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Newsclips - February 23, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Fracking billionaires pump millions into Texas races, pushing state GOP even further to the right

A civil war is raging among Texas Republicans. Nowhere are the big-money moves and political schisms more apparent than in a little-publicized state Senate race on the east side of Dallas. From East Dallas’ blue precincts to moderate Republican turf in Garland and Mesquite, to ruby-red Rowlett and a huge swath of heavily GOP-leaning territory in East Texas, the sprawling Senate District 2 offers a glimpse at how a few West Texas billionaires are trying to tip the Legislature in a very different and much more hard-right direction. Tea party-aligned state Sen. Bob Hall, a first-term Republican from Edgewood, is trying to fend off a challenge from pro-business conservative Sunnyvale GOP state Rep. Cindy Burkett.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Scott Milder’s run against Dan Patrick gets boost from education groups

Former Rockwall City Council Member Scott Milder is a long shot to win the Republican primary for lieutenant governor as he faces Dan Patrick, a powerful incumbent with a massive fundraising advantage. Milder’s best chance might be to capitalize on his alliance with teachers and education groups outraged by Patrick’s first term in statewide office, when the lieutenant governor delayed efforts to rewrite the school finance formula, shot down a measure to boost public school funding and unsuccessfully pushed for a voucher-like system of letting parents use taxpayer funds for private school tuition.

Associated Press - February 22, 2018

New charges brought against ex-Trump campaign associates

Dramatically escalating the pressure and stakes, special counsel Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges Thursday against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman and his business associate. The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing Paul Manafort, who managed Trump's campaign for several months in 2016, and longtime associate Rick Gates. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial. The two men were initially charged in a 12-count indictment in October that accused them of a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. Manafort and Gates, who also worked on Trump's campaign, both pleaded not guilty after that indictment.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

The Hill - February 22, 2018

Trump tiptoes toward possible fight with NRA

Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks TheHill.com Autoplay: On | Off President Trump is publicly tiptoeing toward support for gun control measures that could put him at odds with the National Rifle Association. At a White House listening session with survivors from last week's mass shooting at a Florida high school, Trump vowed to be an agent of change and said he’d be looking at age restrictions on gun purchases — something opposed by the NRA. Trump reiterated support for background check legislation and signaled the possibility he could go further a day after directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue a memo banning bump stocks and other devices that allow guns to operate like automatic weapons.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - February 23, 2018

Why is Texas voter turnout so low? Demographics play a big role

Many make the case that state lawmakers can do more to make it easier to vote, and the turnout figures leave little room for doubt that voter apathy seems to play a role in low turnout rates, particularly in primary elections. But before the blame game begins this election cycle, here’s something to keep in mind: Low turnout in Texas is also tied to demographics. With early voting underway, here’s a closer look at the makeup of the Texas electorate and some context for those turnout numbers. Hopes for a swell in voter turnout often hinge on the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population. But a breakdown of the population by age shows a third of Texas Hispanics aren’t even of voting age. In fact, those under 18 make up the state's largest age group for the Hispanic population. Meanwhile, those aged 45 to 64 make up the biggest age group of white Texans.

Texas Tribune - February 23, 2018

Tiguas tribe bankrolling one of their own in primary bid against state Rep. Mary González

A primary challenge isn’t anything new for state Rep. Mary González. The Democrat from Clint beat out two others for an open seat in 2012, then four years later fended off a former, longtime state representative vying for the position. But this year she’s facing a challenger who’s received the largest campaign donation in a Democratic primary to date this cycle. MarySue Femath, a newcomer to politics, received $100,000 in October from the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Native of El Paso, commonly known as the Tiguas. The tribe has been a fixture at the Capitol in past sessions, lobbying for the expansion of Texas gaming on Native American lands.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

In rare move, national Democrats come out against primary candidate Laura Moser in bid for Culberson's seat

The campaign arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives set its sights on a surprising target Thursday: Democratic congressional hopeful Laura Moser. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted negative research on Moser, a Houston journalist vying among six other Democrats in the March 6 primary to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Democrats locally and nationally have worried that Moser is too liberal to carry a race that has emerged in recent months as one of the most competitive races in the country. The DCCC posting, which features the kind of research that is often reserved for Republicans, notes that Moser only recently moved back to her hometown of Houston and that much of her campaign fundraising money has gone to her husband's political consulting firm. It also calls her a "Washington insider."

Texas Tribune - February 23, 2018

One Texas Board of Education primary result could spell a return to culture wars

Over her 16 years on the State Board of Education, Pat Hardy has rallied for her share of socially conservative measures. She's endorsed keeping "pro-American" values in history textbooks. She's backed emphasizing "states' rights" instead of slavery as the cause of the Civil War. And she's supported teaching "both sides" of arguments around climate change. But her Republican challengers in the March 6 primaries — Feyi Obamehinti and Cheryl Surber— are telling voters that they're even further to the right. (Surber's campaign Facebook page even refers to her as the "Donald Trump of the Texas State Board of Education" candidate.) "It's probably true!" Hardy said. "Which is funny because I'm very conservative. But they are to the right of me."

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

Gun rights groups are powerful in Texas — but not because of money

Hey, Texplainer: Which Texas elected officials receive the most money from the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association? And how much do they get? The national debate about gun control reignited this year on Valentine’s Day, when a 19-year-old opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. In the aftermath, gun control advocates focused much of their ire on the National Rifle Association, which they blame for blocking certain gun control measures. Critics say lawmakers who receive campaign contributions from the gun rights group accede to its demands.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

Can Texas voters loyal to one party cause chaos in the other party's primary?

If you’re loyal to a particular political party, have you – or a fellow Democrat or Republican – at least thought about voting in the opposing party’s primary? Maybe for a person you think would be a weaker candidate in the general election? Or maybe just to mess with the other team? Texas is one of 15 states that hold open primaries. This means you don’t have to declare a party affiliation until you get to the polls. This had some Texas public radio listeners wondering: “If I vote in the 2018 Democratic primary, can I then vote in any possible primary run-off elections for Republicans?” Simply put: No, you can’t.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

Baylor University says "incendiary" allegations that it destroyed evidence are unfounded

Lawyers for Baylor University said a suggestion that school officials destroyed records was “incendiary” and false, and that documents used to make the claim were unrelated to a wide-ranging sexual assault scandal that has dogged the private Waco university for years. The response was made in documents filed in federal court Wednesday evening, the latest exchange in one of several ongoing lawsuits against the school. Claims that Baylor officials destroyed evidence, made last week in a different court filing, are “serious accusations that lack any reasonable basis in fact,” Baylor’s filing says. Lawyers for the school attached internal emails to back their response.

Texas Tribune - February 23, 2018

Split Decision: Sid Miller and Trey Blocker debate agriculture, ethics and Nutella

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wants four more years in office. The Stephenville Republican, rarely spotted sans his Stetson, is facing both Republican and Democratic challengers in his bid for re-election. His top Republican primary opponent, Trey Blocker, is an Austin lobbyist who's questioned Miller's ethics and decisions as head of the multibillion-dollar agency. Early on in his first term, Miller pushed for dramatic fee hikes for a wide range of services the department offers — a move that irked farmers, ranchers and his former colleagues in the Texas House.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

Texas students protest gun violence after Florida school shooting

This could've happened to me." That was what 18-year-old Aidan Smith says was going through his mind as he followed news of the Florida school shooting that took 17 lives. Smith, a high school senior in McKinney, said he was deeply saddened — but not surprised. Since the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. But within days of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, student survivors such as Emma González and David Hogg became vocal advocates for gun control, trending on social media and organizing protests.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2018

ICE arrests 145 in seven-day operation

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested 145 people during what the agency said was an “enforcement operation” earlier this month in South and Central Texas. Over the week-long operation, ICE arrested 41 people in San Antonio, according to a news release from the agency. Among those arrested here was a 42-year-old man from Mexico who was in the country illegally and had convictions of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and driving while intoxicated.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2018

Record reservoir flood predictions kept secret before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston

A day before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast last August, an internal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forecast predicted that the storm would fill Houston's Barker Reservoir to record levels, flooding neighborhoods on the reservoir's western border for two weeks or more, government records show. That projection was made Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 - before Harvey hit Houston. The next day's Army Corps forecasts got worse and worse: Both Barker and Addicks reservoirs would spill beyond government-owned land, engulfing nearby homes and businesses. But the Corps did not share these predictions with the public.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - February 14, 2018

CCCT: $13 mil for Corpus Christi port is better than nothing, not by much

We're optimistically cautious about the $13 million that President Trump requested for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel project in his 2019 budget proposal. By optimistically cautious, we mean many hurrahs short of cautiously optimistic. The main upside is that it's the first time in the nearly 30 years that the Port of Corpus Christi has sought to widen and deepen the ship channel that a president has proposed to fund it. That counts as a milestone. But let's hope that Trump's proposed $13 million isn't necessarily the only federal contribution for this $327 million project. The port had decided, after so many frustrating years of waiting, to push the project forward with or without federal funds. Thirteen million is better than nothing, but not by much.

Daily Caller - February 18, 2018

Meet The One-Eyed, Navy SEAL, Republican Running For Congress In Texas

Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL veteran who lost his right eye in an IED blast, is looking for a new foray into public service after serving four deployments in the Middle East: politics. Thirty-three-year-old Crenshaw is not your typical, inside-the-beltway candidate, but that isn’t stopping him from throwing his name in open race to fill the vacancy left by outgoing GOP Rep. Ted Poe of Texas. Unlike the challengers he faces, Crenshaw isn’t a titan of industry, a doctor, trial lawyer or investment banker, and he doesn’t come from a political background — a factor that could prove beneficial in both a state and an era that elected President Donald Trump, who famously ran for office as a Washington outsider promising to “drain the swamp.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 21, 2018

Abbott continues attack against Larson during San Antonio campaign rally

Taking a page out of President Donald Trump’s playbook, Gov. Greg Abbott escalated his crusade against state Rep. Lyle Larson on Wednesday, repeatedly calling the San Antonio Republican “Liberal Lyle” during a campaign stop in San Antonio. Abbott, appearing at a campaign rally for Chris Fails, Larson’s primary challenger, rehashed the main points of a TV ad he released Tuesday, pointing to Larson’s opposition of an amendment to the so-called sanctuary city bill, Senate Bill 4. He invoked the “Liberal Lyle” epithet six times within the first six minutes of his speech.

San Antonio Express-News - February 22, 2018

Uresti, Cain found guilty on all charges in end to salacious month-long fraud trial

State Sen. Carlos Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain were found guilty Thursday on 20 combined felony charges in a criminal fraud trial over the past month that has stunned San Antonio and the state Capitol. ... Uresti and Cain were convicted in federal court of defrauding investors in the now-defunct company FourWinds Logistics, which bought and sold sand used in fracking for oil production before it collapsed in 2015. Uresti, 54, was convicted on 11 criminal charges while Cain, 61, was convicted on nine charges. “Today, justice was done,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash said in a statement. “It’s a somber day for the state, for the city, because whenever someone who’s in a position of public trust defrauds other people and causes harm to other people, that’s very sad.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 22, 2018

Shooting fallout forces Bexar schools to prep for protest

On March 24, a Saturday, students in Florida plan to hold a March for our Lives rally at the U.S. Capitol. Students across the country already have walked out at some high schools, including hundreds of students in Austin and Central Texas, according to media reports. In the Houston area, some superintendents have taken a hard line, threatening to suspend students who participate in walkouts or protests during school hours. Needville ISD, in Fort Bend County, said it would punish students with a three-day out-of-school suspension, while Spring ISD has said students could face in-school suspension. Ed Suarez, spokesman for Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District, said its board policy “strikes a balance between every student’s constitutional rights to free speech and the need to prevent disruptions in class.” But he declined to say specifically how the district would handle a protest or walkout.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Changes coming to Texas DPS leadership as 2 deputy directors announce retirement

Two of the Texas Department of Public Safety's three deputy directors will retire in August, leading to major changes in the agency's leadership team, Director Steve McCraw said Tuesday. Presenting in front of the state's five-person Public Safety Commission, McCraw announced the retirements of deputy directors Robert J. Bodisch Sr. and David Baker. Bodisch, who is also McCraw's chief of staff, is in charge of homeland security and has been a deputy director for all of McCraw's tenure. Baker, who has worked for the department for four decades and has been a deputy director since 2011, runs the agency's law enforcement operations.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

School shooting dilemma for parents: They want information about threats that authorities can't give

The threat scrawled in the middle school bathroom suggested a shooting was imminent. The Frisco ISD student who wrote it told authorities the graffiti was only a prank so he could get out of school. But worried parents who checked the boy's social media account that mid-December day weren't laughing after they saw a photo of the pre-teen holding a handgun and his profile that included the phrase "death before dishonor." District officials said appropriate action was taken against the student. But student privacy laws won't allow them to divulge specifics. Frisco police can't comment on juvenile matters either.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Trump wants to arm teachers at schools; Texas already allows that

President Donald Trump wants to put guns directly in the hands of teachers to keep kids safe in school. Many people are wary of the idea, but Texas already allows teachers to be armed if they go through training to become school marshals. No one will disclose exactly how many educators bring guns to Texas schools — the state has deemed that information confidential for their safety. But the Dallas lawmaker who introduced the legislation authorizing school marshals says about 100 people — mostly in smaller, rural districts — have gone through the training, though some might not have completed steps to earn certification.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Churches should sever ties with anti-abortion group, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops says

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops issued an advisory Thursday asking parishes not to participate in volunteer efforts with anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life. "We write to inform you of our concerns with Texas Right to Life and we urge parishes not to participate in their activities or allow the organization to use parish sites," the bishops said in their advisory. Part of the bishops' main problem with Texas Right to Life stems from the anti-abortion group's "rejection of incremental pro-life reforms." According to Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae, a church document that talks about the sanctity of human life, incremental reforms are better than none.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Parker: Meet the Next Texans, a population boom that will change our politics

First, he or she is young; more than half of the people who have recently moved to Texas from other states are under 40, according to a 2016 report by the state demographer. Where did they come from? Dallas has attracted people from Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. Austin? Orange County and Providence. Houston? Chicago, L.A. and St. Louis. (Houston is also the biggest magnet for international migration.) San Antonio? Arizona, New Mexico and the Chicagoland suburbs. Born after 1990, millennials make up half the Next Texans. So now, Texas ranks seventh in the country for its share of these young people who are — right about now — in their mid-20s, according to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. (Some millennials, of course, are native born.) Two Texas cities, Austin and El Paso, have among the highest share of these young people in the entire country.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

After being threatened with lawsuit, Texas agency will help disabled people register to vote

After advocates threatened to sue earlier this month, the Texas Workforce Commission announced plans to help disabled people who are in its job training program register to vote. In a letter made public Thursday, officials from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas secretary of state's office said they started implementing voter registration services under the agency's job-training program Wednesday. "Both TWC and SOS share your commitment to ensuring that disabled individuals and all eligible Texans have all the resources they need to exercise their rights to vote at the polls," the letter reads.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Judicial candidate Eldridge was accused of having sex with student, 16

A state district judicial candidate in Travis County was accused by a 16-year-old foreign exchange student of having sex with him while he stayed in her home — an accusation that the candidate, Chantal Eldridge, denies. Eldridge, a criminal defense lawyer who is running to be judge of the 331st Criminal District Court, was investigated by Austin police for several months after the student’s outcry in 2006, according to interviews and a police report reviewed by the American-Statesman. The foreign exchange student, who is now 27 and living in his native Brazil, said he and Eldridge had an encounter that started with a night of playing poker and ended in his bedroom at Eldridge’s house in Southwest Austin, the report says.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Abbott spares death row inmate’s life, heeding father’s plea

Gov. Greg Abbott agreed Thursday evening to spare the life of death row inmate Thomas Whitaker, announcing his decision less than an hour before the Houston-area man’s scheduled execution. Abbott said a number of factors distinguished Whitaker’s case from 30 other executions that had taken place under his watch as governor, including the pleas of the inmate’s father, Kent Whitaker, who had begged for his son’s life to be spared despite being shot and severely wounded in the 2003 ambush that had killed two other members of his family.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

4 Democrats vie for Congress in Williamson, Bell counties

Texas’ 31st Congressional District, which encompasses most of Williamson and Bell counties, hasn’t been friendly territory for Democrats since it was created after the 2000 census. U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, was first elected in 2002 and has won re-election seven times by at least 19 percentage points. President Donald Trump won the district by 13 points, more than the statewide margin. Yet, buoyed by Democratic fervor over Trump’s presidency and shifting politics in Austin’s north suburbs, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has moved the district into its “battlefield” category, putting it on a list of more than 100 Republican-held districts nationwide that party leaders believe they can flip. Democrats need to gain 24 seats to take control of the House.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Senate Democrats urge Uresti to resign his position

State Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman José Rodriguez of El Paso said the group is urging Uresti to step down: “In light of today’s jury conviction of Sen. Carlos Uresti, the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is calling upon Sen. Uresti to resign his position.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick removed state Sen. Carlos Uresti from his committee assignments after a San Antonio jury Thursday convicted him in a federal fraud case. “As lieutenant governor, I do not have the authority to remove Sen. Uresti from the Texas Senate but I have notified his office that he will be relieved of his committee assignments, effective immediately. I will replace him in those positions shortly so that the work of these committees can continue to move forward.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

After lawsuit threat, Texas agency changes voter registration policy

Responding to a threatened lawsuit, the Texas Workforce Commission has agreed to offer voter registration help to Texans with disabilities who receive job training help from the agency. Disability rights advocates had accused state officials of violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires state agencies that help people with disabilities to also offer help with registering to vote or updating voter registration information. That registration aid was no longer offered when job training duties were transferred from the state Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, which was phased out in 2016, to the workforce commission, lawyers for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities said in a warning letter, sent Feb. 12, that threatened a lawsuit if the policy was not changed.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Amid privacy concerns, ‘virtual’ wall brings powerful spy tech to Texas border

In the future imagined by the Department of Homeland Security, an army of small drones will hover over the southwestern border, outfitted with facial recognition technology that can cull criminal histories of people on the ground. Advanced cameras will instantly identify drivers and passengers as they cross international bridges into Mexico. Artificial intelligence software will comb through the social media accounts of immigrants seeking to enter the country. The idea of a virtual wall is regularly invoked by opponents of the physical wall, including a host of border-area politicians, who say emerging technology offers a cheaper, smarter, less intrusive way to protect the southern border. It’s especially popular in Texas, where the Rio Grande, a prevalence of private property and geographic impediments like Falcon Lake and Big Bend complicate construction of steel fences or concrete panels.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

These Texas schools, including St. Edward’s, are ideal for B students, study says

You know what they say: C’s get degrees. But wouldn’t you feel a little better getting a B instead? U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of “A-Plus Schools for B Students,” ranking universities and colleges that “accept a significant number of students with nonstratospheric transcripts.” Each college on the list had to admit a “meaningful proportion” of students who did not make straight A’s. According to the study methodology, that was determined by looking at SAT and ACT scores, as well as the class ranks of admitted students.

KXAN - February 20, 2018

Dan Patrick picks sides in GOP primary races for the Texas Senate

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies are picking sides in primary races that will likely decide who fills the 31-person Texas Senate. The GOP is so dominant in Texas that the real fight for power is in the primary. It’s rare that sitting state leaders pick a side in their own party primaries but this year both Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott are putting resources behind their brand of Republican. The outcome of these races will determine how easy it is to pass policies capping local property tax growth and allowing families to use state dollars for private schools.

KXAN - February 19, 2018

Report: Texas gets a “D” grade for election security

Texas gets a “D” in election security, according to a new report by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress. No state received an “A” in the report. The organization cites Texas’ use of voting machines without a paper record as one of the reasons for its grade. Counties have the option of using paper ballots or the machines and the organization gave Texas an “unsatisfactory” rating for voter-verified paper audit trail.

El Paso Times - February 20, 2018

EPT: State Rep. Mary Gonzalez deserves another term

With Austin nearly 600 miles away, El Paso must get the most out of its state delegation. That means having state representatives who can get along, reach across the aisle to work with Republicans on issues, get on committees important to El Paso and become experts in how to navigate the system to help our community. Residents in far East El Paso County, which includes the towns of Socorro, Clint, Fabens and Tornillo, are faced with the decision of whether to reelect state Rep. Mary González or choose newcomer MarySue Femath. We believe González is the best choice to represent House District 75 in Austin.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 22, 2018

Nationwide social media threat puts North Texas schools on alert

A social media threat known as "SHS" prompted school districts across the country, including Fort Worth and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw schools, to be on alert. "A social media post threatening a non-specific school is spreading across the nation this morning," read a message sent by Fort Worth schools to parents via text and email. Many communities believe it is their school. Fort Worth ISD and local police are aware of this post and do not believe it to be credible. Police are in place at our schools as they are everyday." Clint Bond, spokesman for Fort Worth schools, said the school learned about a threat in connection with a campus known only as "SHS" yesterday after parents starting calling. The issue put Fort Worth schools on alert because South Hills High School and Southwest High School have that acronym.

Texas Observer - February 20, 2018

The ‘Liberty-Loving Latino’ Who Uses Talk Radio to Make Texas Great Again

Chris Salcedo, a conservative talk radio host in Dallas, is a man of many neologisms. For five hours a day, Monday through Friday, the 47-year-old fills airwaves in Dallas and Houston with invective against “resident Obama,” the “basket of bias press” and “crony crapitalists.” Salcedo, who calls himself a “liberty-loving Latino,” also revels in proving that Hispanics can champion border walls, immigration bans and tax cuts for the wealthy. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Salcedo moved in 2006 to Dallas, where he worked as a TV reporter and anchor for four years before moving into talk radio. Today, Salcedo fills the early-morning drive-time slot on KSEV 700 — the Houston-area station owned by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick — and a late-morning slot for the Metroplex’s WBAP 820. He held down a regular gig on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze until its recent round of layoffs.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Wealthy North Texas suburb to build police substation on school campus

Keller police are collaborating with the town of Westlake to build a police substation on the Westlake Academy campus northeast of Fort Worth. The academy’s board of trustees approved the plan in early February, before last week's school shooting killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. Keller Police Chief Michael Wilson said the plan for a substation addresses policing complexities created by the charter school’s corporate-style layout. The layout "offers a ton of advantages for students and staff but poses challenges to safety,” Wilson said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2018

Austin launches Anti-Displacement Task Force to combat gentrification

The city of Austin is kicking off its latest task force to tackle gentrification with a public forum Saturday, which proponents hope will offer more substantial action to combat the displacement of minorities than previous efforts. The latest effort is the city’s new Anti-Displacement Task Force, a 17-member group of appointees who will have until October to deliver action items to the City Council. The city has a long history of creating task forces and resolutions to address the systematic racism that has plagued the city and which many believe is now contributing to gentrification in East Austin.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

State of the City: Adler pledges to make Austin a global leader

Calling this year “a new Austin moment,” Mayor Steve Adler vowed to make the city a global leader in politics and culture in spite of what he sees as a wider environment of political turmoil. “It seems our country is losing its way in the world,” Adler said during his State of the City address Tuesday evening. “Here in Austin, though, we know who we are. And if we remain true to ourselves, we will always find the solid ground on which to build our future.”

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2018

KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg fired following allegations of sexual misconduct

The KIPP charter school network fired co-founder Mike Feinberg on Thursday following three allegations of sexual misconduct, ending its association with a Houston pillar who helped build KIPP into a national powerhouse and become one of the charter school movement's most visible advocates. KIPP leaders said an independent investigation found "credible evidence" that Feinberg sexually abused an underage female student in the late 1990s and offered two former employees money in exchange for a sexual relationship. Feinberg denied the allegations, and investigators hired by KIPP couldn't definitively substantiate them.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2018

Texas school district says AG's unlawful electioneering allegation 'misleading'

Ahead of one of the most important Texas elections of the year, Attorney General Ken Paxton's office is cracking down on schools and districts he worries are telling people how to vote. But one school district is pushing back. Lewisville Independent School District officials are refusing to take down its video encouraging educators to use their "teacher voice" and vote in the election for candidates who support public education, despite a cease and desist letter the Texas attorney general's office sent them last week. The school district's legal counsel argues the attorney general's accusation that the district of unlawfully electioneering is "misleading at best and inaccurate at worst."

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Flink: We must stop tolerating domestic abusers

Why do abusers think they can get away with domestic violence? They count on silence from their victims and support from society. Crimes committed behind closed doors at home have long been he-said-she-said incidents. It's easy for batterers to deny the abuse, claim the victim made it up, say things like, "You know she's crazy," and "That's not the way it actually happened." It's easier for society to believe it didn't happen, because the truth is painful. We don't want to imagine a little girl asking why her daddy hits her mommy. Until photos or videos become public, accusations are sometimes considered false or not credible. After more than two decades at The Family Place, I can tell you that victims fear they won't be believed because their abuser said no one would listen. Only about 50 percent of our clients have ever called the police. They suffer in silence until the abuse escalates and it becomes a life-or-death situation. Then they flee to one of our emergency shelters or come for counseling, just wanting the violence to stop.

National Stories

Washington Post - February 22, 2018

Putin ally said to be in touch with Kremlin, Assad before his mercenaries attacked U.S. troops

A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports. In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February. Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct “information warfare” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

DMN: Robert Mueller's Russian indictments demonstrate that the United States needs to push back

So let's see if we have this right. First, special counsel Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering in American elections. Then President Donald Trump spends the weekend knocking around those indictments on Twitter. And finally, most of the rest of the country takes all of this in and essentially shrugs and moves on to other news. We are well aware that it hasn't exactly been a slow news week, but there is something passing strange about public indifference to the substance of these indictments. What seems to be lost in the grand debate of whether these indictments tip toward proving collusion or exoneration is that they demonstrate this stunning reality: Someone inside Vladimir Putin's Russia is on the offensive against the United States.

NBC News - February 20, 2018

How Democrats use dark money — and win elections

Democrats love decrying "dark money" — political contributions for which the source of funds is a mystery. But that isn't stopping them from accepting "dark money" themselves or making it difficult to determine the original underwriter of a political donation, as a recent Southern contest vividly illustrates. Alabama's special U.S. Senate election in December is a case study in the lengths national Democrats, who this year are racing to win back Congress from Republicans, are willing to go to hide their cash in the name of political expediency.

The Hill - February 22, 2018

Dems want gun control, but worry it could cost them midterms

Democrats mulling how to approach gun control on the campaign trail this year are weighing their tough history on the subject against the burning politics of the moment. The killings of 17 people at a Florida high school has led to an outpouring of student protests and new energy for the gun control movement. Polls show almost unanimous support for an expansion of background checks. But the issue is a delicate one for party leaders hoping to flip both chambers in this year’s midterm elections by defeating Republicans in conservative-leaning districts where tougher gun laws can be radioactive.

Wall St. Journal - February 22, 2018

Some Teachers Already Have Guns

As President Donald Trump calls for teachers to carry guns to protect children, some districts already have gun-toting teachers in schools, though the identity of those carrying weapons is kept a secret. Last week’s shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 dead has kicked off an intense discussion about arming teachers, escalated by Mr. Trump, who is calling for having “weapons talented teachers” armed in the schools to deter would-be shooters. School districts with armed teachers said it is an extra security measure that can provide an immediate response when a shooter is on campus.

The Hill - February 22, 2018

Steyer joins gun groups in push to register high school students to vote

Democratic mega-donor and billionaire Tom Steyer said he will donate $1 million to fund a high school voter registration push with two gun control advocacy groups. Steyer told Politico that his organization, NextGen America, will join Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords, the group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband Mark Kelly, in a voter registration effort following a mass shooting at a Florida high school last week. Giffords, who was nearly killed when she was shot during a “meet and greet” event in Arizona in 2011, founded her group following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Everytown was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I).

