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Newsclips - May 20, 2018

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

In shooting wake, Texas Republicans pray, Democrats demand gun control

exas members of Congress reacted in familiar ways to the Santa Fe school shooting, with Republicans offering prayers and Democrats calling for gun control measures. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those injured and killed at Santa Fe School District right outside of Galveston,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. “Until we know the facts and the circumstances, it’s hard to comment on what happened. And certainly, we all are standing by again and our hearts go out to those who are affected by this terrible tragedy.” After the Sutherland Springs church shooting in November that left 26 people dead, Cornyn promised to fix the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which had failed to screen the shooter. Cornyn’s “Fix NICS” bill, which punishes federal agencies that do not report ineligible gun buyers to the FBI database, passed Congress and was signed into law in March.

Washington Post - May 19, 2018

Texas official says that fewer doors could mean fewer school shootings. We had experts weigh in.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, an evangelical Christian and Republican former radio talk-show host who has been a strong proponent of expanding gun liberties in the state, spoke with a cadre of officials on Friday, pointing out that though Santa Fe High School had been given a safety award from the state and enjoyed the regular protection of two police officers, it still fell victim to horrific violence at the hands of an armed teenager. ... Ed Hinman, a director at Gavin de Becker & Associates, a security consulting firm based in Los Angeles Hinman was more supportive of the idea to limit building entrances, saying that being able to channel and watch who was coming in was a good way to increase safety. But regulating exits was more complicated. He also spotlighted training and preventive measures as important parts of the picture, stressing, like Zimmerman, the need for better mechanisms to identify and track warning signs of problematic students. ... Arnette F. Heintze, co-founder and chief executive of Hillard Heinze, a security firm in Chicago Heintze said that one exit and entrance for a school the size of Santa Fe High School was not likely to work. “You can’t have one exit and entrance for 1,400 people,” he said. “Then you create a killing field for someone.”

Washington Post - May 19, 2018

China agrees to buy ‘significantly’ more from the U.S., but doesn’t commit to specific amount

The United States and China said Saturday that two days of “constructive” talks between American and Chinese officials in Washington had led to an agreement for China to buy more goods and services — including “meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports” — as the two countries work to defuse a brewing trade war. But a joint statement released by the White House did not contain a specific target for reducing the $375 billion trade deficit between the two countries, suggesting the White House had not secured the $200 billion reduction that senior Trump administration officials had said was forthcoming. The joint statement said the United States would dispatch a team to China to work out the details, which also may include expanded trade in manufactured goods and stronger “cooperation” in enforcement of intellectual property protections.

The Hill - May 18, 2018

Farm bill revolt could fuel Dreamer push

Republican immigration reformers said Friday’s defeat of the GOP farm bill will generate more support for the upstart effort to force House action on "Dreamer" legislation. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a leading voice in the effort to revive the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, said the conservatives who opposed the farm bill essentially reneged on an agreement with GOP leaders to lend their farm bill support in return for promised action next month on a conservative immigration proposal. Twenty-nine Republicans opposed the GOP agriculture proposal Friday morning — many of them members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — sinking the bill and delivering an embarrassing defeat to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

Voting in Texas primary runoff better than recent comparable elections

Nearly 380,000 voters have already cast ballots in the state's largest counties in advance of Tuesday's statewide primary runoff elections that will determine the final lineup for general election battles for governor, Congress and other offices. About 240,000 have voted in person in the largest 15 counties, while the rest have cast absentee ballots by mail. That turnout through early and absentee voting is better than previous primary runoff elections in 2016 and 2014, but way behind vote totals from the March primary when nearly 900,000 voted before Election Day. The Democratic Primary includes a statewide battle for governor between Lupe Valdez and Andrew White. Republicans have no statewide primaries runoffs, but they do have several hotly contested congressional battles around the state.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

Gunman blasted through door, lingered for about 30 minutes

The suspect in the Texas school shooting began his attack by firing a shotgun through an art classroom door, shattering a glass pane and sending panicked students to the entryway to block him from getting inside, witnesses said. Dmitrios Pagourtzis fired again through the wooden part of the door and fatally hit a student in the chest. He then lingered for about 30 minutes in a warren of four rooms, killing seven more students and two teachers before exchanging gunfire with police and surrendering, officials said. Freshman Abel San Miguel saw his friend Chris Stone killed at the door. San Miguel was grazed on the left shoulder by another volley of shots. He and others survived by playing dead.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

Blakinger: The accused Santa Fe shooter will never get the death penalty. Here’s why.

The high school junior accused of gunning down 10 students and teachers at a Santa Fe school is facing a capital murder charge - but he’ll never face the death penalty, even in Texas. Some day, he’ll even be eligible for parole. Though Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged as an adult and jailed without bond, even if he’s found guilty he can’t be sentenced to death because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. And in the Lone Star State, he can’t be sentenced to life without parole as the result of a 2013 law that banned the practice for minors.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

'Too damn many of these': Ted Cruz speaks out in wake of Santa Fe shooting

"Once again, Texas has seen the face of evil," Senator Ted Cruz told reporters in Santa Fe following the deadly school shooting on Friday. "What happened this morning here in Santa Fe defies words." "The agony, the hell, that parents, that this community is going through is unimaginable," Cruz said. "Everyone of us that's a parent that sends our sons or daughters off to school in the morning, to have this horror greet them." Cruz said Texas and the nation are grieving with the Sante Fe community, located roughly 30 miles south of Houston.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

Frustration in West after EPA does away with chemical plant rules

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

UT System allocates $7 million in event it wins bid to run Los Alamos

University of Texas System regents voted Friday to allocate up to $7 million in transition expenses for taking over operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory — assuming the system wins the federal contract to run the nuclear weapons lab. The funding requested by Chancellor Bill McRaven and other top officials is styled as a loan to the limited liability company formed by the system to bid for the Los Alamos contract. The company would repay the money from fees it receives from the federal government. The regents also voted to name former UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner as interim chancellor until a successor to McRaven is brought on board. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral, announced in December that he would step down at the end of May because of health reasons and a desire to teach and write. Faulkner’s appointment takes effect June 1.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

Texas objects to proposed motor-voter fixes

After losing a legal fight over the way Texas handles online voter registration, state lawyers are arguing that fixes proposed by a civil rights group go too far and should be rejected. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio had given both sides until Thursday to submit plans that will let Texans easily register to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license on the Department of Public Safety website. The current system violates the National Voter Registration Act’s motor-voter provision, Garcia ruled, because online users are directed to a separate page run by the Texas secretary of state, where they must download a voter registration form, print it out and mail it to their county registrar.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

Abbott calls for immediate talks to find ways to end mass shootings

With a sense of urgency, Gov. Greg Abbott called Friday for state officials and affected parties to begin discussions next week to find ways to ensure the school shooting in Santa Fe that claimed 10 lives is not repeated. “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” Abbott said at a news conference in Santa Fe hours after the shootings. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated, ever again in the history of the state of Texas.” “I’m going to be working with members of the Texas Legislature, but also with members of our communities from across the state of Texas to begin with roundtable discussions beginning next week where we will assemble all stakeholders to begin to work immediately on swift solutions to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” Abbott said.

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2018

Democrats welcome Abbott call for talks but want more done

In the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School, Texas Democrats said Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposal for gun-safety roundtable discussions was a good first step to address what they called the public health and public safety crisis of gun violence. “We welcome that discussion. We’ve been ready to have it for a long time,” state Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said Friday. “We welcome our seat at the table to have serious conversations about solutions to the gun-violence epidemic in Texas and across this country.”

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

Democrats vying for Rep. Sam Johnson’s seat in Collin County say they can turn red District 3 blue

The two Democrats in Tuesday’s runoff say they can turn the 3rd Congressional District blue, despite the fact that the district encompassing much of Collin County has been solidly red for decades. Voters will decide whether they want Lorie Burch or Sam Johnson, two Plano-based attorneys, to face state Sen. Van Taylor in the November election. Taylor is a well-known conservative name in the district and has a huge cash advantage. Plano Rep. Sam Johnson, who announced in January that he would retire at the end of his term, has served in the U.S. House since 1991. Burch and Johnson see the open seat as an opportunity for a Democrat to take over.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

'I want to be able to protect my children': Santa Fe church members take course to get a gun license

At Big Kountry Shooting, Mark Giordonello barked orders at four members of the Pentecostals of Santa Fe. "Step up," he shouted. "Pick up your guns. This is going to be a five-shot exercise. One shot at a time at my command. Identify your target. Fire." The church members were at the indoor shooting range Saturday afternoon, the day after the massacre at Santa Fe High School, to qualify for a license to carry a handgun. Their pastor, Thomas Custer, asked Giordonello weeks ago to teach them the required four-hour course and administer the test because he said it's important for people to know how to properly use firearms.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2018

Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz comfort families of Santa Fe school shooting at vigil

Hundreds gathered on the lawn of Texas First Bank, holding candles, roses or both. Parked cars filled the sides of the road leading to the vigil, starting more than half a mile away. People walked silently to Texas First Bank and joined a murmuring crowd. Many hugged one another and held on a second longer than usual. Texas First Bank sits in a plaza with storefronts painted a rusty brown, featuring the Zia sun symbol that graces New Mexico’s state flag. Teens wearing Santa Fe High School T-shirts clustered together. They listened as Gov. Greg Abbott urged them to stand together and promised to be with them through the healing process.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

Democrat Andrew White demands Greg Abbott call special session to enact new gun laws

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White on Saturday called on incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott "to soften his heart and open his mind to protect our kids," by calling a special legislative session to change gun laws and spend money to harden Texas schools to thwart gun-toting intruders. White noted that Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott, despite a top rating from the National Rifle Association, "softened his heart as he mourned with the parents who lost children in the Parkland shooting" in metropolitan Miami in February. "Abbott owes the parents of every school kid in Texas the same degree of whole-hearted representation he gave to fringe voters from his party who sought to pass the bathroom bill," White said in a written statement. He was referring to a special session Abbott called last summer, partly in a failed effort to restrict the restrooms transgender Texans may use.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2018

Hallas: Community colleges are a microcosm of Texas' failure to protect women's health

I got my IUD the same way I registered for my fall classes — by scheduling an advising appointment and paying with tuition. Within 48 hours of my consultation at the university clinic, I had one of the most effective forms of birth control. My experience is fairly typical among Texas' large, four-year universities. Here, well-equipped student health services are funded by tuition, and, according to the American College Health Association, most students pay for birth control with a parent's insurance plan. But my experience isn't an option for Texas' 712,554 community college students. Despite reporting preferences among college women for longer-lasting, more reliable birth control, a recent study from the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin found that cost and insurance barriers pushed community college women to use less-effective methods such as condoms and withdrawal.

San Antonio Express-News - May 19, 2018

PolitiFact: Lupe Valdez’s claim that Texas schools in some counties shut for opening of hunting season off the mark

“There are some counties in Texas where the first day of hunting, you have to shut down the schools because people are going to go hunting.” — Lupe Valdez on May 8, 2018, in a Facebook Live interview by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board ... We didn’t learn how Valdez reached this conclusion, for which we found no confirmation. We rate this claim False: The statement is not accurate.

San Antonio Express-News - May 18, 2018

Report: Texas adds nearly 40,000 jobs in April

Texas added 39,600 jobs in April, and extended its streak of employment growth to 22 months, according to a report released Friday. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in April, an improvement from 4.1 percent in March, which was also the rate this time last year. It’s a tick above the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for April, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. A separate report released Friday was even more optimistic on the number of jobs added to the Texas economy. The state added 42,500 jobs in April, according to seasonally adjusted and benchmarked payroll employment numbers from by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2018

Ramsey: Millennial Texans might be louder, but they’re not voting

Derek Ryan, a young Texas voter who also happens to be a political consultant, is finally starting to see some of his peers talking and posting about politics and showing up on lists of voters. It’s taken long enough: He’s in his early 40s. He also has crunched the numbers, finding that his anecdotal experience is not anecdotal at all. Younger Texans aren’t voting, and it’s particularly bad in Ryan’s own party, the Texas GOP. In the 2018 Republican primary in March, voters over the age of 70 outnumbered voters under the age of 50. More than three-quarters of the voters were 50 or older, Ryan found in his analysis of voter turnout.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2018

Former UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner named interim chancellor of UT System

The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents has tapped Larry Faulkner, a former president of the University of Texas at Austin, to be interim chancellor. In a telephone meeting Friday afternoon, the regents gave Faulkner unanimous approval to temporarily helm the 14-campus system until they find outgoing Chancellor Bill McRaven's permanent successor. McRaven's last day will be May 31, and Faulkner will assume the interim position starting June 1. He is not a candidate for the permanent position.

Texas Tribune - May 19, 2018

After Santa Fe shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott sees a West Texas mental health program as a statewide model

A Lubbock-based program seeing success helping prevent at-risk students from committing violent acts is getting more attention after Gov. Greg Abbott touted it as a potential statewide model to reduce school shootings the day after a student allegedly shot 10 people to death at his a southeast Texas high school. The Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center works to identify junior high and high school students most at risk for committing violence in schools and intervene before it happens.

New York Times - May 19, 2018

Houston Police Chief Says He Has ‘Hit Rock Bottom’ on Gun Rights Arguments

Just hours after 10 people were killed in a school shooting in Santa Fe, Tex., the police chief in nearby Houston issued a defiant condemnation of elected officials who have failed to act on gun control, saying he had “hit rock bottom.” In a statement on Facebook, the chief, Art Acevedo, wrote that he had “shed tears of sadness, pain and anger” after the shooting, which happened about 35 miles away. “I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue,” he wrote. “Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do. My feelings won’t be hurt if you de-friend me and I hope yours won’t be if you decide to post about your views and I de-friend you.”

Washington Post - May 19, 2018

Texas school had a shooting plan, armed officers and practice. And still 10 people died.

They, like so many others, thought they had taken the steps to avoid this. The school district had an ­active-shooter plan, and two armed police officers walked the halls of the high school. School district leaders had even agreed last fall to eventually arm teachers and staff under the state’s school marshal program, one of the country’s most aggressive and controversial policies intended to get more guns into classrooms. They thought they were a hardened target, part of what’s expected today of the American public high school in an age when school shootings occur with alarming frequency. And so a death toll of 10 was a tragic sign of failure and needing to do more, but also a sign, to some, that it could have been much worse.

Politico - May 19, 2018

Texas Democrats look to single-payer in congressional races

Democrats hoping to wrest congressional seats away from diehard repeal-and-replace Republicans are campaigning on an unlikely issue for Texas — single-payer health care. Across the country, many Democrats are trying to minimize internal battles on health care. But Democrats in this deep red state have also watched closely races where single-payer advocates have upset centrist primary opponents. And some believe that moving left on health care will mobilize new voters in primaries —and offer a shot at winning come November. More than half the 22 Democratic House candidates competing in the Texas primary runoff next Tuesday openly tout their support for single-payer health care. On the Senate side, Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who handily won his March primary, will face Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz built his reputation on shutting down down the government in a failed bid to stop Obamacare in 2013. O'Rourke says he supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act now but starting on a path to an eventual single-payer health system.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

Dallas County GOP slams one of its own candidates for alleged 'racist language and behavior'

The Dallas County Republican Party on Saturday rebuked Vickers "Vic" Cunningham, a former criminal district judge running for county commissioner, for what officials called his alleged "racist behavior and language." The party's statement came after The Dallas Morning News revealed that people close to Cunningham say he has long expressed racial animosity and referred to black people using the N-word. And Cunningham acknowledged that he had created a trust fund in 2010 that rewards his children if they marry a white, straight, Christian. County GOP chairwoman Missy Shorey said the party "wholeheartedly rejects the racist behavior and language alleged."

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

DMN: We withdraw Vickers Cunningham recommendation in GOP runoff for Dallas County Commissioners Court Precinct 2

This newspaper recommended Vickers Cunningham for the Precinct 2 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court because we felt the former state district judge's career left him best prepared for the job. However, recent developments have caused us to reconsider, and we are withdrawing our recommendation of Cunningham. That decision is based on several pieces of information that have come to light in the final days of this campaign, in which Cunningham is competing against lawyer and businessman J.J. Koch. In 2010, Cunningham established a living trust for his children, the terms of which suggest a personal problem with diversity. The trust provides financial distributions to his children if they reach certain milestones, including marriage to someone who is white, Christian and of the opposite sex.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

Hooper: Harris County must unite its squabbling Republican factions to reap general election success.

The famed diversity found in Houston is brilliantly on display at any Harris County Republican Party event. The latest Republican Primary had even more Hispanic candidates than the Democratic Primary. But with diversity comes division, which can also be found at local meetings and events. One of the most obvious divides is between the establishment (the “swamp”) and the conservatives (the Tea Party). There are many labels within these broader groups: evangelicals, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans in Name Only (RINOS), social conservatives and special interest Republicans, to name a few. Some labels relate to supporters of a particular candidate, such as Cruzies or Never Trumpers, who often are members of one or another subset.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2018

Several Travis County tax assessor’s office employees arrested in fraud investigation, DPS says

Texas Department of Public Safety officials served warrants at the Travis County Tax Assessor Collector’s office on Friday and arrested several employees, according to Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant. The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation into fraudulent activities, DPS officials said. It is unknown how many people were arrested and what the charges are. People were arrested at the main tax office and all four satellite offices. All tax assessor collector satellite offices will be closed until further notice, but the main tax office will remain open, Elfant said.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2018

Frisco hospice exec admits overdosing patients 'to hasten their deaths' and make more money

The former executive of a Frisco hospice admitted Thursday to overdosing patients to "hasten their deaths" so the company could make more money, court records show. Melanie Murphey, 36, admitted serving as the "go-between" for Novus Health Services owner Bradley Harris, doctors and nurses in an alleged $60 million scheme. Murphey, Novus' director of operations, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and is expected to testify against 15 others in the case, including Harris and his wife, Amy. The other defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2018

Group marches to Texas Capitol to mourn victims

After the Santa Fe High School shooting Friday, Austin resident Elva Mendoza knew she couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing. So she joined a small group of people, many of them holding electric candles, who walked from St. Austin Church on Guadalupe Street to the Texas Capitol to honor those killed in the shooting. “I wanted to show solidarity with the community of Santa Fe,” said Mendoza, who volunteers with Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.

San Antonio Express-News - May 18, 2018

Garcia: Brockhouse pushes for recording of closed-door meetings

Let’s move on from the now-moot question of whether San Antonio should have submitted a bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention. That debate is so two-weeks-ago. Let’s also temporarily put aside the important issue of whether Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the City Council violated either the spirit or the letter of the Texas Open Meetings Act by deciding against a convention bid behind closed doors. (The Express-News has filed a formal complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office over this issue.) As the RNC bid debate slowly recedes into our collective rearview mirror, new questions have emerged: Was there a recording of that executive session? And, if not, what did the city do to document what happened?

National Stories

The Hill - May 17, 2018

Trump offers 'protections' if Kim surrenders nukes

President Trump on Thursday sought to reassure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Kim's government threatened to pull out of the upcoming nuclear summit with the United States. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is “willing to do a lot” to offer Kim “protections” if the North Korean leader agrees to surrender his nuclear weapons. “He will get protections that are very strong,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with NATO’s secretary-general. “The best thing he could do is make a deal.” Trump’s comments show he is eager to address North Korea’s concerns so the summit can take place.

Wall St. Journal - May 17, 2018

Strassel: Was Trump’s Campaign ‘Set Up’?

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes appeared on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday, where he provided a potentially explosive hint at what’s driving his demand to see documents related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Trump-Russia probe. “If the campaign was somehow set up,” he told the hosts, “I think that would be a problem.” Or an understatement. Mr. Nunes is still getting stiff-armed by the Justice Department over his subpoena, but this week his efforts did force the stunning admission that the FBI had indeed spied on the Trump campaign. This came in the form of a Thursday New York Times apologia in which government “officials” acknowledged that the bureau had used “at least one” human “informant” to spy on both Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. The Times slipped this mind-bending fact into the middle of an otherwise glowing profile of the noble bureau—and dismissed it as no big deal. But there’s more to be revealed here, and Mr. Nunes’s “set up” comment points in a certain direction.

New York Times - May 19, 2018

Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election

Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor. The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

New York Times - May 19, 2018

Bruni: The News Isn’t Fake. But It’s Flawed.

In the face of Trump, this newspaper began its “The Truth Is” campaign: “The truth is hard,” “The truth is hidden,” and so on. The Washington Post put, on the top of its front page, the legend “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Such approaches are part of what prompted the media critic Jack Shafer to complain that when reporters are maligned, “They go all whiny and preachy.” “I won’t dispute that journalists are crucial to a free society,” he wrote. But “the chords that aggrieved journalists strike make them sound as entitled as tenured professors.” Pushed up against the ropes, we’re so busy self-justifying that we sometimes forget to self-examine. And there are aspects of how we work — and how we come across — that definitely warrant adjustment.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2018

Young: Trump and the art of being transparently corrupt

I overheard the voter stand by her man, Donald Trump, the day after the “Access Hollywood” tapes showed him in vibrantly misogynistic Technicolor. “I’d rather have someone coarse than someone corrupt,” she sniffed — the latter reference being to Hillary Clinton. What does that Trump voter smell now? Roses, no doubt. This, though we’re learning that several major corporations, including one with pronounced Russian connections, paid Trump attorney Michael Cohen millions of dollars to do — what? To gain insight into Trump’s thoughts? That’s pretty pricey, when Twitter is free

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2018

Seglin: Dems have the momentum, but no coherent narrative to sell to voters.

Public relations doesn’t have the best reputation in politics. Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks was criticized for having a background in PR, which is often linked to spinning falsehoods or cleaning up after scandals. However, a viable public relations strategy is essential for winning elections and passing key policies, and the primary runoffs in Texas are the perfect time for the Democratic Party to reconsider its strategy for the upcoming midterm elections. There’s no doubt that anti-Trump sentiment provides a foundation for electoral success, but it’s not enough on its own to win elections. Not only have Democrats made frequent PR missteps that could cost them dearly at the polls, but they have no overarching strategy or cohesive narrative to sell. But not all hope is lost — there are concrete steps leadership can take to gain considerable seats this November.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2018

Lindenberger: Defiant vote by 3 GOP senators to preserve net neutrality is best path for moderates on immigration, too

The GOP-led Senate did something this week both smart and distressingly rare. Three Republican senators defied their leadership Wednesday to vote with Democrats to overturn the Federal Communication Commission's dangerous and wrong-headed decision to eviscerate protections for the open internet. Most Americans support net neutrality, and the FCC's disastrous decision to kill it should be an easy one to oppose for lawmakers in both parties. But with the 2018 mid-terms looming, Republican leaders in Congress are in no mood to split their caucus in either chamber between moderates siding with Democrats and an dissatisfied right wing. As a result, plenty of good bills that would almost certainly pass with a mix of moderate Republicans and the bulk of the Democrats are left on the table, as if handing the other party a talking point is too high a price to support solutions that will help America.

