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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Galbraith on energy conservation and basketball, Ramshaw (and Serafini of Kaiser News) on what would happen if states abandoned Medicaid, Hallman on cities and counties lobbying the feds (and a Stiles data app visualizing what they're spending), Aguilar on legislative attempts to stop human trafficking, Aaronson on cuts in Senate office spending, Philpott on the latest run at a Senate rule that empowers political minorities, yours truly on how the GOP landslide will change the way things work at the Capitol, Hu catches the first day of bill filing and finds immigration at the top of the agenda and Hamilton on a wobbly partnership between two Texas universities: The best of our best from November 8 to 12, 2010.

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A week after newly emboldened Republicans in the Texas Legislature floated a radical cost-saving proposal — withdrawing from the federal Medicaid program — health care experts, economists and think tanks are trying to determine just how possible it would be. The answer? It’s complicated. But it’s not stopping nearly a dozen other states, frantic over budget shortfalls and anticipating new costs from federal health care reform, from exploring something that was, until recently, unthinkable.

When a party wins everything, as the GOP has in Texas this year, it gets almost everything its way. It also has everything to lose.

Over the last five years, cities and counties in Texas have shelled out $17 million more to hire lobbyists in Washington, D.C., according to disclosure forms analyzed by the Tribune. “Just like anyone else in the nation, we pay federal taxes, and we expect a return on those dollars,” says Larry Gilley, the city manager of Abilene, which paid $320,000 to lobbyists between January 2006 and October 2010.

Texas has the dubious distinction of being home to one of the busiest human trafficking routes in the country: the stretch of Interstate Highway 10 that runs from El Paso to Houston.

For five years, the director of UT's Frank Erwin Center has been on a crusade to save energy. Fans may not notice the changes, but athletics officials on campus and around Texas are paying heed — and going green themselves.

State senators reduced the amount they spent on office expenses by $830,000 this year, or an average of nearly $26,000 per senator, an analysis by The Texas Tribune found.

Whatever the size of their majority in the Texas House, Republicans in the Texas Senate have to contend with the rule requiring two-thirds of members to agree to bring a bill up for vote. That's 21 out of 31 — and there are only 19 Republicans in the upper chamber. Some in the GOP want the rule changed.

Republican state lawmakers, buoyed by their party’s resounding victories on Election Day, have filed several bills ahead of the next legislative session that signal how far they're willing to go in tackling illegal immigration. State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, filed a nine-bill bundle that included a proposal to require picture IDs at polling places.

After a month of contentious debate, the future of a partnership between the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College that has flourished for the last two decades remains up in the air.

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