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The Brief: Jan. 22, 2015

From state agencies paying employees' tuition to House budget writers sending a shot across the UT System's bow, here are two good reads to start your day.

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The Big Conversation

From state agencies paying employees' tuition to House budget writers sending a shot across the UT System's bow, here are two good reads to start your day:

•    On the heels of a report on the Health and Human Services Commission's decision to pay for an aide's MBA, the Tribune's Terri Langford, Bobby Blanchard and Becca Aaronson have looked for other instances of tuition reimbursement in state government. Here's what they found:

"Of the $23.8 million state agencies spent from 2002 to part of January 2015 on tuition, conferences and other educational programs for employees, close to half went to TxDOT staffers, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office ... About $2.7 million of TxDOT’s tuition reimbursements paid for employee education at St. Edward's University in Austin, a private university. Beyer could not explain what was unique about St. Edward's offerings that the same curriculum could be had at a cheaper alternative like a public college or university."

•    The Dallas Morning News' Robert Garrett and Marissa Barnett have a report on House efforts to rein in the University of Texas System through restrictions on its budget. The move by the House comes after a high-profile impeachment investigation of UT Regent Wallace Hall, which ended with a rebuke against him but no action to remove him.

"House leaders, irked with the University of Texas System over its use of trust fund money, have proposed in their initial state budget to stop construction of the system’s $133 million headquarters building in downtown Austin. In a little-noticed provision, the House budget would bar use of state funds, including money from the Available University Fund, for the office tower until the system obtained approval from a key group of legislators who track the budget."

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott is in Edinburg to speak at an announcement of a grant from the United Health Foundation for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

•    Join us for a conversation with House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock at the Austin Club. We will livestream the event beginning at 8 a.m. for those unable to attend in person.

Trib Must-Reads

Bill Targets Toll Road's Power to Take Land, by Aman Batheja

State of Mind: Finding a Way to Cover the Uninsured, by Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn

Few Texas Hospitals Reap Bonuses for Performance, by Edgar Walters and Annie Daniel

Ben Carson's Campaign Chief Has a Colorful Career, by Abby Livingston

Legal Costs Add Up on Both Sides of Perry's Case, by Bobby Blanchard

With Change in Procedure, Senate Democrats Lose Clout, by Morgan Smith

Abbott Names New HHSC Watchdog, by Ryan McCrimmon

First Texas Execution of 2015 Carried Out, by Terri Langford

Elsewhere

Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers, Washington Post

Former 21CT lobbyist fires back against company embroiled in scandal, Austin American-Statesman

More layoffs coming to energy services sector, Houston Chronicle

Advocates, officials seek reform after fatal wreck of prison bus, El Paso Times

Odessa named most dangerous city in Texas, Midland Reporter-Telegram

Texans Rally to Give Charlie Wilson His Due, Roll Call

Quote to Note

"., this goes against everything Texas is supposed to stand for — How can I help?"

Glenn Beck, responding via Twitter to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk's push to change Texas law to allow him to sell his cars directly in the state

Today in TribTalk

Citizens United: 5 years later, by Sara E. Smith

News From Home

One of the issues our reporters will follow during the 84th legislative session is how lawmakers address reforming the process of how state contracts with private companies are handled. You can stay caught up on the session using our 84th Lege page.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Higher Ed: The Next Five Years on Jan. 26 at the Texas Tech University Alumni Center in Lubbock

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Adm. William McRaven, UT System Chancellor on Feb. 5 at The Austin Club

•    Houston & the Legislature: Previewing the 84th Session on Feb. 12 at the Wortham Center in Houston

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

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