Texas Headlines, Feb. 16, 2011

Posted on: February 16th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

News from around the state

Houston Chronicle: E-mail warns regents against fraud or graft
In his State of the State speech last week, Rick Perry, aka Governor Sunshine, warned that the “mainstream media and big-government interest groups are doing their best to convince us that we’re facing a budget Armageddon.”

Bryan-College Station Eagle: A&M, UT fight ed cuts together
Texas A&M and the University of Texas are bitter rivals on the gridiron, but the state’s research giants presented a united front Tuesday at Orange and Maroon Legislative Day.

Temple Daily Telegram: Enrollment overdose: Texas A&M College of Medicine accepts 250, only has room for 170
Prospective members of Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine class of 2015 have discovered that a miscalculation has consequences.

Tx Capitol Report: Matching funds for Tier One donations not part of base budget
UTEP and six other emerging Tier One institutions will no longer get matching funds from the state on donations from private donors under a base budget proposal in the Texas House.

Postcards: Hochberg-led hearing a lesson in higher education finance
Nobody does Higher Ed 101 quite like Scott Hochberg.

Texas Tribune: Texas Community Colleges Leery of Guns on Campus
Ed Leathers has a concealed handgun license, and he believes in Texas gun laws. But as the chief of police for Collin College in the northern suburbs of Dallas, he is convinced that campuses are the wrong place for concealed handguns.

San Antonio Express-News: Conservative group slams Texas’ school history standards
AUSTIN — A conservative education think tank has severely criticized Texas’ new social studies curriculum standards as a “politicized distortion of history… offering misrepresentations at every turn.”

Austin American-Statesman: State curriculum for U.S. history flunks evaluation
Texas is among 28 states to receive a failing grade on its U.S. history curriculum for public schools, according to an evaluation by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute being released today .

BurkaBlog: Grim day in the Article III Approps subcommittee
Education commissioner Robert Scott was on the hot seat yesterday. He testified that if the current level of funding in HB 1 remained the same, the state would get sued.

Dallas Morning News: State property tax for schools suggested
Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, suggested Tuesday that it may be time for the Legislature to consider a state property tax to fund schools instead of relying on local property taxes.

Postcards: Duncan renews call for statewide school property tax
State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, on Tuesday breathed some new life into a proposal to enact a statewide school property tax to address Texas’ persistent education funding woes.

Texas Politics: Chopping Block: Standardized Testing
“How much money could be saved by ending standardized testing?”

Mike Villarreal (San Antonio Express-News): School bill intended to address a crisis
Out of 100 students who enter ninth grade in our largest urban school district — San Antonio ISD — 59 will graduate with their class in 12th grade. Some 46 will take the ACT or SAT, but only 14 will earn scores considered college ready. With odds like these, how can we not demand accountability from those in charge?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: ‘Texas on the Brink’ counters Perry’s depiction of state
AUSTIN — Countering Republicans’ portrayal of Texas as a land of opportunity, Democratic lawmakers released a compendium of statistics Tuesday showing that the state lags behind much of the nation in providing needed services to its residents.

Associated Press (Bryan-College Station Eagle): Report calls quality of life in Texas ‘abysmal’
AUSTIN — Texas ranks near the bottom of all states in taxing and spending per capita, but is dead last in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma, according to a study released Tuesday by a panel of mostly Democratic lawmakers.

Trail Blazers: In Gov. Rick Perry’s State of the State speech, some telling references to Washington
Hi folks. I wanted to share this nifty breakdown of Gov. Rick Perry’s recent State of the State speech.

Texas Tribune: Perry: Keep the 2009 Business Tax Break
Gov. Rick Perry wants to keep a small-business tax break approved by lawmakers two years ago that, without legislative action, will require more businesses to pay franchise taxes.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Giving new meaning to pay as you go
Is it a sin to drive a gas-sucking, extra-polluting truck or SUV?

Austin American-Statesman: Budgeting with smoke and mirrors
Back in the days when Texas state government was comparatively affluent remembered only by people with some gray in their hair the operative expression was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Houston Chronicle: Graves injustice
It might not be as unjust as spending 18 years in a state prison for a wrongful conviction. But in denying former death row inmate Anthony Graves state compensation for his ordeal, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and her staff have trumped grievous judicial error with injustice by technicality.

