TO SHARE PHOTOS OR MESSAGES,” the last line of the memo read. Perry also shared his Instagram post, which has since been deleted, on Twitter with the hashtag ”#nothanksinstagram.”

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2019

UH receives $50 million gift from anonymous donor

The University of Houston has accepted its newest challenge — and its largest donation ever. The university announced Thursday at its board of regents meeting that it has received a $50 million gift from an anonymous donor, which will be used to create a matching endowment program to foster new professorships, recruit top faculty and establish four institutes to address major societal issues, the university said in a news release.

The donation, called the “Aspire Fund: The $50 Million Challenge,” is the university’s largest contribution to UH’s “Here, We Go” fundraising campaign, which surpassed its $1 billion goal earlier this year ahead of its August 2020 deadline. The funds will help establish four institutes that will tackle issues in relation to energy, infrastructure, precision medicine and global engagement, as well as hire faculty and establish endowed chairs and professorships to help lead and run the corresponding programs. The gift, however, comes with some conditions.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2019

‘A tremendous deterrent.’ In Austin, Ken Cuccinelli defends new immigrant family detention rule

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Thursday there is space immediately available in existing detention centers to accommodate immigrant families who will be held for as long as it takes for their cases to be resolved, under a new rule being enacted by the Trump administration.

The departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have said they will issue a rule Friday backing out of the 1997 Flores settlement, which requires the government to detain children and families in the least restrictive settings and does not allow families to be held for more than 20 days. Speaking to reporters following an event sponsored by the Austin-based conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, Cuccinelli said the restrictions of the Flores settlement are a “major catalyst to the crisis at the border.”

Top of Page

D Magazine - August 22, 2019

Plano is the Texas city best poised to weather climate change, study says

A new study tries to analyze which U.S. cities are best positioned to weather whatever strange weather the changing climate will bring, and it arrives at some surprising conclusions. The study was completed by Eylul Tekin, a PhD candidate at Washington University in St. Louis’ Memory Lab, who is working in a company called Clever Real Estate’s research department.

Tekin took that data for the largest 100 U.S. cities and created a metric that weighted both the cities best prepared to withstand climate-related catastrophe (excessive cold, heat, flood, drought, and sea-level rise) and the likeliness of the severity of weather-related disasters. It’s that second part of the equation that that seems to have helped North Texas’ cities scores. Drought and heat are the biggest climate-related threats North Texas will have to adapt to, and those do not pose the same existential threat as rising sea levels. The cities on the bottom of this new list tend to be coastal places, and Florida in particular.

Top of Page

Fort Worth Business Press - August 22, 2019

Fort Worth company has answer: Where do Chick-fil-A customers go on Sunday?

“Closing our business on Sunday, the Lord’s day, is our way of honoring God and showing our loyalty to him,” Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy had written in his 2002 memoir. And, Chick-fil-A has closed every Sunday since its opening in 1946. Consequently, Chick-fil-A customers are made to find a different place to get their chicken sandwich fix on Sundays. Which led many people to wonder, "where?" Where do Chick-fil-A customers go on a Sunday?

Buxton Co., a Fort Worth-based customer analytics firm, took on the challenge of solving the conundrum once and for all. Well, maybe not all. People's preferences are subject to changes all the time But, after taking a deep dive on numbers and GPS data sourced from mobile devices, Buxton’s analysis found currently the most favorite – in 18 states – Sunday substitute to Chick-fil-A is Cracker Barrel.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 23, 2019

Former congressional hopeful declares war on hyper-partisanship

Joseph Kopser’s epiphany happened on a Sunday afternoon in Thousand Oaks. It was two days before last November’s general election, and Kopser — a 20-year U.S. Army vet, decorated Iraq War soldier and tech-industry innovator — was scrambling for every vote he could get. As a Democrat running in the reliably Republican U.S. District 21, he was fighting long odds and longer history.

“I’m knocking on doors and a guy comes to the door,” Kopser told me this week. A man opened the door and immediately recognized Kopser as the same congressional candidate he’d just seen five minutes earlier in a TV ad. The man lauded Kopser for his military service and his business success and said, “That’s the kind of people we need in D.C.” Feeling understandably chuffed, Kopser asked if he could count on the man’s support in the election. “He said, ‘Oh, hell no. I’m not voting for you,’” Kopser recalled. “I’m like, ‘What part of our last 30 seconds do we disagree on?’ He goes, ‘Dude, you’re a Democrat.’”

Top of Page

ABC 7 and Associated Press - August 22, 2019

Major phone carriers agree to nationwide deal to combat robocalls, Texas AG announces

Major phone companies have pledged to do more to fight robocalls plaguing Americans, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading a coalition of the country's 51 attorneys general.

Thursday's announcement is the latest step to combat the growing problem. Americans get nearly 5 billion automated calls from scammers, telemarketers, debt collectors and others every month. Parts of the agreement echo steps already taken by regulators and Congress, which is working on anti-robocall bills.

Top of Page

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 23, 2019

Bexar County Judge Wolff says Republican Party woes aren’t why he won’t seek reelection

The Bexar County Commissioners Court is losing its lone Republican — though he’s confident his seat will remain in Republican hands. Kevin Wolff, 58, represents Precinct 3, which encompasses the county’s North Side. He announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection for the seat he’s held since 2008. A former executive at a title insurance company, Wolff plans to return to the private sector when his term ends next year.

Wolff said his 2017 conviction on a 2016 DWI charge did not influence his decision to give up his seat, nor did growing Republican fears of a statewide Democratic wave in next year’s elections. Wolff gained a reputation as a brash fiscal conservative in his 14 years of elected office — first as a City Council member representing the North Side, then as county commissioner. His conservative stances sometimes caused him to butt heads with his father, County Judge Nelson Wolff, a Democrat who heads the Commissioners Court.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2019

Are Dallas County’s immigrants good for the economy?

Dallas County would miss out on billions of dollars and thousands of jobs if not for the immigrants living here, according to a new study. And yes, that includes unauthorized immigrants. Immigrants living in Dallas County own about 40% of the businesses here and have about $13.4 billion in spending power, according to a new report from New American Economy, a bipartisan group that lobbies in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

Chelsie Kramer, state organizer for New American Economy, said the figures highlight the important role immigrants across the board –– including legal permanent residents, refugees, the unauthorized –– are playing in Dallas County’s economy and why reforming the immigration system is more important than ever. Kramer said the conversation to achieve immigration reform must go beyond just sharing facts and figures and showing the human impact immigrants in Dallas County.

Top of Page

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 23, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Dallas police chief is back; now City Hall needs to dispense with secrecy

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall’s return to work is a welcome development, insofar as we take it to mean the chief is recovering from a health issue that caused her to have to step aside for a month. It’s also welcome because it is a signal that we should be returning to normal operations for the police department, although, as City Manager T.C. Broadnax explained, Hall’s return will be circumscribed.

She will work on special projects and not make many public appearances. We wish her a fast and full recovery. We don’t consider her absence well handled, however. During a time when the city needed clear public leadership from City Hall, what it got was a lot of questions. For reasons that are even less clear, Broadnax and Hall shared little with top city officials or the police command staff.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2019

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall returning to duty on Monday

After more than a month's absence from the police department, Chief U. Renée Hall will return to duty next week. In a statement Wednesday, the Dallas Police Department said Hall's doctor has cleared her for duty. Hall is scheduled to return Monday. The details surrounding her departure from the department for a "major surgery" were largely kept private, with many city officials and her command staff unaware what her health concern was or how long she would be out.

City manager T.C. Broadnax said when Hall returns she'll focus on "projects and initiatives" and is not expected to appear in public much at first. "To ensure the success of her return while she continues to recover, I have encouraged the chief to be limited in her external activities and public appearances for the next few weeks," Broadnax said in a statement. In the statement, Hall expressed her appreciation for the public's prayers and the "city's patience" during her medical leave.

Top of Page

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 23, 2019

Texas mayor ran to preserve city’s ‘country living.’ Three months later, he resigned.

Three months after taking office, mayor Kenny Robinson resigned saying he was tired of fighting a losing battle over how the small Johnson County city is managing growth. “We are trying to keep Joshua a country living place. We butted heads pretty bad,” he said, referring to discussions with other city leaders. Robinson, 59, said in an interview that he couldn’t handle the stress and decided to step aside.

At issue is a difference in philosophy about bringing in new homes and businesses, Robinson said. Robinson and his family moved to Joshua almost 20 years ago, and purchased a home on a one-acre lot. But he said he grew concerned when homes sprouted up behind his. “I didn’t want three to four homes looking into my backyard,” he said. Robinson said he ran on a platform of keeping country living in Joshua and said that is why he won the election, but added it’s time for someone younger to step in and fight the battle.

Top of Page

Houston Public Media - August 23, 2019

Two Houston school board incumbents seek reelection, two others step down

The slate of candidates is set for the Houston school board elections in November, even as a state-appointed board of managers is looking more likely due to governance issues and chronic low test scores at one high school.

Of the four seats up for election, two incumbents — Diana Davila representing District VIII and Sergio Lira in District III — are running for another term. But two other trustees, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jolanda Jones in Districts II and IV respectively, have decided to step down and not run for another term. In all, 11 candidates are vying for those open seats: seven in District II and four in District IV.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 22, 2019

Low turnout at reopened schools triggers angry exchanges among South San ISD trustees

A four-month sprint to reopen three campuses at South San Antonio Independent School District — ordered against the recommendation of the superintendent by a sharply divided board — came with a total cost expected to reach $6 million and high hopes of reversing years of enrollment declines.

Instead, student turnout was dismal when school started this week, especially at West Campus High School, which drew 56 students for a freshman class expected to number about 130. Kazen Middle School had 183 students and Athens Elementary had 202 — all below the district’s projections, officials said. Trustees responded with a new round of argument over who is to blame, trading shots during a marathon, six-hour meeting Wednesday.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 22, 2019

Austin City Council endorses Dell for state incentives program

The Austin City Council cleared the way Thursday for Dell Technologies to invest $10 million at its Parmer Lane facility and retain nearly 500 jobs through a state incentives program.

The council approved a resolution designating the company as an enterprise zone project under the Texas Enterprise Zone program, which would allow Dell to get a refund on its state sales and use tax. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism has the final say on the designation.

Top of Page

National Stories

Washington Post - August 22, 2019

Caged raccoons drooled in 100-degree heat. But federal enforcement has faded.

For two days running in the summer of 2017, the temperature inside a metal barn in Iowa hovered above 96 degrees. Nearly 300 raccoons, bred and sold as pets and for research, simmered in stacked cages. Several lay with legs splayed, panting and drooling, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector wrote. On the third day, the thermometer hit 100, and 26 raccoons were “in severe heat distress” and “suffering,” the inspector reported. Then a USDA team of veterinarians and specialists took a rare step: They confiscated 10 of the animals and made plans to come back for the others.

But after an appeal from an industry group to a Trump White House adviser, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and senior USDA officials intervened, according to five former employees. The inspectors and veterinarians were blocked from taking the remaining raccoons and ordered to return those they had seized. In the months that followed, the Iowa incident was described by USDA officials at internal meetings as an example of the new philosophy of animal welfare protection under the Trump administration and Perdue.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 22, 2019

Heather A. Conley: We already have a Greenland. It’s called Alaska.

This week, the American people and the world have become much more familiar with Greenland, the world’s largest island. We know that two U.S. presidents, Harry Truman (in 1946) and Donald Trump (Friday) have expressed interest in purchasing it.

Over the past few days, there have been many questions about the possible motivations behind the president’s interest in and enthusiasm for Greenland. The next bold real estate move? A strategic gambit to bolster U.S. military presence in the Arctic? Or a wily decision to further cement America’s economic dominance? On the latter, the economics of the Arctic are important to understand.

Top of Page

CNN - August 23, 2019

Will Trump blow up the G7 summit?

The biggest question clouding this weekend's G7 summit in France is whether the President of the United States will blow it up. It is a measure of the gulf between America and its allies and of how President Donald Trump has imposed his disruptive character on the world that everyone in Biarritz is bracing for a presidential eruption.

Given the President's brazen, erratic behavior and mood in the last few days, the idea that he could repeat his tantrum and early departure at the last G7 summit in Canada last year cannot be ruled out. After all, he just pulled out of a state visit to Denmark because it refused to discuss selling Greenland. Trump frequently flings vitriol across the Atlantic, criticizing foreign leaders who have spent the past two-and-a-half years trying, usually unsuccessfully, to work out how to handle him. His behavior is a promise kept to voters who believe that America's friends have long taken advantage of its power and security guarantees.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 22, 2019

Joe Biden’s poll numbers mask an enthusiasm challenge

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is coasting in the national polls. Surveys show him ahead of his Democratic rivals in hypothetical matchups against President Trump. He has maintained a lead in Iowa all summer, despite facing months of controversies over his record and his campaign missteps.

But less than two weeks before Labor Day, when presidential campaigns traditionally kick into high gear, there are signs of a disconnect between his relatively rosy poll numbers and excitement for his campaign on the ground here, in the state that begins the presidential nominating process.

Top of Page

ABC News - August 22, 2019

ABC News announces details for 3rd Democratic primary debate

The upcoming third Democratic primary debate, hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision and slated for Sept. 12 and 13 in Houston, will feature four moderators, ABC News announced Wednesday.

Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "World News Tonight" Anchor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos will moderate the debate on Thursday and, if necessary, Friday. If 10 or fewer candidates are certified by the Democratic National Committee to participate, the debate will take place on one night.

Top of Page

CNBC - August 22, 2019

Manufacturing sector contracts for the first time in nearly a decade

U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August, the latest sign that the trade war may be exacerbating the economic slowdown. The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July and below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit.

Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. The survey is an initial reading for the month of August. The final figure will be released Sept. 3. “Manufacturing companies continued to feel the impact of slowing global economic conditions,” Tim Moore, economics associate director at Markit, said in a statement Thursday. “August’s survey data provides a clear signal that economic growth has continued to soften in the third quarter.”

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 23, 2019

Putin orders Russia to respond after US missile test

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military on Friday to work out a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty.

In Sunday's test, a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after the U.S. and Russia withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The U.S. said it withdrew from the treaty due to Russian violations, a claim that Moscow has denied. Speaking Friday, Putin charged that the U.S. waged a "propaganda campaign" alleging Russian breaches of the pact to "untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world."

Top of Page

BuzzFeed - August 22, 2019

The Justice Department sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post with anti-Semitic attacks

An email sent from the Justice Department to all immigration court employees this week included a link to an article posted on a white nationalist website that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” according to a letter sent by an immigration judges union and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The briefings are sent to court employees every weekday and include links to various immigration news items. BuzzFeed News confirmed the link to a blog post was sent to immigration court employees Monday. The post detailed a recent move by the Justice Department to decertify the immigration judges union. A letter Thursday from union chief Ashley Tabaddor to James McHenry, the director of the Justice Department’s EOIR, said the link to the VDare post angered many judges.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2019

Wind developers, once keen on Mexico, losing heart as energy reforms stall

Mannti Cummins, a Corpus Christi wind developer, has spent the last 17 years building wind energy projects in the Rio Grande Valley, from Brownsville to Baffin Bay. So, when Mexico deregulated its power markets as part of the nation’s landmark energy reforms six years ago, he saw a golden opportunity. His small company could profit from new laws that encouraged international renewable generators to set up shop, while helping Mexico improve the reliability of its power system and reach its climate change goals.

But four years after striking a deal to develop a 50-megawatt wind plant in Baja California Sur, Cummins has yet to break ground, still waiting for environmental permits and an interconnection contract from the Mexican government. His prospects dimmed further with last year’s election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-leaning populist who has slowed the market reforms enacted under his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, and created uncertainty for companies that had hoped to get a piece of the country’s huge energy market.

Top of Page

NPR - August 21, 2019

Tomato truce: US and Mexico strike a deal on imports

The Trump administration struck a tentative deal to lift tariffs on imported tomatoes from Mexico. But importers warn the agreement could still put protectionist roadblocks in the path of $2 billion worth of the produce.

Mexico supplies more than half the fresh tomatoes sold in the U.S., and imports have more than doubled since 2002. Florida growers, who used to dominate the market for tomatoes in the winter and spring, have long complained that Mexico unfairly subsidizes its tomato crop.

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 22, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Oil donors shy on Trump’s 2020 campaign, for now

For decades,the U.S. oil and gas industry has provided a reliable bankroll for Republican politicians seeking the oval office. But not for President Donald Trump, who despite his pro-oil and gas “American energy dominance” policy has to date struggled to attract the big campaign contributions that oil executives handed his Republican predecessors.

Through the first six months of this year, Trump’s campaign fund had drawn less than $89,000 from the oil and gas industry, only about $600 more than the Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, according to analysis of donations exceeding $200 from individuals and political action committees compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington research organization that tracks money in politics.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 21, 2019

Migrant families would face indefinite detention under new Trump rule

The Trump administration unveiled a regulation on Wednesday that would allow it to detain indefinitely migrant families who cross the border illegally, replacing a decades-old court agreement that limited how long the government could hold migrant children in custody and mandated the level of care they must receive.

The White House has for more than a year pressed the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to eliminate the agreement, known as the Flores settlement, a shift that immigration hard-liners inside the administration say is crucial to halt the flow of migrants across the southwestern border.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Hackers seek total of $2.5 million in ransomware attack on Texas government agencies

The hackers behind the cyberattack that has locked 22 local governments in Texas out of their own computer systems are requesting a collective $2.5 million in ransom, according to the mayor of one of the affected cities. In an interview with NPR, Gary Heinrich, mayor of Keene, a city of about 6,000 just outside Fort Worth, said it will not be giving in to the demands and paying ransom.

Keene was one of nearly two dozen public agencies in Texas hit by the ransomware attack Friday. Such attacks involve someone blocking access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. They can be delivered in a variety of ways, such as through an infected email link or by hacking existing software. The Texas Department of Information Resources is investigating with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Department of Homeland Security. The state information resources department has said it believes the attack was a coordinated effort that came from a single person or group.

