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The Brief: Aug. 3, 2015

The felony fraud indictment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to be unveiled today.

TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaks at event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding impact of the EPA's Clean Power Plan on June 22, 2015

The Big Conversation

The felony fraud indictment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to be unveiled today. 

Paxton was indicted by a Collin County grand jury last week, but the charges will be made public today, according to news reports over the weekend citing unnamed sources. The indictment relates, in part, to alleged violations of securities laws in not telling investors he was making a commission when he encouraged them to invest in a company called Servergy Inc. 

But as the Tribune's Jay Root and Patrick Svitek report, Paxton has a "long history of controversial business deals":

Even before Paxton admitted he violated civil securities laws last year — or faced a subsequent criminal investigation this year — he had come under fire from watchdogs and political opponents for allegedly crossing ethical lines in his private businesses and failing to disclose all of his dealings on personal financial statements.

And the scrutiny hasn't been centered on Paxton's political activism but rather on his personal finances — everything from his interest in a company with a big state contract to allegations that he illegally peddled investments to unsuspecting clients and investors. ...

Paxton’s business record is about to draw a harsher spotlight than ever before, with an indictment expected to be unsealed Monday that alleges first-degree felony securities fraud. If he is convicted, the charge comes with a punishment of five to 99 years or life in prison.

Paxton is far from the first state official to be indicted, but the outcome of the trial is a "make-or-break" moment for Paxton, as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes.

The Houston Chronicle wrote Sunday that Texas' top Republicans "continued their radio silence" on Paxton's indictment. And the Dallas Morning News highlights past praise for Paxton from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has called Paxton his "good friend."

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: The Kind of Review That Precedes a Makeover, by Ross Ramsey — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants a special committee to review legislative agencies he co-chairs with House Speaker Joe Straus. It sounds a little weird at first, but could put him in position to remake some of those agencies.

Lawmakers Ditch $200 Fee for Lawyers, Doctors, Brokers, by Aman Batheja and Jeremy Lin — Fourteen years after lawmakers first tacked on a $200 annual licensing fee for some occupations, the so-called professionals tax will be repealed Sept. 1.

State College Aid Becoming Less Accessible for Middle Class, by Matthew Watkins and Jolie McCullough — Lawmakers have pumped millions into financial aid for low-income residents and are phasing out programs with less strict income requirements. Some higher education advocates wonder whether the middle class is being left out.

Utilities Hope Texas Plays Ball on Clean Air Plan, by Kiah Collier — After President Obama unveils the nitty-gritty of his sweeping, state-by-state plan to fight climate change, no one doubts Texas will sue. But some who will bear the brunt of complying with the new regulations are calling that knee-jerk reaction shortsighted.

Abbott Aides: "Magic Words" Used to Block Vetoes, by Ross Ramsey — In a lengthy legal memo to the state's comptroller, aides to Gov. Greg Abbott defend his budget vetoes and decry a legislative agency's challenge as a threat to constitutional separation of powers.

DPS Trooper Warned in 2014 of "Unprofessional Conduct," by Terri Langford — The Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman who was found hanged three days later in the Waller County Jail, was warned about his "unprofessional conduct" in 2014 while he was still a probationary trooper, according to his personnel file.

Law Enforcement Will Receive Training on Dog Encounters, by Liz Crampton — Due to a new law mandating training on canine encounters, all law enforcement officers — from sheriffs to park rangers to police — will spend at least four hours in a classroom and interacting with dogs in hopes of reducing unnecessary shootings.

A Few Deep Pockets Fuel Cruz, Perry Super PACs, by Patrick Svitek New filings show how just a few heavyweight financial backers are keeping former Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the money race by contributing millions apiece to the Super PACs backing their presidential candidacies.

Challenged Vetoes Leave $200 Million in Limbo, by Sophia Bollag — With varying degrees of concern, a smattering of government offices and institutions around the state are waiting to learn the fate of more than $200 million in funds that the governor might — or might not — have excised from the state budget.


Republicans keep quiet following Paxton indictment, The Dallas Morning News

Perry: I will end Iran deal and secure border on 1st day as president, Washington Examiner

'Cruz country' bus tour looks South, Politico

Fikac: Patrick vs. Trump on Facebook and beyond, San Antonio Express-News

Small donors draw big shares in Houston mayoral race, Houston Chronicle

Federal officials lose track of some immigrant families, Houston Chronicle

Bad credit score can double insurance premiums in Texas, The Dallas Morning News

Harris County to be first in nation with public-safety broadband network, Houston Chronicle

Added security features at Dallas police stations will cost $6.8 million, The Dallas Morning News

Go ahead and speed: Texas is a lenient state for reckless driving, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

UT-Dallas can't diversify faculty fast enough to keep up with student body, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“They’re cooking the books. They’re actually adjusting the numbers. Enron used to do their books the same way.”

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tells top conservative donors in a speech that there's no proof climate change is happening

Today in TribTalk

The key to conservation may lie in our language, by Ken Baake — Studying how Texans talk about water offers clues on how to promote conservation, especially in West Texas.

News From Home

•      Legislation related to abortion and gay marriage led to some contentious debates during the 84th legislative session. Use our Texas Legislative Guide to see what lawmakers decided on social issues this session.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•      The Texas Tribune's Trivia Night on Aug. 30 in Austin 

•      A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•      A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

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

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