Houston Chronicle: Judge’s bias blocked his compensation, Graves says
GALVESTON — After capital murder charges against Anthony Graves were dropped and prosecutors declared him innocent, his attorneys realized that state law required two crucial words to make him eligible for compensation for his 18 years of wrongful imprisonment: “actual innocence.”

Politico: Perry to Amazon: Don’t leave
Rick Perry is trying to pull strings to keep Amazon.com happy — and in the state of Texas — but isn’t getting the cooperation he’d like.

Statesman Business Blog: Lawmakers ask Combs to explain Amazon assessment
Three state lawmakers are calling on Texas Comptroller Susan Combs to explain how her office arrived at the assessment it levied last year against Amazon.com for uncollected sales taxes.

John Cornyn (Austin American-Statesman): Call a constitutional convention
In recent weeks, pundits and columnists have called the prospect of a constitutional convention “delusional” and a Pandora’s box that will allow politicians to “fiddle” with the Constitution.

National Journal: Cornyn Leaves Ensign Hanging
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, (R-Texas) offered no encouragement to Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) Tuesday — in the wake of a poll showing Ensign badly trailing potential primary opponent Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

Washington Examiner: Texas Republican: Let’s defund individual mandate right now
An amendment filed to H.R. 1, the FY2011 Continuing Resolution, by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Tex., would prohibit any monies from being appropriated by Congress to pay for  Obamacare’s individual mandate while the controversial health care legislation winds its way through the federal courts.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Texas Republicans file amendment taking aim at EPA
WASHINGTON — Three Republicans in the Texas congressional delegation took aim at Environmental Protection Agency regulations Tuesday, proposing to eliminate funding for the agency’s enforcement or implementation of greenhouse gas rules as an amendment to the federal funding bill for the current fiscal year.

Wall Street Journal: Ron Paul: CPAC ‘Is Definitely a Younger Crowd’
Texas Rep. Ron Paul acknowledged Tuesday that young people played a major role in helping him win a presidential straw poll last week in Washington.

Houston Chronicle: Lawmakers want to know who bought power before blackouts
AUSTIN — The Texas Public Utility Commission’s independent power market monitor didn’t see any evidence of electric market manipulation in data from rolling blackouts this month, but will continue to investigate, the PUC chairman told a state Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Rotating blackouts could have been prevented, officials say
The rotating blackouts that caught Texas electricity consumers by surprise two weeks ago might have been averted by better “weatherizing” power plants against extreme cold, officials testified at a Texas Senate hearing in Austin on Tuesday.

Texas Tribune: At Blackout Hearing, Big Political Donors Questioned
The power companies and execs at today’s hearing on the rolling blackouts this month were familiar faces to the senators asking the tough questions. Over the years, they’ve helped bankroll the lawmakers’ political campaigns.

Texas Tribune: Texas Power Companies Vow Post-Blackout Changes
As Senate hearings continued this afternoon at the Capitol, power plant owners tried to explain why so many of their operations failed during the Feb. 2 rolling blackouts.

Associated Press (Austin American-Statesman): Texas Senate investigates power outages
AUSTIN, Texas — State electricity managers had plenty of notice that an arctic cold front was headed for Texas and planned ahead for it, but power generators failed to provide electricity once the storm hit, utility bosses told lawmakers Tuesday.

Austin American-Statesman: If they could give us warm, fuzzy feelings, we wouldn’t be here
On public display Tuesday in the Texas Senate chamber was a reminder of the main reason humans form governments. It is, scholars tell us, primarily for the pleasure of convening committee hearings at which we can watch well-heeled witnesses squirm.

Statesman Business Blog: ERCOT releases expanded list of plants that went down in outages
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released an expanded list of many of the the power plants that went out of service at some point during the “forced outage” period between Feb. 1 and Feb. 4.

Postcards: Committee schedules meetings on contested District 48 election
The next steps in the contested election of District 48 in the Texas House have been scheduled.