Top of Page

KUT - August 22, 2019

Measles outbreak in Texas could get bigger as vaccination rates plummet, study finds

Large and small cities in Texas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to measles outbreaks as more parents exempt their children from required vaccinations, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The study found "large measles outbreaks of more than 400 cases could occur in Austin-Round Rock and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington" under current vaccination rates. If those vaccination rates were to decrease by another 5% in the state, researchers found, the size of a potential measles outbreak could grow by up to 4,000% in some communities.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

‘Lord forgive ’em’: Larry Swearingen executed despite claims of innocence

For two decades, Larry Ray Swearingen told anyone who would listen that he did not kill Melissa Trotter. He knew her, he said — but wasn’t the one who raped and strangled the 19-year-old college student before dumping her body among the trees of the Sam Houston National Forest.

But on Wednesday night, the courts all turned down his final claims and the 48-year-old Montgomery County man met his end on the gurney in Huntsville. He took his final breath at 6:47 p.m., becoming the fourth man executed this year in the Lone Star State. In the past, he’d always managed to eke out last-minute stays before each of his last five scheduled death dates - and for months he was skeptical that the Aug. 21 execution could really come to pass.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: In ‘Bonnghazi’ scandal, let’s hear the tape, hold speaker accountable

In a state where a poultry magnate once handed out $10,000 checks on the Senate floor and where officials got rich off manipulating stock prices, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s current brush with infamy doesn’t rank high on the list of Texas political scandals. But whether you call it “Bonnengate” or the more popular “Bonnghazi,” the latest Lone Star state shenanigans are roiling the Republican Party and may lead to criminal charges.

At the heart of the matter is the recording of a meeting between right-wing activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock. Along with the alleged quid pro quo — which could amount to bribery and is the subject of a Texas Rangers investigation — the recording also includes the speaker disparaging other members of the House.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Houston Mayor Turner wants increased local authority for gun control measures

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday called for a special session of the Texas Legislature in response to pair of mass shootings this month that killed 30 people, including including 22 in El Paso. He also said he would ask that cities and counties be given more freedom to implement gun control measures as they see fit.

Turner’s request is unlikely to get approval from Gov. Greg Abbott, a staunch gun rights advocate who has sole power to convene state lawmakers outside of their regular, biennial sessions. Abbott last week said he would not call a special session to respond to gun violence. Instead, the governor has announced a series of roundtable discussions to consider legislative approaches to address domestic terrorism and violence.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Houston Republican Kathaleen Wall files to run for Congress again

Two years after Houston Republican donor Kathaleen Wall poured $6.2 million of her own money into a failed attempt to win a congressional seat, she’s taking another shot at it, but in a different section of the Houston area.

On Tuesday, she filed an official statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to run in the 22nd Congressional District to replace U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land. Olson announced earlier this month that he will not seek re-election in the district that is primarily in Fort Bend County, but also includes parts of Brazoria County and the southeast corner of Harris County.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Erica Grieder: Republican leaders should start taking Moms Demand Action seriously

It’s time for Republican leaders of Texas to start taking Moms Demand Action seriously. Past time, really. On Sunday, several hundred Houstonians gathered in Hermann Park for a “Recess Rally” organized by the group to suggest that members of the United States Senate cut their summer vacations short and get to work tackling America’s epidemic of gun violence..

An overwhelming majority of Americans — and Texans — are in favor of reforms such as universal background checks and red flag laws. And volunteers with Moms Demand, wearing red T-shirts, have been a visible and well-organized presence at the Capitol since the Texas Legislature’s 2015 session.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Lawsuit: Private prison contractor abandoned parolees at flooded halfway house during Harvey

More than 200 former inmates are suing a private prison contractor who they say “utterly failed” them during Hurricane Harvey, allegedly leaving the men in a flooded halfway house in Houston surrounded by toxic waste and without food, clean water or medical care.

Despite the “barbaric” conditions, according to the lawsuit, the men couldn’t leave the premises because officials told them it would be a violation of their parole. “It was a total disaster,” said Henry Thigpen, one of the roughly 500 parolees who weathered the storm at the Southeast Texas Transitional Center before officials sent them all back to prison. “They left us there to fend for ourselves.”

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

International ring charged in San Antonio with stealing millions of dollars from military veterans

Federal authorities have filed charges in San Antonio against five people as part of an effort to disband an international ring accused of stealing the personal information of thousands of military veterans or their dependents in order to access millions of dollars from their bank accounts.

Robert Wayne Boling Jr., 38; Fredrick Brown, 38; Trorice Crawford, 32 — all U.S. citizens; Australian citizen Allan Robert Kerr, 30; and South Korean citizen Jongmin Seok, 44; were arrested this week or in recent days in the Philippines or in the U.S. based on the indictment, which was handed up by a federal grand jury in San Antonio on July 23.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Roy emerges as the U.S. House’s rookie contrarian of the year

Chip Roy’s best quality might also be his biggest political liability. The freshman Republican congressman — and former aide to Texas GOP heavyweights Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Rick Perry and Ken Paxton — has a stubborn contrarian streak. So contrarian, in fact, that sometimes it feels like Roy is trying to do his potential adversaries a favor by writing their campaign-ad copy for them.

Take the May hearing of the House Oversight Committee on the issue of the high price of the HIV prevention drug, Truvada, and the amount of profit made by its manufacturer, Gilead. If anything stirs up a sense of bipartisan populism on Capitol Hill, it’s a chance to knock Big Pharma — either for misleading the public on the dangers of opioids or for gouging people with exorbitant drug prices. At the May hearing, however, Roy nearly was stirred to tears by what he viewed as an unfair attack on pharmaceuticals. Recalling his own battle, nearly a decade ago, with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma, he cast drug companies as heroic.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2019

Why does Texas have the lowest reading standards for fourth graders? It’s complicated

Texas is dead last when it comes to passing standards for measuring how well children are reading by the fourth grade, according to a federal analysis of states' standardized tests. And the passing standards weren't much better in math, with Texas lagging among the bottom of the pack.

But comparing Texas to other states isn't easy. The National Center for Education Statistics' study released Wednesday found that over the past decade, "states are setting higher expectations for their students, with higher proficiency standards in mathematics and reading," said Dr. Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment for NCES.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2019

Texas' largest power company plans to close four coal-fired plants in Illinois

Irving-based Vistra Energy will close four coal-fired electric power plants in Illinois to comply with tighter air-emissions requirements. The closings, announced Wednesday, will result in 300 job cuts in the towns of Coffeen, Canton, Havana and Hennepin in the state's central and southern regions.

The closures require approval from regional grid operators, which can order plants be kept open if they're needed for reliability. If that doesn't happen, Vistra plans to close them by the end of the year. Vistra's action grows out of a deal struck in June between the company and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration, according to the Chicago Tribune. It agreed to shutter 40% of its fleet of coal-fired plants in Illinois.

Top of Page

ABC News - August 21, 2019

Four Texas mayors oppose Trump administration proposal to take 3 million people off food stamps

The U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday released a bipartisan letter signed by 70 mayors opposing the Trump administration’s proposal to cut 3 million people off food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In the letter, the mayors expressed their strong objections to the Department of Agriculture proposal, arguing it would negatively impact individuals in their communities that rely on federal assistance programs. “As Mayors, we serve as the CEOs of the nation’s cities; and remain most concerned about any proposal that will reduce improvements to the health of our residents, weaken nutrition programs, deteriorate advances to healthy food access, and spur declines in local and regional economies.” the letter said.

Top of Page

Amarillo Globe-News - August 19, 2019

Amarillo Globe-News Editorial: Eventually, Rep. Burrows will have to end silence

After several weeks of speculation and sustained silence, State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) announced last Friday that he was resigning as chairman of the Republican Caucus. The decision represents the first visible fallout from a meeting of Burrows, Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Bonnen, who has had little to say about the matter, issued a brief statement Friday, saying Burrows “was a strong leader for the caucus. I respect his decision and I remain committed to strengthening our majority.”

Top of Page

Texas Observer - August 22, 2019

Governor Abbott swaps one scandal-scarred Secretary of State for another

Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott ordered his longtime mentee and newly appointed Secretary of State David Whitley to purge the Texas voter rolls of suspected noncitizens. It was bungled from the start. Despite the governor’s best efforts, Democrats in the state Senate blocked Whitley’s confirmation and he resigned on the last day of the legislative session.

On Monday, Abbott finally appointed Whitley’s replacement: Ruth Ruggero Hughs, who was chair of the Texas Workforce Commission, an agency with a sprawling mandate that includes enforcing state’s labor laws and administering unemployment insurance. As secretary of state, Hughs, who is originally from Argentina, is charged with overseeing the state’s elections, among other duties, while also restoring the public’s trust, particularly of Hispanic Texans who were wrongfully targeted by Abbott’s attempted purge.

Top of Page

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2019

Dallas County commissioners draw ire for voting down raises for elected officials — including themselves

Three members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court killed a measure to give themselves and other elected officials a raise, drawing criticism from their colleagues Tuesday. County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioners Elba Garcia and J.J. Koch voted against the 4% raise, while John Wiley Price and Theresa Daniel supported it.

The sheriff, county treasurer, county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor-collector, justices of the peace and constables also would have received raises if the measure had passed. The opposition to increasing pay didn’t sit well with several elected officials who attended the commissioners court meeting.

Top of Page

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

San Antonio has a new draft of the paid sick leave ordinance

After four months of deliberation, the 13-member panel charged with honing the city’s paid sick leave ordinance so it survives a legal challenge from business groups has a new draft of the law.

The draft of the revised ordinance, which requires employers to provide earned paid sick time to full-time and part-time workers, isn’t final but shows what changes City Council members could approve to make the law more palatable to the local business community.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

Cibolo City Council fails to oust mayor

Cibolo Mayor Stosh Boyle will remain head of the San Antonio suburb’s government after his City Council failed to remove him during a special hearing Tuesday. Council members voted 3-3 on a motion to remove Boyle from his office because he has a felony conviction on his record. The motion failed because the charter requires at least six votes to oust a fellow council member.

“This is the one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Boyle told the council. Councilman Brian Byrd served as complainant in the proceedings and was not allowed to vote. He sat at a table below the dais facing Boyle, who was seated at a similar table on the other side of the dais, between his two lawyers.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

Leon Valley gets new councilor after the San Antonio suburb’s council ousted one of their own

The Leon Valley City Council voted Tuesday night to name longtime resident Matthew Hodde to fill the seat of ousted councilor Benjamin Martinez, who was removed by his fellow council members last week over allegations of abuse of power. Hodde, 56, will serve the rest of Martinez’s term, which runs through May 2020.

The motion passed 3-0-1, with Councilor Will Bradshaw abstaining. Mayor Chris Riley swore the new councilor in before he took his place at the empty seat on the dais. Mayor Pro-Tem Monica Alcocer nominated Hodde, who served as chairman of the city’s Hike and Bike Trail Advisory Committee. He is active in the community and has frequently attended city council meetings.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 21, 2019

San Antonio officials want fire union lawsuit over alleged First Amendment violations thrown out

The union that represents San Antonio firefighters claimed victory at the ballot box in November with the passage of two union-backed charter amendments, but it’s still fighting a legal battle from that election.

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association sued the city last year in federal court alleging that city officials violated union representatives’ First Amendment rights while they gathered signatures for the amendments to appear on the November ballot — a charge the city denies. San Antonio voters in November capped city managers’ tenure and pay and gave the firefighters union sole power to send contract negotiations into binding arbitration, measures sought by the union after firefighters have gone years without a contract.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2019

Resign or be recalled, DeSoto residents tell councilwoman; her colleagues remain silent

Councilwoman Candice Quarles met an organized call for her resignation Tuesday from residents alarmed by the City Council’s silence after disclosures that she benefited from her husband’s theft of tax dollars.

It was the third time residents have called for Quarles’ ouster since mid-July and follows a new revelation: Her husband, Jeremiah, may have spent as much as $26,000 on personal expenses when he headed the town’s economic development corporation several years ago. That figure, three times the amount he pleaded guilty to stealing, was revealed by town officials in a private meeting last week with a handful of residents, according to a recording of the gathering obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

Top of Page

KUT - August 21, 2019

At homelessness forum, council members challenge fears and 'urban myths' about shelters, revised law

Austin's mayor and members of the City Council tried to allay fears about the city's revised rules on homelessness and its push to expand shelter space, at a forum hosted by the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The brunt of Wednesday's discussion focused on the rhetoric surrounding Austinites living on the street – and city efforts to address the issue. It was held a day after council members laid out plans to walk back a key tenet of rules they passed in June that allowed camping, resting and panhandling in many public areas.

Top of Page

National Stories

Fox News - August 21, 2019

RNC surpasses $20M for second straight month while online fundraising soars past 2016 level

The Republican National Committee (RNC) raked in another record-breaking fundraising haul, easily surpassing the party's other off-year totals and garnering more than $20 million for the second month in a row.

Receipts for July totaled $20.8 million, yielding $177.9 million for the cycle and $46.6 million in total cash on hand, the RNC reported on Tuesday. That figure is nearly double the $10.6 million raised in July of 2017 –– the next-highest total in its history of off-year fundraising –– and much larger than the $7.9 million the party raised in July of 2003.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 21, 2019

U.S. deficit to expand by about $800 billion more than previously expected over 10 years, CBO says

America’s federal deficit will expand by about $800 billion more than previously expected over 10 years, primarily because of two legislative packages approved this year, pushing the nation further into levels of debt unseen since the end of World War II, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The CBO also said that the impact of higher trade barriers, primarily President Trump’s trade war, could hurt economic growth amid widespread fears of a recession. The United States was already expected to hit about $1 trillion in annual deficits next year, an unusually high number, particularly given that deficits normally contract during sustained periods of economic growth.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - August 22, 2019

Health insurers set to expand offerings under the ACA

Insurers are expanding their Affordable Care Act plan offerings for next year, with the once-troubled business now generating profits, even as the overall individual-insurance market has shrunk.

Oscar Insurance Corp. is the latest to announce its expected growth for 2020, adding six new states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, to its current roster of nine. Insurers including Cigna Corp. , Bright Health Inc., Molina Healthcare Inc. and Centene Corp. , the biggest seller of ACA plans, also plan larger footprints next year. Anthem Inc. is expanding in at least two of its states, California and Virginia.

Top of Page

Politico - August 21, 2019

Jewish Dems rage over Trump's 'disloyalty' comments

Jewish Democratic lawmakers are livid over President Donald Trump's remarks this week accusing Jewish Americans of “great disloyalty” if they vote for Democrats, saying the president is stoking anti-Semitism.

The lawmakers’ outrage comes as Trump reiterated on Wednesday his disloyalty comment while broadening it out to all voters, telling reporters: "If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and Israel." He also continued his attacks on Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, whom he accused of hating Israel over their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Top of Page

Roll Call - August 22, 2019

John Hickenlooper announces run for Senate in Colorado

After spending a week off the campaign trail, former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that he will run for Senate in Colorado. The former two-term Democratic governor said he wants to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in next year’s election.

“I’ve always said Washington is a lousy place for a guy like me who likes to get things done,” Hickenlooper said in an announcement video on his campaign website. “But this is no time to walk away from the table.” Hickenlooper announced his withdrawal from the presidential race one week ago. He sought to differentiate himself from the crowded Democratic primary field with centrist positions on health care and climate change, but his candidacy never gained traction.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 22, 2019

Planned Parenthood sees swift fallout from quitting program

Planned Parenthood clinics in several states are charging new fees, tapping into financial reserves, intensifying fundraising and warning of more unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in the wake of its decision to quit a $260 million federal family planning program in a dispute with the Trump administration over abortion.

About 4 million women are served nationwide by the Title X program, which makes up a much bigger portion of Planned Parenthood’s patients than abortion. But the organization said it could not abide by the abortion-referral rules because it says they would make it impossible for doctors to do their jobs.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 21, 2019

Trump’s economic message: Everything is great, but we need huge stimulus now!

Every time the economy trembles, the president and White House staff face a quandary. On one hand, they wish to instill confidence and project optimism. No president wants to talk down the economy, and a pessimistic tone from the highest office of the land could be self-fulfilling.

On the other hand, they need to be ready with the right policy plans in case things do start to sour, to help prevent a mild downturn from becoming a severe recession. The problem is that publicly talking about those contingency plans tends to undermine the goal of projecting optimism. Rather than try to finesse that tension, the Trump administration has elected to ignore it. President Trump and his aides are sending two simultaneous, contradictory messages about the economy: That it is booming, and everything is fine. And that it is time for emergency measures to keep this boom going.

Top of Page

NPR - August 22, 2019

Employers struggle with hiring undocumented workers: 'You cannot hire American here'

Across the country, immigrants who are in the country unlawfully often do manual, low-paying jobs, and employers say they have no choice but to rely on them. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has vowed to ramp up workplace raids targeting this shadow workforce.

Two weeks ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi. Agents rounded up 680 workers in one of the largest workplace enforcement actions in contemporary history. They were earning $11 to $12 an hour to dismember poultry — dangerous, brutal, repetitive labor. The raids have resurrected an old debate: if not immigrants, then who will do the tough jobs in America?

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 21, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2019

Hackers cripple 22 Texas government agencies, just as new cybersecurity law is enacted

About five months before 22 government entities in Texas were hit by a cyberattack that took their computer systems hostage, state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione gave his fellow lawmakers a sternly-worded warning that the state needs to be better prepared.

“We have to face the reality that we’re not currently developing the best practices necessary to protect the state’s data and confidential information,” the Southlake Republican said at a committee hearing in April. “By teaching our employees and contractors how to safeguard the delicate information they handle daily, we can take a solid step forward in minimizing the state’s cybersecurity risk.”

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 20, 2019

Trump postpones Denmark trip after prime minister declines to sell him Greenland

President Trump on Tuesday abruptly called off a trip to Denmark, announcing in a tweet that he was postponing the visit because the country’s leader was not interested in selling him Greenland.

The move comes two days after Trump told reporters that owning Greenland, a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark, “would be nice” for the United States from a strategic perspective. Trump’s announcement suggests that, despite his denials, the central purpose of his trip had been discussion of a U.S. purchase of the massive, glaciered island, which holds increasing value as melting sea ice opens new parts of the Arctic to shipping and resource extraction.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2019

Attacks on racism and Trump resonate for Texans Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro

Julián Castro averted a crippling blow to his quest for the 2020 Democratic nomination thanks to a polling bump Tuesday that arrived as he increasingly focuses on attacking racism and President Donald Trump.

