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The Brief: April 27, 2015

There was more fallout late last week from the Southern Methodist University-led research study that linked wastewater injection wells to a swarm of earthquakes near Reno and Azle in late 2013 and early 2014.

Texas Railroad Commission lead engineering technician for districts 1 and 2, Michael Polasek, inspects a salt water disposal injection well at a Heckman Water Resources commercial disposal facility on the LAMZA lease near Highway 80, January 22, 2012.

* Correction appended

The Big Conversation

There was more fallout late last week from the Southern Methodist University-led research study that linked wastewater injection wells to a swarm of earthquakes near Reno and Azle in late 2013 and early 2014.

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Max B. Baker reported, the Railroad Commission is considering shutting down a couple of wells that the report identified as likely causing the earthquakes. The companies operating those wells will appear before the commission in June to give reasons why their wells shouldn't be shut down.

The commission adopted rules last year to stop a well if it is causing seismic activity. Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick told the Star-Telegram, "In light of SMU’s study linking disposal well activity to earthquakes in 2013, it is important to assess this new information in relation to the continued operational safety of the wells.”

Baker also reported that the House Energy Resources Committee will hold a hearing next Monday on the issue. Panel Chairman Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said, “Those studies indicate there is [a connection]. I’m not a scientist. I’m going to let the data drive the discussion.”

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

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Legislative Overtime? Look to the Courts, by Ross Ramsey — If the Texas Legislature has to come back for special sessions after its current session ends, it might not be because state lawmakers left something unresolved. It might trace back to election lawsuits pending in federal courts.

Ethics Watchdogs Question Fraser's Energy Holdings, by Jay Root and Jim Malewitz — As the Texas Legislature ponders ethics reforms to increase transparency and reduce conflicts of interests among its members, a key state lawmaker is facing new questions about whether his private business affairs are impacting his public duties.

Guardianship Reform Could Offer New Freedoms, by Terri Langford — Dawn Carlton is intellectually disabled, but she says she manages fine on her own. The 38-year-old woman is pushing for a series of bills this legislative session to change the way court-appointed guardians are used in Texas.

Cruz, Perry Deliver Fiery Appeals to Jewish Donors, by Patrick Svitek — The two White House hopefuls from Texas made fiery appeals Saturday to a well-heeled crowd at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Texas House GOP Caucus Endorses Sales Tax Cuts, by Ross Ramsey — With the Texas House set to vote on tax cuts, almost all of the Republicans in that chamber — 90 of 98 — signed a letter released Saturday endorsing sales tax cuts over the property tax cuts favored by the Texas Senate.

Pacific Trade Deal Scrambles Texas Delegation, by Abby Livingston — Texans in Congress are trying to balance party loyalties, distrust of the president and the interests of their districts as they decide whether to give President Obama fast-track authority on a Pacific Rim trade deal.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 2 p.m. The House is expected to debate HB 15 by John Otto, R-Dayton, that seeks to overhaul state contracting practices. One idea is to create a new team at the Legislative Budget Board to assist agencies in managing large contracts.

•    House Elections meets on final adjournment where they will take up several bills authorizing online voter registration (E1.026). In House Human Services, members will take up the Health and Human Services Commission sunset bill (E2.030).

•    Senate State Affairs meets at 9 a.m. Up for consideration is SB 575 by Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, preventing health plans offered under the health exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act from covering elective abortion, except in case of a medical emergency. Also up for consideration is ethics legislation by Kirk Watson, D-Austin, lowering to $50 the threshold for a lobbyist to provide a detailed report on money spent on an official for food and drink (Senate Chamber).

•    Early voting begins for the May 9 municipal elections in San Antonio. Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and former state Rep. Mike Villarreal are in a field of 14 seeking to become mayor.


Texas voter ID law to be heard by federal appeals court, Austin American-Statesman

Texas immigration bills imperiled by time constraints, friction within GOP, The Dallas Morning News

Texas communities join forces to protect military bases, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Sex offender program housing crisis worsens, Houston Chronicle

GOP donors shoveling cash into Hurd’s campaign, San Antonio Express-News

Jeb Bush tells his donors they’ve helped make history, The Washington Post

GOP faithful flock to Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum, The Dallas Morning News

A last hope for Texas tracks?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Flawed numbers mask scope of Texas’ prescription drug problem, Austin American-Statesman

Records show controversial contract cost state more, produced less, Houston Chronicle

Reality show to paint Terlingua as outpost of edgy outliers, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“We just don’t have the time in 140 days to deal with the big-ticket issues and also pander to a small percentage of movement conservatives.”

— State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, saying that he would rather have the Legislature address roads and taxes rather than immigration legislation

Today in TribTalk

Level the playing field for Texas liquor stores, by Brian Birdwell — The alcohol industry is of no specific concern to me, but I know a bad law when I see it. The Legislature has no business suppressing anyone's right to compete in the free market.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Rep. Sylvester Turner on April 30 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With HUD Secretary Julián Castro on May 1 at The Austin Club

•    A One-Day Symposium on Health Care on May 4 at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin

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

•    A Conversation About Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Legislators 2015 on June 18 at The Austin Club

Correction: An original version of this story misidentified the committee holding the seismic activity hearing next week.

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