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The Brief: Oct. 22, 2014

Criticism by state leaders of the Obama administration for failures in the response to the Ebola virus omits mention of the tools at the state's disposal that were not used.

Gov. Rick Perry visiting soldiers at Fort Hood on Oct. 9, 2014. The 36th Engineering Brigade is preparing to deploy to Lib...

The Big Conversation

State leaders have not been shy about heaping criticism on the Obama administration for failures in the response to the arrival of the Ebola virus in Dallas. But as the Tribune's Edgar Walters and Jay Root report, such criticism omits mention of the tools at the state's disposal that were not used. They write:

Missing from the official talking points is the reality that the state of Texas had full legal power from day one to order travel restrictions or impose quarantines on nurses or other health sector workers — indeed, almost anyone suspected of posing a public health threat — but did not use that power. Seven people were isolated, but not health care workers.

Had the state used its public health powers more robustly, health care workers who treated Duncan might not have been circulating in public, and much of the ensuing panic could have been stilled.

...

When it became known that Texas hadn't taken steps to prevent (Amber) Vinson, or other hospital workers, from travelling "it kind of took everybody by surprise, almost like they didn’t think about it," said Polly Price, a professor of law at Emory University. “The thing that gets me is how the federal government gets blamed for that.”

All of this happens ahead of a legislative session in which the state's ability to fight outbreaks of infectious disease will no doubt spur legislation. A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Perry is in the process of making recommendations.

"The task force wants the Legislature to give state health authorities that power for at least 48 hours, allowing them to use immediate arrest powers to prevent potential exposures before they occur, and allowing time to seek a court order to extend the control order if necessary," Walters and Root write. "Not all medical professionals agree that individual freedoms should be restricted more heavily in the wake of the Ebola scare."

The Day Ahead

•    The Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking meets at 10 a.m. in Houston to take testimony on prosecution efforts against human trafficking and also on the issue of labor trafficking. (agenda)

•    The Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) kicks off its two-day annual meeting in Austin. Scheduled guest speakers, among others, include House Speaker Joe Straus, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson and state comptroller candidate Glenn Hegar.

•    State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, sit down for a TribLive conversation at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. For those unable to attend in person, we will livestream the event beginning at noon.

Trib Must-Reads

Little Help for Those Who Can't Make the Rent, by Christine Ayala

First Bullet Train Meeting Focuses on Station Locations, by Aman Batheja

Former Dewhurst Aide Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement, by Christine Ayala and Reeve Hamilton

Elsewhere

Greg Abbott’s handling of Justice Nathan Hecht case raises questions, Austin American-Statesman

Davis and Abbott talk up Obama during GOTV rallies, Houston Chronicle

Voters without proper IDs more likely in minority neighborhoods, reports find, Houston Chronicle

Leader of border citizen group arrested on weapons charge, San Antonio Express-News

Analysis: Texas could see biggest drop in federal health funds, The Hill

Lawmakers and stakeholders crafting legislation for Texas vets’ care, The Monitor

Lamar Smith gets high marks in study, San Antonio Express-News

Jeb Hensarling faces potential threat to gavel, Politico

Nelson Bunker Hunt, second son of legendary wildcatter H.L. Hunt, dies, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"It's a betrayal professionally, but more accurately it was a betrayal of their friendship. Yeah, David lost some money. But Buddy was his friend, his pal."

— Austin lobbyist Bill Miller, on Kenneth "Buddy" Barfield's embezzlement of more than $1.8 million from David Dewhurst's campaign accounts. Barfield pleaded guilty on Tuesday and awaits sentencing.

Today in TribTalk

A bold step toward solving Texas' road woes, by Jeff Leach

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commission Candidates Steve Brown and Ryan Sitton, on Oct. 30 at The Austin Club in Austin

•    A One-Day Symposium on the Impact of the Shale Boom on Oct. 31 at the University of Texas San Antonio

•    A Live Post-Election TribCast, featuring Tribune editors and reporters on the election results, on Nov. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Nov. 6 at The Austin Club

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