Since the massacre in El Paso by a gunman who targeted Latinos, Texas presidential contender Beto O’Rourke’s pivot has been even more jarring, refocusing his campaign around some of the bluntest talk about race in modern American politics. For both Texans, the El Paso killings this month have altered their presidential campaigns, and race is the issue reigniting the candidacies of both.

Top of Page

The Daily Beast - August 20, 2019

Bret Baier fires back at Trump on polls: ‘Fox News has not changed’

Toward the end of his Fox News broadcast on Monday evening, Special Report anchor Bret Baier responded to President Trump’s recent criticism of the network’s polling, which shows him trailing every major Democratic candidate in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.

“Fox has changed,” Trump told reporters on Sunday, adding, “There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now and I’m not happy with it.”

Top of Page

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 20, 2019

Forecaster Rachel Bitecofer: Texas Dems could flip 9 U.S. House seats thanks to Trump

Rachel Bitecofer is a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., where she is assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy. She is also an election analyst whose forecast of the big Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election that enabled Democrats to gain control of the U.S. House was uncannily, uniquely, accurate.

But what is of even more interest to me, she is predicting that, if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the D-trip, as she and others commonly call it — applies resources wisely, it could flip nine Texas House seats in 2020, half again as many as the six seats the DCCC is now targeting. In addition to what will be open seats now held by Republicans in the 23rd, where Will Hurd is not seeking reelection; the 22nd, where Pete Olson is retiring; and the 24th, where Kenny Marchant joined the Texodus; the DCCC is also setting its sights on the 21st, held by freshman Chip Roy; the 31st, held by veteran John Carter; and the 10th, which now belongs to Austin’s Michael McCaul.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2019

$12M federal grant will expand IT apprenticeships in Texas

The U.S. Labor Department has awarded a $12 million grant to four Texas community colleges, including Austin Community College, to help fund information technology apprenticeships for thousands of students. ACC will get a $1.5 million share of the grant and will partner with IBM, which contributed $4.5 million in matching funds, to recruit students for the program.

The college plans to enroll 350 apprentices over a four-year period, targeting, specifically, the unemployed and underemployed, current IT workers, veterans and military families and such underserved populations as women, minorities and former inmates. ACC President Richard Rhodes said the new program will provide a way for those who want to be hired in IT fields but can’t afford to quit their jobs to go back to school to get the necessary skills.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2019

Chip Roy conducts a town hall in two acts - one civil, one not

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy’s town hall Tuesday evening at Compassion Church in a strip mall along Thousand Oaks was in two acts, though it was not clear when Roy, the protagonist in this civic drama, exited the stage at the abrupt close of an acrimonious first act, if he would be returning for Act 2.

It was the first of what will be four town halls while Roy, a freshman Republican who lives in Hays County, is home for the August congressional recess, but he was just back from a “phenomenal trip” to Israel with some 80 of colleagues, half Republicans, half Democrats, and Roy wanted to share some lessons with his audience of CD 21 constituents, who he knew going in were, like on his trip to Israel, made up of political antagonists, divided between faithful Republicans and activists in the anti-Trump resistance mostly affiliated with the Indivisible movement.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2019

Coal production falls sharply in Texas

Coal production fell sharply last year as coal-fired power plants closed and natural gas provided a cheaper and cleaner alternative for electricity generators. The state’s 12 active coal mines produced 25 million tons of coal in 2018, down nearly 30 percent from the 35 million tons in 2017, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas.

Each of the mines produced significantly less. At the state’s largest coal mine, the Kosse Mine in Limestone County near Waco, production fell 16 percent to 8.7 million tons from 10.1 million tons. The Kosse mine is owned by Luminant, the merchant power unit of the Irving company, Vistra Energy.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

‘It’s summer, Chuck.’ Cornyn climate-change quip draws heated response

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn made a joke online over the weekend that landed him in hot water — and gave his political opponents an early opening to hit him on what will likely be a major issue in his re-election campaign: Climate change.

“It’s summer, Chuck,” Cornyn wrote on Twitter on Friday, seemingly dismissing the role of climate change in record heat this summer. Cornyn was responding to a tweet from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wrote that “July 2019 was the hottest month ever, of any month, on record. Climate change is the greatest threat facing our planet.”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2019

Uber makes it official: It will set up major hub in downtown Dallas by end of year

It’s official: Uber Technologies will open an office of at least 3,000 employees in Deep Ellum, and it plans to turn Dallas into its largest hub outside of its San Francisco headquarters, company officials told The Dallas Morning News Tuesday.

Uber will hire or relocate about 400 employees to Dallas by the end of the year, said Chris Miller, senior manager of public policy in Texas. It will move into a tower on the edge of downtown Dallas in July 2020 and then into a taller tower on the same site about two years later. Most of Uber’s Dallas employees will work in finance, human resources and sales, Miller said. They will support the company’s transportation-related businesses, including ride-sharing, food delivery and the development of urban air taxis.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez among 27 East Coast lawmakers wading into American Airlines' dispute with mechanics

More than two dozen East Coast members of the U.S. House, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are wading into American Airlines' dispute with its union mechanics, telling the company to preserve the jobs of U.S. airline maintenance workers.

Their letter was sent to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker as well as the heads of the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists. Those three groups have been locked in a court battle and negotiations centered on a new contract. In recent weeks, the two unions have repeatedly told American and anyone who would listen that they are concerned about maintenance work done at foreign repair facilities.

Top of Page

Texas Public Radio - August 20, 2019

Some survivors of El Paso shooting may be eligible for U Visa

Some survivors of the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart may be eligible for a special visa designed to protect victims of crime. The U visa, created by Congress in 2000, gives recipients the ability to live and work legally in the U.S. for four years and eventually apply for a green card, in exchange for cooperating with law enforcement.

Those eligible could include survivors of the shooting, as well as certain family members, such as spouses and children under the age of 21. The visa was created to help crime victims and witnesses to crime feel comfortable cooperating with law enforcement without fear of being reported to immigration authorities, says Pamela Mun?oz, an El Paso immigration attorney.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 20, 2019

Suspect in El Paso attack on suicide watch

The 21-year-old suspect in the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people has been placed on suicide watch in jail. El Paso County sheriff’s spokeswoman Christina Acosta confirmed Monday that Patrick Crusius is on suicide watch in the El Paso County jail. She said the watch was determined by medical staff, but she declined to elaborate citing privacy requirements.

Crusius is held without bond on a capital murder charge. El Paso police say he has confessed to opening fire on back-to-school shoppers at an El Paso Walmart. Authorities also say Crusius confessed to targeting Mexicans during the attack. The investigation of an online rant has attributed Crusius comments about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and theories of non-white immigrants replacing whites.

Top of Page

ESPN.com - August 21, 2019

Clemens nixes political run, citing 'climate'

Pitching great Roger Clemens didn't shy away from many battles in his major league career, but politics is something he's not willing to take on. Clemens had been encouraged to run as a Republican candidate for the seat of Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson, who announced his retirement last month. The 57-year-old Clemens said he was honored but had "no interest" in running for office.

"The climate in politics at this time is much more than I would want to undertake, along with my family considerations," Clemens said in a message to Olson that was obtained by ABC News. "I am a Republican and I support our President and will continue to do so," Clemens said. "No matter who our President may be, I will continue my support of them and root for them to be successful, just as I did when President Obama was in office. "I will ... do all I can to continue to promote the quality of life issues that we respect and try to maintain as citizens of the State of Texas and the United States."

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 20, 2019

Gov. Abbott awards $24 million incentive to Uber

Uber is opening a new hub in Texas, with a hefty helping hand from the governor's office. Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to give the company $24 million from his “deal-closing” economic incentive fund — the second-largest award the Republican has given out since he took office in 2015.

In turn, Uber said it will create 3,000 jobs at a new U.S. General and Administrative Hub in Dallas, the first city in Texas where the ride-sharing app was available, to according to a press release from Abbott's office. “This investment will bolster Texas’ continued economic success and reputation as the best state for business. Our unrivaled workforce and business-friendly environment makes Texas the perfect home for innovative companies like Uber,” Abbott said in a statement.

Top of Page

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 21, 2019

Tarrant tea party leader draws scorn for ‘replacement theory’ posts after El Paso shooting

Some North Texas tea party leaders are drawing attention across the country. First it was for a new political battle cry, preaching political intolerance as the 2020 election looms.

Now, as the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party works to rebrand itself, the group is in the spotlight again for comments made by a high-ranking member after the Aug. 3 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart. That gunman referenced the “replacement theory” in an online manifesto and complained about how white people would soon be the minority because of an “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Top of Page

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 20, 2019

Williamson commissioners cancel ‘Live PD’ contract

The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to cancel the county’s contract with “Live PD,” a television show that films the daily patrol activities of officers. The commissioners did not discuss the issue with the “Live PD” contract before voting on it. The county has to give Big Fish Entertainment, the company that produces the show, a 30-day notice that it plans to cancel the contract.

The sheriff’s office’s participation in the show has come under fire from prosecutors and defense attorney about the lack of access to potential evidence gathered by film crews at a crime scene or during an arrest, and from officials who say it portrays the county in a poor light. In July, officials said they had opened an investigation into allegations of excessive force during a traffic stop of a man that was broadcast on “Live PD.”

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2019

ACA premiums for 2020 in Houston finally going down but trouble still lurks

After years of eye-popping rate increases for individual coverage through the Affordable Care Act, premium prices in Houston for most plans will go down next year, signalling the volatile market may have finally stabilized.

Three of four insurers offering plans through the federal exchange in Harris County have lowered their prices slightly with only one asking for a modest increase, according to filings to the Texas Department of Insurance and the federal healthcare.gov. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the state's largest insurer will offer two health maintenance organization (HMO) plans with an average rate reduction of just over 2 percent from 2019.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2019

Houston voters will face a crowded November ballot

More than 125 candidates turned in paperwork to run for city office by Monday’s filing deadline, setting up a packed November ballot likely to leave every incumbent with at least one opponent. The unusually crowded field is driven largely by the city’s move in 2015 to extend term limits, allowing officials to serve two four-year terms instead of three two-year terms, said Rice University political science Professor Bob Stein.

“It used to be that you just wouldn’t run against an incumbent. You would wait until they term-limited out,” Stein said. “Candidates are no longer getting the two-year pass.” Thirteen candidates have filed to run for mayor, including incumbent Sylvester Turner, who is running for a second four-year term. Turner’s challengers include his 2015 runoff opponent, Bill King, lawyer and business owner Tony Buzbee, Councilman Dwight Boykins and former councilwoman Sue Lovell.

Top of Page

KUT - August 20, 2019

The provability gap: Why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin

Austin had the highest number of rapes reported in large Texas cities in 2017. The rate of reported rapes that year was also nearly 40% higher than U.S. cities of similar size. The Travis County District Attorney says law enforcement responded to more than 600 adult sexual assault allegations that year. Only one person was found guilty by a jury. And that case wasn't from Austin.

Even though an overwhelming majority of these assaults – 496 – were reported to the Austin Police Department, none made it to trial in all of 2017. (This includes cases carried over from the year before.) Community advocates have long argued the number of prosecutions for sexual assaults is too low, but it was only after a swell of critical news – from DNA lab closures to misclassified police reports to class-action lawsuits – that city leaders began to take a deeper look. More people are starting to question whether the criminal justice system is really set up to protect rape victims.

Top of Page

KUT - August 20, 2019

Dallas task force to use data and lived experiences to reduce homicides

Earlier this summer, law enforcement leaders in Dallas said homicide rates were the highest the city has seen in a decade. They’re expecting 228 by the end of the year. In one of case, police charged a man with killing 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett who was shot in the head while sitting in her home on Aug. 14, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Now, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is creating the Task Force on Safe Communities to address the growing violence. Alan Cohen, head of Dallas nonprofit Child Poverty Action Lab, will be on the task force, and says it’s necessary, in addition to police action, to make Dallas safer. “We are waking up to tragedies in our community, and there’s nothing more important than making sure that the streets of Dallas are safe for our children,” Cohen says. But he says addressing public safety is complex.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 20, 2019

Harlandale trustees fill vacancy on board

Trustees of the Harlandale Independent School District voted Monday night to appoint a replacement to the District 4 seat. Norma Anel Cavazos, a court coordinator, was the sole applicant for the spot vacated by longtime trustee David Abundis in July.

Cavazos, 48, has lived in the Harlandale district 26 years, according to her application. Abundis resigned amid the threat of a takeover by the Texas Education Agency, though Abundis said he resigned to spend more time with family. Abundis said he’d not wanted to run for re-election two years ago but failed to find a replacement. He ran uncontested.

Top of Page

National Stories

New York Times - August 19, 2019

Pressed by the NRA, Trump again retreats on background checks

Days after a pair of deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, President Donald Trump said he was prepared to endorse what he described as “very meaningful background checks” that would be possible because of his “greater influence now over the Senate and over the House.”

But after discussions with gun rights advocates during his two-week working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey — including talks with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association — Trump’s resolve appears to have substantially softened, and he has reverted to reiterating the conservative positions on the gun issue he has espoused since the 2016 campaign.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 20, 2019

Trump's rollback of auto pollution rules shows signs of disarray

The White House, blindsided by a pact between California and four automakers to oppose President Donald Trump’s auto emissions rollbacks, has mounted an effort to prevent any more companies from joining the other side.

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors were all summoned by a senior Trump adviser to a White House meeting last month where he pressed them to stand by the president’s own initiative, according to four people familiar with the talks. But even as the White House was working to do this, it was losing ground. Yet another company, Mercedes-Benz, is preparing to join Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW in the California agreement, according to two people familiar with the German company’s plans. Trump, described by three people as enraged by California’s deal, has demanded that his staff members step up the pace to complete his plan.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 20, 2019

Trump accuses Jewish Democrats of ‘great disloyalty’

President Trump said on Tuesday that any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat is guilty of ignorance or “great disloyalty,” intensifying his efforts to drive in a partisan wedge over religion and support for Israel even as he appeared to draw on an anti-Semitic trope.

Mr. Trump did not go into specifics about what he considered to be Jews’ disloyalty, but his language was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic smear that Jews have a “dual loyalty” and are more devoted to Israel than they are to their own countries. Mr. Trump’s comments were the latest turn in a controversy over religion and politics that erupted last week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, at the president’s urging, barred an official visit to Israel by the first two Muslim women in Congress. The congresswomen, Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, both Democrats, have been harshly critical of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 21, 2019

David Von Drehle: Destroy Trump, or save him and weaken America

Like Mel Brooks as the king of France, it’s good to be Xi Jinping. Or so you might think. The man is the undisputed ruler of the world’s most populous nation, the autocrat at the top of a one-party state that controls the second-largest economy in the world. His nation’s principal rival for global influence appears to have given up on statecraft in favor of government by temper tantrum.

But life’s getting tougher for the chairman, or so it seems from here. Xi has set for China the goal of becoming the most powerful nation on Earth. But that entails learning to employ tools of power that aren’t yet on his belt. I’m talking about soft power — the use of international organizations, moral suasion, foreign aid, trade, compromise, alliances and salesmanship to achieve a nation’s aims. Brutally adept with hard power — from tanks and machine guns to concentration camps and starvation — the Chinese Communist Party has little experience with soft power. Xi is getting a crash course, with one test after another.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 20, 2019

Oregon officials request criminal investigation into newspaper reporters over after-hours phone calls, emails

The Malheur Enterprise, a small newspaper in eastern Oregon, spent months investigating a state lawmaker’s business deals and contract work in Malheur County. But on Monday, the newspaper reported an unusual development: Now the county wants to investigate the Malheur Enterprise — for harassment.

The problem? Reporters made too many phone calls and sent too many emails, at least in the eyes of local government officials. The newspaper broke the news Monday morning after learning that Malheur County’s legal counsel had asked the sheriff to investigate whether reporters’ persistent attempts to contact officials, sometimes after business hours or using their personal email accounts, amounted to a violation of the law.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 20, 2019

3 women sue Epstein’s estate, citing rape, other sex acts

Three women filed lawsuits Tuesday accusing Jeffrey Epstein of raping them or subjecting them to other forced sex acts, including one case while he was serving a Florida jail sentence that allowed him out to work during the day. The lawsuits in Manhattan federal court were filed on behalf of women who remained anonymous. They sought unspecified damages, citing continuing psychological and psychiatric trauma, mental anguish, humiliation and more.

The lawsuits say two women were 17 and the third woman was 20 when they said they were sexually assaulted by Epstein. All said they were also coerced into giving Epstein sexual massages for years. Each woman explained in separate lawsuits how Epstein entered her life and forever changed its trajectory. They said Epstein dangled his powerful connections to political and business leaders worldwide as he promised to boost their careers in exchange for sexual servitude.

Top of Page

New Republic - August 19, 2019

Trump’s quiet attack on redistricting

It went largely unnoticed last week, but the Trump administration’s ongoing campaign to structurally tilt American democracy in the Republican Party’s favor is proceeding apace. President Donald Trump ordered the Census Bureau to compile citizenship data from existing federal records last month, after the Supreme Court effectively blocked a citizenship question on the census itself. In a letter to Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley, the bureau confirmed it would produce that data in a highly auspicious form.

While not obvious at first blush, this arcane minutiae carries massive consequences for American politics. Every ten years, state legislatures redraw both their own seats and federal House districts using the bureau’s block-level data on total population—the Census-tabulated head count of every single person inside the United States. By also providing block-level data on eligible voters, the bureau is opening the door for states to redraw their legislative maps in 2021 based on that population base instead.

Top of Page

Des Moines Register - August 19, 2019

Des Moines Register Editorial: Michael Bennet pounds some truth into the campaign

Note to selves: Next time we sit down with Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet, we should put down a padded tablecloth – for his own safety. Bennet, a U.S. senator from Colorado, seems like a relatively low-key fellow – until he winds himself up talking about the “clown car” that Congress has become and the consequences to the country.

