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The Brief: Jan. 8, 2014

The Tribune's Morgan Smith has a must-read piece on what's next for the education reform group funded by tort reform champions that left a big imprint on policy debates during last year's legislative session.

Texas charter school children and supporters rallied at the Texas Capitol to lobby the Legislature for more funding on May 8, 2013.

The Big Conversation

The Tribune's Morgan Smith has a must-read piece on what's next for the tort reformer-funded education advocacy group that left a big imprint on policy debates during last year's legislative session. Texans for Education Reform, Smith reported, has formed a political action committee, which will allow it to play in the 2014 elections.

"The new committee will allow the group, which spent at least $645,000 on a team of 16 lobbyists during its first legislative session, to put some of its resources toward political candidates," Smith wrote.

A spokeswoman for the group declined to go into much detail on what the PAC intended to do, saying that "TER PAC will provide us with another tool, in the political realm, to draw attention to our agenda and help achieve that goal." More will be known about the PAC's finances after ethics commission filings are released later this month.

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Public Policy Foundation kicks off its 12th annual policy orientation with an opening luncheon featuring former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka. The event, featuring various panels and guest speakers, continues through Friday at the Sheraton Austin Hotel on East 11th Street.

Today in the Trib

Education Reform Group Mobilizes for 2014 Elections: "A new PAC will allow Texans for Education Reform, which became a lobbying powerhouse during the 2013 legislative session, to put resources toward candidates for office."

Texas Supreme Court to Consider Online Defamation Case: "The Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday morning in an online defamation case that could have far-reaching effects on individual freedom to post online."

Brackish Water Abounds, but Using it Isn't Simple: "There are an estimated 880 trillion gallons of brackish water underneath the state's surface. But using the salty resource can be tricky: Treating it carries a hefty price tag, and the oversight of its withdrawal isn't clear-cut."

TxDOT's CFO Named Interim Executive Director: "The Texas Transportation Commission on Tuesday selected James Bass, the Texas Department of Transportation's chief financial officer, as TxDOT's interim executive director."

Texas Supreme Court Weighs Underground Trespassing Case: "The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday grappled with the concept of underground trespassing as it heard oral arguments in a groundwater case that the oil and gas industry says could significantly impact production."

Report Says Stockman Did Not List All Donations: "The Sunlight Foundation found $16,000 in donations that were made to U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman's re-election campaign committee that the committee did not report."


Kennedy: State Board of Education forum turns into Monday night mayhem, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Cruz mum on dad’s backing of Sessions tea party rival; Sessions calls it “just part of the deal”, The Dallas Morning News

Texas GOP lawmakers oppose jobless-benefits extension, Houston Chronicle

Gun show at Travis County Expo Center will be no more, Austin American-Statesman

Texas Railroad Commission to hire quake specialist, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Four senators call on Texas Finance Commission chair to resign, El Paso Times

Quote to Note

"He was — a Chuck E. Cheese manager!” — State Board of Education candidate Lady Theresa Thombs taking her criticism of a rival candidate in an unexpected direction in a Monday forum

News From Home

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Trib Events For the Calendar

•    Regional premiere of Watershed followed by a panel discussion at Stateside at the Paramount on 1/15

•    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, candidate for lieutenant governor, at the Austin Club on 1/16

•    Comptroller candidate Debra Medina at the Austin Club on 1/30 

•    Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, candidate for lieutenant governor, at the Austin Club on 2/6

•    Sen. Kel Seliger and Reps. John Smithee and Four Price at West Texas A&M in Canyon on 2/7

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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Politics David Dewhurst Four Price Greg Abbott John Cornyn John Smithee John Whitmire Kel Seliger Rodney Ellis Ted Cruz Wendy Davis