Associated Press - February 22, 2018

Trump says raise age for buying assault rifles, defying NRA

The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle Association amid America's public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools. "There's nothing more important than protecting our children," Trump said, adding that he'd spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organizations of teachers and school security guards for the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Washington Post - February 22, 2018

Armed sheriff's deputy stayed outside Florida school while mass killing took place

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The armed school resource officer assigned to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a defensive position outside the school and did not enter the building while the shooter was killing students and teachers inside with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday. Israel said he suspended School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson on Thursday after seeing a video from the Parkland, Fla., school that showed Peterson outside the school building where the shooter was inside and attacking. “What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and never went in,” Israel said.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2018

Ted Cruz at CPAC: Let teachers take guns into classrooms

Sen. Ted Cruz warned Thursday that Democrats are trying to use last week's mass shooting at a Florida high school as a pretext to confiscate guns, and he argued that teachers should be allowed to carry firearms into classrooms. "It's tiresome," he told conservative activists meeting just outside the capital. "Every time you see a horrific crime, people in the media and Democratic politicians immediately leap on it to advance their agenda, and their agenda is stripping Second Amendment rights away from law-abiding citizens." The Texan made his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering that helped propel his Senate and presidential bids. Apart from calling fellow Republican "clowns" at one point, and carefully lauding President Donald Trump's leadership, he playfully sided with Homer Simpson in a cartoon debate on gun rights.

Axios - February 22, 2018

Koch brothers take on Amazon over HQ2 tax breaks

A group linked to the Koch brothers is trying to convince young Americans to just say "No" to giving Jeff Bezos a tax break or other incentives. What they're doing: Generation Opportunity — a right-leaning group for young people linked to the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity — is running a digital ad campaign that calls big incentive packages for Amazon's second headquarters "sweetheart deals" that are "unfair to taxpayers." The ad is running on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and will be targeted to 18–38 year olds who are seen as possible supporters of free-market issues.

San Diego Union Tribune - February 22, 2018

Trump considers pulling ICE out of California to let the state learn

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he’s considering pulling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers out of California. Why? Because he feels the state is giving his administration “no help” in targeting the violent MS-13 gang, especially in Los Angeles. “We’re getting no help from the state of California,” Trump said from the White House. “Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California. All I’d have to do is say ‘ICE and border patrol, let California learn.’”

Associated Press - February 21, 2018

Leading liberal policy group unveils ‘coverage for all’ plan

A leading liberal policy group is raising the ante in the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all. Called “Medicare Extra for All,” the proposal Thursday from the Center for American Progress, or CAP, would provide a path toward universal health care coverage. But in a nod to political pragmatism, the plan would preserve roles for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required. That differs from the more traditional “single-payer” approach advocated by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the government would hold the reins of the health care system. The plan’s authors acknowledge that the plan would require significant tax increases.

Washington Free Beacon - February 22, 2018

Southern Poverty Law Center Transfers Millions in Cash to Offshore Entities

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal, Alabama-based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that has gained prominence on the left for its "hate group" designations, pushes millions of dollars to offshore entities as part of its business dealings, records show. Additionally, the nonprofit pays lucrative six-figure salaries to its top directors and key employees while spending little on legal services despite its stated intent of "fighting hate and bigotry" using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy.

Wall St. Journal - February 22, 2018

GOP Lawmakers Sue to Block New Congressional Map in Pennsylvania

Two top Pennsylvania state senators and eight of the state’s GOP members of Congress filed a federal lawsuit Thursday in a bid to block a new congressional map imposed by the state’s high court. The move comes a day after Pennsylvania Republicans filed a new emergency appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court. A similar emergency appeal failed earlier this month when it was turned down by Justice Samuel Alito. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month invalidated the congressional districts drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011, ruling the map was an unlawful partisan gerrymander aimed at maximizing the electoral success of Republican candidates.

New York Times - February 22, 2018

A Supreme Court Showdown Could Shrink Unions’ Power

Randy Clover is something of an anomaly — the president of a union local here that represents Illinois state employees, and a Republican precinct leader who voted for President Trump. But he has no doubt about what will be at stake next week at the Supreme Court: the financial and political clout of one of organized labor’s last strongholds. The court will hear arguments on Monday about whether the government employees represented by Mr. Clover’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, must pay the union a fee for representing them in collective bargaining. Conservative groups, supported by the Trump administration, say the First Amendment bars forcing government workers from having to pay anything, and the court has sent strong signals that it agrees with that argument.

Politico - February 21, 2018

The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis

While deaths from prescription opioids have basically leveled off, when you look at deaths in which prescription opioids plus heroin and fentanyl were present, then the recorded deaths attributed to prescription opioids continue to climb, too. (An especially pernicious element in the mix is counterfeiters with pill presses who sell illicit fentanyl in pill form deceptively labeled as OxyContin and other opioid pain relievers or benzodiazepines.) Notably, more current heroin users these days seem to be initiating their opioid trajectory with heroin itself—an estimated 33 percent as of 2015—rather than with opioid painkillers. In the first decade of the 2000s, about 75 to 80 percent of heroin users started using opioids with pills (though not necessarily pain medication prescribed by a doctor for that particular person). It seems that, far more than prescribed opioids, the unpredictability of heroin and the turbocharged lethality of fentanyl have been a prescription for an overdose disaster.

Newsclips - February 22, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting

Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary. The total number of voters from 15 of the state’s largest counties is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day. Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase.

San Antonio Express-News - February 21, 2018

Legality of Electoral College process challenged in San Antonio, elsewhere

In a rare move, the constitutionality of the country’s Electoral College process is being challenged in lawsuits filed Wednesday in four states, including Texas. A coalition of law firms led by nationally renowned attorney David Boies and joined by one of the country’s largest civil rights groups, the League of United Latin American Citizens, filed four federal lawsuits in two politically red states, Texas and South Carolina, and two traditionally blue states, California and Massachusetts. The suits challenge the winner-take-all method that states use to allocate their Electoral College votes. The Texas suit was filed in federal court in San Antonio. If successful, the suits could change the way the country selects its president.

KPRC - February 20, 2018

'We will absolutely look at it:' House Ethics Committee to probe Rep. Murphy

The fallout from what Channel 2 Investigates uncovered regarding state Rep. Jim Murphy has hit the Capitol. "It seems pretty shocking,” said state Rep. Sarah Davis. Davis, who chairs the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee in Austin, said, "I think it's definitely something we are going to be taking a look at." Channel 2 Investigates caught up with Davis immediately following a committee meeting on Thursday, and she made it clear she has questions, "We will absolutely look at it. I have no problem doing investigations," she said. Earlier this month, Channel 2 Investigates shined a light on Murphy, who for years has been holding down two government jobs. He represents the 133rd District as a state representative and he is a general manager of Westchase District, a public agency whose interest overlap the area he represents.

The Hill - February 21, 2018

10 governors shaping the future of politics

THE HISPANIC LIAISON: Greg Abbott, Texas Republican -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched his bid for a second term with a rally in San Antonio, where his wife’s family lives. Then he spent a day and a half in the Rio Grande Valley, campaigning in some of the most reliably Democratic territory in Texas. At a time when Republicans nationally have struggled to connect with Hispanic voters, who make up much of the state’s electorate, Abbott actively courts them. “It’s asinine to run a campaign that only seeks votes from a portion of the voters and be successful,” said David Carney, Abbott’s chief strategist.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

After Florida school shooting, Gov. Abbott plans to name-and-shame potentially unprepared Texas districts

One week after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school, Gov. Greg Abbott says he wants to publish the names of Texas school districts that haven't completed state-mandated safety checks. "All of Texas grieves the tragedy that occurred in Parkland last week," Abbott said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "Immediate steps must be taken to keep our students and communities safe, with the understanding that more will be expected in the future." Education Commissioner Mike Morath issued a statement saying he's directed Texas Education Agency staff to begin full implementation of Abbott's directives. "Our schools must always be a safe place for learning. Governor Abbott has identified specific steps that can help strengthen campus safety for all students," Morath said.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

State Board of Education members blast Bush for 'misleading' mailer claiming he contributed $4 billion to Texas schools

Two fellow Republicans on the State Board of Education are hammering Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush over a claim in a campaign mailer that his office contributed $4 billion to public schools during his tenure. In an open letter published Wednesday, State Board of Education members David Bradley of the Beaumont area and Tom Maynard of Williamson County in Central Texas blasted Bush and accused him of trying to claim credit for funding public schools over the last few years when their board has put up most of that money. "For the current 2018-2019 biennium, you and the GLO [General Land Office] have agreed to contribute $300 million — nowhere near the $4 billion you claim to have contributed in your campaign piece," the letter reads. "How can you in good conscience, take credit for the $4 billion provided for Texas students by the State Board of Education?"

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Earthquakes at DFW Airport continued for years after oil and gas wastewater well was shut

Earthquakes beneath DFW International Airport continued for seven years after an oil and gas company shut a nearby wastewater injection well that had been linked to the quakes, according to a new study by scientists at Southern Methodist University. A wastewater well that continues to operate at the northern end of the airport - and which some area residents have said should be closed -- was probably not involved in the events and poses little earthquake hazard, the researchers concluded. “Faults are not like a light switch - you don’t turn off a well and automatically stop triggering earthquakes,” said Heather DeShon, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University and co-author of the paper, in an email.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

DeSoto council member steps down in pursuit of vacated District 109 state seat

Deshaundra Lockhart Jones stepped down from the DeSoto City Council on Tuesday to pursue a bid to succeed 13-term Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) in Texas' House District 109. Lockhart Jones was required by law to leave the council to run for another office. "I wanted to make things better than they had been in the past," said Lockhart Jones, 47, an insurance professional. "Is it better now than it was when I came? And I can say yes. We're better now." Mayor Curtistene Smith McCowan called Lockhart Jones' departure a "bittersweet moment."

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Whitley: The Texas Legislature's budget cuts are still going to cost you

I ran for Tarrant County judge in 2006 on a platform of traditional conservative principles: local control, public safety and more personal freedom. For the past 10 years, I have watched Austin undermine these conservative values. State leaders rail about local property taxes and blame local elected officials while they reduce the state's share of public education funding and force cities, counties and school districts to pay for unfunded mandates. In an effort to consolidate more control in the capital, state lawmakers are restricting local elected officials' ability to make local quality of life decisions. The largest portion of property taxes goes to public education. Since 2008, according to the Legislative Budget Board, the state has continually reduced its share of funding for public education. Those reductions contribute directly to increases in the tax burden on Texas property owners. Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a budget that balanced only by assuming local school taxes will go up 7.04 percent this tax year and another 6.77 percent next year.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Jeffers: Already playing with a strong hand, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gambles by endorsing in GOP primaries

Dan Patrick has an iron grip on the Texas Senate. With the reliable support of 18 of the 20 Senate Republicans, the lieutenant governor has the support to get his agenda on the calendar and Senate floor without threat of procedural moves from Democrats. During the past legislative session, the Senate delivered to Patrick everything he wanted — from bills that would change the taxing system to banning sanctuary cities. There are 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the Senate. "He's got absolute power," said veteran Republican consultant Bill Miller.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Grigsby: Non-violent drug sentencing has left thousands of people buried alive in prison

Dallas attorney Brittany K. Barnett is best known for her work representing clients pro bono in their quest to break free from disproportionate sentencing. She has won the release of 10 people, including Sharanda Jones, a Terrell woman who served more than 16 years of a life without parole sentence as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. Barnett has just launched the Buried Alive Project, aimed at eliminating life without parole for federal drug offenses. Q: A lot of Americans remember the Obama administration's clemency initiative and believe that corrected out-of-proportion federal drug sentences. What's the real story and why have you stayed involved? A: Over 30,000 men and women in federal prison applied for clemency, and President Barack Obama granted clemency to 1,715 people [including Jones]. Thousands of people who are just as deserving of a second chance were left behind. Of the 185,000 people in federal prison today, 46.2 percent of them are there for drug offenses.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Will Abbott take advice on Whitaker’s death sentence?

Whether Gov. Greg Abbott spares death row inmate Thomas Whitaker from Thursday evening’s scheduled execution could hinge on how much trust the governor places on the group of advisers who recommended mercy in the case. Spurred by the father who Whitaker tried to have killed in 2003, all seven members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles supported clemency for Whitaker in a vote taken Tuesday afternoon, shifting the decision to Abbott, who can support or reject the recommendation to convert the death sentence to life in prison. Five of those board members were appointed or reappointed to six-year terms by Abbott since he took office in 2015, including Chairman David Gutiérrez, who was former Gov. Rick Perry’s pick in 2009 before Abbott selected him to lead the board in 2015. Perry appointed the other two board members.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Abbott orders flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Billy Graham

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday in honor of iconic Christian evangelist Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at 99. Here’s Abbott’s statement on Graham: “The Rev. Billy Graham left an indelible mark on America and the world. His passion to serve God and share His love touched countless Texans over the years. From his first major event in Fort Worth in 1951 to his final event in Dallas in 2002, Billy Graham brought the message of God’s love to stadiums and arenas across Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Newman: Why Texas classrooms aren’t silent about Florida shooting

I hate lying to kids. I hate watching a naiveté they think they’ve long outgrown die in their tearless eyes. Most of all, I hate the idea that kids’ lives are worth less than an adult’s political expediency. Because I value kids’ lives, I refuse to lie to them about adults. Hence the end of innocence. It started with the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and with senior Emma Gonzalez’s feisty, compelling challenge to lawmakers: Do something real to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. For once, go beyond empty expressions of solidarity and sympathy and have the guts to resist the gun lobby. Create meaningful background checks. My school – Odessa High School – decided to reach out to the students in Florida: the survivors and victims, and their families and friends. We circulated pretty pages of Hallmark paper for all the students and staff to sign in a show of solidarity and sympathy.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

First Reading: Nancy Pelosi’s `cold-blooded’ warning to Democratic primary voters: `If the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore.’

Life is filled with mysteries. For example, how did I end up talking to Nancy Pelosi for an hour and 25 minutes yesterday. Here she is, the House Democratic leader, former speaker, the most powerful woman in American politics, busy trying to recapture the House for Democrats and reclaim the gavel as Speaker of the House – third in line for the presidency – and she came to me, or, more exactly, a third-floor conference room of the Austin American-Statesman, to meet with the paper’s editorial board, Ken Herman and myself. And this was no mere drop by. She had done public events in Houston over the weekend, and had another, later in the day Monday, in San Antonio. In Austin, it was just private meetings, and this interview.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Texas clinics flooded with “tsunami” of flu patients — and the season may not have peaked yet

The staff at Project Vida Health Center have been taking waves of flu patients and haven’t been able to come up for air. Bill Schlesinger, CEO for the community health center in El Paso, said the flu has caused a “significant take down” of his own staff members, with between 20 and 30 percent of them getting the flu even after being vaccinated. They’ve had to fill in where they can with people covering shifts, working longer hours and not taking time off. “Remember the videos of the tsunami in Japan and it just kept coming? It was just like that,” Schlesinger said. Health providers across Texas have been battling a severe flu season that is sending thousands of patients to doctors' offices and hospital emergency rooms.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

New York Democrat Chuck Schumer endorses Tahir Javed in Houston race to replace U.S. Rep. Gene Green

An upstart candidate running to win the seat held by U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, has gained a highly visible supporter: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. Schumer endorsed Tahir Javed, an outspoken healthcare executive, in the Democratic race for Texas' 29th District, Javed's campaign announced Wednesday. In a statement, Schumer said Washington needs leaders like Javed who "think outside the box." "His record as a job creator, healthcare executive, and teacher give him the perfect mix of skills and experience to serve the district and Texas," Schumer said.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

Fitzsimmons: Land is the state’s most critical infrastructure

With the Trump administration's unveiling of a plan to invest in infrastructure, a question comes to mind: when are we going to start thinking of land as infrastructure? Roads, bridges, tunnels — these are what we think of when we hear the word "infrastructure." In Texas, where that definition extends as well to water, we have tapped into the state's Rainy Day Fund to make infrastructure investments. But when are we going to start thinking of land — rural land — as infrastructure? When are we going to make substantial investments in this type of critical infrastructure? Texas has 142 million acres of privately-owned, rural, working land — one of the highest percentages of private land in the country. Farmland, ranchland, and timberland constitute 84 percent of the state's land base.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Prosecutors reviewing complaint against Empower Texans over attack ad resembling government notice

A criminal complaint against Empower Texans, a conservative group that mailed out an attack ad resembling an official government notice that targeted GOP state Rep. Charlie Geren, is “under review” by the Travis County District Attorney’s office, The Texas Tribune has learned. A person who self-identified as a Tarrant County voter sent a letter to the DA’s office alleging that the group ran afoul of a criminal law that prohibits people from posing as government authorities, correspondence obtained by the Tribune shows. Mindy Montford, Travis County's first assistant district attorney, confirmed that her office had received a complaint about the group on Tuesday. “It’s under review,” Montford said.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Prosecutors reviewing complaint against Empower Texans over attack ad resembling government notice

A criminal complaint against Empower Texans, a conservative group that mailed out an attack ad resembling an official government notice that targeted GOP state Rep. Charlie Geren, is “under review” by the Travis County District Attorney’s office, The Texas Tribune has learned. A person who self-identified as a Tarrant County voter sent a letter to the DA’s office alleging that the group ran afoul of a criminal law that prohibits people from posing as government authorities, correspondence obtained by the Tribune shows. Mindy Montford, Travis County's first assistant district attorney, confirmed that her office had received a complaint about the group on Tuesday. “It’s under review,” Montford said.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

In lawsuit, activists say Texas' winner-take-all approach to the Electoral College is discriminatory

Saying Texas' current practice is discriminatory, a group of Hispanic activists and lawyers has sued the state in hopes of blocking it from awarding all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate during presidential elections. The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday calls on Texas to treat voters “in an equal manner” by abolishing that “winner-take-all” approach, which all but two states use. The suit, filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and a coalition of Texas lawyers, says that approach violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It's just one of many pending voting rights lawsuits arguing that Texas, which regularly votes Republican, has illegally discriminated against voters of color.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texas voters' view of federal response to Hurricane Harvey slips

State and local governments are getting higher grades than the federal government for their responses to Hurricane Harvey, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Overall, all three levels of government are getting more good marks than bad. Local governments are the favorites here, with 61 percent of voters saying they approve of the local government response and only 11 percent saying they disapprove. State government’s numbers are similar: 60 percent approve, 15 percent disapprove. The federal government lagged a bit behind, with 48 percent saying they approve of the federal response and 25 percent saying they disapprove.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texans are pro-immigrant — with caveats

Most Texans believe immigrants are good for the state, but only 15 percent believe more legal immigrants should be admitted into the country, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Asked whether the United States admits the right number of legal immigrants from other countries, 42 percent of Texas voters say the number is too high, 30 percent say it’s about right and 15 percent say the United States should increase the number of immigrants. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say the current admission rate is too high — 62 percent of Republicans think so, while only 21 percent of Democrats do. Democrats were also more likely to agree that “newcomers from other countries enrich Texas with their hard work and values.”

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2018

In Austin swing district, five Democrats are vying to unseat Republican Paul Workman

In 2011 — after Republican Paul Workman unseated state Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin — lawmakers redrew House District 47 to include a larger swath of western Travis County. The new district, which gained more rural areas and lost some of liberal South Austin, stretched from Onion Creek to Lago Vista to Leander. It became a conservative stronghold, and to this day Workman is the county's only Republican state representative. Seven years later, it’s a potential swing district again. Texas political experts point to rising frustration with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party that could rally the Democratic base and cause conservative voters to stay home on Election Day.

San Antonio Express-News - February 21, 2018

Democrats running for Hurd’s seat in Congress debate campaign finance, base closures

A debate in San Antonio brought out a rare moment of confrontation between Jay Hulings and Gina Ortiz Jones, the two candidates seen as front-runners in the five-person Democratic primary for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, as they clashed on campaign contributions and the issue of military base closures. Shortly after the Bexar County polls closed on the first of 11 days of early voting, Hulings, Jones, Rick Treviño, Judy Canales and Angela “Angie” Villescaz duked it out in a nearly 90-minute debate Tuesday night at Luby’s restaurant near downtown. The candidates fielded questions from Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina on infrastructure, health care, immigration and their own campaign finance reports.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Sullivan: NAFTA means too much to Texas, the U.S. to jettison or downgrade

With the seventh round of negotiations between the United States, Canada and Mexico to update the North American Free Trade Agreement quickly approaching, it’s critical to keep in mind how NAFTA helps businesses, workers, farmers and ranchers, like myself, throughout Texas and across the United States each and every day. The agreement has helped the United States — and North America — retain its standing as an economic and manufacturing powerhouse that allows our companies to remain competitive in global markets. For example, NAFTA has made supply chains more efficient by reducing trade barriers, resulting in more affordable goods for consumers and increased access to Mexican and Canadian markets for American businesses.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2018

Funding clash led Texas A&M to back out of UH hurricane research center before it began

Two months after the University of Houston announced a collaborative Hurricane Resilience Research Institute to fanfare, officials say the center has not yet distributed internal money and has stopped its direct pursuit of federal allocations. The plan to seek federal money soon after Hurricane Harvey caused Texas A&M University to withdraw as a member of the center before the institute was even announced in December. Separately, Rice University stepped out shortly after the announcement, citing other research commitments. UH officials now say the center is waiting on potential state allocations, possibly through Texas' General Land Office, though a spokesman said that if the right federal grant opportunity materialized, the center would pursue it.

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2018

Harvey looms over Texas primary, but effect may be minimal

Hurricane Harvey may loom large in many Houston-area residents' minds, but the storm is expected to have a limited impact on participation in the Texas primary, which kicks off Tuesday with the start of early voting. Nearly two weeks of early balloting precedes the Lone Star State's March 6 primary, the first in the nation. "On one hand, we're going to see a decline in turnout among some individuals who are displaced. On the other hand, I think there are some people who will counterbalance that decline because they've become more politically active and aware as a result of Harvey," Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. "The net effect is likely to be pretty neutral."

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2018

Paxton: Schools should encourage voting - not pick winners and losers

Thomas Jefferson once wrote "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of liberty." His sentiment was all but universal in the founding generation, and from it springs America's proud history of a well-educated citizenry. In a republic like ours, where the people ultimately direct the government at all levels, education boasts the all-important task of furnishing citizens with the tools to govern themselves and live as free people. Equipped with those tools, students and teachers - indeed all Americans - should appreciate the vital role that voting plays in our country: to ensure the people have the power to protect their life, liberty, and property from tyranny by the government. Because I believe whole-heartedly that accountability to the people is a cornerstone of our republic, I heartily support all legal efforts to engage voters, register them, and turn them out to vote.

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2018

HC: For State Board of Education, District 4: Lawrence Allen, Jr.

The State Board of Education — charged with adopting textbooks and curriculum for the state — has too often employed a political litmus test for what Texas children should learn rather than the standard of what students need to know to compete in a global economy. This election is particularly important because soon the SBOE will finalize the state's long-range plan for education and chart the state's course for the future. Lawrence Allen, Jr. who was first elected to the board in 2004, has been a principal, assistant principal and teacher across town and is now community liaison at Houston Independent School District. He holds a bachelor's and two master's degrees from Prairie View A&M University.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 20, 2018

FWST: Schoolyard rumble over getting out the vote

Democracy works best when everyone eligible participates in the election process. It becomes real representative government when there’s a big turnout and voters going to the ballot box are informed about the issues and the candidates. So it is galling when Empower Texans and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seem to be teaming up to suppress certain voters. Their target: Texas Educators Vote, a nonprofit group supported by school districts statewide, as well as the educators and students the group is urging to vote in the March 6 primary.

Amarillo Globe-News - February 19, 2018

Amarillo Globe News: Shame on Leal for political ad

Shame on Victor Leal. (A GOP candidate for Texas state Senate/District 31.) Shame on anyone who would aspire to public office by running a dark and misleading ad, which I recently saw on local television. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself lucky. If you have seen the ad, you know this ad (calling incumbent Kel Seliger “corrupt” and worse - liberal) comes from “Friends of Victor Leal,” at least according to the ad linked to on Facebook - “Victor Leal for Texas Senate.” The folks who paid for the bulk of this ad may be friends of Mr. Leal, but they are not friends of the Texas Panhandle. I doubt they have been to the Panhandle. Most couldn’t locate it on a map.

Longview News Journal - February 16, 2018

Hunt: They call it school choice, but it's not really

The new buzzword by Republicans in statewide office is "choice." But what they offer is not at all about choice. About $15,000 per year is spent to educate a child in Texas. If you were not aware, that level of spending puts us at about No. 38 out of 50 states. In many ways, you get what you pay for with public education. So our failing districts are simply a product of our lack of priority. When an officeholder or candidate talks about choice in education, they mean a voucher program. They say this will enable students in poorly performing districts to move to another school — they lead you to believe this will be a private school — so these students can get the education they need and deserve. Let's break this down by the dollars.

Quartz - February 17, 2018

Conservative Californians are fleeing to Texas. Data show they’re in for a surprise

Politically, the Lone Star state is the antithesis of California. It’s solidly Republican. Its state leaders are aggressively pro-business, anti-tax, anti-immigration, anti-abortion and pro-guns. And they like to point out the differences between the two states every chance they get, furthering Texas’s reputation as a bastion of conservatism. But conservatives fleeing California will find that, despite its right-wing bent, the Lone Star State is increasingly plagued with the same problems they are trying to leave behind. That’s because many of their pet peeves, from ballooning home prices to overstretched schools, have more to do with exuberant urban growth than politics.

New York Times - February 19, 2018

The Lone Star Long Shot Who Wants to Topple Ted Cruz

BEAUMONT, Tex. — Operating on two hours’ sleep, Beto O’Rourke was 20 hours into his day and looked it. His white shirt and gray slacks were an accordion of wrinkles. His hair, flecked with gray, drooped on his forehead and small dark rings had formed under his eyes. But he hadn’t lost his voice. The Democratic congressman from El Paso was speaking to a crowd of several hundred at Suga’s restaurant, 830 miles from home, trying to make an improbable case: that he can defeat Texas’ incumbent Republican senator, Ted Cruz. Democrats need to pick up two seats in the midterm elections to win control of the Senate, but they also must defend incumbents in 10 states that President Trump won. Mr. Cruz is seen as safer than, say, Dean Heller, Nevada’s Republican senator, or the seats in Arizona and Tennessee that are being vacated by incumbents.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Man charged with shooting Judge Julie Kocurek takes witness stand

The man charged with hatching a plan to kill Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek unexpectedly took the witness stand Wednesday in federal court as he tried to persuade a judge to toss out cellphone records that put him in Austin around the time of the November 2015 attack. At times playful and at other times uncooperative, Chimene Onyeri, 30, described the events that preceded his arrest in Houston three days after Kocurek was injured outside of her West Austin home. He boasted about winning money from his friend in a basketball video game just before he got word that police were stationed outside of the house he shared with his father about 15 minutes away. Curious about what was happening, Onyeri testified that he hopped into a Dodge Charger driven by an associate and headed to the area.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Going, going, gone: Booming Collin County growth means rural areas won't be 'farmland forever'

Collin County's population is expected to double before 2030 and surpass the number of people in Dallas and Tarrant counties with a population of more than 3.5 million by 2050. More recently, the once tiny cotton farming community of McKinney reported a population of nearly 180,000 residents — an almost 7 percent increase from last year and a whopping 365 percent jump from 20 years ago. By 2040, McKinney's population is expected to grow by another 100,000 residents to roughly 284,000, according to city estimates. And that means most of the rural acreage around McKinney's city limits will ultimately be developed, said Michael Quint, executive director of development services for the city of McKinney.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Hundreds of Austin-area students walk out in wake of Florida shooting

Nearly 500 students at schools across Central Texas staged walkouts Wednesday to demand safer campus policies, call for stricter gun laws and show their solidarity with students in Florida after a high school shooting there that left 17 people dead. The demonstrations came one week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and amid a nationwide call for stronger protections. Dripping Springs school district officials estimated more than 300 students walked out of their high school and middle school campuses, some from their classrooms and others while at lunch.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

UT student claims pistol left in bathroom as a second pistol turns up

A holstered pistol left Tuesday in a women’s bathroom at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business has been claimed by a student who has a license to carry a handgun, according to UT police. Meanwhile, the police said Wednesday that they received another report of a pistol found unattended in a women’s bathroom, this time at the Commons Learning Center on UT’s Pickle Research Campus, about 9 miles north of the main campus.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Billy Graham's spiritual home was Dallas

As America mourns the passing of renowned evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday at the age of 99, I am reminded of the rich history the preacher shared with North Texas during his worldwide ministry spanning longer than six decades. For more than 33 years I was privileged to serve as his personal spokesperson and media representative from my hometown of Dallas. Home to America's Team the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas was also the spiritual home of America's Pastor, who from 1953 to 2009 maintained membership with First Baptist Church Dallas. The evangelist was invited to join the church by then-senior pastor W.A. Criswell, whom he had long admired for his thorough knowledge of the Bible, extensive home library and defense of the faith through famously impassioned sermons.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Stormy Daniels adds Dallas stop to 'Make America Horny Again' tour as she cashes in on alleged Trump affair

Porn star Stormy Daniels has announced that she'll whirl into Dallas-Fort Worth in April as part of her "Make America Horny Again" tour. But no one watching her shed her clothes should expect her to also reveal all about her alleged encounter with President Donald Trump. "If Stormy was going to do interviews they would NEVER take place in a strip club," her manager, Gina Rodriguez, wrote in an email Wednesday, days after she said her client is going to tell her story.

National Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2018

Hough: Why the U.S. should strengthen SNAP, not add restrictions

The Trump administration has proposed an overhaul of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Called “America’s Harvest Box,” the overhaul was presented as “a Blue Apron-type program” where you receive food instead of cash. This is a misleading comparison. Blue Apron delivers boxes of gourmet ingredients and fresh produce, meat and dairy items that clients choose from a variety of menus. America’s Harvest Boxes would deliver processed foods — shelf-stable milk and canned or boxed meats, fruits, vegetables and cereal — selected by the federal government.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2018

Ogle: How GOP shows its true colors with tax breaks

Congressional Republicans are betting that their shiny new tax reform bill will distract from their repeated failures to implement a policy agenda that appeals to middle-class Americans. It’s a bet they are going to lose. Tax policy reveals a political party’s true colors – its priorities and who it advocates for provide unique insight into the party’s vision for the country. Is it a party that believes the tax code should be structured in a way that promotes upward mobility? Or is it one that focuses on protecting the wealthiest at the expense of those struggling to make ends meet? At a time when Republicans have gone out of their way to promote ideas and policies that are antithetical to middle-class priorities, their new tax plan is providing the clearest sign yet of whose side they are on.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Leubsdorf: Trump won't take 'yes' for an answer on immigration

Back in September, a bipartisan immigration deal seemed possible if Democrats backing permanent legal status for the so-called Dreamers overcame their reservations and accepted President Donald Trump's proposal to spend billions for a wall on the Mexico border. Over the ensuing five months, Democrats reluctantly agreed. But the president never took yes for an answer, each time upping the ante. By the time senators finally considered the complex issue last week, Trump had stiffened his terms to require dramatically stricter limits on legal immigration. When a bipartisan group floated a plan that held promise of attracting the required 60 votes, Trump and his team sabotaged its prospects, calling it a "total catastrophe" that would make matters worse.

Politico - February 21, 2018

New charges filed in Manafort-Gates case

New charges have been filed in special counsel Robert Mueller's criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates, but the charges were put under seal by the court, obscuring the nature and import of the development. The new charging document filed in federal court in Washington could be a superseding indictment, adding new charges or even new defendants to the charges filed against Manafort and Gates last October. The pair were accused of money laundering and failing to register as foreign agents for their work related to Ukraine, among other crimes.

The Hill - February 21, 2018

Fitton: What is the FBI hiding in its war to protect Comey?

As the James Comey saga continues to unfold, the James Comey legend continues to unravel. The more we learn about his involvement in the deep state’s illicit targeting of President Trump, the more reason the American people have to question both his motives and his management as director of the FBI, the now-disgraced agency he headed before Trump fired him on May 9, 2017. Comey has left a trail of suspicious activities in his wake. Comey now looms large over a burgeoning constitutional crisis that could soon overshadow Watergate at its worst. To deepen the crisis even further, it now appears some of Comey’s former FBI and Justice Department colleagues continue to protect him from accountability. Three suspicious activities stand out, all intertwined: the so-called Comey Memos, Comey’s controversial testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee and Comey’s book deal.

Politico - February 21, 2018

Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller's assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders' campaign. The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

San Antonio Express-News - February 20, 2018

Some Hollywood heavyweights are donating millions of dollars to a planned national student march against gun violence

The deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead last week is poised to ignite a nationwide movement against gun violence. Students planning demonstrations in major cities next month to get the attention of lawmakers in the fight for gun reform are already earning some high-profile endorsements. The Oscar-winning actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, who is a human-rights lawyer, have pledged $500,000 to the March for Our Lives demonstration. Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey joined the cause, pledging to match the Clooneys' donation on Tuesday.

Washington Post - February 21, 2018

GOP lawmaker seems to suggest students calling for gun control are not students at all

As students were making their way to Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning to demand gun law overhauls, a Republican lawmaker a few states away wrote a Facebook post that appeared to question whether the teenage protesters were, in fact, students. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s comments came as right-wing media figures have attacked the credibility of a handful of students who have become the most vocal advocates for gun control since a lone gunman killed 17 people at their high school in Parkland, Fla. Metcalfe, who once snapped at a male colleague for touching his arm during a meeting, notably used quotation marks twice when he referred to the students and cited his military experience as he argued about gun control.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

Graham played an important role in the lives of Texas presidents

Billy Graham had a special connection with Texas presidents. He privately encouraged Texas-born Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for the White House. He famously advised George W. Bush on matters of faith and spirituality during a family visit in Kennebunkport, Maine. He was a frequent guest at Lyndon B. Johnson's Hill Country ranch, and when the president died in 1973, he preached at his graveside service. "Johnson took him over and showed him where he was going to be buried," said Graham biographer William Martin, a retired Rice University professor.

The Atlantic - February 18, 2018

It's Not Illegal Immigration That Worries Republicans Anymore

A few weeks ago, the contours of an immigration compromise looked clear: Republicans would let the “Dreamers” stay. Democrats would let Trump build his wall. Both sides would swallow something their bases found distasteful in order to get the thing their bases cared about most. Since then, Trump has blown up the deal. He announced on Wednesday that he would legalize the “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, only if Democrats funded his wall and ended the visa lottery and “chain migration.” He would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants only if Congress brought the number of legal immigrants down. There’s an irony here, which was pointed out to me by CATO Institute immigration analyst David Bier. Until recently, Republican politicians drew a bright line between illegal immigration, which they claimed to hate, and legal immigration, which they claimed to love.

Washington Post - February 21, 2018

Supreme Court says whistleblowers must alert government to get legal protections

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that whistleblower protections passed by Congress in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 apply only when those alleging corporate misdeeds bring their information to the government. The court said that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 did not cover those who brought allegations only to their employers and not to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although some justices wondered during oral arguments whether Congress intended to draw such a distinction, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for her colleagues that the statute provides an “unequivocal answer” of who qualifies as a whistleblower.

The Hill - February 21, 2018

Turley: Did Mueller withhold evidence in striking the Michael Flynn deal?

Last Friday, the media was in a frenzy over the indictment of 13 Russians and a couple Russian entities by special counsel Robert Mueller. As pundits debated the significance of the indictment, an order was filed by Judge Emmet Sullivan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The order itself was hardly noteworthy, even on a slow news day. Sullivan simply ordered prosecutors to comply with their obligations of disclosure of exculpatory evidence to the defense. What was notable is that the prosecutors were members of the special counsel’s office and the defendant was their star cooperating witness, former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The order itself deals with the obligation of disclosure under Brady v. Maryland. Prosecutors must disclose favorable or exculpatory evidence to the defense. That might make for interesting reading by Flynn, given new disclosures that federal investigators doubted his guilt before the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2018

At bankrupt Philadelphia refinery, Ted Cruz blasts ethanol mandate, champions blue collar workers

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led a rally Wednesday at a refinery in Philadelphia that declared bankruptcy a month ago, railing against "Wall Street speculators" profiting off the federal ethanol mandate and casting himself as a blue collar champion. "We can save these jobs," he promised. "This is about jobs...good union jobs, jobs that provide for your families, that provide for your kids....The working men and women in this country, you should have a federal government that is standing with you rather than fighting against you." The venue and timing of the town hall-style event were unusual. It wasn't a campaign rally, though Cruz's delivery, the packed tent, and the ovations that punctuated his remarks left a similar impression.

Barron's - February 21, 2018

When Amazon’s HQ2 Comes to Town

When Amazon.com decides on the location for its second corporate headquarters in North America sometime this year, some economic experts, city planners, and labor leaders have words of advice for the winning city: Be careful what you wish for. The 20 finalists are no doubt salivating over the prospect of adding as many as 50,000 jobs at the dazzling $5 billion campus for technology’s hottest company. They anticipate tens of millions of dollars flowing into the region each year. Min Suh, a former real estate finance professor at Columbia’s Masters in Real Estate Development program, built an economic model for Barron’s on the financial windfall for the winning city. He anticipates $135 million in project-related revenue, $36 million to $64 million in annual real estate property taxes for the new headquarters alone, $5,500 to $8,400 in tax revenue per employee, which includes increased sales taxes from discretionary spending by a well-paid army of Amazon (ticker: AMZN) employees.

New York Times - February 21, 2018

Under Trump, Border Patrol Steps Up Searches Far From the Border

Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration. In Texas, a rancher has accused the Border Patrol of trespassing after he said he found a surveillance camera the agency placed on his property. In New Hampshire, border officers working with state officials conducted what the American Civil Liberties Union described as illegal drug searches after residents were arrested at immigration checkpoints set up on a major interstate highway. One of the checkpoints was set up just before a local marijuana festival.

Newsclips - February 21, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 20, 2018

Wealthy donors ramp up political giving for 2018 midterms

With the 2018 midterms fast approaching, wealthy donors are opening their wallets for the parties and super PACs in anticipation of a crucial election year. A snapshot of new Federal Election Commission filings made available Tuesday evening from the parties and major super PACs showed some individual donors already have given at least seven figures each this election cycle, ranging from roughly $1 million to upward of $17 million. Shipping magnate Richard Uihlein is among the leading individual donors in the cycle thus far, giving at least $17 million to the Republican National Committee and super PACs supporting Republican candidates, according to new Federal Election Commission filings Tuesday evening. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer poured $15.7 million to Democratic Party committees and to the super PAC arm of his nonprofit NextGen Climate Action, which supports progressive and liberal candidates and groups.

The Hill - February 20, 2018

Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has never been more popular on Capitol Hill. The three-nation trade agreement that has long come under fire from both parties is getting a rousing defense amid a push from the Trump administration to either renegotiate or scrap the deal altogether. Business advocates of the 24-year-old deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico say lawmakers have become significantly more interested in the pact recently amid talks to update the deal despite President Trump’s threats to withdraw from the agreement.

San Antonio Express-News - February 20, 2018

Gov. Abbott won’t say if he voted for Paxton, Miller or Bush

Gov. Greg Abbott, who cast an early ballot Tuesday, wouldn’t say whether he voted for fellow Republican incumbents Attorney General Ken Paxton, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller or Land Commissioner George P. Bush. “Well, as you know, the ballot is secret,” Abbott said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he voted for the three. “It will remain secret. I will reveal one thing for you: I voted for myself.” Paxton, who is under indictment, has no opponent in the GOP primary. Miller faces two challengers, including former lobbyist Trey Blocker. Bush is in a three-person primary race that includes Jerry Patterson, a former land commissioner and former senator.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Democrat loans himself more money in Houston congressional race

Wealthy Houston businessman and Democrat Tahir Javed loaned his campaign another $126,000 in a bid to win a seat in Congress, according to new documents filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Javed has now put $525,916 into the Democratic Primary for the 29th Congressional District, which includes much of eastern Houston, plus South Houston, Pasadena and Galena Park. And more money is likely to come. New campaign finance reports are due later this week and are expected to include more loans from Javed to his campaign.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Candidate for Congress admits arrest for cocaine when he was a teenager, riling Fort Bend race

A candidate's drug arrest at the age of 18 has riled up a Democratic primary contest for the right to challenge five-term Republican incumbent Pete Olson in a potentially competitive congressional district in Houston's southern suburbs. Sri Preston Kulkarni, a leading labor-backed candidate in the five-way March 6 primary, acknowledged Tuesday that he was arrested for possessing less than a gram of cocaine when he was a teenager in 1997. The felony charge later was dismissed by a Harris County judge after a two-year probationary sentence, a disposition known as "deferred adjudication" that is frequently meted out for first-time drug offenses.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Houston GOP campaign for Congress takes negative turn

Republican Kevin Roberts is out with a new television ad taking issue with fellow GOPer Kathaleen Wall. Roberts said Wall has bankrolled millions of dollars worth of slick television ads supporting her campaign, but they don't show what an inexperienced candidate she is. That led him to air a new ad starting Wednesday that shows Wall beginning and abruptly stopping a speech with several awkward pauses. Then a narrator chimes in: "There's a better choice...Kevin Roberts..."

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Biggest, most dangerous cities in Texas, according to FBI homicide data

Six Texas cities had some of the most homicides in America in 2017, according to a new analysis. Of those Lone Star cities, Houston had the most homicides per 100,000 people with 11.7. In 2017, Houston recorded 269 homicides, according to an analysis of FBI crime data done by USA Today. San Antonio came in second, with 125 reported homicides in 2017 or 8.4 per 100,000 people.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Abbott slams Davis, says she should run as a Democrat

Gov. Greg Abbott gave state Rep. Sarah Davis a political lashing Tuesday, saying his fellow Republican has been "absolutely hostile" to his conservative agenda and saying she is no different than a Democrat. "By all metrics and studies that I have seen, she is clearly the farthest to the left state representative in the state of Texas," Abbott told reporters after voting early at a Randalls in Austin. He said the West University Place Republican, has worked "antagonistically" against his agenda and has separated herself from Republican ideology.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Wall: Want to help Texas? Repeal the Jones Act

What's one simple thing the federal government could do to strengthen the U.S. economy and Texas oil companies? Repeal an outdated law known as the Jones Act. You probably heard about it after Hurricane Irma slammed into Puerto Rico. It restricted the amount of goods from being transported to the island and delayed recovery efforts. But it also hurts oil companies and refineries. So what is the Jones Act? Passed in 1920, it requires that all shipping between domestic ports be carried by U.S.-flagged and built ships. They have to be at least 75 percent owned and crewed by American citizens. While it has protected a few domestic ship companies and sailors' unions, it has hurt oil companies and refiners - especially after the crude oil export ban was lifted by Congress and President Barack Obama in 2015.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Braddock: Chupacabra, the Marfa lights and the granny tax - all Texas myths

It is primary season in Texas, which means two things: My truck is getting hundreds of extra miles on the odometer and the truth is the first casualty of the campaigns. Covering legislative races, that truck's been in Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, Dallas-Forth Worth, Amarillo, Wichita Falls, a tiny place called Atlanta in Northeast Texas and places in between in just the last few weeks. On the passenger seat, there's quite a collection of campaign mail pieces attacking candidates for all sorts of things. MOST POPULAR Houston Chronicle editorial board Democratic primary... Contract not on Jose Altuve's mind, but wait till next year Xochi named best new restaurant in Texas Dan Patrick to Texas schools: Starve. Confronting a ghost of Hurricane Harvey: Mold Houston-area school district threatens to suspend students who... A Houston protest, organized by Russian trolls Some of the accusations lobbed in Republican primary campaigns are so over the top silly that you're tempted to just roll your eyes and move on. But now and then one starts to get the kind of traction that demands a response from someone who can look at it objectively.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has cash and clout, but his Republican challenger is banking on a 'rebellion'

Dan Patrick and Scott Milder both say they want to reform taxes and public education. Both claim to be the better defender of Texas business interests. Both are proud Christians who found their faith later in life, one baptized in the River Jordan, the other in the Red Sea. Both are Republicans. One is lieutenant governor and the other wants his job. But despite these similarities, the two men couldn’t be less alike. Lt. Gov. Patrick was the brain behind the state’s so-called bathroom bill. He’s railed against failing public schools and called for alternatives, like vouchers. He’s the top Trump proxy in the state, with rhetorical skills to match the best, an ex-conservative radio host whose fire-and-brimstone style is equal parts pulpit and politics.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, no stranger to controversy, faces serious challenge in GOP primary

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has had a roller-coaster first term. His tenure has been peppered with stories of misused taxpayer dollars, controversial social media posts, and accusations of raising fees needlessly. His main primary challenger outraised him in the last filing period and snagged an endorsement from conservative nonprofit Grassroots America — an organization that supported Miller in 2014 — at the last minute. But in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, the incumbent said he’s not worried about his chances of being re-elected.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

William Shatner's not happy that a Garland candidate used his photo, but does he have the right to be?

Brandy K. Chambers' online newsletter that went out Thursday featured a photo of herself with the Star Trek legend that was taken at a comic-con event. The photo is under a write-up of what Chambers, a Democrat running to unseat Republican Angie Chen Button, says she stands for as a candidate, including being a proponent of LGBT rights and gun regulations. She also vows to be herself, regardless of what anyone thinks of her. ... But when someone shared images of the newsletter with Shatner on Saturday, the actor was not pleased. He tweeted at Chambers saying that the use of a convention photo in a political ad is "NOT ALLOWED. That implies endorsement which never will happen. Please remove my photo and destroy all copies of whatever this is immediately. Am I clear?" Chambers, whose website biography says she is a labor and employment counsel, replied from her personal account apologizing for offending Shatner, but said it was clear that there was no endorsement and that she and the star do not know each other. In another reply she added that she's "sincerely sorry you don't stand for women's rights and education."

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

TSA found more guns in carry-ons than ever before. How many were in Texas?

A record-breaking number of firearms were found in carry-on bags across the country this month, and the haul included 18 at Texas airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration. From Feb. 5 through 11, 104 firearms were found in carry-on bags, topping the previous record of 96 set in July 2017. Of those found this month, 87 were loaded and 38 were round chambered, meaning a round is in the chamber of a gun. Without a round in the chamber, it cannot fire. Six were found at DFW International Airport, three at Dallas Love Field, three at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, three at San Antonio International Airport, and one each at El Paso International Airport, Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and William B. Hobby Airport.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2018

Abbott picks former San Angelo mayor for transportation board

The suddenly short-handed Texas Transportation Commission Tuesday gained a new member, business investor, rancher and former San Angelo Mayor Alvin New. New, a life-long West Texan who was born in Brownfield and has lived in or near San Angelo since 1981, will replace Tryon Lewis of Odessa. Lewis, who until September had been chairman of the five-member transportation commission, was relegated by Gov. Greg Abbott to a regular spot on the board in favor of San Antonio businessman Bruce Bugg Jr. Abbott had appointed both men to the commission in early 2015.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2018

Herman: Hey gov, who’d you vote for?

You know what’s kind of weird, I mean in addition to the fact that there’s a fruit called the grape and an unrelated fruit called the grapefruit? It’s kind of weird when our elected leaders tell us for whom to vote but won’t tell us for whom they voted. It happened again Tuesday at the Randalls at Slaughter and Brodie lanes in South Austin where Gov. Greg Abbott cast his ballot on the first day of early voting for the March 6 primaries. Abbott’s seeking renomination and re-election. So are other GOP statewide incumbents, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Comptroller Glenn Hegar. One might think a governor eager to make the case that his party’s doing a great job of running things might be eager to tell us he voted for his fellow incumbents who are running things.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Split Decision: Can one of these Democrats unseat Texas Sen. Konni Burton?

Of the state's 31 senate districts, Texas Senate District 10 is the closest to a swing district. In 2016, Donald Trump just barely beat Hillary Clinton there. Two Democrats, Allison Campolo and Beverly Powell, are vying to unseat state Sen. Konni Burton, a Colleyville Republican. Burton won her seat in 2014, after Democrat Wendy Davis chose to run for governor rather than for re-election. Campolo, an academic who hails from Irving and now calls Euless home, refers to herself as a "progressive." Powell, a real estate developer who has also held a number of local leadership positions including past chairwoman of the board of trustees at Texas Wesleyan University, describes herself as a "moderate."

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

In rare move, Texas parole board recommends clemency for death row inmate Thomas Whitaker

In an exceedingly rare move, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Tuesday to recommend a lesser sentence for a death row inmate facing execution. The board voted unanimously in favor of clemency for Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, a man who is set to die on Thursday evening. The decision now falls on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who can approve or deny the recommendation to change Whitaker’s death sentence to life in prison. The last time the board recommended clemency for a death row inmate was in 2007.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

In lawsuit, Texas couple claims they were illegally turned down as foster parents because they are lesbians

Two female Texas A&M University professors who say they were denied a chance to become foster parents for refugee children because they didn't "mirror the Holy Family” have sued the federal government and a Catholic group contracted by the government to administer a refugee program. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday morning, the Texas couple claims the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops violated the U.S. Constitution by citing religion while administering federal child welfare services. The Conference of Catholic Bishops receives funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to provide those services, so that denial amounts to an illegal religious test, the couple claims in the suit.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calls for better background checks after Florida shooting

In his first public comments since last week's Florida school shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called for fixing the federal background check database for gun buyers and identifying mental health issues that could lead to gun violence. “It’s clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and everybody in every state must take action,” Abbott told reporters in Austin after voting early in the GOP primary. The governor said Texas gun safety standards should be reviewed to see whether they need updating. He added that government leaders need to empower local law enforcement to recognize “red flags.”

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Roughly half of Texans think U.S. is on wrong track and state is on right one

Most Texas voters think the national economy is better than it was a year ago, but half of them also believe the country is on the wrong track, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Only 19 percent think the national economy has declined over the last 12 months, while 53 percent say it has improved and 26 percent say it’s about the same. Texans have been growing more optimistic about the economy for a while now. In the UT/TT poll from a year ago, 40 percent thought the national economy was improving. In the February 2016 poll, only 30 percent felt that way. Republicans were a lot more likely to say the national economy is better. “You have to be a real partisan Democrat to look at the economy and think it’s moving in the wrong direction,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Nine Texas Facilities Commission employees departed after reports of agency dysfunction

Former state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran wasn’t the only person ousted from the Texas Facilities Commission in January, after a Texas Tribune investigation found the billion-dollar agency was rife with internal dysfunction due in part to Hilderbran's management style. Eight other employees departed the agency with Hilderbran, including the commission’s general counsel, its director of operations and several other high-level staffers. "The executive management changes do not detract from the tremendous work done on a daily basis by the amazing men and women of the Texas Facilities Commission," interim Executive Director John Raff told the Tribune in a statement after the firings. He said the departures were part of a "normal reset" that would allow the agency to "refocus and re-align in a forward-focused, collective and collaborative way."

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texans divided on value of #metoo movement

The #metoo movement is getting a mixed reaction in Texas, but a majority of the state’s voters believe increased attention to sexual assault and harassment is going to improve the lives of most women, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Overall, 38 percent of Texans said they have a favorable view of #metoo — including 21 percent who said their opinion is “very favorable” — while 30 percent have an unfavorable opinion. That group includes 15 percent who said they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of the movement. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to have a favorable opinion of the #metoo movement. Two-thirds of Democrats have a favorable opinion, compared with 16 percent of Republicans. A majority of Republicans have unfavorable views of #metoo, an opinion shared by only 8 percent of Democrats.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2018

Some lawmakers think free speech is endangered at Texas colleges. But what can they do about it?

Free speech on campus may be a hot-button issue, but it has spurred only tepid action in the Texas Capitol so far. After months of media conflagration, hand-wringing and attempts to push through new laws, lawmakers still can't seem to rally around a way to boost students' free-speech rights — a goal pushed by many lawmakers, including Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. A few ideas have been raised, but they've repeatedly been met with questions about whether a state law regulating universities' free-speech policies is even necessary. “What would [lawmakers] mandate?” said Ron Trowbridge, a trustee at Lone Star College. “The First Amendment? It’s already been mandated by the 55 framers of the Constitution, so theirs would just be a redundancy.”

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

38 Texas legislative primary races to watch

In a busy primary season, races for the Texas House and Senate have drawn some of the most attention this year, with more than a dozen open seats drawing multiple candidates and incumbents across the ballot hoping to fend off spirited challengers. Below are snapshots of some of the most interesting legislative primaries. Early voting for the March 6 primary started Feb. 20.

San Antonio Express-News - February 20, 2018

Uresti’s fate in jury’s hands as deliberations in criminal fraud trial begin

The future of Sen. Carlos Uresti now is in the hands of 12 jurors who began deliberating whether to convict the San Antonio Democrat of conspiring to defraud investors or to pronounce his innocence. In closing arguments Tuesday, federal prosecutors portrayed Uresti as a desperate man, financially strapped and willing to lure unwitting investors to a fledgling oilfield services company that later collapsed under the weight of lies and debt. Uresti’s defense team painted him as a careless, foolish and negligent man who faithfully believed FourWinds Logistics would make him and investors lots of money.

San Antonio Express-News - February 20, 2018

Garcia: Why this round of gun-control activism feels different

Twice in the span of a week, local members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America received shout-outs from visiting members of Congress. Last Tuesday, El Paso Rep. (and U.S. Senate hopeful) Beto O’Rourke thanked members for attending his town hall at the Ella Austin Community Center. On Monday, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, commended the group during a Central Library panel discussion on the recently enacted Republican tax cut. In the six-day gap between those two local events, the nation received a reminder of the reason for Moms Demand Action’s existence. A 19-year-old former student is accused of entering Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and gunning down 17 people with an AR-15 rifle.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 20, 2018

Barron: What is the Texas attorney general afraid of? Young voters, that’s what

If there were any lingering doubt that our state leaders are reluctant to let young Texans get anywhere near the voting booth, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton just wiped it away. It’s the latest move in a concerted effort to get young people to “just say no” to voting. The attorney general, in response to a complaint from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, has issued an opinion in which he says public school districts would be in violation of state law if they transported eligible students to the polls for the purposes of voting.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 19, 2018

FWST: Who deserves your vote?

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board has interviewed candidates in the most competitive local races and provided our recommendations. ... Congressional District 6- Republican J.K. Jake Ellzey -- Ellzey has an impressive military record that indicates discipline and a commitment to service. His work with the Texas Veterans Commission has given him an understanding of that community's needs, and a desire to continue improving Veterans Affairs services. He has a strong presence and could distinguish himself among other representatives, drawing attention to priorities in the district. ... Congressional District 6- Democrat Ruby Faye Woolridge -- Woolridge has realistic proposals for tackling the budget-busting costs of Social Security. She impressed us as someone who rolls up her sleeves to find solutions. She has proactively met with rural landowners in the district who are concerned their property will be seized for a high speed rail line.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 20, 2018

Should assault weapons be banned? We asked your lawmakers what they think

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis: The longtime lawmaker whose district includes Arlington said he would not support a ban on semi-automatic weapons. "They won't work," he said. He said there are several ways to "minimize future shootings," including putting more money into mental health and counseling programs and giving law enforcers more authority to screen and watch people who "show signs of aggression or traits that might be leading indicators that the individual may be capable of something of this nature." ... U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth: She has received at least $16,450 from the NRA and an A rating from the group in the past. Her office did not respond to the Star-Telegram request. U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell: He has received at least $14,750 from the NRA and an A rating from the group. His office did not respond to the Star-Telegram request.

Yahoo! News - February 10, 2018

Is THIS the year Texas goes Democratic? How grassroots organizers hope to make it happen

Like millions of other Americans, Mary Ibarra started settling into a sports bar on Super Bowl Sunday hours before kickoff, a long day still ahead of her. But unlike most of the Brass Monkey bar’s patrons, she was not sporting Eagles green or Patriots blue, but instead a shirt that read “When they go low, we go local.” Ibarra was at the Brass Monkey not to watch the game — as a Cowboys fan, she wasn’t enamored with either option — but to register voters for next month’s primaries. Texas’s primaries are early (March 6) and citizens have to be registered 30 days before. As a staffer for the voter outreach organization Voto Latino, Ibarra had been on the ground for three weeks organizing volunteers to expand the base of voters and encourage turnout in an area that’s highly populated (El Paso County is the eighth largest county in the state) and heavily Latino (82.2 percent, per 2016 census estimates).