No matter – his vision about why Washington, D.C., is so screwed up is pretty clear. Here are some of Bennet’s table-pounding topics: Bennet said he’d often wonder why anyone would want to be part of an institution with a 9 percent approval rating. “And I’d want to have a paper bag over my head because of how stupid the last week’s activities had been in Washington and … what a clown car the last week had been in Washington.”

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2019

Nuclear propulsion could get us to Mars in half the time. But NASA isn't really working on it

The nine-month trip to Mars could be slashed in half with nuclear propulsion –– but NASA is barely looking into the technology. The efficiencies of this new technology –– for both human and scientific missions –– were discussed by Rex Geveden, president and CEO of BWX Technologies, during the sixth meeting of the National Space Council on Tuesday. The Virginia-based company supplies nuclear components and fuel to the government.

And Geveden implored NASA to spend more time on it if Mars truly was a goal. "If we are to fulfill these objectives to establish a long-term presence on the moon and to send the first crewed mission to Mars, nuclear power is arguably the most important to enable these bold goals," Geveden said.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 20, 2019

Michael Gerson: Now evangelicals are offended?

I have a confession to make. I am one of the five remaining Americans who is uncomfortable with vulgarity, put off by profanity and offended by blasphemy. Swearing is now generally taken as a sign of authenticity; it is more often the expression of anger and aggression. I don’t think political discourse is improved by language more appropriate to a bar fight. I do think the presidency is diminished by public scatology and sacrilege. And I really don’t give a darn if you think this is old-fashioned.

So I probably had more sympathy than most for West Virginia state Sen. Paul Hardesty and his upset constituents. After a recent speech by Donald Trump, Hardesty — who is a conservative, pro-Trump Democrat — received phone calls from Christians complaining of the president’s use of the term “goddamn.” In a letter to Trump, Hardesty pronounced himself “appalled by the fact that you chose to use the Lord’s name in vain on two separate occasions.”

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 20, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says speaker scandal, if not resolved, could 'play part in' losing GOP seats in Texas House

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, weighing in on the scandal that's roiled the Texas House in recent weeks, warned Republicans must resolve the issue or risk losing control of that chamber in 2020.

Late last month, conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan alleged that Speaker Dennis Bonnen had a private meeting with him in June at which Bonnen and House GOP Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows asked Sullivan to target fellow Republicans in next year's primary election. Sullivan claims Bonnen also offered his organization Texas House media credentials, which they had previously been denied.

Top of Page

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - August 20, 2019

Julián Castro qualifies for Houston debate after gaining 2% support in new CNN poll

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro reached the all-important 2 percent threshold in the CNN poll released Tuesday of Democratic presidential contenders, meaning he qualifies for the debate next month in Houston. Castro will join fellow Texans Beto O'Rourke and eight others for the third Democratic debate. He is the 10th candidate to meet both the polling and fundraising targets needed to join the field.

If more than 10 candidates qualify, the debate sponsored by ABC News will be held over two nights, which was the case for the first two events of the 2020 cycle. The CNN poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading the crowded Democratic field, gaining the support of 29 percent of the respondents. That's up from 22 percent the CNN poll released at the end of June.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - August 20, 2019

Trump calls for a big Fed rate cut, again criticizes Central Bank chairman

President Trump on Monday called for the Federal Reserve to sharply cut interest rates and again criticized the central bank’s chairman for a “horrendous lack of vision,” while reiterating his belief that the U.S. economy is strong.

The president said in a pair of tweets Monday morning that the Fed should cut its benchmark interest rate by at least a full percentage point and resume its crisis-era program of buying bonds to lower long-term borrowing costs. Such moves would typically be considered only when the economy faces serious peril, which Fed officials don’t believe to be the case. White House officials have said in recent days that they don’t believe the U.S. is headed toward a slowdown.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 19, 2019

Tarrant Tea Party official under fire for 'replacement' comments after El Paso shooting

After a gunman killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart, citing a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” in a manifesto he posted on the internet, some Texas Republicans were quick to condemn his actions as terrorism fueled by white supremacy.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush was the first, calling it an act of “white terrorism,” which he said is a “real and present threat that we all must denounce and defeat.” And U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz denounced the massacre as a “heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy.” But the man behind a political action committee for one of the state’s most influential Tea Party groups took to social media with a different message. The day after the tragedy, Fred McCarty, of the NE Tarrant Tea Party PAC, wrote on Facebook: “You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back.”

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Griddy customers feel bite of soaring wholesale power prices

Benjamin Davis signed up in July for Griddy, the power retailer that sells electricity in Texas at wholesale prices because he wanted to save money. But what Davis, who lives in Pearland, didn’t realize was Griddy’s plan exposed him to the risks of commodity markets — risks he quickly recognized when wholesale electricity prices surged to the state’s cap of $9,000 per megawatt hour last week and stayed there for extended periods over the course of several days.

Davis, who was in Portugal for his job in the oil and gas industry, began noticing Griddy repeatedly charging his credit card $60 at a time to pay for power. Davis called home and told his wife: “I don’t know what you’re doing but quit doing what you’re doing.” The family cut off one of its air conditioning units and then took more drastic measures as the week wore on, shutting everything off from the breaker box except the refrigerator. Even with those adjustments, the bill for the first two weeks of August came to more than $300, exceeding what the family paid for the entire month of July. “Never in my wildest dreams,” said Davis.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: ‘I had a ticking time bomb in my chest.’

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he had no idea “I had a ticking time bomb in my chest” before a trip to the emergency room likely saved his life. Speaking on a radio show in Dallas for the first time since having a stent put in to open an artery that was nearly blocked, the Houston area Republican said he thought the fatigue he was feeling was just from a hectic schedule that him flying a lot lately. “I just thought I was tired,” Patrick, 69, said.

But that changed dramatically on Thursday night. After being at Stephens Elementary in Houston earlier in the day to meet with school officials, Patrick said he was home when he felt a sharp pain in his chest unlike anything he had felt before. He went to the emergency room and doctors at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital found an artery was 90 percent blocked.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Texas Southern law school hires first female dean

oan R.M. Bullock sits in a conference room in Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law —the portraits of several former deans hang behind her, as if each visage is staring intently over her shoulder. All nine before her were men, and now, Bullock, the first female dean of the historically black college’s law school, is making history.

In June, the university announced Bullock’s appointment and its new deans in the business school, and in the colleges of liberal arts and behavioral sciences, pharmacy and health sciences, and public affairs. By July, Bullock had officially begun her role, replacing Gary L. Bledsoe, who served as acting dean for two years. Her list of responsibilities is already long.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Art Acevedo: Demand gun reforms to protect public, police from gun violence

It is way past time that elected officials take immediate action to address the public health epidemic afflicting our nation and leading to the death and wounding of our fellow Americans as a result of gun crime. It is their responsibility to put aside politics and the desires of the gun lobby to stop the needless and frequent mass shootings and daily gun violence. Americans deserve action, and the tears of the families impacted by this scourge scream out for change.

In less than 30 days, there have been five tragic shooting incidents impacting Texas and our nation. The common denominators among the incidents listed above are assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. But for the grace of God and the courage of law enforcement officers and others, the death toll would have been much higher. The bravery and sacrifice of our nation’s cops must be met with immediate action to protect them and the communities they serve. We can no longer accept the obligatory press conference during which the president, members of Congress, governors, and state legislators offer their thoughts and prayers, and nothing else. With each passing mass shooting and daily gun violence, their words are ringing increasingly hollow.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2019

Erica Grieder: Beto O’Rourke new campaign strategy may not lead to White House, but it’s an honorable one

Since announcing his bid for president, Beto O’Rourke has often puzzled his supporters as well as his critics. The El Paso Democrat did so once again Thursday, in his first campaign speech since the Aug. 3 domestic terror attack that left 22 people dead and dozens injured at a local Walmart, most of them Mexican or Mexican-American.

O’Rourke cast the attack on his hometown as an attack on America, and argued that President Donald Trump has put the country itself in peril, in addition to being a menace to millions of people in it. “We have a racism in America that is as old as America itself and intolerance towards those who do not look like, or pray like, or love like or speak like the majority in this country,” he said. “We have always tried, until now, to change that.” Trump has not, unfortunately, and in O’Rourke’s view, he’s been openly relitigating the foundational premises of the American experiment. “I’m confident that if at this moment, we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep,” O’Rourke said.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Death row inmate Larry Swearingen denied clemency before Wednesday execution

Montgomery County’s only death row prisoner lost a long-shot bid for clemency Monday, just over 48 hours before he is scheduled for execution. For convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen, these final days and last-minute legal filings must feel familiar. The Wednesday execution date marks the sixth time he’s been scheduled for death in the past two decades.

The 48-year-old Willis man was sent to death row in July 2000, after he was convicted of slaughtering Montgomery County college student Melissa Trotter and dumping her body in the Sam Houston National Forest. The case against him was built on circumstantial evidence, and Swearingen has repeatedly professed his innocence, questioning everything from autopsy results and entomology to cell phone forensics and an analysis of torn pantyhose. Over the years, those questions have sparked national publicity and galvanized local support even to the last minute. A rally opposing his execution is scheduled Tuesday outside the courthouse in Montgomery County.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2019

After El Paso shooting, Abbott creates Texas Safety Commission

Following through on plans for roundtable discussions after a mass shooting in El Paso left 22 dead, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced the creation of the Texas Safety Commission to develop “an immediate action plan” for state leaders. Abbott said he wants the commission to develop ideas to combat the rise of extremist groups, fight domestic terrorism and keep guns away from “deranged individuals.”

The panel also will be asked to recommend laws and other legislative action to prevent mass shootings and domestic terror attacks, Abbott said. The Legislature next meets in January 2021, and Abbott thus far has rejected Democratic pressure to call a special session to address issues of gun violence. The first Texas Safety Commission meeting will be 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 at the Capitol. A second meeting will be Aug. 29 in El Paso. Parts of the meetings will be open to reporters, and additional details will be released later, Abbott’s office said.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2019

Millions of Texans vulnerable to surprise medical bills despite legislative efforts

Millions of Texans will remain unprotected from surprise medical bills despite state lawmakers this year passing one of the nation’s most aggressive pieces of legislation to curb such bills. Senate Bill 1264, signed into law in June and effective Jan. 1, stops patients from being blindsided by exorbitant medical bills for emergency services, services provided at in-network hospitals and other facilities, and for lab work.

But the new state law only protects about a third of the 14 million Texans who are vulnerable to surprise medical bills because it only applies to those who have insurance regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance — usually teachers, state employees, those who work for small businesses and individuals who buy their own insurance. Roughly 9 million Texans, mostly those with employer-funded insurance plans that are regulated by the federal government, are not covered by the law.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2019

Fact-check: Could students pray, discuss El Paso mass shooting at school?

In an interview on Fox News almost a week after the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso that left 22 people dead and more than two dozen injured, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discussed the attack and possible motivating factors. He mentioned mental health and violent video games during the interview. He also raised concerns about spiritual values.

Patrick said that “on Sunday, everyone was going to church in America, praying about this, and the next day when their kids went to school, they weren’t allowed to pray or bring it up.” He made a similar comment during an appearance on Fox News the day after the shooting: “I look at this Sunday morning when most of your viewers right now, half of the country, are getting ready to go to church and yet tomorrow, we won’t let our kids even pray in our schools.” Patrick’s claim is off base. Kids are allowed to pray in schools and they are permitted to discuss current events — including mass shootings.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 19, 2019

Gov. Abbott names new Secretary of State after flawed voter purge

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced a new secretary of state to replace David Whitley, who lost the job over a botched attempt to purge non-citizens from the state's voter roll.

Ruth Ruggero Hughs of Austin will take over as the state’s top election official before voters go to the polls in 2020, a presidential year that is expected to draw huge turnout in Texas. An attorney, Hughes is currently chair of the Texas Workforce Commission. She takes over as secretary of state after months of turmoil. Senate Democrats blocked the Whitley’s confirmation after his office wrongly flagged thousands of U.S. citizens in January for potential removal from the voter rolls.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

DPS 'mega centers' keep drivers waiting despite extra funding, political pressure

Hours-long waits continue to frustrate Dallas-area drivers hoping to renew their licenses at the state's "mega centers," a year after additional manpower and other resources were devoted to the problem.

The centers, run by the Department of Public Safety, opened in 2012 to help reduce wait times at smaller offices. Besides the southern Dallas center, there are three others in North Texas, in Carrollton, Garland and Fort Worth. Long lines are also the norm at smaller offices in Plano and McKinney. Last year, DPS added 100 employees to its mega centers. The announcement came days after a Dallas Morning News story about customers at the Carrollton center who reported up to eight-hour wait times.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

Secret meeting: former Texas House speaker attacked; conservative activist accused of 'gaslighting'

At the end of the legislative session in May, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen heaped praise on his immediate predecessor, Joe Straus, calling him a “very good” speaker and a “good friend.” But two weeks later, during a meeting with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, Bonnen attacked Straus’ record as speaker, according to multiple people who have heard Sullivan’s secretly recorded audio of the meeting.

Using the San Antonio Republican’s approach of supporting moderate Republican incumbents in primary elections and working with Democrats as a foil, Bonnen cast himself as a true conservative who is more aligned with Sullivan’s goals. Bonnen tells Sullivan that Straus, who does not currently hold public office, recently asked a Latina Republican running for office in Dallas County why she would challenge a “good Democrat” like Rep. John Turner, when she could run against Republican Morgan Meyer, the incumbent in a neighboring district.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 20, 2019

Artifacts in hand, George P. Bush teaches history to San Antonio fourth graders

Normally they’d be at recess, but on Monday afternoon, a class of sprightly fourth graders at Hillcrest Elementary School walked to the front of their classroom, one by one, to hold a nearly 200-year-old cannonball found in Alamo Plaza in 1875. One student stuck her finger in a hole in the bronze relic. Another held the ball in one hand and raised it up and down, exclaiming at how heavy it felt.

It was the end of a Texas history lesson from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, part of his initiative to visit 50 schools across the state. Following a morning stop at Storm Relay Lab Elementary School, Bush presented a lesson to fourth graders at Hillcrest - his 30th visit - centered around a Texas railroad map printed in the 19th century. Bush said his visits reinforce the state government’s commitment to public education this year, marked by the Legislature’s move to boost state funding and reform how it gets distributed.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

Fort Worth defense contractor charged with felony for using cheap, substandard parts for U.S. tanks, other weapons

A career Fort Worth defense contractor who spent time in prison for lying to the government is in trouble again for similar conduct, which investigators say could have compromised troop safety and led to the disclosure of U.S. technology secrets to foreign governments. Ross Hyde, 63, has been charged in federal court with making false claims about the type of aluminum he provided under a contract for aircraft landing gear, court records show. He faces up to five years in prison, if convicted.

Hyde, a machinist, has said in court documents that he's worked in the industry all his life. His latest company, Vista Machining Co., has supplied the Pentagon with parts for tanks, aircraft and other military equipment — mostly hardware and machined metals — since 2008. But inspectors said many of his products were cheap replacements, some illegally obtained from China, which he tried to hide from the government.

Top of Page

Bloomberg - August 19, 2019

AT&T rolls out new online TV service in three Texas cities

AT&T Inc. launched a new online TV product in 10 cities Monday -- a package of channels and fees that look a lot like conventional offerings, including the company's own DirecTV.

The new AT&T TV offering debuted in three Texas markets -- Corpus Christi, El Paso and Odessa -- as well as in Orange and Riverside, California; West Palm Beach, Florida; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; and St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri.

Top of Page

Texas Monthly - August 19, 2019

Unchecked power: how judges are hurting poor Texans

In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that a person accused of a felony is guaranteed counsel even if the person can’t afford a lawyer. How exactly that counsel is provided, however, was left to states to decide, and in Texas, this “how” gets further relegated to the state’s 254 counties—meaning that each county decides how to appoint, and pay, lawyers for the poor.

Last fiscal year, there were roughly 474,000 indigent cases in Texas. There are 19 public defender’s offices, which 39 counties rely on in some capacity, but the majority of counties contract with private lawyers, who are generally paid a modest flat fee per case. (This is the most common way that states fulfill their Gideon v. Wainwright obligations.) More than 150 counties also participate in a public defender program for death penalty cases.

Top of Page

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2019

Longtime Travis County Judge Denton resigns, possibly to run for County Attorney

Longtime Travis County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Denton resigned from the bench last week, Court Administrator Debra Hale confirmed to the American-Statesman on Monday.

Denton’s resignation fuels speculation that he will run for County Attorney next year in the Democratic primary. He told the American-Statesman in April he was “very seriously considering it.”

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

Lawsuit filed against Pearland ISD administrators accused of coloring black student’s hair

A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Sunday against Pearland ISD administrators who earlier this year were accused of filling in a design in a black middle school student’s hair with permanent marker.

In April, a 13-year-old Berry Miller Junior High student arrived at school with an “M” shaved into his short fade haircut, which administrators said violated the dress code policy. Three administrators gave the student, Juelz Trice, the option to either call his mother, receive a disciplinary action or color the design in with a marker, according to earlier reports in the Chronicle. Facebook photos later showed marker on the boy’s head, prompting public outrage and apologies from the district.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

HISD board fires back at TEA in lawsuit, calls investigation ‘one-sided’

Lawyers for Houston ISD’s school board are seeking to stop the Texas Education Agency from replacing the district’s elected trustees following a state investigation into alleged misconduct, arguing the agency conducted a “one-sided investigation” that reached conclusions “unsupported by any credible evidence.”

In an amended lawsuit filed Friday, lawyers for the nine-member board cite several ways in which agency leaders violated trustees’ rights and failed to fully investigate allegations of wrongdoing. The lawsuit comes two weeks after TEA investigators determined several trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, improperly influenced district contracts and overstepped their governance role — allegations denied by the HISD board’s lawyers.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2019

King, Buzbee unveil flood plans, Turner touts ‘green’ development incentives

Houston mayoral candidate Bill King on Monday laid out a seven-part plan aimed at mitigating future flooding, with proposals to push development back from bayous and have builders pay into a fund used to build detention basins.