Washington Post - May 19, 2018

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws. His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high school Friday killed 10 people — a mass shooting that came just three months after 17 students and staffers were slain at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. When Peter Cunningham, a former education department employee, tweeted that it may be time for parents to pull their children out of school until gun laws are changed, Duncan, the education secretary under Obama, responded that his family “is in.”

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2018

DMN: New Trump immigration policy that separates families is cruel and could make a bad situation worse for kids

Here's a frightening reality: Thousands of vulnerable kids may be headed to Texas, which is already overwhelmed with problems in its own child-welfare system. The Trump administration is scouting three military bases in Texas as possible shelters for migrant children in its new get-tough plan to separate them from parents who'll be prosecuted for illegally crossing the Mexican border. We understand that the crackdown — under which even first-time offenders face separation — is intended to discourage others from trying to come here illegally. But separating families seems particularly draconian and inhumane.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2018

Show starring Avenatti and Scaramucci is being pitched to TV executives

A television show featuring Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who is suing President Donald Trump on behalf of a pornographic film actress, and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was pitched to two cable networks in recent weeks, people briefed on the matter said Thursday. Prominent television agent Jay Sures discussed with executives at CNN and MSNBC the concept of a program where the two men would square off, according to three people briefed on the issue. Both have become frequent cable network guests — Avenatti as one of Trump’s greatest antagonists, and Scaramucci as a loyalist to the president even after flaming out after less than two weeks at the White House.

Esquire - May 18, 2018

Holmes: Okay, Now I Actually Do Want To Take Your Guns

Hey there, NRA: Listen, I know the moments after a gunman opens fire in a school are hectic for you. You have to get your talking points together, you have to mentally prepare to debate a traumatized yet sensible child, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and practice saying that more guns would have made the situation less deadly. It’s a busy time! And since we are always either in the moments after or the moments before a mass shooting, you’re pretty much always busy, I have noticed! Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I now actually do want to take your guns. All of your guns. Right now. It wasn’t always this way. I have responsible gun owners in my family. I’ve never been a fan of shooting at things myself, but guns sure do seem to have brought joy into the lives of some people I love, and as long as they were stored properly, I never had a problem with them being around. I believed that we should place a hurdle or two between a psychopath and an AR-15, but that’s about as ardent as I got. Live and let live, that was my policy. Even with death machines. That has all changed. And you changed it.

NBC News - May 18, 2018

Inside the final days of Cambridge Analytica: Failed rebrands, fleeing clients and Nerf basketball

For months, Cambridge Analytica employees had heard whispers of a rebrand that would save their business. On Thursday, any lingering hope was extinguished when the embattled data firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign declared bankruptcy despite weeks of efforts to leave behind its controversial past. Even before CEO Alexander Nix was ousted after an undercover investigation showed him bragging about using sex workers to entrap the political opponents of prospective clients, the data firm was preparing to combine with parent company SCL under a new company called Emerdata. There was talk of rebranding under a new name, Anaxi, or possibly Firecrest Technologies, according to three former senior employees at the company, each of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their interest in finding new employment.

Washington Examiner - May 19, 2018

Ben Carson strikes critical blow to Obama fair-housing rule

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has undone a key element of the Obama-era fair housing rule, saying that it hurt local governments rather than helping them lessen inequities. The agency, led by Ben Carson, announced Friday evening that it was withdrawing the assessment tool by which cities and counties are supposed to identify housing discrimination and other problems faced by minorities and other groups. In a press release, HUD said that the tool was “confusing, difficult to use, and frequently produced unacceptable assessments.”

Newsclips - May 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 17, 2018

McConnell warns control of the Senate is ‘absolutely’ in play in midterm elections

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Thursday that control of the Senate is “absolutely” in play in the midterm elections, identifying the nine battleground states he believes will decide the outcome in November. In an interview with The Washington Post, McConnell also confidently predicted that the government will not shut down in September just weeks before the midterms, despite recent agitation from President Trump that there will be “no choice” but to shutter the government in September if he doesn’t get funding for his border wall. “I always think it’s better to be candid and not try to spin people into thinking this isn’t going to be a challenging election,” McConnell said in the Thursday morning interview. “I think the safest place to be is just to say that this is going to be a very challenging election, and I don’t think we know in May ... whether it’s Category 3, 4 or 5.”

Politico - May 17, 2018

GOP builds massive shadow army in fight for the House

Republicans have amassed a sprawling shadow field organization to defend the House this fall, spending tens of millions of dollars in an unprecedented effort to protect dozens of battleground districts that will determine control of the chamber. The initiative by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now includes 34 offices running mini-campaigns for vulnerable Republicans throughout the country. It has built its own in-house research and data teams and recruited 4,000 student volunteers, who have knocked on more than 10 million doors since February 2017.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Congressional candidate Gooden alleges Kaufman County voter fraud; issue now at play in runoff vs. Pounds

With his congressional runoff only five days away, Republican state Rep. Lance Gooden on Thursday filed suit alleging voter fraud in Kaufman County. The players in the suit are identical to those who led a visiting judge to call a special election just last month — a poll worker and 22 mail-in ballot voters who are mostly elderly and disabled, all from Terrell, Gooden's hometown. Gooden's petition to prevent mail-in ballots for Tuesday's runoff from being opened names the county, its elections administrator, the ballot board administrator and the Kaufman County Republican Party as defendants.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Capo: How long until Texas teachers march on Austin?

Teachers are realizing that collective voice speaks louder than a few lone wolves trying to effect change. The sustained, massive rallies in state capitals in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky showed legislators that educators stand as one, and parents and students, and even school boards and superintendents, stand with them. All agreed that closing schools for several days meant that educators weren’t walking out on their students; they were walking out for their students. There was a reckoning by lawmakers in these red states after so many years of harmful disinvestment of education, though in most cases, educators consider the final packages as down payments for what is needed to close the gaps. West Virginia lawmakers approved a 5 percent pay hike for all public employees, not just teachers.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2018

With Texas runoff numbers still low, Dem governor candidates heat it up

As early voting in the primary runoff elections ends Friday, Democrats and Republicans alike are scouring the numbers for patterns and trends they hope will show their candidates have momentum with voters. By Thursday, turnout remained low in most areas statewide — meaning that without an unlikely surge of last-minute voting, most races will be basically determined by the time polls open Tuesday for Election Day balloting. “The numbers so far show that turnout in this runoff will probably be a little low overall — low for the Republicans who don’t have any races in many areas, and a record turnout for the Democrats in some areas where they have high-profile races,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Houston’s Rice University.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2018

Attack ads in Houston race being funded by brother-in-law's business

The biggest donor behind negative ads against Republican Dan Crenshaw in a Houston Republican congressional runoff is his opponent's brother-in-law's law firm, new Federal Election Commission reports show. The Lanier Law Firm sent $450,000 to Conservative Results Matter in April, FEC records filed on Thursday show. That PAC, which supports Kevin Roberts for the 2nd Congressional District over Crenshaw, has been running ads that slam Crenshaw as a "so-called Republican" and compares him to Democrats like former President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Lanier Law Firm was founded by Mark Lanier in 1990. Kevin Roberts is Lanier's brother-in-law and he works for the firm as its executive director.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Diaz: The difference between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz

Every time O'Rourke is in El Paso, he walks his children to the same elementary school he attended. "We can't plan anything before school on days he is home, so he can walk them," said Chris Evans, his communications director. "They love it, but he definitely loves it more." Cruz recently tweeted a selfie with his daughter Caroline at "Hamilton" in Houston with the grin of a man in heaven. "Singing, dancing and the Federalist Papers ... a perfect daddy-daughter evening!" In a political universe filled with not-so-great-men, we should consider ourselves lucky to have to choose this November between two amazing fathers and Texans – but, then again, we're voting for a senator. And they aren't simply running for the seat; they are competing to define what it means to be a senator.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2018

Grieder: Rick Perry helps explain why Tuesday’s election matters

Early voting began this week for Texas’s 2018 Republican and Democratic primary runoff elections, which will be held on May 22. Most Texas voters won’t participate in either. And if you assume that Texas is still a safely red state, you might not see much reason to pay attention to this year’s runoffs. ... However, you shouldn’t assume that Texas is still a safely red state. It isn't. As we all know, Democrats haven’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994. That’s the longest winning streak in the country, for Republicans. But one of those Republicans was Rick Perry, who is arguably the most underrated politician in state history--and whose electoral record, in Texas, illustrates why this year’s primary runoffs are more consequential than most. Through his absence. Perry benefited from Republican strength in Texas — but it was strength he helped create.

San Antonio Express-News - May 17, 2018

Texas prisons taking heat over aging execution drugs experts say could cause 'torturous' deaths

Concerns about Texas' dwindling lethal injection supplies coupled with questions about the age of the drugs have some advocates wondering whether the state is prepared to humanely carry out its recent uptick in scheduled executions. Texas currently has eight death dates and nine doses of its execution drug — compounded sodium pentobarbital — for use in the Huntsville death chamber. What's more, a string of contradictory records from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice raises questions about whether some of those doses could be three years old, far older than previously reported and old enough that experts worry it could increase the chances of a "torturous" execution.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2018

First Reading: Will Matt McCall be cast from the house of Trump for not wanting Trump to watch his daughters?

Is the Republican Party under President Trump becoming a cult? I ask, because of late, some of the behavior seems cult-like.Last week, the four candidates in the two party runoffs in the 21st Congressional District – Republicans Matt McCall and Chip Roy and Democrats Joseph Kopser and Mary Wilson – appeared at a League of Women Voters forum in San Marcos. I wasn’t there, and it didn’t make the Rivard Report’s coverage of the event, but in the seven-second clip tweeted by Jason Johnson, McCall said this: "I support the president’s policies. I don’t necessarily want him to watch my daughters. But I support his policies." It was intended, I think, as a funny line – McCall can be funny and people laughed – and perhaps as a bit of an ice-breaker in a bipartisan setting, but also with an element of truth: You don’t have to believe that President Trump is perfect in every way to support his politics, or even have MAGA on your campaign signs.

Austin American-Statesman - May 10, 2018

Lopes: How danger lurks in the details of congressional Farm Bill

Most Americans feel no need to track all the harmful riders Republicans have attached to the Farm Bill that’s scheduled for a vote next week in the U.S. House of Representatives. And that’s exactly what Congressional leaders are counting on. But anyone who looks will discover the bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Conaway of Borger launches unprecedented attacks on bedrock federal protections for the nation’s water quality, forests and endangered species. Conaway’s attempt to gut some of our most important environmental laws is the latest page in a long, dark chapter of Texas conservatives embracing extreme political positions – a trend that began nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Austin American-Statesman - May 11, 2018

Faulkner: Another piece of the story to foster care, teen pregnancy

Thanks to a recent report, Texas is one of the first states to know how many youths in foster care are pregnant or parents already. Of the 7,090 females ages 11 to 18 in foster care in 2017, 332 were pregnant and 218 were parents. Foster youths are approximately five times more likely to get pregnant compared with all youths. Hearing that youths in foster care are five times more likely to get pregnant is shocking, disappointing and something that we cannot ignore. However, it is important to clarify that the Texas foster care system itself is not causing higher pregnancy rates. The rates of pregnancy for foster youths are similar to other high-risk groups, such as youths involved in the juvenile justice system, youths who have substance use or mental health issues, youths who are homeless and although it surprises many, youths who are LGBTQ.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

Centers look to new Facebook tools for help during disasters

Community health centers in Texas that helped thousands of people during and after Hurricane Harvey have new crisis response tools from Facebook that could enhance their ability to reach victims when a hurricane hits. The hurricane season officially starts next month. And with the effects of Harvey still lingering in many communities — nearly nine months after the storm devastated parts of the coast and Houston area — about 20 centers from around the state met in Houston last week to hear about how the new tools could help them better publicize their services and distribute resources during a natural disaster. One is Community Help, a page within Facebook where aid organizations, businesses and government agencies can now post what services they offer during a specific crisis. The other is Disaster Maps, which uses geolocation data gathered from people using Facebook to show select organizations where people are to help improve aid delivery.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2018

A house divided: Central Texas families who cast opposite votes

Two years ago, as the campaign for president ran piping hot, Leeanner Burnell, a 63-year-old native Austinite who tends to vote Democratic, bought a gift for her husband, Edward Burnell, 77, a die-hard Republican: A bottle of Trump-branded cologne. “We agree to disagree,” Leeanner Burnell says. “But politics shouldn’t separate anybody.” In these hyper-partisan times, many Americans — Republicans and Democrats — can’t imagine living with someone who has opposite voting predilections. And yet a small portion of households in Central Texas include at least one member who votes differently from other household members. Sometimes it’s a husband and wife, like the Burnells, who straddle the political divide, sometimes it’s a voting-age child who votes differently from her parents.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Emails show ex-Congressman Blake Farenthold's eager pursuit of lobbying gig

Nearly a month after abruptly resigning from Congress in the wake of revelations over lewd and verbally abusive behavior, former Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold had been angling for several days to get a lobbying job at a port authority in his district. And he appeared to be getting antsy. "What's up with the lawyers?" Farenthold wrote to Calhoun Port Authority director Charles Hausmann in an April 30 email, which was obtained by The Dallas Morning News through an open records request. "I'm ready to get work for y'all. "Any problems that I should know about?" Farenthold ended up landing the gig this month. He started Monday as a $160,000-a-year legislative liaison who will seek to boost the port's "presence and visibility in Washington."

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

DMN: Texas is right to compel big drug companies to take some responsibility amid the opioid crisis

There is ample blame to be shared for the opioid crisis: doctors who overprescribe, criminals who traffic in addiction and drug makers who feed this habit by distributing millions of pills like candy. Culpability exists all along the supply chain — and now there must be accountability too. This week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took a significant step in that direction, suing Purdue Pharma, a Connecticut-based maker of OxyContin, for allegedly violating state laws against deceptive trade practices and misrepresenting the risk of addiction in advertising to patients and health centers.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Watchdog: North Texas Municipal Water District fights critics with a dirty Web trick

The citizens' activist group purchased the domain for SaferWaterNorthTexas.com on March 19 at 2:08 p.m., according to Internet registry whois.com. The water district bought its SafeWaterNorthTexas.com on the same day at 2:37 p.m., 29 minutes later. I asked water district public relations director Janet Rummel about this, and, frankly, I don't like her answer very much. "We had done it because we thought if people are searching for that, we wanted them to find our information in addition to theirs. It was something that we came up with with our cities."

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

This North Texas company doesn’t just like Trump’s tariffs – it wants more of them

Commercial Metals Co. is all-in on President Donald Trump's tariffs. The Irving-based steel manufacturer has cheered a new 25 percent levy on global steel imports it says threaten America's national security. It has urged Trump to follow through on threats to separately impose $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods over intellectual property concerns. And the company is now pressing the Trump administration to expand the scope of its trade action against China by adding even more tariffs.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Andrew White counters Lupe Valdez's targeted radio blitz with Austin TV ad

Democratic candidate Andrew White, still sitting on nearly $1 million that he loaned his campaign, has released a television ad aimed at Austin voters. The ad release comes one day before the end of early voting for the Houston businessman's May 22 runoff against Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff. Analysts had questioned how and when White would use, if at all, the money he loaned his campaign. When asked Wednesday night whether the money White loaned his campaign would be spent, his campaign aides would only offer the following: The Houston investor will travel to Austin, Dallas and Houston for events. White will have digital ads, mailers and conduct local television interviews. Meanwhile, Valdez is starting some limited radio advertising.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2018

Rep. René Oliveira's DWI arrest front and center in House District 37 Democratic runoff

Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez said he wanted to run for the Texas House this year because the timing was right: He would have had to leave office in the middle of a second term had he waited until 2020 and been re-elected to the local post. If he had any doubts about his decision after coming in second to long-time incumbent state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, during the March primary election, those likely melted away last month after Oliveira, who was first elected to office in 1981, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. “People have been calling and volunteering, and people are tired," Dominguez said earlier this week about Oliveira’s arrest. "That pushed people over the top. If they were ever on the fence, they have fully come to our side. People want a change at this point.”

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2018

Little-known state agency causes controversy as chief judge forces resignation

When it comes to Texas agencies, the State Office of Administrative Hearings operates in relative obscurity. Ask the average person what the office does, and he or she probably won’t have an answer. But the office, whose judges preside over disputes involving state agencies, made headlines this year when an administrative judge was forced to resign after presiding over a case involving the Texas Medical Board. The chief judge who forced that resignation is now taking fire from people, including administrative law experts and her predecessor, who say her actions threaten the agency's independence. But the judge, Lesli Ginn, says she was justified in asking for the judge’s resignation.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2018

In Central Texas congressional runoffs, candidates with traditional advantages face scrappy underdogs

At a recent forum in Austin, there was a moment of unity between Matt McCall and Mary Wilson — candidates in the Republican and Democratic runoffs, respectively, for the 21st Congressional District. An audience member wanted to know: If you lose your party's nomination Tuesday, how will you support your runoff opponent in November? "Since I live in the district," Wilson said, pausing briefly after those six words, "I will be voting for whoever the winner of this runoff is, and that's the primary means of support." "I thought the first part of Mary's answer was funny," McCall said with glee when it was his turn, "because I can say the same thing: I can vote in this district."

Associated Press - May 17, 2018

Cases against bikers struggle 3 years after Waco shootout

Texas prosecutors who have failed to convict a single person in the three years since a Waco shooting left nine bikers dead are trying a new tack of targeting fewer cases, but attorneys for the bikers say the evidence is so shaky and the lead prosecutor's credibility so damaged that it will be difficult to make the remaining charges stick. The May 17, 2015, shooting also left 20 wounded and nearly 200 arrested at the Twin Peaks restaurant. Investigators say it was sparked by rivalries between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs ahead of a meeting. Waco police monitoring the gathering said officers opened fire after fights and gunfire broke out. Ballistics evidence shows that police bullets struck four of the nine dead, at least two of them fatally.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

KBTX - May 16, 2018

Report: Central Texas in 'crisis' for more nursing home nurses

There's a growing healthcare crisis in Central Texas. The nursing shortage isn't new, but there's now a dire need for help in nursing homes. The Texas Health Care Association said turnover is high for nursing home care facilities and there are challenges finding a qualified workforce. Their new report said the turnover rate for nurses in nursing homes and long term care facilities is more than 90 percent. The turn over rate for Certified Nursing Assistants or Certified Nursing Aides is higher.

Texas Energy Report - May 17, 2018

AG Opinion On RRC Executive Director Resignation Indicates Chairman Craddick May Have Overstepped Authority; Fellow Commissioner Says Not So

Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman Christi Craddick may have overstepped her authority by meeting with — and allegedly giving an ultimatum to — the former executive director of the RRC, an attorney general’s opinion Wednesday said, but there are specifics of the incident that must be taken into account. In a response letter to requests for attorney general’s opinions by District 103 state Representative Rafael Anchia, Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s office noted that, “A single member of the Railroad Commission lacks authority to unilaterally terminate or hire an executive director without deliberation and a decision from the Commission as a whole at a properly-called meeting.” However, Chairman Craddick may have simply met with the executive director to inform her that her job was in jeopardy, one commissioner points out.

Texas Standard - May 8, 2018

In Texas, creating new paths to a high school diploma

The number of high-stakes tests required to graduate from a Texas public school has gradually dropped over the years. Now, even if a student fails the STAAR exams, there are other ways to earn a diploma – the student can present a portfolio of work to a committee, or earn a certain score on another exam like the SAT test. Texas students didn’t always have that opportunity, though. In the past, if they failed to pass the STAAR test’s predecessor, the TAKS test, then that was it. No diploma. Now that’s changed, thanks in part to state Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat. “Here in El Paso County, there’s an estimate of at least 19,000 students who are affected,” Rodríguez says. “Today, if you want to go into the military, you need a high school diploma.”

County Stories

Laredo Morning Times - May 16, 2018

Zaffirini's request to halt Pescadito landfill project prompts criticism

After hearing the recent testimony of Webb County's floodplain administrator at a public hearing on the Pescadito landfill, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini has asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to withdraw their preliminary approval of the application. "I hereby request that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality immediately withdraw the draft permit and preliminary decision, rescind the determination that (Rancho Viejo Waste Management's) permit is technically complete, and suspend or abate further processing of the permit application until the related critical floodplain issue is finally resolved, and (Rancho Viejo Waste Management) can demonstrate compliance with all applicable TCEQ rules," Zaffirini wrote in a May 7 letter to the commission's interim director.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2018

How Democrats in Texas are trying to win over one of America’s most ethnically diverse counties

SUGAR LAND — At a glance, volunteers at Sri Kulkarni's campaign headquarters are no different than those for congressional campaigns across the country — huddling over laptops, tapping voters' numbers into their cell phones and concentrating on the call scripts in front of them. But when the person on the other end of the line picks up, some volunteers greet them not in English but in Vietnamese, Hindi, Urdu or Mandarin Chinese. For Kulkarni, a Democrat vying for a congressional seat in a Republican-leaning district, getting his message out to voters means not just knocking on doors and calling voters but also speaking the language they speak.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Heart Failure -- At St. Luke’s in Houston, patients suffer as a renowned heart transplant program loses its luster

St. Luke's heart transplant survival rate, the most important measure of a program's quality, now ranks near the bottom nationally, according to the most recently published data. Among St. Luke's patients who received a new heart between the summer of 2014 and the end of 2016, just 85 percent survived at least one year, compared to 91.4 percent nationally. Put another way, twice as many St. Luke's patients died within a year as would have been expected, taking into account patient characteristics and illnesses. In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited the heart transplant program for its significantly worse-than-expected outcomes and threatened to cut off Medicare funds in August if the problems were not fixed, according to a letter obtained by ProPublica and the Chronicle. The program has since submitted a plan of correction and avoided the loss of federal funds.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2018

Austin pastors speak out in support of ‘Dreamers’

Pastors of several Austin churches gathered Thursday night to speak out in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants to live and work in the United States legally. The pastors said they wanted to debunk the notion that Christians opposed DACA recipients, something they said had become a common narrative. “Why should Christians care for Dreamers?” Pastor Aaron Reyes of the Church of the Violet Crown asked a room of more than 60 Austinites who attended the “Stand with Dreamers” event. Justice, honor, compassion and evangelism were among the key reasons, he said.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

New report: Dallas' skyline has most room to grow of any U.S. city

Dallas' skyline has a lot more room to grow if researchers have it right. When it comes to development sites, downtown Dallas has the greatest development potential, according to a new study. Big D already has one of the busiest downtowns with new apartments and retail developments, office buildings opening and a program to build four new downtown parks. But there's even more property available to ramp up construction in downtown Dallas, according to a new report by researchers at Yardi Systems Inc.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Jim Moroney, who put The News on a digital path, reflects on efforts to sustain local journalism as he steps down from CEO role

Moroney, who stepped down in March as the seventh publisher of The News, on Thursday relinquishes the titles of chairman, president and chief executive of Dallas-based A. H. Belo Corporation, the news organization’s parent. He has held the corporate positions since 2013. In a wide-ranging interview, Moroney, 61, a great-grandson of the paper’s first publisher, G.B. Dealey, said he’ll leave it to others to decide on his legacy.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

SMU stands by survey that asks students 'Why are black people so loud?'