Associated Press (Austin American-Statesman): Texas ramps up Medicaid fraud collections to $500M
AUSTIN, Texas — A state official says increased enforcement has helped Texas recover more than $500 million in Medicaid fraud cases since 2003.

Texas Politics: Cities OK for now but can’t bail out the state
Most Texas cities appear to be weathering the bad economy, according to the Texas Municipal League that surveyed cities to see how the financial condition affected them.

BurkaBlog: Did Straus stack Licensing & Administrative Procedures to be pro-gambling?
Last Friday, the Morning News’ Trailblazers blog questioned whether Speaker Straus had stacked the odds in favor of gambling through his appointments to Licensing & [Administration].

Wall Street Journal: Texas Reveals Details of Google Probe
The Texas attorney general’s office on Tuesday disclosed a set of demands it made last year seeking information from Google Inc. as part of an antitrust review that was triggered by complaints by small websites about how they were ranked in the Internet giant’s search results.

Bloomberg (Austin American-Statesman): Texas attorney general asks Google for information about its ad rate formula
Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott’s office has requested an array of information from Google Inc., including the company’s formula for setting advertising rates, according to a demand for documents by state antitrust officials.

Austin American-Statesman: LCRA’s sale of small water systems brings backlash from communities
What began in the 1990s as an effort by the Lower Colorado River Authority to bail out failing, far-flung sewage and water systems, eventually became a utility and infrastructure spree as the LCRA extended its clout, transforming the development of the Hill Country in the process.

Thomas Kurth (Houston Chronicle): In support of fracking: the facts and the science
For a technology that has been used for more than 60 years, “fracking” or more specifically, hydraulic fracturing, is attracting some alarmist headlines.

McAllen Monitor: Zetas likely behind fatal attack on ICE agents in Mexico; Brownsville native killed
McALLEN — Investigators believe gunmen tied to the Zetas cartel fatally shot a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent and Brownsville native during a highway attack Tuesday afternoon in central Mexico — a potentially pivotal moment in U.S. policy toward drug cartels south of the border.

El Paso Times: ICE agent wounded in Mexico from El Paso
A U.S. federal agent was killed and another agent from El Paso was wounded on a road in the interior of Mexico in a Tuesday afternoon attack that is being watched closely on the border.

Houston Chronicle: U.S. agents attacked in Mexico
MEXICO CITY — Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were shot Tuesday afternoon, one fatally, in an apparent assault on a highway near the northern Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

Texas Tribune: Napolitano Blasts Cartels After Mexico Shootings
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano minced few words when she took stock of the killing of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in Mexico today.

Trail Blazers: House honors Pulitzer-winning DMN editorial scribes
The House moments ago passed a resolution that congratulates Tod Robberson, Colleen McCain Nelson and William McKenzie of The Dallas Morning News for winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

Trail Blazers: Jimmy Carter speaks on Middle East at LBJ Library
Former President Jimmy Carter said the popular uprising in Egypt is stirring other passions in the Middle East, but cautioned the area, “is still a tinderbox for the world.”

Odessa American: Texas to officially become a minority-majority state
Texas will officially become a majority-minority state for the first time based on 2010 census estimates.

Texas Tribune: Texas Lawmakers: Loophole Allows Cockfights to Flourish
A loophole in state law allows cockfights in Texas to flourish and be a breeding ground for more serious criminal activity, including drug use, prostitution and trafficking associated with Mexican drug cartels, according to state lawmakers who met today at the Capitol.

Austin American-Statesman: State looking at release of foreign or sick inmates
Faced with making deep cuts to schools and human services programs, closing at least two prisons and slashing rehabilitation programs, legislative leaders are beginning to talk about what is usually unthinkable in tough-on-crime Texas: releasing more convicts to save money.

Reuters: Texas executes man for murder of mentally-disabled woman
AUSTIN, Tex. (Reuters) – Texas on Tuesday executed the second of two men convicted of abducting a former co-worker with mental disabilities and shooting her to death in 1998, laughing as the woman suffered.

Associated Press (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): Michael Hall executed for Arlington torture-slaying
An Arlington man was executed Tuesday for the 1998 torture-slaying of a 19-year-old mentally challenged woman exactly 13 years ago.

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