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The Brief: March 20, 2015

The Obama administration is poised to become more actively involved in the debate over hydraulic fracturing by issuing new federal regulations on the practice today.

Jonathan Jones, Field Supervisor for Water Rescue Services, holding partially cleaned fracking waste water.

The Big Conversation

The Obama Administration is poised to become more actively involved in the debate over hydraulic fracturing by issuing new federal regulations on the practice today.

The Houston Chronicle's Jennifer Dlouhy reported that the rule, which would require disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process, among other things, would apply just to federal lands and Indian lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. But administration officials hope the regulation will serve as a guideline for the industry to follow elsewhere.

Still, the regulation is being seen initially as not going far enough for environmentalists and going too far for industry interests. For instance, Dlouhy writes that the disclosure of fracking chemicals will be made in an industry-backed database called FracFocus, which is not in a format that lends itself to easy analysis.

Trib Must-Reads

Rural Hospitals Struggle to Keep Their Doors Open, by Edgar Walters — Policymakers must decide whether to spend more money on small hospitals serving a limited number of patients that, in most cases, cannot keep their doors open without government assistance. But without them people, inevitably, will die.

Houston Suburb Looks to Bill for Water Fix, by Neena Satija and Alexa Ura — Residents of a small, unincorporated community outside Houston hope legislation by state Rep. Armando Walle will help them get safe, reliable water service, and shine a light on parts of Texas with similar problems.

Analysis: Uncertainty in Gov. Abbott's First Session, by Ross Ramsey — Rick Perry, after all of those years as governor, was pretty predictable. With Gov. Greg Abbott two months into his new job, there is a fresh vibe at the state Capitol: uncertainty. The next 10 weeks should be telling.

Texas Lawmakers Consider "Parent Trigger" Schools Law, by Morgan Smith — Hoping to prompt quicker turnarounds at struggling schools, Texas lawmakers are considering a controversial policy that would let parents petition the state to make changes at their kids' campuses.

Supplemental Budget Would Cost $433 Million, House Members Learn, by Aman Batheja — House budget writers intend to add $433 million to the current two-year budget with a supplemental bill laid out Thursday, though some lawmakers expressed concern with plans for millions in leftover funds from some state health programs.

Contracting Reform Bill Sails Out of Senate Committee, by Edgar Walters — Amid an ongoing scandal over how the state awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a private company, the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved Senate Bill 20, which would overhaul the state’s contracting processes.

Case of "San Antonio Four" Set to Enter its Final Act, by Maurice Chammah, The Marshall Project — Four San Antonio women were convicted of molesting two girls in the 1990s, but one of the girls has since said they were coerced to make false accusations. The women's case is getting a new look.


Irving City Council backs state bill Muslims say targets them, The Dallas Morning News

Federal judge upbraids government lawyers, raises specter of sanctions, San Antonio Express-News

When oil's the topic, Senate talk is light and sweet, Houston Chronicle

State conducts first-of-its-kind audit of Dallas County DA’s office, The Dallas Morning News

Super PAC Men: How Political Consultants Took a Texas Oilman on a Wild Ride, ProPublica

Meet the top politicians, mega-donors who mingled at secretive conference, Center for Public Integrity

Cruz Wants to Upend Laws on Contraception, Gay Rights, Washington Post

Rick Perry: Still the Strongest Campaigner Around, U.S. News & World Report

Quote to Note

“What you have here is a pretty classic case of the sort of problems one can run into when they’re not familiar with politics and arrive with a pot of money.”

— Former Republican FEC chairman Trevor Potter on the implosion of a super PAC, Vote2ReduceDebt, amid allegations of fraud

Today in TribTalk

The numbers behind the local control debate, by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank — Critics have called some Republicans' swift turn against local control an opportunistic reaction to the Denton fracking ban. But the pushback has a foundation in public opinion.

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

•    Transportation: The Next Five Years on April 10 at Austin College in Sherman

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

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Armando Walle Greg Abbott Rick Perry Ted Cruz