TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 12/03/12

Batheja looks at the impact of the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal, Aaronson on Democrats' hopes for a Medicaid expansion deal, Galbraith and White on a $17 million payment approved for Oncor's CEO, Ramsey describes the challenge facing the House speaker, Chammah looks at a bill requiring police to record interrogations, Batheja and Murphy detail accounts holding dedicated state revenue, Hamilton reports on plans for a new Rio Grande Valley university, Aguilar examines 20 years of NAFTA, and E. Smith talks to the Texas Senate's new Higher Education Committee chairman: The best of our best from Dec. 3 to 7, 2012.

Graphic by Todd Wiseman

The controversial proposal to build a 4,000-mile network of highways and rail lines across Texas never came to fruition, but the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal helped usher in a change in how the state builds roads.

Despite Gov. Rick Perry's firm opposition to Medicaid expansion, a key tenet of federal health reform, Texas Democrats remain optimistic that the 2013 legislative session can yield a deal on the issue.

The board of the Dallas-based utility company Oncor recently authorized a $17 million payment to its chairman and chief executive, Robert Shapard, according to an SEC filing on Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has at least one opponent in his bid for a third term in that job, but the circumstances that undid his predecessors in the post don't exist now.

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If Texas lawmakers expand Medicaid, the spending, savings, enrollment growth and reduction in the number of uninsured would be greater in Texas than in most other states. This interactive compares Medicaid expansion scenarios in each state.

Advocates for a bill requiring police to record interrogations argue it could prevent innocent people from confessing to crimes they didn't commit. Some in law enforcement worry the requirement would make it harder to try cases.

Lawmakers have stockpiled nearly $5 billion in more than 200 dedicated revenue funds, using the money to help balance the budget rather than for its intended purposes, according to estimates from the Texas comptroller's office. Our interactive shows which accounts hold all the money.

At Thursday's meeting of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced a major plan to consolidate its existing institutions in the Rio Grande Valley to create a new university.

Twenty years after NAFTA was enacted, stakeholders met in Texas to discuss its future. A who's who of business leaders touted NAFTA's success. But critics say the pact created an unbalanced economy and displaced workers.

When lawmakers passed a budget in 2011 that cut $73 million from family planning services, the goal was largely political: halt taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Now they are facing the policy implications and, in some cases, reconsidering.

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On Dec. 6, the Tribune held a TribLive conversation with state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, the chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. Here's full video of that discussion.

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