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The Brief: Feb. 20, 2014

Conservative activist James O'Keefe has released another covert video of Battleground Texas volunteers.

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The Big Conversation

Conservative activist James O'Keefe has released another covert video of Battleground Texas volunteers. In this one, a voter registration coordinator collects phone numbers as part of the registration process, something that the office of Secretary of State Nandita Berry tells the Tribune's Alana Rocha and Jay Root could be a "potential level of offense."

"Whether Battleground did anything wrong in the process comes down to how the law is interpreted," wrote Rocha and Root. "Section 13.004 of the Texas Election Code says, in part, that county registration officials may not 'transcribe, copy or otherwise record a telephone number furnished on a registration application.'”

Opinion was split among authorities queried by the reporters. A Berry spokesman suggested that Battleground Texas' volunteer deputy registrars would have the same liability that applies to county officials. That view was not shared by election law expert Buck Wood, who said the statutory language makes it clear that these volunteer registrars are not county officials.

A representative from Attorney General Greg Abbott's office did not have immediate comment but "said it would check into the matter," according to Rocha and Root.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meets in the Capitol Extension to take up interim charges on Child Protective Services and Women's Health (agenda).

•    Pre-primary financial reports for federal candidates are due. Covers fundraising activity from Jan. 1 through Feb. 12.

•    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst casts his vote at a South Austin H-E-B and will take questions from the media afterward. Lite guv candidate Jerry Patterson is in Tyler, and lite guv candidate Todd Staples is in Amarillo.

Today in the Trib

Unusually Cold Winter Takes a Toll on Homeless Texans: "The number of homeless people in Texas has declined in recent years. But this unusually cold winter has driven people into shelters across the state."

Standing Out a Challenge in Race for Stockman Seat: "In the 12-way Republican primary for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, the candidates are running more against President Obama than against one another."

CSCOPE, Algebra II Emerge as Issues in SBOE Primaries: "How the Texas State Board of Education has handled its purview over curriculum standards has cropped up in three primary races that will likely determine who will join the board in January."


Sarah Palin backs Greg Abbott, Katrina Pierson in Texas, Politico

Wendy Davis fundraising off Ted Nugent, Politico

Immigrant worker allegations roil lieutenant governor race, Houston Chronicle

Big Oil, Bad Air: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, Center for Public Integrity

John Cornyn is crushing the Tea Party in Texas, Slate

Texas Gov. Rick Perry to return to Iowa next week, Quad-City Times

Quote to Note

"Family violence is so, so overrated."

— Democratic Harris County DA candidate Lloyd Oliver, who is campaigning to reduce prosecutions of domestic violence cases

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at the University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

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

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Health care Politics Dan Patrick David Dewhurst Greg Abbott John Cornyn Rick Perry Wendy Davis