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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 1, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry, on a visit to the White House, swatted down a health care olive branch on Monday.

Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith


Gov. Rick Perry, on a visit to the White House, swatted down a health care olive branch on Monday.

President Barack Obama, speaking to a bipartisan group of governors, announced that he would grant states leeway by letting them propose their own health care plans by 2014, three years sooner than the current law stipulates.

But Obama warned the governors that states would still be required to cover just as many people and, in a nod to labor disputes raging in the Midwest, said the burden shouldn't be passed to public-sector workers. "I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon," Obama said.

Perry, on political business in Washington, was underwhelmed. "I was disappointed," Perry said, according to The Associated Press. "Pretty much all he did was reset the clock on what many of us consider to be a ticking time bomb that is going to absolutely crush our state budgets."

Perry's spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, echoed his concerns, as well as those of the 26 states that have filed suit against the law in federal court. "President Obama's comments do nothing to change the harmful effects that his misguided health care bill would have upon Texas," she told the AP. "Texas continues to pursue all avenues to defeat this bill and is confident in the lawsuit we have filed with other states to reverse the mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance. Gov. Perry will continue working with lawmakers, fellow governors and leaders in Congress to secure greater flexibility and state-based solutions to delivering health care."

Perry also announced that the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs, would today be releasing TV and radio ads in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who recently set off protests by proposing to eliminate unions' collective-bargaining rights in an effort to cut spending.

"Republican governors aren’t going to back down from our support of Scott Walker and what he’s doing there to make the tough decisions in his state to balance the budget,” Perry said, according to The Dallas Morning News.


  • In yet another illustration of Texas school districts' desperation in the face of massive budget cuts, the Austin Independent School District on Monday, in a meeting that stretched on past midnight, declared a state of financial exigency, which will allow the district to eliminate 1,153 jobs. Meanwhile, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a conservative group headed by Michael Quinn Sullivan, has begun making hundreds of thousands of robocalls challenging assertions that cuts in funding for school districts will result in job losses. "Tell your state legislators to stand firm on cutting the budget and tell them that cuts must be made outside the classroom," Sullivan says on the call, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Anthony Graves, who was exonerated after spending 18 years in jail and was then denied compensation by the Texas comptroller last month, sued the state on Monday to clear his name and receive payment. Under the Timothy Cole Compensation Act, wrongfully imprisoned inmates are entitled to $80,000 per year of imprisonment plus a lifetime annuity.
  • Tom Leppert, the former mayor of Dallas, who announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Friday, has surprised some in the Dallas community with his stances on issues like gay marriage and abortion rights. "He can’t get out of office fast enough to get to the right far enough," former Dallas City Council member Ed Oakley, who ran against Leppert for mayor in 2007, tells The Dallas Morning News.

"It is the governor's personal account, so he manages it as he likes."Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, who has blocked a number of journalists from following his Twitter account — a story that on Monday made it all the way up to The Washington Post (which, by the way, if everyone will allow it, The Brief can't go without thanking for this)


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