The Big Conversation:
Texas officials' response to the Newtown school shooting has incurred the wrath of a Connecticut politician.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat who represents a district close to Newtown, slammed Gov. Rick Perry for suggesting after the tragedy that teachers should be able to carry guns in schools.
"The notion that more Americans … in the words of Gov. Perry, 'packing heat' will make us safer is not founded in reality, facts or history," Himes said at a press conference in Washington, as Hearst reports. "It is founded in the fantasy of testosterone-laden individuals who have blood on their hands for articulating that idea.''
Himes cited studies claiming that guns in homes are several times more likely to be used in murders or suicides than in self-defense and that trained law enforcement officers often miss their targets during gunfights.
At a Tea Party forum on Monday, Perry said school districts should be allowed to decide their own gun policies, and he drew loud applause when he alluded to Texas' Harrold Independent School District, which allows some staff members to carry firearms in school.
Perry has become one of the highest-profile Republicans in the country to express support for such a policy, but his stance isn't unique in Texas. On Tuesday, the same day the Obama administration expressed support for the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said he would introduce a bill next year to allow public school teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus.
- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, on Wednesday offered a preview of the school choice legislation that is expected to ignite the marquee education battle of the 2013 legislative session. Patrick, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said at a news conference that he would sponsor a bill that would lift the state's cap on charter schools, promote open enrollment and create a private school scholarship fund. Though neither Dewhurst nor Patrick mentioned private school vouchers — the third rail of education politics, even among some Texas Republicans — Patrick said afterward that the final bill could include "what some people might call vouchers."
- Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday called on the state's embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to put its grant-awarding process on hold. The demand came in response to the intensifying scrutiny the cancer-fighting agency has faced over accusations that politics have tainted its method of awarding grants. "The mission of defeating cancer is too important to be derailed by inadequate processes and a lack of oversight," the officials wrote in a letter to the agency's board.
- Retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Wednesday bid farewell to Washington in an emotional half-hour speech on the Senate floor. "I would not be here today if it were not for my parents, who gave me the gifts of strong values and unwavering support and education to be whatever I wanted to be," she said, choking up. "I must say my parents were surprised when they thought I wanted to be. They never thought that their daughter, growing up in LaMarque, Texas, a town of 15,000 good people, would think that she could be a United States senator." Sen. John Cornyn honored his Texas colleague with a speech afterward, calling her "tireless" and a "role model for so many young women."
"It has been a long and wonderful 19-plus years. We hit the ground running and we have never stopped." — Kay Bailey Hutchison in her farewell speech on Wednesday
- Gusher of Texas Oil-Patch Divorces Leads Breakup Trend, Bloomberg
- A Helium Shortage Leads to Fewer Balloons in the Sky, The New York Times
- Helena Brown: One Bizarre Year In the Life of Houston's Strangest Politician, The Texas Observer
- Texas has gained 576,000 jobs in oil and gas boom, study says, The Dallas Morning news
Federal report: Medicare payments not scrutinized enough, Houston Chronicle
Bohac's "Merry Christmas Bill" Focuses on Public Schools, The Texas Tribune