TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 12/31/12

The state’s launch of the Texas Women’s Health Program proceeded as planned — without Planned Parenthood — on Jan. 1.

A former U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent says that a new security policy announced in Mexico signals a growing focus on sovereignty and a shift from some initiatives considered priorities by the United States.

Using less water is the cheapest way to meet Texas’ water needs. So what could Texas lawmakers do to promote water savings? Among the proposals are requiring meters on farmers' wells and a sales-tax exemption for water-efficient appliances.

It could cost Texas up to $11 million to clear the backlog of some 20,000 untested rape kits in police agencies statewide. If Congress doesn't come through with funding, lawmakers here in Texas will search for funds to help solve the crimes.

There is a significant amount of excitement in the Rio Grande Valley about a proposal to combine the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American into a new university that would also have a planned medical school.

It feels like the 2013 legislative session, which gets under way Tuesday, is a five-month interruption of the election season. At some point, elections expanded to fill all of the space between the biennial sessions.

The fiscal cliff bill passed the U.S. House with the support of four Texas Republicans: U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions, Kevin Brady, Mac Thornberry and Lamar Smith. Rep. Ron Paul was the lone member of the Texas delegation who did not vote. Both of the state's U.S. Senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted for a Senate version of the bill. Incoming Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he would have opposed it.

The Rio Grande Valley became one of the last regions to operate under Medicaid health maintenance organizations last year. Now, many doctors there say the red tape in the new system has taken the joy out of practicing medicine.

For thousands of West Texans, severe water restrictions are in store if the heavens don't provide precipitation soon. State leaders say the unrelenting drought means they must find a way to fund a statewide water plan.

A final decision in the school finance trial against the state involving more than two-thirds of its districts and charter schools likely won’t happen until after the lights go out in the 83rd Legislature. But that doesn’t mean what’s happening inside of the courtroom now won’t have an impact on policy under the pink dome.

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