The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 17, 2013

Gov. Rick Perry at the 2012 Texas Tribune Festival in on Sept. 21, 2012.
Gov. Rick Perry at the 2012 Texas Tribune Festival in on Sept. 21, 2012.

The Big Conversation

Sweeping new gun-control efforts this week have provoked a fierce reaction — and even an ad campaign — in Texas.

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry, a staunch gun rights supporter, lashed out against President Obama's newly unveiled proposal, which urges Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to require background checks for all gun sales.

"The piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children, disgusts me, personally," Perry said in a statement, referring to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help," the statement added. "Above all, let us pray for our children."

 

The Associated Press reports that Obama's announcement spurred another Republican politician, state Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands, to organize a rally to be held at the state Capitol on Saturday to protest federal gun-control measures. Toth this week has made headlines by proposing legislation that would nullify any new federal gun laws in Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, however, made bigger headlines on Wednesday by debuting an online ad campaign directed at New Yorkers upset with broad new gun-control laws that the state's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed Tuesday.

"Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owns looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity," one of the ads reads. The other: "Is Gov. Cuomo looking to take your guns? Sick of the media outing law abiding gun owns? Are you a lawful NY gun owner seeking lower taxes?" ("You'll fit right in here in Texas!" a link to a Facebook page answers.)

The ads, a possible attempt by Abbott to raise his political profile, were paid for out of Abbott's campaign fund, an $18 million pot of money that has stoked speculation about his 2014 plans.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    Pending advice from Travis County prosecutors, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's "nonpolitical expenditures" were left out of his campaign finance report this week. The Travis County district attorney is currently investigating Kenneth "Buddy" Barfield, a top adviser to Dewhurst who is accused of embezzling at least $600,000 from the lieutenant governor's campaign account.

•    Dewhurst, Nelson Tout Proposals to Curb Medicaid Costs: "Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Jane Nelson on Wednesday discussed new Senate proposals that target Medicaid spending. The plans would institute quality-based payment reforms for long-term care services and measures to catch fraud and abuse."

•    Budget Plans Question Value of Incentives and Testing: "In budget proposals that the House and Senate released this week, legislative leaders signaled their priorities as much by what they funded as by what they didn’t. Neither budget offers new funding for controversial economic incentive programs run out of the governor’s office. The draft House budget does not include any money for standardized testing in schools, while the Senate budget appropriates $98.4 million for student assessment programs."

 

•    Seven State Parks Could Close Under Proposed Budget: "The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would close seven state parks during the 2014-15 biennium under preliminary budget proposals from the House and Senate, and at least one group is ready to fight to keep them open."

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    EPA reversed course on tainted Texas water wells after gas company protested (The Associated Press): "When a man in a Fort Worth suburb reported his family’s drinking water had begun bubbling like champagne, the federal government sounded an alarm: A company may have tainted their wells while drilling for natural gas. At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why."

•    Watchdog faults Bible courses in public schools (Houston Chronicle): "More than 50 Texas school districts now offer Bible courses, but poor implementation of legislative guidelines has led to a conservative Christian bias and other problems, according to a report released Wednesday. Many courses lack academic rigor and present numerous problems in their treatment of Judaism, said Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University and author of the study sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a nonpartisan watchdog group."

•    Expert: More money might not fix Texas schools (Austin American-Statesman): "More money might not produce better academic results in Texas schools but replacing thousands of poor-performing teachers would, a well-known education economist testified Wednesday in the ongoing school finance trial."

Quote of the Day: "He’s even using children. It reminds me of Saddam Hussein." — U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren on President Obama's newly unveiled push for gun control legislation

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