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The Brief: Feb. 2, 2015

The weekend saw more lengthy stories on problems in the way the state contracts out services.

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The Big Conversation

The weekend saw more lengthy stories on problems in the way the state contracts out services.

The Tribune's Aman Batheja had a lengthy rundown on problematic contracts dating back to the early 1990s with an $11 million contract signed by the attorney general's office with Andersen Consulting — which later changed its name to Accenture — to computerize the state's child-support payments system.

"By 1997, the deal with Andersen Consulting had ballooned to more than $68 million and was three years behind schedule. A state audit found the company deserved its fair share of the blame for overpromising and underperforming. ... 'My observation over the years is we have often entered into contracts that may not have been in the best interest of the state, and we try to overcome it by managing them poorly,' said Carl Isett, a Republican state representative from Lubbock from 1997 to 2010 who worked on contracting issues and is now a lobbyist. 'It’s just the recurring theme.'”

And the Austin American-Statesman's J. David McSwane turns attention again to how the Austin technology firm 21CT won a no-bid Medicaid fraud detection contract.

"But an analysis of contract documents, state purchasing data, the timeline of events and interviews with several state officials confirm that no matter how the story is spun, the company’s $20 million deal and a pending $90 million extension — canceled late last year after an American-Statesman investigation into the deal — skirted the rules and bypassed any real competition. ... Yet despite all the questions surrounding 21CT’s deals, state officials say they might be perfectly legal, due to ambiguities and loopholes in Texas’ complex and fragmented contracting processes."

Disclosure: Accenture is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Day Ahead

•    The House and Senate convene at 2 p.m.

•    Senate Finance meets at 10 a.m. to hear a presentation from the comptroller's office on the biennial revenue estimate and to lay out the portion of the budget dealing with the judiciary (E1.036)

•    Gov. Greg Abbott signs at noon a proclamation in the state Capitol marking today as Chris Kyle Day.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Lobbyists Can Split Tabs, Hide Names, by Ross Ramsey

Lawmakers Want to Expand Worker Screening, by Julián Aguilar

Abbott Debates Common Core Standards on Fox News, by Alana Rocha

Rand Paul is Making His Play for Texas, by Abby Livingston

Legislation Would Let Electric Generators Get Bigger, by Jim Malewitz

Elsewhere

Lawmakers look to Abbott to lead on ethics reform, San Antonio Express-News

More steak dinner scrutiny for Texas lawmakers could be on the way, Austin American-Statesman

Abuse still present at Texas juvenile correctional facilities, The Monitor

Tea Party ready to advise Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Joaquin Castro lands funds, rhetorical punches in L.A., San Antonio Express-News

Cost of Care: The U.S. health care system is bleeding green, The Dallas Morning News

Texas founding father Navarro finally gets his due in Austin, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

“We reduced it with $7 billion a year, and folks didn’t notice it. They’re talking about $1.5 billion a year. How do you make that more visible than $7 billion? That’s a very pressing question for members.”

Dale Craymer, president of the business-based Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, on the challenge facing lawmakers in passing tax cuts "that taxpayers will actually see and feel.”

Today in TribTalk

A plea for decency, not bigotry, by Huma Munir

News From Home

As our reporters follow bills on key social issues during the 84th legislative session, they'll keep you updated on gay rights legislation. Stay caught up during the session with our 84th Lege page.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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

•    Immigration: The Next Five Years on Feb. 27 at at the University of Texas at Brownsville

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

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