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The Brief: Aug. 24, 2015

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz will help lead a 50-state campaign to build a groundswell for cutting off taxpayer support to Planned Parenthood.

Ted Cruz announces he's running for president at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on March 23, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz will help lead a 50-state campaign to build a groundswell for cutting off taxpayer support to Planned Parenthood.

The plan is to launch efforts in every congressional district beginning at the close of August, reported the Post's Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger. More than 100,000 pastors have received email invites to take part in conference calls with Cruz on Tuesday.

The effort comes in the context of the contest among a half-dozen or so of the 2016 GOP candidates to win over social conservatives, dubbed by Cruz as "the evangelical bracket."

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek has a report on Cruz's appearance Friday in Des Moines at a rally for evangelicals in which he brought the rhetorical fire in his bid to claim their support.

And Cruz is relying on a mobilize the faithful strategy in building his power base in Iowa ahead of the first caucus in next year's presidential nominating contests.

"Cruz is already recruiting pastors in all of Iowa's 99 counties to handle outreach to faith communities," Svitek writes. "And he is zeroing in on the state's conservative power-brokers as they whittle down their choices for 2016 — an effort that paid off this week when he secured the endorsement of Steve Deace, an influential radio host who helped moderate parts of the religious freedom rally."

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must-Reads

For Now, Texas Economy Shrugs Off Low Oil Prices, by Jim Malewitz — A barrel of West Texas crude is selling for near $40 these days, a roughly 60 percent plunge from the roaring summer of 2014. Drilling communities are worried, but state officials aren't sweating.

After Student Death, Texas Tech Overhauls Greek Life, by Ally Mutnick — Almost a year after an alcohol-related student death and a fraternity party that featured offensive sexual decorations, Texas Tech University is boosting its oversight of fraternities and sororities ahead of the fall recruitment period.

Defendant Pleads Guilty in Webb County Water Trial, by Neena Satija — On the fourth day of a criminal trial involving undrinkable water in two border communities, one of the two defendants pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

Renewed Immigration Debate Follows Cruz to Iowa State Fair, by Patrick Svitek — The new immigration debate sparked by Donald Trump showed up in many forms Friday as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz visited the Iowa State Fair.

Patrick Endorses Six GOP Senators for Re-Election, by Ross Ramsey — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, abandoning a decision to stay out of legislative primaries, endorsed a half-dozen Republican senators for re-election on Friday, saying he changed his mind because he wants his incumbent senators back for another session.

Today's 31 Days, 31 Ways Story

Budget Cuts Hit Film, Video Game Incentive Fund, by Kiah Collier — State lawmakers inflicted deep cuts on the incentive program Texas uses to lure film, television and video game productions to the state. Now, industry advocates say Texas-based productions — like the critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights — will be scarcer.

Law Could Bring Remote Doctor Visits to Schools, by Alana Rocha, Justin Dehn and Edgar Walters — A new law will allow physicians to get paid for seeing children over a sophisticated form of video chat, as long as the patient is at school and enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

New Law to Provide Protections for Breast-Feeding Moms, by Alexa Ura and Justin Dehn — As of Sept. 1, public employees — including state and county workers and public school teachers — will be guaranteed “reasonable accommodations” to pump breast milk in the workplace.

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott will visit Zavala Elementary School in Austin for the first day of classes of the new school year.

Elsewhere

Cruz, Perry scrambling for support in Iowa, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Cruz outshines Bush at Americans for Prosperity summit, The Associated Press

Paxton's role in Hunt family probate case called ill-defined and unorthodox, Houston Chronicle

Ken Paxton’s defense of faith as a guiding principle, Austin American-Statesman

DA Susan Hawk’s nearly 3-week absence creates buzz at courthouse, The Dallas Morning News

Judge orders U.S. to release immigrant mothers, kids, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Audit promps federal investigation at UTMB, Houston Chronicle

State law takes aim at cities’ and counties’ gun bans, The Dallas Morning News

Disease response highlights Texas’ claim to own deer, even captive ones, San Antonio Express-News

Hurricane Katrina 10 years later: New Orleans church found home in Texas, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“We’re at a crossroads in our country. Ted Cruz is the man who God has prepared for this moment in time to be our champion, to fight for our husbands, our wives, our children and our grandchildren, for our country.”

Matt Schultz, Iowa campaign chairman for Ted Cruz, suggesting to a crowd of evangelicals in Des Moines on Friday that the candidate was chosen by God to lead

Today in TribTalk

Texas GOP primed for Trump-Cruz showdown, by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank — Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s approaches to the 2016 Republican presidential race are increasingly demonstrating the political payoff of evoking grievances powerfully felt in the most conservative corners of the Republican primary electorate.

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

•      The Ticket Live Recording and GOP Primary Debate Watch Party on Sept. 16 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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