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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

M. Smith on the decision that Texas school funding is unconstitutional, E. Smith’s TribLive conversation with House Speaker Joe Straus, Rocha and Dehn’s look at how Texas got its current ethics laws, Ramshaw peeks into the lobby’s bag of gifts for lawmakers, Batheja finds state lawmakers who lobby other government entities, KUT’s Philpott on federal health care in Texas, Murphy reveals the geography of House committee assignments, Hamilton on a Caribbean medical school that wants to operate in Texas, Grissom at a court of inquiry on a murder prosecutor’s conduct, Aguilar on a decision that allows an open-pit coal mine to operate on the state’s Mexican border and Aaronson’s report on legislative inquiries about the state’s cancer prevention agency: The best of our best for the week of Feb. 4, 2012.

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In a decision sure to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state.

At Wednesday's TribLive conversation, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, held open the possibility of a compromise with the federal government on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, talked about the likelihood of withdrawals from the Rainy Day Fund and whether the state can meet its obligations under the spending cap, and reacted to this week's ruling on the school finance lawsuit and talked about what happens now.

The last substantial Texas ethics reforms passed during the 72nd legislative session. It wasn't easy then — and won't be easy now. But members pushing for new rules say they're optimistic that their colleagues will support making the state's business more transparent.

The culture of gift-giving is alive and well in the Texas Capitol, and lobbyists are the chief benefactors.

While members of the Texas Legislature can no longer act as lobbyists before state agencies, plenty of lawmakers still manage to lobby local governments. Others find work that critics would classify as lobbying by another name.

Will Texas expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act? That’s the $100 billion question this session at the Capitol, where supporters of federal health care reform may be gaining traction.

Want to know what parts of the state are best represented on certain House committees? Use our interactive map to explore the geographic distribution of the lawmakers appointed to each committee for the 83rd legislative session. 

For more than a year, a foreign medical school has been seeking approval to operate in Texas, and its controversial bid has overcome a number of roadblocks. This legislative session, it will be put to at least one more high-stakes test.

A day of legal theater in the Ken Anderson court of inquiry ended with a reversal-of-course by John Bradley. The firebrand ex-prosecutor backed away from previous damning statements he made about his former boss. On Wednesday, Michael Morton sat down with the Tribune to talk about the pain and anger the court of inquiry is bringing up for him and his hopes for accountability in the wake of his wrongful conviction. 

A decision by the Texas Railroad Commission has paved the way for an open-pit coal mine to begin operating on the Texas-Mexico border. Opponents of the plan are weighing their options, which include making a request for another hearing.

The legislative founders of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas laid out the first draft of a bill to reform the embattled agency on Tuesday before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and faced questions over whether public trust in the institute could be restored.

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