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The Brief: Nov. 15, 2010

Want a straw poll in the Speaker’s race? Not so fast.

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Want a straw poll in the Speaker’s race? Not so fast, says state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.

In a letter circulated to House Republican Caucus members yesterday, the Joe Straus loyalist said before talk of a poll turns into any action, he wants to make sure everything’s above board.

“Before embarking on a process, we need to be as transparent as possible, follow the Texas Constitution, the Government Code, and all other laws, especially in light of the allegations made last week by a Member that are now being considered by the House General Investigating Committee,” he wrote.

Those allegations would be from state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who withdrew his support of incumbent Straus because of unsubstantiated reports that the incumbent speaker was “using the redistricting process as retribution.”

The San Antonio Republican faces challenges from the right in state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and as of last Thursday, state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney.

This intraparty set-to has at least one state lawmaker is picking his restaurants carefully. Lyle Larson will avoid his favorite eatery, the Barn Door, when he dines with Chisum in his home San Antonio this week. Why? It’s owned by Straus’ uncle. If they’d gone there, Chisum “probably would've asked for an official food-taster,” says Larson.

That surely won’t be the last of awkward Speaker’s race moments in the too-small world of the Texas House. But a survey of political insiders conducted by the Trib as part of our new “Inside Intelligence” feature reveals that class doesn’t think a new Speaker is in the cards for the upcoming session: 92.6 percent of the 163 respondents think Straus will keep his spot for the new session.

CULLED:

· One former Houston mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate has ruled out a 2012 Senate run. Bill White, who lost to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry by a 12 point margin, says he plans to go into business: "I don't have anything in mind. But I have to figure out whether I principally manage investments in businesses or run the businesses, and then, if I run the business, what kind of business. For investments, the world that I know best is almost anything related to energy, and to some extent real estate. I also know how to run things ... and I enjoy building things."

· Conventional wisdom has it that since 22 Democrats lost their seats on Nov. 2, a pro-gambling bill won’t have a shot next session. But proponents of the industry have hopes that the fiscally conservative Republicans that replaced them — and the squeeze lawmakers will face while grappling with an estimated $24 billion deficit without raising taxes — may actually give a bill expanding gambling in the state a chance at passing.

· The trial of the former congressman known as the Hammer may wrap this week. Prosecutors of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay say they will likely rest their case tomorrow. The Sugar Land Republican is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

"There are two kinds of people who wear cowboy hats—cowboys and assholes. George W. Bush is definitely not the latter; he is, in truth, a gentle, humble man who loves his country and cherishes the quixotic notion of all the people from the world someday existing in peace and freedom." — Humorist and perennial political candidate Kinky Friedman weighs in on the former president in a Daily Beast Column.

MUST READ:

Property-rich school districts withheld $40 million, state records showAustin American-Statesman

State lawmakers are refiling bills that hit unexpected hurdles two years agoFort Worth Star-Telegram

 The Republican takeover in the statesThe Washington Post

Hundreds Die of Illnesses in County Jails — The Texas Tribune

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