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The Brief: Aug. 26, 2015

An ongoing confrontation between the Texas Racing Commission and the Legislature over the agency's decision to introduce a new form of gambling on past races escalated sharply on Tuesday.

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The Big Conversation

An ongoing confrontation between the Texas Racing Commission and the Legislature over the agency's decision to introduce a new form of gambling on past races escalated sharply on Tuesday.

At an agency meeting, the commissioners decided on a 4-3-1 vote not to repeal historical racing, the Tribune's Sophia Bollag reported. The vote was an open rebuff to lawmakers who are poised to yank funding for the commission should it not rescind authorization for the new type of game, which has gamblers bet on past races that have had identifying information removed.

Racetracks have clamored for additional sources of revenue to help preserve a sport that has fallen on hard times in Texas. Lawmakers, though, assert that the commission overstepped its authority in authorizing historical racing.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, was singled out for criticism by some in the horse racing industry during public comments at Tuesday's hearing, the Austin American-Statesman's Tim Eaton reported. That drew a sharp rebuke late Tuesday afternoon from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

"I was shocked, as were members of the Senate, at the inappropriate tone and language of today's hearing," Patrick said in a statement distributed to the press. "The Racing Commission owes Senator Nelson, and members of the Senate, an apology."

The path forward for the agency that oversees the racing industry in Texas is now unclear. Without legislative authorization, the agency could be without money next week. And that could have immediate consequences for the racing industry.

The Houston Chronicle's Brian Rosenthal writes, "Under state law, tracks cannot hold races that are not attended by commission staff, so closing the agency is expected to shutter the industry."

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Reasserting Power, by Concentrating It, by Ross Ramsey — An open-seat endorsement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick could strengthen a conservative core in the Texas Senate, and with it Patrick's position in the Legislature and the Legislature's position in state government.

Border Shelter for Female Veterans Hits a Roadblock, by Julián Aguilar — Retired Lt. Col. Hope Jackson's efforts to open a shelter for homeless female veterans in El Paso hit a snag when she lost out on a contract with the local veterans administration. She argues that's a sign that the unique needs of female veterans are not being met.

Setbacks Pile Up as Perry Campaign Looks to Regroup, by Patrick Svitek — Over the past month, former Gov. Rick Perry has been dealt a series of stinging setbacks that have hobbled his presidential prospects, throwing into question how far he can make it in the 2016 race.

Former Cancer Agency Official Found Not Guilty, by Edgar Walters — A former high-ranking official with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas was found not guilty Tuesday by a 12-member jury in Austin. He had been accused of deceiving colleagues in order to secure an $11 million grant for a biotechnology firm.

Mexican Government Files Brief in Birth Certificate Case, by Julián Aguilar — The denial of birth certificates to U.S. citizen children born to immigrant parents not only jeopardizes their dignity and well-being, but could threaten the unique relationship between Mexico and Texas, the Mexican government said in a brief filed Monday.

Today's 31 Days, 31 Ways Story

Employee Outsourcing Firms Get Tax Break, by Jay Root — A politically connected group of businesses will soon be getting a tax break, but all the other employers in Texas will have to pay for it through slightly higher unemployment insurance tax rates.

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott presents at the Governor’s Mansion the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL whose actions in Iraq inspired the American Sniper book and movie, and WW II combat pilot Ed Dyess, for whom the Air Force base in Abilene is named.

•    The 2015 Texas Association of Counties Legislative Conference kicks off its three-day meeting in Austin.


Dallas County DA Susan Hawk taking 4-week leave to battle depression, The Dallas Morning News

Rick Perry 2016: Doomed?, Politico

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State asks judge to cancel contempt hearing, San Antonio Express-News

Some judges stop officiating marriages after same-sex ruling, Houston Chronicle

Bexar County Sheriff tackles challenging mental health problems, San Antonio Express-News

Education commissioner lifts closure threat from Eastside Memorial, Austin American-Statesman

Iconic Houston surgeon Dr. 'Red' Duke dies, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"People are drawn to him because he has the rare ability to put a complicated subject into simple terms everyone can understand. But don't let him fool you. He is a world-class surgeon trapped in a Texan's body."

— U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, in a 2012 tribute to James "Red" Duke Jr., the iconic Houston doctor who passed away Tuesday at the age of 86

Today in TribTalk

4 myths about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on Houston, by Stephen L. Klineberg — Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, survey findings have called into question what we thought we knew about Houston's responses to the storm victims.

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: A 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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