The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 23, 2013

The Big Conversation

Tuesday's shooting on a college campus in Houston has inflamed the already heated debate over gun rights in Texas.

The shooting, at the North Houston campus of Lone Star College, erupted amid an argument between two men, injuring three and making national headlines in the wake of last month's Connecticut school shooting. A suspect involved in the incident has been charged with aggravated assault, according to the Houston Chronicle.

For some state legislators, the shooting has likely pounded new urgency into the issue of gun rights, on which lawmakers have already filed a slew of bills, including one that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry weapons on college campuses. The so-called campus carry bill has failed in previous sessions.

The Houston shooting may also motivate some lawmakers to try to push new laws related to public school safety. 

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, three lawmakers on Tuesday filed legislation that would allow school districts to raise local taxes to pay for additional security measures in public schools.

"This is a Texas solution to save lives without sacrificing and trampling our freedoms," said state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, one of the bill's sponsors. "We’ll let school districts decide for themselves what works. A blanket state mandate won’t work, nor will a one-size-fits-all policy."

Several schools across the state are also considering policies of their own that would allow employees to carry concealed handguns. As the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports today, though, a dearth of research on the effectiveness of such policies has led some of those districts to seek guidance before altering their safety operations.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

Texas senators are expected to draw straws Wednesday to find out who was elected to two-year terms and who was elected to four-year terms. All 31 Senate districts were on the ballot last year because of redistricting, but only half will be on the ballot in 2014 (unless new maps are drawn). Senators are deciding who's up in 2014 and who can breathe a little easy, waiting to be on the 2016 ballot.

What's at stake depends on the senator. Anyone thinking about running for statewide office in 2014 would rather draw a four-year term, so that if they lose a statewide bid, they'll remain in the Senate. Those with two-year terms would have to choose between re-election and the other office.

For instance, Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, has expressed interest in the comptroller's office, should Susan Combs decide not to seek another term. Some senators would like to get some tenure before facing voters again, and would prefer the four-year term. Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, could face a Republican challenge from San Antonio, where the establishment would like to bring the seat home. And some, notably Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, represent districts that are less dangerous, politically speaking, in presidential election years than in gubernatorial years. She's been elected twice in a Republican-leaning district, both times with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket to help draw Democratic voters to the polls.

Some of the reasons are less exotic, like this one: Would you rather be starting a new campaign a year from now, or three years from now?

Culled
Texas news from the across the state and around the web

•    Texas Cancer Agency Probe Clears Some Officials (The Associated Press): "Criminal prosecutors investigating a troubled $3 billion cancer-fighting effort in Texas have cleared current state officials and board members with the agency, a spokesman for the board chairman said Tuesday."

•    U.S. Trade Representative Will Step Down (The New York Times): "Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, will step down in late February, his office said Tuesday. Lael Brainard and Michael Froman, two top administration aides on international economic policy, are considered among the front-runners to succeed him, people knowledgeable about trade policy said."

•    George P. Bush draws on family network for fundraising (The Dallas Morning News): "George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has raised $1.35 million for statewide office, according to a campaign finance report he filed last week. He’ll probably run for land commissioner in 2014, although he has not ruled out a race for governor, depending on circumstances. … Of 75 contributors who gave $5,000 or more, one-quarter supported his grandfather for president more than 20 years ago. At least 10 contributors were 'Pioneer' and 'Ranger' fundraising bundlers who raised at least $100,000 apiece for George W. Bush."

Quote of the Day: "I’m your Hispanic Margaret Thatcher. Half Eva Perón and a little touch of Madonna." — Former GOP state House candidate Miriam Martinez, who has announced that she'll run for governor in 2014, in an interview with The Monitor

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