TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of June 21, 2010

During last weekend's GOP convention in Dallas, Dave Carney, the chief consultant to Rick Perry's re-election campaign, talked to the Tribune about the strategy behind his strategy, why many people believe a Perry run for president is coming, the mistake that Bill White is making, the canard of the "39 Percent Governor" and the whole states-versus-the-feds thing.

Revenue from Texas red-light cameras soared in 2009, with cities collecting more than $62 million from motorists, newly released state records show. We've taken that revenue data to create an interactive visualization that shows how the traffic camera revenue, expenses and profits vary from city to city, along with the proportion of the money that goes to the state.

At this weekend's state Democratic Party convention in Corpus Christi, there will be the usual speeches from candidates like gubernatorial hopeful Bill White, a debate over the party’s platform and a vote to determine its next chair. But one of the biggest fights could come when party officials reconsider the system that Texas Democrats use to award delegates in the presidential primary election process.

Hoping to tackle the long-standing challenge of financing charter school facilities, the State Board of Education is considering taking on a novel and controversial role: landlord. SBOE member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, wants to use $100 million from the $23 billion Permanent School Fund to buy properties and then lease them back to charter schools, which have historically struggled with capital costs. Critics say the elected board can't possibly fulfill the mandate of the Fund — to invest for maximum return — while at the same time cutting charters a good deal.

Dozens of Texas border counties now check the immigration status of anyone who ends up in jail, removing thousands of criminal suspects from the country. But detainees are also being deported for minor infractions — including some who are never formally charged.

Are Texas medical schools missing a social conscience? Many fare poorly in a new study that ranks them based on their contributions to meeting the nation’s health care needs.

Harris County has a voting problem, and Fred Lewis aims to do something about it. As the ethics reform lobbyist and campaign finance lawyer told the Tribune last week, he's behind a new nonpartisan voter registration drive that targets what he calculates are the 600,000 unregistered adult citizens there.

Brian Birdwell, the newest state senator, talks about being a 9/11 survivor, whether he's really eligible to serve, his ties to the Tea Party, why he'd eliminate property taxes and the Texas pols he'll model himself after.

So far, Republican Rick Perry’s campaign has dominated the governor's race with a steady stream of attacks against Democratic challenger Bill White — but the White campaign is finally fighting back.

The Environmental Protection Agency's campaign against Texas' air pollution permitting process is well-known, but federal regulators are also working to tighten a number of other rules relating to power plant waste, ozone and greenhouse gas emissions. Texas businesses fear that the new regulations will dent the state's fragile economic recovery. Environmentalists are, predictably, delighted.

His campaign was criticized this week for failing to detail its expenditures. But Craig McDonald, who filed an ethics complaint on behalf of liberal watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, says there's a larger issue at play: the Perry administration's overall lack of openness. The governor's spokesperson says her boss has followed the rules — and that he's been as open as his predecessors.

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