TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of Apr 12, 2010

A consummate campaign organizer who fought first and compromised later — if ever — Norma Chávez time and again won over voters in her central El Paso district, who first sent her to the Texas House in 1996. But over the past two years, her fighting turned to bullying, and the devolution cost Chávez her job.

Voters routed state Reps. Delwin Jones and Norma Chávez on Tuesday, turned back former state Rep. Rick Green's bid for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court and handed victories to at least three candidates who appeared to benefit from the Tea Party insurgency in Texas.

The Tea Party movement marked its first anniversary this week, just as its political power began to show in primaries in Texas and across the country. At rallies in Austin on Thursday, members promised to be an even stronger force to be reckoned with come November.

It's embodied in the Tea Party movement, in this week's runoff election results from Lubbock and Plano, in last month's primaries, in Gov. Rick Perry's embrace of state's rights and the 10th Amendment, even in Barack Obama's campaign against the status quo in 2008. Voters are furious, and politicians are doing their best to get in line, to accommodate the movement or to get out of the way.

A new report by Texas Appleseed spotlights two troubling trends: the high number and proportion of discretionary expulsions by school districts, often for low-level "persistent misbehavior," and the disproportionate severity of discipline meted out to African-Americans.

Depending on whom you ask, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ repeated refusal to allow Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott into a local corruption investigation is either bold or stupid. Either way, it’s unusual. Abbott has offered prosecution assistance to local district attorneys 226 times since 2007, when lawmakers first gave him permission to do it. In all but 16 cases, he’s been invited in. And Watkins didn't decline politely.

Many Texans like wind power. Few want electric transmission lines running through their ranches. Herein lies the problem.

Attorneys, judges, legal aid experts and law librarians gathered last week to strategize about how to create a system that can accommodate an increasing number of self-represented litigants — a problem that some say is going to shut down the court system.

Start with a shortfall and a Legislature that doesn't want to raise taxes, then dangle budget-balancing money from "volunteers" — a.k.a., gamblers. With that strategy, promoters think they've got their best shot in years to legalize slot machines while adding $1 billion a year to state revenues.

Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz was in Austin to discuss his city's plight at a University of Texas forum. He took a few moments to talk with the Tribune.

Thanks to the fundraising prowess and strategic guidance of two prominent Texans, a new effort to share the stories of the more than 58,000 Americans — including 3,416 Texans — who died in Vietnam is underway.

Like his hero Little Richard, Jim Hightower knew how to scream and piss off the establishment. As a tour of his archives led by the man himself reveals, his is the story of a Texas-style progressive movement that peaked before the young Texans of today can even remember.

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