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The Evening Brief: Nov. 5, 2013

Your evening reading: toll road swap floated for Austin; Texas Supreme Court hears same-sex divorce cases; new poll shows Abbott with commanding lead

Traffic congestion on Interstate 35 in Austin. The freeway through central Austin is among the state's most congested road s…

New in The Texas Tribune

•    Worsening Austin Traffic Prompts Talk of Toll Road Swap: "As congestion worsens on Interstate 35 through Austin, state leaders are seriously discussing a drastic response: tolling the highway's lanes in the city and making part of the nearby State Highway 130 toll road free."

•    OIG Loses Another Medicaid Fraud Court Battle: "The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General, which says that hundreds of millions of dollars have been misspent on fraudulent Medicaid orthodontic and dental claims, has lost its first three court battles against allegedly fraudulent providers. And the accused Medicaid providers argue that the court losses show that the office’s claims are unjustified."

•    Prop 6 Seeps Into Republican Politics: "Indeed, while Democrats initially cried foul over using the Rainy Day Fund for water and not for public education, Proposition 6 now has widespread bipartisan support. ... Instead, it is the hard-core conservatives running for statewide office who are in an awkward position. While state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has enthusiastically supported Proposition 6, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is giving only tepid approval."

•    Measuring Attorney General Candidates on Smart Meters: "Unlike their counterparts in the lieutenant governor’s race, the three Republicans vying to be the state’s next attorney general — state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney and Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman of Houston — have largely refrained from drawing any knives in public. But a message from Branch’s campaign manager that was published on a conservative blog earlier this week — despite being sent 'on background' — highlighted one line of attack being worked behind the scenes: smart meters."

•    Edward Theriot: The TT Interview: "About a month ago, Edward Theriot, the director of the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin, learned that he needed to brace for a massive cut — including his own position — that is scheduled to hit the museum next September. ... In less than a year, under current plans, the free museum, which currently attracts 80,000 to 90,000 visitors annually, will have to survive solely on special item funding from the Legislature and revenue it generates from its gift shop — a projected combined annual total of about $150,000. The center's currently budget is more than $840,000."

Culled

•    Texas Supreme Court hears same-sex divorce cases (The Dallas Morning News): "The Texas Supreme Court was urged Tuesday to allow same-sex couples legally married in other states to obtain divorces in Texas, despite the state’s ban on gay marriages and objections from Attorney General Greg Abbott."

•    After corruption case, State Bar reprimands Brownsville representative (The Monitor): "The State Bar of Texas has publicly reprimanded state Rep. Rene O. Oliveira for professional misconduct arising from the federal inquiry into ex-404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas. Oliveira also agreed to pay $1,500 to cover the State Bar’s legal fees and expenses in the disciplinary proceeding."

•    PPP poll: Greg Abbott has commanding lead over Wendy Davis (The Dallas Morning News): "In the 2014 governor’s race, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has opened up a 15-point lead over Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth in the latest Public Policy Polling survey. 'As Davis has become better known to Texans, her negatives have risen,' said pollster Tom Jensen."

•    Van de Putte joins Davis on campaign trail in S.A. (San Antonio Express-News): "Buoyed by recent poll results, Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Wendy Davis campaigned in San Antonio on Monday with a colleague who soon could become her 2014 running mate. Davis appeared with state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, before 1,000 supporters at the Annie's List 10th anniversary celebration."

•    Progressive petition to Cruz: give up your health care (The Dallas Morning News): "Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t like Obamacare because he says it represents the worst of big government. But some progressives in Texas say Cruz’s health insurance, which his wife receives as an employee at financial giant Goldman Sachs, is untaxed and therefore federally subsidized.  They’re daring him to give it up or give up trying to topple the healthcare law."

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