Under King’s plan, the detention fee in most cases would replace the city’s requirement that new construction provide a certain amount of detention capacity. “I am inclined to think that we should have some kind of fee for any development, including single-family, that would go into an account devoted exclusively to the development of detention basins, at least for smaller tracts,” King said in his plan. “A fee in lieu of on-site detention should never be allowed where there is a specific impact to surrounding property owners.”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

Plano mayor puts Plan B debate to rest after council member's concern over funding rape crisis center

Supporters of The Turning Point showed up early Saturday to a Plano city meeting ready to implore the council not to put the brakes on more than $57,000 in grant funding for the rape crisis center. But many supporters of the center didn't make it to the mic after Mayor Harry LaRosiliere proffered a solution that seemed to put council members' minds at ease.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli had expressed concerns earlier this month about funding the center because it provides Plan B emergency contraceptive pills to sexual assault survivors. He said he was concerned that in some cases, the morning-after pill "destroys a human life." The pill does not affect an existing pregnancy, according to the manufacturer. LaRosiliere suggested that it be written into The Turning Point's grant contract that the $57,542 in funding — up from $47,348 last year — is used only for counseling and administrative services and not for any medication.

Top of Page

KUT - August 19, 2019

Austin could fund 'logistical support' for low-income women seeking abortions

Four Austin City Council members want the city to help low-income women obtain abortions – without the city actually paying for the procedure. At the urging of local reproductive rights groups, Austin city leaders are working to set aside up to $150,000 for groups that provide transportation, lodging, child care and counseling to women seeking abortions.

The budget measure, which is supported by Council members Paige Ellis, Delia Garza, Leslie Pool and Greg Casar, is a city response to state laws that curb access to abortion. “We have seen how this right has been chipped away at – from waiting periods to sonogram bills to all kinds of barriers being placed in front of women – who are simply seeking an option that is still a constitutional right in this country,” said Mayor Pro Tem Garza.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2019

Game over: Anti-stadium group that fought to get Prop A on ballots won’t campaign for it

Fair Play Austin, the political action committee financially backed by the head of the Circuit of the Americas, announced Monday it will not campaign for the Major League Soccer stadium voter proposition it helped put on the ballot.

The announcement is a major blow to supporters of Proposition A, which calls for elections on any lease of city-owned property for a sports or entertainment venue. Fair Play Austin’s spokesman Chris Lippincott said in a news release that recently approved ballot language for Prop A had drifted too far from the ordinance’s original intentions. “In its current condition, passing Proposition A would do more harm than the good intended when we initially supported it,” the release said.

Top of Page

National Stories

Associated Press - August 19, 2019

Warren apologizes for heritage claim, woos Native Americans

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren offered a public apology Monday to Native Americans over her past claim to tribal heritage, directly tackling an area that’s proved to be a big political liability. “Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes,” the Massachusetts senator said at a forum on Native American issues in this pivotal early voting state. “I am sorry for the harm I have caused.”

Monday’s remarks were an effort to move past the fallout from her past claims of tribal ancestry, which culminated in a widely criticized release of a DNA analysis last year. The issue nearly derailed her campaign in the early days as President Donald Trump began derisively referring to her as “Pocahontas.” Now that Warren is gaining in most polls, she’s trying to prove to voters that the controversy won’t doom her in a general election matchup against Trump. The detailed policy agenda to help Native Americans that she released last week helped her secure a warm reception from attendees at the tribal forum.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 20, 2019

Planned Parenthood leaves federal family planning program

Planned Parenthood said Monday it's pulling out of the federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president and CEO, said the organization's nationwide network of health centers would remain open and strive to make up for the loss of federal money. But she predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood services would "delay or go without" care. "We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients," said McGill Johnson. "Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them."

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 19, 2019

New Mexico company chosen to build border wall part in Texas

An Albuquerque-based company has been awarded a more than $80 million contract to building a stretch of new border wall in Texas.

KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, reports Southwest Valley Constructors was recently chosen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to build an 11-mile stretch in Hidalgo County, Texas. Customs and Border Protection officials said the new portion will be similar to a previously constructed levee wall, built in the area in 2008. That piece included lights, cameras and other technology.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

Beto O'Rourke, taking retooled message to Oklahoma, calls Trump a racist 'demagogue'

Beto O'Rourke brought his retooled presidential campaign message to Oklahoma on Monday, hoping to ignite a crusade against racism and intolerance that unseats President Donald Trump and propels him to the White House.

"It is not enough, ladies and gentlemen, not to be racist in this country," O'Rourke said at a brewery in downtown Tulsa on Sunday night. "We have to be anti-racist in this country. We have to shut down white supremacy, domestic terrorism, white nationalism, and call them out for what they are." O'Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, has branded Trump a racist president whose caustic rhetoric about Hispanic immigrants led to the August mass shooting in his hometown, and to a spread of white supremacy and intolerance that threatens the moral objectives of the nation.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

As Trump expands DNA testing at border to root out child trafficking, privacy questions grow

The Trump administration has expanded DNA testing in recent weeks to expose migrants who pose as families, raising an outcry from advocacy groups who call the measure a waste of resources and a violation of privacy.

As the number of migrants arriving at the border continues to surge, the Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that human traffickers and smugglers are using children to enter the country, knowing that they have a better chance of seeking asylum. But critics say human trafficking is not a prominent issue at the border and does not justify invasive DNA testing. They also argue that not all parental relationships are rooted in biology, opening the door to complications that could harm children.

Top of Page

The Hill - August 18, 2019

F-bombs away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever

For lawmakers and political candidates, 2019 could be the year of not giving a f--- about cursing. Profanity — once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office — is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu. And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before.

In analysis conducted exclusively for ITK, GovPredict, a government relations software company, found that the frequency of lawmakers using words that might make one’s grandmother blush has increased steadily since 2014.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 19, 2019

White House officials eye payroll tax cut in effort to reverse weakening economy

Several senior White House officials have begun discussing whether to push for a temporary payroll tax cut as a way to arrest an economic slowdown, three people familiar with the discussions said, revealing the growing concerns by President Donald Trump's top economic aides.

The talks are still in their early stages, and the officials have not decided whether to formally push Congress to approve the cut, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose internal discussions. But the White House in recent days has begun searching for proposals that could halt a slowing economy. Millions of Americans pay a "payroll tax" on their earnings, a 6.2% levy that is used to finance Social Security programs. The payroll tax was last cut during the Obama administration to 4.2%, as a way to encourage more consumer spending during the recent economic downturn. But the cut was allowed to reset back up to 6.2% in 2013.

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 19, 2019

Lead Stories

KUT - August 19, 2019

Yes, a demographic shift is helping Texas Democrats. But so is a psychological shift.

Until somewhat recently, being a Texas Democrat was kind of a bummer. Jason Stanford, a longtime Democratic operative in the state, says he got data on the scope of that political melancholy in 2016 while running a gubernatorial race. “We did a poll and our pollster came back and said, ‘Texas Democrats are pathologically depressed,’” he says. “That was our pollster’s review. Democrats fundamentally didn’t believe they could win.”

Stanford has a theory about how this angst started. He says it began with the 1996 U.S. Senate race in Texas. Democrats were recovering from losing two years earlier and were hoping to stem another round of losses. As a result, he says, the primary was stacked with impressive candidates running to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Phil Gramm. The field included two incumbent congressmen, a county party chair and a teacher named Victor Morales, who eventually won the nomination. The race was relatively close, but Morales lost.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2019

Hackers breach 20 Texas government agencies in ransomware cyber attack

State officials say they are responding to a coordinated ransomware attack that has affected at least 20 government agencies throughout Texas. The state's Department of Information Resources is leading the response to the breach, assisted by the Division of Emergency Management, the department said in a news release posted Friday.

With assistance from the Texas Military Department and Texas A&M's Cyberresponse and Security Operations Center, the information resources department is deploying resources to those jurisdictions most seriously impacted, though the state did not specify where they are. "Further resources will be deployed as they are requested," the department said.

Top of Page

AFP - August 18, 2019

Is Trump's love affair with Fox News fading?

Last month after Donald Trump watched Fox News lob what he called "softball questions" at a Democratic lawmaker, the US president delivered a crisp smackdown of his favorite network: "Fox sure ain't what it used to be."

After years of often fawning coverage by Fox, particularly from its pro-Trump anchors like Sean Hannity, the commander in chief appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a younger, more right-wing rival, cable outfit One America News Network (OANN). The small upstart broadcaster was launched only recently, in 2013, by technology millionaire Robert Herring, who sought a more conservative alternative to mainstream media behemoths like CNN.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 18, 2019

Suburban voters are pressuring Republicans to act on guns

Following the news has grown stressful for Angela Tetschner, a 39-year-old nurse raising four children in this sprawling Phoenix suburb of tile roofs, desert yards, young families and voters who are increasingly up for grabs. "Sometimes I do think about the school shootings," said Tetschner, who doesn't pay much attention to politics but has been disappointed in President Donald Trump, days after sending her 5-year-old boy to kindergarten. She'd like to see Congress tighten gun laws, but her expectations for action are low.

Tetschner's worries are weighing heavy on Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere in the wake of recent mass shootings. The party has seen once-reliable suburbs turn competitive as women worry about their children's safety and bristle at Trump's harsh rhetoric on race and immigration, and they embraced Democratic alternatives in last year's midterm elections. GOP candidates looking ahead at tough races increasingly are eyeing new ways to address anxieties about gun violence, and to do that without crossing the party's base, which sees gun restrictions as an infringement on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Top of Page

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 18, 2019

Bob Mitchell: Texas needs smart freight rules

Crude oil production in Texas, which reached new heights in 2018, continues to play an essential role in our state’s economy. And with Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow that Texas will lead the way toward America’s energy independence, we need an innovative, flexible transportation partner to ship these resources throughout the country. This is why our representatives in Congress should reject a bill that would dictate how freight railroads staff their trains — a move that could hurt the industry’s ability to modernize for the future and meet our state’s economic demands.

According to a report released earlier this year by the Texas Independent Producers Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO), Texas produced more than 1.5 billion barrels of crude oil last year — up from 1.26 billion in 2017 and far outpacing the record of 1.28 billion established back in 1973. Along with crude oil, natural gas production continued to climb as well, reaching nearly 9 trillion cubic feet.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 18, 2019

Hundreds of people in Texas, 29 other states were abused at Boys & Girls Clubs

Some 250 victims in 30 states, including Texas, say they were sexually abused as children by employees, volunteers and other members of Boys & Girls Clubs of America affiliates, a Hearst Newspapers investigation has found.

Children as young as six were raped and sexually assaulted, court documents show. Some were molested during sleepovers or club trips. In some cases, the abuse continued for years. The molesters were coaches, club directors and volunteers, according to records of criminal convictions reviewed by Hearst. The investigation is believed to be the first comprehensive nationwide accounting of child sex abuse tied to Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2019

Sent back to dangerous border cities, migrants feel like ‘chickens among wolves’

Sandra Galeano’s monthslong attempt at a better life for her family ended in a broiling parking lot of this gang-besieged border city. “I want to go home and will never come back,” said Galeano, 38, of Honduras, her calm murmur giving way to a whimper. “My dream has ended.”

Like thousands of other men, women and children from Central America and beyond, Galeano and her 5-year-son, Diego, crossed the Rio Grande this month in search of asylum and at least a brief chance to work in the United States. Instead, U.S. border guards jailed them for a few days, issued them distant dates for a hearing by an immigration judge and sent them walking across an international bridge into Nuevo Laredo. Mexican immigration officers left them in the parking lot.

Top of Page

Houston Public Media - August 15, 2019

Texas home sellers have to disclose more flood risk information now. But will it help buyers?

During Hurricane Harvey, many homeowners who flooded didn’t realize they were at risk, but that could be changing. Starting on September 1, prospective buyers will receive additional details about a property’s flood risk when a new state law goes into effect, requiring more information on the updated seller’s disclosure form.

Sellers already had to disclose if a home is located in the 100-year floodplain, or if it previously flooded. Now, to comply with SB 339, authored by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, they’ll also have to disclose if it’s wholly or partially in the 500-year floodplain, a reservoir or a flood pool. State lawmakers hope the extra information will help, but it might not. The problem is when buyers — and sellers — don’t know what the terms mean.

Top of Page

Houston Public Media - August 16, 2019

Texas law limiting opioid prescriptions takes effect September 1

A new state law designed to limit opioid abuse will take effect September 1. The law is aimed specifically at those most vulnerable to developing an opioid addiction. Under the law, prescriptions for acute pain – such as immediately after surgery or injury – can’t exceed 10 days and can’t include any refills.

“Part of what they tried to do was limit the supply out there so that prescriptions for large amounts of medicine for what really should be temporary use is limited, and we were in favor of that change,” says Dr. Bernard Gerber, president of the Harris County Medical Society.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2019

Texas Longhorn football great Cedric Benson dies in West Austin motorcycle crash

University of Texas football great and former NFL player Cedric Benson died Saturday night in a motorcycle crash in West Austin, family members and friends said early Sunday.

Austin emergency officials told the American-Statesman they had information that Benson and a passenger were killed in the crash, which happened in the 5600 block of Mount Bonnell Road after 10 p.m. Saturday. Two other adults suffered minor injuries, they said. The Travis County medical examiner had not confirmed the identities of the victims as of Sunday afternoon.

Top of Page

SE Texas Record - August 13, 2019

Texas AG Office makes Hidalgo County release settlement records on construction defect suit, congressman entitled to a cut

The Texas Attorney General’s Office recently ruled that Hidalgo County must release a settlement agreement on a construction defect lawsuit. While public entities filing construction defect lawsuits are certainly not uncommon in Texas, the case in question may be unique because a sitting member of Congress is entitled to a cut.

As previously reported, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat representing Texas’ 15th Congressional District, signed a modified contingency fee on Dec. 7 to represent Hidalgo County in a construction defect lawsuit. The contract, which was obtained from the Texas Comptroller’s Office, shows the congressman is entitled to 25 percent of the total amount of attorney’s fees recovered from the case.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

NASA's Johnson Space Center will not lead lunar lander development for moon 2024

NASA's Alabama center will manage the development of the lander meant to take humans to the moon in 2024, the agency's administrator announced Friday, drawing ire from Texas lawmakers who cited Houston's role in the first lunar landing 50 years ago.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said Marshall was the best center for the job because of its history working with landing systems, such as the one built for the now-canceled robotic moon mission in search of water. "I will say that this is not a decision that was made lightly," Bridenstine said. "A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over 10 years now."

Top of Page

Beaumont Enterprise - August 18, 2019

Beaumont Enterprise Editorial: Government contracts must not be kept secret

The importance of open public records got a boost in the Texas Legislature earlier this year when lawmakers finally closed a loophole that restricted access to business contracts with government agencies. Now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, wants to expand the same concept to the federal level. That effort needs to succeed too.

Cornyn and the other senators support legislation that would reverse a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June that interpreted the word “confidential” in a way that was too favorable to businesses. The ruling prevented taxpayers from learning basic facts about government contracts with some companies because they claimed it would expose trade secrets or proprietary information to competitors.

Top of Page

Waco Tribune-Herald - August 17, 2019

Waco Tribune-Herald Editorial: And so the plot thickens in Texas GOP circles

When we cornered Republican state Rep. Kyle Kacal Thursday night, the lawmaker expressed surprise that, rather than implementation of massive education reforms in his Central Texas school districts or the prospect of a controversial city of Waco landfill near the rural community of Axtell, also in his district, he instead was ensnared in skullduggery over an alleged quid-pro-quo arrangement between House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, House GOP Caucus Leader Dustin Burrows and right-wing activist and all-around troublemaker Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Believe us, we’re surprised, too, including the fact Kacal landed on Burrows’ supposed list of 10 legislators who by someone’s reckoning deserve to be “primaried” with Sullivan’s help in exchange for Sullivan’s at long last receiving much-coveted news-media access to the floor of the Texas House. Kacal insists he knows nothing about how he might have made such a list, assuming it even exists (as Sullivan loudly claims). “I feel like I have a lot of friends in the House,” Kacal told a Tribune-Herald editorial board member at Axtell High School. “Apparently I was targeted for some reason I don’t understand yet.”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2019

How UT Dallas evolved from a small research center into one of the fastest-growing universities in just 50 years

Nearly 2,000 new students at the University of Texas at Dallas walked through the heart of the campus and its main arteries -- marked by long stretches of fountains and aisles of magnolia trees –– on their way to Sunday’s welcoming convocation.

This green and sprawling university began as a research center, housed in a white, boxy concrete building, founded in the 1960s by three businessmen seeking to improve the local workforce for what would become the tech giant Texas Instruments. “Nobody knew what it was, and because it was for this new science company Texas Instruments and had all this land around it, people thought it was a nuclear reactor,” said David Daniel, who served as UT-Dallas’ president from 2005 to 2015.

Top of Page

Politifact Texas - August 19, 2019

Sen. Cornyn attack ad says Democratic challenger supports ‘painful late-term abortions’

The claim: “Who is Royce West? West is a liberal politician who stood with Wendy Davis to support painful late-term abortions.” — political ad funded by Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. The statement is made by the narrator in the first attack ad of Cornyn’s reelection campaign in July. It targets one of his potential Democratic opponents: state Sen. Royce West of Dallas.

PolitiFact ruling: Half true. It’s true that West supported former Sen. Wendy Davis in her effort to kill a bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization, but the legislation did much more than that. Opponents worried that it would close abortion clinics, which also offer other health care services to women. Davis has said she opposes late-term abortions and officials with her team said she filibustered the legislation because it would force clinics to close — which it did.

Top of Page

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2019

JJ Koch: Why Dallas County should stop pursuing the death penalty

In my opinion the death penalty is constitutional. It is also my opinion that there exists overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is often dispensed in an unjust fashion. My opinion matters only because I am one of five members of a body that funds Dallas County's efforts to bring about the death of an individual who has committed capital murder. Ultimately, it is solely the discretion of the district attorney to seek the death penalty in any case.

It's no secret that Dallas County is experiencing an increase in crime rates, which many of us, including me, view to be a serious crisis. Financially, seeking the death penalty is very expensive and only getting costlier. If the millions of dollars spent trying and appealing death penalty cases are redirected to law enforcement efforts right now, we have the ability to curtail a frightening trend in crime and hopefully save lives. But more importantly, there is thorough and unbiased evidence that African Americans and Hispanics receive the death penalty at significantly higher rates than Caucasians. That should to give everyone pause.