Texas Observer - February 19, 2018

Barajas: Compassionate Cop? Taking a Hard Look at Lupe Valdez’s Record as Dallas Sheriff

When Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez gave her prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, she faced a tough task. Viral videos of police violence had again triggered unrest across the nation. Earlier that month, Baton Rouge cops had gunned down Alton Sterling, followed by the on-camera killing of Philando Castile in Minnesota. Then, at a rally against police brutality in downtown Dallas on July 7, a veteran fired on officers, killing five and wounding several others. Three weeks after the Dallas ambush, Valdez, dressed in her sheriff’s uniform, delivered her DNC speech inside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. She recounted how her father, a migrant farmworker, was angry when he found out she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. “He and my older brothers had been beaten by the police for no legitimate reason,” she told the audience. But Valdez stuck with the profession, and after working her way from jail guard to federal agent, in 2004 she was elected the nation’s first queer, Latina sheriff.

Texas Observer - February 20, 2018

Selling Out or a Smart Strategy? A Fight Brews Over Democratic Values in Congressional District 21

At a recent Democratic candidate forum in Bandera, congressional hopefuls in south-central Texas’ 21st District were asked about border security. Joseph Kopser, a tech entrepreneur and Iraq War veteran, surprised some attendees with his answer. “It is not just a wall,” he told members of the Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas, as The Intercept first reported. “It’s a combination of fence line, it’s a combination of zones, but it’s also new combinations of technology. … I want to secure our borders because when I spent my time in Iraq, when we were fighting al-Qaida, the border between Iraq and Iran was not secure and those fighters came over from Iran and that didn’t do us any good in that fight. Nor do I want to allow anyone across our border without us knowing who they are. Next question?” A man in the audience replied, “Are you sure you’re on the right ticket?” “I’m on the American ticket,” Kopser responded.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

Harris County Democrats blame GOP clerk for shortage of precinct judges

As early voting kicked off Tuesday, Harris County Democrats are hustling to line up enough precinct judges to staff the March 6 primary election. Last Wednesday, the county elections office notified both parties they were short and the office was going into emergency mode to fill in 146 vacancies. By Tuesday morning, the Democrats were missing 55 judges and Republicans had five vacant slots. A Democratic spokesman midday Tuesday blamed the shortfall, which by then had dwindled to about 20 judges, on stalling by Republican County Clerk Stan Stanart. Democrats said Stanart was late to provide precinct addresses and training equipment amid a "playing field (that) is not very level."

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

Wilonsky: Why would the NRA move its May convention when Dallas is giving it $400,000 in free rent?

Yes, the National Rifle Association is coming to Dallas this May, with all of its guns and all of its controversy. And there's nothing we can do about it — at least nothing we can do to stop them. Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway stood outside of City Hall on Monday essentially to plea with the NRA not to come. What he accomplished, I couldn't tell. As the NRA would later tell Fox4: "No politician anywhere can tell the NRA not to come to their city." No matter how much we beg and swear and shout, the NRA will come to Dallas. I mean, why would they even think about going anywhere else when they got such a sweet deal from the city and its tourism bureau to come here in the first place? You don't shoot a gift horse in the mouth.

National Stories

Associated Press - February 20, 2018

Trump urges ban on gun devices like bump stocks

As a grieving Florida community demanded action on guns, President Donald Trump on Tuesday directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas massacre. It was a small sign of movement on the gun violence issue that has long tied Washington in knots. "We must do more to protect our children," Trump said, adding that his administration was working hard to respond to the shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead. After past mass killings yielded little action on tighter gun controls, the White House is trying to demonstrate that it is taking the issue seriously. The president, a strong and vocal supporter of gun rights, has not endorsed more robust changes sought by gun control activists. But the White House cast the president in recent days as having been swayed by the school shooting in Florida and willing to listen to proposals.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Washington Post - February 20, 2018

Students are emerging as the newest identity group shaping the gun violence conversation

Dozens of students affected by the Florida shooting have written op-eds, participated in protests, spoken at rallies and contacted their lawmakers in response to what may have been one of the most traumatic incidents of their lives. At a time when grass-roots activists have kept sexual assaults against women, racial discrimination and immigration before politicians and in the headlines, students are emerging as the latest group advocating for policies that not only would improve their quality of life, but could literally save their lives. On Monday, 17 high school students lay down for three minutes in front of the White House to symbolize the lives lost during the shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the time it takes to buy a gun.

The Hill - February 20, 2018

Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee

At a birthday party for Hillary Clinton in October, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered a toast — and a sobering thought — for the evening’s attendees: “If Hillary couldn’t win the White House, I don’t know which woman can.” Some of the partygoers — including the former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — nodded ruefully as Feinstein, standing in the doorway of a family room at the Georgetown home of major Democratic donor Elizabeth Bagley, made the remark, according to two attendees. Months later, it’s at times hard to imagine Democrats failing to nominate a woman as their standard-bearer against President Trump in 2020.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

French: Let's empower families to get authorities to remove guns from troubled people

To understand the American gun-control debate, you have to understand the fundamentally different starting positions of the two sides. Among conservatives, there is the broad belief that the right to own a weapon for self-defense is every bit as inherent and unalienable as the right to speak freely or practice religion. It's a co-equal liberty in the Bill of Rights, grounded not just in the minds of the Founders but in natural law. Against this backdrop, most forms of gun control proposed after each mass killing represent a collective punishment. The rights of the law-abiding are restricted with no real evidence that these alleged "common sense" reforms will prevent future tragedies in any meaningful way.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

Trump administration proposes rule to loosen curbs on short-term health plans

Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under a proposed rule released Tuesday by the Trump administration that could further roil the marketplace. "We want to open up affordable alternatives to unaffordable Affordable Care Act policies," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "This is one step in the direction of providing Americans health insurance options that are more affordable and more suitable to individual and family circumstances." The proposed rule said short-term plans could add more choices to the market at lower cost and may offer broader provider networks than Affordable Care Act plans in rural areas.

New York Times - February 20, 2018

North Korea Dropped Out of Meeting With Pence at Last Minute, U.S. Says

Vice President Mike Pence had planned to secretly meet with a high-level delegation of North Korean leaders while he was at the Winter Olympics in South Korea this month, but the North Koreans canceled at the last minute, according to the State Department. “We regret the failure to seize this opportunity,” Heather Nauert, the department’s spokeswoman, said Tuesday. The canceled meeting is the latest twist in the evolving American strategy to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, which Western intelligence agencies say will soon be able to threaten the continental United States.

Wall St. Journal - February 20, 2018

Russian Trolls Tweeted Disinformation Long Before U.S. Election

While it is impossible to be sure what was in the minds of Russians tweeting false stories in 2014 and 2015—which also included tales of contaminated water, terrorist attacks and a chemical-plant explosion—these experts say it is as if the Russians were testing to see how much they could get Americans to believe. “Well before it was focused on the 2016 election, what Russia was doing was stockpiling capabilities,” said Keir Giles, a specialist in Russian information warfare at the Chatham House think tank in London. “They were doing test runs of what happens if we launch this kind of Twitter attack or attempt to start this kind of panic. Sit back, refine your results, see what works and what doesn’t.”

New York Times - February 20, 2018

Former Skadden Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lying in Russia Investigation

The son-in-law of a Russia-based billionaire admitted on Tuesday to lying to investigators about his communications with a former Trump campaign aide. The guilty plea by the defendant, a former lawyer at a powerful New York-based law firm, broadened the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s election interference. The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old Dutch citizen, acknowledged in federal court in Washington that he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide, over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. He also admitted that he deleted records of email exchanges that prosecutors had sought. He faces up to five years in prison but said in court that he expected to serve six months or less.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2018

DiNardo and U.S. Catholic Bishops issue call to support DACA recipients

U.S. Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, are staging a national call-in day to urge Congress to protect Dreamers, young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, from deportation. The call for action comes after the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to consider bipartisan immigration proposals and as the March 5 deadline to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program approaches. Since President Trump ordered an end to DACA in September, the roughly 700,000 immigrants who are shielded from deportation under the Obama-era program have been on a roller coaster of emotions, uncertain what their futures will be.

San Antonio Express-News - February 20, 2018

Mexican government targets NAFTA defensive to U.S. market

The Mexican government is borrowing a tried and true lobbying strategy in its fight to keep NAFTA alive, building an English language, interactive portal aimed at showing American leaders the number of jobs and volume of trade the agreement is credited with bringing to their particular state. The “NAFTA Works” website by the Mexican Ministry of Economy was unveiled Tuesday, less than a week before the seventh round of what have been contentious talks to update the 24-year-old trade pact begins in Mexico City. Not only have Canada and Mexico been walking on eggshells over the fate of a pact President Donald Trump slammed, but increasingly U.S. sectors such as agriculture and automobile manufacturing. Mexico produced the website using publicly available data from sources such as wisertrade.org and the Wilson Center. It also features videos, tweets and posts on the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Washington Post - February 20, 2018

Trump was ‘too controversial’ for CPAC in 2016. Now a Le Pen will address the conservative conference.

Things sure have changed at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Donald Trump pulled out of a scheduled speech at the event in 2016 because, he revealed last year, “I was worried that I would be, at that time, too controversial. We wanted border security. We wanted very, very strong military. We wanted all of the things that we're going to get, and people consider that controversial.” Now, CPAC is lending its platform to a political figure who is perhaps even more controversial, particularly on the issue of border security: Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, scion of an ultranationalist political dynasty in France.

The Hill - February 20, 2018

Bovard: Big Republican missteps needed for Democrats to win in November

November is still eight months away, but Republican leaders are already conceding defeat in the midterm elections. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the New York Times on Saturday, “the odds are that we will lose seats in the House and Senate.” Expectations management is a long tradition of political leaders. Undersell the outcome, paint yourself as facing major headwinds, and then if you wind up on top, you’re a genius! If not, well, like you said, it was gonna be a tough ride. But given the Senate’s electoral math, McConnell’s statement is actually quite shocking. Let’s break down the numbers. There are 34 seats up for election later this year. The Democrats are currently defending 26 seats. Republicans, on the other hand, are only defending eight. This electoral advantage — that is, the difference between how many seats the Democrats have to defend versus the Republicans — is 17 seats.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2018

Why Ted Cruz is heading to a bankrupt Philadelphia refinery, and why it could cost him in Iowa

On Wednesday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz heads to a refinery in Philadelphia that declared bankruptcy a month ago for a town hall meeting with workers. Why? Pennsylvania isn't an early-voting state in presidential contests. In any case, Cruz has set aside his White House ambitions, which could be for the best, because this side trip is likely to annoy potential supporters in Iowa. This is about showcasing opposition to federal ethanol mandates — a nonpartisan article of faith in corn country, and a deeply unpopular policy in the Texas oil patch. The Texas primary is two weeks away, and Cruz is busy seeking nomination to a second term.

Politico - February 20, 2018

A decade after meltdown, Senate moves to roll back bank rules

U.S. senators are planning to mark the 10th anniversary of Wall Street’s meltdown this year with a gift to the nation’s banks: a bill that would unravel regulations put in place after the crisis. The proposed rollback of some key post-crisis rules – which could advance in the coming weeks – is one of the few examples of bipartisanship in Washington since President Donald Trump's election. Yet the bill is driving a wedge between Democrats and threatening to magnify the party's divisions as it fights to win back Congress this year.

Wall St. Journal - February 20, 2018

The Risk Pension Funds Can’t Escape

Public pension funds that lost hundreds of billions during the last financial crisis still face significant risk from one basic investment: stocks. That vulnerability came into focus earlier this month as markets descended into correction territory for the first time since February 2016. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., lost $18.5 billion in value over a 10-day trading period ended Feb. 9, according to figures provided by the system. The sudden drop represented 5% of total assets held by the pension fund, which had roughly half of its portfolio in equities as of late 2017. It gained back $8.1 billion through last Friday as markets recovered. “It looks like 2018 is likely to be more turbulent than what we have experienced the last couple of years,” the fund’s chief investment officer, Ted Eliopoulos, told his board last Monday at a public meeting.

Washington Free Beacon - February 21, 2018

The U.S. is picking a fight with its biggest creditor

President Trump is considering more tariffs that would punish China. But he needs China more than ever in the coming years to pay for the U.S. government. China is by far the largest holder of Treasuries, the debt that the United States sells in the form of bonds when it needs to borrow money. China's holdings climbed 13% to $1.18 trillion last year. And the United States is about to sell even more debt. The Republican tax cuts and the federal budget deal will require even more borrowing. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the deficit could swell to $1 trillion next year.

Newsclips - February 20, 2018

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal - February 19, 2018

Facebook Battles New Criticism After U.S. Indictment Against Russians

Facebook Inc. FB -1.44% is contending with a new wave of criticism prompted by the U.S. indictment alleging that Russia manipulated social-media platforms—and by a Facebook executive’s attempts to address the issue. The indictment against Russian companies and individuals described how an organization called the Internet Research Agency allegedly used Facebook, Twitter Inc., TWTR -1.64% and the YouTube arm of Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL 0.38% Google to sow discord in the U.S. starting in 2014. The document’s description of events showed that Facebook and its Instagram photo-sharing unit were particularly central to the alleged Russian attempts to influence U.S. public opinion.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

How Russian trolls tried to fool Texans

They were politically active Americans scattered around the country, dedicating their spare time to the 2016 presidential campaign or various causes. And the seeming fellow activists who called them to rallies via Facebook, or joined in the free-for-all on Twitter, appeared unremarkable. Except that their English sometimes seemed a little odd. “We are looking for friendship because we are fighting for the same reasons,” someone purporting to be with an online group calling itself Blacktivist wrote via Twitter to the Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, a Baltimore pastor, in April 2016. “Actually we are open for your thoughts and offers.” In late October 2016, in the Southeast Texas town of Nederland, the Texas Nationalist Movement got a Facebook message from someone representing a group called Heart of Texas, which planned to organize rallies in favor of Texas secession on the eve of the election. But on a follow-up call, “something was off,” said Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement.

San Antonio Express-News - February 19, 2018

Beto O’Rourke fundraising tops $8M in campaign against Ted Cruz

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke announced he has raised $2.2 million from mostly small donors since the start of the new year. O’Rourke, a member of the U.S. House from El Paso hoping to defeat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in November, has now raised more than $8 million for his campaign since March 2017 — the most any Democrat in Texas has raised in a U.S. Senate race in 16 years. In 2012, Democrat Paul Sadler raised just $683,000 for the entire campaign against Cruz in his first campaign for the Senate. And in 2014, Democrat David Alameel raised less than $50,000 in his failed campaign against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Jeffers; Lupe Valdez finally hires campaign manager in Democratic primary fight for governor

A day before early voting begins for the March 6 primary, Lupe Valdez has announced a campaign manager and consulting team for her race for governor. Valdez, the former Dallas County Sheriff, has hired veteran consultant Bill Romjue as her campaign manager, according to a news release. He has had major roles in seven presidential campaigns, including former Vice President Joe Biden's unsuccessful bid in 2008. Romjue most recently was a strategist on the campaign of Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat who beat Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama special Senate election.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Contenders for George P. Bush's post knock his handling of Harvey recovery, Alamo redevelopment

Jerry Patterson wants a shot at George P. Bush. So do the other four Republican and Democratic challengers in the race for Texas Land Commissioner. The problem, they say, is that Bush won’t face them. “He doesn’t want to be seen, he doesn’t want to be known. He doesn’t even want to respond,” said Patterson, Bush’s predecessor as land commissioner and his main opponent in the race. As they make their pitch to voters and criticize Bush’s handling of the Alamo redevelopment, his office’s management and its response to Hurricane Harvey, Bush is nowhere to be found, they say. Not at debates, not at candidate forums.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem urges NRA to find a new home for their convention

A leader in Dallas politics does not want the National Rifle Association to meet in his city. Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway is urging the NRA to find a new home for its annual convention. He says the meeting is not appropriate in Dallas in the wake of last week's school shooting in Florida. Caraway also points to the past tragedies in Dallas, including the 2016 ambush that killed five Dallas officers, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Former Mexican President Fox endorses legalization of all drugs, defends Dreamers

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox says he has solutions for two U.S.-Mexico challenges: legalize all drugs and legalize immigrants known as Dreamers. Fox is a controversial and complicated figure whose positions on issues on both sides of the border raise eyebrows. He’s promoting his new book Let’s Move On. But he got his fame as the former Coca-Cola executive and rancher who knocked Mexico’s authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party out of power after seven decades of rule in 2000. Noting that governments haven’t been able to find solutions to their people’s drug problems, on Monday the 75-year-old ex-president said once again that legalizing drugs would cut crime and violence.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Trump is touting 'biggest and boldest' infrastructure plan in 50 years. What do the numbers really say?

In pitching a plan to “rebuild and restore America’s depleted infrastructure,” President Donald Trump has touted his effort as the “biggest and boldest infrastructure initiative in at least a half a century.” And that means, at least, big numbers. Overall investment of more than $1 trillion. Direct federal spending of $200 billion, money that would come on top of billions of dollars already in play. Major work on a sprawling infrastructure system that features, for instance, a highway network with millions of lane miles. But it’s harder to determine how that grandiose scale would translate in Texas, a big state with big needs.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Mostly unknown Democrats, Republicans vie to replace Texas Rep. Joe Barton

Front yards and rights of way in Waxahachie and Ennis and Midlothian are dotted with campaign signs for Ellis County sheriff, county and district clerk, judges and constables. But rare in the 6th Congressional District — a mix of southern Arlington and rural Ellis and Navarro counties — is a sign for a congressional candidate in what has long been Joe Barton country. Eleven Republicans and five Democrats are running to replace Barton, a Republican representative for 33 years. And Barton said no matter how hard the candidates work, they will have a tough time gaining traction before the March 6 primary. Incumbents can take years to build up organizations, donors, supporters — and enemies — and name identification.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Who’s Beto O’Rourke? Ted Cruz’s challenger works to raise his profile in rural Texas

El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke arrived for a town hall in a rundown East Texas neighborhood bleary-eyed, with coffee in his hand and stubble on his face. That’s because Beto O’Rourke was up all night in Washington, where a Republican senator caused a brief government shutdown that forced Beto O’Rourke to forgo a day and a half’s worth of campaign events back in Texas. Not to mention a shower and shave. Beto O’Rourke, who then took a 6:45 a.m. flight to Houston that Friday and drove two hours northeast to Lufkin, needed sleep. But more than that, Beto O’Rourke needs rallies like these so that people learn his name.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Hensarling retirement has 8 Republicans out to fill his Dallas to East Texas congressional district

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling's announcement that he will retire from Congress has created an opening that eight Republican candidates are trying to fill. Those candidates are working to become known across Texas' vast 5th Congressional District, with the understanding that at least six of them will be out of the running after the party's March 6 primary. Some of the candidates believe that concerns about residency are a legitimate campaign issue in the district that includes parts of Dallas, Garland and Mesquite and stretches south and east to all of Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Kaufman, Van Zandt counties and part of Wood County.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Donley: Texas alcoholic beverage laws are complex for good reason

Contrary to some assertions, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is not antiquated. It has been updated with hundreds of changes since the days following Prohibition, including a total recodification. Rarely does a biennial legislative session occur without multiple updates to conform the TABC code to modern business practices. In recent years, craft brews have been the fastest growing class in the U.S. malt beverage sector along with Mexican imports. Craft brews are exciting, with many quality, successful new beers and ales coming out of Texas, gaining market share at the expense of legacy brewers. That’s how competition is intended to work, and how the Texas Legislature balances its desire to not “pick winners and losers” when industry stakeholders face off.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

PolitiFact: Do Texas school districts offer sex education?

Houston businessman Andrew White, a Democratic aspirant for governor, said that when he’s elected, he’ll step up sex education in schools. White, speaking on Texas Public Radio, declared: “There is a large number of schools in Texas that don’t even offer sex education. Now that, to me, it’s bizarre. So we have to make these investments. If you really are serious about reducing the demand for abortion, there are some really simple ways to do that — sex education and access to contraceptives.” ... In fact, most districts offered sex education in high school in 2015-16, according to a statewide analysis, though nearly 60 percent were teaching abstinence alone. The study estimated that 25 percent of districts didn’t offer sex education. On balance, we rate this claim Half True.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

Democratic candidates compete to run against U.S. Rep. Bill Flores

A political newcomer and a former Texas legislative staff member are facing off in the March 6 Democratic primary with hopes of unseating incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan. Rick Kennedy, a software engineer from Austin, is running against Dale Mantey, who previously worked for former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, as a health policy analyst. Kennedy, 55, and Mantey, 28, are the only two candidates hoping to end Flores’ four-term run representing District 17, which encompasses parts of Austin, Waco and Fairfield. Flores is running unopposed in the Republican primary. Early voting starts today. Flores, who declined to comment, has raised $593,815. In 2016, he won the district with 61 percent of the votes.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

In crowded race to replace Lamar Smith, Cruz makes his pick plain

When U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith announced in November that he was calling it quits after 30 years in Washington, he left Republicans with scarcely four months to throw together campaigns and figure out how to stand out in what quickly became a field of 18 candidates with no clear front-runner. State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, unveiled a slogan, “Make America Like Texas.” William Negley, fresh from seven years in the CIA, planted yard signs identifying himself as “terrorist hunter.” Former Bexar County GOP Chairman Robert Stovall cut an ad standing knee-deep in a local pond suggestive of the swamp he wants to help President Donald Trump drain in D.C.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

First Reading: Wake up Texas! `Homespun Hogan,’ the `Hayseed from Cleburne,’ is (once again) the sleeper candidate for Ag Commissioner

The day after the great Sid Miller-Trey Blocker debate in the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner on Feb. 6. I missed a call from the third candidate in that race, Jim Hogan. He left a message asking if I wanted to “chew the fat.” You can watch the Hogan-less debate here. It begins at just about the 2-hour 10-minute mark. When I called Hogan back, he answered and I asked, “Is that party-switching sleeper candidate from Cleburne?” “Yeah I think you got that right,” Hogan replied. “You must be psychic.” I asked him if this was a good time to chew the fat. “Yes,” he said. “I’m actually walking around in my coveralls listening to my cows holler for another bale of hay.”

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

Henson, Blank: A change in the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll’s primary voter sample

For the February 2018 edition of the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll released today, we decided to sample primary voters differently than in previous attempts. This time, estimates for our primary election trial ballots were based on a sample of likely voters with a verified record of primary vote history, as opposed to relying on a subset of voters who express requisite levels of political interest and participation. While it may be tempting to think that this change in process is a result of some notable state-level polling errors in the 2016 election, the impetus for this change actually began back in 2014. During that election cycle, our estimates for the Republican gubernatorial and Senate primaries turned out pretty well, but that’s where the plaudits ended. Since then, we’ve been thinking, obsessing even, over how we might approach the next off-year primary Election given our experience in 2014, but also in light of the broader discussion about the volatility in polling, and the ever-increasing difficulties of reaching a representative sample.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

Roberts: A promise to keep Texas ahead

Texas is a leader in economic prosperity, but that gap may narrow soon. Missouri is enacting a slate of pro-business policies, including tort reform and considering deep cuts to its corporate tax rate. North Carolina’s low cost of doing business put it on top of Forbes’ list of best states for business in 2017. Even New York has an “open for business” campaign. Texas has the edge, of course – more than a quarter of all U.S. jobs created since the Great Recession have been created in Texas. But other states are catching on – and catching up. So how can Texas keep its lead? It’s not too early to talk about this: in less than a year, the Legislature will be back in session, with the opportunity to enact reforms that will advance the cause of liberty.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

Texas 2018 Hotlist: The most competitive races in this year’s election

Between statewide races and those for seats in Congress and the Texas Legislature, there are 215 races on the 2018 Democratic and Republican primary ballots. Which ones are on my short list this week? For this highly subjective, recurring list of the most competitive races in Texas, I’ve ranked contests by the threat to each incumbent, to the incumbent party, or just by the level of interest and heat they’re generating. It’s a mix of competitive heat, drama and interest. Incumbents are noted in the chart, as are changes and adds from the previous week’s list. Here’s a big, fat disclaimer: This is a conversation-starter — not the last word on anything.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

Texas Republicans getting almost 90 percent of money flowing into state elections

Political money follows political power, and in Texas that means it’s mostly going to Republicans, who scooped up almost 90 cents of every dollar that’s gone into state campaign coffers so far in the 2018 election cycle. Put another way: Donors pumped a total of $67 million into state-level campaigns from the beginning of 2017 through Jan. 25, and a whopping $57 million of it, or about 86 percent, went to GOP candidates, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. The top 20 recipients of state campaign largesse in Texas were all Republicans. Gov. Greg Abbott dominates Texas fundraising like no other candidate, pulling in an astonishing $20 million during that period, or nearly a third of all the political money raised in state races since the beginning of last year. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick came in a distant second with $6.8 million raised over the last 13 months.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Garcia: Mail-in ballot confusion frustrates local Democratic retirees

Darlene Clements Murnin spent 20 years working at Kelly Air Force Base, half of that time as an aircraft hydraulic mechanic. At the age of 95, she remains strong, assertive and quick-witted. She doesn’t frustrate easily. But Murnin has been frustrated lately as she and several of her fellow residents at the Village at Incarnate Word retirement community found themselves on the verge of being locked out of the March 6 Texas primary voting process. Murnin is a dedicated Democrat whose late husband, John, once served as the executive director of the Bexar County Democratic Party. She recently received a Republican primary mail-in ballot from the Bexar County Elections Department, however, because her ballot application — which had been delivered to her by an unnamed source from a San Antonio P.O. Box — pre-checked the box for the Republican primary and she hadn’t noticed it.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

HC: For House District 126: E. Sam Harless

Our recent history of devastating floods, topped off by the biblical rains of Hurricane Harvey last summer, has made the issue of flooding and what to do about it our leading concern as we approach the Republican and Democratic primaries on March 6. So, we were pleased and impressed that E. Sam Harless, 55, nearly jumped out of his chair to discuss the topic in our meeting with Republican candidates for District 126 in northwest Houston. "The number one issue in our district is flooding ... we've been flooded not just this year by Harvey, but the last three years," he said, referring to the Memorial Day flood in 2015 and the Tax Day flood of 2016.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 16, 2018

Does Joe Barton's departure open the door for Democrats in Congressional District 6?

There may be no better time for a Democrat to run for the 6th Congressional District. Last year, as longtime U.S. Rep. Joe Barton announced he wouldn't seek re-election — after coming under fire for a nude photo shared online and private messages with sexual overtones he sent a female constituent — many concluded the district might finally be up for grabs. Five Democrats — Ruby Faye Woolridge, Jana Lynne Sanchez, Levii R. Shocklee, John W. Duncan and Justin Snider — will face off in the March 6 primary, hoping to win the party's nomination and try to break the more than three decades of Republican hold on the district.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

Political Pick'em: Can you guess who will win these Texas primaries?

If Texas politics is a contact sport, shouldn't it have a fantasy league? The Texas Tribune is excited to present its first Political Pick'em contest. We've selected 15 competitive Texas primaries, and we want you to pick the candidates you think will get the most votes on election night. Afterward, we'll pick one entry to receive a special prize, which includes: Two three-day badges to The Texas Tribune Festival, our annual ideas fest featuring some of the biggest names in politics and public policy A private, behind-the-scenes tour of the LBJ Presidential Library with LBJ Foundation President and CEO Mark K. Updegrove

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

A group of Texas lawmakers wants to fix higher education funding — but it won't be easy

After lawmakers last year failed to overhaul how the state funds its public colleges and universities, a special committee on Wednesday will begin a new attempt to review the complicated higher education finance system in Texas. Complaints have crescendoed about eroding government support for higher education. But at stake in the coming months is not how much money Texas pumps into its colleges and universities. It’s whether the state’s method of disbursing nearly $3 billion per year to those schools through formulas and direct appropriations is due for a comprehensive makeover.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texas Republicans down on FBI, Russia investigation

Texas Republican voter opinion turned against the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller even before last week’s mass shooting in a Florida high school and indictments of Russian propagandists who tried to influence American elections, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. It’s a peculiar position for a party known for its strong law-and-order positions. Only 14 percent of Texas Republicans approve of the way Mueller is handing the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, while 60 percent disapprove. And only 27 percent said they have a favorable impression of the FBI, while 48 percent of those Republican respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2018

UT/TT Poll: When it comes to Texans’ view of Trump, party outweighs everything

The most reliable indicator of whether a Texan thinks Donald Trump has what it takes to be president is the party that voter identifies with, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Republicans are full of praise. Democrats are full of scorn. Overall, more than half of Texas registered voters do not believe Trump has the temperament to be president, that he is honest and trustworthy, or that he “cares about people like you.” By a narrow margin (48 percent to 46 percent), they believe he is competent; by the same margin, they said he is knowledgeable. Equal numbers said Trump is a strong leader.

