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The Brief: June 25, 2015

Gov. Greg Abbott's emails, obtained by the Tribune through state transparency laws, show a governor who's seemingly more involved with policy than his predecessor, sometimes sending emails off to staffers with ideas late at night.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a Tax Day press conference on April 15, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The Tribune's Jay Root has three stories out on what we've learned from reading through some of Gov. Greg Abbott's emails.

The emails, obtained by the Tribune through state transparency laws, display a governor who will send policy ideas and directions to his staff — even late at night.

Here are some of the big takeaways:

In emails sent during his early days in office, Abbott comes off as far more interested in the nitty-gritty of state policy and the internal workings of government than what’s known of his predecessor, Rick Perry, a born delegator who generally let underlings fret about the minutiae of speech-making and letter-writing. 

It’s also apparent that Dave Carney, the former Perry hand who guided Abbott to a blowout victory last year over Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, is more involved in major policy discussions than many might think.

And while Abbott has taken a far more cautious and aloof approach to the news media than Perry did, the emails suggest he cares deeply about perceptions that Texans and his fellow elected officials have of him. ...

While Abbott’s office withheld many emails and heavily redacted others under a variety of asserted exemptions, the ones he did provide give rare insight into his day-to-day style of communicating with aides — often into the wee hours of the morning. And in some cases, they reveal policy ideas and views of the Legislature that haven't previously come to light.

Among those policy discussions were Abbott's prediction that lawmakers wouldn't follow through on his call for ethics reform — an admission he hadn't made public. In one email, he wrote that lawmakers will "prevent it from being brought up or overload it so much that it cannot become legislation."

And another revelation from the emails is that Tony Buzbee, who leads the team of Perry's criminal defense lawyers, asked Abbott's team to make him chairman or vice chairman of Texas A&M University System's governing board.

But Buzbee, who is a regent for the system, said in an interview Wednesday that he backed Regent Cliff Thomas for the post once he learned Abbott wanted regents to elect their leader.

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee was a major donor to The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must-Reads

UT/TT Poll: Texans Wary of Domestic Use of Military, by Ross Ramsey — Texas voters — especially conservative voters — are uneasy about domestic use of the U.S. military by the federal government, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

UT/TT Poll: Voters in Sync with Lawmakers — Sometimes, by Ross Ramsey — Texas voters are all for tax cuts, but not necessarily the same ones legislators prefer, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Some Convicted Felons Eligible for Food Stamps, by Liz Crampton — If they finish their sentences and comply with any terms of parole, Texans convicted on felony drug charges soon will be able to receive food stamps, though another strike will put them back under a lifetime ban.

Feds to Curtail Use of Family Detention Centers, by Alexa Ura — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Wednesday that families that enter the country illegally to seek asylum will no longer be detained after they’ve established a legitimate claim for relief.

Hitting "Washington Cartel," Cruz Conjures New Foil, by Patrick Svitek— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is opening a new front in his war of words against Washington, D.C., decrying a "Washington cartel" replete with corruption and cronyism.


With open carry, businesses will have to choose sides, Houston Chronicle

Small cracks form in GOP opposition to gay marriage, Austin American-Statesman

Harris County clerk making no plans for same-sex marriage licenses, Houston Chronicle

Nueces county clerk: Waiting for Texas AG instruction on same-sex marriages, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Bexar County ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, San Antonio Express-News

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa is running for re-election, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Texas Abortion Curbs Go Into Effect Soon, Unless Supreme Court Acts, NPR

Ted Cruz: Time to defeat 'Washington cartel,' Washington Times

Crime lab board gets new member: Anthony Graves, Houston Chronicle

Ivy Taylor calls for voter engagement, unity in historic inauguration, San Antonio Express-News

UT president wants panel to outline options for Confederate statues, Austin American-Statesman

Houston's sales tax revenues dip for first time in more than 4 years, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"Don't freak out. This is long. As in about 6500 words."

— Gov. Greg Abbott in an email he sent to his staff at 1:54 a.m. with a lengthy first draft of his State of the State speech. The email was among the dozens from the governor that the Tribune obtained under state open records laws.

News From Home

•   There are more than a dozen monuments, markers and statues that reference the Confederacy on the Texas Capitol grounds. Use our interactive map — first published in 2012 — to find them.

•   On this week's TribCast, Emily Ramshaw talks with Evan Smith, Ross Ramsey and Jim Henson about the contents of Gov. Greg Abbott's emails and Texas voters' perceptions on everything from presidential hopefuls to gay marriage and marijuana.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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