THE BIG CONVERSATION:
If Austin's an island of blue in a sea of red, Tom DeLay wants off the island and into that sea.
DeLay's lawyer said Tuesday that the former U.S. House majority leader — whose name the Justice Department cleared just last week after dropping a six-year investigation into his ties to disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff — is now almost certain to stand trial on money-laundering charges brought in 2005. On Tuesday, DeLay appeared at a pre-trial hearing in front of visiting District Judge Pat Priest, who indicated that he would rule against motions to dismiss the charges.
DeLay maintained that he was satisfied with the news. ("Finally, I'm getting a trial," he said .) But he was less rosy about the prospect of standing trial in Austin. "Everybody knows Travis County is the last bastion of liberalism in Texas," he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "There is no way I can get a free and fair trial in this county."
Austin lawyer Broadus Spivey, who testified Tuesday, echoed DeLay's concerns about his standing in Travis County. "If you had a popularity contest," Spivey said, "he'd come out at the bottom."
In hearings today, DeLay will ask the judge to move the case to his home county, Fort Bend, where he expects a fairer trial. Discussion will also center on grand jury deliberations, for which the judge closed the courtroom Tuesday.
- Former University of Texas Regent Robert Rowling to the Tribune's Brian Thevenot on connections between regent appointments and contributions to Gov. Rick Perry: "The whole idea that the big donors give [Perry] money and get the appointment in return? My gosh, spare me. I already had good football tickets — you know what I’m saying?"
- The Houston Chronicle is reporting today that the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing thousands of immigration cases in hopes of dismissing those filed against individuals without serious criminal records. The government is calling the move part of a nationwide strategy to prioritize deportation of illegal immigrants who pose security threats, but critics have attacked it as a stealth move by the Obama administration to slip in a backdoor amnesty program. News of this comes even as Travis County leads the nation in deportation of undocumented immigrants — a phenomenon stirring up some controversy among local law enforcement officials and civil rights activists.
- Texas' poor and mentally ill could suffer significantly under proposed state budget cuts announced Tuesday. The Trib's Brian Thevenot also has a report today on the state's mental health system, which is already engaged in a bureaucratic game of tug-of-war.
- The Texas Youth Commission — the scandal-ridden agency that was overhauled four years ago after an abuse scandal led to a federal investigation — is still rife with incidents of mistreatment, advocacy groups told the Justice Department in a letter Tuesday. And the renewed look at continuing abuse has some, as the Trib's Brandi Grissom reports, considering calling for an end to the agency altogether.
"I’d pay not to do it. What’s the plum of being on the board of regents? I worried about the decisions we made all the time, spending all that money — billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money and student money." — Robert Rowling on serving on the University of Texas System Board of Regents
Bedford school turns away student because of parents' lesbian relationship, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Border Patrol agent who shot boy is back on duty, El Paso Times
In Houston, red-light camera foes get green light , Houston Chronicle
'No movement' on job for state senator at Texas A&M System, Austin American-Statesman