• Texas officials respond to Connecticut massacre: Thoughts, prayers, but no mention of guns (Houston Chronicle): "The school massacre in Connecticut — the deadliest mass murder at an elementary school in American history — shocked the nation. Here is a sampling of reaction from our elected officials."
• Texas Land Commissioner: Schools should have armed personnel (Houston Chronicle): "School districts may need to arm individuals on campuses to put down a gunman like the one who killed scores of teachers and students Friday at a Connecticut elementary school, a top Texas official said Friday. 'The common denominator for the school shootings in Aurora, Columbine and Virginia Tech is that we have a target-rich environment,' said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. 'You have a shooter that is completely free to go about his sick fantasy. We need to do what it takes to change that.' One game changer, Patterson said, would be to arm more police officers, security guards and responsible citizens on campuses to confront a mass shooter. 'Had there been (armed security guard and citizens) in Colorado, at Virginia Tech or now in Connecticut — someone that could have changed the dynamic and to do so by having a firearm — there would be fewer lives lost.'"
• Simpson deplores tactics both sides use in speaker’s race (The Dallas Morning News): "Speaker candidate David Simpson has tweaked unnamed supporters and foes in his race against incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, alleging they’ve gone too far. In a statement Friday, Simpson didn’t specify who went too far and in what way. He just said people are out of bounds. Foul. Blow the whistle, ref. 'Certain individuals on both sides are using inflammatory rhetoric and intimidation tactics to try to force members to vote for a particular candidate,' said Simpson, R-Longview."
• Rep. Pete Sessions indicates flexibility on tax rates in fiscal cliff talks (The Dallas Morning News): "A senior Texas Republican, Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, said today that House Republicans could accept higher tax rates on the wealthy – if that is paired with cuts to entitlement programs. 'If it’s a good deal, yes,' he told Bloomberg Television’s 'Political Capital With Al Hunt' in a discussion about talks to avoid the fiscal cliff. 'If it does something long term that betters the circumstances.'"
New in The Texas Tribune:
• Big Pay for Cancer Foundation Consultants Draws Criticism: "Reports show that much of the $1.2 million of private money raised to help the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas in fiscal year 2011 instead benefited the consultants who oversaw distribution of the funds."
• Baylor, Scott & White Announce Merger: "The boards of both Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare have signed a letter of intent to merge the two organizations, creating a $7.7 billion health network called Baylor Scott & White Health."
• State Records Shed Light on Texas' Early "Illegals": "Mexican immigrants are apprehended every day on the Texas-Mexico border. But as Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, likes to remind fellow Republicans, the shoe used to be on the other foot."
• As State Eyes School Choice Reform, Some Districts Pursue It Locally: "State leaders are preparing to push for legislation to expand the choices available for Texas' nearly 5 million public school students. Meanwhile, some local districts are already pursuing similar reforms within their own systems."
• House Speaker's Race is Bluffing Game for Now: "In the race for speaker of the Texas House, everybody has the votes they need. Or they're well on their way. Or at least that's what they're telling the rest of us. When it comes to specifics, they stay mum. Because the worst place to be in a speaker’s race is on the losing side — and a change in momentum can scatter supporters quickly."
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