TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 11/15/10

To the list of things that Rick Perry shows contempt for — Barack Obama’s leadership abilities, excessive federal regulation, coyotes that interrupt his morning jog — add this surprising one: George W. Bush’s ideological disposition. The governor seems to go out of his way to criticize his predecessor as insufficiently conservative. Bush, for his part, makes no mention of Perry in his memoir. "There's certainly no love lost between these two men," says UT presidential scholar Bruce Buchanan.

Call it a bad case of adult diaper drama: Incontinence product vendors are facing off against the state comptroller’s office over plans to competitively bid underpads, catheters and other supplies for Texas Medicaid patients.

Arlene Wohlgemuth, the former budget-slashing Texas House member and current executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, talked to the Tribune's Ross Ramseyabout how she reads the mood out there, what reductions in state spending should be on the table, whether cost-shifting to local school districts is a plausible option, why lawmakers should forget about new sources of revenue, the trouble with Medicaid and what members of the Republican near-supermajority in the Legislature must do to keep the confidence of voters — and get re-elected.

Next legislative session, during the few minutes not taken up with the budget, redistricting and immigration, an old stand-by of an issue — water — could creep onto the agenda. Observers say proposals on groundwater rights are probable, given that Texas is just wrapping up a process for planning the allocation of water from aquifers, while environmentalists will be pushing measures for water conservation.

This week marks the final meeting of the State Board of Education before former chair Don McLeroy's GOP primary opponent, Thomas Ratliff, takes his seat. But the unapologetic creationist and skeptic of the church-state wall says you haven't seen the last of him yet. “Oh, gosh, no,” he says. “I’m thinking that maybe God’s got something else for me to do.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she will join U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in calling for a ban on all Congressional earmark spending. In the past, both used the controversial budget maneuver to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars back to Texas.

With a budget shortfall of historic proportions looming and legislators looking desperately for savings, state Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, is proposing a drastic step: the elimination of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Withing walking distance of the port of entry at Roma, a Lions Club community center in a tiny Mexican town is the temporary home to hundreds to citizens fleeing drug violence in Ciudad Mier, which was reportedly overtaken by the Zetas cartel on Nov. 5. An official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection says that despite the town’s proximity to Texas, agents are operating there without an increase in manpower.

More than 280 inmates in county jails died from illnesses while in custody over a four-and-a-half-year period, according to data provided by the Texas attorney general and analyzed by The Texas Tribune. Many died of heart conditions, some of cancer or liver and kidney problems and others of afflictions ranging from AIDS to seizure disorders and pneumonia. There are no state standards for health care in county jails, but criminal justice advocates and correctional facility experts say the large number of illness-related deaths prove they're needed.

For the 17th event in our TribLive series, the Tribune's Evan Smith interviewed the mayor of Houston about why Bill White lost, how a state budget shortfall and ballooning federal debt impact urban areas and whether it's possible for the fourth-largest city in the United States to go green.
 

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