TribWire

Texas Supreme Court Weighs Oilfield Fraud Case

Texas’ drilling bonanza can mean long-lasting windfalls for mineral owners in the state’s hottest shale plays – if those lessors make sure oil and gas operators pay what they promise. But doing so can prove incredibly difficult, as shown in a case the Texas Supreme Court will soon decide.

Interactive: 2013 Rates of Uninsured Across Texas

Use this interactive, which contains the latest census figures, to compare the rates of uninsured Texans in each of the state's metropolitan statistical areas. You can also see the rate of Texans living below the poverty level in each of the statistical areas.

Abbott, Davis to Meet for High-Stakes Debate

The first debate of the Texas governor's race will be held Friday night in Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley. It will be a rare opportunity for Democrat Wendy Davis, trailing in the polls, to directly confront Republican Greg Abbott, who has only appeared in one formal statewide debate in his long career. Abbott, the front-runner, has the most to lose in the encounter.

The Brief: A New Gig for Todd Staples

A new gig for Todd Staples; Abbott, Davis to meet for high-stakes debate; Texas Supreme Court weighs oilfield fraud case; Interactive: 2013 rates of uninsured across Texas; ICYMI: Woman executed for boy's 2004 starvation death; Education board vote targets Common Core concerns; Perry urges Mexican president to visit Texas border.

Sheldon Adelson cracks open checkbook for GOP

  • suggested by John Reynolds

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has donated $10 million to a Karl Rove-backed outfit boosting Republican Senate candidates and promised a similar amount to an allied group focused on House races, POLITICO has learned. The check to the Rove-conceived Crossroads GPS and the pledge to American Action Network represent the first major foray into the 2014 congressional midterms by Adelson, according to multiple sources who travel in big-money GOP circles.

V.A. Official Acknowledges Link Between Delays and Patient Deaths

In a contentious hearing before Congress on Wednesday, a senior official from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ watchdog agency acknowledged for the first time that delays in care contributed to the deaths of patients at the department’s medical center in Phoenix.

F.T.C. Wary of Mergers by Hospitals

Hospitals often say they acquire other hospitals and physician groups so they can coordinate care, in keeping with the goals of the Affordable Care Act. But the agency, the Federal Trade Commission, says that mergers tend to reduce competition, and that doctors and hospitals can usually achieve the benefits of coordinated care without a full merger. The commission is using a 100-year-old law, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, to challenge some of the mergers and acquisitions, and it has had remarkable success in recent cases.

GOP senators pony up $3M for midterms

  • suggested by John Reynolds

Cornyn, in line to rise in GOP ranks if Republicans win the Senate, has agreed to lead a new joint effort among the NRSC, Republican National Committee and House Republicans’ campaign arm. Dubbed the “Target State Victory Committee,” it will concentrate on turnout in battleground states and is expected to raise about $3 million, the source said. The Texas senator has contributed $350,000 from his political action committee to Senate candidates and party committees and has helped raise $1 million directly for candidates, hosting fundraisers in tight states like Louisiana, North Carolina and Colorado.

In latest boost for Texas space industry, Midland gets spaceport

As early as next year, a Southwest Airlines plane headed for Austin or Dallas could be sitting on the tarmac at Midland International Airport, waiting behind a flight that’s about to take off for space. The Federal Aviation Administration has designated the West Texas airport just as the ninth spaceport in the U.S. — and as the first commercial airport to be allowed to operate space flights.

Group sues to get data about Ken Paxton securities inquiry

An Austin nonprofit filed suit Wednesday seeking to force the State Securities Board to release records related to an investigation that resulted in a fine and reprimand for state Sen. Ken Paxton earlier this year. Some of the documents, requested by the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability in August, were withheld under state confidentiality requirements, according to the organization’s lawsuit, filed in state district court in Austin.

Texas groups from left, right unite for justice reform push

The Texas Smart on Crime Coalition held its coming-out party at the Capitol on Wednesday with leaders of the disparate groups — including the ACLU of Texas and Texas Criminal Justice Coalition on the left and the Texas Association of Business and Texas Public Policy Foundation on the right — standing side by side and in agreement on a host of reform measures.

Disabled voters organize candidate forum, GOP hopefuls decline

About 50 Texas disability rights and advocacy groups are working together to mobilize disabled voters who could be profoundly affected by the results of the Nov. 4 election. The consortium has invited both Republican and Democratic candidates in the state’s top three elections to come to Austin next week to provide their views on possible reforms to health care and Medicaid, the primary funding source for the care of more than 3.6 million disabled Texans.

New LCRA plan protects Central Texas cities

The Lower Colorado River Authority on Wednesday unanimously approved a new Water Management Plan, ending four years of heated debate and setting a new distribution policy for Austin’s most important water source. The plan, which still needs approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, gives greater flexibility for LCRA to protect water supplies for municipalities and businesses during droughts — a victory for Austin and other Central Texas communities.

Texas court tosses out ‘improper photography’ law

The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday tossed out a state law banning “improper photography” — photos or videos taken in a public place without consent and with the purpose of sexual gratification — as a violation of free-speech rights. In an 8-1 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said photos, much like paintings and films, are “inherently expressive” and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

Gov. Rick Perry invites Mexican president to visit Texas

In a letter that switched from flattering to confrontational and back, Gov. Rick Perry kept a cross-border spat brewing Wednesday when he addressed recent words from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Perry wrote that he considered “with interest and concern” the comments Peña Nieto made last week in which he referred to Texas’ increased law enforcement presence and National Guard deployment on the border as “unpleasant” and “reprehensible.”

Texas education board moves to quell ‘revisionist’ AP history course

As conservative activists call guidelines for a new advanced placement history course anti-American and revisionist, the State Board of Education on Wednesday took steps to limit its influence in the classroom. The board voted 12-3 Wednesday to require AP history teachers to follow state standards as well as those of the College Board, which has revamped its AP U.S. history framework and exam.

Contempt case renewed against Perry prosecutor

The Court of Criminal Appeals opinion again opens the possibility that McCrum — currently serving as special prosecutor in the case against Gov. Rick Perry, who is also accused of professional misconduct — could spend up to six months in jail if found in contempt of court. McCrum has denied any wrongdoing.

Salt poisoning conviction reversed

Hannah Overton, the Corpus Christi mother of five whose conviction in the fatal salt poisoning of a young foster child received national attention, will get a new trial. In a 7-2 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday overturned her 2007 capital murder conviction on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel because an expert on eating disorders was not called to the stand.

More doubt cast on Formula One application for state funding

The chief executive of the Circuit of the Americas said he was “not at liberty” to disclose which governmental organization had made a “verbal application” to Formula One to bring a yearly auto race to this city. “I wasn't here, so I don't know that,” Jason Dial told reporters when pressed on the issue. Just prior to that, he had said, “What the statute states is it's an application, it can be verbal or written. And in this case, it was obviously verbal.”

Drilling sends school fund to record high

Booming oil and gas activity on state lands has led to a record $1.26 billion going to a fund to help support K-12 public education, state officials said Wednesday. The fiscal 2014 total crushes all previous yearly amounts going to the Permanent School Fund, said Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office.