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The Brief: Sept. 15, 2014

At stake, according to a posted agenda for today's meeting of the UT System regents, is "the integrity and independence" of an external investigation of admissions procedures.

State Rep. Dan Flynn (right), R-Van, talks to state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, on Oct. 23, 2013. Van is co-chair of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, whose members include Fischer.

The Big Conversation

The University of Texas System regents will get together by phone for a special called meeting this afternoon. Among the agenda items is discussion of a request last week by two legislators to sit in on interviews conducted by an external investigator of admissions procedures at the system's flagship Austin campus.

The request extends from the decision by a House select committee to admonish and censure UT Regent Wallace Hall. After that action, the committee chose two members, San Antonio state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat, and Lyle Larson, a Republican, to monitor the regents.

"In a letter sent to UT System Board Chairman Paul Foster on Monday, the legislators indicated that, in their oversight capacity, they intend to attend 'or otherwise monitor' all the interviews conducted by the private company," wrote the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton on Friday. "They also extended an invitation for the system to use the Capitol as the location for all interviews, which they note 'would have the added advantage of audio and video equipment to record and preserve the interviews.'"

The Austin American-Statesman's Ralph K.M. Haurwitz reported that system officials were not commenting late last week. "But," he wrote, "the regents’ agenda for their meeting might have telegraphed their response, inasmuch as it calls for 'actions of the Board necessary to maintain the integrity and independence of the investigation.'”

Disclosure: Paul Foster is a major donor to The Texas Tribune. The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate State Affairs Committee meets at 8 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to address multiple interim charges, including the continuing effects of the Affordable Care Act and workers' compensation insurance in the state. The panel's charge on the health care law has already kicked up controversy. (agenda)

•    The Senate Natural Resources Committee meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to look at brackish water and desalination. (agenda)

•    The joint legislative panel with oversight of the Edwards Aquifer meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to receive an update on the Edwards Aquifer Authority. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

In Health Care, Organizers Find Issue to Spur Hispanics, by Alexa Ura

Is it Time to Ditch Texas' Key Man Grand Jury System?, by Terri Langford

Analysis: Law, Like Politics, Makes Strange Bedfellows, by Ross Ramsey


Wendy Davis voted on city projects where she had title work (w/ Davis campaign claim of factual error), The Dallas Morning News

Fracking and hydraulic drilling have brought a spike in fatal trucking accidents on Texas roads, Houston Chronicle

Momentum builds to allow US oil exports, The Hill

$250M in state funding for F1 track in question, San Antonio Express-News

Texas road debt: $23 billion, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Biggest home insurers' hefty hikes unchallenged by Texas commissioner, The Dallas Morning News

State's defense of abortion law not as smooth second time around, Houston Chronicle

Texas Dreamers embrace politics even as they face an uncertain future, Austin American-Statesman

Rick Perry’s immigration record: A hard line at the border, a softer touch in Austin, Washington Post

Quote to Note

"Voters tend to look at governors the way they hire plumbers or electricians. Do they have a good reputation? Will they take care of the problems? Will they leave you alone otherwise?"

John Weingart, director of the Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, telling the Houston Chronicle what people look for in a good governmental chief executive

Today in TribTalk

Austin's urban rail plan is overdue, by Meg Merritt

A "Plan B" for light rail in Austin, by Steven Knapp

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    4 DAYS TO GO: The Texas Tribune Festival is this weekend — register today!

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, on Sept. 24 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in San Antonio.

•    A Conversation on Demographic Change and the Digital Divide with Mark Strama, former state representative and head of Google Fiber in Austin; state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; Juanita Budd, executive director of Austin Free-Net; and Don Shirley, executive director of Connected Texas, on Sept. 30 at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin.

•    A Conversation With Kathie Glass, 2014 Libertarian Nominee for Governor, on Oct. 2 at The Austin Club

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Energy Environment Health care Higher education Politics Greg Abbott Joe Barton Lyle Larson Rick Perry Trey Martinez Fischer Wendy Davis