Top of Page

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

Accused of making threats and creating a toxic workplace, San Antonio health-care CEO resigns

Chris Hotchkiss, the eccentric CEO of CaptureRx, one of San Antonio’s biggest health-care technology companies, resigned this week and is now accused of making threats against his former employer.

An employee called San Antonio police to the company’s downtown office on Wednesday to report the alleged threats, and management posted an armed guard at CaptureRx’s entrance on East Houston Street. Employees also said Hotchkiss, 51, the company’s co-founder, had punched holes in office walls during outbursts over the last several months. Hotchkiss confirmed he stepped down as CEO this week but he denied threatening anyone, saying he was “befuddled” by the allegations.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2019

Almost one-third of dorm rooms at Joint Base San Antonio had mold, mildew

Mold or mildew has been found in about 30 percent of all dorm rooms at three San Antonio military installations and the Camp Bullis training range, a top commander said Friday.

An initial inspection by unit leaders had found mold or mildew in about 20 percent of all rooms but a second inspection by civil engineers and medical experts found the fungi present in around 2,500 dorm rooms out of more than 8,000, said Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, head of the 502nd Air Base Wing, which administrates Joint Base San Antonio. There are 27,000 beds in 77 dorms under the wing’s control, the most of any base in the nation.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2019

White supremacist group says it protested in Dallas, posts videos of small gatherings

After reports spread that white supremacists planned to demonstrate in North Texas over the weekend, one group said it had staged demonstrations in and near downtown Dallas. The group, the American Identity Movement, also posted videos online showing fewer than a dozen protesters chanting outside the Meyerson Symphony Center and unfurling a banner on the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge near Trinity Groves.

It's unclear when the videos were made. The banner was no longer on the bridge Sunday afternoon. Dallas police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said he wasn't aware Sunday of any police response to either incident. Dallas police had increased patrols downtown after unconfirmed reports on social media that white supremacists planned to march Saturday. As a precaution, several squad cars were stationed Saturday around Pioneer Plaza and the adjacent Confederate War Memorial.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Twice as many Fs? What happened in Dallas' most troubled schools

There’s one sobering constant in trying to improve a school district: Whether it’s in Collin or Dallas or another county, even when you’ve made significant progress, there are still big challenges ahead. That’s the situation in which Dallas ISD finds itself after the release last week of the latest A-F academic accountability grades.

The district deserves high-fives for again earning an overall B, achieving a grade five points higher from 81 last year to 86. But we’re disappointed that the number of schools on the failing list doubled from 4 to 8. To improve its overall score while getting the sobering news that more schools got F's means the district is doing a lot of things right. It reminds us, though, that raising the performance so that every child has a legitimate shot at a decent education takes persistence and dogged determination at reform.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2019

Texas Supreme Court rejects suit over Convention Center ballot language

The Texas Supreme Court has rejected a suit seeking the court’s intervention in a dispute over ballot language the Austin City Council approved for an Austin Convention Center voter proposition.

Local NAACP President Nelson Linder sued the city Tuesday over the ballot language the council approved last week on what is now known as Proposition B, a petition-initiated ordinance calling for elections on any substantial expansion to the convention center and a redistribution of millions of dollars of hotel taxes from the facility to the cultural arts.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Houston job gains hesitate as energy slowdown takes hold

Houston area employers kept hiring in July, but employment gains slowed a bit as the energy sector’s recent struggles began to ripple throughout the state and affect local payrolls. Houston employers added 2,900 jobs to the region in July, a notable slowdown from a month prior, in which employers added 11,400 jobs to the region, the Texas Workforce Commission reported. The local unemployment rate was 4 percent in July, down from 4.5 percent during the same month of 2018.

"While job growth in Houston remains positive, it slowed in July, likely due to the weakening in the energy sector," said Keith Phillips, a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas assistant vice president and senior economist. In the state, Texas employers added 35,200 jobs in July as the state's unemployment rate held at an all- time low of 3.4 percent. The national unemployment rate as 3.7 percent in July. The Houston region has thus far been a bright spot in an otherwise concerning outlook for energy employment, in which other areas of the state have already begun to shed jobs.

Top of Page

National Stories

Associated Press - August 16, 2019

Court: US can reject asylum along parts Of Mexico border

A federal appeals court on Friday cleared the way for the U.S. government to forbid Central American immigrants from seeking asylum at the two busiest stretches of the southern border in a partial legal victory for the Trump administration.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows President Donald Trump to enforce the policy in New Mexico and Texas, rejecting asylum seekers who cross from Mexico into either state. Under Friday's ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar's July 24 order stopping the policy would apply only in California and Arizona, which are covered by the 9th Circuit. The two busiest areas for unauthorized border crossings are in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley and the region around El Paso, which includes New Mexico. Nearly 50,000 people in July crossed the U.S. border without permission in those two regions, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 18, 2019

Trump dismisses worries of recession, says economy is strong

President Donald Trump said Sunday the economy is “doing very well” and dismissed concerns of recession, offering an optimistic outlook after last week’s steep drop in the financial markets. “I don’t think we’re having a recession,” Trump told reporters as he returned to Washington from his New Jersey golf club. “We’re doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they’re loaded up with money.”

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, also played down fears of a looming recession and predicted the economy will perform well in the second half of 2019. In Sunday television interviews, he said that consumers are seeing higher wages and are able to spend and save more. “No, I don’t see a recession,” Kudlow said. “We’re doing pretty darn well in my judgment. Let’s not be afraid of optimism.”

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 18, 2019

Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's governor during Katrina, dies

Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who became the state's first female elected governor only to see her political career derailed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, has died. After struggling for years with cancer, Blanco died Sunday in hospice care in Lafayette. She was 76.

Blanco had a rare eye cancer that she battled successfully in 2011, but it later returned and spread to her liver. Her death came more than a year after the Democrat who served in state government offices for more than two decades announced in December 2017 that she was being treated for the incurable melanoma. Blanco described being in a "fight for my own life, one that will be difficult to win."

Top of Page

New York Times - August 18, 2019

Julián Castro’s Obama moment

The night before Julián Castro delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention for President Barack Obama’s re-election, he had eaten by himself at the T.G.I. Friday’s not far from the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. No one recognized the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio. As the other delegates party-hopped around Charlotte, Mr. Castro studied his notes over dinner and went to bed by 9 p.m.

He wanted to be well-rested before giving the biggest speech of his political career — a speech that he and his family now remember as transforming everything. Mr. Castro’s speech, in a prime-time slot, burst him onto the national stage, just like the one that had catapulted Mr. Obama to superstardom in 2004. Mr. Castro symbolized a new moment in American politics. The keynote, as it turned out, became a turning point that didn’t quite turn him. Now, as Mr. Castro seeks the Democratic nomination for president, he finds himself in a completely different political landscape. In 2012, both parties were courting Latino voters, and an incumbent Democratic president needed help softening his image as the “deporter in chief.”

Top of Page

CBS News - August 18, 2019

Beto O'Rourke visits gun show in Arkansas one day after releasing gun control plan

2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke visited a gun show in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Saturday, one day after releasing a gun control plan that included mandatory buybacks for assault weapons. O'Rourke returned to the campaign trail on Thursday after taking a 12-day hiatus following the mass shooting in which 22 people were killed in his hometown of El Paso on August 3.

"In Arkansas, I listened to gun owners and sellers — and appreciated hearing their perspectives," the Texas Democrat posted on social media. "But as the plan we released yesterday says, if I'm president, you wouldn't be able to buy weapons of war for $395. You wouldn't be able to buy them at all." O'Rourke's gun show visit was first reported by ABC News, which reported it was an unannounced visit. According to ABC News, O'Rourke paid $10 to get into the event and spoke to a gun seller there. The gun seller said he would support a requirement that gun-show sellers like him get a federal firearms license.

Top of Page

ProPublica and Charleston Gazette-Mail - August 15, 2019

Welcome to the Greenbrier, the Governor-owned luxury resort filled with conflicts of interest

On a sunny Monday afternoon two and a half years ago, Jim Justice, the wealthiest man in West Virginia, took the oath of office as the state’s 36th governor. Standing at the base of the Capitol steps in Charleston, he assured his fellow West Virginians that his vast business empire of coal mines, vacation resorts and agricultural companies — many of them regulated by the state agencies he would soon control — posed no conflicts with his new job.

Hours later, the new governor held his inaugural ball, not at a Charleston hotel or the local civic center, as his predecessors long had, but at The Greenbrier, a palatial resort 120 miles from the Capitol. The hotel’s owner: Jim Justice. Partygoers paid $75 each for tickets. But the tab was largely picked up by industry leaders, statehouse lobbyists and a variety of special interest groups, each contributing thousands of dollars to the governor’s inaugural committee to fund the lavish festivities.

Top of Page

Market Watch - August 17, 2019

Treasury is about to flood the market with debt to fund U.S.’s $1 trillion deficit — and that is a concern

There may be some limitations to the U.S. government’s borrowing, after all. An anticipated surge of U.S. borrowing in the global debt markets in the second half of this year is starting to create concern as the Treasury is expected to ramp up its issuance of bills, notes and bonds to fund a soaring $1 trillion budget deficit.

The U.S. government’s budget gap has widened 27% as compared with the first 10 months of fiscal 2018, as spending has risen 8% and receipts have grown by 3%. The federal fiscal year runs October through September. The Trump administration recently forecast a $1 trillion full-year shortfall, while the Congressional Budget Office is slightly more conservative, putting it at $896 billion.

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 18, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - August 16, 2019

A Texas-size political scandal threatens powerful House Speaker

In Texas, they are calling it the case of “The Speaker and the Creeper.” The political imbroglio started last month, when Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative pit bull who routinely antagonizes establishment politicians, accused the Republican House speaker, Dennis Bonnen, of offering his organization coveted House media credentials if it would work to defeat 10 incumbent House members from Mr. Bonnen’s own party.

Mr. Bonnen denied it, and the bombshell was initially greeted with some skepticism. Why would one of the state’s top politicians court a back-room deal — to undermine his own bench — with a man Texas Monthly recently described as “one of the biggest snakes in Texas politics”? Except there was a tape. Now Mr. Sullivan’s accusations are at the heart of the biggest scandal to hit Texas in years, one that is throwing the state’s Republican-led House of Representatives into turmoil and threatening to bring down the speaker.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 17, 2019

Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick receives stent after heart blockage

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has had a stent inserted in his chest after experiencing a heart blockage Thursday evening. A statement released by his staff says Patrick was experiencing significant chest pain Thursday and was taken to a hospital.

The statement says a doctor at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital performed a number of tests that were negative, but a final one showed a "dangerous heart blockage."

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2019

Paul Stekler: Is a purple wave coming to Texas in 2020?

Look past the presidential race and there are indications Texas is rapidly moving from red to purple politically. In just the past few weeks, three Republican congressmen in the crosshairs of Democrats have retired rather than face stiff challenges in 2020.

In rapidly diversifying Fort Bend County, a mix of equal parts African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and whites that its former congressman, Tom DeLay, might not recognize, incumbent Rep. Pete Olson announced his retirement. Olson faced another race against former diplomat Sri Kulkarni, who he beat by fewer than 5 points in 2018. Rep. Kenny Marchant hung on in the Dallas/Fort Worth suburbs in 2018, 51% to 48%, against a little-known Democrat who barely raised $100,000. This time, he would have faced Air Force veteran Kim Olson, who ran a strong race for state agriculture commissioner last year.

Top of Page

Tribune News Service - August 17, 2019

Epstein’s special treatment in jail was far more lenient than anyone knew

Sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein received far more jail work-release privileges about a decade ago than the public previously knew, according to records released Friday.

At one point in 2009, Epstein’s already generous work-release agreement was modified to allow him to leave Palm Beach County Jail seven days a week, for up to 16 hours a day — including two hours per day at the Palm Beach mansion where he previously sexually abused dozens of minor girls, records from the Sheriff’s Office reveal. Epstein’s suicide while facing sex trafficking charges in New York six days ago has not stopped scrutiny about Epstein’s time in Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s custody after Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution counts in 2008.

Top of Page

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: House Speaker Dennis Bonnen should receive full scrutiny

No question about it. The Texas Rangers must investigate the scandal swirling around embattled House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. As Bonnen hits bottom (unless, of course, he is still in political free fall) someone has to officially get to the bottom of whether Bonnen offered to trade press credentials for political retaliation. Such a trade would certainly be unethical, and potentially a crime, which is why the Rangers are needed.

On the surface, this is a fairly basic political scandal, but it’s also a head-slapping one because it’s absurd and nonsensical. But let’s take a step back. This entire scandal is a stunning display of political folly. For example, Bonnen was one of Straus’ top lieutenants. And Empower Texans was relentless in its attempts to unseat Straus. Why would Bonnen meet with Sullivan, let alone meet with him and then rip other lawmakers? And why would Bonnen hold that meeting after having such a strong first session as speaker at the exact time Empower Texans has been floundering in the political wilderness? If Bonnen’s stock was up, Empower Texans’ stock was way down. What would be the benefit?

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Why Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will never be Joe Straus

It’s never been a secret that Joe Straus and Dennis Bonnen have contrasting styles. Straus, the former San Antonio representative and Texas House speaker, is an old-school statesman who carries himself with a quiet assurance that suggests an utter disregard for pettiness. Bonnen, Straus’s successor, is blunt and combative, a “bad news bear,” as San Antonio Democratic Rep. Ina Minjarez semi-affectionately referred to him in a July San Antonio Express-News interview.

When Straus announced in 2017 that he wouldn’t seek another term, tea-party Republicans — who viewed Straus as a fake-conservative RINO (Republican in Name Only) — openly celebrated, while most other Texas political watchers fretted about what would happen without Straus to block bathroom bills, voucher proposals and various other grandstand ploys. That’s why Bonnen’s performance during this year’s Legislative session, on balance, was so gratifying. His first time around as House speaker, he took an old Straus goal — school-funding reform — across the finish line in true bipartisan fashion.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

Gov. Abbott: No special session on guns, red flag laws

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signaled he won’t call a special session to address gun violence and appeared resistant to impose new red flag laws in wake of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart this month that left 22 dead.

Abbott said during a town hall Thursday that he will convene a series of round table discussions to come up with solutions — similar to those he held after the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School. “We are not hesitating whatsoever,” Abbott said during the town hall in Tyler. “It doesn’t require a special session for Texas to act.” Red flag laws, meanwhile, have been gaining momentum in Washington after the El Paso shooting, with President Donald Trump and some Congressional Republicans endorsing an expansion.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2019

Trump’s rhetoric on race poses dilemma for Texas Republicans after El Paso shooting

The opening question at Gov. Greg Abbott’s televised town hall Thursday in Tyler came remotely from Jose Reza in El Paso. “Gov. Abbott, coming on the heels of what happened in El Paso, even though we may have differing opinions on the Second Amendment, we need to find something that works for both sides so that we don’t have another person driving 600 miles to a very safe place like El Paso, and gunning down 22 people,” Reza said.

Abbott, his voice rising, replied that there was no mystery behind the motive for the Aug. 3 massacre at the El Paso Walmart. “You don’t have to wonder because the person who did it, the killer, wrote it in a manifesto. He said in that manifesto that the reason why he made this attack is because of racism, because of hate, because of his desire to eliminate people from the face of the earth.”

Top of Page

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - August 16, 2019

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: No, Houston Chronicle, Beto shouldn't quit so he can run for Senate; This is why

The Houston Chronicle editorial board caused a nationwide stir recommending that Beto O'Rourke give up on running for president and run instead for U.S. Senate. It's not a new suggestion, or exclusive to the Chronicle — for O'Rourke or for Texas' other Democratic candidate for president, Julian Castro. On Thursday, O'Rourke said no, absolutely not,he's still running for president, thank you. But what do y'all think?

Would challenging the incumbent senator, Republican John Cornyn, be better for O'Rourke? For Castro? For Democrats? For Texas? For the nation? Republicans' interest in this should be sky high, not just for how it could affect Cornyn's chances. The impact goes beyond the partisan outcome. Whether O'Rourke, or Castro, should bow out of the presidential race and run for Senate is a question that all Texans should find at least a little bit insulting, and here's why:

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2019

Walmart won't be selling liquor in Texas after all, appeals court rules

Walmart won't be opening liquor stores in Texas anytime soon. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week reversed an earlier federal court ruling in favor of Walmart, which challenged the constitutionality of a law that prevented it from selling liquor in Texas.

"On behalf of our customers, we are disappointed by the court's ruling which hurts Texas consumers," said Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield. "We are considering all of our options." Walmart sued the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in 2015. In early 2018, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed with Walmart that the state law was unconstitutional. The law prohibits publicly owned corporations from obtaining liquor store permits in Texas.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2019

Joe Straus: Combating hatred and violence requires moral credibility from all of our political leaders

The terrorism in El Paso, directed at the Latino community, painfully reminded us of the selflessness of many of our fellow Americans. Unsung heroes put themselves in harm's way to help others, labored for hours to save lives and donated blood from hundreds of miles away. None of this was surprising because it is who we strive to be as Texans. It's certainly not surprising to those of us who know El Paso to be a caring community that embraces its unique place in the story of American immigration. But the El Paso attack also reminds us that our stock political responses to these tragedies are not enough.

First, we should not reflexively blame mental illness for mass shootings. In fact, public cynicism is hardened when leaders try to blame mass shootings on everything except guns — from mental health to video games. Would stricter gun laws prevent all mass shootings? No. Should gun safety laws be part of the conversation? Yes. Should we blame mental illness or an easy scapegoat? We should not. Do we need to lead on combating the rise of domestic white supremacy? Absolutely.

Top of Page

Texas Tribune - August 17, 2019

Donald Trump is spending more money on Facebook ads in Texas than in any other state

Beginning in June, thousands of voters across the country saw a fundraising plea in the form of a Facebook ad from the president’s official social media page. It described how the “fake news media” would bolster Donald Trump’s reelection bid. “The Fake News Media broadcasted the 2020 Crazy Dem Debate and showed the American People just how insane the Democratic candidates really are,” it said. “They’re practically doing our job for us.”

