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The Brief: Oct. 7, 2015

The Tribune's latest investigative project — a documentary-style series called "God & Governing" — kicks off this morning with a focus on the role of religious beliefs on state lawmakers.

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The Big Conversation

The Tribune's latest investigative project — a documentary-style series called "God & Governing" — kicks off this morning.

As the title implies, the project's focus is on the influence of religious beliefs on state lawmakers, as exemplified in many of the policy debates from this year's legislative session. In the first installment of the five-part series, lawmakers show little hesitation invoking their beliefs in defending their policymaking decisions.

“During the last legislative session, religion infused heated debates on gun control, gay marriage and abortion — issues that consumed much of lawmakers’ time," the Tribune's Alana Rocha narrates. "That’s despite the fact that just 3 percent of Texans consider them the most important issues facing the state.”

Over the next few days, the series highlights in turn how religious beliefs colored the debate on many of the year's hot-button issues — from open carry and campus carry to abortion and the death penalty to same-sex marriage, abstinence education and school vouchers.

The stories are told to a large extent in the lawmakers' own words. Tribune reporters interviewed nearly two dozen state lawmakers in order to explore how their beliefs drive their policy decisions.

Trib Must Reads

Uber, Lyft Shun Fingerprint Requirements for Drivers, by Aman Batheja – As cities worldwide struggle to balance the fast growth of vehicle-for-hire apps with traditional taxi services, three Texas markets are providing a test of the regulatory breaking points for Uber and Lyft. Fingerprinting drivers can be a deal-breaker.   

Jindal Accuses Cruz of Enabling Trump in Political Play, by Patrick Svitek – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says GOP presidential opponent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has "enabled" frontrunner Donald Trump by failing to call him out for his liberal positions.

State Ups Passing Standards on School STAAR Exams, by Kiah Collier – It will get harder for Texas public school students to pass standardized tests this year, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced Tuesday, but the state will ease into the tougher passing standards more slowly than originally planned.

Denton Announces Renewable Energy Plan, by Eleanor Dearman – Denton announced a lofty plan Tuesday that aims to make the North Texas city one of the cleanest energy providers in the state.

Weber Stepping Down as Head of TxDOT, by Aman Batheja – Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Joe Weber announced Tuesday that he will step down from the position after 18 months at the job.

The Day Ahead

•    Tribune Editor Emily Ramshaw moderates a discussion beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the role Texas lawmakers' personal religious beliefs play in their legislative decision-making in combination with the Tribune's "God & Governing" project. This event feature state Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Celia Israel, D-Austin, David Simpson, R-Longview, and James White, R-Woodville. The event takes place at the LBJ Presidential Library on the UT-Austin campus. The event will be streamed live on the Tribune's website for those not able to attend in person.

Elsewhere

Same-sex common-law marriage a Texas firstAustin American-Statesman

Houston robber dies in Texas' 11th execution of the yearHouston Chronicle

Education secretary: Access to broadband, devices essential to nation’s classrooms, San Antonio Express-News

Gail Collins: How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us, The New York Review of Books

Central Texas congressional Republicans are mum on speaker preferenceAustin American-Statesman

Man accused of helping in Texas cartoon contest attack wants evidence tossed, The Associated Press

Ted Cruz to huddle with House conservatives one day before speaker vote, The Dallas Morning News

Crude climbs sharply amid new signs of falling shale outputHouston Chronicle

HPD outlines use of body cameras, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

“This is not my circus, but unless the chosen speaker is more willing to permit consideration of bipartisan measures, Congress will keep stumbling from one manufactured crisis to another."

— U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, on the upcoming secret ballot vote for the new speaker of the U.S. House.

Today in TribTalk

Why This Perry Guy Has Joined Team Jeb, by Ray Sullivan Republican voters have a number of capable, experienced presidential candidates to choose from. But when my former boss Rick Perry dropped out, I had a choice to make — and I chose Jeb Bush.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Political Commentator Paul Begala on Oct. 15 in Austin

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

•    The Texas Tribune Trivia Night on Oct. 18 in Austin

•    A Conversation with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht on Oct. 29 in Austin

•    A daylong higher education symposium on Nov. 16 at Baylor University in Waco

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