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The Brief: March 17, 2015

Oil prices are falling again with worries growing anew that the price per barrel might dip below $40.

An oil pump.

The Big Conversation

Oil prices are falling again with worries growing anew that the price per barrel might dip below $40.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell to $43.88 per barrel, its lowest price in six years, reported Collin Eaton and Robert Grattan of the Houston Chronicle.

Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, told the Chronicle, "There are a lot of people looking for oil with a 3-handle on it. We're not that far away from it."

Traders were focusing on the possibility that Iran might soon ramp up production, leading to a global supply glut.

Eaton and Grattan also reported that the amount of U.S. oil in storage has hit 449 million barrels, a number not seen since 1982.

IHS's Daniel Yergin told the Chronicle"What we've seen in these low prices is the reality of the very high inventories. The markets were kind of wishing them away."

Trib Must-Reads

Deregulating Tuition Slowed Increase, Universities Say, by Ryan McCrimmon and Bobby Blanchard — Lawmakers riled up by higher education costs want to regain their control of setting tuition at state colleges and universities.

Denton Fracking Ban Tees Up Local Control Fight, by Jim Malewitz — Plenty of lawmakers are siding with the oil industry in response to Denton's vote to ban fracking inside city limits.

In Texas, a Focused Jeb Bush Stood Out From the Crowd, by Ryan McCrimmon — As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gears up for an expected presidential run, longtime friends and colleagues say the native Texan always had the aura of political potential hanging over him.

Texas A&M University to Seek 2016 Presidential Debate, by Patrick Svitek — Texas A&M University is finalizing its application to host a 2016 presidential or vice presidential debate.

Double-Dipping Ban Sails Out of Committee, by Jay Root — Longtime elected officials would no longer be able to use an obscure perk to boost their take-home pay under a bill that sailed out of a House committee Monday.

Perry and Cruz Deploy Differing Styles in New Hampshire, by Abby Livingston — Both Rick Perry and Ted Cruz are showing New Hampshire voters that they are willing to brave icy weather to travel across the state and get their messages to voters.

Texas Senate Approves Open Carry of Handguns, by Morgan Smith — A bill lifting some of the state's restrictions on handguns passed easily on a 20-11 vote after repeated Democratic efforts to amend it were defeated.

Sanctuary Cities Bill Back in Play in Senate, by Julián Aguilar — After taking a backseat in 2013, legislation to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that don't use local police to enforce federal immigration laws is under debate before a Senate subcommittee.

Bill Moving Integrity Unit to AG Office is Senate-Bound, by Terri Langford — A measure that would yank the state's public corruption-fighting unit out of the Travis County district attorney's office and stick it in the Texas attorney general's office is headed for the full Senate.

Paul Opens Austin Office Ahead of Likely 2016 Run, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Monday opened the Austin outpost of his likely 2016 presidential campaign.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m. A day after giving tentative approval to an open carry bill, the Senate could take up a campus carry bill — SB 11 authored by 19 Senate Republicans.

•    House Homeland Security & Public Safety meets at 8 a.m. to consider an open carry bill — HB 910 by Larry Phillips, R-Sherman — and a campus carry bill — HB 937 by Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress (E2.014).

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to consider a constitutional amendment and accompanying legislation — SB 9 and SJR 2 — by Kelly Hancock, R-N. Richland Hills, that would limit the growth of all areas of the budget to the rate of growth in the state's population plus the rate of inflation (E1.036).


Vegas on the Texas coast?, Beaumont Enterprise

Medical identity theft on the rise in Texas, nationally, The Dallas Morning News

Striking workers days away from returning to plants, Houston Chronicle

Niederwald-area water provider at center of well controversy, Austin American-Statesman

Hundreds rally at Capitol for education funds, reforms, Abilene Reporter News

Abbott asks feds to back off proposed smog rules, Austin American-Statesman

Parkland ready to run $50 million clinic in Dallas County Jail, The Dallas Morning News

Texas’ Cornyn at the center of controversy over trafficking bill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

"If you talk to Texans, they’ll always say, ‘I’m scared to death of Kay Granger.’ It is kind of funny. But there’s a seriousness to it. Absolutely.”

— U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, to Roll Call on a reputation for determination and hard work built up over an 18-year career in Congress

Today in TribTalk

The path forward for pre-K, by Eric Johnson

The true cost of campus carry, by Catherine Nance

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston on March 26 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Joe Pickett on April 7 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. John Zerwas on April 16 at The Austin Club

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Greg Abbott John Cornyn Kay Granger Rick Perry Ted Cruz