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The Brief: Dec. 9, 2013

All eyes are on the Travis County Courthouse this morning as the move to remove the county's top prosecutor, Rosemary Lehmberg, enters the definitive final stages.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg speaks to members of the media following a November 2010 trial.

The Big Conversation

All eyes are on the Travis County Courthouse this morning as the move to remove the county's top prosecutor, Rosemary Lehmberg, enters the definitive final stages.

"The trial is expected to draw large numbers of spectators," wrote the Austin American-Statesman's Ciara O'Rourke and Tony Plohetski, "from Lehmberg supporters and detractors to impartial observers who want to witness the novelty of a trial to remove an elected official from office under a rarely used Texas law."

Lehmberg's DUI arrest in April — smack dab in the middle of a legislative session — galvanized some Republicans under the Dome who publicly said her behavior after her arrest demanded her removal from office. Less publicized was what would happen if she was forced out. Republican Gov. Rick Perry would be able to appoint a new Travis County DA, who leads the Public Integrity Unit with jurisdiction over investigations of elected officials.

Perry eventually vetoed the PIU's $3.7 million in state funding to show he was serious about persuading Lehmberg to leave. But if she is forced out, it would be due to a complaint filed by Austin attorney Kerry O'Brien, whose action spurred the removal trial that begins today. According to the Statesman, the trial could be resolved as early as late this week.


•    State law restricts how water projects funds can be used (Houston Chronicle): "The Texas agency managing the state's new bank for water-supply projects has a $2 billion problem: It's not sure how to use the money to achieve mandatory conservation goals. Here is the dilemma facing the Texas Water Development Board: Much of the state's conservation potential rests with consumer-side projects, such as low-flow toilets and showerheads and irrigation systems that automatically shut off when it rains - but state law prohibits the use of public funds for privately owned improvements."

•    Feds decline civil rights investigation of EPISD cheating scandal (El Paso Times): "Department of Education won't take action on potential civil rights violations from cheating at El Paso Independent School District because they occurred prior to the last six months, two top department officials told U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke in a letter this week."

•    Federal exchange sends unqualified people to Medicaid (USA Today): "The federal health care exchange is incorrectly determining that some people are eligible for Medicaid when they clearly are not, leaving them with little chance to get the subsidized insurance they are entitled to as the Dec. 23 deadline for enrollment approaches."

•    Many HIV Patients Unable to Enjoy Expanded Coverage (The Texas Tribune): "Community advocates expected the Affordable Care Act to provide nearly universal health coverage for HIV patients, freeing up funding from the Ryan White program to cover services beyond primary care. But many HIV patients in Texas live below the poverty line and are therefore ineligible for subsidies on the exchange. Add Texas’ decision not to expand Medicaid to cover poor adults, and the bulk of low-income HIV patients are missing out on expanded health coverage."

•    Copelin: On state’s power grid, which bogeyman are we fighting? (Austin American-Statesman): "In fact, we haven’t answered the basic question: What bogeyman are we trying to avoid? The issue is a kind of chicken-and-egg question: The decision makers are debating the level of electricity reserves the state needs — and the cost of those reserves — but they haven’t concluded how often Texans would accept a rolling blackout as a reasonable risk."

Quote to Note: “You can still elect a Democrat to a statewide office in the South, if you have the right candidate, with the right biography, in the right cycle. And then hopefully you get some help from the Republicans’ nominating a bad candidate. But that’s a lot of ifs.” — University of Maryland, Baltimore County, political science professor Thomas F. Schaller on the challenge facing Democrats throughout the South


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