The Evening Brief: Texas Headlines for Dec. 16, 2013

New in The Texas Tribune

•    When Public Money, Private Firms Intersect in Schools: "In Texas, commercial entities cannot run public schools. But when a school’s management — including accounting, marketing and hiring decisions — is contracted out to a private company, the distinction can become artificial. Such an arrangement raises questions about how to ensure financial accountability when the boundary between public and private is blurred, and the rules of public disclosure governing expenditures of taxpayer money do not apply."

•    Running for Office With Second Chances in Mind: "More than half of the people who signed up to run in next year’s elections are going to lose. That’s the math. Lots of losers move up eventually, often because their unsuccessful runs help build the organizations, financial contacts and reputations required of most winners."

Culled

•    Judge: NSA phone program likely unconstitutional (Politico): "A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures."

•    Regulators to axe secretive super PAC (The Center for Public Integrity): "Since registering with the FEC in August 2012, Secretive Politics has lived up to its name.It's been incommunicado with federal regulators. Repeated calls and emails by the Center for Public Integrity to its only known official, treasurer June Walton, have likewise gone unreturned. The super PAC also uses a "virtual office" in Sugar Land, Texas, a Houston suburb. There, operators charge clients $350 a month for a mailing address, live receptionist and access to a conference room — but no physical office space."

•    State GOP chairman says Texas is 'somewhat competitive.' (Houston Chronicle): "Texas' reputation as a slam-dunk for Republicans is under fire not only from Democrats, but from top members of the GOP who know complacency is a killer - especially in the face of an energized opponent. 'It's a somewhat competitive state that leans Republican,' state GOP chairman Steve Munisteri told me last week as Republicans and Democrats finalized their ballots for next year's primary elections. 'Republicans assuming that it is automatically Republican do so at their peril.'"

•    New Rasmussen poll shows Ted Cruz is third most influential person to Americans (Houston Chronicle): "Eleven percent of Americans think Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the most influential person in the world this year, according to a new poll by Rasmussen reports that ranked the most prominent people worldwide. Cruz came in third place in the poll, behind Pope Francis — who was recently named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year — and President Barack Obama, who totaled 23 and 21 percent of the poll’s results, respectively."

•    Hiring of first-year teachers drops sharply in Texas (Houston Chronicle): "The number of first-year teachers in Texas public schools dropped more than 40 percent in just four years. Texas schools employed just shy of 15,000 first-year teachers in 2012, down from 25,395 in 2008 - despite growing enrollment and an overall increase in the number of teachers. What's more, 2011-12 marked the first time in recent history that more Texas teachers left the profession than entered it."

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