TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 1/14/13

The Lawmaker Explorer is an interactive tool to help educate citizens on the degree to which legislators’ personal interests conflict with the public interest when passing bills and setting policy. Use the search box or click on the headshots below to find research and analysis on specific lawmakers. You can also sort them by party, office or occupation.

With a lacking conflict disclosure system, virtually toothless ethics laws and a Legislature historically unwilling to make itself more transparent, Texans know little about who or what influences the people elected to represent them.

Critics say the dean of the Texas Senate, John Whitmire, D-Houston, is a poster boy for a legislative culture in which real and perceived conflicts of interest are commonplace. Whitmire says he's proud of his four decades in office. "My constituents have shown a lot of confidence that I'm a great public servant," he says.

The Texas Ethics Commission stands poised for change during the 83rd legislative session. But any efforts to reform it will face a challenge, because the lawmakers the commission was set up to regulate are the ones setting the rules.

Democratic legislators are questioning whether the Texas Women’s Health Program has an adequate network of health care providers in light of a state agency’s decision to pull the list of providers from a state website.

 

Republicans and Democrats say the appointment of Eduardo Medina Mora as Mexico's ambassador to the U.S. opens an opportunity for the nations to forge a new relationship.

The Texas Senate and House have released their first drafts of the state's next two-year budget. Use this interactive to explore how state spending has grown since 2004.

A new University of Texas at Austin study funded by an oil and gas group has found that the amount of water used in fracking has risen sharply in recent years but would level off sometime in the decade starting in 2020.

George P. Bush, the co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas political action committee, talked to Ross Ramsey about his first planned run for office, divisions in the GOP, Hispanics and Republicans, and why he's getting into the family business.

Todd Staples, the state agriculture commissioner, talked to Alana Rocha about the state's water crisis, why the Rainy Day Fund should be used to pay for a state water plan and how the money should be spent.

Full video of my Jan. 17 TribLive conversation with state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

 

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