Southern Methodist University distributed a survey last fall that asked students to rate how much they wanted answers to such questions as "Why are black people so loud?" and "Do black people hate America?" The survey, distributed by SMU's Cultural Intelligence Initiative and posted online, was taken down Thursday after a link to it was posted in a tweet and non-SMU students began answering. Maria Dixon Hall, who heads the initiative, said the survey launched in November 2017 and until this week, there had been no complaints from students or faculty members. Before Thursday, about 30 students had weighed in on it.

Construction Citizen - May 17, 2018

In a Potential Setback for Economic Development, Houston Adopts New Requirements for Companies Seeking Tax Breaks

The Houston City Council on Wednesday passed a new set of requirements for companies seeking tax abatements – requirements that include specific federally certified safety training for construction workers and providing affordable housing. The tax abatement guidelines also require companies seeking tax breaks for development to choose one from a list of eight “community benefits” including paid internships for low-income students, designs of buildings meant to reduce crime, and site improvements adding to the value of a neighborhood and not just the business itself.

National Stories

Washington Post - May 17, 2018

Phillips: The House GOP’s internal immigration battle, laid bare

We are witnessing a pretty surprising bucking of House leadership from a group of House Republicans who typically don't pull this sort of thing. Nearly 20 House Republicans have signed a petition to try to force an immigration vote that Republican leaders have so far refused to have. “Obviously we don't like the discharge petition,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said at an event Thursday. “It would guarantee [whatever we vote on] would not go into law.” Behind closed doors, Ryan and his team have even warned their colleagues that this petition could cost Republicans the majority. Yet more lawmakers keep signing on. Hours before receiving that warning Wednesday, two more moderates signed the petition.

Washington Post - May 17, 2018

Why Robert Mueller probably won’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — indict Trump

Rudolph W. Giuliani is not the most credible messenger. But he seems pretty sure that Robert S. Mueller III has guaranteed that President Trump won’t be indicted. Giuliani says Mueller's team informed Trump's lawyers that such a thing wasn’t even on the table because the special counsel will follow existing Justice Department guidelines that say presidents can’t be indicted. This has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Those anxiously waiting for Mueller to take down Trump cried foul. “My own view is that [the president] can be indicted,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told MSNBC on Thursday. Some see this as a clear abdication of Mueller’s responsibility in holding Trump accountable — or worse, an admission that a president is “above the law.” Here’s what we can say about this: It seems eminently plausible — if not likely — that Mueller's team actually provided this assurance. Mueller may be setting expectations for what will come of all this. Indicting Trump would be a recipe for huge political unrest.

New York Times - May 17, 2018

'Bigger Than Watergate’? Both Sides Say Yes, but for Different Reasons

President Trump and his critics actually agree on something. If a column he read in a magazine is correct, he wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “this is bigger than Watergate!” Never mind that he was thinking of something different than his adversaries when they use the same phrase. Mr. Trump was referring to what he deems a deep-state conspiracy to get him. His detractors are referring to the various scandals swirling around Mr. Trump. Watergate has long been the touchstone for modern American scandal, the mountain of misconduct against which all others are judged. In the 44 years since Richard M. Nixon resigned, virtually every political investigation has been likened to the one that brought down a president, the suffix “gate” applied to all sorts of public flaps, no matter how significant or trivial.

Politico - May 17, 2018

Inside Mueller’s FBI team

President Donald Trump has repeatedly hurled insults at the FBI agents working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney who’s now Trump’s lawyer, has attacked them as “stormtroopers.” The vitriol is unsurprising. The agents are powering an investigation that has shadowed Trump’s entire presidency — and they are mostly unknown to the public, making them easy targets. They are a mix of bureau veterans and relative newcomers handpicked by Mueller and his prosecutors to handle the highest-profile and most sensitive federal investigation in a generation. To assemble this portrait of Mueller’s FBI team, POLITICO scoured court records, news accounts and press releases and conducted more than two dozen interviews with defense lawyers and witnesses as well as with current and former FBI agents.

CNN - May 17, 2018

Koch-backed group gives boost to Democrats on immigration

An immigration-overhaul advocacy group backed by the influential Koch brothers is sending out a series of political mailers aimed at backing pro-immigration members of Congress -- including a handful of Democrats. The billionaire Koch brothers are some of the most prolific political donors, and they traditionally back politically conservative causes and candidates. But among the group of lawmakers being supported by the mailers from the LIBRE Initiative are five Democrats, including the chairman of the Democrats' House campaign arm and the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The LIBRE Initiative is a Koch-backed group, technically nonpartisan, that advocates for conservative principles specifically among Hispanic Americans.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2018

Trump administration to tie health facilities’ funding to abortion restrictions

The Trump administration plans to announce on Friday a new policy barring Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations from providing or mentioning abortions at any facility that receives federal family planning funds, according to two White House officials and others familiar with the matter. The change, a top priority of social conservatives, is the latest move by President Donald Trump to impose curbs on reproductive rights, in this case by walling off government money from any facility that offers women the option of terminating a pregnancy. Federal family planning laws already bar direct funding of organizations that use abortion as a family planning method. But conservative activists and Republican lawmakers have been pressing Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, to tighten the rules further so that abortions could not occur in the same place, or be performed by the same staff, where federally funded reproductive health services were provided.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

DMN: Cornyn offers smart prison reform, even if more work is left to be done

The short answer to what's wrong with America's criminal justice system is that we put too many non-violent offenders in prison for too long. And, when they get out, most are unprepared to rejoin society in a way that keeps them from going back. Texas saw the problem back in 2007 and enacted reforms that have trimmed billions in prison expenses and coincided with falling crime rates. Texas now stands as a national example for how to be, as Sen. John Cornyn recalled last week during a stop at the federal prison in Seagoville, tough on crime and smart on crime. Other states have made similar reforms, and for years conservatives and liberals in Congress have tried to change the federal system, too.

New York Times - May 17, 2018

Senate Confirms Gina Haspel to Lead C.I.A. Despite Torture Concerns

The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, elevating a woman to the directorship for the first time despite bipartisan misgivings about her role in the agency’s brutal detention and interrogation programs in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ms. Haspel, the current deputy director and a career clandestine officer, takes the helm at a time of shifting alliances and intelligence threats from Iran to North Korea to Russia, and after President Trump tried to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s judgment as part of his broader attack on the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. But it was Ms. Haspel’s past that transfixed senators — if only for a few weeks — as they grappled anew with the aggressive interrogation policies of the George W. Bush administration in the years after the terrorist attacks.

Live Science - May 17, 2018

US Birth Rate Hits All-Time Low: What's Behind the Decline?

Last year, about 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S., which is 2 percent lower than the number born in 2016, and the lowest recorded number of births in 30 years, according to the report. What's more, there were about 60 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, which is 3 percent lower than the rate in 2016, and the lowest recorded rate since the government started tracking birth rates in 1909. ... Part of the reason for the decline in U.S. birth rates may be that people are in a general state of economic uncertainty, said Karen Benjamin Guzzo, associate director of the Center for Family & Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Even though the Great Recession technically ended in 2009, people may still feel uneasy about their economic situation; they may be employed but working part time, or going to school and working, or trying to pay off student loans, Guzzo said.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2018

Immigrants now make up 17.1 percent of U.S. labor force

The number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force has reached 27.4 million, or 17.1 percent of the total number of workers, according to figures released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual report includes foreign-born workers who are in the country legally and illegally, as well as students, refugees and those who may be temporary workers. The data does not separate out the number of undocumented workers in the country. The numbers also show the share of immigrants in the labor force continues to grow. In 2016, there were 27 million foreign-born workers in the U.S. or 16.9 percent of the labor force. In 2000, by comparison, the percentage of of foreign-born workers was at 13.3 percent.

Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2018

Tomlinson: Who is middle class, and where are they going?

The current shortage in affordable housing has come about because homebuilders cannot generate sufficient margins on single-family homes for the middle class. In thousands of ways, our consumer-based economy relies on middle-class purchasing power, and when it slips, all of us feel it. Experts have recommended solutions that include a higher minimum wage, a tariff on foreign manufactured goods and greater union participation, but all of these could raise inflation. The best solution is a better-educated workforce that engages in life-long learning. But sadly, too many Americans are reluctant to make that investment.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

DMN: As NAFTA negotiations drag on, the Trump administration faces political test on trade

International agreements have a way of coming back to life even after being officially declared dead, so we're not willing to write NAFTA 2.0's obituary any time soon. But the rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement is reaching an important inflection point this week. House Speaker Paul Ryan set Thursday as a deadline for striking a deal. The seemingly arbitrary date was meant to press negotiators into hammering out their differences before congressional re-election season heats up, when politics can trump trade talks. What has been left unsaid is that this deadline can also be seen as a test of sorts for the Trump administration. Will it now see the value of staying in NAFTA even if that means pushing negotiations into the fall or next year? Or will it push to withdraw?

Washington Post - May 11, 2018

Cecile Richards offers advice for professional troublemakers

Making trouble may have come naturally to Cecile Richards, born to a father who was a civil rights lawyer and a mother who would make the great leap from housewife to governor of Texas. Richards traces her first act of speaking out to a dramatic day at her Dallas elementary school when she told her teacher that she did not want to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of class. Her teacher was horrified. Cecile was 11 years old. Now Richards, who is stepping down as president of Planned Parenthood, has written a memoir of her life of activism called “Make Trouble,” with the inevitable subtitle “Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.”

Washington Post - May 16, 2018

Someone, somewhere, is making a banned chemical that destroys the ozone layer, scientists suspect

Emissions of a banned, ozone-depleting chemical are on the rise, a group of scientists reported Wednesday, suggesting someone may be secretly manufacturing the pollutant in violation of an international accord. Emissions of CFC-11 have climbed 25 percent since 2012, despite the chemical being part of a group of ozone pollutants that were phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. “I’ve been making these measurements for more than 30 years, and this is the most surprising thing I’ve seen,” said Stephen Montzka, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who led the work. “I was astounded by it, really.” It’s a distressing result amid what is widely seen as a global environmental success story, in which nations — alarmed by a growing “ozone hole” — collectively took action to phase out chlorofluorocarbons.

Newsclips - May 17, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Jeffers: Democrats stick with flawed governor candidate Lupe Valdez in rebuilding plan to appeal to Hispanic voters

Texas Democrats are faced with a vexing choice: Pick a candidate for governor who on paper matches up better against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott? Or stick with a rebuilding plan and nominate the progressive candidate who could better appeal to the Hispanic voters seen as the key to sustainable success? That's the backdrop of Tuesday's Democratic runoff for governor between former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston investor Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White. White is telling Democrats he's the best hope for defeating Abbott, but many progressive primary voters see Valdez as more reflective of their liberal leanings. They don't care if she's shaky on the issues and that Abbott is giddy over the prospect of running against her.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Gallup lists Texas as a 'competitive' purple state, again

Texas may no longer be the deep red state many have come to know, an annual Gallup study continues to suggest. Gallup's latest state-by-state analysis of political party affiliations once again listed Texas as "competitive," according to a survey asking residents their party preference in 2017. The findings are a repeat of the same study released last year that also listed Texas as competitive instead of Republican-leaning. In 2015, the annual survey revealed Texans preferred Republicans by a margin of 5.5 percent.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2018

Lance Gooden’s biggest donor in the Texas Legislature is now spending big to get him into Congress. The two go way back.

In the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, mail pieces making the rounds don't mince words about the financing behind his would-be successor, Bunni Pounds. She’s "For Sale," they say, citing her support from a big-spending super PAC. "Don’t let Bunni Pounds sell our seat in Congress." The clear theme: the former Hensarling fundraiser is a creature of the Washington, D.C. "swamp" who’s trying to buy her way to the halls of Congress. One small detail you won’t find in the advertisement: All of the disclosed funding from the super PAC behind it can be traced to a single donor who has faced his own accusations of buying influence over the years. His name is Monty Bennett, and it’s not even a little surprising that the Dallas hotelier wants to defeat Pounds. Her opponent in the May 22 GOP runoff election is state Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, who passed special-interest legislation benefiting Bennett's East Texas ranch while receiving over $100,000 in campaign donations from him, records show.

Washington Post - May 16, 2018

Mueller’s team told Trump’s lawyers the special counsel cannot indict a sitting president, Giuliani says

Special counsel Robert Mueller III's team told President Donald Trump's lawyers recently that prosecutors do not believe they can charge a sitting president with a crime under Justice Department guidelines, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday. The special counsel's conclusion signals that it would be left to Congress to address any finding of wrongdoing by Trump in the investigation. Mueller's team is scrutinizing Russian interference in the 2016 election, whether the Russians coordinated with any Trump associates and whether the president has sought to thwart the probe.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

DMN: Texas Dems didn't get the robust debate for governor that the party needs

It looks like Texas Democrats must be betting on Beto to build the party, given that the handling of the gubernatorial debate between their two primary runoff candidates last weekend didn't do much to build excitement for the November election. Our assessment of the candidates themselves — Houston businessman Andrew White and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez — is similar: Their lackluster performance doesn't bode well for the Democratic Party when the eventual runoff winner faces off against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. The Democratic Party didn't widely promote the debate, which had limited viewership. Only potential voters in Austin and San Antonio got the opportunity to watch.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Runoff rundown: Meet the candidates in Texas' May 22 election

Texas' Democratic and Republican primaries started off with a bang, with turnout significantly higher during early voting and crushing totals from the last midterm primary election in 2014. But voters aren't finished yet. When a candidate doesn't receive 50 percent of the vote plus one, the race goes to a runoff election, which will be held Tuesday. In North Texas, several key races are headed to runoffs. ... Congressional District 3: Democrat Lorie Burch won 49.6 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff against Sam Johnson. They're trying to fill the Collin County seat held by the longtime Republican with the same name — retiring Plano Rep. Sam Johnson.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Moderate Republicans are outspending their more conservative counterparts in Texas House races

Republicans in Texas House runoffs Tuesday are wallowing in money. From eight days before the March primary to Saturday, the 14 GOP hopefuls vying for seven seats collected more than $3.5 million. The average haul over those 10 weeks and five days was just north of a quarter million — $252,915, according to candidates' finance reports to the Texas Ethics Commission this week. Their fundraising success derives partly from a prolonged intraparty fight over the Legislature's future direction. But it's also a tribute to the Texas GOP's complete dominance of state politics.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Timber! Huge chunk of East Texas selling for almost $1.4 billion

A huge chunk of East Texas is changing hands in one of the largest such transactions in a decade. CatchMark Timber Trust Inc. has agreed to pay almost $1.4 billion for the 1.1 million acres of timberland. The law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP assisted with the transaction, which it calls one of the biggest U.S. timberland sales in the last 10 years. Atlanta-based CatchMark Timber is buying the property with a group of institutional investors, including Dallas' Highland Capital Management, BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group, Medley Management Inc. and a major Canadian institutional investor.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

State commissioners to reconsider $1.8 billion LBJ East improvements next week

The Texas Transportation Commission plans to put $1.8 billion in LBJ East freeway improvements back on track after a four-month political detour. The commission, overseer of the Texas Department of Transportation, is again set to send the 10.8 miles of Interstate 635 connecting Lake Highlands, Garland and Mesquite out for bids at its May 24 meeting in Austin. According to the agenda released Wednesday, "the project includes the full reconstruction of the facility with the addition of one general purpose lane in each direction, to 'grandfather' and permit the reconstruction of the existing one tolled managed lane in each direction, construction of continuous frontage roads, and improvements to the I-635/I-30 interchange."

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Abbott, local officials in new fight over Harvey money

Local officials in Houston and dozens of Gulf Coast jurisdictions devastated by Hurricane Harvey on Wednesday asked the state to tap its Rainy Day Fund savings account to pay for billions in disaster mitigation projects, the latest political fight to erupt over state funding. Gov. Greg Abbott immediately responded with a letter of his own to Houston: Stop complaining. Plenty of money is available, but you haven't applied for any of it. In addition, he told Houston that of the $50 million the state lent it last September to cover emergency costs, the city has spent less than $5 million.

San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2018

Garcia: Republican congressional hopeful walks into radio ambush

I had an unfamiliar feeling last week. I found myself feeling bad for Matt McCall. The Boerne businessman, who is squaring off against former Ted Cruz aide Chip Roy in the Republican runoff for the congressional seat being vacated by Lamar Smith, tends to be the aggressor whenever political haymakers get thrown. He twice ran against Smith on the dubious grounds that the veteran congressman — a hard-core immigration hawk and climate-science skeptic — was too liberal. And early this year McCall responded to a primary opponent’s call for bipartisanship by saying, “We shouldn’t be getting along with the side that wants to kill babies.” Last Friday, however, McCall walked straight into a radio ambush with syndicated conservative talk-show host Mark Levin, a friend and supporter of Roy. The results felt more like a root canal than an interview.

San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2018

Valley lawmaker wants to legalize sports betting in Texas

Rep. Eddie Lucio III said Tuesday he has drafted a bill to legalize sports betting in Texas, after the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to set their own rules. “When Texans utilize gaming in other states, they are paying for Louisiana public schools and New Mexico roads — it’s time to keep this revenue here at home,” said Lucio, D-Brownsville. Efforts to expand gambling, however, have been given the cold shoulder in the Republican-majority Legislature.

San Antonio Express-News - May 17, 2018

PETA lawsuit against Texas A&M turns Facebook comments into a First Amendment issue

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a lawsuit alleging Texas A&M violated the First Amendment by filtering out negative comments on the university's Facebook page. The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, deals with how to define "free speech" in social media on digital platforms — an issue that is still a new frontier in First Amendment law. PETA says the university has deleted and filtered out comments from its members about Texas A&M's Canine Research Lab, which uses dogs in the study of muscular dystrophy.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2018

Texas Digest: Texas House forms panel to prevent sexual harassment

House forms anti-sexual harassment panel The Texas House has established a working group to try to prevent sexual harassment in the Legislature. House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican not seeking re-election, announced Wednesday that the panel will be co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican and include eight other lawmakers from both parties. In December, the House Committee on Administration adopted new sexual harassment policies designed to make reporting wrongdoing easier, while requiring House staff to undergo anti-harassment training.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2018

Though runoff is still ahead, Andrew White focuses on Greg Abbott

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew White offered a preview Wednesday night of how he’d run against Gov. Greg Abbott, though he still has one hurdle left to clear before the pair can appear on the same ballot in November: his primary opponent, Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff. At a Lake Travis Democrats-sponsored event Wednesday, White hit Abbott — arguably the most popular Republican in Texas — on the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey, public education spending and for not supporting Medicaid expansion. “He said no thanks to a $6 billion check,” White said, calling for Medicaid expansion and drawing some applause from attendees. “I truly believe he has blood on his hands for doing that.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Many Texas politicians cheer relocation of U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

As the U.S. relocated its embassy to Israel’s capital city amid deadly violence on the country’s border, many Texas politicians cheered the event. The relocation “is a monumental event and one that is long overdue,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. “It’s a great day for Israel and for the U.S.” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said on Twitter that “our embassy now serves as an example of our commitment to Israelis as we continue to push for lasting peace in the region.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2018

Texas philanthropist Wallrath to sell Champion Ranch to benefit charities

In 2012, when Richard Wallrath was terribly ill, his children made a move to take over his prized Champion Ranch. Whatever their intentions were, it was a bad move. The legendary Texas entrepreneur and prolific philanthropist recovered, regained his strength and then, in court, won complete ownership and control of the ranch. Then he disinherited his children. Now that ranch is up for sale and the majority of the proceeds will ultimately benefit 4-H and FFA charities — organizations dear to his rural values and no strangers to Wallrath. Already he has donated millions to both.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Valdez, White raise little in low-budget race to face Gov. Abbott

Since late February, Lupe Valdez has out-raised Andrew White for the first time in their race for the Democratic nomination for governor, but it was a lot closer than initially believed after her campaign corrected mistakes in a finance report that overstated her contribution totals. As of May 12, White had nearly nine times as much cash on hand heading into the May 22 runoff. He said Tuesday his campaign will spend most of the nearly $1 million he has available on digital media and mailers targeting likely voters in congressional districts with competitive primaries. “We’re spending away,” said White, who early on loaned his campaign $1 million on top of what he has raised.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2018

How the "bathroom bill" helped push a Republican PAC to spend millions on moderates in Texas

In September, the Texas Capitol was finally starting to calm down. A couple of contentious legislative sessions had pitted the Legislature’s Republican centrists against hard-line conservatives, largely over measures regulating which restrooms transgender Texans could use. Members had returned to their districts, almost certain the “bathroom bill” would surface as an issue in the 2018 primaries. And House Speaker Joe Straus ’ surprise retirement announcement was still weeks away. For the Associated Republicans of Texas, it was time to go all out.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2018

They failed to unseat Joe Straus and Byron Cook. Now, can they best the House leaders’ favored successors?

