The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 16, 2012

The Big Conversation:

Two winners emerged from redistricting agreements struck Wednesday: state Sen. Wendy Davis and, less directly, Mitt Romney.

Though a compromise over state House and congressional districts still eluded the two sides battling over the state's maps, lawyers meeting before a federal court in San Antonio agreed yesterday to leave Davis' Senate district alone.

Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat whom Republicans last year drew into hostile territory, called the agreement a "tremendous victory not just for my opportunity to run again and have the honor of serving this seat, but much more importantly a victory for the voices of Senate District 10 that otherwise would have been silenced," according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The San Antonio court also told the state Wednesday to begin preparing for a May 29 primary. The judges had hoped to preserve an April primary, but lingering disputes over legislative and congressional disputes have slowed proceedings.

"It appears based on all the things that are going on here that it is extremely unlikely there will be a primary in April or for that matter before May 29," said Judge Jerry Smith, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “Based on the discussion we just had with the political parties, we asked that they start working on an election schedule.”

The later date scuttles any hope that Texas, which had originally been scheduled to vote on Super Tuesday in March, could play a decisive role in the Republican presidential race. Both Newt Gingrich, banking on southern states for a comeback, and Rick Santorum, trying to woo social conservatives, had indicated they would make a play for the state and its 155 delegates.

“The sooner Texas is, the better it is for us,” Santorum said last week while campaigning in North Texas.

Romney, then, may stand to benefit the most from the delay. Though his campaign maintains that it has "no preference" on the date, by the time Texas votes, he may have already amassed an insurmountable delegate lead, rendering the state virtually insignificant.

Culled:

  • House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, on Wednesday became the latest state lawmaker to ask the Texas Education Agency to delay implementation of the rule under which the state's new STAAR exams would make up 15 percent of high school students' final grades. Last week, education leaders in the state Senate — including Florence Shapiro, the Plano Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee — told the agency that it had the power to waive the requirement.
  • The University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday unveiled a plan to boost its four-year graduation rate from its current 53 percent to 70 percent by 2016. The plan, developed by a UT task force, proposes — among about 60 other recommendations — a more rigorous freshman orientation and limits on changing majors.
  • Agencies that serve crime victims are bracing for big cuts due to a $16 million projected shortfall in the Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund, and service providers have already begun to make cuts where they can.

“Get to work, or resign.”Paul Sadler, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a press release calling on the lieutenant governor to address education funding

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