TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of August 9 to 13, 2010

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White is again attacking his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Perry, for accepting contributions from political appointees — but the former Houston mayor is no stranger to the practice, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of campaign and city records. White has raised nearly $2 million over his years in public life from the people he appointeed to boards and commissions.

Plaintiffs in so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, use the court system to bury opponents in a crush of legal fees and paperwork of Bleak House proportions. They're not concerned about winning damages. They usually don’t expect to be successful, and the targets often don’t have the money to adequately defend themselves. Yet in otherwise tort-reform-happy Texas, there is no prohibition on filing this particular form of meritless suit — yet.

As the reality of health care reform sinks in, physician-owned specialty hospitals are on edge. Some are scouring the law for loopholes; others want to sell out to corporations.

Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Public Utility Commission, talked to the Tribune about his controversial application for the top job at the state grid operator, as well as his views on energy efficiency and smart meters.

The U.S. House has passed a bill on Tuesday that is expected to send about $800 million to bolster the state’s education budget. But thanks to an amendment added by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the funding comes with Texas-specific strings attached.

 

Since 2004, the the Dallas County Jail has failed every year to meet state jail standards, racking up dozens of violations. But on Wednesday, more than six years and $138 million later, the massive lockup finally earned a certificate of compliance.

At Goose Island, near Rockport, some of the nearly 200 pelicans rescued from the Gulf oil spill and sent to Texas seem to be thriving. But officials are holding their breath to see whether the rescued birds stick around or fly back to habitats that may still be contaminated. "Wildlife do crazy things," says the manager of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. "That's why they're called 'wild.'" But the ones that stay could face survival struggles, too, from coastal litter and competition with other species for food.

Brian McCall, the longtime House member from Plano and newly installed chancellor of the Texas State University System (sorry, Sen. Wentworth), talked to the Tribune about why he took the job, the importance of Hispanic outreach, the case against cutting the state's higher ed budget, the trouble with the Legislature and what a good governor shouldn't do.

For legal purposes, where you sleep is only part of the answer to where you live. There's also where you vote, where you intend to reside, whether you consider your nesting place temporary and where you pay taxes.

In his first trip to the Texas capital as president, Barack Obama served up little news but plenty of red meat for supporters. Check out our pool report from his fundraiser and our audio, video and slideshow of his UT-Austin speech.

A government report finds the U.S. has been too slow to aid Mexico and other crime-ridden countries at a time when drug-related violence is escalating. Efforts to combat alien smuggling have also fallen short.

 

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