Texas GOP Vote - February 15, 2018

Frantes: Who is the Real Culprit Behind Rising Property Taxes in Montgomery County?

There is much heated debate right now over skyrocketing property taxes in Texas and who is to blame. Who's the real culprit? Who's been fighting to cut your property taxes in Montgomery County? With candidates Craig Doyal and Mark Keough vying for the Republican primary vote for Montgomery County Judge, a look at how they have affected your property taxes in their time as elected officials could provide insight as to how they might affect your property taxes in the future as County Judge. In the last Texas Legislative session, lawmakers in Austin, including State Representative Mark Keough (HD 15), quietly voted to allow your property bill to INCREASE by shifting even more responsibility for public education funding from the state to local taxpayers.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - February 19, 2018

Outdated flood zone maps, growing Corpus Christi could lead to disaster

The new flood maps, once finalized, will be the first substantial update to the city’s projected flood layout in three decades. They’re meant to establish flood insurance rates, help communities assess risk and are intended to play a large role in decisions on where and how development is planned. Early drafts of the maps were released in 2015 for residents to review and submit comments. They’re not in effect and haven’t been finalized, pending revisions. It shows, several experts said: What we thought we knew, we didn't know. In addition to thousands of homes and businesses, 13 schools, three fire stations and two wastewater treatment plants were proposed as being in higher-risk flood areas, according to a 2017 Nueces County hazard mitigation plan.

Texas Monthly - February 16, 2018

Ratcliffe: Texas Republicans Escalate Their War—on Each Other

The closer we get to the March 6 primary election, the more we should expect to see the conflict between centrist Republicans and far-right conservatives grow more intense. Already the intra-party struggles are increasing. Texas Right to Life is supporting four challengers to incumbent legislators deemed insufficiently anti-abortion. In Tarrant County, four Republican state senators have denounced a county judge for saying that the current state budget is balanced on the back of local taxpayers. A Republican state senator from Lubbock calls claims that the state’s share of public education funding has dropped to 38 percent “fake news.” And the governor is wading into House races. You could be forgiven for thinking that this all sounds like poltics as usual. Except that the four incumbents that Texas Right to Life is challenging are all Republicans, and each received a 100 percent “Pro-life” rating from the group last year.

Texas Observer - February 15, 2018

In the Texas Legislature, Sexual Harassment Complaints are Rarely Filed, Haphazardly Maintained and Then Destroyed

Late last year, amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in politics, media and entertainment, reports surfaced of a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the Texas Capitol. The problem has been widespread and women appear to have such little confidence in traditional avenues for reporting grievances that they started their own list of “bad men” to warn others in Texas politics. In response to media reports, the Texas House announced a new sexual harassment policy, which included training and counseling for employees and lawmakers, in the hopes that it would curb harassment and help victims report abuse. But the policy seems to have a glaring blindspot: Complaints, when filed with the House, are destroyed five years after they are investigated. While so many stories exist, records do not.

Galveston County Daily News - February 20, 2018

Rosen: Devil's in the details of Middleton's campaign talk

As a former mayor, I’ve learned to pay close attention to the actual words candidates use to describe their positions, particularly when it comes to local taxation. So, this direct quote caught my eye in a campaign piece from the millionaire oilman running against our Texas Representative Wayne Faircloth in the Republican primary: Faircloth’s opponent says we need “iron-clad limits on property tax growth and meaningful relief, while simultaneously working towards eventual abolition.” My, that sounds good, doesn’t it? Such easy politics. Just say taxes are too high and automatically get some people to vote for you. But what is he really saying?

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 19, 2018

Bexar commissioner wants driverless lanes on I-35

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff believes that a meeting he had last month in Washington with federal transportation officials could lead to construction of lanes for driverless automated vehicles on the Austin-San Antonio section of Interstate 35. “This is the first proposal of its kind in the nation that I’m aware of,” Wolff said. “And when the feds heard about it, they told me, ‘This is just the kind of proposal we want to fund.’” If it happens, it’ll take a while. The 95-mile stretch of eight-lane highway — perennially named one of the nation’s most congested traffic corridors — is already scheduled for an $8 billion expansion to add four “managed lanes” sometime around 2025, according to the regional Alamo Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, which Wolff chairs.

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 19, 2018

It’s been two years since SAPD started using body cameras. Are they working?

Nearly two years after the San Antonio Police Department began outfitting its officers with body-worn cameras, use-of-force incidents and formal misconduct complaints have decreased significantly, according to records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News. Since February 2016, when 55 officers with the downtown bike patrol unit received the first cameras, the number of times officers themselves reported using force has dropped 42 percent. The incidents, which are submitted in writing every time an officer uses force, can range in severity from small physical acts to deadly force.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

Hundreds gather to hear Austin police officers’ tips on mass shootings

For the hundreds of people who gathered at a North Austin church to receive training on what to do during a mass shooting, Austin police officers had one sobering message on preparation: It’s “when, not if” such violence comes to town. “When it happens, it’s like a tornado,” officer Frank Creasey said. “We’ve been lucky in Austin, Texas,” officer Joshua Visi said. “We need to stop saying, ‘Not here. It will happen somewhere else.’ The more we talk about it, the more we pay attention, the quicker we’ll react and prevent it.” More than 375 people filed into the pews of the St. Albert the Great Catholic Church on Sunday evening, according to organizers.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

5 things Dallas residents do and don't care about, according to new poll

In three different questions, respondents consistently said they care about public safety, schools and housing affordability, including property taxes. Crime, property taxes and the local economy were the top three factors that motivated people to get to the polls in elections. Housing, traffic, transportation and other issues ranked below those concerns. Dallas voters do seem to care about transportation; they overwhelmingly approved a $534 million bond proposition to repair streets in November. But Rawlings said he wasn't surprised to see traffic and transportation lower on people's list of concerns, even though it is an important "strategic planning" issue.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Floyd: After sharing anti-Islam meme, will Plano council member pick true remorse or alt-right martyrdom?

Plano City Council member Tom Harrison says he won't quit, and the law says he doesn't have to. Harrison was the lone stubborn vote in his own defense on Sunday, when his council colleagues cast a public vote for his censure over a Facebook post offensive to Muslims. The post called on the president to "ban Islam in American schools." The post, one of those copy-and-share things, includes a photo of a teenage girl in a classroom busily occupied with schoolwork. She is wearing a hijab, which I guess is enough in the eyes of some people to make her look like a threat to national security.

National Stories

New York Times - February 19, 2018

Will Anthony Kennedy Retire? What Influences a Justice’s Decision

For the second year in a row, rumors that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy may retire from the Supreme Court are sweeping Washington. He is 81, and he is doubtless weighing many factors in deciding whether to stay. Among them, experts in judicial behavior said, are the tug of party loyalty, the preservation of his judicial legacy and how close his retirement would be to a presidential election. Justice Kennedy has long held the decisive vote in many of the Supreme Court’s most contested and consequential cases, and his retirement would give President Trump the opportunity to move the court sharply to the right. If Justice Kennedy steps down, the confirmation fight over his successor will be titanic.

Washington Post - February 19, 2018

Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds

More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of problems identifying and addressing mental health issues than inadequate gun laws. In the poll conducted after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week, more than three-quarters, 77 percent, said they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting. The Post-ABC poll also finds that 58 percent of adults say stricter gun control laws could have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but there is no rise in support for banning assault weapons compared with two years ago and the partisan divide on this policy is as stark as ever.

The Hill - February 19, 2018

WH: Trump supports efforts to improve gun background checks

President Trump indicated Monday he supports gun-background-check legislation in response to last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school. “The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. The statement comes five days after a gunman killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Sanders said Trump spoke Friday with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about a bill he co-authored with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to bolster the federal background check system.

New York Times - February 19, 2018

Russian Bots Moved Quickly to Exploit the Florida Shooting

One hour after news broke about the school shooting in Florida last week, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate. The accounts addressed the news with the speed of a cable news network. Some adopted the hashtag #guncontrolnow. Others used #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting. Earlier on Wednesday, before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., many of those accounts had been focused on the investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns.

New York Times - February 19, 2018

The New Pennsylvania House Districts Are In. We Review the Mapmakers’ Choices.

Perhaps no event will do more to reshape the fight for control of the House than the new congressional map just released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. At stake was the fate of a Republican gerrymander that intended to cement a 13-5 Republican advantage in an evenly divided state. Now the Republicans will have little to no advantage at all. Democrats couldn’t have asked for much more from the new map. It’s arguably even better for them than the maps they proposed themselves. Over all, a half-dozen competitive Republican-held congressional districts move to the left, endangering several incumbent Republicans, one of whom may now be all but doomed to defeat, and improving Democratic standing in two open races.

San Antonio Express-News - February 19, 2018

Trump endorses Romney for Senate bid in Utah

President Donald Trump is endorsing Mitt Romney in Utah's Senate race, another sign that the two Republicans are burying the hatchet after a fraught relationship. The GOP's presidential nominee in 2012, Romney announced last week he would seek the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. In a tweet Monday night, Trump wrote, "He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!" Romney quickly accepted the endorsement via Twitter. Trump has not always been so positive about Romney the political candidate. In 2016 Trump said the former Massachusetts governor had "choked like a dog" during his failed 2012 bid against President Barack Obama.

Politico - February 19, 2018

Hounshell: Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic

There is, of course, plenty of public evidence that Trump was all too happy to collude with Putin. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” springs to mind, not to mention Trump’s endless invocation of WikiLeaks in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. What’s particularly eerie, too, is how Trump’s divisive racial rhetoric and claims about how the election was going to be “rigged” in favor of Hillary Clinton echoes the messages described in Mueller’s latest indictment. Not to mention the voluminous fodder Trump has given Mueller for a (very) hypothetical obstruction of justice case. Mueller's team doesn't leak, and he's repeatedly surprised us, as he did again on Friday. But I’m still waiting for a smoking gun—and the special counsel hasn’t shown us one yet, assuming he ever will.

Associated Press - February 19, 2018

Ex-workers at Russian 'troll factory' trust US indictment

While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg "troll factory" say they think the criminal charges are well-founded. Marat Mindiyarov, a former commenter at the innocuously named Internet Research Agency, says the organization's Facebook department hired people with excellent English skills to sway U.S. public opinion through an elaborate social media campaign. His own experience at the agency makes him trust the U.S. indictment, Mindiyarov told The Associated Press. "I believe that that's how it was and that it was them," he said.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

The Russians operated the election interference like a professional corporation

Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russian citizens for interfering with the U.S. electoral process dropped like a bomb on Russian intelligence agencies, global media outlets and the American consciousness on Friday. The 37-page document, which reads like a spy-thriller, provides "incontrovertible" evidence that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said, according to the AP. Mueller's indictment of the Russians has been dissected by some of the best legal minds in the country, and nearly all agree that it provides a compelling case, and one that Americans can begin to fully grasp after months of President Donald Trump insisting that the allegations of Russian meddling were "a total hoax."

Politico - February 19, 2018

Conservatives urge Trump to grant pardons in Russia probe

After months of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump’s supporters are issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the investigation’s impact. “I think he should be pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy. The pleas for mercy mainly extend to the four former Trump aides who have already been swept up in the Russia probe: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But they don’t stop there.

Washington Post - February 19, 2018

Tom Ridge is lucky to be alive: ‘I’m told I flatlined three times’

Tom Ridge, the former homeland security secretary and Pennsylvania governor, has been dealing firsthand with first responders for decades, but never quite like on the morning of Nov. 16. Ridge was at a hotel in Austin, where he was attending a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. When he woke up, he wasn’t feeling well. But it was more than just not feeling well. “I also felt different,” he said. He didn’t know it then, but he was in danger of dying. He reached for his cellphone and did a search on heart attacks. At age 72, he had no known heart issues, kept himself fit and had worked out a few days earlier without incident. He questioned whether there was anything seriously wrong, and after skimming through a narrative about heart problems, he lay back down on the bed.

San Antonio Express-News - February 19, 2018

Pelosi, Castro tear into GOP tax bill, Trump’s budget proposal

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, passing through San Antonio on Monday as part of a national fundraising and speaking tour, slammed the GOP tax bill as “theft” and “stealing from young people’s future,” while doubling down on her description of one-time bonuses resulting from the bill as “crumbs.” Pelosi, speaking with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro during a one-hour panel discussion at Central Library, spent the better part of her time on the mic criticizing the bill, repeating her charge that the law is “a dark cloud that hangs over the Capitol.” She and Castro, who would later join his family for a panel in Austin, linked the bill to President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal, condemning the cuts for their projected increases to the national deficit and for setting the stage for cuts to social programs like Medicare.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2018

Herman: The words Nancy Pelosi has trouble saying

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dropped by the newspaper Monday and generously gave us more than an hour of her time to talk about the issues of the day, both legislative and political. She opened by noting it was Presidents Day, which indeed it was. About 40 minutes later, it struck me that Pelosi, in town as part of a Texas swing to rally the Democratic troops for this year’s elections, seemed to have trouble saying the name of our current president. This revelation occurred to me as Pelosi, D-Liberalville, was answering a question from my colleague Jonathan Tilove. “So here’s the thing,” she said. “I wish the election were today because we would win today.”

Washington Post - February 19, 2018

Lawmaker who led #MeToo push invited staffer to play spin the bottle, complaint says

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, one of the leading voices behind the #MeToo movement, is facing accusations that she sexually harassed staffers — including one who said she fired him after he refused to play a game of spin the bottle with her. David John Kernick, a former field representative for Garcia, said that the Democratic lawmaker from Bell Gardens, Calif., approached him after a fundraiser at a whiskey bar in 2014 and suggested that they play spin the bottle in her hotel room, according to a complaint filed Saturday with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Kernick said he was written up for insubordination after he questioned the appropriateness of Garcia’s suggestion and was fired two days later.

New York Times - February 19, 2018

How Does Trump Stack Up Against the Best — and Worst — Presidents?

We surveyed presidential politics experts to sketch out a first draft of Trump’s place in presidential history. ... James Buchanan, who was at the helm as the United States careened into civil war, was dislodged from his position as our nation’s worst president by our current president, Trump. His Oval Office predecessor, Barack Obama, shot into the Top 10, up from 18th in the previous survey. Ulysses S. Grant also got a bump, up seven places from 2014, perhaps owing to a strong assist from Ron Chernow’s recent masterpiece. The biggest declines were for Bill Clinton, arguably the result of contemporary scorn for his treatment of women, and Andrew Jackson, for evolving attitudes on his treatment of Native Americans.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2018

Who wore it best? Cowboy hat photo ops are a presidential tradition (photos)

Last July, Donald Trump took part in a time-honored presidential tradition: With cameras whirring, he donned a cowboy hat for a quick photo op in the East Room of the White House. The hat is meant to make the leader of the free world look a little more down-to-earth. A true man of the people can pull off the wide-brimmed Stetson, right? Problem is, not all presidents can pull off the Western look. It's not as natural for a billionaire real estate mogul from Manhattan turned commander in chief, for example, as it is for a ranch owner from Crawford, Texas.

Newsclips - February 19, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

From rival to wingman, Ted Cruz boasts of chumminess with Trump as he stumps for re-election

SUGAR LAND — One thing Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t doing as he seeks a second term is running away from the president. Despite a checkered history, the Texan boasts about his access and influence on matters ranging from taxes to the Paris Climate Accord. “I spent a lot of time urging President Trump to pull out of that deal,” he recounted. “I spent 45 minutes on Air Force One saying, `Mr. President, this is killing jobs and it’s bad for our economy.'” The day after Trump announced his decision, Cruz continued, “he calls me on my cellphone. He says, 'Well, Ted, I did it, what do you think?’ ... I told him, `Mr. President, everyone who hates you is ticked off and everyone who loves you is thrilled.’”

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

State’s top business group boosts political activity ahead of primaries

The state’s most powerful business lobbying group has been beefing up its political donations, in keeping with a vow to be more proactive after spending much of 2017 on the defensive as social conservatives in the Legislature pushed measures — such as the so-called bathroom bill — that it viewed as bad for the Texas economy. The rift between the Texas Association of Business and some leaders of the socially conservative faction of the state’s Republican Party was laid bare anew recently, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick canceled a scheduled appearance at its annual conference and took swipes at the organization while speaking at a conservative policy foundation. Patrick lumped the business group — traditionally considered a bastion of mainstream Republicanism — among the “moderates, liberals and progressives” that he said are out of step with Texas, noting in his speech that the word “business” in a group’s name “does not necessarily mean they’re being run by conservative Republicans.”

Wall St. Journal - February 18, 2018

Gun Rights Expand Even as Mass Shootings Spur Calls for Stricter Laws

The Florida school shooting that killed 17 people has prompted national leaders to again call for stricter gun laws, but such measures face a tough road as a wave of states have moved to expand gun owners’ rights. In the past six years, after three of the deadliest shootings in modern history—at a Las Vegas concert, an Orlando nightclub and a Connecticut elementary school—efforts in Congress to tighten gun regulations have all failed. Legislation in states, meanwhile, has led largely to wins for supporters of broader gun rights. In a recent push, 12 states—including West Virginia, Kansas and Missouri—now have laws allowing residents to carry concealed handguns without getting a permit from authorities. Permitless-carry laws are pending in at least 19 states, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control group.

Wall St. Journal - February 18, 2018

Trump Weekend Tweetstorm Responds to Mueller Indictment

President Donald Trump used Twitter over the weekend to respond to the latest moves by special counsel Robert Mueller, repeating that his campaign didn’t collude with Russia. He also played down the impact that Russian actions had on the election. Mr. Trump’s volley of a dozen Russia-related tweets Saturday and Sunday came after Mr. Mueller’s indictment Friday of three Russian companies and 13 Russian nationals for engaging in an effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Russia’s concentrated social media effort attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton, promoted Mr. Trump and aimed to sow divisions among Americans, the indictment charges.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Democrats running to take on incumbent GOP Rep. Pete Sessions call for tougher gun control

The leading Democratic candidates for Congressional District 32 on Sunday expressed outrage at the nation's lack of gun control laws and pledged to work with Republicans on solutions. "I think there might be hope," said Lillian Salerno, a former undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture at a forum at SMU. "Those kids in Florida, they're not going to lie down. If we can get some representatives up there who will talk to each other, you can get some bipartisanship." Salerno said she supports banning assault weapons sales to anyone under 26, background checks and other measures.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend John Payton in the Republican primary for Texas House District 89

Voters have a choice between two good candidates in the Republican primary for state House District 89, Collin County Justice of the Peace John Payton and community volunteer Candy Noble. They're running for the seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who is retiring, and are generally aligned with her conservative approach on issues. We recommend Payton, 46, because he has a proven take-action approach to problems facing the district and deeper grassroots community involvement. He's worked since his election in 1990 to address juvenile crime, creating a teen court that was expanded countywide to offer community service as an alternative to jail for minor offenses.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Climate change to bring North Texas longer droughts, heavy rains, 120-degree temps within 25 years

The United States has just come off a record year for weather and climate disasters and, by most accounts, it's only going to get worse. Last year hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; the wildfires and floods in California; and tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and the South delivered $306.2 billion in damages, more than any year in history when adjusted for inflation. Texas is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. It has had more costly weather-related disasters than any other state, and those events will happen more often as air and ocean temperatures climb, scientists say. "Climate change is not just about polar bears," said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University with an impressive YouTube following. "It will affect North Texas profoundly."

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Texas regulators wrestling with how to be sure firms like Oncor pass tax-cut savings to consumers

Oncor has already agreed to return its estimated $245 million in tax rate savings to consumers. But getting the money from the electricity distributor to customers' bank accounts is not as easy as it sounds. Texas utility regulators are asking transmission companies like Oncor to keep track of how much they save from the recently enacted corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 21 percent. The companies, which are state-regulated monopolies, also will be evaluated separately by the staff of the Texas Public Utility Commission. In many cases, transmission costs — set by the state — are intertwined with retail electricity rates — which are determined by the market.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Miller faces 2 challengers in GOP agriculture commissioner primary

In the Republican contest for agriculture commissioner, incumbent Sid Miller’s spending, hiring and social media practices are front and center. Miller has been under fire in his first term for sharing insensitive posts and false information on social media, instituting rate increases for many services his agency provides, taking state-paid trips for personal reasons, and hiring the wife of his longtime political consultant to a new, high-paid position. He faces two challengers in the primary: Trey Blocker, a conservative podcast host and former lobbyist and ethics adviser, and Jim Hogan, a farmer and retired insurance professional who ran against Miller as a Democrat in 2014. The Republican nominee will face Democrat Kim Olsen in the general election.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Quintero: Let’s use better tools to decide which inmates get bail

Criminal justice reform is a prominent issue in the public square, capturing the interest of both ends of the ideological spectrum, as well as celebrities, think tanks and even the White House. Propelling this issue forward, both nationally and in the Lone Star State, is a recognition that change is needed. Especially when it comes to jails. One of the primary functions of county jails is for pretrial incarceration. Right now, a significant number of county jail inmates are pretrial detainees, which means these defendants are behind bars despite not having been convicted of a crime. There are good reasons for this. Defendants can pose a high risk to the community or be flight risks who may not show up to their trials.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Smith: Return to real criminal justice reform, like it’s 1989

It will surprise many to learn that once upon a time — and not so very long ago — a bipartisan coalition of Texas legislators approved an innovative plan aimed at reducing crime through progressive health and education strategies. The year was 1989, and the proposals were put together by Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, a Democrat, with the cooperation and assistance of Republican Gov. Bill Clements, Democratic House Speaker Gib Lewis and other leaders from both parties in the state House and Senate. As Hobby explained at the time to the Senate Finance Committee, “When we project what the prison population will be in 10 years, we are assuming the unavoidable incarceration of children who are today seven, eight and nine years old.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2018

PolitiFact: State share of education spending declines

A candidate for lieutenant governor says state government has whoppingly slashed its share of spending on public schools since the 1980s. Scott Milder, a former Rockwall City Council member challenging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the Republican primary, poses and answers questions on his campaign website including: “Does Texas spend enough on public education?” Milder’s posted response: “Local homeowners pay too much. The state does not pay enough. Texas has the revenue to adequately fund education without a tax increase, but improper spending priorities at the state level have resulted in a system that places a disproportionate share of the burden on local taxpayers through property taxes.” ... Milder said: “In the 1980s, the state funded 68% of school expenses, and now the state’s share is 38%.” The state’s share of state-local education spending has slid, we confirmed, though not as much as Milder declared. In the 1980s, lawmakers voted for the state to cover 70 percent of the Foundation School Program yet state aid actually covered a little more than half of state-local costs. State aid covered 44 percent of such costs in 2016; it’s expected to cover 38 percent of such costs in 2019. On balance, we rate this claim Half True.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Central Texas homes sales, prices set January records

The Central Texas housing market kicked off 2018 showing continued strength, with home sales and the region’s median sales price both at record highs for the month of January, the Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday. January’s year-over-year increases came despite a housing supply crunch in the Austin area, signaling that 2018 could be another strong one for the local market, the Austin Board of Realtors said. For the seventh year in a row, the Central Texas housing market in 2017 set records for both the number of sales and the median sales price, which rose to $299,900, up 5.4 percent over 2016.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Clear sailing for Abbott, Patrick, uncertain waters for Bush, Miller

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are far ahead of their Republican primary opponents in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, but the Democrats running for those two high offices face more difficult paths to their party’s nomination. Two other statewide Republican incumbents — Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — have the support of a majority of likely primary voters, but with a caveat. When those voters had the option of saying they weren’t ready to make a choice, 44 percent listed no preference in the land race and 60 percent said the same in the agriculture race.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texas Republican voters remain high on Trump

With the usual disclaimers about partisan imbalance, President Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are holding steady, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Overall, equal numbers of Texas voters approve and disapprove of the job Trump is doing. Beneath that, the poll found, Republicans are highly supportive, with 83 percent saying they approve, while 84 percent of Democrats say they disapprove. The president’s numbers are remarkably similar to those in last February’s UT/TT Poll — the first survey after Trump took office. Then, as now, Republicans were solidly behind him and Democrats were solidly against him, making the blended numbers appear balanced.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Sid Miller talks re-election campaign, previous term, immigration

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sat down for a conversation with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on Friday to discuss Miller’s re-election campaign, immigration and more. Miller, who is in the middle of a tense Republican primary race with longtime lobbyist Trey Blocker, said he’s not ready to leave his statewide elected office because there’s still work to be done. Watch the full video above. Or read below what he had to say about his time as agriculture commissioner and his re-election campaign:

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Austin has mandated paid sick leave for workers, but Texas lawmakers are already working to reverse it

The Austin City Council on Friday morning approved a new rule requiring businesses in the city to provide paid sick leave for employees, but movement is already afoot in the Texas Legislature to kill the ordinance. At a meeting where over 200 people came to testify — a majority of them supporting the ordinance — the council voted 9-2 to implement the policy. But hours after the rule was passed, state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, sounded off against the bill, saying the ordinance is “declaring war” on small private businesses. “It’s not the role of the government to mandate for employers to do this," Workman said.

Texas Tribune - February 18, 2018

For a weekend, Texas is a battleground for Trump agenda, midterms

Texas may be a red state, but for at least the weekend, it served the role of a battleground for two party leaders determined to put their spin on President Donald Trump's agenda in the lead-up to the midterm elections. The state played host Friday and Saturday to Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., providing a split-screen battle to rally their party faithful for victory in November. Republicans are seeking to protect their congressional majorities against historical headwinds and surging Democratic enthusiasm, even in GOP-dominated Texas.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidates fighting for spotlight

Adrian Ocegueda doesn’t mind admitting that the race for the Democratic primary for governor has broken his heart a little. It’s not the strain of the nine-way battle for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, but the fact that most of the attention in the race is going to just two candidates. Political experts, activists and the media largely have been focused on former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White. “In some ways, it is to be expected as Lupe is the only candidate that has won elections, and Andrew had a father who was governor.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Andrew White: We need leaders who do right, risk consequences

Andrew White is mingling at a political happy hour when a woman tells him she’s glad he’s running for governor because of what his father meant to her parents. “I always remember my mother said he took care of the state employees. That’s what she always said. And so we need more of that,” said Ann Marie Schroeder, whose late parents worked for San Antonio State Hospital and credited White with helping safeguard state employee pensions. It gives White “a little bit of a sentimental edge” in the Democratic primary election, she said.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

SAEN: Our picks for Texas land commissioner

Republican incumbents generally don’t attract many opponents in statewide races in Texas. Land Commissioner George P. Bush has three, including, surprisingly, his predecessor in that office, Jerry Patterson. On the Democratic side, two are vying for the nomination. We recommend Bush in the GOP primary and Miguel Suazo on the Democratic side. First the Democrats. It’s uncomplicated.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Fikac: Abbott takes a risk in targeting fellow Republicans

Gov. Greg Abbott is putting his political reputation and his ability to work with the next Legislature on the line by trying to oust three Republican House members, and he could face fallout no matter how the races turn out. It’s something of a subtle risk. There’s no chance that Abbott will lose his own re-election campaign over targeting Reps. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Sarah Davis of West University Place and Wayne Faircloth of Galveston. But if they win despite his best efforts to replace them, it will take some of the shine off his vaunted political machine. “It’s the emperor-has-no-clothes story. He makes an effort, fails, and ends up looking weaker,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. So Abbott is going all in against his fellow Republicans.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Border Patrol casts a bleak picture of security at the border with Mexico

To hear the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector public affairs office tell it, these are bleak times along the borderlands. A sampling of recent agency news releases include “Double trouble at Falfurrias checkpoint,” “Five more Salvadoran MS-13 gang members off the streets” and “Troubled waters: Life and death on the Rio Grande.” Assaults on border enforcement personnel have risen sharply over the past year, and the landscape is no less daunting for migrants. The International Organization for Migration recorded 412 migrant deaths on either side of the border in 2017, even as the Border Patrol saw a nearly 50 percent decline of immigrants arriving at the border during the same time period compared with 2016.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Possible mumps outbreak shuts part of two Texas prisons

Another possible mumps outbreak shut down visitation over the weekend for some parts of two Texas prisons. A stomach bug impacted visiting at another three facilities, though Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said it is a “relatively small number” of prisoners affected. The Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony and Segovia Unit in Edinburg are both dealing with the possibility of mumps, while McConnell, Ellis, and Terrell Units are all grappling with gastrointestinal illnesses, Clark said.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

HC: For land commissioner: Jerry Patterson

Have you seen George P. Bush lately? We hear he's running for re-election as Texas land commissioner, but he's not acting like it. He's been skipping public forums, he's dodging editorial board meetings and he hasn't released a schedule of campaign appearances. If a man doesn't show up for the job interviews, does he deserve to get hired? Four years ago, this editorial page enthusiastically supported Bush in his first bid for elected office. We were mightily impressed with his command of the complex issues facing the General Land Office. Anybody who thought this guy was just coasting on his family name was wrong. "George P. Bush is the real deal," we wrote.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Hollingsworth, Koniski, Zirogiannis: How disasters like Harvey make air pollution worse

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast in August 2017, many industrial facilities had to shut down their operations before the storm arrived and restart once rainfall and flooding had subsided. These shutdowns and startups, as well as accidents caused by the hurricane, led to a significant release of air pollutants. Over a period of about two weeks, data we compiled from the Texas’ Air Emission Event Report Databaseindicates these sites released 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants. ... But, as we document in a newly published study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, they also occur regularly during the routine operation of many industrial facilities, sometimes in large quantities. And, even if unintended or unavoidable, the pollutants released during these events are in violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA).

