The Big Conversation:
In El Paso, Gov. Rick Perry continued what has become a pre-session push for a top item on his policy agenda: higher education reform.
Yesterday that included calls for a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen at the state’s universities and the expansion of $10,000 degree plans.
"Higher education is one of the priorities and laying out the $10,000 degree plan and expanding it so that higher education is a priority, affordable, and accessible," Perry told the El Paso Times, "And freezing tuition for incoming freshman so that they will know what it will cost in that four-year period of time. If they take longer, it may go up. But if you go in and do your work and graduate within four years, you know what the cost will be."
His talking points at the stop, where the Eagle Scout presented a Boy Scout award, echo remarks he made Wednesday on CBS This Morning Wednesday. They also come as the prospects of another higher education policy he favors — in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants — look increasingly endangered heading into the 2013 session.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, told the Tribune he would once again file a bill to repeal the state’s decade-old law that the governor supports. The legislation failed last time around, but that was before the issue dogged Perry during his presidential bid and the influx of new conservative senators.
“It’s a debated issue within our own party,” state Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth, at a TribLive event last month featuring three incoming Republican senators — Hancock, Larry Taylor of Friendswood and Ken Paxton of McKinney — all three of whom said they would side with Birdwell on the issue.
Perry has said the policy was the “correct economic decision” for this state. But at the Texas Tribune Festival in September, he stopped short of saying outright that he would veto a bill to repeal it.
He said he was amenable to “an open and vigorous debate” on the matter but added, “My bet is that bill will never get to my desk to make a decision on.”
· The League of United Latin American Citizens and seven citizens filed a federal lawsuit against Harris County, accusing officials there of systematically targeted Hispanics and African-Americans in voting-roll purges from 2009 to 2012. The county, which includes the Houston area, rejected more voter registration applications than any other in the state.
· West Texas’ Sierra Blanca checkpoint has claimed its latest celebrity victim: St. Louis rapper Nelly. Officers there found 0.64 ounces of heroin distributed among 36 small plastic bags, more than 10 pounds of marijuana and a loaded .45-caliber pistol. Another man on the bus claimed responsibility for the items and Nelly was eventually let go. Other stars detained at the checkpoint because of on-board drugs include Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, and Fiona Apple.
· San Antonio will share a first with Chicago as they become the initial cities to feature new health conscious soda vending machines in 2013. They’ll have electronic displays to prompt consumers to “think before they drink,” reminding them of sodas’ high calorie count as well as prominently labeled nutrition information. Over 65 percent of adults and nearly 33 percent children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese in the South Texas city.
“Straus is their best defense against getting carried away,” — Southern Methodist University Political science professor Cal Jillson, on the Republicans who want Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to prevent them from passing measures that could haunt them in the future as demographic trends that indicate Texas will become more Hispanic and perhaps less conservative.
With Tea Party Support, an East Texas Republican Takes on House Speaker, The Texas Tribune
DeLay's Victories Endure, Even if He Loses in Court, The Texas Tribune
Arrests Across Texas Target Mexican Mafia, Houston Chronicle