If the gavel-wielding silhouette of retiring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus will be the most conspicuous absence when the Legislature reconvenes in 2019, the empty chair of House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook might well be the second. Both are moderate Republicans, sometimes hailed as a dying breed in Texas, who said on the same day last October they’d step down after more than a decade each in the House. Both are credited with — or, depending whom you ask, blamed for — blocking the 85th Legislature’s most controversial measure, a failed “bathroom bill” that would have regulated transgender individuals’ use of certain public facilities. And in past elections, both have successfully fended off well-funded challenges from the right.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 16, 2018

FWST: Texas: End the lawsuit. Let us register to vote online

Thursday, Texas officials have an opportunity to change course and prove we’re a state that means it when we talk about protecting liberty and democracy. Texas can and should comply with a federal judge’s deadline to submit a plan for allowing Texans to register to vote when they renew or obtain driver licenses online. That’s just the right thing to do. Why wouldn’t we want to make it as easy as possible for qualified Texans to become part of our election process? Yes, you can quickly register to vote when you update or apply for a driver license in person. But U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled last month that Texas is in violation of the “motor voter’ provision of the National Voter Registration Act by not allowing the same thing to happen online.

KWTX - May 15, 2018

Report: Central Texas nursing homes in midst of 'workforce crisis'

A report released Tuesday by the Texas Health Care Association says nursing homes in Central Texas and across the state are scrambling to find nursing staff in the face of a 97 percent annual turnover rate for certified nurse aides and a 90 percent annual turnover rate for registered and licensed vocational nurses. “The state’s low nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rate and heavy regulation are affecting the ability to retain nursing staff as they look for other opportunities out of the long term care business,” said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association.

Spectrum News - May 16, 2018

Ex-Crystal City manager sentenced to 35 years in bribery scheme

Former lobbyist James Jonas, 56, was sentenced Wednesday to serve 35 years in federal prison for crimes committed while he was the city attorney and city manager for Crystal City. In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Alia Moses ordered that 56-year-old Jonas pay $1,047,814.05 restitution to Crystal City and forfeit to the government $17,291.73. Judge Moses also ordered that Jonas be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term. ... On June 26, 2017, a federal jury convicted Jonas of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving federal programs, three substantive counts of bribery involving federal programs, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of honest services, five substantive counts of wire fraud and theft of honest services and four counts of wire fraud.

WOAI - May 16, 2018

Texas State University PD appoints interim director after police chief abruptly resigns

The Texas State University Police Department appointed an interim police director following the resignation of Jose Bañales. Captain Rickey Lattie will be taking the position, effective immediately, according to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Joanne Smith, who let the university community know of the appointment on Wednesday, May 16. Captain Lattie has worked with UPD for 33 years and has previously served as interim director on several occasions.

Texas Observer - May 14, 2018

State: Nothing ‘Concerning’ About Anti-Muslim Police Trainings

Civil rights groups are calling on Texas’ law enforcement accreditation agency to deny credit for a training given by a notorious anti-Muslim activist in San Angelo earlier this month. The May 4 program, taught by ex-FBI agent John Guandolo and titled “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America,” was advertised as continuing education hours for officers — despite agencies in other states, including Kansas and Virginia, having severed ties with Guandolo over his views. “Mr. Guandolo’s long and well-documented history of spreading anti-Muslim sentiment make him woefully unsuited to conduct any training that satisfies [Texas Commission on Law Enforcement’s] accreditation standards,” wrote a coalition of advocacy groups, including Muslim Advocates and the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a letter sent Monday to TCOLE.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2018

Teachers union urges Austin district president to resign over texts

The teachers union Education Austin on Wednesday demanded that Austin school board President Kendall Pace resign immediately after she said in a text message that a grant to fund struggling campuses would only get approved if officials “ignore the special interest groups and crazy ignorant community activists and poverty pimps.” Pace, who was elected to the Austin Independent School District board in 2016, said she had planned to leave as president next month but remain on the board. “We will elect new officers Monday. I had intended on stepping down in June anyway,” Pace told the American-Statesman.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Former Richardson mayor indicted, accused of supporting developer in exchange for money, gifts, sex

Former Richardson Mayor Laura Jordan and a land developer she married have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges, including bribery, the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Texas has announced. The seven-count indictment announced Wednesday accuses Jordan, 53, and Mark Jordan, 51, both of Plano, of honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. Laura Jordan — at the time named Laura Maczka — was Richardson mayor from May 2013 through April 2015, and her now-husband was a land developer, the release states. The indictment states that contrary to campaign promises, Laura Jordan voted in favor of zoning changes to make way for Mark Jordan's development and allow apartments to be built even though an "overwhelming number of citizens" opposed the plan.

San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2018

Houston to require firms to give more to get tax breaks

Houston on Wednesday approved new rules outlining additional community benefits companies seeking tax breaks for development projects will need to provide in order to get financial incentives from the city. The new benefits — including improved training and affordable housing for the local workforce — are geared in part toward helping development in economically challenged communities. The city "took an important step in bringing balance, fairness and equity to our economy," said Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, one of several community organizations that had been pushing the city to improve its guidelines for what companies and developers need to provide in return for tax breaks.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2018

Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation

Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark. Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The Hill - May 16, 2018

Trump expected to cut Planned Parenthood funding through regs

The Trump administration may take action to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood as a result of pressure from congressional Republicans and anti-abortion lobbyists. Opponents of abortion have launched an all-out campaign urging the administration to bring back Reagan-era abortion restrictions on federal family planning dollars that would target Planned Parenthood. The regulations would ban organizations that receive family planning dollars under the Title X Family Planning Program, which funds organizations providing services like birth control to low-income women and men, from promoting abortion or referring patients for abortions. Former President Reagan first issued the regulations, which Democrats describe as a “domestic gag rule,” in 1988. They also require a physical and financial separation of Title X funding recipients from abortion providers.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Leubsdorf: Trump keeps reversing Obama's initiatives without anything to replace them

Barack Obama left the presidency with job approval ratings in the upper 50s and a lengthy list of achievements ranging from the Affordable Care Act to new relationships abroad with traditional pariahs like Cuba and Iran. But some Obama accomplishments like health care remained controversial. A USA Today-Suffolk University post-2016 election poll showed a 2-to-1 majority expected president-elect Donald Trump to "significantly dismantle" Obama's legacy. Trump has fulfilled those expectations with a vengeance, perhaps propelled by the animus stirred when Obama mocked his birther crusade. Trump went further than new presidents traditionally do in seeking to overturn his predecessor's feats.

Washington Post - May 17, 2018

In new financial disclosure, Trump reports apparent payment through his personal attorney to adult-film star

In new financial-disclosure documents, President Trump reported reimbursing his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, more than $100,000 last year — an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid just before the 2016 election, to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump. The information was included as a footnote in the 92-page form filed with the Office of Government Ethics. The ethics agency said it had concluded Trump should list a debt to Cohen in the “liabilities” section of his financial statement. It also notified the Justice Department, which enforces a law against willfully omitting information from these forms. But Trump’s attorneys said the president was disclosing the payment voluntarily “in the interest of transparency.”

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

Trump's day: porn star hush money disclosure, calls Mexicans 'animals,' Senate Russia investigation, Tillerson speaks

Even by the standards of the Donald Trump era in Washington, where early morning tweet storms often give way to daylong deluges of news, Wednesday stood out. Highlights included an embarrassing report on his campaign's quest for dirt from Russia during the 2016 campaign, and the formal revelation that he did pay hush money to a porn actress, which came as his wife recuperated from surgery. He vented about Mexico and illegal immigration and California, and took heat from the chief diplomat he forced out two months ago.

Politico - May 16, 2018

Preet Bharara being drafted for war on Trump

Preet Bharara is seeing all the texts, phone calls and DMs urging him to run for New York attorney general, including from some top operatives and Democratic donors. He’s hearing it from people coming up to him on the street. And though Bharara is leaning against making a play for the job, according to three people close to him, the onetime powerhouse U.S. attorney fired by Donald Trump pointedly hasn’t said no, either. He wants to see how the next few weeks play out. Among the people who’ve reached out, the sources said, are Mike Bloomberg consigliere Howard Wolfson and independent-minded GOP consultant John Weaver, along with a host of top Democratic operatives, donors and fundraisers.

The Hill - May 16, 2018

Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia sought to help Trump win in 2016

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they agree with the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help President Trump win the White House. “We see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement. “There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.” As part of its investigation into Russian meddling, the committee has for several months been reviewing the January 2017 assessment compiled by top U.S. intelligence officials.

The Hill - May 16, 2018

Leaders warn Republicans against forcing immigration vote

Republican leaders warned rank-and-file members Wednesday not to move ahead with a discharge petition to force an immigration vote, saying the effort would effectively hand over power to the Democrats, according to lawmakers who attended the closed-door meeting. “They said it’s a lot better to stick together as team than a few guys trying to do their own thing with a bill that simply switches the power over to the other party,” Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) told The Hill. “It turns the floor over to them.” Leaders also said that the “the governing majority should be able to accomplish its agenda without resorting to discharge,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.). “That’s fundamental to governing.” After the meeting, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reiterated his opposition to the discharge petition.

The Hill - May 16, 2018

Premium hikes reignite the ObamaCare wars

The ObamaCare premium wars are back. The cost of health insurance plans on the ObamaCare exchanges could jump in the coming weeks, some by double digits, inflaming the issue ahead of the midterm elections. Democrats argue the price increases are the result of what they refer to as “Republican sabotage.” They contend that, since the GOP controls Congress and the White House, the price hikes are their responsibility — and that's the message they plan to take into the fall campaign.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

DMN: The farm bill isn't perfect but it could help people return to work

If the farm bill that is moving through Congress right now has come in for tough criticism, it is probably because adding new work requirements to a program that provides food to the poor is just too tempting of a target for some. But we will resist that temptation, with an important caveat, for a simple reason. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, has grown dramatically since the financial crisis a decade ago. And there is now an opportunity to reform the program so that it can do more to provide a critical path back to work for many Americans.

Wall St. Journal - May 16, 2018

Tillerson Warns of ‘Crisis of Ethics’ Among U.S. Leaders

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that a crisis in integrity and ethics among America’s leaders is putting the country’s freedom and democracy at risk, delivering the message in an impassioned commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute. Mr. Tillerson, speaking to graduates in a rare public appearance since he was fired by President Donald Trump via a Twitter message two months ago, said every American citizen has a duty to seek the truth and hold leaders accountable. “If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,” he said, drawing parallels with life in Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Hoben: McCain shows us the power of coming to terms with dying

Sen. John McCain has not announced a decision to stop treatment for his brain tumor — but his public actions indicate that he has transitioned from “being sick” and hoping for a cure to “dying” and hoping for the best possible quality of life in the time remaining. He has completed his final book, “The Restless Wave.” He has planned his funeral and asked people to eulogize him. He is openly gathering friends and colleagues to his ranch to say goodbye, share memories, and pass on wisdoms. When he does die — especially coming so soon after Barbara Bush openly stopping treatment in favor of comfort care — there will be a rare opportunity for us as a society and as individuals to benefit from the experiences of these courageous public figures and further the growing national dialog about how we die.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2018

At data privacy hearing, Ted Cruz again avoids mention of his use of Cambridge Analytica

In a Senate hearing Wednesday on data privacy and the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, Sen. Ted Cruz downplayed its work for the Trump campaign and made no mention of his own campaign's use of the voter targeting firm, which is now reported to be under federal investigation. Sidestepping whether the firm improperly used data from millions of Facebook users to help boost GOP candidates, the Texan repeated a contention that a biased Facebook had helped Democrat Barack Obama's chances long before Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 election. Americans are “rightly concerned about privacy and security of our data,” Cruz said, adding that while “much of the media attention in recent weeks and months has focused on the data operation of the Trump campaign,” it’s hardly the first to use data to reach voters.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Elizabeth Warren, two other senators send questions to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson about Trump lawyer payments

In a sign that pressure is growing on Capitol Hill for answers about the activities of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, three senators released a letter Monday addressed to CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T, which has admitted paying Cohen for "insights" into the new administration. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) listed 16 questions they want the Dallas-based telecom to answer by May 25 — among them, who approved the payments to Cohen and were the payments used to pay debts owed by Trump or his organization.

San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2018

American workers taking more time off, sort of

For the first time in years, Americans in 2017 kicked back and took more time off from work — but just a few hours more. Workers on average took 17.2 days of vacation last year, an increase of about half a day compared with 2016, according to a recent survey of 4,439 workers. That’s the most vacation time taken since 2010, and and it’s up more than a full day from when vacation time bottomed out at 16 days in 2014, according to the Project: Time Off Coalition, which is backed by a group of travel industry organizations.

Newsclips - May 16, 2018

Lead Stories

Associated Press - May 15, 2018

Democrats losing support among millennial voters, new poll suggests

It's no secret that Democrats have a lot of hope vested in millennials, the youngest and now largest group voters in the country, to carry out a blue wave in upcoming elections. But Democrat footing among millennials may be less solid than previously thought, a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggests. In the past two years, support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percent among the 18-34 age group, the poll shows. The loss in support for Democrats represents a plunge from 55 percent in 2016 to 46 percent in 2018, according to the nationwide survey of more than 16,000 registered voters.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

Why the race to replace Rep. Joe Barton is down to a clash of personalities

What do TV star Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the conservative Weekly Standard, have in common? They've both been called losers by President Donald Trump, for one. They've also both expressed interest in the same Congressional race in suburban and rural North Texas. Kristol donated $250 to Jake Ellzey, who is in a Republican runoff with former Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright. O'Donnell gave $1,000 last year to Democrat and political newcomer Jana Lynne Sanchez, who is trying to defeat that party's 2016 nominee, longtime Arlington civic leader Ruby Faye Woolridge. The district includes Ellis and Navarro counties and a portion of Tarrant County. It hasn't had this much competition in a long time. Republican Joe Barton has held the seat since 1985, but announced late last year that he would retire after lewd images of himself that he sent to a former lover circulated online.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Valdez outraises White, but he has more money to spend in final sprint

The Lupe Valdez campaign for governor outraised Andrew White’s campaign since late February, but White entered the last days before next Tuesday’s runoff with nearly four times as much money to spend. According to pre-runoff reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission just before Monday’s deadline, the Valdez campaign raised $291,000 between Feb. 25 and May 12, spent $88,000 and had $258,000 in the bank and $20,000 in outstanding loans. The White campaign raised $179,000, spent $166,000 and had $981,000 in the bank and more than $1 million in outstanding loans for the same period. Valdez’s biggest donors were the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which contributed $60,000, and Domingo Garcia, a Dallas personal injury attorney, who gave $25,000. Garcia, a former state representative, has been an unsuccessful candidate for Dallas mayor and for Congress.

Texas Observer - May 15, 2018

Bova: Meet Farris Wilks, Kingmaker of the Texas GOP

On the morning of October 21, Farris Wilks, a North Texas fracking billionaire, was busy with matters of eschatology. Preaching at the Eastland County church founded by his father, Wilks explained to his congregation — the idiosyncratic, nondenominational Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day — that neither heaven nor hell awaited them when they died. According to Biblical revelation, they would “simply go to the grave to await the Resurrection and the judgment that will follow,” he said. Four days later, the 66-year-old turned to more worldly affairs: He cut a check to state Senator Bob Hall’s re-election campaign for $100,000 — about 10 percent of the total amount Hall would go on to raise. That money helped the incumbent, a tea partier from Florida with a history of domestic violence allegations, fend off a primary challenge from Cindy Burkett — a relative moderate who gave up her state House seat to challenge him and has been succeeded by a right-winger, making the outcome a twofold victory for Wilks and Texas’ far right.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

DMN: As the race for a new Texas House speaker begins to heat up, GOP lawmakers should make a practical choice

The best political leaders are those who serve as an example of honesty and integrity — not only to the people they represent but to the public in general and to other politicians and political leaders. Because Republican lawmaker Joe Straus, who has served as Texas House speaker since 2009, decided against seeking re-election this year, the race is on as to who will wield the gavel when the Legislature convenes next January. Republicans face a potentially precarious decision. Will they select a pragmatic leader similar to Straus, who stressed the interests of Texas and all Texans, or will they go for someone more like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who puts reactionary politics first?

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

'A leaf in the wind': Texas companies face uncertainty in winning exemptions from Trump's tariffs

In the blustering trade tiff between the U.S. and China, Houston-based McMahon Steel Supply is “just a leaf in the wind.” That’s how company vice president Ronnie Smith says it feels to be a 15-employee, family-owned outfit that is dealing with a new 25 percent tariff on the steel it imports from Japan and other locales — steel the company “simply can’t secure here” in the U.S. The distributor is among the many operations in Texas and beyond now asking the Commerce Department for product-specific exclusions to the import levies on steel and aluminum. But that already time-intensive process has proved unwieldy, with the feds getting swamped by thousands of exemption requests. The overall trade scene remains unsettled as President Donald Trump has stoked tension not only with China, but also with U.S. allies in Europe and North America.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

Garrett: Greg Abbott ad warns Texans that Lupe Valdez would imitate California on immigration

We know Gov. Greg Abbott loves Fox News. He apparently loves the way the cable news channel covers his likely fall opponent, Lupe Valdez. And Abbott obviously would like to define her, even before she nails down the Democratic nomination, as an immigration soft-liner. Throw Fox News, Valdez and immigration into a blender, and voilà. You have a new 30-second web ad, posted by Abbott's re-election campaign late Tuesday. It returns to the exchange of barbs a few years ago between Valdez, who was Dallas County sheriff, and Abbott, who was the state's new Republican governor, over the ideal jail-detention policies for unauthorized immigrants who are alleged to have committed crimes. That quickly segued into very public disagreement between the two over last year's sanctuary cities bill.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

3 Texas military bases may house children separated from parents under Trump's border crackdown

Three military bases in Texas and one in Arkansas are being considered to house migrant children whose parents cross the border illegally, a sign that the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to separate families in the border crackdown. The Washington Post and the Hill reported Defense Department notifications to Pentagon staffers said the Department of Health and Human Services will make site visits to the bases over the next for week to evaluate whether they can shelter children. It's not clear whether the troops could be assigned to the bases where children will be sheltered. The Texas bases are the Army's Fort Bliss in El Paso, Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo and Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas also will be evaluated, according to the Pentagon communications and HHS.

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2018

UT System says it needs up to $7 million for Los Alamos management transition

Starting to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory could cost the University of Texas System $7 million, if the UT System's bid to lead the high-profile national security institute is selected by the Department of Energy, according to meeting planning documents. Regents on Friday will vote on whether to transfer up to $7 million from the system's internal lending program to a limited-liability company created as part of the UT System's bid, which was submitted in December. The money would be used for assessing risk and making sure the transition into managing the lab is successful, according to UT. Documents previewing the Friday board meeting show that UT believes a decision from the Department of Energy is imminent.

San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2018

Proposed rules for food assistance have critics up in arms

A Republican-led effort to impose stricter work requirements on those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, prompted two congressmen to sound the alarm Monday over what the new rules would do to low-income families. “An idea has overtaken some in Washington that people who struggle financially are freeloaders,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, speaking at a news conference at the San Antonio Food Bank. “What they don’t realize is that many (who depend on SNAP) are often hardworking people.” Castro and and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, joined food bank CEO Eric Cooper to decry the proposed regulations, part of the 2018 Farm Bill, scheduled to be voted on by lawmakers in Washington later this week

San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2018

Plano company targets local homeowners for exemption refunds

Refund Advisory Corp. has helped around 1,000 local homeowners file for homestead exemptions they were missing out on. In exchange, it wants to keep half of their value, which likely adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. The company, operating out of a strip mall in Plano, has come under scrutiny by Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti and Bexar Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita, who accuse it of taking advantage of homeowners and charging excessive fees. It started doing business in Bexar County again last year after leaving the market 15 years ago in the wake of an unsuccessful lawsuit from the local office of the state attorney general claiming deceptive trade practices, its president Richard Andro said.

San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2018

‘Comfortable in her own skin’: Mary Wilson bids to become the first lesbian Baptist pastor in Congress

Mary Wilson doesn't want this to come off the wrong way. But for math majors, she says, “calculus is kind of the baby class.” Wilson instead wrote her master’s thesis on an algebraic topic, a branch of math built on the relationships between numbers. Thirty years later, she is running for Congress as a progressive Democrat in Texas’ deeply conservative 21st District through a campaign built around numbers and relationships. “If you want to talk demographics of this district and percentages and precinct turnout, I can talk the numbers all day long,” she said.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

STAAR test takers briefly plagued by online glitches Tuesday, officials say

Some students experienced glitches while taking the STAAR test Tuesday morning, the Texas Education Agency said. Problems included frozen screens, slowness, difficulty in starting sessions and some students getting locked out because of connectivity issues, state education officials said. The TEA did not know how many students experienced problems but said 110,000 were testing this morning on the reading portion of the test. “It was recommended that the students that were experiencing difficulty take a break,” Ronnie Burchett, a spokeswoman for the TEA, said. All issues were resolved by 11 a.m., the TEA said.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Texas sues national drug maker for ‘deceptive’ opioid practices

Accusing a national drug manufacturer of helping to fuel the deadly opioid crisis, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday that his office had filed suit against Purdue Pharma and was considering taking legal action against other drug makers as well. Filed in state district court in Travis County, the lawsuit accused Purdue Pharma of violating state law by misrepresenting the risk of addiction associated with its opioids, particularly OxyContin, in a “sophisticated marketing scheme aimed at consumers and health care providers alike,” Paxton said. “In the face of abundant evidence showing that the drug was dangerous, Purdue saw fit to exchange destroyed lives for financial gain,” Paxton said in an Austin news conference announcing the lawsuit.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Texas Digest: Wildfires rage in Panhandle

Firefighters in the Texas Panhandle are working to contain a wildfire that has blackened more than 69,000 acres. Nearly 300 firefighters are at the blaze, which began last week about 40 miles southeast of Amarillo and not far from Palo Duro Canyon, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported Sunday. The fire was about 15 percent contained Sunday afternoon. Temperatures in the 90s and gusty winds helped spread up to 15-foot flames through dry tall grass, brush, mesquite and juniper in rough terrain.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Herman: Lupe Valdez and ‘newspaper language’

Meepzat nipzor, kunder Pflugerville zingo calamari rondo kronanian. Oops. Sorry. Forgive me for slipping into the patois of my people, the jargon of journalism, a mysterious vocabulary branded recently by a Texas gubernatorial candidate as “newspaper language.” Frankly, I didn’t know there was such a thing. But Democrat Lupe Valdez, during the May 11 debate with runoff foe Andrew White, cited her lack of familiarity with “newspaper language” as a reason she’s gone oh-for-Texas in picking up newspaper endorsements.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2018

Ramsey: Four declared candidates for Texas speaker — and at least one “No way!”