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

HC: For lieutenant governor: Milder and Collier

In Texas, the lieutenant governor is president of the Senate, casts the deciding vote in the event of a legislative tie and ranks second in leadership only to the governor. Through the power to appoint Senate committee chairs and the discretionary right to direct bills to committees depending on desire to see a proposal debated or buried, the lieutenant governor shapes the Senate agenda. Republicans and Democrats alike should look for candidates who can work cooperatively with the diverse body to focus on the important issues facing our state, such as school finance reform and flood prevention. Early voting runs from Tuesday through Friday, March 2. Election Day is March 6.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2018

Texas execution drug pentobarbital found in dog food

The J.M. Smucker Co. has voluntarily recalled 27 pet food products because of what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration described as low levels of pentobarbital, the same drug used to execute people in Texas. The products include the company's Gravy Train, Ol' Roy, Kibbles 'N Bits and Skippy brands. Food Safety News has a detailed list of the specific products recalled. Pentobarbital causes respiratory arrest in animals, including humans, and is used to euthanize both. TRANSLATOR To read this article in one of Houston's most-spoken languages, click on the button below. Select Language?? BUSINESS DeLoreans are lined up outside the DeLorean Motor Company, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Humble. ( Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle ) DeLorean's Humble home could be producing new cars in early '19 A Texas man is trying to sell a pair of used dentures on Facebook and the odd listing quickly generated humored attention online. Source: Facebook Texas man lists used dentures to Facebook sell group, the FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2017, file photo, rescue boats float on a flooded street as people are evacuated from rising floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. The National Hurricane CenterÂ?s official report on Harvey compiles staggering numbers, starting with 68 dead and $125 billion in damage. But the really big numbers in the Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, tally have to do with the rainfall that swamped Houston. Two places had more than five feet of rain. Eighteen different parts of Texas logged more than four feet of rain. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) There's another flood disaster brewing in Texas. It's not in Business calendar Small-business resources ?Arthur Aidala and Marianne Bertuna, who first worked together in 1997 at his New York law firm, got married in 2016.? Dating danger? Businesses rethink workplace romance policies An FDA spokesperson told Food Safety News that the agency's "...preliminary evaluation of the testing results of Gravy Train samples indicates that the low level of pentobarbital present in the withdrawn products is unlikely to pose a health risk to pets.

Big Jolly Times - February 18, 2018

Jennings: For Harris County Republicans, Trash the Slate is the thing

Harris County Republican activists have long known that the paid endorsement slates that are sent out by the hundreds of thousands each primary year are a curse on the Harris County Republican Party,as Ed Hubbard noted: There are two general types of mailers: those that are sent by non-profit groups; and those that are essentially for-profit advertisements paid for by the endorsed candidates. These latter mailers have become a scourge on primaries throughout the country. As we have expanded the total number of slates in order to dilute the impact of three slates which many of us thought had excessive influence on voters, it has become readily apparent that all we managed to do was to add to voter confusion. And frankly, most of the additional slates are not going to win any type of award for the purity of their slates vs. the “Big 3” slates that we focused on.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 16, 2018

FWST: This Democrat would take your call in Congressional District 6

Most of the five Democrats seeking the Congressional District 6 seat are well informed with a grasp of complex policy issues. During our Facebook Live forum, we were looking for the candidate who has sound solutions on healthcare, immigration and spending. Someone who knows the district and has a record of involvement with the community and its residents. On policy, it was a close contest between education counselor Ruby Faye Woolridge, 69, and communications consultant Jana Lynne Sanchez, 53. So we considered: who would be the representative most likely to help a constituent who called with a problem?

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 16, 2018

FWST: A GOP independent could be a standout for the 6th Congressional District

Recommending a single candidate in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District was difficult. This editorial board disagrees with most of the candidates who seem to believe that immigrant Dreamers who came here as children should leave the country and apply for legal status or be deported. We also disagree with most of the candidates who see little danger in the president’s harsh name-calling of foreign leaders or countries. We believe that escalates international tensions. Having said that, we were looking for a candidate with proven accomplishments; the ability to independently represent the district; and qualities that would allow him or her to stand out in Washington and secure federal support for projects and people at home.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 14, 2018

Aldred: Meeting Texas’s transportation challenges

Texas is one of only two states to have two cities listed among the 10 most congested in the country. Dallas is the fifth-most-congested city in the nation, while Houston is eighth. Additionally, the stretch of Interstate 35 that runs through Austin is consistently ranked among the most congested highways in the nation. According to one estimate, the cost of congestion in Dallas, Houston and Austin will have grown to more than $60 billion per year by 2026 in terms of lost productivity and fuel costs. So what explains these levels of congestion? Put simply, Texas is the fastest-growing state. The latest projections from the Texas Data Center Services program indicate that Texas’ population will almost double to 55 million by 2050, assuming that net migration remains at similar levels to those seen over the previous 10 years.

The Eagle - February 15, 2018

Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions

The cloud of secrecy surrounding Texas executions has grown a little darker lately. After death penalty defense lawyers claimed the state’s first two executions of the year were botched because of old lethal injection drugs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of public information regarding the state’s supply of lethal doses. Without providing a reason, the department told a Texas Tribune reporter last week that it would take an estimated 20 business days — until the day before the state’s next scheduled execution — to provide information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire. In the past, the records have been provided in half the time, and even that could be unlawful.

Dallas Voice - February 12, 2018

Trump’s popularity in Texas tracks with national disapproval

President Donald Trump’s approval rating in the latest Gallup Poll is 38 percent. In Texas, his approval rating stands at 39 percent. It seems the closer people are to Trump, the less they like him. In the election, only 8 percent of voters in Manhattan voted for him. Now, Trump’s lowest approval rating is in Washington D.C. with 6 percent approval. Among states, Vermont likes Trump the least giving him a 26 percent approval. Rounding out the bottom are Massachusetts (27 percent), California (29 percent) Hawaii (29 percent) and Maryland and home state New York (30 percent). In 12 states, Trump’s approval remains about 50 percent — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Associated Press - February 15, 2018

Review: Home loan bias found for minorities in 5 Texas metro areas

Latinos and African-Americans in five Texas metro areas were more likely to be denied a conventional mortgage loan when compared with non-Hispanic whites, according to a new analysis. The review of millions of federal records by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that redlining — the practice of charging more or denying services such as loans and housing based only on reasons related to such things as race, national origin and religion — has persisted in 61 metro areas around the U.S. In Texas, the review of data from 2015 and 2016 found redlining in Corpus Christi, the Killeen-Temple area, Longview, the San Antonio-New Braunfels area and Waco. In the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, Latinos were 1.5 times as likely to be denied a conventional mortgage loan in 2016 compared with whites.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Contentious 331st District race pits longtime judge against attorney

The only contested judicial race in Travis County’s criminal district courts has gotten contentious, with challenger Chantal Eldridge saying taxpayers have been underserved by the incumbent while Eldridge faces questions of her own about the registered sex offender she employs in her law firm and intends to bring on as a judicial aide if she wins. Eldridge, a 53-year-old career defense lawyer who narrowly lost a judicial race in 2016, is running against state District Judge David Crain, who has presided over the felony 331st District Court since 2010 and has been a judge in Travis County for 32 years. He said his experience sets him apart in this race, suggesting “you wouldn’t want a novice to sit and try to conduct a jury trial for a murder case, child sexual assault, bank robbery or something like that.”

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Dallas County's legislative representation will be reshaped by March 6 primaries

Two longtime state representatives are stepping down in Dallas County and one successor could be determined as soon as March 6. That's the day Dallas County voters will go to the polls to decide five contested Republican state House primaries. The county ballot has seven contested races on the Democrats' side. With no Republican or even a Libertarian in the race, the four Democrats vying for the District 109 primary have a direct line to succeed 13-term state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto. The seat that represents all or part of Dallas, Cedar Hill, Ferris, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, Lancaster, Ovilla and Wilmer could very well stay with a DeSoto resident.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DMN: Five ways the American Dream is broken for Dallas' working poor

The idea of the American Dream is that anyone can start from the bottom and work their way up by their own means. Unfortunately, that isn't happening for everyone. Nearly 31,000 impoverished Dallasites work full-time year-round and come home every day just as poor as they were the day before. More than half of them are women; 75 percent have children living at home.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Plano council member says he won't resign over anti-Islam post despite backlash, colleagues' censure

The City Council chamber was packed Sunday, the thoughts of the community on display on the many signs dotting the crowd: "Stay Tom," "No to hate — Tom must resign," "Support Tom — no political agendas," "No to bigotry." Hundreds gathered for the special session the council called to address an anti-Islam social media post that council member Tom Harrison shared Tuesday night. The post, which included a photo of a student wearing a hijab, said: "Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools." Harrison removed the post the following day and apologized online. But for some, that was not enough. After a little more than an hour behind closed doors, council members said they learned Harrison's post was not an isolated incident.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Lindenberger: Finding a middle way on guns isn't out of reach

A heartbreaking admission that triggered justifiable outrage: The FBI failed to act on a credible report that the shooter who killed 17 people at his former high school was a threat to others. To think this might have been prevented by a follow-up investigation is astonishingly hurtful to those grieving such profound loss. You know what else is astonishing? We've known for years that America has a large number of guns and gun deaths, and we refuse to do much of anything about it. The 19-year-old alleged killer was able to walk into a gun dealer and legally purchase a semiautomatic rifle despite warning signs that go way beyond the tip the FBI bungled. He was troubled, had been in counseling, had been expelled, and had made his friends and teachers repeatedly nervous about his violent tendencies and his constant obsession with his guns.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Few states let courts take guns from people deemed a threat

The warnings around Nikolas Cruz seemed to flash like neon signs: expelled from school, fighting with classmates, a fascination with weapons and hurting animals, disturbing images and comments posted to social media, previous mental health treatment. In Florida, that wasn't enough for relatives, authorities or his schools to request a judicial order barring him from possessing guns. Only five states have laws enabling family members, guardians or police to ask judges to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence. Supporters of these measures, deemed "red flag laws" or gun-violence restraining orders, say they can save lives by stopping some shootings and suicides.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Ted Cruz: Sutherland Springs survivors told me 'gun control is not the answer'

On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz appeared on "Fox & Friends" to give his condolences to victims of Wednesday's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. "It's truly heartbreaking ... all of our prayers are with the families and all of those children who went through that horror," Cruz said. ... Sen. Cruz called the suspect's motives "evil" and compared Wednesday's tragedy with last year's mass shooting in Sutherland Spring, Texas, where 26 church-goers were killed during a Sunday service.

New York Times - February 18, 2018

Spending Bill Sets Path to Fix a Looming Pension Crisis

The sprawling agreement to boost government spending reached by Republicans and Democrats this month quietly included a step toward defusing what could be a financial time bomb for 1.5 million retirees and hundreds of companies in the industrial Midwest and the South. The deal creates a select congressional committee to craft what could effectively be a federal rescue of as many as 200 so-called “multiemployer” pension plans — in which employers and labor unions band together to provide retirement benefits to employees. Many of these plans are hurtling toward insolvency in the coming decade, with benefits owed to retirees projected to swamp what the plans can afford to pay. The 16-member, bipartisan committee will have to come up with a solution and legislation by the end of November, which the full Senate would need to vote on by the end of the year.

Washington Post - February 18, 2018

Taylor: The Russian journalist who helped uncover election interference is confounded by the Mueller indictments

A 37-page indictment issued by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Friday brings fresh American attention to one of the strangest elements of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election: The Internet Research Agency (IRA), a state-sponsored “troll factory” in St. Petersburg. But much of the information Mueller published on Friday about the agency’s efforts to influence the election had already been published last October — in an article by a Russian business magazine, RBC. In a 4,500-word report titled “How the 'troll factory' worked the U.S. elections,” journalists Polina Rusyaeva and Andrey Zakharov offered the fullest picture yet of how the “American department” of the IRA used Facebook, Twitter and other tactics to inflame tensions ahead of the 2016 vote. The article also looked at the staffing structure of the organization and revealed details about its budget and salaries.

US News - February 19, 2018

Computer Specialist Who Deleted Clinton Emails May Have Asked Reddit for Tips

An army of reddit users believes it has found evidence that former Hillary Clinton computer specialist Paul Combetta solicited free advice regarding Clinton's private email server from users of the popular web forum. A collaborative investigation showed a reddit user with the username stonetear requested help in relation to retaining and purging email messages after 60 days, and requested advice on how to remove a "VERY VIP" individual's email address from archived content. The requests match neatly with publicly known dates related to Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Stonetear has deleted the posts, but before doing so, the pages were archived by other individuals.

Politico - February 17, 2018

How Russia turned the internet against America

The indictment released Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller makes plain how prosecutors believe Russia pursued its multiyear scheme to undermine the 2016 presidential election — by wielding the social media-driven internet that the United States itself did so much to create. They had help, digital experts say, from decades of accepted U.S. policy about how to help the internet thrive: The U.S. government has taken a largely hands-off approach, while the anonymity that protects people's privacy and liberty online also allowed Russian trolls to deceive overly trusting Americans. And the same freedom to innovate that has made Silicon Valley wealthy and powerful meant that there were few eyes on the ball as Russian actors began figuring out how to manipulate the internet's few dominant platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and the Google-owned YouTube.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Ayala: LULAC must rid itself of its national president and reboot

Presidents of nonprofit, membership-based organizations have a lot of reasons to stand for election and serve. They probably embrace their organization’s history and mission. They love community service and find it rewarding. Sure, they also like the honor and prestige. There’s a certain clubbiness that comes with holding office, though it’s mostly hard work, personal sacrifice and headaches. Some leadership roles come with perks, too, and ethical issues can emerge with them. After serving for several years, the most gifted leaders decide to step down. They mentor younger leaders and stand in the back of the room, to let them learn to lead. Sometimes, they leave the room altogether, and sometimes they’re pressed into service again.

New York Times - February 18, 2018

When Calling an Uber Can Pay Off for Cities and States

In Chicago, a 15-cent fee on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services is helping to pay for track, signal and electrical upgrades to make the city’s trains run faster and smoother. Ride-hailing trips in Philadelphia are expected to raise $2.6 million this year for the city’s public schools through a 1.4 percent tax that will also generate more than a million dollars for enforcement and regulation of the ride-hailing industry itself. In South Carolina, a 1 percent ride-hailing fee has yielded more than a million dollars for municipalities and counties to spend as they choose. And Massachusetts began collecting 20 cents for every ride-hailing trip this month, earmarking the revenue to improve roads and bridges, fill a state transportation fund and even help a rival — the struggling taxi industry — adapt with new technologies and job training.

Politico - February 18, 2018

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor. That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

Grieder: Misreading Republican voters is a mistake for Republican leaders

A few days ago, while trying to figure out why Congress is apparently incapable of coming up with a legislative solution for Dreamers, which is something most Americans support and the president has called for, it occurred to me that Republican leaders and the national political media have more in common than they realize. They claim to understand Republican voters. But many of them don't, and although that's always been the case, they didn't actually realize it until 2016, when Donald Trump shocked them by winning the presidency, after shocking them by winning the Republican primary.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Cities pitching diversity in efforts to lure businesses

Some cities and regions are highlighting racial diversity along with positive business climates, competitive tax rates and available land in pitches to lure tech companies and high-paying jobs to town. Places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Detroit are touting their populations of people of color to chief executives and other corporate officials as part of being open for business. "For Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, ethnic and racial diversity has been an integral part of our history and a rich part of our narrative," said Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among 20 cities still under consideration by online retail giant Amazon as locations for the company' second headquarters.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Newsclips - February 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Amarillo Globe-News - February 17, 2018

Beilue: Empower Texans — It’s like a season of ‘House of Cards’

So this is how it works in today’s Texas politics: State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, in 2017 initially voted for Senate Bill 8, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that, among other things, shut down a ban on fetal tissue donation and two kinds of abortion in late pregnancies. Later, however, amendment 22 was added on the House floor that removed a narrow exception in the bill to late-term pregnancy abortions. The original exception was for “severe fatal abnormalities,” those rare instances for an abortion when a baby has no heart, or no brain, or any other vital organ, and will die moments after birth.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Anti-vaccine movement focuses attention on Texas' largest medical district

A grassroots group focused on giving parents the freedom to opt out of getting medical vaccines for their children is picking a fight in Houston, in the heart of an area that's home to the world's largest medical complex. Texans for Vaccine Choice has donated thousands of dollars and nearly a week's worth of days knocking on doors and phone banking to convince voters in southwest Houston to replace state Rep. Sarah Davis. They targeted the West University Place Republican because they contend she is trying to take immunization decisions out of parents' hands. "I think they have picked the wrong district to wage a war on vaccines in," said Davis, who calls herself a proponent for vaccines.

Washington Examiner - February 17, 2018

Democrats struggle with rising popularity of GOP tax law

Democrats are struggling to cope with the rising popularity of the Republican tax law, less than nine months until the midterm elections. Democrats received a wake-up call of sorts earlier this week when Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC, released a memo calling on Democrats to message more consistently against the tax law. The law's standing has increased in the polls as GOP groups pitch the tax cuts to voters as a solid Republican accomplishment. "I think the memo is spot on. Absolutely spot on," said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., one of the 12 House Democrats who sit in districts where Trump won in 2016.

Politico - February 17, 2018

'Something was weird': Inside the Russian effort to bamboozle Florida

The scathing indictment unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller outlines a multi-state scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself. The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash. And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio himself was a target of an effort to “denigrate” him and several other presidential candidates.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Playing to an audience of one, Dan Patrick doesn’t need your approval

Dan Patrick has been a salesman of Paper Mate products and class rings, a local TV sportscaster and weatherman, a restaurant and nightclub owner, a conservative radio personality, an author, a filmmaker and a politician. He has attended Lutheran, Catholic and Baptist churches. He has gone by Dannie Scott Goeb, Danny Scott and Dan Patrick. He was hospitalized for depression, underwent a vasectomy live on the radio and participated in enough bar fights to gain a reputation. He opened businesses, angered investors and closed the businesses. He filed for bankruptcy and was sued by the NFL, twice. By Patrick’s own telling, his years of instability and self-reinvention came to a sudden halt in March 1994, when he was in Las Vegas for a broadcast industry convention. Five years earlier, he had taken over a tiny suburban Houston radio station with a weak signal. Through hard work, good luck and a knack for tapping into his audience’s political id, he’d built it into a major player on Houston’s AM dial. Now Clear Channel wanted to buy it in a deal that would net Patrick and his partners almost $27 million.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Texas group helped Russians meddle in 2016 elections, FBI says

A federal indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian entities of plotting to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election said the defendants got help from an unidentified “Texas-based grassroots organization.” The defendants, posing online as U.S. citizens to approach a number of political and social activists, were advised by a member of the Texas organization to focus their activities on “purple states” — swing states where both Republicans and Democrats are typically competitive in elections — such as Colorado, Florida and Virginia, the indictment said. “After that exchange, defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting ‘purple states’ in directing their efforts,” the indictment said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance a first in Texas

Just before 1 a.m. Friday, the Austin City Council voted in what could be described as the most progressive labor policy for the entire state and possibly the American South. At the behest of Council Member Greg Casar, the council made Austin the first city in Texas to require private employers to provide paid sick leave, a move that quickly garnered national attention in both kudos and criticism. The highly anticipated vote came after more than 200 people testified at City Hall, with the total discussion and debate lasting more than five hours. It passed 9-2, with Council Members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair against.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Legislature expected to weigh in on Austin sick leave rules

Debate over a requirement that businesses in Austin provide employees with up to eight days of paid sick leave annually might be just getting started, despite the City Council’s approval of the measure early Friday. But the setting for the next fight is likely to be the Texas Capitol, not City Hall, according to representatives of a number of local and state business groups. “The vast majority of businesses in Austin have no clue that this is even happening” and are in for a shock when they find out the ordinance becomes effective Oct. 1, said Rebecca Melançon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance.

Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2018

5 Democrats running with hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Roger Williams

Five Democrats, ranging from political newcomers to a Central Health board member, are running to unseat U.S. Rep. Roger Williams in the staunchly Republican 25th Congressional District. Austin defense attorney Chris Perri leads the pack of Democrats in money raised — $102,668, which includes $16,890 he made in personal loans to his campaign as of Dec. 31. Following closely behind is former mutual fund manager Chetan Panda, who has hauled in $99,336. Others running for the Democratic nomination are West Hansen, who works for his family’s health care business; controller and attorney Julie Oliver, who currently serves on the board of Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district; and Kathi Thomas, a small business owner who has run previously against Williams.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

PolitiFact: Bush’s military career didn’t reach ‘retirement’ level

George P. Bush, seeking a second term as Texas land commissioner, touts his time in the Navy in a campaign mailer brought to our attention by his predecessor. “Did you know there are 1.7 million veterans in Texas alone?” Bush’s mailer opens. His message continues: “Retired U.S. Navy officer George P. Bush is committed to protecting our veterans who have served this great nation.” Hold on. Did Bush, who turns 42 in April, retire from the Navy? Jerry Patterson, the former land commissioner challenging Bush in this year’s Republican primary, questioned that after telling us he’d received Bush’s mailer at his home and had heard about it from other veterans. ... Bush served nearly a decade as an officer in the Navy Reserve. But that doesn’t make him a retired officer, we find. At minimum, Bush would need to have served longer to call himself that. We rate this self-description False.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

6 Republicans, 4 Democrats try for Rep. Farenthold’s soon empty seat

Six Republicans and four Democrats are running for Congressional District 27, an open House seat that stretches from Bastrop to Corpus Christi. U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, currently occupies the spot but gave up his re-election bid in December after a House committee began investigating sexual harassment claims made against him by a former aide. Farenthold, who is wrapping up his fourth term, has denied the allegations. Six candidates — including campaign fundraising front-runners Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud — want to keep the district Republican even though a federal court last year ruled that state lawmakers had illegally drawn it to reduce the voting strength of Latinos, who tend to favor Democrats.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Wear: Scoffing at Texas tolls to carry less cost starting in March

People who choose to drive on Texas tollways without paying are about to get a big break. Make that, on some Texas tollways. More on that below. As first reported by KXAN, the NBC affiliate in Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation fines for ignoring toll bills on March 1 will go from “My God!” level to “Meh,” thanks to laws passed by the 2017 Legislature. And even the huge outstanding bills — the ones for tolls ignored over the past decade of TxDOT tolling and sometimes multiplied into the thousands of dollars by fees and fines — could be discounted or even forgiven.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Texas Public Policy Foundation head Brooke Rollins to join White House

Brooke Rollins, the CEO and president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is leaving to join the White House. Rollins, who has led the Austin-based conservative think tank for 15 years, is taking a job in the White House Office of American Innovation — which is led by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. "Brooke is an exceptional and visionary leader who has had a tremendous impact on Texas and the direction of this nation,” TPPF executive vice president Kevin Roberts said in a statement Friday. "We are enormously proud to have her serve the president in the White House Office of American Innovation. In no uncertain terms, she is the right person for the job."

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2018

Cruz, like Trump, points to lack of collusion evidence in Russia indictments

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is aligning with President Donald Trump in highlighting the lack of evidence in recently issued indictments that Russia's government colluded with Trump's 2016 campaign to influence the election. "On the face of these indictments, they say that the American side of it was unwitting — that there was not collusion. That's pretty significant," Cruz told reporters here Saturday night while emphasizing he is still waiting to see the results of congressional probes into Russia's role in the election. Those investigations, Cruz said, "need to be continued."

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

We asked 40 Texas Republican candidates about Trump. They like him. The tweets? Not so much.

Ask Texas Republicans running for office about President Donald Trump, and some will praise the $1.5 trillion tax cut he signed. Others will applaud his judicial appointments or his rhetoric on immigration. And some will avoid talking about him at all. But many have raised a similar concern about the commander-in-chief: his itchy Twitter fingers. “The only thing I would like to do is put his cellphone in time out,” said Linda Timmerman, one of three Republicans vying for the state House seat being vacated by Corsicana Republican Byron Cook.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Here's an updated look at how many execution drugs Texas has in stock

Since 1977, lethal injection has been the method for executing Texas criminals sentenced to death. But the drugs used in executions have changed over the years, as the state has struggled to get a hold of enough life-ending doses. Texas, along with other states that hold executions, has been engaged in a battle for years to keep an adequate inventory of execution drugs. Currently, the state uses only pentobarbital, a sedative it has purchased from compounding pharmacies kept secret from the public. To promote transparency, The Texas Tribune has obtained the inventory history and current supply of execution drugs held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

Henson, Blank: The perils of primary election polling

With primary elections in Texas just days away, public opinion polling is inevitably seeping into the discussion of an unusually active political season. Campaigns are starting to release their internal polling in efforts to shape the news coverage and perception of races, and of course the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll will follow its more or less regular schedule and appear sometime prior to Election Day. Purveyors of public polls like the UT/Texas Tribune Poll are once again faced with the unenviable task of providing context and (unfortunately) implied predictions about what’s going to happen in nominating contests for the state’s top offices. The popularity of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com in 2008 and the concomitant rise of “data journalism” set political journalists on a path of sustained attention to polling and polling failures, a trend re-fueled by a handful of poor state-level estimates in the 2016 presidential election.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Texas AFL-CIO changes decision, endorses U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke for Senate

The political arm of the Texas AFL-CIO announced on Friday it will be supporting U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, in his bid for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat. In a special board meeting, the group overturned its decision not to endorse in the race after O’Rourke failed to appear at the organization's convention last month. The labor group's president, Rick Levy, said in a Friday news release that O’Rourke’s campaign efforts now warranted AFL-CIO’s support.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backs Angela Paxton in GOP primary for North Texas senate seat

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday jumped into the hotly contested Republican primary for Senate District 8, endorsing Angela Paxton over Phillip Huffines. In backing Paxton, the wife of Attorney General Ken Paxton, Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate in his role as lieutenant governor, said he had initially chose to remain neutral in the race. However, Patrick said in a video, "when I saw the personal attacks launched against Angela Paxton, I couldn’t remain on the sidelines any longer." "Angela Paxton has been a friend for years, and I can tell you this: Everyone who knows her agrees that she's a dynamic conservative leader and a person of integrity deeply rooted in her Christian faith," Patrick added.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Chasnoff: Uresti bought ads on Google before trial

In the three months before the criminal trial began, from Oct. 16 to Dec. 29, Uresti paid Google nearly $17,000 in political expenditures for “advertising,” according to his most recent campaign finance report. Uresti, however, is not on the ballot this year. (Only about half of state senate seats are up for re-election due to staggered elections.) For that reason, James Smith, director of digital media at the Austin-based Lee Tilford Agency, called the senator’s recent expenditures for online advertising “flakey” — and odd. “That’s a lot of money to spend and not be in cycle,” Smith said. “The only reason you put money into Google is to advertise. It makes zero sense why someone would advertise if they’re not running. … If you’re not on the ballot, you have nothing to advertise.” ... How many potential jurors saw the senator’s online ads? It’s unclear what ads Uresti purchased through Google.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Texas land commissioner doesn’t reveal Austin home, loan

George P. Bush lives in an Austin mansion that was financed through a bank owned by one of his political donors, and the Texas land commissioner failed to report the house and the loan in public disclosure documents required by the state. An online records search reveals that Bush and his wife, Amanda Bush, live in a 4,000-square-foot home in an exclusive gated community in west Austin. But Bush’s name is nowhere to be found on property records. That’s because the house was purchased in 2014 by a trust, which received a $850,000 mortgage loan from a bank owned by Brandon Steele, a political donor to Bush and his father, Jeb, public records show.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Jury to decide Uresti, Cain’s fates in criminal trial this week

The fate of state Sen. Carlos Uresti will be placed in the hands of 12 strangers after lawyers in his criminal fraud trial wrap up closing arguments Tuesday. Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain have been on trial the past four weeks in the defrauding of investors in an oil field company. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra declined two requests to acquit the men, advising their lawyers while the jury was out of the courtroom that there was “telling evidence” against Uresti and that FourWinds Logistics was a “scam from the get-go.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Lupe Valdez: We all should have an opportunity

Lupe Valdez chokes up a bit as she surveys the little house where she grew up on San Antonio’s West Side. Gone are the roses planted by the mother who gave her the opportunity at an education, leaving the bare concrete flower beds built by the father who feared his daughter seizing her chances. Gone are those parents, who gave up the migrant-farmworker life at her mother’s insistence so that Lupe and one of her brothers — the two youngest of eight children — could go to school instead of traveling to Michigan to pick green beans and beets.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Bullet train sparks fight as old as Texas: progress v tradition

The fight over Texas Central Railway - a.k.a. the Texas Bullet Train - rests on many of the contentious fault lines that shape the Lone Star State. City interests versus rural identity. Urban dwellers versus people who want their stars at night to shine big and bright. Mostly, it is about land. Who controls it, what's the best use for it and how much of it can the two metro areas - Houston and Dallas - claim so their economic futures are secure. "How do you achieve that balance?" Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle asked. He supports the project despite the strong opposition of many in his district.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

GOP candidate totes assault-style weapon in mailers days after Parkland

A leading contender for a Houston-area congressional seat is offering no regrets for putting out a campaign mailer and television ads showing her carrying an assault-style weapon just days after the horrific killings in Parkland, Florida. In the mailers, there are two pictures of Wall holding weapons on the front and back, with a statement saying: "Kathaleen Wall stands with Donald Trump: We must be vigilant to protect gun rights." The mailer, which was produced days before the Parkland shooting, goes on to state: "Every day we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment."

