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The Evening Brief: Nov. 22, 2013

Your evening reading: Texas postpones closure of high-risk health insurance pool; SBOE blocks entry of Arizona-based charter school into state; railroad commissioner candidate rails against proposed textbook

Kenneth Flippin, left, and Jane Denson, right, of Enroll America at the home of Shelby Childress.

New in The Texas Tribune

•    TDI Postpones Closure of High-Risk Health Insurance Pool: "As technical problems persist with the online federal health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act, Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber decided Friday to postpone shuttering the state’s high-risk health insurance pool until March 31."

•    SBOE Blocks Great Hearts Charter School Expansion: "The Texas State Board of Education on Friday denied an Arizona-based charter school's request for a Dallas campus, despite previous approval from the state's education commissioner. The 15-member board voted 9 to 6 to veto Great Hearts Academies' application because of concerns about the school's commitment to serving low-income students and teaching Texas curriculum standards."

•    Railroad Commission Hopeful: New Textbook is Flawed: "A candidate for Texas railroad commissioner this week unleashed a torrent of criticism on an environmental science textbook under review by the Texas Board of Education, muddling the book's path to final approval."

•    A Private Battle Over Ethics Goes Public: "A formal hearing about the alleged lobbying activities of Empower Texans could clear up some questions, like whether someone who talks to legislators and gets paid for it should have to register and pay fees as a result. To pose it the other way: Should the state allow anyone to pay lobbyists without revealing who the lobbyists are and who is paying them for their work?"

•    Court May Clarify Rule on Impairment, Death Penalty: "The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a Florida death penalty case, in which an inmate argued that his intellectual disability made him exempt from execution, could help answer a decade-old question in Texas and other states about how to establish whether an inmate is too severely impaired to be subject to the death penalty."

•    Water Recycling Minimal but Growing on Texas Oilfields: "As the drought continues to take its toll on resources, more companies are considering the long-term benefits of water recycling, and state officials are trying to make that transition easier. Despite that momentum, recycling is far from a mainstream practice among oil and gas drillers because of the associated costs and the prevalence of disposal wells."


•    State Rep. Drew Darby charged with taking weapon to Austin airport (Austin American-Statesman): "Texas State Rep. Drew Darby is facing a felony charge after he attempted to take a weapon through a security screening at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport this month, according to court documents. Darby was shown as booked into Travis County Jail at 7:22 a.m. on Nov. 14 after he was found to be carrying a .38 caliber Ruger and six rounds of ammunition in a magazine during the security screening that morning, the affidavit said."

•    Evolution dispute entangles Pearson biology textbook at State Board of Education (Austin American-Statesman): "The State Board of Education’s ideological struggle with the teaching of evolution in Texas classroom resurfaced late Thursday night as the board prepared to give final approval to new science textbooks. A high school biology textbook written by mega-publisher Pearson Education hit a snag because of a series of purported errors in how the book covers evolution and other related issues."

•    Planned Parenthood’s Austin clinic resumes abortions (Austin American-Statesman): "Planned Parenthood’s Austin clinic resumed providing abortions Friday after an affiliated doctor gained admitting privileges in a nearby hospital, an official said. The clinic was among three Planned Parenthood facilities that stopped offering abortions because its doctors did not have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, as required by House Bill 2, passed last summer by the Legislature."

•    Republican turned Democrat runs for Cornyn’s Senate seat (Houston Chronicle): "Michael Fjetland, a previous GOP House candidate, has filed as  a Democrat to run for the Senate seat held by Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Fjetland, 63, of Houston, said he is not satisfied with the work the two current Texas senators have been doing, and criticizes both Cornyn and Ted Cruz for  'reckless actions.'”

•    Filibuster? Nuclear option? Most people don’t care. (The Washington Post): "And yet, for the world outside Washington, invoking the 'nuclear option' and the changing of filibuster rules are non-happenings — moments that barely register and almost certainly will have zero impact on voters’ choices in the coming midterm elections. Polling, which is somewhat scarce on the subject, tells the story of just how little people know about the filibuster."

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Health care Politics Drew Darby John Cornyn Ted Cruz