As the members of the Texas House — not to mention the rest of us — try to figure out who all is in the running to replace House Speaker Joe Straus, a declaration of non-candidacy is refreshing. State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, says he is not now and will not become a candidate for speaker. Take him off the list. One might wonder how to get that kind of an announcement out of an ambitious politician. Bonnen, who’s been in the House since 1997, is chairman of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee. Seeing him in the middle of a high-pitched debate on the House floor is as reliable as a red truck at a fire — so much so that you can follow him around to find out where the battles are.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2018

Doggett, Martinez: A state investment in early psychosis treatment would benefit patients — and Texas, too

Given the opportunity to dramatically change the course of a young person’s life for the better, most people would pursue it. Unfortunately, many young people experiencing early episodes of psychosis in Texas aren’t able to access the treatment and care that could give them that opportunity. Going forward, the state of Texas has the opportunity to fill this gap for individuals, families and communities across the state. Nationwide, about 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. Psychosis is defined as a disruption in a person’s thoughts and perceptions that makes it difficult for them to realize what is real and what isn’t. For a young person who experiences psychosis related to schizophrenia, these changes come gradually, and are frightening and confusing. But research has shown that Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC), a team-based approach that encourages shared decision-making about treatment and recovery goals, can make a dramatic difference for these young people, helping them get their lives back on track. Also, of great importance, CSC treatment involves family members as much as possible.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2018

Judge allows group of "Dreamers" to formally fight Texas' lawsuit to end DACA

A federal district judge has allowed a group of young undocumented immigrants to intervene in a lawsuit where the state of Texas seeks to put an end to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Brownsville-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen will allow the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to represent the group of young "Dreamers," the common term for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have lived here most of their lives. They argue they would be irreparably harmed if the popular Obama-era program ends. The initiative shields recipients from deportation and allows them a renewable, two-year work permit.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 15, 2018

O'Neill: Texas courts step up on mental health

In January, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, for the first time, formally joined together as one court to focus the attention of the highest judicial officials in the state on one topic: mental health. People from across the state appeared before Texas’ high courts to testify on how the judicial branch can play a key role in transforming the way we treat people with mental health needs. This week the result of that hearing, a groundbreaking, permanent Judicial Commission on Mental Health, met for the first time in Austin, with 31 commissioners and dozens of mental health advocates and professionals coming together as a whole new problem-solving model for the Texas court system.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 15, 2018

Kennedy: As Baptists swirl in controversy, this Texas pastor says preaching justice is 'evil'

A Southern Baptist pastor in South Texas says the church has a problem: too much talk about justice. Racial justice, social justice., global justice — you name it. He's heard enough. He's against all this justice. Not only that, but he wants Southern Baptist Convention churches to stop preaching about it. Saying the whole idea of justice and equality is way too liberal, the Rev. Grady Arnold of Cuero has filed a resolution calling for the denomination to reject social justice as “evil."

Washington Post - May 15, 2018

Ex-Rep. Farenthold says he won’t repay $84K sexual harassment settlement

Former congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) told a reporter Tuesday that he will not reimburse taxpayers for the $84,000 in public funds used to settle a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit. Farenthold, who resigned in April, told ABC News that his lawyers advised him not to repay the Treasury Department for the settlement amount. “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that,” Farenthold told the news outlet. “That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 14, 2018

Who's PAC is bigger? District 27 candidates Bruun, Cloud spar over campaign donations

On the first day of early voting, Republican candidates for Congressional District 27 sparred over political action committee support. Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud face each other in a May 22 runoff for the Republican nomination for the congressional seat, which covers 13 counties in the Coastal Bend. They appeared Monday onThe Bob Jones Show, a local radio show, where they discussed policy positions ahead of the runoff election. Early voting continues through Friday. The conversation got heated when the topic turned to super PACs that are backing the candidates.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Dallas-Fort Worth home price gains the smallest in almost 4 years, according to Realtors

Dallas-Fort Worth home prices rose only 6 percent in the first quarter of the year. It was the lowest year-over-year price gain in almost four years for the D-FW area in the National Association of Realtors' quarterly home price comparison. Nationwide median home sales prices were 5.7 percent higher than in first-quarter 2017, according to the real estate trade association. The first-quarter annual price increase in D-FW is less than half the year-over-year price rise in first-quarter 2017, according to the Realtors.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Austin-area home sales, median price hit April records

Central Texas home sales and median home prices both climbed last month to the highest level of any April on record, the Austin Board of Realtors said Tuesday. The likelihood that mortgage interest rates will soon creep higher could be prompting some people to buy sooner rather than later in the year, local real estate agents said. In its latest monthly report, the board said 2,611 home sales closed last month, a 4.1 percent increase over April 2017.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

Arlington offered nearly $1 billion in incentives for Amazon HQ2, says it's no longer in the race

Arlington, the region’s largest suburban community, revealed on Tuesday that it was out of the running for Amazon’s coveted second headquarters, after the city had offered the company tax breaks and grants worth close to a billion dollars. The incentives, the city announced in a news release, were tied to the redevelopment of Globe Life Park, after the Texas Rangers move into their taxpayer subsidized new stadium. The move makes Arlington the first city in the region to publicly release their bid for the Seattle-based behemoth’s so-called HQ2, drawing praise from some observers for transparency, but also shock at the projected $921 million local incentive price tag.

Texas Monthly - May 11, 2018

Del Rio Elects Openly Gay Mayor

The South Texas town of Del Rio, population 35,998, elected its first openly gay officeholder on Saturday when Bruno Lozano won the mayoral race. Lozano, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran who wore a pair of heels while marching in Del Rio’s Veterans Parade last year, is part of what the Houston Chronicle described earlier this year as a “wave” of LGBT candidates seeking public office in Texas in 2018. According to Houston’s OutSmart Magazine, as of January there were at least 52 LGBT candidates across the state, chasing everything from small-town mayor gigs to state representative seats to the governor’s office.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2018

Seawater desalination plant proposed for Corpus Christi area

A seawater desalination plant is in the initial planning stages for construction in the Corpus Christi area, according to a public notice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality posted May 7. In Texas, desalination has often been earmarked as a source of water that can stand up to significant drought, and Texas Water Development Board records show 49 plants operating in the state that desalinate brackish water — water that has more salinity than freshwater but less than seawater. The Port of Corpus Christi's proposed plant, which it would construct on land the port owns in the city of Gregory, is unusual because no desalination plant in Texas currently operates solely off of seawater for industrial or municipal use.

National Stories

New York Times - May 12, 2018

Federal Tax Cuts Leave States in a Bind

The federal tax overhaul cut taxes for millions of American families and businesses. But the law also had an unintended effect: raising the state-tax bite in nearly every state that has an income tax. Now, governors and state legislators are contending with how to adjust their own tax codes to shield their residents from paying more or, in some cases, whether to apply any of the unexpected revenue windfall to other priorities instead. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Trump signed into law in December, did not directly affect state budgets. It cut federal tax rates, but also made other changes that mean more income will be subject to taxation. Because most states use federal definitions of income and have not adjusted their own rates, the federal changes will have big consequences for both state budgets and taxpayers.

New York Times - May 14, 2018

Medical Mystery: Something Happened to U.S. Health Spending After 1980

In 1980, the U.S. was right in the middle of the pack of peer nations in life expectancy at birth. But by the mid-2000s, we were at the bottom of the pack. What happened? Health spending and life expectancy are not necessarily closely related, so it’s helpful to consider them separately. “Medical care is one of the less important determinants of life expectancy,” said Joseph Newhouse, a health economist at Harvard. “Socioeconomic status and other social factors exert larger influences on longevity.” For spending, many experts point to differences in public policy on health care financing. “Other countries have been able to put limits on health care prices and spending” with government policies, said Paul Starr, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton. The United States has relied more on market forces, which have been less effective.

Washington Post - May 15, 2018

North Korea expands threat to cancel Trump-Kim summit, saying it won’t be pushed to abandon its nukes

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting it “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff. The latest warning, delivered by former North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan on Wednesday, fits Pyongyang’s well-established pattern of raising the stakes in negotiations by threatening to walk out if it doesn’t get its way. This comes just hours after the North Korean regime cast doubt on the planned summit by protesting joint air force drills taking place in South Korea, saying they were ruining the diplomatic mood.

New York Times - May 14, 2018

Pence Is Trying to Control Republican Politics. Trump Aides Aren’t Happy.

Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas needed a favor: Before retiring, he wanted to anoint a local activist as his successor. Mr. Hensarling, a veteran conservative, reached out to President Trump for help, but the White House hesitated to intervene, according to a person familiar with the overture. Instead, Mr. Hensarling found a willing ally at Mr. Trump’s right hand: Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence backed the congressman’s favorite, Bunni Pounds, last month in a tweet that blindsided key White House aides. The eager assistance Mr. Pence provided a senior lawmaker reflected the outsize political portfolio that the vice president and his aides have seized for themselves as the 2018 elections approach.

McClatchy Newspapers - May 14, 2018

Ambitious Texas Republican floats own name to chair powerful Foreign Affairs panel

Rep. Mike McCaul says he's "attracted" to the idea of leading the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, a position that could create more debate with the White House on Mexico and Latin American policy. The Texas Republican, who will soon reach his term limit as the House Homeland Security committee chairman, shared his interest during a conference in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations emphasizing that the biggest threat he sees for the United States is no longer terrorism, but a nuclear action from a foreign adversary. “There’s so many hotspots right now,” McCaul said. “And one thing that attracts me about potentially chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee is we’re moving from this ISIS threat to nation-state foreign adversary empires: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, to name a few.”

Washington Post - May 16, 2018

Primary elections: Buehler wins GOP nomination to challenge Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

Recent developments: Nebraska Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District nominate nonprofit executive Kara Eastman to face Rep. Don Bacon (R). Republican Scott Wagner will face incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf in the race for Pennsylvania governor. Nebraska state Sen. Bob Krist (D) will face incumbent Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor. Republican congressman Lou Barletta will face Democratic incumbent Robert P. Casey Jr. in the high-stakes race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Idaho Republicans nominate Lt. Gov. Brad Little for governor to face Paulette Jordan (D).

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

CIA nominee Gina Haspel condemns Bush-era interrogation methods, clears path to Senate approval

The path to confirmation as CIA director cleared Tuesday for Gina Haspel after she explicitly condemned the brutal Bush-era interrogation methods used on terror suspects. Haspel had assured senators last week at her confirmation hearing that in hindsight, methods such as waterboarding -- viewed as torture by critics -- harmed America's image in the world, and she would not restart the program. That wasn't good enough for some senators, given her central role in the program. President George W. Bush, with encouragement from Vice President Dick Cheney and other advisers, and with the blessing of top government lawyers, ordered "enhanced interrogation" to pry secrets from Al Qaeda operatives and others after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

USA Today - May 13, 2018

Penzenstadler, Heath, Guynn: We read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by Russians. Here's what we found

The Russian company charged with orchestrating a wide-ranging effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election overwhelmingly focused its barrage of social media advertising on what is arguably America’s rawest political division: race. The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election. While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions.

New York Times - May 15, 2018

Suspect Identified in C.I.A. Leak Was Charged, but Not for the Breach

In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency’s hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency’s history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials. Now, the prime suspect in the breach has been identified: a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets, The New York Times has learned.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

NRA: Use our stickers to cover up Yeti’s logo

The spat between the National Rifle Association and Yeti doesn’t appear to be over just yet. The NRA took aim at the Austin-based company in a recent tweet, offering followers free stickers to cover up the Yeti logo on their coolers and drinkware. In fact, the NRA claims it has already given away more than 100,000 of the “I stand with the NRA Foundation” stickers at its recent convention in Dallas. Many NRA members had pledged to stop patronizing Yeti – with some even destroying their Yeti products – after the organization claimed Yeti “suddenly, without prior notice” indicated it no longer wished to do business with the NRA Foundation.

Associated Press - May 15, 2018

Judge: Special counsel had authority to prosecute Manafort

A federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman. The decision was a setback for Paul Manafort in his defense against charges of money-laundering conspiracy, false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Manafort had argued that Mueller had exceeded his authority because the case was unrelated to Russian election interference. But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed, siding with prosecutors who had produced an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The memo shows Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort's Ukrainian work and related financial crimes.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - May 15, 2018

Europe, Iran seek to save nuclear deal after US pullout

Major European powers sought Tuesday to keep Iran committed to a deal to prevent it from building a nuclear bomb despite deep misgivings about Tehran's Middle East politics and President Donald Trump's vehement opposition. The U.S. already pulled out of the pact of the major global powers with Iran and promised tough economic sanctions that could hurt companies in the European Union as well. Instead, the EU nations sought to show Iran on Tuesday they stand by diplomatic commitments. It left EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany — signatories of the 2015 deal to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons — with their backs against the wall as they prepared for a dinner meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. But the EU officials were hopeful that diplomacy and the promise of economic benefits could keep Iran in the fold of a nuclear deal they see as essential to security.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Washington Post - May 14, 2018

Half of evangelicals support Israel because they believe it is important for fulfilling end-times prophecy

Well before he was asked to offer a prayer at Monday’s ceremony marking the U.S. Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, earning the enmity of Mitt Romney, Pastor Robert Jeffress offered tangential insight into why he and many evangelicals think the move was so important. “Jerusalem has been the object of the affection of both Jews and Christians down through history and the touchstone of prophecy,” Jeffress told CNN last year. “But, most importantly, God gave Jerusalem — and the rest of the Holy Land — to the Jewish people.” The latter half of that quote hints at the deep religious meaning of the existence of Israel for Jeffress and other Christians. As University of North Texas professor Elizabeth Oldmixon told Vox last year, the issue of recognizing Jerusalem is inextricable from that belief.

The Hill - May 15, 2018

The Memo: Elizabeth Warren steals show at 2020 audition

Democratic jockeying for the 2020 presidential race was on full display Tuesday as a host of likely contenders addressed liberal activists in Washington. It was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who ultimately won the day with a full-throated assertion of the need for Democrats to hew closely to a base she characterized as “angry and scared” about President Trump’s impact on the nation. Warren argued at the Center for American Progress’s (CAP) Id

Associated Press - May 14, 2018

Study: Nearly all teachers spend own money on school needs

Nearly all public school teachers report digging into their pockets to pay for school supplies, spending nearly $480 a year, far more than the federal $250 tax deduction available to teachers. The findings by the National Center of Education Statistics released Tuesday come as teachers across the country are walking out of classrooms to protest low pay and demand pay raises. Helping teachers pay for class supplies was a key demand during the Arizona teachers' strike. Ninety-four percent of public school teachers say they spent their own money on notebooks, pens and other supplies in the 2014-15 school year without reimbursement, according to the study. The average amount spent was $479. About 44 percent spent $250 or less, while 36 percent spent $251 to $500.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Newsclips - May 15, 2018

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2018

Texas Republican backers returning to the fold with checks in hand

For wealthy Texas Republicans relied upon by national party officials for vital campaign cash, the GOP’s inability to repeal Obamacare last summer wasn’t just a disappointing legislative low point. It became a reason for them to turn off the money spigot. “It was super frustrating,” said Houston energy executive Dan Eberhart, a Trump supporter and national GOP donor. “They used that line for 10 years: ‘Repeal and Replace.’ They raised money on it, and then they just flopped.” But since then, Eberhart has come around. “I feel like maybe I’ve done a full revolution,” he said. “In October, I was very upset. I felt like ‘You guys raised all this money and just completely failed on Obamacare repeal and replace.’ That’s where my head was at. Once they passed tax reform, I guess maybe I fell in line and came back into the fold.”

The Nation - May 8, 2018

Millennials to Democrats: It’s the Economy, Stupid

When liberals talk about a “blue wave” wiping out the Republican Party in the November midterm elections, it’s assumed that the Democratic Party’s core constituencies will flood polling places and vote blue down the entire ticket. These key demographics include people of color, women, college graduates, and millennials. It’s worth highlighting millennials because they will soon overtake boomers as the largest generation. Most of them identify as either Democrats or progressive independents. They care about climate change; they’re less enamored with capitalism than their parents are; and they detest Donald Trump. At a glance, this generation would appear to be the natural grassroots fuel for a midterm cycle that leaves Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan licking their wounds.

The Hill - May 14, 2018

Mueller may have a conflict — and it leads directly to a Russian oligarch

Special counsel Robert Mueller has withstood relentless political attacks, many distorting his record of distinguished government service. But there’s one episode even Mueller’s former law enforcement comrades — and independent ethicists — acknowledge raises legitimate legal issues and a possible conflict of interest in his overseeing the Russia election probe. In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007. Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Houston Rep. Al Green rips Nancy Pelosi after impeachment comments in Dallas

A Houston Congressman on Monday took exception to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's comments in Dallas opposing impeachment of President Donald Trump. Democratic Rep. Al Green said in a statement that Trump is "the quintessential person that impeachment was designed for," no matter what Pelosi thinks. Green led a push to impeach the president last year. But Pelosi, the former House speaker, told The Dallas Morning News' editorial board on Friday that while she loved Green, she wishes he'd back off.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2018

Mexican national living in Houston charged with illegally voting in 3 elections

A Montgomery County grand jury indicted a Harris County woman last week on two charges of illegal voting after law enforcement alleges she obtained documents to steal the identity of a U.S. citizen and illegally register to vote. Laura Janeth Garza, 38, who is registered as a Mexican National, was arrested Friday on a warrant for her arrest on two counts of election fraud related to the November 2016 presidential election in Harris County. A joint investigation by Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) determined that Garza obtained documents to steal the identity of a U.S. citizen and illegally register to vote in Harris County. She cast ballots in 2004, 2012 and 2016.

Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2018

Number of uninsured Americans on the rise, especially in Texas, new study finds

The historic gains in Texas and the rest of the nation are now slipping away as the uninsured rate starts to rise again, a new national health care report has found. The rate of working age adults without health coverage — those between age 19 and 64 — has ticked up to about 15.5 percent so far in 2018, up from 12.7 percent in 2016, according to the latest Commonwealth Fund tracking survey released this month. That translates to about 4 million people nationwide once covered who no longer are insured, the survey found.

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

Garcia: For O’Rourke, November means feast or famine

Come November, it’ll either be feast or famine for Beto O’Rourke’s political career — and, by extension, the Democratic Party in Texas. O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, recently told Peggy Fikac, the Austin bureau chief for the San Antonio Express-News, that if he loses to Cruz, he won’t run again. It’s easy to scoff at such a promise. After all, no candidate wants to create a sense that they’re just paving the road for a future campaign. In the case of O’Rourke, however, it has the ring of truth. For one thing, he voluntarily term-limited himself out of his U.S. House seat, promising that he would hold the seat for no more than four terms. Sure enough, three terms into his congressional career, he gave up his House seat to take on Cruz.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

Kopser, Roy have big cash advantages over rivals in CD 21 runoffs

Joseph Kopser has a 23-1 cash advantage over Mary Wilson going into the homestretch of their runoff race for the Democratic nomination in the 21st Congressional District. On the Republican side, Chip Roy has a nearly 3-1 cash advantage over rival Matt McCall, campaign finance reports show. The numbers reflect the latest fundraising totals for each campaign in reports for the period from April 1 to May 2. In the March 6 Democratic primary in a district that stretches from Central Austin to San Antonio and west into the Hill Country, Wilson finished first in a field of four candidates with 31 percent of the vote. Kopser ran second with 29 percent.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

Despite Supreme Court ruling, sports gambling remains illegal in Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that barred sports betting in most states, but the ruling will have no immediate impact on Texas, where wagering on sporting events remains illegal. To change that, the Texas Legislature would have to change state law — and likely the Texas Constitution as well — while overcoming strong anti-gambling sentiments that have doomed efforts to loosen state gaming laws in recent legislative sessions. Still, Monday’s 6-3 ruling will likely renew efforts to expand gambling in Texas, said Jay Stewart, an Austin lawyer who has worked on gaming issues for more than two decades.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

Chancellor urged to reduce methane emissions from UT oil lands

In recent months and years, the Faculty Council, Staff Council and Student Government at the University of Texas have called on the UT System to cut emissions of methane, a major contributor to global warming, by 50 percent from its vast oil and natural gas lands in the western part of the state. On Monday, the retired president of Shell Oil Co., a prominent Austin real estate developer and two other people called on the system’s chancellor, Bill McRaven, to convene a task force to reduce emissions. “Let’s make the UT System a world leader in the responsible production of oil and gas,” said the letter signed by John Hofmeister, a retired Shell president now with Citizens for Affordable Energy; Perry Lorenz, an Austin developer; Trammell S. Crow, an environmentalist and businessman who founded EarthX, which organizes a major environmental expo in Dallas each year; and John Kerr, a lawyer who serves on the board of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, the lobbying partner of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

First Reading: In Salman v. Stickland, a celebration of diversity in Euless is tested

On Saturday, one week to the day after he was narrowly elected to the City Council in the little Tarrant County city of Euless – population about 55,000 and half white – Salman Bhojani and his supporters gathered at one of the parks that are the city’s pride to celebrate his victory. Bhojani spoke and then delivered some of the 140 awards he had prepared for the many folks who, in one way or another, had helped with his winning campaign. Here is what Bhojani had to say: "We have made history here in Euless. There has never been a Muslim candidate for City Council. No member of an ethnic minority has ever been elected to office in Euless. And, to the best of my knowledge, no other City Council candidate has had to run not only against their opponent, but also against their own representative in the Texas Legislature.

