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The Brief: April 8, 2014

A special prosecutor's report appears to give a House panel all the ammunition it would need to recommend charges of impeachment against University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. — should they choose that route.

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The Big Conversation

A report prepared for a House panel appears to give it all the ammunition it would need to recommend charges of impeachment against University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. — should they choose that route.

The report, produced by the law firm of Rusty Hardin, hasn't been publicly released but was obtained by several media outlets on Monday. As the Houston Chronicle's Nolan Hicks wrote, the report "alleges that Hall leaked confidential student information, in apparent violation of state and federal law, in an attempt to silence his critics in the Texas Legislature. It also accuses the regent of trying to manipulate the investigation and coerce witnesses."

Added the Austin American-Statesman's Ralph K.M. Haurwitz,"Hall acted like a roving inspector general in search of a problem rather than a solution," the report said. "Hall cast wide nets looking for items that he believed could be used to embarrass, criticize, punish or silence those who disagreed with his policy aims."

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations was charged by House Speaker Joe Straus to investigate Hall after Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts filed an impeachment resolution in June. Pitts had accused Hall of conducting a "witch hunt" targeted at UT-Austin President Bill Powers. Should the committee go ahead and recommend impeachment — and it's not known at this point whether panel members will take that step — the House would need to vote to impeach, followed by a trial in the Senate.

"Ironically," wrote the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton, "a substantial number of the actions that the Hardin report highlights as potentially triggering impeachment occurred in part or entirely because of the committee’s investigation. The possibility also exists that Hall could be impeached because of incidents that occurred after, or were not known when, the proceedings were launched."

The Day Ahead

•    The first day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library is highlighted by a conversation between former President Jimmy Carter and library Director Mark Updegrove. Other panel discussions address gay marriage, immigration and the intersection of music and social consciousness. We will livestream the Carter conversation beginning at 6 p.m.

•    The State Board of Education holds a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. on new course development as part of alignment with new requirements under HB 5. (agenda)

Today in the Trib

Prolific Perry Donors Are Behind Governor's Marketing Tool: (w/ interactive) "A Tribune investigation into contributors to TexasOne, Gov. Rick Perry's chief tool to promote the 'Texas Miracle,' found that its top contributors have also been beneficiaries of state economic programs and influential appointments."

Surplus Projections Ignite a Familiar Debate: "With expectations that state lawmakers will have a budget surplus of several billion dollars, lawmakers, activists and business groups are already discussing what to do with the money."

SBOE May Get Private Funds to See Out-of-State Charters: "A proposal under consideration by the Texas State Board of Education would allow private foundations to pay for elected officials on the 15-member board to visit out-of-state charter schools whose applications they approve."

Earnings Data Included in Latest Higher Ed Almanac: "For the first time since it launched in 2011, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's annual almanac includes earnings data from the Texas Unemployment Insurance Wage Record File."

Report: Texas Ranks Low in Election Performance: "Despite national improvement in election performance between 2008 and 2012, Texas ranked among the lowest-performing states, according to new data released Tuesday."


Ralph Hall gets boost from fellow Texans, Politico

Equal-pay law hasn’t sparked lawsuits that opponents fear for Texas version, The Dallas Morning News

Leticia Van de Putte asks why Greg Abbott wants to test 3- and 4-year-olds instead of expanding access to pre-K, Austin American-Statesman

State surplus could give Texans a sales-tax break, conservative think tank suggests, The Dallas Morning News

Abbott: Bad-science arson review may continue, Austin American-Statesman

Talk by conservative scholar Murray draws ire at Rice, Houston Chronicle

Texas Legislators Forced To Turn Over Emails In Voter ID Lawsuit, Huffington Post

Quote to Note

"We looked at the facts, we applied the law and the round object would not fit into the small square hole. The law is or it isn't. It either fits or it doesn't fit, and it didn't fit one bit."

— Special prosecutor John Economidy on the decision to get a complaint filed against Battleground Texas thrown out. The complaint alleged the group broke state election law by taking phone numbers from voter registration forms but the prosecutors' report said such activities were allowable and common practice in Texas.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Mike Collier, Candidate for State Comptroller at the Austin Club, 4/17

•    Slate's Live Political Gabfest in Austin at Scholz Garten, 4/23

•    A Conversation With Rep. Dan Branch, Candidate for Attorney General at the Austin Club, 5/8

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

•    A Conversation With Steve Patterson, UT Men's Athletic Director at the Austin Club, 5/15

•    A Conversation With Sen. Glenn Hegar, Candidate for State Comptroller at the Austin Club, 5/29

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

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