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The Brief: April 10, 2015

The question of whether Attorney General Ken Paxton will be charged in connection with his failure to register with the State Securities Board while soliciting clients for investment firms could now rest in the hands of the Texas Rangers.

Attorney General Ken Paxton, r, with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott during the press conference praising federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen's immigration ruling on Feb. 18, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The question of whether Attorney General Ken Paxton will be charged in connection with his failure to register with the State Securities Board while soliciting clients for investment firms could now rest in the hands of the Texas Rangers.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek reports that Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis asked for the Rangers' involvement on Thursday.

Svitek writes: "The move comes amid swirling questions around how Collin County prosecutors would handle the case, given the fact that Willis is a friend and business associate of Paxton's. The statement from Willis' office came a day after news reports that a Collin County grand jury was interested in Paxton's case."

This development comes about three months after the Travis County district attorney's office concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to bring charges and suggested that any potential prosecution happen in Collin and Dallas counties. Svitek noted that the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice called on Monday for a special prosecutor to investigate, citing the close relationship between Paxton and Willis.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Lawmakers Inconsistent on Debt and Domain, by Ross Ramsey — Lawmakers try to do what voters want, but nobody promised consistency. That's why you can get the same legislators to reduce debt and increase it on the same day, or to argue for and against eminent domain in the same hearing.

Universities Try Again on Construction Funding, by Matthew Watkins — In 2013, billions of dollars in bonds to pay for new campus buildings slipped through the grasp of state universities and colleges in the session's closing moments. Another bond package is now moving swiftly through the chambers, and university leaders hope not to repeat that fate.

Fort Hood Victims to be Awarded Purple Heart Medals, by Patrick Svitek — Texas' top elected officials are convening Friday at Fort Hood to help award Purple Heart medals to victims of the 2009 shooting there, the culmination of a years-long push to make them eligible for the decoration.

Local Government, School Lobbying in Ethics Crosshairs, by Jay Root — State politicians have made beating up on federal intrusion a cottage industry, but haven't hesitated to tell local governments what to do. On Thursday, local government representatives pushed back.

Lawmakers Skeptical of Body Cameras for Police, by Neena Satija — State Rep. Ron Reynolds made his case on Thursday for requiring cops in Texas to wear body cameras, citing the fatal police shooting of an unarmed man in South Carolina. But police advocates were skeptical.

Senate Passes Bill That Would Tighten Spending Cap, by Eva Hershaw — The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would tighten the state's constitutional spending cap and make it tougher for future legislatures to break it. Senate Bill 9, by Sen. Kelly Hancock, passed with a vote of 19-12.

Experts: Perry Camp Put Russian Ship in Web Video, by Abby Livingston — Rick Perry's political operatives have swapped out two seconds in a video touting the former Texas governor's military history. Experts told the Tribune they believed the warship in the original footage was Russian, not American.

Bettencourt Softens Bill to Limit Property Tax Growth, by Aman Batheja — State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, wants to make cities and counties ask voters for permission to enact tax rates that allow overall property tax revenue from existing homes and businesses to rise more than 6 percent.

Analysis: Something More Conservative Than Tax Cuts?, by Ross Ramsey — As the House and Senate engage in what state Sen. Kevin Eltife calls "a bidding war" over cuts to sales and property taxes, the Tyler Republican is sticking to his guns: He thinks lawmakers should look at neglected projects before they cut taxes.

Texas House Gives Final Approval to Pre-K Bill, by Patrick Svitek — The Texas House gave final approval Thursday to an early education bill backed by Gov. Greg Abbott, sending it to the upper chamber on a vote of 128-17.

House Passes Border Prosecution Unit Bill, by Julián Aguilar — The Texas House on Thursday passed legislation that would codify the current policies and duties of the state’s Border Prosecution Unit.

Researchers, Water Providers Launch Conservation Effort, by Jim Malewitz — With a third of Texans still facing drought conditions, a coalition of Texas universities and water providers has launched an $8 million effort to curb water use in cities.

Background Checks Drive Uber Debate, by Ryan McCrimmon — One week after an Uber driver in Houston was charged with sexually assaulting a passenger, a panel of Texas lawmakers on Thursday considered a bill critics say will open the door for more criminals to slip past driver background checks.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m. Members will welcome chamber alumni as part of Speaker's Reunion Day.

•    Gov. Greg Abbott will join members of the Texas congressional delegation at a 9 a.m. Purple Heart Medal Ceremony honoring the victims of the November 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting.

•    Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will moderate a panel discussion on transportation policy in Texas over the next five years. The noon event at Austin College in Sherman will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.


Texas Medical Board hears arguments on telemedicine rules, Austin American-Statesman

San Antonio, state join forces on Alamo plan, San Antonio Express-News

Cruz battles changing cultural attitudes on gay marriage, Houston Chronicle

D.C. outsider Ted Cruz looks inside the Beltway for campaign cash, The Washington Post

Julian Castro Is in VP Training Camp, The Daily Beast

Van de Putte has plenty of cash for mayoral race, San Antonio Express-News

Rawlings has raised far more cash than challenger in mayoral race, The Dallas Morning News

In Accepting Bitcoin, Rand Paul Raises Money and Questions, The New York Times

Quote to Note

“I think people who talk about re-election during the session should be shot.”

— State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, in a Thursday interview with the Tribune's Evan Smith. 'Nuff said.

Today in TribTalk

What "religious freedom" supporters aren't saying, by Joshua Houston — Supporters of proposed "religious freedom" measures in Texas say they only serve to strengthen existing law. But there's a lot they're not saying about these proposals.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    A Conversation With John Sharp on May 7 at The Austin Club

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Greg Abbott Julián Castro Kelly Hancock Ken Paxton Rick Perry Ron Reynolds Ted Cruz