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The Evening Brief: Jan. 3, 2014

Your evening reading: Stockman in gray area with Bitcoin; Azle-area residents sound off on earthquakes; experts in Canada saying giving up citizenship easier than Cruz makes it appear to be

Rep. Steve Stockman

New in The Texas Tribune

•    Stockman Enters Legal Gray Area With Bitcoin Donations: "U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, a Friendswood Republican with a history of flouting campaign finance laws, entered a new legal gray area this week when he announced his campaign can now accept donations in Bitcoin, a private virtual currency."

•    After Surprise Quakes, North Texans Speak of Impact: "The crowd also expressed frustration when agency officials, peppered with questions, refused to answer any, saying they planned to simply listen. [Texas Railroad Commissioner DavidPorter did say, however, that the agency was working with the state geologist on a potential study that would further examine the issue. He did not give a timeline, and left the building before media could ask questions."

•    Farms Aren’t Going Away, but a Lot of Little Ones Are: "[Mike] Skinner is like a growing number of Texans who are leaving the land because of opportunities in urban areas, a spike in land prices and concerns about  risky weather patterns fueled by a blockbuster drought that continues to plague much of the state. The agricultural workforce is also aging. 'A lot of these guys, their kids have chosen not to come back and farm, and so they don’t really have anybody to leave the land to,' said DeDe Jones, an economist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo."

•    Changing the Characters, but Not Their Parts: "Only two incumbents — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — are seeking re-election to statewide offices this year, guaranteeing a lot of change in the executive branch in Texas when new officeholders take their oaths in January 2015. The change will stall after that. Voters ordered heavy turnover in the last two elections in the state Legislature, but 2014 looks mild in comparison. Some of the names will change, but the overall effect on the Legislature should be small."

•    Crowded Field Has Candidates In Search of Good Help: "These are heady days for Texas Republicans, with an unusually large number of open statewide seats creating a bumper crop of 2014 primary campaigns. While that translates to a lot of business for the political consultants hired to help steer the campaigns, it brings challenges as well. Most notably, all of the campaigns are trying to staff up at the same time, leading to a shortage of qualified personnel."


•    Statesman fights subpoena from Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (Austin American-Statesman): "A lawyer for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association has subpoenaed records from the American-Statesman and two other media outlets to obtain notes, emails and other information gathered by reporters. The Statesman will fight releasing the information."

•    Why is it taking so long for Ted Cruz to renounce his Canadian citizenship? (The Dallas Morning News): "He says he’s hired lawyers and is preparing the paperwork. But experts in Canada say renouncing citizenship is a simple, quick and straightforward process. There’s even an online, four-page PDF form on the Government of Canada website to initiate the process – no lawyers needed."

•    New research shows Medicaid increases ER trips. Oregon has a plan to stop that. (The Washington Post): "Oregon is now testing a new world of Medicaid, one in which they set a stringent cap on expenditures for each enrollee — and try to hit it by providing more cost-effective health care. That's made emergency-room visits one key metric that the state is trying to drive down, especially in situations where the patient could be seen in a less expensive, primary-care setting."

•    Perry gives ex-secretary of state Steen new role (The Associated Press): "Outgoing Texas Secretary of State John Steen has been given a five-year term on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Gov. Rick Perry announced the appointment Friday. Steen served as the state's chief elections officer for one year before announcing last month that he would step down."

•    Speaker Straus reappoints Houstonian to Ethics Commission (Houston Chronicle): "House Speaker Joe Straus has reappointed Chase Untermeyer as a commissioner on the state panel responsible for regulating campaign finance, lobby and political disclosure laws, the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle has learned."

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