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The Brief: Sept. 25, 2015

The spotlight is shining now on a June ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that open government advocates fear will lead to much more information from government contracts being kept secret.

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The Big Conversation

The Tribune's Aman Batheja shines the spotlight on a June ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that open government advocates fear will lead to much more information from government contracts being kept secret.

“For followers of open government, it’s the biggest decision in recent memory simply because the exception is so broad,” said Bill Cobb, a former deputy in the Attorney General’s office. “I think it’s going to prevent a lot of information from being released.”

Joe Larsen, an open government attorney who also serves on the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, was even more blunt. “It’s one of the worst rulings to ever come out of the Texas Supreme Court,” he said.

At issue is a court case where, as Batheja writes, "justices ordered Paxton's office to block the release of some information contained in a lease between Boeing and the Port Authority of San Antonio because the aerospace manufacturer said making the details public could prove useful to Boeing’s competitors."

Since then, the attorney general's office has cited the decision three times in blocking disclosure of details from government contracts.

Batheja writes that the Boeing decision has caused uncertainty across state agencies on how best to comply with recently enacted legislation that was aimed at addressing allegations of corruption and cronyism in state contracting.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: A Name, But No Reputation, by Ross Ramsey – Change is hard, as the state's new land commissioner, George P. Bush, is finding out. It will take a while to find out whether it's necessary at the agency he took over in January.

Dip in Texas Prison Population Continues Trend, by Jolie McCullough – The number of men and women being held in Texas prisons fell by more than one percent in 2014, a slight dip that continues a downward trend aided by new diversion programs and a reluctance by state lawmakers to add more prison beds.

Study Says Concealed Carry Permits Don't Affect Crime, by Johnathan Silver – Supporters insist that allowing people to legally carry concealed handguns reduces crime, but that has not been the result in at least four states that have tried it, including Texas, according to a newly published academic study.

U.S. 281 Expansion Will Not Include Toll Lanes, by Madlin Mekelburg – There won't be any toll lanes included in the U.S. 281 expansion project through San Antonio following a Texas Transportation Commission vote Thursday.

Former Top Perry Staffer Joins Bush Campaign, by Patrick Svitek – Ray Sullivan, a former top staffer to former Gov. Rick Perry, announced Thursday he was joining the presidential campaign of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Elsewhere

Paxton bulks up legal defense teamHouston Chronicle

Open carry, school funding lauded and criticized by Texas lawmakersFort Worth Star-Telegram 

Longtime Perry backer jumps to Jeb BushSan Antonio Express-News 

Clarification sought on open guns near schools, Austin American-Statesman

Abbott sees electorate craving outsider, San Antonio Express-News 

Texas police department driving seized Corvette Z06 named 'Coptimus Prime' with ties to cartel, San Antonio Express-News

Harris Health slashes eligibility for subsidized care; will encourage Obamacare enrollment, Houston Chronicle

Oust Speaker John Boehner, Houston Republicans Tell Lawmakers, Bloomberg

Dallas County DA Susan Hawk: “I welcome the opportunity to prove my ability to do my job," The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“On this continent, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is that not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

 Pope Francis, talking about immigration during his historic address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday

Today in TribTalk

The Audacity of the Pope, by Rafael Anchia – Too often, politicians use religion to demonize certain ideas or people, but ignore what Pope Francis asks us to do, “protecting the vulnerable” and “committing ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.”

News From Home

•    The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. Jay Root and Ben Philpott take a look at how the debate over immigration is playing out in the Republican Presidential primary, with perspective from Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation on The Environment: The Next Five Years on Sept. 28 in Corpus Christi

•    A Conversation on Criminal Justice: The Next Five Years on Oct. 6 in Huntsville

•    A Conversation on God & Governing on Oct. 7 in Austin

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

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