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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on what happens — and doesn't — when police don't analyze evidence taken from rape victims, Dehn with video highlights of the Senate debate over photo voter ID, Aguilar on the more than three dozen immigration-related bills waiting for attention in the Legislature, M. Smith on what to do with empty school buildings, Ramshaw on what will happen to hospitals if Medicaid managed care is expanded, C. Smith on how the state's budget cuts could affect churches and other faith-based organizations, Philpott's report for the Trib and KUT News on how the tight state budget could affect mental health care, yours truly on why the initial budget proposal isn't really a plan for state spending, Stiles with a searchable database of the latest campaign finance reports, and Galbraith on the rising use of coal and wind to generate electricity in Texas: The best of our best from January 24 to 28, 2011.

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In police departments across Texas, tens of thousands of rape kits have been sitting on the shelves of property storage rooms for years — thanks to strained budgets, overworked crime labs and a law enforcement philosophy that such kits are primarily useful as evidence if a stranger committed the assault. Victims’ rights advocates and some lawmakers say they'll work to pass legislation this year to take that evidence out of storage and create a DNA database that would help track rapists and perhaps even identify those who have been wrongly convicted. "I think we owe it to every person who has been raped," says state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

Watch our abbreviated version of the daylong Senate debate, the dismissal of three dozen amendments and the ultimate passage of Senate Bill 14, a.k.a. the voter ID bill. The measure's now headed to the House.

The voter photo ID legislation passed by the Texas Senate on Wednesday night may be controversial, but it’s a familiar debate, as is the issue of “sanctuary cities.” Less well known but no less contentious are many of the provisions found in more than three dozen immigration-related bills filed so far. Some Hispanic Republicans in the Texas House say they are not going to support bills they believe are too extreme. 

Texas public schools are facing what could be $10 billion less in state financing — a stark prospect that could empty school buildings across the state as districts consolidate campuses to reduce costs. What should happen to these structures, which are built with taxpayer money? 

Texas hospital administrators aren't thrilled about the 10 percent Medicaid provider rate cut included in the House's proposed budget. But what they fear more is the proposed expansion of Medicaid managed care, which could force them to forgo a combined $1 billion a year in federal funding.

Like many other Texas groups, faith organizations that lobby lawmakers are bracing for a brutal budgetary session. It’s not only a moral issue for the religious groups; it concerns their own bottom lines, too. Because when the government doesn’t provide for the needy, the needy look to the church.

For mental health and retardation centers like Round Rock's Bluebonnet Trails, state budget cuts will have a direct effect on the number of people they serve — and help keep in school or employed and out of state hospitals and emergency rooms.

Whatever budget lawmakers eventually approve will serve as the working blueprint for the state for the two years starting in September. But the budget released last week isn’t a blueprint — it’s a political document. It marks the shift from the theoretical rhetoric of the campaigns to the reality of government.

How much did state-level candidates raise, spend and owe in the closing days of 2010 — and how much do they still have for future campaigns? Our interactive table lets you sort the totals by dollar amounts, election type, political party and candidate status.

When Texans turn on lights or plug in iPads, they are getting an increasing amount of power from the wind — and from coal plants. Last year, nearly 8 percent of the power on the state's electric grid was generated by wind, far above the national average. And coal plants produced more power than any other electricity source. The big loser was natural gas.

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