The Evening Brief: Texas Headlines for Dec. 12, 2012

July 9th, 2012: Speaker Joe Straus speaks to reporters
July 9th, 2012: Speaker Joe Straus speaks to reporters

New in The Texas Tribune:

•   Straus Says He's Ready for "Serious" Session: "Despite organized efforts to unseat him, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Wednesday he is confident his colleagues will re-elect him to the post so he can focus the 2013 legislative session on 'serious issues' for a fast-growing state."

•   Changing Tack, Business Leaders Now Favor Tweaks to Testing System: "Business leaders said Wednesday that they would support modifications to the new student assessment system implemented this spring — and put forth a plan that provides multiple pathways to high school graduation."

•  Study Finds Wide Variations in Rates of Texas Elective Surgeries: "The rates of elective surgery for Medicare patients vary dramatically depending on which part of the state Texans live in, according to new research from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which analyzes medical referrals, procedures and health care costs across the nation."

•   Push to Reform Incentive Programs Gains Strength: "Business leaders and state senators agreed Tuesday that lawmakers should add some accountability mechanisms to the state's network of business incentive programs."

•   DPS Marks 10,000th DNA Match in Open Cases: "The Texas Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday that it has now found suspects in 10,000 open crime investigations using a federal DNA database."

•   Decision Nears on Coal Project in Border Town: "Plans for a coal mine in Eagle Pass took a step forward last month and could get final approval in January. But opponents of the proposal, who say the project raises serious health concerns, say they haven't given up the fight. Representatives of the Dos Republicas Coal Partnership say the concerns are based on inaccurate information."

Culled:

•   Sales tax keeps outstripping Combs’ projections (The Dallas Morning News): "The state, completing the first quarter of its fiscal year with another eye-popping amount of sales tax collections, has now posted revenue growth in that tax of about 11 percent over the same three months a year earlier."

•   Pete Gallego joins Blue Dogs, heads to Harvard with other TX freshmen (The Dallas Morning News): "Pete Gallego is now a Blue Dog. The fiscally conservative coalition of House Democrats announced that the Alpine Democrat has been accepted into the ranks, which also includes Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo. The group has seen its membership dwindle as redistricting across the country has pushed out centrists."

•   Republicans attack Pete Gallego on ‘fiscal cliff’ (Houston Chronicle): "Pete Gallego hasn’t even been sworn into Congress — that comes January 3 — and he’s already been targeted by the Republican Party. The Democrat from Alpine, who unseated San Antonio Republican Rep. Francisco 'Quico' Canseco last month, is being put on the spot by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is demanding to know whether he agrees with the tax increases backed by President Obama."

•   Craddick won't have to wait for Railroad Commission seat (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "Christi Craddick, who was elected to a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission in November, isn't waiting for January to take her spot on the agency that oversees oil and gas production in the state. Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday appointed her to replace Buddy Garcia, who resigned his seat on the commission effective Dec. 7."

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