The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 14, 2012

President Obama speaks to crowd at the Austin Music Hall on July 17, 2012.
President Obama speaks to crowd at the Austin Music Hall on July 17, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

The fiscal cliff still looms large, but the Obama administration appears to have quietly begun moving on the next great debate about to hit Washington: immigration.

As Politico reports today, President Barack Obama this week told top Hispanic leaders in a conference call that he'd tackle immigration reform as soon as a deal on the fiscal crisis is reached.

Behind the scenes, the administration has already begun sketching plans for what Politico calls a "campaign-style operation" to mobilize voters, as well as religious leaders and law enforcement officials, behind a comprehensive reform bill that Congress is expected to take up in the spring.

"There’s a strong commitment on immigration reform, but it is contingent on getting some stability around the fiscal cliff. He’s made that pretty clear," said Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza. "If they have a deal that has some rationale around a two-step process or whatever, there is a genuine sense we’ll see this issue queued up and that they’ll put the force of the White House behind this."

Since the election, in which Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama, the president has reportedly met with several prominent Hispanic activists, including San Antonio architect Henry Muñoz, who along with Texas-born actress Eva Longoria plans to launch a group aimed at mobilizing support for the Obama's immigration efforts.

What those reforms will look like still remains unclear. U.S. Sen.-elect Tim Kaine, D-Va., however, made headlines this week when he said he would back a comprehensive reform bill that included a fine illegal immigrants could pay in exchange for permanent legal status.

Culled:

  • Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday announced that the state Senate seat left vacant by Houston Democrat Mario Gallegos, who died in October, will be filled in a special election on Jan. 26. The race so far includes two Democrats, former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and Houston state Rep. Carol Alvarado, who have each collected impressive lists of endorsements from Houston officials and other state politicians. A Republican, R.W. Bray, has also announced he'll run, though the seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands. 
  • The Pflugerville Independent School District on Thursday night voted to uphold a decision that will make it the first school district in the state to offer domestic partner benefits. In a 5-1 vote, the members rejected a motion to revoke the benefits, which the district in October announced it would begin offering next year. The district's decision, however, still faces legal uncertainty: State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, last month asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to issue an opinion on whether the granting of such benefits violates the state Constitution.
  • Talk of the fiscal cliff's impact has largely overlooked a crucial deadline looming for Texas and the handful of other states that don't collect income tax. As WFAA-TV reports, the deadline to extend the sales tax deduction looms — and could be crowded out of the economic debate if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she's working to extend the deduction before next year.

"If you’d shut up for just a second, I would try." — U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, in a heated interview on Thursday with Fox News host Neil Cavuto, who later cut Johnson off

Must-Read:

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