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2018

PETA sues Texas A&M president, says university blocked them on Facebook over dog research comments

The animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young, alleging that the university blocked the group on Facebook and calling the move a violation of the First Amendment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of PETA, said it believes Texas A&M has deleted or blocked comments PETA tried to post to the university’s Facebook page. According to the suit, the comments criticized a university researcher’s testing on dogs that PETA believes is cruel and inhumane. Texas A&M censored PETA’s comments by automatically blocking certain words, including “PETA,” “cruelty” and “lab” from its Facebook page, the suit says.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

After Texas suit, Trump administration reverses prison policies protecting transgender inmates

Transgender women will now be housed in female prisons only "in rare cases," the Trump administration announced Friday in a major reversal of federal policy. Since 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has required federal inmates' gender identity to "be given serious consideration" in housing decisions. Now, transgender prisoners will be asked to meet several new standards before they can be considered for transfer to a new unit. The change came after female inmates in Texas sued the administration to overturn LGBT prisoner protections established under President Barack Obama. It's unclear whether the policy change will affect the nearly 500 trans men and women currently incarcerated in federal prisons.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Texas judges are leading a cultural shift on how we handle defendants with mental health problems

When it comes to mental health, the National Center for State Courts has cited a need for a cultural shift in our courts, and accordingly, Texas judges have made the decision to step up and lead the way with reforms that will benefit the lives of all Texans. In January, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, for the first time, formally joined together as one court to focus the attention of the highest judicial officials in the state on one topic: mental health. People from across the state appeared before Texas' high courts to testify on how the judicial branch can play a key role in transforming the way we treat people with mental health needs. This Tuesday, the result of that hearing, a groundbreaking, permanent Judicial Commission on Mental Health meets for the first time in Austin, with 31 commissioners and dozens of mental health advocates and professionals coming together as a whole new problem-solving model for the Texas court system.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Texas uses hypnosis to investigate crimes. Dallas death row inmates say it's time to stop

For many people, the word “hypnosis” evokes images of swinging pocket watches, swirling vortexes and impressionable subjects mesmerized by movie villains. They think of Get Out, The Manchurian Candidate, even Office Space. But in the Lone Star State, it isn’t a parlor trick or Hollywood ploy. Here, hypnosis is a matter of life and death. Texas has the most robust forensic hypnosis program in the country, training police officers across the state to sharpen or recall crime witnesses’ lost memories. As more and more states ban the practice, law enforcement here turns to it at least a dozen times a year.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2018

We asked 22 Texas Democrats running for Congress whether they'd vote to impeach Trump. Here's what they said

Out of the 22 candidates surveyed, 14 responded and eight did not. Responses from two of the candidates, Lillian Salerno and Colin Allred of Congressional District 32 in Dallas, came during a Dallas Democratic Forum runoff debate moderated by Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby. When it comes to the impeachment of the president, the message varies among Democrats running for Congress. Some candidates told The Texas Tribune they were convinced that there was enough evidence to impeach the president. However, most Democrats surveyed weren’t so quick to say "yes" to an impeachment — many wanted to wait to weigh the evidence from the Mueller investigation before deciding.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2018

This ex-FBI agent who called Islam "barbaric and evil" was allowed to train Texas law enforcement

He’s called Islam “barbaric and evil.” He's tweeted out pictures of bearded, dark-skinned airport security officers, labeling them “jihadis” and “terrorists.” And in Texas, ex-FBI agent John Guandolo was allowed by the state's Commission on Law Enforcement to train police and other law enforcement officers. Earlier this month in San Angelo, anti-Islam Guandolo conducted one of his day-long seminars, “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America.” A flier for the program said it would put “terrorist attacks into perspective” and “identify specific jihadi threats in Texas.”

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2018

Texas ranks 36th nationally in per-student education spending. Here's how much it spends.

Hey, Texplainer: How much is spent educating the average public school student in Texas? It depends on who you ask. Both the Texas Education Agency and the National Education Association track per-pupil funding. But their numbers don’t quite add up. The former, which calculates budgeted expenditures by school district, will tell you that Texas spent $9,150 per student for the 2016 fiscal year — a slight increase from the year prior when Texas spent $8,937 per student. The NEA, a teachers group, tells a slightly different story.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 11, 2018

Greene: Texas no longer #1 at job creation. Why?

At a recent presentation to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, where I serve as one of its board members, we heard of the state-wide determination to protect our economy and why it matters. Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, described the mission of the organization in the forefront of ensuring Texas is the best place to work, run a business and raise a family. It is doing that by supporting initiatives in a bipartisan manner that encourage economic growth and provide good paying jobs for more Texans. Importantly, it opposes legislation that threatens the economy of the state.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2018

Valdez outraises White, but he has more money to spend in final sprint

The Lupe Valdez campaign for governor outraised Andrew White’s campaign since late February, but White entered the last days before next Tuesday’s runoff with nearly four times as much money to spend. According to pre-runoff reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission just before Monday’s deadline, the Valdez campaign raised $291,000 between Feb. 25 and May 12, spent $88,000 and had $258,000 in the bank and $20,000 in outstanding loans. The White campaign raised $179,000, spent $166,000 and had $981,000 in the bank and more than $1 million in outstanding loans for the same period. Valdez’s biggest donors were the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which contributed $60,000, and Domingo Garcia, a Dallas personal injury attorney, who gave $25,000. Garcia, a former state representative, has been an unsuccessful candidate for Dallas mayor and for Congress.

Washington Post - May 15, 2018

This man runs a federal agency near Washington — from his home in Dallas

The man named by President Trump last year to oversee regulation of the nation’s $1.4 trillion credit union industry has taken a novel approach to the agency he leads. Instead of going to his office near Washington every day, J. Mark McWatters works from his home. In Dallas. McWatters, whose salary as chairman of the National Credit Union Administration board is $165,300, may be the federal government’s most unlikely telecommuter. The arrangement adds a wrinkle to the tendency among some Trump administration officials to spurn traditional government norms. An NCUA spokesman confirmed a Washington Post finding that McWatters works from Dallas and declined to say how often he travels to the headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where more than 400 of the agency’s 1,200 employees are based.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 3, 2018

Hammond: Conservatives should lead Texas criminal justice reform

What do Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and John Cornyn have in common? All are strong Texas conservatives. Each has consistently fought on behalf of limited government and other core conservative values. And all have embraced the issue of criminal justice reform because our current criminal justice system is fundamentally inconsistent with core conservative values of limited government, opportunity for all and personal responsibility. State lawmakers need to follow their lead. Texas’ criminal justice system is sprawling, ineffective, and expensive — costing taxpayers $3 billion each year without doing enough to protect public safety. The war on drugs that includes stiffer penalties and more prison time has been biggest failures of the state and nation with an estimated one trillion dollars spent to eradicate drug abuse since the 1970s.

Washington Post - May 14, 2018

How a federal lawsuit could open the door to online voter registration in Texas

From Jacquelyn Callanen’s perch in the Bexar County elections office, the period following Texas’ voter registration deadlines is best described as a paper tsunami. Some of it arrives by mail. Some stacks are delivered by volunteer voter registrars. The secretary of state’s office sends over a handful of boxes filled to the brim. No matter the carrier, last-minute drives to register people by the 30-day deadline ahead of each election typically leave local elections offices with a surge of work. To make sure prospective voters make it onto the rolls in time for Election Day, county offices have to hire temporary workers to help thumb through and process tens of thousands of voter registration cards and applications.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 14, 2018

Embattled ex-congressman Blake Farenthold finds safe harbor at the Port of Port Lavaca

Farenthold told listeners on a Corpus Christi radio show Monday morning he had landed a position working for the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort. "I'm starting a new job today that has an hour-and-a-half commute," he said on 1360 KKTX-AM's Lago in the Morning talk show. "You're gonna have me listening and calling in a whole lot now." His annual salary will be $160,000.10, just below the $174,000 he earned in congress. In a statement, the port said Farenthold would be its full-time legislative liaison and will be tasked with promoting the port’s agenda. That's a challenge in a Gulf of Mexico region where the race is on among ports of call to expand to meet a growing global energy market.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2018

Mark Geyer named new director of NASA's Johnson Space Center

NASA veteran Mark Geyer will take the helm of Houston's Johnson Space Center next week when former astronaut Ellen Ochoa retires from the director position, agency officials confirmed Monday. Geyer, an Indiana native who has been with the agency for about 28 years, will be the 12th director of Houston's center, home to the nation's astronaut corps where human space flight research and training take place. Johnson had a budget of $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and employs about 10,000 civil service and contractor employees.

San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2018

SAISD to lay off 132 teachers in all

The total number of teacher layoffs at the San Antonio Independent School District will reach 132, including teachers on probationary contracts, district officials said Monday before a meeting of the district’s board that was packed with speakers who denounced the decision. The budget cuts for next school year also will include 18 campus administrators and 13 central office employees, said Toni Thompson, associate superintendent of human resources. The cuts represent 4 percent of SAISD’s teaching force. “It was just a very difficult challenge,” Superintendent Pedro Martinez said, prompting shouts from teachers and a call to restore order from board President Patti Radle.

National Stories

The Hill - May 14, 2018

Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting

The Supreme Court has struck down a federal law that banned sports betting in almost every state, a precedent-shattering decision that opens the door to legalized sports gambling nationwide. New Jersey has been fighting since 2010 to make sports wagering legal at racetracks and casinos in the state, but had repeatedly been blocked by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. The court ruled 6-3 that PASPA’s provisions prohibiting states from authorizing and licensing a sports gambling scheme violate the anti-commandeering rule.

The Week - May 14, 2018

Linker: The 'white minority' illusion

Yes, the U.S. is on track to become at some point around 2045 a "minority white" nation — in the sense that if we lump every person who isn't white into a single demographic category of "non-white," whites will be outnumbered. The problem is that no such politically homogeneous category of citizen exists in the real world. It's the creation of demographers and liberal data journalists eager to mollify their anxieties. Such people convince themselves of its reality by making a habit of talking about how "people of color" are uniformly oppressed by hegemonic "whiteness" in the United States. But the truth is that people of Hispanic, African, West Indian, East Asian, South Asian, and Arab descent don't perceive themselves as (or vote as if they are) members of a unified bloc. They are discrete groups. Most of them do lean Democratic, but not uniformly, and they do so for disparate reasons rooted in the cultures they brought with them to this country and in their distinct histories since arriving. (That's true of white voters, too, of course.) ... Unless, that is, liberals can convince the non-white members of their current electoral coalition to begin thinking of themselves, first and foremost, as "people of color" united by their antipathy to, and in their oppression by, white America. If racism is defined, in part, by the tendency of whites to view everyone but themselves as "not white," then this would be a form of counter-racism in which non-whites positively affirm as a politically potent identity what was once treated as a form of stigma.

Texas Public Radio - May 14, 2018

Will Democrats Win The House This November?

It's the thick of primary season, and the looming question that hangs over the 2018 midterms is — will Democrats take control of Congress? NPR has reported on elements of potential answers to that question and shown some reasons for Republicans to find shelter — from the record number of GOP retirements, the record number of women running and special election victories to early strong Democratic turnout and continued division among the Republican base. All of those things continue to be signs of a potential wave, but with the primaries kicking into high gear — about 130 congressional races will be set in the next month — here are some tips on how to spot a blue wave and how big it could be (or not): The landscape -- Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to win back control of both chambers. That looks far more attainable in the House than Senate. But in both, Republicans retain some structural advantages — redistricting after the 2010 Census helped solidify some GOP seats and Democrats' Senate map might be the toughest ever.

The Hill - May 14, 2018

Whitley: Sorry, there’s not going to be any 'blue tidal wave' this fall

Each day, the impending electoral “blue tidal wave” gets upgraded on the Hawaiian scale of electoral wave strength. Every special election, no matter how small, is inflated to an epic scale that “spells disaster” for the president and the party he commandeered in 2016. Just one thing stands in the way of this electoral disaster of biblical proportions. Reality. The writing is simply not on the wall for a Democratic blow-out. The president’s approval rating has been consistently higher than Obama enjoyed at the same point in his presidency. Economic news has been staggeringly good. The unemployment rate is at a 44-year low. The Democrats have no coherent message. The NRA is flush with cash following this year’s extremist anti-gun rhetoric. And the RNC has 40 million dollars more than the “dead broke” DNC.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Ted Cruz lauds U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem, downplays deadly clashes

Sen. Ted Cruz is hailing the controversial opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem as a positive step in long-elusive Middle East peace negotiations, as dozens were killed in deadly protests and critics slam President Donald Trump for abandoning decades-old U.S. foreign policy of remaining neutral. "Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocating the U.S. Embassy sends a powerful message that America will stand by our friends and allies, and we will stand up to our enemies," Cruz said in prepared statement. "Moreover, it furthers the chances of peace in the Middle East by demonstrating that America's support for Israel is unconditional and will not be bullied by global media opinion."

Washington Post - May 14, 2018

Under banner of peace, U.S. opens embassy in Jerusalem. Sixty miles away, dozens of Palestinians are killed.

A joyous ceremony marked the inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, a largely symbolic step that nonetheless is of deep political significance, here and in the Palestinian territories, as well as farther away. Amid the happy bustle of about 800 guests, as Jared Kushner spoke, the controversial evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress blessed the occasion and President Trump delivered a prerecorded video address, there was little indication of what was unfolding less than 60 miles away on the border between Israel and Gaza. There, protests against the embassy opening and Israel’s continued blockade of the Palestinian enclave were met with gunfire by Israeli troops. Dozens of Palestinians were shot dead and thousands were injured.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Trump stands 'on the right side of history,' says Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress at U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress gave the opening prayer Monday at the controversial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The pastor of First Baptist Dallas has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and said that he had "courage that no other U.S. president has" had to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. Jeffress' role at the ceremony was criticized by former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who called the pastor a bigot for his record of remarks slamming other faiths. On Monday, Jeffress stood next to Rabbi Zalman Wolowik of New York and closed his eyes in prayer.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

American Airlines praises Trump administration for striking deal in dispute with Gulf carriers

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker on Monday cheered President Donald Trump's administration for striking a deal in a long-running dispute between some major U.S. carriers and three of their Persian Gulf rivals. At issue has been the complaint by American and others that Emirates and Etihad Airways in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar Airways in Qatar have been unfairly using billions of dollars in subsidies from their home-country governments to stifle competition. An agreement announced Monday by the U.A.E. and the U.S. State Department — following a similar compromise with Qatar in January — allows all sides to claim something of a victory.

The Hill - May 14, 2018

Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules

Frustrated with what he calls Democratic obstruction, President Trump is expected to press Senate Republicans during a lunch Tuesday to change the rules to speed up consideration of his nominees for vacant court seats and executive posts. It has taken an average of 84 days to confirm Trump’s nominees, far longer than for the four presidents who preceded him, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan group that tracks confirmations. "Waiting for approval of almost 300 nominations, worst in history. Democrats are doing everything possible to obstruct, all they know how to do," Trump tweeted Saturday.

Politico - May 14, 2018

Poll: Jewish Israelis Love Trump

The Trump administration on Monday celebrated moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. But ever since the move was announced in December, it has been condemned in the Middle East and around the world. The Arab League called the embassy relocation a “blatant attack on the feelings of Arabs and Muslims” and a “grave violation of the rules of international law” that could destabilize the region. British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.” Meanwhile, at the Gaza border, tens of thousands of Palestinians protested the embassy move—and Israeli fire killed dozens of them and wounded hundreds.

Washington Post - May 14, 2018

Melania Trump hospitalized, undergoes medical procedure ‘to treat a benign kidney condition’

First lady Melania Trump underwent a medical procedure to “treat a benign kidney condition” Monday morning at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is expected to remain hospitalized for the rest of the week. “The procedure was successful and there were no complications,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said in a statement. “Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week. The first lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere.” The statement vaguely described the procedure as “an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition” but offered no additional details about the first lady’s condition or treatment. Grisham declined to provide additional information or answer questions about the procedure, saying that the first lady is entitled to privacy.

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2018

Cornyn: Gina Haspel is uniquely suited to run the CIA

Last week, women across the nation were watching when the lights came on and the cameras rolled at Gina Haspel's Senate confirmation hearing. Haspel is an intelligence professional who has been shot at overseas, who has survived a coup d'etat, and who has quietly broken down barriers for women throughout her career. The hearing surely was not one of her tougher assignments. She has been nominated for one of the most important and most difficult jobs in the federal government -- director of the CIA. Anyone who has carefully studied her record knows that she should be confirmed for three reasons: her qualifications, her character and the spurious nature of her critics' claims.

New York Times - May 14, 2018

Harry Reid Has Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer

Harry Reid, the former Senate Democratic leader from Nevada, underwent surgery on Monday to remove a cancerous tumor from his pancreas. “His doctors caught the problem early during a routine screening, and his surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good,” Mr. Reid’s family said in a statement. Mr. Reid, 78, had the procedure at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore. He will next undergo chemotherapy, his family said. “He is grateful to his highly skilled team of doctors and to all who have sent and continue to send their love and support,” the statement said.

San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2018

Coal plants’ bailout request puts Perry on spot

While governor of Texas, Rick Perry was approached by a group of power executives who warned that unless state regulators took steps to raise electricity rates, power plants across the state would close and regular blackouts could follow. But Perry, a fierce advocate of keeping government out of the marketplace, turned them down. “He was heavily lobbied,” recalled Ken Anderson, a former Texas Public Utility Commissioner appointed by Perry. “Ultimately, he said, ‘We’re going to rely on the market,’ and that’s what we did.” But since taking over as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Perry’s devotion to the magic of markets has waned as he advocates for the same sort of government intervention he avoided in Austin to prop up the struggling nuclear and coal power plants.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2018

Levin: Washington could take a lesson from Texas on prison reform

Texans can teach Washington, D.C., a few lessons when it comes to barbecue, balanced budgets and criminal justice reform. If Congress can put aside the gridlock, it can unlock the benefits that Texas has achieved through a decade of changes to its prison policies. Fortunately, Texas' own Sen. John Cornyn is joining with bipartisan congressional leaders including Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to take advantage of this bipartisan opening at a time when the two parties can't agree on anything besides Teacher Appreciation Week. The legislation in question, the First Step Act, was approved by an impressive 25-5 bipartisan vote on a Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

Newsclips - May 14, 2018

Lead Stories

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 11, 2018

Stevens: A lesson from the Permian Basin: Infrastructure investment or bust

Consumers across the country shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that midstream infrastructure shortages in Texas won’t affect them. The Permian Basin is the biggest source of oil and natural gas in the United States, and the region’s output could single-handedly rival that of Iran or Iraq. Its supplies have largely propelled America’s transformation onto a path of energy independence, which has brought down consumer costs and helped to mitigate fluctuations on the global stage. The real consequences of inadequacies in the country’s pipeline capabilities were demonstrated this past winter. During a harsh cold spell in December natural gas prices in the Northeast jumped by as much as 70 times normal rates because supplies couldn’t be routed there quickly. The region’s electricity rates are more than 50 percent higher than the national average, despite growing production along the neighboring Marcellus Shale formation.

Washington Post - May 13, 2018

‘Buckle up’: As Mueller probe enters second year, Trump and allies go on war footing

The grand jury witnesses arrive one by one at the windowless room in the federal courthouse on Constitution Avenue in downtown Washington. They are struck first by how commonplace the setting feels — more classroom than courtroom, two witnesses said. One of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecutors stands at a lectern. The jurors, diverse by age and ethnicity, are attentive and take notes. The questioning is polite yet aggressive, surprising witnesses with its precision and often accompanied by evidence — including text messages and emails — displayed on a large, old-fashioned overhead projector. The investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which hits its one-year mark Thursday, has formed the cloudy backdrop of Donald Trump’s presidency — a rolling fog of controversy, much of it self-inflicted, that is a near-constant distraction for the commander in chief.

The Hill - May 11, 2018

Gonzales: The real questions and dangers of criminally charging the president

Public officials must be accountable for their actions, and the president is no exception. However, because of constitutional and practical considerations, presidential accountability is arguably different from any other public official. A president likely cannot be prosecuted for actions while in office, but even if the contrary is true, the scope of the pardon power, including a self pardon, would almost certainly relieve a president of criminal legal liability. A president enjoys immunity from civil liability for actions while in office because presidents must be free to make decisions for our country without fear of civil liability. However, a president can be subject to civil liability for actions before assuming office. What is unknown is whether a president can be prosecuted for conduct while in office. The president is unique and unlike any other public government official. A prosecution would result in the disruption of a branch of government and would raise serious constitutional issues.

Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2018

Criminal cases are unraveling three years after deadly biker shootout in Waco

It’s been three years since the bloodiest motorcycle gun battle in Texas history — a melee at high noon featuring dozens of guns, chains, knives and even machetes — left nine bikers dead, 18 injured and 177 in jail. There are still few answers about what happened on May 17, 2015, or why the Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the rival Cossacks went to war at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco as local and state police watched nearby. But as Thursday’s deadline approaches for new charges, the aggressive law enforcement effort once billed as a pro-active crackdown on biker violence has instead devolved into a struggling investigation marred by lack of evidence, prosecutorial overreach and a lame-duck district attorney’s office hobbled by unrelated allegations of corruption.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2018

In runoffs for Texas House, will GOP voters make a hard-right turn or stay in the middle?

Republican big shots, current and past, are choosing sides in a ferocious Texas House runoff with early voting beginning Monday. In the four-county district, stretching from Hillsboro in the west to Palestine in the east, the big names — Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry — are for Thomas McNutt, the candidate most critical of retiring Speaker Joe Straus. But former officeholders from the area, such as former state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and several former state representatives, including former Insurance Commissioner Elton Bomer and former Perry adviser Cliff Johnson, are backing political newcomer Cody Harris.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

Texas House seat on line in southern Dallas County runoff; GOP voters to pick challenger in District 107

Residents of southern Dallas County will choose their first new state representative in a quarter-century in a May 22 Democratic runoff. Republicans, meanwhile, will return to the polls to figure out which of two remaining candidates is their choice to take back a Dallas-Garland-Mesquite district the party lost in 2016. Early voting starts Monday in the the runoffs for House districts 109 and 107 and other races statewide. House District 109: It's a straight ticket to Austin in District 109, which includes portions of Dallas and DeSoto, all of Hutchins, Lancaster and Wilmer, plus Dallas County portions of Cedar Hill, Ferris, Glenn Heights and Ovilla.

Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2018

Early voting period opens in Republicans' congressional runoff to replace Hensarling

After surviving a field of eight and perhaps being a bit overshadowed by another Republican primary in March, Lance Gooden and Bunni Pounds find themselves squarely in the political spotlight as early voting starts Monday in their May 22 runoff for the U.S. District 5 congressional seat. They are bidding to replace retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, in a vast district that includes parts of Dallas, Garland and Mesquite and stretches south and east to include all of Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Kaufman and Van Zandt counties and part of Wood County.

Austin American-Statesman - May 10, 2018

Humphries, Bryant, Yeates: Farm bill creates conservation opportunities for Texas

As Gus McCrae wisely quipped in Lonesome Dove, “Yesterday’s gone. We can’t get it back.” The Farm Bill of yesterday — or four years ago, to be clearer — is coming to a close, soon to be replaced by a new bill. Though it may not seem like it at first glance, the Farm Bill has far-reaching effects for Texans and all Americans. Along with funding important initiatives such as affordable and accessible food options, commodities, production and trade, the legislation also funds critical conservation initiatives to assist farmers and landowners in voluntarily and proactively conserving land. Last year, there were more than 129 million acres of farm land in production in Texas, maintained by 240,000 farm operations. In fact, of the 171 million acres of land in the state, more than 95 percent of it is privately owned — and 85 percent is rural. So, when we think about farming and its impact on our everyday lives, what happens on our farm lands and private lands in Texas greatly affects the land, air and water quality; fish and wildlife populations; and healthy food sources for all of us.

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

Herman: A candidate running for a job he once couldn’t spell

Would you want a governor who once had trouble spelling governor? How about one who couldn’t remember his fourth-grade teacher’s name? Everybody remembers their fourth-grade teacher’s name, don’t they? And folks who want to be governor should be able to spell governor, particularly if they had a parent who had been governor. During a recent Austin stop, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White prefaced an announcement about his public school funding plan by recalling a 1982 incident when he was a fourth-grader whose dad, the late Mark White, was Texas attorney general and had just been elected governor. Andrew White was a student at Cedar Creek Elementary School in the Eanes school district.

Austin American-Statesman - May 11, 2018

Casey: Informed, not brainwashed

“We’re teaching our kids negative things — we’re pre-biasing them.” Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian recently claimed the reason Millennials like me care about solving climate change and aren’t elbowing each other for jobs in the oil and gas industry is because our entire generation has been brainwashed. Brainwashed? If true, it’d be a national emergency. After all, who could so effectively organize such an epic conspiracy to brainwash the 91 percent of us who accept climate change is happening? Is it a plot by the Democrats? No doubt Democrats have packaged climate action into a basket of progressive issues. But before this became a polarized issue — a condition unique to U.S. politics — politically active conservatives were more likely than liberals to believe scientists about the human contribution to climate change. And it’s definitely not just Democrats who care about climate change. In fact, 62 percent of Millennial Republicans accept climate change as a fact, and 57 percent prefer candidates who support climate action.

Houston Chronicle - May 10, 2018

Gonzalez: I’m a Texan. Ken Paxton wants to deport me.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a grudge — and he’s taking it out on me. I’m one of the 800,000 courageous immigrant youth who made the choice and applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program so that I could provide for my family, and Paxton has made it his personal mission to make my life hell. ... In August of last year, after his first attempt to kill DACA, I confronted Paxton, and he couldn’t even admit his role in terrorizing families like mine. Instead, Paxton has taken it upon himself to attack young people like me again and again. He is playing a sick game with my life and the lives of more than 124,000 other Texas immigrants, and we are here to say: We will not back down. On Tuesday, I learned that Paxton filed yet another lawsuit to attack immigrant youth.

Houston Chronicle - May 11, 2018

Andrew White blasts Abbott's response to Harvey: 'It's disgusting and I'll never forgive him'

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew White did not mince words over Greg Abbott at Friday's Democrat debate with Lupe Valdez. During his closing argument, White blasted Abbott and his response to Hurricane Harvey. "Our community should never be in that position again," White said describing the days during and after the storm. "... I saw people doing anything they could do to help their fellow Texans." "When the emergency ended and the cleanup began, Greg Abbott did almost nothing," White said. "The most expensive natural disaster in American history— we lost 100 lives— and Abbott's response: 'We'll deal with it in 2019 at the next regularly scheduled session.'"

Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2018

LGBTQ activists fight ‘gay panic defense’ used in Texas case

James R. Miller won’t serve any prison time after twice stabbing his gay neighbor in the back with a knife three years ago during a musical jam session in the victim’s home. That’s because the 67-year-old former Austin Police Department employee testified that he acted in self-defense, fearing for his life after his neighbor made sexual advances toward him. Last week, an Austin jury agreed, handing down a sentence of 10 years of probation and six months in the Travis County Jail for criminally negligent homicide. Miller had faced up to 10 years in prison. The claim Miller’s attorneys used is known as the “gay panic defense” among LGBTQ advocates, and in all but two states, it’s an allowed criminal defense strategy to prove the accused was trying only to defend themselves. When successful, it can result in murder charges being reduced to manslaughter or another lesser charge.

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

District 21 candidate Matt McCall wants to shake up Washington

About 25 years ago, Boerne resident Matt McCall dropped in on two town hall meetings held by his District 21 congressman, Lamar Smith. At both meetings, McCall said, he asked Smith what to do about Social Security, which seemed headed down a slow but steady path toward bankruptcy. Smith’s answers did not satisfy McCall. “He said, ‘No, no, no, it’s good as far as the eye can see.’ So he shushed me,” McCall said. “I thought, how sad. This isn’t boldness.” Twenty years later, in 2014, McCall had firm-enough financial footing to make the first of two primary challenges against Smith, a Republican who has served in Congress since 1987. The two Republicans align on many issues, McCall said, “but I didn’t think he was fighting anymore.”

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

Fikac: Charlie’s plight a ‘tiny story in a massive story of cruelty’: sanctuary founder

When word came that the Palm Valley Animal Center was preparing to euthanize a snow macaque the same day he came into the facility, a social media storm ensued. Animal advocates rallied, Sen. José Menéndez made calls, a Hill Country sanctuary provided a safe space for the primate and everyone celebrated a happy ending. But Charlie is only one of an unknown number of wild animals taken from their natural environment and kept as pets or breeding machines by individuals in Texas, enduring under-the-radar lives they weren’t meant to live.

San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2018

Border agents now removing children from their immigrant parents

Filadelfo Roman Cuxum fled Guatemala for the United States to keep his daughter safe from a ruthless gang, but it was the American government that took her away. Cuxum and his daughter, Angelina, 11, arrived in the Rio Grande Valley as the Trump administration began implementing a “zero tolerance” policy for those who enter the country illegally. Cuxum was sentenced last week to five days in prison for his transgression, but what concerned him far more was finding his daughter. “All I wanted was to protect her,” Cuxum, 33, said in federal court, “and now I don’t know where she is.” Such anguish has become familiar in McAllen’s federal courthouse. Parents who illegally crossed the border have shuffled into the courtroom in recent months and pleaded with a federal judge to help them locate their children.

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

Chip Roy’s plan to get Washington out of the way includes going there himself

Chip Roy didn’t expect everyone to rejoice in Donald Trump’s presidential victory. But to Roy, the “hand-wringing and consternation” from Trump’s detractors was further proof that America had strayed from the Founding Fathers’ vision for a decentralized government. No matter who wins, the presidency should never be so important that it evokes such a dismayed response, Roy thought on election night. “That's what was driving my thinking at the time,” Roy said. “All of these people, my fellow Americans with whom I probably disagree fairly vehemently on a lot of different issues, are literally panicking about this man being elected.”

Texas Tribune - May 14, 2018

How a federal lawsuit could open the door to online voter registration in Texas

From Jacquelyn Callanen’s perch in the Bexar County elections office, the period following Texas’ voter registration deadlines is best described as a paper tsunami. Some of it arrives by mail. Some stacks are delivered by volunteer voter registrars. The secretary of state’s office sends over a handful of boxes filled to the brim. No matter the carrier, last-minute drives to register people by the 30-day deadline ahead of each election typically leave local elections offices with a surge of work. To make sure prospective voters make it onto the rolls on time for Election Day, the county offices have to hire temporary workers to help thumb through and process tens of thousands of voter registration cards and applications.

Texas Tribune - May 14, 2018

In Texas' Republican runoffs, you're either with Trump or you're not

Things were looking good for William Negley, who was on track to make the runoff in the 18-way Republican primary for Texas' 21st Congressional District. But just a few days before the March 6 election, radio and digital ads began popping up warning voters that after Donald Trump clinched the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, "Negley backed the idea of an independent campaign against him that could've divided Republicans and helped" Hillary Clinton. The 11th-hour ads, deployed by an outside group supporting one of Negley's rivals, were based on him hitting the "like" button on a couple tweets during the presidential race: One referenced a Politico story on Evan McMullin's independent bid and the other was from conservative writer David French, who called such a campaign a "national necessity." On Election Day, Negley missed the runoff by just under 1,000 votes.

Texas Tribune - May 14, 2018

Ramsey: Texas Democrats Lupe Valdez and Andrew White stage a small race for the biggest office

This is Texas politics writ small. St. James Episcopal Church was not full on Friday night — not by a long shot — 13 minutes before the only debate in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas. And that’s not because it was some cavernous cathedral; it’s more like a 300-seat sanctuary. A few minutes before the candidates took the stage, the moderator, Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News, took the audience through the agreed-upon rules, asked them to be quiet throughout the debate and thanked the hosts for the hard work of putting together an event that frankly looked unlikely until just days before it came together.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 11, 2018

FWST: Andrew White is the best Democrat to face Greg Abbott in the fall

The Democrat who can best challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November has already lived in the Texas governor’s mansion — when he was a kid. Andrew White, 45, was a teenager when father Mark White served as governor from 1983 to 1987. And while he’s never run for elected office, it’s clear the Houston businessman and entrepreneur absorbed a wealth of public policy understanding at the family dinner table, while his father was at the center of state government. Like his dad, White wants to raise teacher salaries and provide more state money for schools. He didn’t just throw his ideas out there knowing the price tag would be steep. We were impressed that he’s identified ways to pay for his plans, even though some of them are controversial.

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

Garcia: For O’Rourke, November means feast or famine

Come November, it’ll either be feast or famine for Beto O’Rourke’s political career — and, by extension, the Democratic Party in Texas. O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, recently told Peggy Fikac, the Austin bureau chief for the San Antonio Express-News, that if he loses to Cruz, he won’t run again. It’s easy to scoff at such a promise. After all, no candidate wants to create a sense that they’re just paving the road for a future campaign. In the case of O’Rourke, however, it has the ring of truth. For one thing, he voluntarily term-limited himself out of his U.S. House seat, promising that he would hold the seat for no more than four terms. Sure enough, three terms into his congressional career, he gave up his House seat to take on Cruz.

Midland Reporter-Telegram - May 8, 2018

Hightower: Texas needs more than Band-Aid approach to fix education

Teacher appreciation week has finally arrived, and for most teachers this is a welcome celebration of their efforts near the end of their school year. However, this year’s observance was preceded by several walkout and/or strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona. There seems to be an intensifying debate among our elected officials over the priorities surrounding public education in America. Still, many are asking themselves: “Why are teachers doing this?” It’s difficult to say without being on the ground in each of these places, but first and foremost, teachers have grown weary of trying to educate students without suitable resources. This isn’t just about pay. Teachers have outdated materials, aging facilities, increased demands of testing accountability, and they are tired of the “business as usual” attitude. They want change in how we allocate funds for education --statewide and nationally.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 11, 2018

2016 Russian Facebook ads targeted Texas secessionist movement, documents show

Among the thousands of Russian-linked ads that bombarded Facebook users in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election was one that sought to capitalize on the Texas secessionist movement, according to documents released Thursday by Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Commission. The Texas-targeted ad was on a Facebook page called "Heart of Texas" and it took direct aim at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as someone standing in the way of Texas independence. Its headline message was "Get ready to secede!"

KTVT - May 7, 2018

Texas Mental Health Counselors Waiting Months To Be Licensed

From a lack of access to treatment to a shortage of beds at state hospitals, advocates say there’s a major mental health crisis in Texas. But Consumer Justice found thousands of qualified people who want to help, can’t. Amanda, a mother of three in Plano, is one of them. “The official title is licensed professional counselor, and I just wanted to help people,” she said. She went to college at UT Dallas, graduate school at UT Southwestern Medical and completed 3,000 hours as an intern before applying to become an LPC. “We submit to the state and then we just wait.” She did not want to use her last name for fear of retribution by the state board,” she said.

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2018

SAISD courted 3 charter networks last year, emails show

Almost a year ago, the San Antonio Independent School District’s chief innovation officer told the leaders of an out-of-state charter network that the district wanted to recruit three or four charter management organizations, or CMOs, to launch and operate SAISD schools as early as this fall. “I am currently in the middle of advance conversations with two other nationally-based CMOs that have schools in the city (but outside of San Antonio ISD) to become part of our ‘system of great schools’ vision and mission,” SAISD’s Mohammed Choudhury said in a July 5 email to Katie Duffy and Seth Andrew of the New York-based network, called Democracy Prep Public Schools. “Our hope is that a third network (like Democracy Prep) would join them as part of the ‘original family’ on this journey that does not (yet) have any schools in San Antonio.”

Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2018

Fight over Doppler radar site pits government against property rights of developer

The 55-foot metal tower that holds what looks like a giant white soccer ball helps aircraft take off and land safety at Dallas Love Field every day. But the Doppler radar weather station near the border of Dallas and Irving is now at the center of a heated land dispute between the Federal Aviation Administration and one of the Dallas area’s biggest developers, Billingsley Co. A lot of money is at stake. Billingsley at one point owned the quarter-acre site the Doppler radar sits on as part of a larger purchase the company made in 2015 to expand its successful Cypress Waters development. The 1,000-acre community at LBJ Freeway and Belt Line Road has thousands of apartments, two retail centers and offices for major businesses.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - May 13, 2018

Calabresi: Mueller’s Investigation Crosses the Legal Line

Judge T.S. Ellis has expressed skepticism about the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “What we don’t want in this country is . . . anyone with unfettered power,” Judge Ellis, who is to preside over the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, told prosecutor Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben May 4. “So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers.” Judge Ellis is right to be skeptical. Mr. Mueller’s investigation has crossed a constitutional line, for reasons the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in the 1988 case Morrison v. Olson. That case is best known for Justice Antonin Scalia’s powerful lone dissent arguing that the post-Watergate independent counsel statute was unconstitutional. But Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s opinion for the court, while upholding the statute, set forth limits that the Mueller investigation has exceeded. At issue is the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, which provides that “principal officers” must be appointed by the president with the Senate’s consent. Rehnquist wrote that independent counsel Alexia Morrison qualified as an “inferior officer,” not subject to the appointment process, because her office was “limited in jurisdiction” to “certain federal officials suspected of certain serious federal crimes.” Mr. Mueller, in contrast, is investigating a large number of people and has already charged defendants with many different kinds of crimes, including—as in Mr. Manafort’s case—ones unrelated to any collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Politico - May 13, 2018

Toosi: Trump’s Jerusalem bet defies direst predictions

When President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and promised last December to move the U.S. Embassy there, the predictions of violence came fast and furious. "Trump's Jerusalem Plan Is a Deadly Provocation," read one headline. "Any second this place could be set on fire," said a Jerusalem police official. The State Department urged diplomats abroad to heighten security ahead of Trump's Dec. 6 announcement. Despite visible anger and some localized violence after Trump unveiled his decision, the region did not go up in flames. No embassies were stormed. The reaction was surprisingly muted — especially in Arab countries whose leaders have long supported Palestinian claims on Jerusalem.

Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2018

Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress to give prayer at U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem

Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress will give the opening prayer Monday at the controversial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The pastor of First Baptist Dallas has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and said that he had "courage that no other U.S. president has" had to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. "This is a historic moment because it represents the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something that the Bible and secular history have told us for 3,000 years," Jeffress said on Fox & Friends.

Associated Press - May 14, 2018

Romney: Jeffress wrong man to give Jerusalem embassy prayer

Senate candidate Mitt Romney of Utah says a prominent Baptist minister shouldn't be giving the prayer that opens the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem because he's a "religious bigot." In a tweet Sunday night, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee criticized Dallas minister Robert Jeffress for his remarks about Jews, Mormons and Islam. Romney said, "Robert Jeffress says 'you can't be saved by being a Jew,' and 'Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.' He's said the same about Islam." The liberal group Media Matters reports on its website that Jeffress made the remarks cited by Romney in a 2011 speech at the conservative Values Voter Summit.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Associated Press - May 13, 2018

Trump may be the best thing that ever happened to Dubya

George W. Bush received three standing ovations last week, the first for the mere mention of his name. Bush was in town for the Atlantic Council's annual fundraiser, where he received the Distinguished International Leadership Award from the influential think tank. More than 800 guests from 70 countries - including former presidents, prime ministers and military leaders - gave the 43rd president a warm, enthusiastic welcome. He was introduced via video by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said, "Ultimately, true leadership requires being, deep down, a good person." Bush responded with vintage Dubya: self-deprecating jokes, references to his mom and dad, and highlighting the importance of global diplomacy - specifically his administration's work on the AIDS crisis. "I'm honored to get this award," he told the audience. "I'd really like to dedicate it to the generosity of the American people and ask you to spread the word about what this great compassionate nation has done."

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2018

Gulf War vets’ ills shrugged off by VA

The Veterans Administration has estimated that about 40 percent of the 700,000 troops who took part are afflicted with what has come to be known as Gulf War Illness — an assortment of seemingly disconnected ailments that include brain cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal ailments and other illnesses. Twenty-seven years later, costs of the Gulf War still are being tallied, as ailing veterans battle the Veterans Administration for compensation they believe they’ve earned. Many of them feel victimized again by the recent firing of VA Secretary David Shulkin, who’d promised to address long-standing problems with the VA’s handling of compensation claims.

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

Granof: The U.S. debt is an unsolvable crisis. Why are we silent?

Trending stories recently have included foreign policy, airplane safety and Michael Pompeo’s confirmation as secretary of state. Less has been reported about the just released Congressional Budget Office report that forecasts an explosion of federal debt to levels far greater than seen since the end of World War II. In the immortal words of Capt. Louis Renault of “Casablanca” fame, “I’m shocked.” Yet, our elected officials seem reluctant to do anything, and the American people are mostly silent on the subject. Why? Perhaps because the solutions are simply too unpalatable for any of us to consider. The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028 only confirms what the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in its 2017 U.S. government financial report released in February and, indeed, has been warning for at least the past decade.

New York Times - May 9, 2018

European Companies Rushed to Invest in Iran. What Now?

European companies moved quickly to invest in Iran after it agreed in 2015 to mothball its nuclear weapons program in return for an end to economic sanctions. Automakers like Daimler and PSA Peugeot Citroën linked up with Iranian partners to sell vehicles. Siemens of Germany struck a deal to deliver locomotives. Total of France began a project to explore offshore natural gas. Yet even before President Trump pulled out of the agreement with Iran, many companies had already tempered their expectations and limited their investment. Now their prospects look murkier as European leaders try to determine whether there is a path forward without the United States.

Associated Press - May 13, 2018

Amid warnings from China, Taiwan boosts domestic arms makers

Standing on his company's sprawling campus in central Taiwan, Lin Nan-juh says he's able to make any plane his island's government calls for. "We can do whatever's asked," says Lin, president of Aerospace Industrial Development Corp., or AIDC, a leader in the defense industry serving the isolated self-governing island that China claims as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary. It's a bold statement with potentially major significance for Taiwan's democratic survival as it seeks to build up its domestic defense industry in the face of China's warnings and the reluctance of foreign arms suppliers to provide it with the planes, ships, submarines and other hardware it needs to defend its 23 million people.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - May 13, 2018

‘A rogue state’-- As California defies federal immigration policy, calling itself a sanctuary, the state’s conservatives are pushing back

For nearly two decades, Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt. Don Laventure has kept inmate records at what was once one of the nation’s largest jails, a campus of low cement buildings set among seasonally green hills. He knows his work. Yet since January, a flowchart drawn in green highlighter has hung over the window above his desk at Santa Rita Jail. It is a cheat sheet for how to follow the rules imposed by California’s “sanctuary state” law, which provides broad legal protection from federal deportation to the state’s estimated 2.5 million undocumented immigrants. The chart is a collection of arrows, some pointing sideways, some down, some toward U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and even more pointing away from it. “We need to let everyone who sits in here know how this works,” Laventure said, “because not everybody knows what’s going on.”

Ventura County Star - May 12, 2018

Mathews: California and Texas should flex their muscles

The drill is now familiar. A Democratic administration imposes policies contrary to Texas’ conservative preferences. And so Texas sues constantly and ties up federal policy. Now that Republicans are in power, California is targeted for its progressive policies — and responds with relentless, choking litigation. The New York Times recently called this a legal civil war. It also takes time and resources away from your states’ efforts to improve your people’s lives. And the resentments create internal divisions. Both of your states have movements seeking secession from the United States. The good news: Together, the two of you can break the cycle. Start with a peace summit. The goals of the talks should be twofold. First, for both states to reaffirm their American-ness and commit to peaceful coexistence. Second, for both states to work together to reduce federal power.

Newsclips - May 13, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 11, 2018

Texas doctors send letter slamming Blue Cross’ ER billing process

Some of the state’s most influential doctors’ groups are pressing the insurance commissioner to investigate a change that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is making to its emergency room coverage. Starting June 4, some policyholders with the state’s largest health insurer could face sticker shock after a visit to the emergency room. In a letter made public last month, Blue Cross said it will no longer pay the bill if it’s determined later that the patient wasn’t facing a serious or life-threatening medical event.

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

Valdez holds her own debating White, but questions on readiness remain

Lupe Valdez and Andrew White held their one and only debate Friday night in the campaign to earn the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in November. Each of the candidates held their own, which was welcome news for supporters of Valdez, the front-runner whose sometimes shaky performances in answering questions on the campaign trail had raised doubts about whether she was well-versed and sure-footed enough to be the party’s standard-bearer in the fall or serve as governor if she prevailed. “There were no knockouts in the debate,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said. “It’s a split decision, but White wins on points. He showed competency, honesty and likability, but it’s likely too little too late to convince many progressive Democrats to support him or expand the pool of moderates to show up and vote.”

New York Times - May 12, 2018

Alexander: Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are

I know many liberals, and two of them really are my best friends. Liberals make good movies and television shows. Their idealism has been an inspiration for me and many others. Many liberals are very smart. But they are not as smart, or as persuasive, as they think. And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected. People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.

