TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 12/10/12

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.

At this week's TribLive conversation, Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman explained his opposition to Sunset Advisory Commission recommendations intended to address perceived conflicts of interest, and talked about the economic impact of the state's various shale plays, as well as concerns about the negative effects on roads, water and air quality.

Tea Party activists released their priorities for the upcoming legislative session, calling for ethics reform, an end to double-dipping by elected officials and better disclosure on personal financial statements.

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.

Texas endured the most intense drought in recorded state history in 2011, and it has yet to bounce back. Using data collected from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, we are relaunching our auto-updating map that visualizes the current state of Texas reservoirs.

Mirroring a national trend, death sentences in Texas have declined over the last decade. Death sentences have fallen 75 percent since 2002, according to a new report. And the Texas death row population is the lowest in more than 20 years.

Business leaders and state senators agreed this week that lawmakers should add some accountability mechanisms to the state's network of business incentive programs.

Weeks after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's inauguration, a group of activists in Texas is organizing a new effort they say will serve as a watchdog to monitor Mexico's treatment of its citizens.

Gov. Rick Perry indicated he would support a "fetal pain" bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. Speaking at the Source for Women, a pregnancy crisis center in Houston, he said his goal "is to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past."

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