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The Brief: June 17, 2015

State Rep. Jim Keffer's announcement that he's leaving the Legislature leaves only three members of the 2009 group that elevated Joe Straus to his current role as House speaker.

State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, talks about the Eagle Ford Shale report at a Captiol press conference on March 12, 2013.

The Big Conversation

The original group that elevated House Speaker Joe Straus to his current position — angering some fellow Republicans along the way — is now down to three.

That's because state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, won't run for re-election next year after serving 10 terms. Already, Keffer was facing a challenge from the right, and his departure could bring more candidates into a Republican primary to replace him.

The Tribune's Ross Ramsey has more on Keffer's announcement:

His departure leaves only three members of the original Polo Road Gang — the 11 Republicans who met privately at state Rep. Byron Cook’s house on Polo Road in Austin before the 2009 legislative session to decide who they would unite behind in the race for speaker of the House. The 2008 elections left the House split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, destabilizing then-Speaker Tom Craddick’s coalition and setting the stage for a change in leadership. The 11 Republicans chose Straus, picked up some other Republicans and a majority of Democrats, and elected him that January.

Now, only Straus, Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Cook remain in office.

That successful effort to put Straus in office also raised the ire of some Republicans, who have been gunning for control of the House ever since.

Keffer wasn't the only one facing a primary challenge, as Cook and Geren are facing challengers, as well.

Trib Must-Reads

More Judges Sought for Growing Immigration Backlog, by Julián Aguilar — The backlog of immigration cases from Texas has grown almost 60 percent in two years. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, is trying to get Congress to cough up funding for 55 more immigration judges and staff to help overloaded courts across the country.

Amid Veto Period, Lobbyists Keep Working Abbott, by Polo Rocha — The legislative session may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s vacation time for many of the Capitol’s lobbyists. With a Sunday deadline for Gov. Greg Abbott to veto legislation, some of them are still making a last-ditch effort to kill bills.

Both Sides in Hall, UT Fight Dig in Their Heels, by Matthew Watkins — If Regent Wallace Hall does end up suing the UT System for access to records he has been denied, the litigation could produce a remarkably tangled web of obligations, loyalties and conflicts.

Abbott Signs Bill to Limit Pollution Lawsuits, by Jim Malewitz — Gov. Greg Abbott has signed legislation that could make it tougher for local governments to sue big-time polluters – an effort that largely targets Harris County prosecutors.  

Massengale to Challenge Lehrmann for Supreme Court Seat, by Ross Ramsey — Houston appeals court judge Michael Massengale said Tuesday he will challenge Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann in next year’s Republican primary.

Texas, Petroleum Industry Broaden Suits Against Denton, by Jim Malewitz — The Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state’s General Land Office have expanded the scope of their lawsuits against Denton. Both are taking aim at the city’s moratorium on new gas drilling in addition to the toothless fracking ban still on its books.

UT Launches Broad Inquiry Into Athletes' Academics, by Matthew Watkins — The University of Texas at Austin has launched a broad investigation into the academics of its athletes after allegations that three of its basketball players cheated in recent years.

The Day Ahead

•    Texas Monthly releases its list of the best and worst legislators of the 84th legislative session at 11 a.m.


Hundreds of bills await Abbott action by Sunday deadline, San Antonio Express-News

Is Texas spending $800M to create its own border patrol?, The Associated Press

Despite DPS claims, Border Patrol says it wasn’t a partner in surge, Austin American-Statesman

Clinton, Cruz top Facebook interactions for 2016 launches, Politico

Rick Perry to speak at Family Leader Summit, Des Moines Register

Dallas County judge: Courts need more security after DPD attack, The Dallas Morning News

Bill reminiscent of tropical storms Allison, Hermine that lashed Texas, Austin American-Statesman

Abbott signs windstorm reform bill into law, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Prosecutors outline case against Phoenix man in Texas attack, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

"It isn't just 140 days and then they go."

— John Fainter of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas on how lobbyists stick around once the legislative session closes to try to lobby the governor's office on potential vetoes or bill signings.

Today in TribTalk

84th session a mixed bag for schools, but there's hope, by Juan Cabrera — The 84th legislative session was a mixed bag for the El Paso Independent School District and others like it. But we have hope for 2017.

News From Home

•    The Tribune's Government Salaries Explorer has three new additions: the city of San Antonio, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Texas at Dallas.

•    During the 84th legislative session, lawmakers passed open carry and campus carry legislation and voted to make cannabis oil available to epilepsy patients. Find more details on these and other law and order issues on the Texas Legislative Guide.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    A Conversation About Health Care and the 84th Legislature on June 24 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio

•    A Conversation About Houston and the 84th Legislature on June 29 at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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