Politico - May 10, 2018

‘When gerrymandering backfires’: Democrats go after once-safe GOP seats

Republicans redrew congressional districts across the country in 2010 in an attempt to consign Democrats to a semipermanent House minority. But in 2018, the long-successful GOP insurance policy is at risk of backfiring in a big way — not only carving a path for a takeover, but possibly allowing for bigger Democratic gains. In many states, Republicans maximized gains in the House by spreading GOP voters across as many districts as possible. Typically, that left Democrats with around 40 to 45 percent of the vote in those districts, making them difficult under normal circumstances for the minority party to contest.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

Herman: Dem gov candidates spar over abortion and who can beat Abbott

For Lupe Valdez, still trying to shake doubts about her candidacy two months after coming within seven percentage points of winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination without a runoff, it was an hour to try to push back on the notion that she’s underschooled on issues. For Andrew White, the Friday night debate — the only one prior to the May 22 runoff (early voting starts Monday) — it was an hour to make the case that he’s the Democrat best positioned to beat GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November. Valdez, former Dallas County sheriff, confronted her top challenge when moderator Gromer Jeffers of the Dallas Morning News addressed it head-on in a question about why the state’s major newspapers, after interviewing both candidates, endorsed White.

Austin American-Statesman - May 11, 2018

Judge gives Texas 1 week to fix motor-voter law violation

A federal judge has given state officials one week to create a plan to allow Texans to automatically register to vote when they go online to obtain or renew a driver’s license. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia last month issued a one-page ruling warning state officials that Texas’ online practices violate the “motor voter” provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, enacted in 1993 to increase voter participation by simplifying the registration process. On Friday, Garcia released a 61-page opinion explaining his conclusions and why, without the need for a trial, he sided with a civil rights group that sued Texas on the issue.

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

Did Paxton file DACA lawsuit in Brownsville to game the system?

In his bid to end Obama-era deportation protections for young immigrants, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton went 350 miles out of his way to file suit in Brownsville’s federal courthouse. The effort paid off when he got the judge he wanted. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, nominated by a Republican president, has lambasted the Obama administration’s immigration practices in prior cases and gave Paxton a victory in a similar lawsuit in 2015. With history in mind, Paxton expressed confidence that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, “will meet the same fate” — a Hanen order blocking the immigration program in all 50 states.

Austin American-Statesman - May 11, 2018

Republican runoff in CD 27 reflects party’s political dynamic

The Republican runoff race in Congressional District 27, which sprawls along the Texas coast and takes in parts of Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, is emblematic of the current political dynamic within the Republican Party. Bech Bruun, a 39-year-old Corpus Christi native, has worked his way through an array of state jobs, including in the administrations of Govs. Greg Abbott and Rick Perry, most recently as chair of the Texas Water Development Board. Carrying the endorsement of the former governor and boasting a substantial money-raising advantage, he is the conventional favorite. But Michael Cloud, a 42-year-old communications firm owner who is the former chairman of the Victoria County GOP, trailed Bruun by only two points in the initial March primary. Cloud, whose company does video production and website development, has tried to use Bruun’s government work against him, suggesting he’s out of touch with the district in which he grew up.

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2018

PolitiFact: Term ‘illegal alien’ rarely appears in federal law

At an April 18 Texas House hearing, state Rep. Mary González, D-San Elizario, elicited agreement from Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that the words that “we choose to use” are powerful. González told McCraw she “had concerns about the language that you use and the agency is using in talking about undocumented immigrants. If we’re talking about children, for example, unaccompanied minors, then using words like ‘illegal aliens,’ I have had a concern about that, right?” she said. “My question is, is the agency standard in typically referring to undocumented immigrants as IA’s?” McCraw answered: “I always use ‘illegal aliens’ and I have when I was assigned to the Department of Justice, when I worked at the FBI, when I was assigned as the director of the foreign terrorism task force because it’s a term, it’s a legal term. It’s in statute. ... The term appears — yet scarcely — in federal law. Best we can tell, no law defines the term as referring to all individuals living in the U.S. without legal authorization. Where the term does appear, it’s undefined or part of an introductory title or limited to apply to certain individuals convicted of felonies. On balance, we rate McCraw’s claim Half True.

Houston Chronicle - May 10, 2018

HC: Paxton’s DACA lawsuit strays from Texas Republican mainstream

It must be tough to be a Republican state attorney general with a member of your own party occupying the White House. All that fun you had suing a Democratic president gets taken away. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, like his predecessor Greg Abbott, took great pleasure in suing the Obama administration. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost, but it was always red meat to the base. Now with Donald Trump in the White House, what to do, what to do? Sue the Obama administration, anyhow. That’s essentially what Paxton did this week when his office filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Six other states — all with Republican attorneys general — joined Texas in the lawsuit. It’s a move that has even perplexed other Texas Republicans.

Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2018

HC: Texas Democrats’ best hope rests with White for governor

As the Astros played the Rangers in downtown Houston Friday night, an arguably more important but far less entertaining Texas rivalry played out in Austin. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White faced each other in a marginally broadcast, days before Democrats begin casting early runoff votes for their party’s nominee in the race for Texas governor. We haven’t seen the overnight ratings — even the television station involved decided it merited only internet livestream coverage — but we’re guessing the ballgame attracted more viewers. Unlike Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, Valdez and White aren’t exactly Hall of Fame material. But the candidates for Texas governor had no problem making contact with the mostly softball questions thrown out during this debate.

Dallas Morning News - May 11, 2018

In Trump we trust? Texas border towns that thrived on NAFTA await president's next move

More than your average mayor, Pete Saenz has kept a close eye on the news over the last 10 months. He watches CNN and Fox News. He reads the local Laredo Morning Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He scans for updates — even small ones — on NAFTA, the trade agreement that fuels Laredo’s economy and which President Donald Trump’s administration, with representatives from Canada and Mexico, has spent the better part of the last year trying to change. “It’s very much a part of my routine. I stay very close to the news,” said Saenz. “It would be disastrous for us not to have NAFTA.” Before NAFTA was signed in 1994, Saenz said, Laredo was a dusty South Texas town with a stubbornly high unemployment rate for its 100,000 residents.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

John Cornyn visits Dallas in push to model federal prisons after Texas' success

Many criminals who go to prison will inevitably get out of prison. It's what happens afterward that matters, said Sen. John Cornyn. Will they have the skills necessary to rebuild their lives? Or will they be locked up again? "Texas has always had a reputation for being tough on crime," the Republican from Texas said at a news conference Friday outside the Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution. "What we've decided is to get smart on crime." Friday's activities, including a tour and roundtable discussion, were to have included White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has supported such criminal justice reforms. However, his flight was delayed, and he was said to have taken part in the chat by phone.

San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2018

As the sheriff and businessman go one more round, Democrats are divided

Kaylee Delgado was ready to find inspiration in Lupe Valdez’s run for governor. “The idea of a Latina in power is, obviously, something very appealing to a young Latina like myself,” said Delgado, who grew up in Brownsville and is majoring in biology at St. Edward’s University in Austin. Delgado’s parents were migrant farmworkers when she was growing up, and her father still is. That made Valdez’s race particularly meaningful, since the candidate came from a migrant farmworker family to blaze a trail as the first woman and first Latina elected sheriff of Dallas county. But after hearing Valdez “skirting around” a question about her record as sheriff on detaining immigrants for the federal government, Delgado went the other way. She and other student leaders with the Latino group Jolt agreed to back Houston businessman Andrew White in the May 22 runoff for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas Tribune - May 12, 2018

The University of Texas System, UT-Tyler and a $1.7 million broken promise to admitted students

The University of Texas System is a leader in public higher education, known globally for its flagship in Austin, seven other academic campuses and six major health institutions. But the system said Friday it was unable to fix a $1.7 million-a-year problem that arose last month when its campus in the East Texas city of Tyler abruptly withdrew full-ride scholarship offers to about five dozen international students. UT-Tyler said that it had mistakenly made too many offers and could not afford to deliver all of the scholarships it had promised. Most of the admitted students who lost out were from Nepal.

Texas Tribune - May 11, 2018

Stone, Jennings: Why Texans hate talking about politics

Texans don’t like talking politics because we’ve let Washington dictate what we understand politics to be. The 2018 Texas Civic Health Index produced by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, reports that only 23 percent of Texans discuss politics often with their family or friends, placing Texas at 50th in the nation. How did we wind up at the bottom? And what can we do to pull ourselves up? We suggest reevaluating our routine understanding of politics. As many voters in our state slide towards silence and civic apathy, we must mute the screech of partisan conflict emanating from the national stage and reengage with the politics of city halls and backyards, the politics that has a tangible impact on citizens and their day-to-day lives.

Houston Chronicle - May 11, 2018

Andrew White blasts Abbott's response to Harvey: 'It's disgusting and I'll never forgive him'

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew White did not mince words over Greg Abbott at Friday's Democrat debate with Lupe Valdez. During his closing argument, White blasted Abbott and his response to Hurricane Harvey. "Our community should never be in that position again," White said describing the days during and after the storm. "... I saw people doing anything they could do to help their fellow Texans." "When the emergency ended and the cleanup began, Greg Abbott did almost nothing," White said. "The most expensive natural disaster in American history— we lost 100 lives— and Abbott's response: 'We'll deal with it in 2019 at the next regularly scheduled session.'"

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 12, 2018

Texans need new strategy to pass marijuana legalization, advocate says

Police estimated that more than 1,500 people marched through the streets of downtown Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon calling for state lawmakers to legalize the use of marijuana for all purposes. But one speaker told the crowd that they have tried every method that he knows of to get that point across and still state lawmakers lag behind the will of the people on this issue. Most people in Texas favor marijuana legalization, said David Sloan, spokesman for DFWNORML, the organization that sponsors the annual Fort Worth march and rally calling for marijuana legalization.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 12, 2018

Kennedy: At 70, Lupe Valdez has 'the energy of a 2-year-old' for governor's race

At 70, a retired U.S. Army captain and federal-agent-turned-Texas-sheriff might not seem like the candidate to turn the Texas Governor's Mansion blue. “But I have the energy of a 2-year-old!” Dallas Democrat Lupe Valdez shouted Saturday, pinballing around the pulpit in a Fort Worth church barely 12 hours after she skated safely through an Austin debate against Houston investor Andrew White. In her first morning as the unquestioned frontrunner in the May 22 party runoff for the right to face Gov. Greg Abbott, Valdez showed a local Democratic women's club the fervor that delivered her to four tough election victories as Dallas County sheriff.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 11, 2018

Special election to fill Blake Farenthold's seat could cost Nueces County $125K

Former U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold has refused to pay for the upcoming special election to fill the seat from which he resigned, meaning taxpayers will be responsible for that cost. Now, Nueces County taxpayers know how about how much this race will cost them — $125,000. "That's a lot of money," County Judge Loyd Neal said Wednesday. "It certainly wasn't planned for." Farenthold resigned April 6 amid growing controversy over the revelation that he had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment from his former communications director. Farenthold has denied any wrongdoing, and initially promised to repay the $84,000, before later backtracking on that statement.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2018

Grieder: Harris County Republican slates are giving voters bad advice

Imagine being faced with eviction, or fleeced by a tradesman. Or imagine that your dog had nipped a small child, or that your sweetheart had always dreamed of a simple courthouse wedding. On such occasions, you might find yourself explaining your situation to someone like Jeff Williams, a Republican who serves as Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2, in Harris County. Williams, who took the bench in 2011, is seeking a third term in office — and he’ll get one, if he wins the Republican primary runoff on May 22. There is no Democratic candidate in that precinct. But Williams placed second in the March primary, and might well lose the runoff to his opponent, Mike Wolfe. And so, on Thursday, Williams sent me an email asking if he could explain his situation to me.

San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2018

Bexar County DA candidates weigh in on dismissal of prominent San Antonio businesswoman’s DWI charge

The head of the San Antonio Police Officers Association on Saturday called on the Texas Attorney General’s Office to look into why the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office dismissed a drunken driving charge against a prominent San Antonio businesswoman accused of nearly crashing into a police officer earlier this year. “It’s just ridiculous,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association. “It does not pass the smell test.” The decision to dismiss the case against Catherine Amato — who owns and operates several area restaurants and is married to Charlie Amato, chairman and co-founder of SWBC and a Spurs shareholder — raised the eyebrows of the two candidates vying to replace Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood. But they stopped short of condemning LaHood’s office or declaring that Catherine Amato had received preferential treatment.

San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2018

Gun permit requests surged after Sutherland Springs massacre

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS — A hunter and taxidermist, Steve Bradbury is a proud gun owner who thought about getting a license to carry a handgun but never considered it a priority. That changed after Bradbury, a San Antonio firefighter, was driving past First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs the day of the Nov. 5 massacre that killed 26 people and stopped to help first responders take care of the victims. After that, he had a different mindset: “I said, ‘All right, that’s it, I’m getting it.” About a month later, Bradbury took a couple of tests, one on paper and one at a shooting range, and got his license to carry, along with five or so buddies. Others were inspired in the same way.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2018

Congresswoman Maxine Waters to TSU class: Stay woke

Waters, an advocate for civil rights and outspoken opponent of President Donald Trump, used her speech to encourage students to focus their talents on reshaping the world rather than looking for a big payday. “No matter what you decide to do with your degrees, you have been trained to make an impact on this world and people’s lives,” she said. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Highlighting recent indictments and the scandals that have hit the White House, Waters said lawyers will play an important role shaping Trump’s presidency. “Think about the attorneys on the national stage,” she told the students. “You all are now assuming the same responsibilities.”

Houston Chronicle - May 11, 2018

Judge sides with city of Houston in term limits lawsuit

Politicians at City Hall can continue serving four-year terms — at least for now — after a state district judge sided with the city of Houston Friday in a lawsuit seeking to void the November 2015 election in which voters lengthened elected officials’ terms from two to four years. The plaintiffs, who plan to appeal, allege former mayor Annise Parker and the City Council misled voters in setting the ballot language for the proposition, which changed the city's term limits to a maximum of two four-year terms, ending the system of three two-year terms that had been in place since 1991.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

All of the wonderful people: Columnist Jacquielynn Floyd says goodbye

A good marker for the time to quit is when you have enough happy hour stories to last the rest of your life. And, y'all, I am way past that goal line. Four decades in the news business — the last 28 years here at The Dallas Morning News — have been a gift, a privilege, a fun-house ride. Even now, in an era that has left respected news organizations in financial turmoil and that casts reporters as cartoon political demons, people tell me how interesting my job must be. Why yes, I tell them, it is. But what I'm really thinking is, Brother, you ain't a-woofin'! It would be rude to lord it over people, but the unvarnished fact is just this: I am extraordinarily lucky.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - May 10, 2018

Strassel: About That FBI ‘Source’

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications. Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.” Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it.

San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2018

Former Obama housing secretary weighing presidential run

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro returned to New Hampshire on Saturday to give a commencement speech, sparking more speculation that he's gearing up for a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. The former San Antonio, Texas, mayor and Obama administration official said he'll decide on a White House run after the midterm elections, adding "by the end of the year I'm going to make a decision." Castro was in the first-in-the-nation primary state to deliver the commencement address at New England College in Henniker. The private, non-profit school was founded after World War II by and for veterans, and says it's the most diverse college or university in New Hampshire.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

Sen. Ted Cruz to attend U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among a handful of Republican senators expected to attend the controversial opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, his office has confirmed. The trip comes roughly five months after President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Cruz, who has long called for such a move, praised the decision as “courageous and heroic.” But many Arab and European leaders slammed Trump for upending a decades-old foreign policy in which U.S. presidents declined to weigh in on the contested city, leaving the issue to be resolved in peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Both groups claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2018

Ted Cruz joins call to work 'Mondays and Fridays' to rein in spending

Call it the new "nuclear option." In a missive released Friday to GOP Leader Mitch McConnell calling for "expedited" Senate action of future spending bills and judicial nominations, Texas Republican Ted Cruz and a group of conservative allies say they stand ready to work "Mondays and Fridays" as well as nights and weekends. Veteran Congress watchers know that lawmakers rarely do legislative business on Mondays and Fridays, those being generally reserved for travel to and from lawmakers' districts. But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and fiscal hawks in Congress seem ready to go to the mat to avoid another $1.3 trillion annual spending bill like the one President Donald Trump reluctantly signed in March.

Politico - May 12, 2018

Trump praises North Korea's move to dismantle its nuclear testing site

President Donald Trump on Saturday praised North Korea after the country announced further details of its plans to wind down its nuclear weapons testing program in advance of high-level talks with the U.S. in June. "North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th," the president wrote on Twitter. "Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!" North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Saturday that a "ceremony for the dismantling of the nuclear test ground" will occur weather pending at the remote Punggye-ri site between May 23 and the 25, according to a statement published by the country's state news agency.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

Trump plan for drug prices won’t include direct negotiations

After more than a year of bold promises, President Donald Trump is unveiling his plans for reducing drug prices. But they don't include a key campaign pledge to use the buying power of the government's Medicare program to negotiate lower costs for seniors. In advance of Trump's speech on his plans Friday, officials previewed a raft of old and new ideas to increase competition and improve transparency in the notoriously complex drug pricing system with the ultimate aim of wringing more savings for consumers. It's an approach that avoids a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but it could also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

Tarrant: Legal marijuana could cost people their guns — and the NRA is worried about it

As far as the federal government is concerned, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration defines Schedule 1 drugs as having “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin and LSD are listed in the same category as marijuana. Federal law prohibits any unlawful user of marijuana — or any other federally restricted substance — from purchasing guns. Federal law trumps state law, according to the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The NRA doesn’t take an official position on marijuana use, but it’s not hard to figure that some percentage of the 50 million or more Americans who own guns use marijuana. An equally large number identify as “current” marijuana users.

New York Times - May 12, 2018

A Surge of Women Candidates, but Crowded Primaries and Tough Races Await

Just as the women’s marches and #MeToo helped define 2017, the surging numbers of female candidates have defined the midterm races now underway. Yet for all that, the November elections may not produce a similar surge in the number of women in Congress. More than half the female candidates for House and Senate seats are challenging incumbents, who historically almost always win; there were far more wide-open races in 1992’s so-called Year of the Woman, which doubled the number of women in Congress. A large percentage of the women now running for open seats are in districts that favor the other party. And many female candidates are clustered in the same districts, meaning many will be eliminated in this spring and summer’s primaries.

Washington Post - May 12, 2018

In wide-open 2020 presidential field, Democrats are road-testing messages — and trying to redefine their party

The future of the Democratic Party has been booking late-night TV gigs, waking up for morning drive-time radio and showing up at watering holes in rural counties to try out new material. Before the start of a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, at least 25 candidates — mayors, governors, entrepreneurs, members of the House and Senate — have hit the road to workshop their vision, experiment with catchphrases and test policy ideas that could keep President Trump from winning a second term. Many deny that their actions have anything to do with a coming presidential run, but they unmistakably play off the chords of campaigns past, seeking a way to break through a political maw that has been focused more on the latest actions of the president and the coming midterm elections.

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

What Nancy Pelosi said in Dallas about impeachment, North Korea, Texas and more

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday stopped by The Dallas Morning News' editorial board to pitch Democrats' proposals ahead of the 2018 elections. The Democratic former House speaker — who will tour Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas on Saturday morning with Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson — also spoke about her views on President Donald Trump, impeachment, North Korea and other issues. ... Pelosi took multiple shots at the president's policies, his behavior and his comments about Sen. John McCain during the 2016 election. But she's not in favor of impeachment and believes talking about it is "a gift to Republicans."

Dallas Morning News - May 11, 2018

AT&T ousts top lobbyist after payments to Trump attorney

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson sent an email to all employees Friday morning, calling the decision to hire President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen "a big mistake" and saying AT&T's top lobbyist will leave the company. "Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged," he said. "There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake." His remarks are the strongest that the Dallas-based telecom giant has made since reports Tuesday that it paid $600,000 to Essential Consultants to get advice about policy matters, including its merger with Time Warner.

Politico - May 12, 2018

‘What Happened to Alan Dershowitz?’

If you wanted to feel the full force of the intellectual whirlpool that is American politics in 2018, the place to go on February 25 was the Village Underground, a nightclub beneath East 3rd Street, where Alan Dershowitz, the longtime Harvard Law professor and civil liberties lion, was debating the future of American democracy on the side of President Donald Trump. Opposing him were a National Review writer and a former FBI agent, arguing that the special investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign is well within the bounds of American law. Dershowitz, along with a conservative columnist for the Washington Examiner, was making the case that the Mueller investigation is dangerous to our entire system. In the room, which is normally a comedy club, it was impossible to shake the feeling that something was off. Two years ago, it would’ve seemed far more natural for the quartet to swap partners and switch sides.

Washington Post - May 12, 2018

Congressional candidate drops an f-bomb on the NRA in new campaign ad

A short political ad from a New Mexico congressional candidate is courting controversy for its profane message directed at the National Rifle Association. In a 15-second television commercial, Democratic candidate Pat Davis opens with an f-bomb before he even blinks. “F— the NRA,” Davis says, against a backdrop of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. “Their pro-gun policies have resulted in dead children, dead mothers and dead fathers.” He finishes: “I’m Pat Davis, and I approve this message. Because if Congress won’t change our gun laws, we’re changing Congress.”

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2018

George W. Bush, returning to Trump's Washington, warns of 'dangers of isolationism'

Former President George W. Bush, in a rare return to the nation's capital, warned Thursday of the "dangers of isolationism." The 43rd president made no reference to President Donald Trump or the current commander in chief's "America first" focus as Bush accepted a distinguished international leadership award from the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank. But Bush didn't hesitate, either, in touting "America's indispensable role in the world." "One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes," he said, quoting former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The Hill - May 11, 2018

Dems worry Trump will win over economy

Even as signs point to Democrats winning back the House, the party is concerned that their hopes of a blue wave could turn into something smaller if Trump and the GOP are effective on their economic messaging ahead of November. Interviews with more than a dozen Democrats suggest a number of people in the party are worried that Democrats aren’t doing enough to provide a counterargument. “It’s a very big concern,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “The economy is the No. 1 issue out there for people and right now Trump has a very aggressive economic message that seems to cross traditional party lines to voters.”