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The Brief: Oct. 8, 2012

National attention will turn to Texas this week as the Supreme Court takes up the highest-profile case of its new term.

A look at the sun setting over the University of Texas at Austin Tower in 2011.

The Big Conversation:

National attention will turn to Texas this week as the Supreme Court takes up the highest-profile case of its new term.

On Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments in the case challenging the University of Texas at Austin's consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process. The case, brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was denied admission in 2008 because of her race, could decide the fate of affirmative action programs at public universities nationwide.

Since the late 1990s, UT has admitted students under a state law that grants top students automatic admission to any public university in the state. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2003, with stipulations, that colleges and universities could use race in admissions to attain a "critical mass" of nonwhite students, UT began factoring race into its admissions process for students who were not admitted under the top 10 percent rule. But observers say the court's recent rightward shift could mean an end to such criteria.

To convince Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote on the court, UT's lawyers will argue that a "critical mass" hasn't been reached.

"Certainly all aspire for a colorblind society in which race does not matter — and need not be considered to ensure a diverse proving ground for the Nation's future leaders," lawyers for UT wrote in a brief to the court, according to the Houston Chronicle. "But in Texas, as in America, our highest aspirations are yet unfulfilled. In the end, [the case] really is just asking this Court to move the goal posts on higher education in America."

Fisher's lawyers, meanwhile, argue in their brief that the use of race in admissions "places an unwarranted badge of inferiority on the thousands of Hispanic and African-American applicants who are admitted to UT each year based on merit and achievement."

Check out the ever-informative SCOTUSblog for a more detailed look at the case and its implications.

Culled:

  • The Dallas Morning News has examined the wide gulf separating President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's Medicaid plans, which would set dramatically different courses for the future of health care in Texas. As the News notes, Obama's plan would provide Texas with $9 billion more in Medicaid funding annually, a potential boon for millions of uninsured Texans. But conservatives say the federal government won't be able to keep pace with rising health care costs and should instead dole out funds in block grants, which would give states more freedom in spending the money.
  • State Rep. Joaquin Castro stumped for President Barack Obama in Colorado over the weekend, the San Antonio Express-News reports. Castro, a candidate for Congress, joined former U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Peña in the Denver area to help register voters and speak to campaign workers. "It's helpful for someone like Joaquin to come in and inject energy and a different perspective, to reinforce our volunteers, to get that excitement moving again so we peak right before the election," Peña said. Castro's brother, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, stumped for Obama last weekend in Florida
  • San Antonio's Northside Independent School District has introduced a pilot program that tracks students on campus via radio frequency identification chips in cards they wear around their necks. Despite worries from privacy groups fearful of a Big Brother atmosphere in Texas public schools, administrators say it's the best way to make sure the district gets all the state money it's entitled to.

"When Texas does turn blue, as California did, that will spell the end of the Republican Party as we know it. They'll have to re-engineer and go back to the center-right and not the far-right." — Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the Houston Chronicle

Must-Read:

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