While the rhetoric contained in the ad may not surprise anyone, the people on the receiving end could raise eyebrows. According to Facebook’s ad library, more Texans saw the ad than residents of any other state. The ad isn’t an anomaly. As Trump’s reelection campaign pours far more money into Facebook advertising than any other 2020 candidate, its No. 1 target is Texas residents. According to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic firm that tracks digital ad spending, Trump’s campaign spent nearly half a million dollars on Facebook ads in Texas alone from Jan. 5 through Aug. 3.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Energy bankruptcies back on the rise in 2019

After a recovery from the last oil bust, energy bankruptcies are back on the rise in 2019. The number of oil and gas bankruptcy filings through mid-August has nearly equaled the total tally from 2018, and the aggregate debt from 2019 bankruptcy filings of almost $20 billion has already surpassed the roughly $17 billion from a year ago, according to the energy bankruptcy monitor maintained by the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.

The biggest filings this year includes the oilfield services giant Weatherford International and a slew of oil and gas producers such as Houston's Sanchez Energy, Halcón Resources, Vanguard Natural Resources and Midland-based Legacy Reserves. The energy sector is currently dealing with subdued oil and gas prices, slowing drilling activity, a wave of layoffs from companies like Halliburton, National Oilwell Varco and Pioneer Natural Resources, and a displeased Wall Street cutting off the access to capital for most companies.

Top of Page

USA Today - August 16, 2019

Beto O'Rourke: 'I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate'

Beto O'Rourke has once again said he will not drop out of the 2020 presidential race to run for the Senate instead. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell asked the former Texas congressman Thursday evening if he had December 9 marked on his calendar, as it's "the last day you can file in the Senate Democratic primary in Texas."

"Let me make your show the place where I tell you and I tell the country I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate," O'Rourke responded. "I’m running for president. I’m running for this country. I’m taking this fight directly to Donald Trump, and that is what I am exclusively focused on doing right now." Last year, O'Rourke ran for Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz, where he gained national attention by ending up in a tight battle against the Republican incumbent in traditionally conservative Texas.

Top of Page

EastTexasMatters.com - August 18, 2019

Neal Barton: Texas Speaker Bonnen must resign

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen of Angleton needs to resign. Legal or not, the Republican leader, during lunch with another conservative leader and a watchdog representative, asked if the watchdogs would criticize 10 republican state reps Bonnen thought too liberal.

In return, the watchdog group would get more political access. It’s a favor Bonnen doesn’t even have the authority to grant. I heard a report from our Austin station that a famous Texas lawyer says that was not illegal. It’s not, but it’s not right. If you are going to lead, lead. Use your political prowess to get what you want. But don’t bushwhack.

Top of Page

SE Texas Record - August 15, 2019

Ethics watchdog calls for probe of Sri Preston Kulkarni, says U.S. House candidate failed to disclose accurate financial report

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a non-partisan ethics watchdog, has filed a complaint with the U.S. House Committee on Ethics requesting an investigation into Sri Preston Kulkarni, a Democrat running for Texas’ 22nd congressional district, for failing to file a “true, complete and correct” Financial Disclosure Report as required by federal law.

On his 2019 financial disclosure report, Kulkarni listed no assets and only $6,000 in income while also listing a large amount of debt, including over $10,000 in credit card debt and between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loan debt. A spokesperson for the Kulkarni campaign previously told The Record that Kulkarni is “relying on savings while he runs this campaign.” FACT’s complaint, filed Aug. 15, states that due to the campaign’s contradictory statements regarding his assets, Kulkarni is in clear violation of federal campaign disclosure laws.

Top of Page

HuffPost - August 18, 2019

GOP Senator John Cornyn torched over ‘dumbest’ climate change explainer

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) appeared to display a highly questionable understanding of climate change on Twitter, and promptly got dragged over the coals.

The lawmaker on Friday was widely ridiculed for the way he responded to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) call for action on the climate crisis. Schumer had tweeted about July 2019 being “the hottest month ever, of any month, on record” and described climate change as “the greatest threat facing our planet.”

Top of Page

Marshall News Messenger - August 17, 2019

Former congressman Bell says experience lifts him over growing Democratic field to challenge GOP Sen. Cornyn in 2020

A former congressman from Houston says experience will propel him beyond fellow Democrats in a growing cast of hopefuls vying to take on three-term Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in 2020. “I’m the only one who’s run statewide before, and the only one who’s been in Congress,” Chris Bell said, referring to his term in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2003 to 2005 when he fell victim to then U.S. Rep. Tom Delay’s redrawing of Texas’ political boundaries.

Bell, 59, also was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006. He joins a field of seven, becoming the eighth Democrat hoping to go head-to-head with Cornyn. The Republican has been in the Senate since 2002. “Like a lot of other people, I’m extremely disappointed with the direction of the country since Donald Trump was elected,” Bell said. “And I feel John Cornyn has become a water boy for the president.” The former congressman took notice of Democratic former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s near-miss campaign against Texas’ other member of the upper chamber in Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz. And he also says Democratic gains in 2018 suggest the minority party is on the upswing in deep red Texas.

Top of Page

News4SA - August 16, 2019

American Bar Association's support for legalizing marijuana may impact Texas

The powerful American Bar Association - made up of lawyers and judges - is now endorsing ending marijuana prohibition. If Congress follows the ABA's lead and removes pot from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the impact could be felt in Texas.

"The American Bar Association is taking a step toward reality,' says Gerald Goldstein, a prominent San Antonio attorney who co-chairs the legal committee for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. "I think they are coming to realize that this has been a failed experiment." Known as the oldest practicing attorney in Texas, Goldstein, 75, has been a long-time legalization advocate.

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2019

Questions swirl as fate of HISD board remains uncertain. Here are a few answers.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath came to and left the Greater Houston area Thursday without addressing one of the biggest issues on his agenda: the fate of Houston ISD’s school board.

In the coming weeks, Morath likely will be forced to decide whether to replace all trustees governing Texas’ largest school district or close one of HISD’s most historic campuses, the consequence of historic Wheatley High School failing to meet state academic standards for a seventh consecutive time.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2019

Austin city staff suggest restrictions to homeless camping

Austin’s city staff might propose restrictions to where homeless people can camp in Austin, according to a memo released Friday. The memo from Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales and the city’s homelessness strategic office said the city’s staff likely will recommend disallowing camping in areas with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, as well as in floodways.

It is unclear when the City Council might make more specific recommendations and how those proposed restrictions might affect homeless encampments under overpasses. City rules already prohibit camping in parks and at City Hall. The proposal comes after the City Council has faced significant pushback in connection with a vote in in June that eliminated several local ordinances related to homelessness, including a panhandling ban and a no-sit/no-lie ordinance. But the most controversial ordinance was the camping ordinance, which many fear will create tent cities for those experiencing homelessness in Austin.

Top of Page

News4SA - August 16, 2019

San Antonio officials to deliver records about decision to ban Chick-fil-A from airport

The City of San Antonio agreed Friday to release documents detailing its decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport based on the restaurant chain’s donations to religious ministries.

City officials will give Attorney General Paxton with documents pertaining to the City’s communications, meetings and records related to the exclusion of Chick-fil-A from the airport under the agreement. The Office of the Attorney General will have three business days to notify the City of San Antonio if additional documents are needed and file an agreed notice to dismiss the ongoing open records lawsuit.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Fort Worth’s economic challenge: How to keep up with Dallas-Plano-Irving?

For decades, the economies of Dallas and Fort Worth moved in tandem, usually rising and falling together and growing at similar rates. But their paths have diverged, primarily because the eastern side of the region, known as Dallas-Plano-Irving, has grown much faster than the western side, Fort Worth-Arlington.

Compounding the effect, Dallas has created many more high-paying jobs in professional and business services. As a result, one side of the metro is lapping the other, at least by some key economic measures. The two metro divisions started on separate paths in mid-2013, and Dallas kept pulling away until late 2017. By late 2018, Dallas-Plano-Irving picked up the pace again and has continued to separate itself. “Even after slowing this year, Fort Worth is still growing at about its average pace — it’s just not going gangbusters like Dallas,” said Laila Assanie, senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “The divergence is happening because job growth in Dallas consistently outperformed Fort Worth by a wide margin.”

Top of Page

Austin Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Fallout continues over Leander library's Drag Queen Story Hour

On Thursday, Aug. 15, after another lengthy meeting going late into the night, the Leander City Council voted 5-2 to close library meetings rooms to rentals, and stalled on other controversial policy decisions.

Leander’s ongoing controversy over public library use stems back to June when the local library planned to host a Drag Queen Story Hour, which sparked protests and counter-protests that cost the city more than $20,000. In its wake, the library decided to temporarily limit access to its meeting rooms, a policy that, following Thursday’s vote, will continue indefinitely. Thursday’s agenda included newly proposed policies, including a contract that would require visiting instructors to have insurance plans up to $2 million and charge tuition for events. This was rejected in favor of simply closing the meeting rooms to public use altogether.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

San Antonio’s Pioneer Energy struggles as CEO gets pay raises

Times have been tough for San Antonio-based Pioneer Energy Services. They’ve been much better for President and CEO Stacy Locke — at least as far as his compensation.

Pioneer, which leases drilling rigs to oil and gas producers, has posted losses for 19 consecutive quarters, a time period totaling four years and nine months. In late July, the company reported its latest loss, nearly $13 million in the second quarter. On Wednesday, Pioneer lost its place on the New York Stock Exchange after its share price dipped to under 16 cents. Its stock now trades on the over-the-counter QX exchange. Pioneer shares opened Thursday at 6 cents, inching up to 11 cents by day’s end.

Top of Page

National Stories

Washington Post - August 17, 2019

Trump’s speech at Shell plant drew thousands of workers paid extra to be there

Workers at a Royal Dutch Shell plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania., were forced to choose Tuesday between attending a speech by President Donald Trump or forgoing overtime pay that their coworkers would earn.

Attendance was optional, but contract workers who chose not to stand in the crowd would not qualify for time-and-a-half pay when they arrived at work on Friday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Several companies with thousands of unionized workers have contracts with Shell, one the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Workers at the unfinished Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex had to arrive at 7 a.m., scan their ID cards and stand for hours until Trump’s speech began, the Post-Gazette reported.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 16, 2019

A toxic rift opens between Democrats and Israel after the nation refuses entry to two members of Congress

A politically explosive fight over Israel's attempt to block two members of Congress from entering the country - at President Donald Trump's urging - has elevated rifts between it and Democrats who have increasingly started to view the Israeli government and its leader as out of line or, in the eyes of at least two presidential candidates, even racist.

The shift in dialogue has been accelerated by the tight embrace between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and after a dizzying 48 hours, some Democrats are more openly discussing the unusual step of reconsidering foreign aid to the longtime ally. The dispute has fractured bipartisan support for Israel and moved debates over it into partisan space more typically home to issues such as abortion, gun control and immigration. The situation also has put many Democratic lawmakers in the awkward position of defending colleagues they find politically toxic while rebuking a country they support.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 17, 2019

Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Police seized metal poles, bear spray and other weapons Saturday as hundreds of far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators swarmed downtown Portland, Oregon, in a situation the mayor termed “potentially dangerous and volatile.” Authorities also set up concrete barriers and closed streets and bridges in an effort to contain and separate the rival groups.

Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys and Three Percenters militia group began gathering late in the morning, some wearing body armor and helmets. Meanwhile black clad, helmet and mask-wearing anti-fascist protesters — known as antifa — were also among the several hundred people on the streets. Police said they had seized the weapons, including shields, from multiple groups that were gathering on both sides of the Willamette River, which runs through the city.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 18, 2019

Leaked UK memos warn of food, drug shortages in Brexit chaos

Secret British government documents have warned of serious disruptions across the country in the event that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a trade deal on Oct. 31, according to The Sunday Times.

The newspaper published what it said were three pages worth of "planning assumptions" detailing what the British government expects in the case of a sudden, "no-deal" exit from the EU. Among the most serious: "significant" disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, a decrease in the availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water shortages due to possible interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals.

Top of Page

Pew Research Center - August 12, 2019

Public’s priorities for US asylum policy: More judges for cases, safe conditions for migrants

The American public is broadly critical of the way that the federal government is dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. When it comes to what should be done about the situation, large majorities say it is important to increase the number of judges handling asylum cases and to provide safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the federal government is doing a very bad (38%) or somewhat bad (27%) job dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border; just 33% say the government is doing a good job, according to the new survey by Pew Research Center conducted July 22-Aug. 4 among 4,175 adults.

Top of Page

CNN - August 15, 2019

13 states sue over legal immigration 'public charge' rule

Thirteen states filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday challenging the Trump administration's new rule that seeks to limit access to green cards for immigrants that receive certain government benefits.

This is the latest legal challenge against the so-called "public charge" rule, which was released Monday. Immigrants who use benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers could have their request for legal permanent status in the US rejected because they would be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future. The new lawsuit, led by Washington state, contends that the rule violates federal immigration statutes and unlawfully expands the definition of "public charge."

Top of Page

ProPublica - August 16, 2019

“Dirtbag,” “savages,” “subhuman”: A Border Agent’s hateful career and the crime that finally ended it

It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him. “Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.

Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”

Top of Page

Governing - August 14, 2019

A license for a lemonade stand? States rethink business licensing

This June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill blocking local governments from forbidding children to sell lemonade or other non-alcoholic drinks on private property. (Yes, there was a real-life example of cops shutting down a lemonade stand run by two sisters under the age of 10 who lacked a permit.) “This is a commonsense law,” Abbott said. Few people would disagree.

After years of increasing the number of occupations subject to licensing and permit requirements, states are starting to dial back. Where only 1 out of 20 jobs required an occupational license back in the 1950s, now more than 1 out of 4 do. Policymakers are increasingly convinced by the argument that states are stifling economic activity by requiring expensive and unnecessary training and licenses for everyone from cosmetologists to yoga instructors.

Top of Page

Other Words - August 14, 2019

Jim Hightower: Where's the beef in NAFTA 2.0?

MAGA,” blusters Donald Trump — Make America Great Again! America’s ranching families, however, would like Trump to come off his high horse and get serious about a more modest goal, namely: Make America COOL Again.

COOL stands for Country-of-Origin-Labeling, a straightforward law simply requiring that agribusiness giants put labels on packages of steak, pork chops, and other products to tell us whether the meat came from the United States, China, Brazil, or wherever else in the world. This useful information empowers consumers to decide where their families’ food dollars go. But multinational powerhouses like Tyson Foods and Cargill don’t want you and me making such decisions. In 2012, the meat monopolists got the World Trade Organization to decree that our nation’s COOL law violated global trade rules — and our corporate-submissive congress critters meekly repealed the law.

Top of Page

Newsclips - August 16, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dismisses calls for House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to quit as ‘premature,’ welcomes inquiry

Gov. Greg Abbott says that while Speaker Dennis Bonnen was "a good partner" in this year's legislative session, it's good for both Bonnen and the state that the Texas Rangers are investigating whether anything improper happened in his June huddle with a conservative activist.

"We need to get to the bottom of this, and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly," Abbott said late Thursday in a televised town hall. He referred to a controversy that has engulfed Bonnen's speakership and has gripped Texas politics for the last three weeks. "I don't know any of the facts that happened," Abbott said of Bonnen's meeting with Empower Texans chief Michael Quinn Sullivan, at which the speaker allegedly proposed a swap of House media credentials to Sullivan's website in exchange for his political support in next March's Republican primaries.

Top of Page

New York Times - August 15, 2019

Economic trouble signs hang over Trump’s trade war

Against the backdrop of mounting evidence that the global economy is weakening, President Trump is caught between his desire to pursue the trade war with China he promised to win and his need to keep the economy humming as the 2020 election approaches.

That conflict explains some of the messaging from Mr. Trump in public and on social media in recent days as market gyrations undermine the confidence of investors. The president has insisted that his tariffs on Chinese imports are hurting only China, telling reporters on Thursday that “the longer the trade war goes on, the weaker China gets and the stronger we get.” The main thing threatening American prosperity, he has said repeatedly on Twitter, is the Federal Reserve and its refusal to act expeditiously to lower interest rates.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

President Trump eyes a new real-estate purchase: Greenland

President Trump made his name on the world’s most famous island. Now he wants to buy the world’s biggest. The idea of the U.S. purchasing Greenland has captured the former real-estate developer’s imagination, according to people familiar with the deliberations, who said Mr. Trump has, with varying degrees of seriousness, repeatedly expressed interest in buying the ice-covered autonomous Danish territory between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea. Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it was a good economic play, two of the people said, while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition. It is also unclear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland even if the effort were serious.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

O’Rourke returning to presidential race, but not the traditional one

Beto O’Rourke is returning to the campaign trail, but you won’t find him in Iowa with the rest of the Democratic pack. Moved by the shooting at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso to “take the fight directly to the source of this problem,” O’Rourke said Thursday he will instead be heading to the places where he says President Donald Trump has been “terrorizing and terrifying our fellow Americans.”

“Anyone this president puts down, we are going to do our best to lift up,” O’Rourke said during a speech in El Paso on Thursday. The address was meant to jumpstart his campaign after he spent 11 days after the shooting in his hometown, which has redefined the message of his campaign — along with that of Julián Castro, the other Texan in the race, who has also more aggressively gone after Trump after the shooting.

Top of Page

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

San Antonio’s Julián Castro aims at the rich with ‘wealth inequality tax’

Julian Castro offered an economic plan Thursday in his pursuit of the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, proposing to end the GOP-drawn income tax system passed in 2017 and restore an inherited wealth tax that strikes at the concentration of economic and political power held by the richest Americans.

Castro’s left-leaning set of policy proposals includes a “wealth inequality tax” on the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. His plan hikes capital gains taxes, reduces taxes on low-income and middle-income families via tax credits and raises the minimum wage to $15 — a plan currently stalled in the Senate. The economic package also calls for federal grants to states and local entities ensuring that families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

San Antonio lawmaker rolls out gun reforms as City Council calls for special session on firearms

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez has released a series of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence in the wake of mass shootings that have killed 58 people in Texas since 2017. Among the proposals: establishing a $10 million gun buyback program, mandatory background checks for private gun sales and a task force to disrupt white supremacist networks.

