The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 21, 2012

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, at a TribLive event on Jan. 26, 2012
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, at a TribLive event on Jan. 26, 2012

The Big Conversation:

A controversial blog post has injected some energy into a relatively subdued speaker's race.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, on Thursday denounced a political blog that accused him of "manipulating Texans." The blog, called Conservative Politics - Texas Style, had posted a dubious list of House members whom it claimed were supporting Simpson, as the Austin American-Statesman reports.

"These tactics exemplify what’s wrong with 'politics as usual' in Texas right now," Simpson said Thursday in a statement, adding, "We must leave behind the politics of whispered insinuations, intimidation, and retribution."

Several Democrats on the list, including Rep. Dawnna Dukes of Austin, disputed the list's accuracy. "While not new, resorting to dirty political tricks such as postings by anonymous, unattributed blogs only furthers to deepen the divide amongst all members," Dukes told The Dallas Morning News.

 

San Antonio Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, denied supporting either candidate and said other Democrats had also called the list inaccurate.

But Martinez Fischer, who has emerged as perhaps the loudest Democratic critic of Straus', added that the post had likely been orchestrated by Straus supporters attempting to "wrap the Democratic Party around his opponent in hopes of sinking him."

In recent years, Straus has angered conservative activists who view him as too moderate. But to win the speaker's race — an arcane, largely behind-the-scenes process — Simpson faces an uphill battle. Observers say Straus still likely commands enough Republican and Democratic support to cruise to re-election in January.

As Straus spokeswoman Erin Daly told the Statesman in response to the controversy: "Speaker Straus wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and looks forward to a productive session."

Culled:

  • U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday evening abruptly canceled a vote on his "Plan B" bill — a fallback fiscal-cliff plan that would have allowed taxes to rise on incomes over $1 million — after the legislation failed to win enough Republican support. "Our leadership team did the very best they could and it was just too big a hill to climb," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, who opposed the bill. The bill's defeat amounted to a major setback for Boehner, who must now re-enter fiscal-cliff negotiations with President Barack Obama.
  • State lawmakers at a hearing on Thursday forcefully rebuked the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas for its controversial grant policies. The cancer-fighting agency, which had operated quietly for several years after its creation in 2007, has received intense scrutiny in recent months over accusations that politics have tainted its method of awarding grants. "I don’t feel there’s anything criminal; I don’t feel there’s anything underhanded going on in this effort. But what we have seen is unacceptable," said state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, who sponsored the bill that created the agency.
  • The fight over gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting has thrust one Texas school district squarely into the spotlight. Harrold ISD, near the Oklahoma border, has received renewed national attention for a policy it passed in 2007 allowing some employees to concealed handguns. Since the shooting, Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas Republicans have expressed support for similar policies, and one lawmaker this week even said he'd try to make such a policy state law.

"I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong — ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns. Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything." — State Rep.-elect Kyle Kacal to the Bryan-College Station Eagle on efforts to restrict gun laws in light of the Newtown shooting

Must-Read:

The Brief is taking some time off for the holidays. See you Jan. 2!

 

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