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The Brief: July 9, 2015

Colleges across Texas are boosting their efforts to address sexual assault, partly due to a new state law that aims to better inform students of campus policies and revamp policies if needed.

The University of Texas at Austin.

The Big Conversation

Colleges across Texas are boosting their efforts to address sexual assault, hoping to prevent incidents but also to improve how they handle assaults that happen.

And as the Tribune's Matthew Watkins reports, it's partly due to a "combination of publicity, heightened scrutiny and a new state law" on the issue:

All Texas colleges and universities will now have to inform students of their sexual assault policies during freshman orientation, and review and update those policies every two years. And the University of Texas System is spending $1.7 million to conduct its biggest ever review of sexual assault on its campuses. ...

Federal oversight and enforcement has stepped up in recent years. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of schools at which it was conducting civil rights investigations into the handling of sexual violence. Two Texas universities were on that list of 55 – Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas-Pan American.

House Bill 699, which was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 19, attempts to supplement those efforts.

The UT System's $1.7 million in spending includes a survey that all of its students will have to take on the sexual assault climate at each school. And four of its campuses will be part of a more extensive study that will measure the impact of new policies, in part through following a group of students through their four years on campus.

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: Legislature Losing Some Key Players, by Ross Ramsey — It will be more than a year before we know everyone who is and is not coming back to the Texas Legislature, but the trickle has started, and some big players are leaving the field.

Texas Is Suing the EPA – Again, by Jim Malewitz and Neena Satija — Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday filed a lawsuit over the Environmental Protection Agency's rejection of parts of a Texas clean air program, launching the state’s second battle against EPA regulations in less than two weeks. 

State Sales Taxes Drop, Ending 62-Month Growth Streak, by Aman Batheja — Texas collected less state sales tax revenue in June than it did in the same month a year earlier, ending a remarkable 62-month streak of growth, Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Wednesday.

UT Review of Athlete Academics to Cost $200,000, by Matthew Watkins — Following allegations of cheating by men's basketball players, the University of Texas at Austin has finalized a contract with the firm of sports lawyer Gene Marsh to review the academic experience of Longhorn athletes.

Miller Defends Deep Fryers in Agriculture Address, by Liz Crampton — Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller defended his new nutrition policy Wednesday, praising his department's decision to "abolish outdated and unneeded state mandates" and allow schools to install deep fryers and soda machines. 

Hall is Asked to Leave Closed-Door UT Regents Meeting, by Matthew Watkins — University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall was asked to leave a closed-door regents meeting Wednesday in which his lawsuit against UT Chancellor William McRaven was discussed. The regents later voted to urge Hall to drop his lawsuit.

U.S. Rep. Hurd Reports Raising $458,000 in 2nd Quarter, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, had a healthy second-quarter campaign fundraising haul, reporting a total of $458,000 raised from April to June.

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott hosts the Mexican secretary of foreign affairs, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, at the governor's mansion.

Elsewhere

Cruz Mum as S.C. Chairmen Back Confederate Flag, RealClearPolitics

Rick Perry fires back at Trump: 'Hey Donald, I saw your tweet the other day,' Business Insider

Jade Helm 15, heavily scrutinized military exercise, to open without media access, The Washington Post

Abbott raises $8.25 million in nine days, San Antonio Express-News

Paxton expands business ties despite pledge to downsize them, Houston Chronicle

Fort Sam braces for cuts; Hood, Bliss to lose 4,500 G.I.s, San Antonio Express-News

Judge orders Homeland Security chief, others to court, The Associated Press

HUD chief Julián Castro announces rules to end housing segregation, San Antonio Express-News

Kennedy: How a small-town Texas judge accepted a mysterious Facebook friend, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

HBU turns to Supreme Court in "objectionable" contraceptive case, Houston Chronicle

New report: Texas still at risk of home price declines, The Dallas Morning News

Family of biker killed in Waco shootout files negligence suit in Dallas County, The Associated Press

In Dallas suburbs, protections for LGBT residents are a patchwork, The Dallas Morning News

U.S. Labor Department investigates Austin police over unpaid overtime, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"The problem we have is not serving healthy foods, but instead of having healthy children we have healthy trash cans."

— Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller at his annual State of Agriculture address, where he defended a new nutrition policy that removed a ban on deep fryers in schools

Today in TribTalk

The road out of Denton, by Jim Bradbury — Two years ago, a citizen-led effort to ban fracking in Denton sparked a dramatic series of legal and legislative twists and turns. With the ban now overturned, what have we learned?

News From Home

•    In this week's edition of the Trib+Health newsletter: Texas' physician shortage is fueled in part by too few residency slots, researchers figure out how to levitate cells and an interview with Namkee Choi of UT-Austin's School of Social Work.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

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