TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 9/20/10

"It is impossible to carry out our role in these conditions," read the editorial this week in El Diario de Juárez. "Tell us, therefore, what is expected of us as a medium." The paper was directly addressing Mexican drug traffickers who assassinated its young photographer Luis Carlos Santiago in broad daylight, but the whole world took notice — and asked if the Mexican media was finally waving the white flag before the cartels and gangs now warring for control of the bloodied country. Diario editor Pedro Torres explains that the intent was simply "to call attention to what is going on."

Come January, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions around the country for the first time — but not if Texas can help it. Attorney General Greg Abbott last week lodged legal challenges in a federal court against EPA actions on multiple fronts, including a reiteration of the state's long-standing argument against the agency's scientific foundation for determining the dangers of greenhouse gas pollution.

Is a hospital bed an integral part of medical care? As a federal judge considers the constitutionality of Texas’ 2003 medical malpractice reform — and Gov. Rick Perry campaigns for more lawsuit restrictions — the state Supreme Court has ruled that hospital injuries seemingly unrelated to doctor error can fall under Texas’ stringent medical malpractice caps. Some legal observers say the decision is a perversion of legislative intent, but tort reform advocates contend the high court simply closed a huge loophole in liability reforms.

Under the leadership of Williamson County DA John Bradley, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has waged a masterful war of attrition in the Cameron Todd Willingham case: Stall long enough, and public interest in the internationally controversial capital punishment case — along with political liability for any missteps — will fade away. But the commission’s latest delay, while pushing the resolution of the Willingham investigation securely after the general election, comes against Bradley’s wishes and could represent a sea change on the board that until now has resisted making any broader inquiries into the state’s arson convictions.

Stephen Broden, the suddenly Sarah Palin-approved Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, talked to the Tribune this week about why the former Alaska governor bestowed her blessing, the proportionate diversity of the Tea Party, the rise of "tyranny" in the federal government and why he shouldn't be counted out just yet.

Legislative filings increased in the Texas House and Senate by 70 percent from 1991 to 2009, records show, and the number of bills and resolutions passed by both chambers climbed at a higher rate. Resolutions alone numbered about 4,000 last session, or more than half of all legislation. Explore our interactive graphics.

Pete Earley, the author of Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, talked to the Tribune about the criminalization of mental illness, the need for community-wide solutions and how Texas wastes the money it spends on the problem.

The Legislative Budget Board says the state used about $14 billion in federal stimulus money to balance to budget in the current biennium. Lawmakers warned state agencies that those dollars were to be used for one-time expenditures only, but not all agencies followed that advice. With the next biennium's shortfall projected to be as much as $21 billion and no new fed-stim money available, what to do?

Down-ballot candidates are usually the wallflowers at the political dance, sitting in the shadows while contestants for governor hog the affections and interest of voters and political financiers. This year is no exception.

You won't be seeing many Rick Perry yard signs this fall — by design. Except for a few that are available for purchase, the governor's campaign is generally eschewing traditional tools like signs and direct mail, preferring a new set of ways to win over voters.

For the 13th event in our TribLive series, Evan Smith interviewed Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, on running for office for the first time in a tough year, how she'd deal with the budget shortfall, whether she'd mess with the Senate's two-thirds rule and what's wrong with the Texas Enterprise Fund.

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