The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 6, 2013

The Big Conversation

As the Boy Scouts of America prepared to reconsider its ban on gay membership, a slew of Texas officeholders jumped into the debate on Tuesday.

Days after Gov. Rick Perry publicly urged the organization to keep its policy refusing gay members and leaders, more than 40 Republican state officials did the same, signing on to an open letter released yesterday by Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative group Texas Values.

"As state elected officials, we strongly encourage the Boy Scouts of America to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles," the letter reads. "Capitulating to the liberal social agenda not only undermines the very principles of scouting, but sets the stage for the erosion of an organization that has defined the American experience for generations of young men."

The list of officials included Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant of Bonham, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston and several other state lawmakers.

 

The Boy Scouts, an Irving-based organization, announced last week that it would take up the ban at a meeting of its national board this week, possibly allowing local chapters to set their own policies. A vote on the matter is expected today.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the head of the Congressional Scouting Caucus, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, wouldn't say whether he thought the policy should be revised.

"Any organization should re-evaluate and look at positions they take and how they’re looked at in the marketplace," said Sessions, a Dallas Republican. "The Boy Scouts, in particular, are having a realistic discussion among themselves, and this is healthy and this is good."

The Scouts' reconsideration of its policies has ignited a national debate, even drawing the attention of President Barack Obama, who recently urged the organization to drop the ban, saying, "Gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life."

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    Lawmakers Wonder Whether Trust in CPRIT Can Be Restored: "The embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas was put under the microscope Tuesday when the Senate Finance Committee questioned whether public trust in the institute could be restored."

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Dallas Rep. Dan Branch considering attorney general run (The Dallas Morning News): "State Rep. Dan Branch said Tuesday that he’s considering a campaign for Texas attorney general in 2014 if Greg Abbott leaves the post to run for another office. 'I’ve been encouraged to look at it,' said Branch, a Dallas Republican. 'I’m grateful that people see me as worthy of making such a run.'"

 

•    House G.O.P. Open to Residency for Illegal Immigrants (The New York Times): "House Republicans on Tuesday staked out what they cast as a middle-ground option in the debate over immigration, pushing an approach that could include legal residency but not a path to citizenship — as their Democratic counterparts favor — for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. … It was a question later echoed by Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas and the former chairman of the committee, when questioning Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio. 'Do you see any compromise area between the current status quo and a path to citizenship for virtually all the 11 million who are illegal immigrants in the country today?' he asked. Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Representative Joaquín Castro, is a newly elected Democrat from Texas, said he saw the compromise as 'a recognition that a path to citizenship will be earned citizenship,' meaning that illegal immigrants would be forced to learn English, and pay fines and back taxes before they could become citizens."

•    Former Assistant WilCo DA Testifies in Court of Inquiry (The Texas Tribune): "A former Williamson County assistant district attorney who worked for Ken Anderson said Tuesday at his court of inquiry that she was also 'blown away' by his Michael Morton's exoneration and allegations that Anderson withheld evidence in the case."

•    Pension benefits for ex-lawmakers remain secret (Austin American-Statesman): "Texas taxpayers cannot find out the total amount of state pension benefits being paid to retired lawmakers who now work as lobbyists, an Austin judge said Tuesday morning. Ruling in a lawsuit filed by the government watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, state District Judge Lora Livingston said that even the grand total of pension benefits paid to the 103 former lawmakers now registered as lobbyists is confidential because the Legislature has made it so."

Quote of the Day: "It's not a serious story, guys. It's not a burp. It's barely a fart." — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Gov. Rick Perry's new radio ad campaign aimed at luring California businesses to Texas

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