The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 13, 2013

The Big Conversation

The State of the Union may have inspired some real debate in Texas, but a certain musician still managed to steal much of the post-speech spotlight.

Ted Nugent — the hard-rocking conservative firebrand and gun rights activist whom U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman of Friendswood invited as his guest to the address, igniting a firestorm — made no secret of his distate for the president's words.

"My favorite part was when I couldn’t hear clearly," Nugent said after the speech. "Then I didn’t get angry."

But as The New York TimesJonathan Weisman writes today, Nugent's presence in the House chamber may have amounted to more than political flourish: "His crossed arms and stern visage seemed to capture the conflict still lurking within the Republican Party as its leaders look to expand their appeal."

As one moderate Republican, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, told the Times"I tend not to engage in inflammatory displays like that."

Still, Obama's address — which aggressively urged Congress to raise the minimum wage and take action on issues like gun control and climate change — stirred some passions among Texas politicians, especially over immigration reform.

"The president is putting a lot of weight behind the push for immigration reform," said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, according to The Dallas Morning News, adding, "He’s in the process of living up to that commitment." 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a relentless critic of Obama's who grabbed some attention of his own on Tuesday, slammed the speech. "The President had an opportunity to reach across the aisle and propose policies to produce economic growth," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, he chose instead to embrace unabashed liberalism."

Culled

•    Hoping for GOP support, Texas Democrats include Republican proposals in immigration measure (Austin American-Statesman): "Two Texas House Democrats are planning to file a resolution Wednesday calling for comprehensive immigration reform that incorporates some immigration measures drafted by national and state Republican and conservative groups. Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, said their resolution is intended to encourage Congress to quickly pass comprehensive immigration reforms. The Democrats said the resolution takes a middle-of-the-road, or even conservative, approach, and they are hoping for support from House Republicans."

•    Sources: Hildebrand Likely to Be Appointed UT Regent (The Texas Tribune): "Jeffrey Hildebrand, an energy executive from Houston, is likely to be appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to one of three open slots on the University of Texas System Board of Regents, multiple higher education sources have told the Tribune."

•    Cruz, Cornyn 'no' votes can’t stop passage of Violence Against Women Act (Houston Chronicle): "The Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the Violence Against Women Act today, 78-22. Opposition to the bill came entirely from Republicans, including both Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Sean Rushton, a spokesman for Cruz, said the new senator has led the fight against violent crime in Texas, especially sexual predators. 'Nevertheless, he voted against this federal law because stopping and punishing violent criminals is primarily a state responsibility, and the federal government does not need to be dictating state criminal law,' Rushton said."

•    As Cruz probes gun violence stats, Durbin sees some common ground on gun control (Austin American-Statesman): "At a hearing packed with victims of gun violence, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday that cities with the strictest gun laws have murder rates many times higher those in his home state, where guns are readily available. … But Cruz, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, said that stiffening penalties on 'straw purchasers' of guns — legal buyers who resell guns to criminals — a crackdown advocated by the Justice Department and subcommittee Chairman Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is an area of 'potential bipartisan cooperation.'"

•    Texas Senate education panel studies new high school graduation requirements (The Dallas Morning News): "The minimum high school diploma in Texas would be scrapped and all high school students would choose from four new graduation plans under a bill pitched Tuesday to the Senate Education Committee. All students would be required to get at least 26 credits to graduate, and many students would have more elective courses to choose from in the proposed system. Students in the current minimum plan need only 22 credits to graduate — with a credit equal to one year of study in a subject."

Quote of the Day: "I want to put on the record that this senator feels like Senator Cruz has gone over the line. He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee." — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, at which Cruz asked U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel whether he had received compensation from "extreme or radical groups"

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