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Texas' flu death toll tops 4,000

The death toll now tops 4,150, but flu activity in Texas finally may be starting to level off, according to a new state report. Though the report emphasizes that it's too early to say Texas' season has peaked, it shows a second consecutive weekly decline in both the rate of hospital and doctor visits for flu-related reasons and the percentage of patient specimens testing positive for the virus. The declines were fairly small. "Flu activity level is still high – higher than at any point the last two years – but it does appear to be coming down a bit," said Lara Anton, press officer for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

DMN: We recommend Greg Abbott in the GOP primary for Texas governor

While the names of two opponents will be printed on the Republican primary ballot for governor, incumbent Greg Abbott likely isn't losing any sleep over this race. Nor should he. Abbott is the only responsible choice. The first-term governor has been most effective when he focuses on policy rather than politics. For example, he has shown smart leadership on the Legislature's overhaul of the dysfunctional Child Protective Services system and education efforts on behalf of high-quality pre-K and improved teacher training.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

UNT staffer under fire for calling petition to name dorm for woman or person of color 'reverse racism'

A member of the University of North Texas communications department is under fire for referring to a petition calling for a new campus residence to be named for a woman or person of color "a form of reverse racism." Nancy Kolsti, part of UNT's communications team, emailed Student Government Association senator Misaki Collins from her personal email account in response to the petition, which Collins posted on Twitter on Feb. 6, along with her contact information. "You can certainly suggest individuals whom you think should have the residence hall named after them," Kolsti wrote, "but you must realize that there are many longtime UNT administrators who are deserving of the honor and were beloved on campus, and they happen to be white males ....

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

DMN: We recommend Stefano de Stefano over Ted Cruz in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate

Texas Republicans have an opportunity in the March 6 primary featuring incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and four Republican opponents to vote for the kind of public leadership that inspires America rather than divides it. A kind of leadership that gives America its best chance to address the very real challenges ahead. To make the most of the moment, we urge voters to choose Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano over Cruz. Stefano, 37, is an earnest if mostly untested conservative who offers Republicans a way past the bruising style that has characterized Cruz's time in public life.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Andrew White's latest big bet: Top 8 other Democratic contenders to challenge GOP Gov. Greg Abbott

Andrew White has taken huge risks. Fourteen years ago, he sold his house to raise the money for a home warranty firm he launched. Then he started a sister firm arranging home repairs. He staffed the call centers at his two startups with humans rather than machines. Six years ago, he sold his companies, then plowed some of the proceeds into even more brainchild companies.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Beto O'Rourke banks $2.2M in six weeks in bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz

El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat hoping to oust Republican powerhouse Sen. Ted Cruz, announced he’s raised $2.2 million in the first six weeks of 2018. That’s almost as much as O’Rourke raised in the final three months of 2017, when he posted a $2.4 million haul and outraised the sitting senator. O’Rourke, who has barnstormed the state since declaring his candidacy last spring, has twice posted higher quarterly figures than his Republican opponent. Cruz finished 2017 with nearly $2 million more in cash on hand — $6.4 million to O’Rourke’s $4.6 million, according to federal filings — and hasn’t fully revved his re-election engines.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2018

In Dallas, Vice President Pence points to GOP tax revamp as proof that 'America is back'

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday touted the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax revamp as a harbinger of renewed prosperity in Texas, signaling how Republicans plan to lean on the legislation in their efforts to maintain control of Congress. The Republican, speaking at the Sheraton Dallas, said "it's been really been remarkable to watch" the response to the sweeping overhaul. Pence pointed, in particular, to how companies like Dallas-based AT&T and Southwest Airlines have announced $1,000 employee bonuses in recent weeks. In Texas alone, he said, nearly 88,000 workers have received what he called a "Trump bonus."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 12, 2018

Trump infrastructure plan could lead to more toll roads on interstates

Could motorists soon be asked to pay even more tolls on interstate highways? The answer appears to be yes, based on an early reading of President Donald Trump's far-reaching infrastructure plan unveiled Monday. It will be interesting to see how the proposal is greeted in Texas, where state elected leaders have ordered the Texas Department of Transportation not to build any more toll lanes. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was among the state and local officials from across the country invited to meet with Trump about the plan.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2018

Kennedy: More extreme than the NRA: Some Texans align with ‘a little nutjob group’

Let me explain something you should know about Texas. Here, the National Rifle Association is considered moderate. If you've spent recent days railing on social media against the NRA or its lobbying power, please realize that in Texas, many Republicans take an even more extreme position against almost any gun laws or background checks at all. Some Freedom Caucus lawmakers are backed by the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), which opposes any government licensing, regulation, qualifications, background checks or restriction of guns, weapons or ammunition at all — “the way our Founders intended.”

El Paso Times - February 16, 2018

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements

A smiling portrait of former County Judge Veronica Escobar looks out at passersby from two identical billboards, positioned at intersections in different parts of El Paso's congressional district. The text reads: “I doubled my salary and raised your taxes. We good?” The billboards were purchased by a new political action committee called Keep El Paso Honest, which was formed last year with one objective in mind: ensure that Escobar is not elected to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Congress.

Insurance Journal - February 13, 2018

Texas Sees Increase in Auto Fatalities in 2017

More than 3,700 people were killed on Texas roadways last year marking a 10 percent increase in traffic deaths from 2016, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. The Insurance Council of Texas reports that since 2010, traffic deaths in the state have increased by 34 percent. “More people moving into the state mean more people on Texas highways and the greater chance more traffic collisions with people getting hurt,” Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas, said in the group’s announcement. “But alcohol, speeding and distracted driving remain the major factors in the majority of accidents on our roadways today.”

Temple Daily Telegram - February 16, 2018

Texas police group opposes Grisham

The Texas Municipal Police Association is coming out against Texas House candidate CJ Grisham over what the group says are his “anti-cop” Facebook posts. “We’re really concerned about anybody who has made the kind of hateful remarks about our law enforcement officers running for a position in the statehouse,” TMPA Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said on Friday. “That type of vitriol, that type of demonization of our law enforcement personnel we just don’t think it’s a good ingredient in the public policy making process.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Crowded candidate fields vie for legislative seats in Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties

The candidate field for the March 6 primaries will be crowded in suburban Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties with a number of legislative seats up for grabs. In Denton County, Republican candidates Clint Bedsole and Jared Patterson will face each other in the primary battle for outgoing Rep. Pat Fallon's state House District 106 seat, which covers Frisco and parts of Denton County. Fallon is running for state Senate. Bedsole, a 46-year-old Frisco small business owner, is a retired Army reservist and serves on the board of CoServ Electric, a cooperative serving six North Texas counties. He's known for helping strike a compromise in a city of Frisco fight over where to bury a high-voltage transmission line.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Plano council member eats his (implied) words, but anti-Islam video he posted is hard to swallow

Tom Harrison is learning the hard way why most folks don't want to talk about politics or religion over dinner. Stomachs turn into knots and tempers flare when irretrievable words explode like bombs while the biscuits get cold. Harrison, for now a Plano City Council member waiting for the guillotine to drop, brought a heaping helping of trouble on himself and his fair city by mixing politics with religion on his Facebook page — which is like inviting everybody over for supper and seeing what happens.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2018

Report calls for restructuring city government to cut spending, boost revenue

Even after Mayor Sylvester Turner's landmark pension reforms, the city of Houston is on pace to spend $1 billion more than it will take in over the coming decade, and must cut spending and raise revenue bring its annual budget into balance, according to an exhaustive new report. Failing to do so, the authors state, risks letting the city inch toward insolvency with all the symptoms that accompany such a fiscal crisis: Worker layoffs, an erosion in police staffing, fewer library hours, decaying parks facilities, a hollowing out of the city as the suburbs boom. The analysts from Philadelphia-based consulting firm PFM did not shy away from controversial recommendations, including some that would dramatically restructure city government.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Could Dallas' bail system be deemed an 'instrument of oppression' after Houston ruling?

On the one hand, it was a kick in the gut. But it was also a roadmap. That's how Dallas County officials see a much-anticipated ruling by a federal appeals court on bail reform. For years, county leaders and judges have been in talks to overhaul the criminal bail system to make it easier for poor suspects who aren't dangerous to be released from jail while they await trial. The ruling Wednesday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals added urgency for Dallas County to change its system. The ruling agreed with a lower court that Harris County's system was unconstitutional — meaning that Dallas County's current system would likely also be, officials said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

In bid for Amazon’s HQ2, is Austin’s labor market a plus or a minus?

Despite all the bluster about tax incentives, site selection and economic development experts insist that more mundane factors — especially workforce criteria – still hold the greatest sway over corporate relocation and expansion decisions. Of course, we might have to toss all the usual expectations when it comes to Amazon’s plans for a second headquarters and the 50,000 high-paying jobs that come with it. But to the extent that workforce factors will influence the company’s decision, Austin faces an uphill battle. An in-depth analysis compiled for by Emsi for the American-Statesman shows that the Austin metro area might have a couple interesting cards up its sleeve, but it’s holding a fairly modest hand when compared with many of the other finalists for the $5 billion project Amazon has dubbed HQ2.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Mexico’s Fox likely to sink his teeth in during Dallas visit

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox comes to Dallas next week for a series of public events on democracy, resistance, U.S.-Mexico relations and to promote his new book. Fox’ new book is called Let’s Move On: Beyond Fear and False Prophets. In it, the often-blunt Fox, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, explores U.S.-Mexico relations and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fox was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, but his profile in the U.S. began to rise again when Trump started his push for the U.S. presidency.

National Stories

Washington Post - February 16, 2018

Trump tech adviser Reed Cordish is leaving the White House

A senior Trump administration adviser on government-to-government and technology initiatives is stepping down, the latest of more than a dozen top officials to depart the White House in little more than a year. Reed S. Cordish is leaving his post as assistant to the president in the Office of American Innovation, where he is being replaced by Brooke L. Rollins, the White House said this week. Rollins is a former aide to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from his time as Texas governor. She joins the White House from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates for criminal justice reform and free enterprise.

Washington Post - February 16, 2018

A host called Ted Cruz ‘afraid’ to talk guns on CNN. Then the senator showed that he had.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., this week, CNN host Chris Cuomo called out prominent Republicans on air by name, saying they were “afraid” to face questions about gun violence, unless they were on Fox News. One politician, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), shot back with a photo of an at-the-time yet-to-air interview that he accused CNN of sitting on. On Thursday’s edition of CNN’s “New Day,” which begins at 6 a.m., Cuomo asked, “What are they afraid of? The mistake we’ve been making is, we don’t say by name the lawmakers of that particular state and what they have done or refused to do. So this morning, let’s undo the mistake.” Then he named Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Cruz. ... On Friday morning, Cruz tweeted that he had spoken to CNN for 15 minutes on Thursday, and he turned the tables by asking why his interview hadn’t aired, in full.

Wall St. Journal - February 17, 2018

After Senate Failure on Dreamers, Immigration Faces Unclear Path in House

The Senate’s failure to pass immigration legislation this week has alarmed some centrist House Republicans who have been pushing their leaders for months to bring up a bill that would provide legal protections for Dreamers. Many of them represent the most competitive districts, where the outcome of November’s midterm elections could determine whether the GOP retains control of the House next year. Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican in a district that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, said Thursday he is working to draft a new solution that followed President Donald Trump’s requests to pair legal protections for the Dreamers with tighter border security, including funding for a wall. The president has also called for curbs to family-based migration and an end to the diversity visa lottery, which admits 50,000 people chosen at random from countries that are underrepresented in the U.S.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

GOP donor wants assault weapons banned

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians. Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fundraiser for George W. Bush's campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban. "For how many years now have we been doing this - having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings - and how many years has it been that nothing's been done?" Hoffman said in an interview. "It's the end of the road for me."

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Trump sparks a defense spending boom

Pentagon officials can be forgiven if they think Christmas arrived in February this year thanks to the prospect of a massive defense buildup that would deliver a wish list of big-ticket items to the military. Billions of dollars in proposed new spending would pay for 60 refurbished M1 Abrams tanks for the Army and a pair of Virginia-class submarines for the Navy. The Air Force would receive four dozen new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and add 4,700 new airmen, most of them enlisted, who would enter basic training in San Antonio.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides. Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn't need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Politico - February 16, 2018

Mitt Romney announces he's running for U.S. Senate in Utah

Former 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced Friday that he's running for Senate in Utah, saying that "I am ready to fight for this great state and advocate for solutions that improve the lives of Utahns." Romney was widely expected to enter the race after Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said in January that he wouldn’t run for reelection. “I am running for United States Senate because in these trying times there is no better moment to bring Utah’s values to Washington. Utah’s economic and political success is a model for our nation,” Romney said.

Washington Post - February 17, 2018

State elections officials fret over cybersecurity threats

State elections officials said Saturday that they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of state secretaries of state in Washington, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Castro tests the New Hampshire waters

In an interview at a pizza joint here, a radio host asked Julián Castro what he’d say to those who believe he lacks the experience to be the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee. The host had introduced Castro as somebody “very interested in running for president,” speculation the former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration Cabinet member plays down. Nonetheless, here Castro was on Friday, 2,000 miles from home in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary. And two years from that election, somebody was asking if he has what it takes to be president of the United States. “No. 1, I have not decided to run yet,” Castro replied, before boiling down a résumé that one day may become familiar to many people.

New York Times - February 17, 2018

Gunman Was Called Low Risk After a Visit by Social Services

A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows. The agency, the Florida Department of Children and Families, had been alerted to posts on Snapchat of Mr. Cruz cutting his arms and expressing interest in buying a gun, according to the report. But after visiting and questioning Mr. Cruz at his home, the department determined he was at low risk of harming himself or others. The report is the latest indication that Mr. Cruz was repeatedly identified by local and federal agencies as a troubled young man with violent tendencies.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

MacDougall, Kohlman: New bill would give federal prosecutors a do-over for the death penalty

During the latest budget debate in Congress, four Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas — introduced a bill that is intended to give federal prosecutors who fail to convince a jury to impose a death sentence the legal equivalent of a do-over. The bill would "require the impaneling of a new jury if a jury fails to recommend by unanimous vote a sentence for conviction of a crime punishable by death." Current federal law requires that a jury verdict of death in a capital trial be unanimous. If 12 jurors cannot agree on a sentence, the defendant is automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The bill is called Eric's Law for Eric Williams, a corrections officer savagely murdered by an inmate at the federal prison in Canaan, Penn., in 2013.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2018

Trump signs Kari's Law, a 911-call bill named for slain East Texas woman

Surrounded by family members of slain East Texas woman Kari Hunt Dunn on Friday, President Donald Trump signed Kari's Law, a measure that will require businesses to enable direct-dial access to 911. In 2013, Dunn was stabbed multiple times in a hotel room by her estranged husband as her children watched. Her then-9-year-old daughter repeatedly dialed 911 but was unable to reach emergency responders because she didn't understand that the hotel phone required her to first dial "9." Kari's Law, long championed by Tyler Rep. Louie Gohmert in the House, requires multi-line telephone systems, like those often found in hotels or offices, to have a default configuration that enables users to call 911 without a prefix. Gov. Greg Abbott approved a state version of Kari’s Law in 2015.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Floyd: One reason flu can kill is the worst illness you never heard of: sepsis

For a condition that causes such swift and widespread devastation, sepsis is not widely understood. It kills more than a quarter of a million Americans every year — more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and AIDS combined. It's the leading cause of death in patients in hospital intensive care units. Up to half the people who experience the most severe form of sepsis, septic shock, will die — and many of them die swift, horrible deaths that leave their families, and even their doctors, stunned and reeling. Yet nearly half the American public doesn't even know what it is. A Harris poll commissioned by the nonprofit Sepsis Alliance in 2016 determined that 45 percent of the respondents weren't familiar with the term, and fewer than one-third could name its most common symptoms.

New York Times - February 17, 2018

Kristof: You’re Wrong! I’m Right!

Decades ago, a media expert at M.I.T. named Nicholas Negroponte foresaw the emergence of a news product that he called “The Daily Me,” with information tailored to a user’s needs. Negroponte was thinking of local weather, sports, particular interests and so on, but what actually arrived with the internet was a highly political version of “The Daily Me.” There’s not an exact parallel in the way the right and the left seek out like-minded news sources. The right has spawned conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones who believe that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked, and one study found that the more people watched Fox News, the worse they did on a current events test. So I’m not advocating that you waste time on Breitbart propaganda any more than I’m saying that it was worth listening to leftists in the 1970s who praised Chairman Mao. But wherever we stand on the spectrum, there are sane, intelligent voices who disagree with us — and too often we plug our ears to them.

Newsclips - February 16, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Uresti’s criminal case could go to the jury Friday

Jurors in state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud trial could begin deliberations as early as Friday afternoon after prosecutors and defense lawyers give their closing arguments. The jury was excused early Thursday on day 16 of the trial after lawyers for co-defendant Gary Cain rested their case. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra and the lawyers spent Thursday afternoon reviewing more than 30 jury instructions that he’s expected to read aloud in court Friday morning. After Ezra instructs jurors on how the law applies to the evidence in the case, closing arguments will be presented. The judge has said he will give prosecutors a total of 90 minutes for their closing, while Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain’s defense teams will each have 45 minutes.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

George P. Bush’s secret mansion is financed by an undisclosed loan from Texas donor's bank

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush lives in an Austin mansion he financed at a bank owned by a major Republican donor who employed his wife, Austin lawyer Amanda Bush. But voters would be hard-pressed to connect all those dots. Bush’s name doesn’t appear in online property appraisal records for the 4,000-square-foot house he bought in a gated West Austin enclave in 2014. And the $850,000 mortgage from donor Brandon Steele’s East Texas bank isn’t disclosed on the personal financial statements that Bush, like all state candidates, must file. The house — with four bedrooms, a fireplace in the master bedroom and a pool out back — is legally owned by a family trust that also isn’t disclosed in Bush’s personal financial statements.

KUHF - February 12, 2018

Paxton, Huffines Spend Millions In GOP Bid For Texas’ Only Open State Senate Seat

Phillip Huffines, the Dallas County Republican Party chairman, and Angela Paxton, the wife of the Texas Attorney General, are duking it out in the GOP primary that’s become the most expensive state Senate race in Texas. Huffines benefits from a name easily recognizable from the family’s chain of auto dealerships spread across North Texas. He’s got a stake in the company, but his brother Ray runs the auto dealership’s operations. ... On the other side, Angela Paxton is also touting sterling conservative credentials. She has the benefit of a conservative brand built around her husband’s political career. Before becoming attorney general, Ken Paxton held the state Senate seat his wife now wants. University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus says the Paxton brand is incredibly durable in Collin County because of his role shifting the suburban enclave from a moderate Republican stronghold to the Tea Party bastion it is today.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Three Immigration Plans Fall, Leaving ‘Dreamers’ in Limbo

The Senate summarily blocked three measures on Thursday — including one backed by President Trump — to resolve the fate of the so-called Dreamers, leaving hundreds of thousands of them facing an uncertain future. As senators struck down measure after measure, a week that began with the promise of a rare open, free-ranging debate on the issue crashed headlong into the same divisions that have prevented Congress from fixing the nation’s immigration system for decades. The lack of consensus left in question whether any solution on the Dreamers can be reached. In a rebuke to the president, senators voted overwhelmingly, 39 to 60, against the White House-backed bill, which would have committed $25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, placed strict limits on legal immigration, ended the diversity visa lottery and offered 1.8 million Dreamers an eventual path to citizenship.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Audit: Company behind Texas "clean coal" project used federal funds for liquor, limousines and lobbying

A now-bankrupt company that received a major federal stimulus grant to build a “clean coal” power plant in West Texas spent millions of taxpayer dollars on alcohol, lobbying, spa services and other questionable — or clearly unauthorized — expenses. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, which found that under the Obama administration the department’s Office of Fossil Energy demonstrated blatantly lax oversight of a $450 million grant awarded in 2010 to Seattle-based Summit Power Group for the “Texas Clean Energy Project.” The coal-fired carbon-capture power plant — slated for a 600-acre plot near Odessa — was never built.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Ramsey: Texans won’t have to wait for November to know who’s winning

It only stands to reason that, if the state’s general elections generally fall to the people from one political party, much of the competition would move to the party primaries. And that, with a speaker of the Texas House deciding not to seek re-election, the factions within that majority Republican Party would be vying for supremacy now — the better to control who succeeds the outgoing speaker. Or that the state’s chief executive and his number two — frustrated last year by resistance from the socially moderate wing of their party — would be acting to silence some of that wing’s louder voices with endorsements, campaign advertising and any other means they can find.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Local taxes in Texas have been rising to help pay for education. Who is to blame?

Hey, Texplainer: How much has the state contributed to education funding over the past several years, and how has that affected property taxes? This question is familiar to anyone involved in state politics these days. Texas leaders say property taxes are too high. School leaders say those taxes have gone up because the state isn't funding public education like it used to. Here are the facts: During the 2008 fiscal year, the state covered roughly 48.5 percent of the cost of public education, according to the Legislative Budget Board. By the 2019 fiscal year, it will support closer to 38 percent.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis on voting for Gov. Greg Abbott: "It'll be hard to do that."

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, said Thursday that she won't support a Democrat for Texas governor in 2018 but can't commit to voting for her fellow Republican Greg Abbott. “It'll be hard to do that,” she said of supporting the incumbent governor who has worked hard to unseat her in this year's Republican primary. "I would most likely just not vote." Davis made the comments during a morning interview in Austin with The Texas Tribune's CEO, Evan Smith.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas Freedom Caucus sees opportunities to grow in 2018 GOP primaries

A feisty coalition of hardline conservatives is looking to grow its ranks with March’s Republican primaries. And to hear some Texas House Freedom Caucus members tell it, that growth is all but guaranteed. “I am certain the Texas Freedom Caucus will grow,” said the group’s chairman, Tyler Republican Matt Schaefer. “A larger Texas Freedom Caucus is a safe bet." Schaefer wouldn’t speculate on specific races or give any clear predictions on size. But others, including state Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving, think the caucus could more than double in size in 2019.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Democrats change tune: Seem to like a lot of each others' ideas

After sparring over several issues, and with just a week to go before the start of early voting, a majority of the Democrats running to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott are now sounding a lot alike on many key issues. At a Bexar County Democratic Party forum, six of the nine gubernatorial contenders in the upcoming March 6 primary agreed on more than a dozen top issues — with disagreement remaining on the state income tax, toll roads and legalizing casinos to help pay for schools. They supported a move to abolish the death penalty and closing a loophole that allows corporations to avoid billions in property taxes. Likewise with improving public schools, LGBTQ equality, universal pre-K and property-tax reforms..

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

New ad accuses attorney general, wife of getting rich off public service

The day before Valentines Day, the hopeful for a state Senate seat broke out the bubbly in a searing campaign ad accusing the attorney general and his wife of enriching themselves from public service. The negative ad is meant to hurt Angela Paxton's bid in a contested Republican primary battle for the District 8 state Senate seat in suburban Dallas. The 30-second ad by Republican candidate Phillip Huffines ratchets up criticism of Paxton by associating her with past criticism of her husband, Ken Paxton. Attorney General Paxton and his wife Angela "didn't have much" when he won his first election in 2013, read the narrator in the campaign ad released Tuesday. "Just 11 years later, they co-owned 28 companies."

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Grieder: Blowing the whistle on the Texas Constitution

Like most people who attended Texas public schools, I know a few things about Texas history. Mrs. Kimball was the teacher who introduced me to the subject. Her enthusiasm for Texas history was such that she volunteered at the Institute of Texan Cultures, in San Antonio, on the weekends. And her expertise greatly exceeded that of the activists associated with Empower Texans, and its derivative 501(c)(4), Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The group describes itself, piously, as a "non-profit service organization," which aims to "educate and inspire Texans to exercise effective citizenship." But the only thing ET has inspired lately is a backlash, after word got out about their latest half-baked scheme. And in a somewhat amusing irony, the "ISD Whistleblower Project" targets the Texans who are actually committed to educating and inspiring people.

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Texas Department of Public Safety launches new drone program

The Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a new drone program, about eight years after scrapping its first effort due to challenges posed by federal restrictions and maintenance costs. Over the past few months, the department has quietly spent about $70,000 to purchase 17 drones, known formally as unmanned aerial systems. The most expensive, an Aeryon SkyRanger equipped with a high-tech camera, cost $48,000 and can fly for up to 50 minutes, department purchase records show. DPS officials weren’t available to discuss details Thursday, but DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the SkyRanger, equipped with specialized software and an extended battery life, mostly will be used by the highway patrol for crash scene reconstruction.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Texas lawmakers praise Harvey funding — say more may be needed

Houston and the Gulf region came out well with an $89.3 billion disaster relief package signed earlier this month by President Donald Trump, but a group of Texas lawmakers warned Thursday that there is still work to be done to recover from Hurricane Harvey and prepare for future floods. “This legislation addresses all of the concerns that we have now,” Houston Democrat Rep. Al Green said. “Whether it will totally, completely and absolutely address all the concerns is something we may have to visit at a later time.” Green made his remarks in a Capitol Hill news conference accompanied by a number of other House members from Texas, including Democrats Henry Cuellar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Gene Green and Eddie Bernice Johnson and Republicans John Culberson and Pete Olson.