Separately, San Antonio City Council members unanimously passed a resolution Thursday imploring Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to address gun violence. “San Antonio has consistently shelved politics for the betterment of our community,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “In addressing the rise of gun violence in America, today should be no different for our city.”

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

End of an era: Imminent danger along the Guadalupe forces river authority to drain remaining lakes

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will drain its four remaining lakes on the Guadalupe next month, citing the imminent public danger posed by the decrepit condition of spillgates in its 90-year-old dams.

The lakes will be dewatered, one by one, beginning Sept. 16. Officials expect each lake to take about three days to empty. The process will start with Gonzales on the east, then move west to Meadow, Placid, and finally McQueeney, the most populated one. The water level will drop by 12 feet on each lake, leaving only the natural channel of the Guadalupe River. Two other lakes in the chain, Dunlap and Wood, already drained after spillgates there failed. The GBRA notified the associations of lakefront residents Thursday about the decision and is sending about 2,000 certified letters to all property owners.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Southwest Airlines hopes to make Denver its busiest airport with 100 new flights

Southwest Airlines hopes to add as many as 100 flights a day as part of gate expansions at Denver International Airport — a move that would make the Colorado city the busiest in the carrier's network.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines notified officials at Denver International Airport that the company wants 16 new gates being constructed as part of a $1.5 billion expansion at the facility. In all, Denver International is adding 39 gates and should start opening at the end of 2020. Southwest now operates 200 to 225 flights a day out of Denver. The move could give the airline nearly 300 daily flights there and surpass Chicago Midway, which has about 265 flights a day from Southwest.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Ted Cruz: The El Paso shooting was racist domestic terrorism, and Congress must act

The Dallas Five. First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Santa Fe High School. And now most recently, the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where 22 more innocent people lost their lives. Repeatedly, over the past three years, our state has been struck by unspeakable evil — this time, in the form of white supremacy, anti-Hispanic bigotry, and domestic terrorism.

But, just as in Dallas and Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, what I saw when I traveled to El Paso to support this grieving community should also serve as an inspiration for every community across Texas and the country. I saw a community respond to despicable hatred with tremendous love. I saw the heroes of that dark day — the men and women from all walks of life, of every color and creed, come together and stand as one. During each of these visits with survivors, I felt their overwhelming strength. A refusal to allow bigotry to win. That strength and determination is the story of El Paso. And that is the story of our state.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Abbott’s powerful message to racist domestic terrorists: Texas won’t stand for you here

There is — or should be — a basic expectation that our leaders provide clear guidance on moral issues that we all can agree are critical to a civil society. To that end, we found it gratifying and essential for Gov. Greg Abbott to unambiguously denounce white nationalism and the violence born from it in this state. The first step to rooting “out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence” is to acknowledge that it’s a major problem in the first place, he said.

But even as we appreciate the statement, we know mere words won’t change things. It will take aggressive plans and action to tamp down the kind of hate that spawned the unconscionable massacre in El Paso. We’re encouraged that Abbott will form a Domestic Violence Task Force aimed at finding real solutions. He’s taken immediate action by ordering the state Department of Public Safety to work with federal and local officials to identify potential terrorist hate groups and racists. More DPS agents will be assigned to conduct criminal probes of racist gangs affiliated with neo-Nazis and white nationalists. These are concrete moves in the right direction.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Texas should stop making it harder to vote

Harris County is taking steps to make voting more convenient — reforms that should be copied throughout Texas to increase notoriously sagging voter turnout. State election officials recently approved Harris County’s application to use centrally located voting centers along with traditional polling places during high-turnout elections.

That’s good news leading up to the 2020 presidential election, which could have a huge turnout if the crowd competing to become the Democratic Party’s nominee is any indication. County Clerk Diane Trautman says the voting centers will allow voters to conveniently cast their ballots near their job or school, which could increase turnout by at least 2 to 5 percent. Turnout in Travis County, which began using voting centers in 2011, has increased turnout more than 10 percent, according to election officials.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Texas Education Agency releases letter grades for Houston-area schools

More Houston area schools earned A grades and fewer D and F grades on the Texas Education Agency's accountability ratings than the state as a whole, but the relatively high grades were not enough to protect Houston ISD from state sanctions.

The ratings, released early Thursday, showed that Houston-area schools earned more A grades and fewer D and F grades than the state average. Of more than 1,500 local schools, about 22.3 percent were given A grades, 34.2 percent received B's, another 26.4 earned C grades, 7.4 percent were rated as D and 3.8 were given F's. Nearly 6 percent of local schools were not rated.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Oxy to sell old ConocoPhillips HQ, hold onto Anadarko campus for now

Occidental Petroleum plans to sell the old ConocoPhillips headquarters it bought several months ago and maintain a major presence in the Anadarko towers in The Woodlands at least for now, Oxy's chief financial officer disclosed at a Denver conference this week.

That means Oxy will at least temporarily keep its Greenway Plaza headquarters in Houston after acquiring Anadarko Petroleum last week in a $38 billion mega deal. Before Oxy became a bidder for Anadarko this spring, Oxy planned to move into the old ConocoPhillips campus in Houston's Energy Corridor. Now those plans are completely nixed because the Conoco campus can't accommodate everyone from Oxy and Anadarko, said CFO Cedric Burgher.

Top of Page

KXAN - August 15, 2019

Dueling messages in Gov. Greg Abbott's town hall and Rep. Joaquín Castro's Democratic response

As Gov. Greg Abbott addressed a wide range of topics during a town hall broadcast across Texas, it’s clear what is top of mind for both him and his opponents: gun safety.

“As the school year starts, we all have to face the fact that we have to look into our children’s eyes and have a conversation, not about the excitement of the first day of class, but about the people who could harm us and about getting back safe and active shooter drills,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro, who gave a Democratic response Thursday after the town hall. Gov. Abbott also addressed topics such as immigration, school safety, property taxes, mental health issues and others, but what has been resonating for Texans and across the nation is the mass shooting that happened in El Paso on Aug. 3 where 22 people died and many more were injured.

Top of Page

KTSM - August 14, 2019

The end of an era as Dr. Diana Natalicio retires as UTEP president

Wednesday marks the end of an era — the last day of Dr. Diana Natalicio’s time as UTEP president. Natalicio, who held the position for 31 years, announced her retirement in May 2018. She is UTEP’s first woman president and the longest-serving president in the university’s history.

She was born in St. Louis, Missouri as Diana Siedhoff. “I was a switchboard operator,” Natalicio told KTSM’s Estefania Seyffert. “The Lily Tomlin of Norburg Manufacturing and answered calls and connected them and after a month I realized this is not possible. I cannot live my life with this box.”

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

UT’s Austin campus to get $200 million more in funding for fiscal year 2020

The University of Texas’ flagship campus in Austin will see a 6.3% increase, or about $200 million more, in funding from the UT System Board of Regents. Regents on Thursday approved the systemwide $21.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2019. The budget goes into effect Sept. 1.

The regents also sent the Austin campus an additional $27.8 million from the Available University Fund. The campus, which has finished putting together its annual budget, will release its spending plan in a few weeks, a UT spokesperson said. “We are very grateful to the board for increasing the distribution of the AUF,” UT president Gregory Fenves said after the meeting. “It will help us educate our students better and recruit and retain the best faculty and staff in the world.”

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Abbott blames racism for El Paso attack, but is mute on Trump

Speaking at a first-of-its-kind gubernatorial televised town hall from the University of Texas at Tyler, Gov. Greg Abbott named racism as the culprit in the Aug. 3 massacre of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart by a suspect who told police he drove all the way from Allen to shoot Mexicans.

But the governor avoided commenting on whether President Donald Trump should tone down his rhetoric, which critics believe may have spurred the gunman to action. “What led someone to drive 600 miles over to El Paso to do this?” Abbott said. “You don’t have to wonder, because the person that did it, the killer wrote it in a manifesto. He said in that manifesto that the reason why he made this attack is because of racism, because of hate, because of his desire to eliminate people from the face of the earth.”

Top of Page

Tyler Morning Telegraph - August 15, 2019

East Texas inventor concentrating on wind power technology

Some people say a uniquely different invention of George Arthur Spencer on his property in the Cross Roads community near Athens looks like an alien antenna. The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports Spencer jokes that it is a feeder for giraffes.

In a serious vein, Spencer, who has more than 20 patents, said his latest invention is three-dimensional wind power technology designed to harvest wind energy. In less technical terms, it is a new concept in windmills similar to wind turbines in West Texas. Hassan El-Kishky, chair of the electrical engineering department at the University of Texas at Tyler, said Spencer's invention "sounds like a good idea." There will need to be an analysis to see if it will actually be feasible in terms of cost, and whether it will add to present technology and realize improvement in efficiency as well as reliability, El-Kishky said.

Top of Page

Texas Public Radio - August 14, 2019

If approved, new Texas test will determine marijuana is illegal with 1% THC levels

For the last two months, dozens of county and district attorneys in Texas have not prosecuted low-level marijuana crimes. That’s because they lack a reliable and affordable way to distinguish between marijuana and hemp, which was just legalized.

But the Texas Forensics Science Commission has worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to come up with a new method of testing that could be available to prosecutors by early 2020. Law enforcement — using probable cause to search a person or their vehicle — must first prove that the substance in question has the look and smell of marijuana. That has become complicated by the fact that legal hemp can have the same look and smell. A cop's next step would be to test the product to determine if it is in fact marijuana. That used to be a simple process.

Top of Page

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Travis County seeks hard data to judge success of jail diversion program

Travis County gave initial approval this week to continue an effort that diverts mentally ill criminal defendants away from jail and into treatment, despite commissioners’ concerns about a lack of hard data to back up the program’s success.

The collaboration between the county’s pretrial services and Travis County Integral Care was started in 2016, and in three years, the pilot program has gotten 177 inmates with serious mental health issues out of the Travis County Jail on bond and connected them with treatment services, pretrial services division director Stacy Brown said. Often, those defendants linger in the jail because they can’t afford to post bond or don’t have the mental capacity to return to court for hearings once they are released, leading to an ongoing cycle of recidivism.

Top of Page

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Multiple Austin-area schools receive Fs from the state

Multiple Austin-area schools received failing grades under the state accountability system, which doled out letter grades to campuses for the first time this year. The Texas Education Agency started rolling out the A-through-F rating system last year, assigning letter grades to districts and numeric scores to campuses on a scale of 0-100.

Central Texas schools and districts scored about the same as statewide averages, according to the results of 13 districts. All but two districts scored the same or better than they did compared to last year. Twenty campuses received an F, three more than last year. This year, the Austin district earned an overall 89, or B, but eight of its 120 rated campuses received Fs, double the number last year. Andrews and Barrington elementaries, and Burnet, Dobie, Martin, Mendez, Webb middle schools and Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy earned Fs. The last time the district had as many failing campuses was in 2015.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

ALEC in Austin: Conservative conference sparks protest

A banner at the 46th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin featured a photo of Vice President Mike Pence with the quote: “I was for ALEC before it was cool.” If you are not a Republican legislator somewhere in America, chances are you don’t know what ALEC is.

If you are, there is a 1 in 4 chance you are a member of ALEC, a powerful if low-visibility organization that brings together business interests and policymakers from across the country to hammer out model conservative legislation and then seeks to have it enacted in state capitals from coast to coast. For about 100 labor, environmental, consumer, disability, immigrant and Democratic Party activists who gathered outside to rally in the 100-degree heat in what Progress Texas, the organizing group, called an “unwelcome reception,” ALEC is definitely not cool, and no amount of hotel air conditioning could make the Marriott anything other than a hothouse of bad ideas for a gathering that began Wednesday and ends Friday.

Top of Page

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 15, 2019

‘The goal is to become an A school district,’ Fort Worth superintendent says

The Fort Worth school district received a C rating Thursday from the state. “The goal is to become an A school district and the goal is to eliminate D and F campuses in Fort Worth,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. Scribner said the district’s overall rating doesn’t tell the district’s entire story because it barely missed earning a B rating (by just one-tenth of one percent).

Scribner said the district’s overall score has been improving. This year, Fort Worth schools earned a 79 aggregate score — up 12 points in the last two years. Eleven Fort Worth schools earned A ratings, but 18 campuses received F grades. Nine sixth-grade centers and middle schools received the lowest ratings — a sign that something needs to change at that level, Scribner said.

Top of Page

KUT - August 15, 2019

Austin is sued over convention center ballot language

Austin is being sued over wording for a petition-driven referendum on the city's $1.2 billion expansion of the convention center and its use of hotel tax revenue. The head of the local chapter of the NAACP, Nelson Linder, is asking the Texas Supreme Court to force the Austin City Council to rewrite the language that will appear on the November ballot.

The proposition will ask if voters should be required to approve any convention center expansion costing more than $20 million over a four-year period. The city's proposal to expand the center was unanimously passed by the Austin City Council in May. A political action committee drafted a petition challenging that expansion soon after. That petition received more than 20,000 signatures, allowing it to go to a public vote after Council OK'd the ballot language. The ballot language says the city "must" pay for those elections, but Linder’s attorney, Fred Lewis, argues there would be no cost extra if they were held on even-numbered years at the same time as city council elections.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

Leon Valley council member thrown out of office says he’s not going quietly

Benny Martinez, the five-year Leon Valley City Council member who was voted off the council Wednesday night, said he isn’t going to go quietly. “There will definitely be a lawsuit,” Martinez said. The City Council voted 2-1 to declare Martinez’s seat vacant after finding that he had violated the city charter numerous times in ways that caused him to forfeit the seat.

Martinez said he wasn’t sure whether he would continue with the suit he filed in April, which is pending, or submit a new one. And he’s not sure whether he’s going to be suing to get his seat back. The City Council’s vote came shortly before midnight Wednesday, ending eight days of hearings over two months. Wednesday’s session ran nearly five hours.

Top of Page

National Stories

Associated Press - August 15, 2019

US stock indexes end mostly higher after volatile day

Investors rode out another turbulent day on Wall Street Thursday that kept stock indexes flipping between gains and losses until a late-day bounce gave the market a modest gain. Worries about a possible recession collided with hopes that the strongest part of the U.S. economy — shoppers spending at stores and online — can keep going.

The major U.S. stock indexes spent much of the day reacting to big moves in U.S. government bond yields, which fell sharply in the early going, fluctuated for much of the day, and then recovered some of their decline by mid-afternoon. U.S. government bonds have been among the loudest and earliest to cry out warnings about the economy. Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday after a fairly reliable warning signal of recession emerged from the bond market. Even after the slide in yields eased Thursday, the U.S. bond market continued to show concern as yields ended broadly lower.

Top of Page

Associated Press - August 15, 2019

Israel grants US Rep Tlaib West Bank visit on humanitarian grounds

Israel’s interior minister said Friday he has received and granted a request by Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib to enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds. The decision marked the latest sharp reversal over what had been a planned visit by Tlaib and fellow Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On Thursday, Israel had announced it is barring the two from entry — an unprecedented move targeting members of the U.S. Congress. Israel’s decision came after President Donald Trump said in a tweet it would show “weakness” to allow in the two Muslim members of Congress who have been sharply critical of him and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and Trump’s prior prodding — had sparked widespread criticism, including from Israeli and Jewish organization which said it was an affront to U.S. institutions to bar the entry of members of Congress. Critics also argued that it weakened Israel’s traditionally strong ties with the U.S. through heavy-handed partisanship.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 15, 2019

Democrats’ uneasy 2020 reality: They need the likes of O’Rourke, Bullock and Hickenlooper to run for Senate — badly

There are lots and lots of high-profile Democrats running for president; there are not many high-profile Democrats running for Senate. And the pressure to change that is becoming more overt, as a party hopeful of winning back the presidency in 2020 confronts difficult math when it comes to also taking the Senate. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of how this shakes out.

The New York Times’s Reid J. Epstein reported Tuesday that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is dropping down into his state’s high-profile Senate race after failing to gain traction in the Democratic presidential primary. In Texas, the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board this weekend urged Beto O’Rourke to make a similar calculated switch. And in Montana, there have been efforts to persuade Gov. Steve Bullock.

Top of Page

Washington Post - August 15, 2019

CNN increasingly sees itself as subject to threats after incidents involving Cuomo, Lemon, Ryan

In a matter of a few days, CNN host Chris Cuomo and contributor April Ryan were involved in separate altercations, both captured on video. A third network figure, host Don Lemon, was accused in a civil suit of harassing behavior stemming from an encounter last summer.

There is no indication that the episodes are related, but CNN has repeatedly suggested the Cuomo encounter was “orchestrated” to provoke the anchor-host. The network sees itself as subject to threats in the wake of relentless criticism and provocations from President Trump. Some CNN correspondents travel with security when reporting at Trump’s rallies. The network has also reminded its employees about security concerns, but hasn’t said anything specific internally in the wake of the Cuomo, Ryan and Lemon episodes.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

Any economic downturn could scramble Trump’s 2020 strategy

President Trump has made the strong economy the central selling point of his presidency, and his advisers believe it is the key to winning a second term. But this week’s damaging economic developments—resulting in fresh warnings of a possible impending recession—threaten to complicate that message 14 months before the election.

Mr. Trump and his advisers say publicly they aren’t worried. White House officials add that Mr. Trump—even as he continues to heap scorn on the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell—will keep touting the economy, including during a Thursday night rally in Manchester, N.H. While he reacts to economic developments on Twitter, Mr. Trump has been privately assuring advisers that he isn’t bothered by recent drops in the stock market, according to two people who have spoken to him lately. And while more economists are predicting a recession in the next year, the threat isn’t considered a certainty.

Top of Page

NPR - August 16, 2019

Trump shifts from background checks to mental illness reform at NH rally

At his first campaign rally after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Trump appeared to back away from supporting a possible expansion of background checks in favor of a push for more attention to mental illness. "There is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger — it's the person holding the gun," Trump said to roars and a standing ovation from the Manchester, N.H., crowd.

Trump used a similar line immediately after the dual shootings earlier this month at a Walmart in Texas and outside a bar in Ohio, saying that "mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun." In the weeks since, the president has urged Congress to strengthen background checks, despite opposition from the National Rifle Association. He backed red flag laws, which would permit law enforcement officers to temporarily take weapons away from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

Top of Page