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Field of 18 GOP candidates fighting for runoff in primary for Lamar Smith’s seat

A few days after the release of 21st congressional district candidate Robert Stovall’s first TV campaign ad, a nod to President Donald Trump that featured the former Bexar County GOP chairman standing knee-deep in an actual swamp, Stovall’s campaign put on a fundraising reception at a ritzy North Side country club. The “special guest” speaker at the late January reception: Brad Parscale, the digital architect of Trump’s 2016 campaign and a longtime friend of Stovall’s. During a short speech, Parscale conveyed at least one clear message: that Stovall’s unflagging embrace of Trump was legit — thus setting him apart from the pack.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

The futures of ‘Dreamers’ still left up in the air

San Antonio teacher Maria Rocha said she had largely tuned out the debate about what would happen to her and other recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The rhetoric was too demeaning to immigrants, said Rocha, 30, who is originally from Mexico but came to the U.S. as a child. She had mixed feelings about proposals in Congress that would give legal status to young immigrants like her but would fund a border wall and restrict visas for others. “It’s just really sad to see our faces with dollar bills,” Rocha said of legislation that tied legal status for DACA recipients to funding for a border wall.

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Analysis suggests mortgages are less accessible to blacks, Latinos

Blacks and Latinos were “significantly more likely” than non-Hispanic whites to be denied conventional mortgage loans to buy houses in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area in 2015 and 2016, according to a nationwide, yearlong analysis by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The nonprofit news organization’s analysis found the same disparity toward both blacks and Latinos in a dozen other metro areas, including New Orleans; Little Rock, Arkansas; Atlanta; Orlando, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Tacoma, Washington, based on a review of 31 million Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records. Lenders were more likely to deny such financing to at least one minority race or ethnicity in 61 metros across the nation, Reveal’s investigation concluded.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Texas pushes back on federal judge's foster care ruling, though children's lawyers say let it rip

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office and lawyers representing foster children slugged it out Thursday over whether a federal appeals court should make Texas obey a judge's demands while the state appeals her ruling that its long-term foster care system is "broken." Three judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals complained they don't have enough information on whether the Legislature's infusion of cash and new hires at Child Protective Services last year have alleviated some of the problems cited by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack. "What is the situation?" asked Judge Leslie H. Southwick of Mississippi, who presided over a three-judge panel that heard Thursday's arguments. It will decide how much if any of the full 5th Circuit's stay should remain in effect.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

In Texas, VP Mike Pence will tour border and raise funds for Dallas GOP and embattled congressmen

Vice President Mike Pence will tour the Texas-Mexico border Friday with Sen. Ted Cruz, during a two-day Texas visit that includes rounding up funds in Dallas to protect endangered GOP congressmen. The visit to McAllen will highlight the administration's demands for a border wall and an overhaul to immigration policy, as Congress wrestles with the fate of young immigrants brought to the country illegally. The trip will combine politics and official business. At the Omni Dallas on Saturday, Pence will raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party's House fundraising arm.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Texas regulators on verge of approving Sempra's $9.45 billion purchase of Oncor

The four-year search to find a new owner for Oncor — Texas' largest regulated utility — appears to be nearly over. Texas Public Utility Commissioners asked staff members Thursday to prepare an order approving the $9.45 billion sale in time for the agency's March 8 meeting. Besides that vote on San Diego-based Sempra Energy's offer, a second approval will be needed from the Delaware court handling the bankruptcy of Oncor's parent company, Energy Future Holdings. It appears that commissioners have "blessed" the deal, said Geoffrey Gay, attorney for the steering committee of cities served by Oncor. "The commissioners have the authority to challenge anything or ask questions, but they seem to be content that the parties have addressed every major issue," he said.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DPS says it won't lay off 117 older officers after reaching deal with lawmakers

Following a wave of criticism, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced Thursday that it would not lay off 117 older officers who had received termination orders in December as a way to address budget cuts to the agency. "The Reduction-in-Force (RIF) action previously announced to eliminate the Retire/Rehire program for commissioned officers, which would result in the termination of DPS commissioned officers who had previously retired, is rescinded," DPS Director Steve McCraw said in an email to his staff Thursday obtained by The Dallas Morning News. "This follows recent discussions and the concurrence of the Texas Leadership to pursue an alternative option to fund these positions."

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Parker: In a galaxy far, far away, a political rebellion grows in Texas

The rebellion is underway. And the Empire is under siege. A long, long time ago, (late last year) an unusual pair of rebellions broke out in a galaxy far, far away, known as Texas. Democratic candidates for political office swarmed the state's first-in-the nation primaries, exhibiting a courage unseen in Texas in many decades to restore the Republic. And even some Republicans fought the emperor and Darth Vader in a desperate attempt to wrest control of the Death Star. For the first time in a quarter century a fight is on in Texas to break the grip of a Republican Party steadily drifting to the far right, now under a conniving governor, Greg Abbott, and his warlord, Dan Patrick. On March 6 the ballot will be full of candidates to replace an old guard either desperately clinging to power or slinking into retirement. (Hat tip to R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly who used the "Empire Strikes Back" metaphor first for this year's primary.)

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Florida shooting should rally North Texas to improve safety net for vulnerable students

In the wake of yet another school massacre — this one leaving 17 dead in southern Florida — our thoughts turn not just to the gun in the shooter's hands, but to the darkness in his mind. While this tragedy will no doubt ignite a gun-control debate, our focus today is on another significant fact that surfaces all too often in these stories: The "troubled" Florida shooter has a life story full of warning signs, including concerns around his emotional health. Research indicates that mental instability or illness is no precursor to a mass shooter, who generally acts from a mix of ideology, personal grievance, character and, potentially, chemical imbalances in the brain. But as details emerge about Nikolas Cruz, who has confessed to the Florida shooting, no one would dispute that he needed help.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Central Texas congressional delegation reacts to Florida shooting

On Thursday, survivors and victims’ families demanded lawmakers create policies that would limit attacks like the one in Florida. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, responded by calling for hearings to identify “what kind of tools might be available to us” to prevent mass shootings. “Our churches and schools should be refuges, places where parents and children especially feel safe and secure,” Cornyn said from the Senate floor Thursday. “Many of these shootings can be prevented. Perhaps not all, but we need to do everything we can.” ... U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the Florida attack was heartbreaking, and Democrats wanted to politicize the shooting by pushing “gun control,” he said during an appearance on Fox News Channel. “That’s not the right answer,” Cruz said. “The answer is to focus on criminals, to focus on violent criminals. This individual appears to have significant issues with mental illness. I think we will certainly be asking were there signs of mental illness, could we have stepped in and prevented this beforehand.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Amid Alamo management concerns, Bush will leave nonprofit board

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush plans to resign this spring from the board of the Alamo Trust, the nonprofit that manages day-to-day operations of the state’s most iconic site. The decision follows reporting last week by the American-Statesman about an unreleased draft audit report, prepared by internal auditors for the General Land Office, that found that the agency’s use of the nonprofit was unduly complicated and sometimes led to practices that run afoul of state requirements. “Commissioner Bush continues to demonstrate his dedication to ensuring the highest level of integrity, accountability and transparency in Alamo operations,” Bush press secretary Brittany Eck said Thursday.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Texas deer breeders challenge ruling on state’s disease regulations

Some breeders of captive deer for the multibillion-dollar Texas hunting industry are continuing their fight against the state’s wildlife agency and its regulations aimed at curbing the spread of a deadly contagious disease that can infect the animals. A court ruling last fall upheld the authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to enact rules to curtail chronic wasting disease, which is fatal to deer, elk and moose, either in captivity or the wild. A pair of deer breeders who challenged the agency’s regulations — Ken Bailey and Bradly Peterson, who were ordered to pay about $426,000 combined to cover the state’s legal expenses — are appealing, arguing among other things that the court erred by not recognizing that the agency had trampled on their private property rights by issuing rules for the handling of captive-bred deer as well as for wild deer.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Herman: Politics, can we talk about it more please?

Texas, we need to talk. And we need to talk about what we talk about and what we don’t talk about. Apparently – surprisingly? – it turns out too few Texans talk about politics. A new study says that’s bad for our civic health. So, in the name of improving our civic health, please take time today get a political conversation going with somebody. Here are two suggested opening lines: “Hey, is that Trump guy unbelievably great or what?” or “Hey, is that Trump guy bat-droppings crazy or what?”

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Abbott ad: You said ‘no’ to Wendy Davis, now say ‘no’ to Sarah Davis

Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign is escalating the air war against Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis by launching a fourth TV commercial, this one focusing on abortion policies and likening the moderate renegade to her unrelated namesake, Wendy Davis, Abbott’s Democratic rival in 2014. “You said ‘no’ to Wendy Davis. Now it is time to say ‘no’ to Sarah Davis,” says the narrator of the 30-second ad, which will go on TV next week. The Abbott campaign released the ad in advance of the Houston-area lawmaker’s Thursday morning interview in Austin with Texas Tribune CEO and co-founder Evan Smith. At the event, Davis said she looks forward to working with the governor in the next legislative session but did not expect to vote for him in November.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

UT System Board of Regents to evaluate itself at least every two years

The Board of Regents of the 14-campus University of Texas System, which is already engaged in a bit of self-reflection with a new chairwoman and the search for a new chancellor, has adopted a rule requiring the board to evaluate itself at least every two years. The rule, adopted unanimously by the regents Thursday with no discussion, is intended to comply with new accreditation requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Among other things, the self-evaluation will include assessments of the board’s organization, leadership, oversight of the chancellor, oversight of the campuses, policymaking role, orientation of new regents and methods of addressing potential conflicts of interest involving regents.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

First Reading: `My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs.’ Lisa Luby Ryan on why she will oppose gun regulation `to my last breath.’

On Tuesday, Lisa Luby Ryan, who is challenging Villalba in the March 6 Republican primary, took Villalba to task for that initiative at a debate hosted by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters of Dallas. As James Russell, who covered the debate for the Quorum Report, wrote: Citing Villalba’s op-ed in The Dallas Morning News last year calling for a statewide commission to study the causes of gun violence ahead of the next legislative session, written after a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, a town just east of San Antonio. Ryan maintained her strong stance against any restrictions on gun ownership and usage, taking a personal view on the issue.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 9, 2018

Campaign for this Texas House seat turns nasty and costly, drawing more than $500,000

The fight for House District 99 is on. Once again, the contest for this seat has become a marquee battle — pitting two men whose families have been longtime friends — that tips the scales at more than a half million dollars. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has represented this district since 2001 and is seeking another term in office; Bo French, who unsuccessfully ran against Geren two years ago, is back on the ballot. So far, the fiery fight for this district involves hundreds of thousands of dollars, a lawsuit and peace officer concerns about a fake Facebook page created two years ago.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 14, 2018

This state rep candidate voted to improve Old Town Keller, then bought property there

A vacant lot in the Old Town Keller area has become an issue in the Republican primary for state representative District 98. The lot at 110 Bates St., just west of U.S. 377 in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, is owned by Armin Mizani, who is trying to unseat incumbent Giovanni Capriglione for the GOP nomination. Capriglione, a Southlake resident who has represented the Southlake-Keller area in the Texas House of Representatives for six years, says Mizani's purchase of the land last year is not well-known in the Keller community.

Temple Daily Telegram - February 16, 2018

Texas police group opposes Grisham

The Texas Municipal Police Association is coming out against Texas House candidate CJ Grisham over what the group says are his “anti-cop” Facebook posts. “We’re really concerned about anybody who has made the kind of hateful remarks about our law enforcement officers running for a position in the statehouse,” TMPA Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said on Friday. “That type of vitriol, that type of demonization of our law enforcement personnel we just don’t think it’s a good ingredient in the public policy making process.”

El Paso Times - February 16, 2018

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements

A smiling portrait of former County Judge Veronica Escobar looks out at passersby from two identical billboards, positioned at intersections in different parts of El Paso's congressional district. The text reads: “I doubled my salary and raised your taxes. We good?” The billboards were purchased by a new political action committee called Keep El Paso Honest, which was formed last year with one objective in mind: ensure that Escobar is not elected to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Congress.

KXAN - February 15, 2018

TxTag revamps billing system after KXAN investigation

Following hundreds of complaints from frustrated drivers, KXAN investigators continue holding the state’s toll authority accountable for billing problems. Now, TxTag will soon consolidate its customer service and collections process and is enhancing its efforts to verify billing addresses. KXAN initially began investigating TxTag customer service, collection fees and billing practices last June. In the months to follow, KXAN uncovered the state’s tolling entity contracting with an aggressive collections agency, racking up nearly $1 billion in fines alone to customer accounts. Soon after, the Texas Department of Transportation, which oversees TxTag toll roads, stopped sending accounts to collections altogether.

Spectrum News - February 14, 2018

Report: Texas ranks at the bottom for political participation

A new study by the University of Texas at Austin revealed that the Lone Star State ranks at the bottom of the charts for political participation and civic involvement nationwide. The report, by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, highlights Texas’ need to promote and support civic engagement as the Texas primaries are swiftly approaching. Out of the 50 states, Texas ranked number 47 in voter turnout and 44th in voter registration.

Washington Free Beacon - February 12, 2018

Texas Dem Senate Candidate: More Planned Parenthoods Would Mean More Lives Saved

Presumptive Democratic Senatorial nominee and current U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke stressed the importance of family planning clinics during a town hall in San Marcos, Texas on Monday. The subject of family planning clinics was brought up by a woman concerned that Republicans are trying to "take away women's rights" and worried that religion might "take over government." "I want to ask about what you think about the GOP and the far right trying to take away women's rights, and what we can do about that, because we're crossing that fine line of having religion take over government," the Texas resident asked O'Rourke.

Amarillo Globe-News - February 10, 2018

Henry: Is there a conspiracy in West Texas?

There is a conspiracy brewing in West Texas. Then again — maybe not. It depends who you ask. If you ask state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, there is a conspiracy. “It is an absolute fact,” Seliger said. The conspiracy (if there is one) goes something like this: Leal, a well-known Amarillo restaurant owner and former candidate for state House, is only running for state Senate to siphon votes in these parts from Seliger, the incumbent, in a three-candidate race in the March 6 GOP primary. You see, there is another candidate running for the District 31 seat, Mike Canon of Midland. Seliger beat Canon in the 2014 GOP primary for this seat, but it was close, 52 percent to 47 percent — give or take a few decimals.

Politico - February 15, 2018

Poll: Republican barely leading in Pennsylvania special election

Republican Rick Saccone holds a slim lead over Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for a Western Pennsylvania congressional seat, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday. Saccone leads Lamb, 49 percent to 46 percent, the poll shows — only a marginal edge for Republicans in a district that supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in 2016. Another 4 percent are undecided, and 1 percent support a third-party candidate. The poll used a turnout model "similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year," according to a memo from Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - February 11, 2018

Moritz: Democrat Mike Collier hopes to parlay policy wonk chops into political success

Just moments after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was serving up a thick and juicy slab of political red meat to a conservative think tank in Austin on Thursday, the leading Democrat hoping to oust him in November was a few blocks away eating his vegetables. Rhetorically speaking. Mike Collier, an Austin outsider who came to Democratic politics through the unlikely route of being an accountant-finance guy for button-down firms like Exxon and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, was explaining the scholarly white paper his campaign prepared on school finance and property tax policy.

County Stories

Dallas Observer - February 14, 2018

Dallas Area Had Highest Number of ICE Arrests in the Country in 2017, New Study Says

Agents working out of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Dallas office arrested nearly 17,000 people in 2017, according to a new study from the Pew Research Group. That's the highest number of arrests in any ICE region — the agency calls them "areas of responsibility" — and an uptick of nearly 7,000 arrests in the region since 2016. Dallas racked up its arrest lead although it has the country's fourth-largest population of undocumented residents, according to Pew's latest estimates. The New York-Newark-Jersey City region has nearly three times as many undocumented residents — 1.15 million to 475,000 — but recorded only a fraction of the number of arrests made in Dallas — 2,576 compared with 16,520.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Worried Houston-area school officials beef up security after Florida shooting

They notice the signs of depression - students who seem isolated, withdrawn or prone to bursts of anger. They notice symbols of hate, like a swastika scrawled in a journal. But still they worry: Could one child slip through the cracks? Student teachers at the University of Houston discussed the realities of campus violence and how to connect with at-risk students during a Thursday lesson -- one of many such conversations that unfolded across the Houston area Thursday, a day after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school. "It's something we have to face now," said UH student Ayo Shofoluwe, 25. "You never know who might do something."

Politico - February 9, 2018

Houston district becomes unlikely battleground for vaccine policy fight

Texas House District 134 in southwest Houston, with its teeming 50 million-square-foot medical complex that includes Baylor College of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center and 100,000 health workers, seems an improbable battleground for a political fight over vaccines. Yet it's the latest front in the war over vaccination requirements — and a proxy for the broader struggle between social conservatives and moderates for the soul of the Texas Republican Party. Texans for Vaccine Choice, a political action committee that favors expanding parents' ability to claim exemptions from childhood vaccination requirements, is backing a primary challenge to moderate GOP state Rep. Sarah Davis, who last year joined with Democrats and a handful of Republicans to unsuccessfully oppose a proposal barring doctors from inoculating children in foster care.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Turner, Emmett want $200 million from Texas to repair damaged bayous

County Judge Ed Emmett and Mayor Sylvester Turner are asking the state of Texas to advance Harris County and Houston $200 million to pay for damage to local bayous and detention basins incurred during Hurricane Harvey. Officials already were working on repairs to the Harris County Flood Control District's infrastructure when Harvey hit. Eroding bayous or crumbling concrete can hamper the ability of the bayous and detention basins to quickly funnel floodwaters out of the region into Galveston Bay.

City Stories

Bloomberg - February 16, 2018

In Houston, 45% Pay Hikes Are Dangled to Lure Immigrant Workers

Cesar Gomez’s life is great right now. And a little scary. The great part: He just got a 45 percent raise –- to $160 a day. A master remodeler in Houston, he’s in such hot demand amid the post-hurricane cleanup that his boss threw him the extra cash to make sure he wouldn’t bolt for a rival outfit. But Gomez is wanted in another sense of the word, too. He’s an undocumented Mexican living in a state that’s pursuing one of the country’s toughest crackdowns on undocumented immigrants. This has made him extra leery of bumping into police officers and, as a result, hesitant to venture outside for anything but work. “I just go straight home from work to eat and sleep and that’s it, and then back to work again,” he said.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Houston First looks to move past controversy in picking new chief exec

In the latest sudden change at Houston First Corp., Mayor Sylvester Turner nominated an inside candidate to replace the agency's longtime president and chief executive, who was removed Tuesday for reasons the mayor and other officials have failed to explain. Brenda Bazan, chief financial officer for the convention and tourism agency, was introduced as the nominee at the close of a Houston First board meeting on Thursday. "She's got a terrific grasp of internal operations and expressed a good vision for growing our footprint," board chairman David Mincberg said afterward.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

La Gordiloca: Texas law is unconstitutional

A Laredo social media personality and citizen journalist arrested for publishing information about a suicide and a car wreck is challenging the constitutionality of the Texas law under which she was charged. Priscilla Villarreal, who is best known as her online personality, La Gordiloca, was arrested in December on a charges of misuse of official information after she published on Facebook the name of a suicide victim and the name of a person who died in a car wreck. Media law experts said at the time the arrest likely violated her First Amendment rights.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Houston on Friday

For the second time in three weeks, Houston will play host to a Democratic leader in Congress. On Friday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in Houston to fire up Democratic activists and help Harris County Democrats raise money at their annual fundraising dinner. Pelosi speaks at the annual Johnson-Rayburn-Richards Dinner at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis Houston. Harris County Democrats say the theme of the dinner is "It All Starts Here," a nod to the strategic importance they say Harris County could play in turning Texas blue.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

HISD superintendent calls for drastic changes in annual speech

Invoking the region’s can-do spirit, Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza delivered an impassioned pitch Thursday for the sweeping proposals that he says will create a more equitable district while trimming $208 million from the budget. ... Carranza blamed for HISD’s budget shortfall on Texas’ unpopular school finance system. He said HISD will have to write a check for as much as $260 million to the state due to recapture, a method by which the state collects money from so-called property wealthy school districts to redistribute to districts with lower property values, including Aldine ISD in north Houston.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Dallas mayor on Florida shooting: Leaders must step up on gun violence or 'get the hell out of the way'

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Thursday blasted politicians who he said "lack the courage" to do anything in response to mass shootings. He announced that he will ask Texans in Congress to establish a blue-ribbon commission to study the problem. In his impassioned remarks following a ribbon-cutting at Texas Capital Bank in West Dallas, Rawlings said "America needs to be outraged" by Wednesday's school shooting in Broward County, Fla., that left 17 dead and 16 wounded. "I'm so frustrated with the leadership of this country," Rawlings said. "It's like every time this happens, they're deer in the headlights. And all they can say is, 'Our thoughts and prayers,' and 'This is pure evil.'

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

After Senate 'train wreck' on competing immigration plans, Cornyn casts doubt on continuing DACA debate

After months of promises to find a solution for young immigrants in the country illegally, lawmakers in the Senate failed to reach agreement on a series of immigration proposals Thursday. And Texas Sen. John Cornyn — the No. 2 Republican who backed a bill reflecting hard-line demands from the White House — cast doubt on continuing to debate the issue, leaving uncertain the fates of young people still at risk of deportation. Asked if the immigration issue will soon receive additional floor time for debate, Cornyn told CNN: "I don't see it. We couldn't get it together this week. We've got other things we have to do. ... If I were [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell], I'd be reluctant to spend another week of wasted time."

The Hill - February 12, 2018

Cruz warns Texas GOP: 'The left is going to show up'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is warning his party that the "left is going to show up" in the 2018 midterm elections. During a speech Friday addressing the Fort Bend County GOP, Cruz talked about an "incredible volatility in politics right now," according to the Texas Tribune. "Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up," Cruz said during his keynote address at the party's Lincoln Reagan Dinner. "They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote."

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Cruz predicts Republicans will lose Congress if DACA deal includes amnesty

U.S Sen. Ted Cruz said Republicans will lose the majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate if they support an immigration deal that provides a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers. “Mark my words, if Republican majorities in Congress pass citizenship for millions of people — an amnesty — I think it is quite likely we will lose both houses of Congress and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will impeach President Trump,” Cruz said during an interview on Fox News Channel Thursday morning. If the immigration plans pass, he said conservative voters will be so upset that they will stay at home and not come out to vote for Republicans while Democratic voters turnout out in big numbers.

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

Cox, Rich: No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.

The stunning number swept across the Internet within minutes of the news Wednesday that, yet again, another young man with another semiautomatic rifle had rampaged through a school, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida. The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings. “This,” the organization tweeted at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, “is the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018.” A tweet by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) including the claim had been liked more than 45,000 times by Thursday evening, and one from political analyst Jeff Greenfield had cracked 126,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted it, too, as did performers Cher and Alexander William and actors Misha Collins and Albert Brooks. News organizations — including MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, Time, MSN, the BBC, the New York Daily News and HuffPost — also used the number in their coverage. ... It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong. Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Bui, Sanger-Katz: How to Prevent Gun Deaths? Where Experts and the Public Agree

We conducted a survey on 29 gun control ideas, looking for the intersection of effectiveness and popularity. Our expert survey asked dozens of social scientists, lawyers and public health officials how effective each of 29 policies would be in reducing firearm homicide deaths, regardless of their political feasibility or cost. Policies deemed both effective and popular appear in the upper-right corner of the matrix. Less popular, less effective measures fall lower down and to the left. The two policies ranked most effective were those requiring all sellers to run background checks on anyone who buys a gun, and barring gun sales to people convicted of violent misdemeanors, including domestic assaults.

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

FBI’s near-brush with suspect in Florida school shooting draws scrutiny

A tipster alerted the FBI in September to a disturbing comment that had been left beneath an online video. “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” read the comment, posted by YouTube user “nikolas cruz.” Two FBI agents interviewed the caller, Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight, the next day. The bureau checked public and law enforcement databases for anyone by Cruz’s name who might be of concern, the FBI said, but could not identify the person who left the comment. Five months later, police say, Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked into the Florida high school from which he had been expelled and opened fire, killing 17 people in one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.

Associated Press - February 16, 2018

Trump cites mental health — not guns — in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with "one heavy heart," President Donald Trump promised Thursday to tackle school safety and "the difficult issue of mental health" in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence. Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel "lost, alone, confused or even scared." "I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be," Trump said. "You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

After Florida shooting, Texas Sen. John Cornyn plans to talk gun policy with a leading Democrat

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said on Thursday that he wanted to sit down with one of the leading Senate Democrats to talk gun policy in the wake of Wednesday's mass shooting at a South Florida high school. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, brought the issue to the fore. "Let’s take some action," she said. "We cannot see this continue on." She then mentioned two areas where compromise might be reached. The first was a "Fix NICS" bill Cornyn sponsored last fall that would hold government agencies accountable for uploading relevant information to the federal background check system.

Politico - February 15, 2018

Priebus on White House chaos: 'Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50'

Reports of chaos and disorganization inside the White House through the first months of President Donald Trump’s administration are accurate, former chief of staff Reince Priebus said. In fact, Priebus said, those reports understated the truth of the Trump administration’s beginnings. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus told author Chris Whipple, whose book on White House chiefs of staff, “The Gatekeepers,” will be released in paperback next month with a new chapter on the Trump administration. Excerpts of the new chapter were published Wednesday by Vanity Fair.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Watchdog: Under Trump, consumer protection grows so weak you won’t recognize it

Last year's Equifax data hack of our personal information is worse than we thought. We already knew criminals stole 145 million names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and, for some, driver's license and credit card numbers. Equifax recently admitted to a U.S. Senate committee that tax identification numbers, phone numbers, email addresses and expiration dates on credit cards were ripped off, too. This is crazy important because if a criminal has your cell phone number and email address, she or he could commandeer anti-fraud protections such as two-step identification or password changes and lock you out of your own account.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Weiner, Fleck: 10,000 experts plan to make America ‘evidence-based’ again

Ten thousand of the nation’s leading scientists are gathering in Austin this week to discuss the state of science in the country. High on the list of concerns for the American Association for the Advancement of Science at their annual meeting is the Trump administration’s antagonism to language used widely in the scientific community: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Apparently, these words are so anathema that the current administration has banned CDC from using them on its websites and in agency directives. When we informed the association that we were working on a piece regarding the bans on these terms, the organization’s press office offered a had a single word reply: “Yeah!” Susan Hockfield, the association’s new president, has said that “working together to clearly articulate the value and importance of scientific research and innovation is more than ever the imperative.”

Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2018

Tomlinson: Don't believe in climate change? Energy companies do

While some conservative political leaders still deny that the Earth is heating up due to humans burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases, the people who produce those fuels and chemicals have recognized the imperative to limit global warming to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Many of these companies are recommending a carbon tax, and others are calling on governments to keep predictable environmental regulations. The pleas for reason coming from corporate boardrooms contrast sharply with the sloganeering coming from Republican politicians. Sara Ortwein, the president of Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy, last week called for "sound policies and regulations" for methane emissions.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Casey: The best thing you can do for school teachers is to vote

Teachers know the work we do every day is crucial to our democracy, our culture, our future. Like master chefs we take the ingredients present in our classes -- bright kids, funny kids, late kids, kids with no pencil, kids with no bed, kids with a headache, a heartache, a trophy. We summon our skills to light a fire under our learners, fusing their sundry flavors, adding piquant spices, until a rich stew of wisdom starts to simmer. Then we get up the next morning and start cooking all over again. There's nothing we won't do to stir our students to be the creme de la creme. Except, it seems, to vote. We get so immersed in our own corner of the kitchen that we fail to attend to the House. And the Senate. And the governor's mansion.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Halbfinger, Kershner: In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him

In a trio of new polls, Israelis have declared what they think of the bribery case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the answer is roughly the same as what they think of Mr. Netanyahu himself: About half think he should step aside. His right-wing supporters overwhelmingly think he should stay. Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel is as polarized as it has been in generations, and under his lengthy tenure, the national conversation has become steadily more toxic. Now, as the prime minister awaits a possible criminal indictment, his efforts to cling to power could pose even greater strains on a society that already seems at risk of tearing itself apart.

Washington Post - February 13, 2018

Hillary Clinton, a favorite GOP foil, plans discreet 2018 strategy

Her emerging 2018 strategy, according to more than a dozen friends and advisers familiar with her plans, is to leverage the star power she retains in some Democratic circles on behalf of select candidates while remaining sufficiently below the radar to avoid becoming a useful target for Republicans seeking to rile up their base. Most likely, they said, Clinton will attempt to help Democratic candidates who have a history of supporting her and her family, and expending her political capital in a number of the 23 congressional districts she won in 2016 but are now held by a Republican. Lending a hand to Democrats organizing at a grass-roots level is a priority, they added.