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The Brief: Oct. 15, 2015

State health officials have taken action to further close access to state funding for abortion-affiliated groups, this time crafting language to prevent those groups from participating in abstinence education programs.

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The Big Conversation

State health officials have taken action to further close access to state funding for abortion-affiliated groups, this time crafting language to prevent those groups from participating in abstinence education programs.

As the Tribune's Alexa Ura reports, this move does not take money away from Planned Parenthood, because the group doesn't participate in the state's abstinence programs.

Nor was it requested by the state's budget writers. A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Commission indicated the agency was responding to lawmakers' overall wishes when it comes to funding for abortion providers.

“We see a clear legislative directive of shifting state resources away from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers,” agency spokesman Bryan Black told the Tribune. “This recent [request for proposals] is a reflection of that policy."

The state's chief budget writers did not provide comment for Ura's piece, but state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, told the Tribune that she had concerns with the agency taking action in the absence of a "clear directive" from lawmakers. “I think it’s a slippery slope to take cues [from the Legislature] when they’re not specified,” she said.

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

Firm Claims Bullet Train Will Have $30 Billion Impact, by Aman Batheja – The private firm trying to build a bullet train between Dallas and Houston has released a study claiming it would pump more than $30 billion into the state economy over the next 25 years.

Analysis: Shifting Numbers in Your Property Tax Bill, by Ross Ramsey – Far more money is extracted from Texans in the form of state and local sales taxes, but property taxes are the source of more complaints. School taxes lead the list but account for a smaller share of the overall tax bill than 10 years ago.

New Questions Face San Antonio Water Pipeline, by Neena Satija and Kiah Collier – Nearly a year after the San Antonio City Council unanimously approved what could be the most expensive water project in the region's history, some council members appear to be having doubts.   

Kirk Supports Clinton Despite Opposition to Trade Deal, by Jordan Rudner – Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Wednesday he still supports Hillary Clinton, who lauded the Trans-Pacific Partnership he helped negotiate during her tenure as secretary of state but has more recently opposed it.  

High Court Hears From Ranch, Lubbock in Water Case, by Kiah Collier – After hearing oral arguments Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court will consider whether a provision in oil-and-gas law that protects landowners who don’t own the minerals beneath their property should also apply to those who don’t own the groundwater. 

Patrick Signals Interest in More Tax Cuts in 2017, by Aman Batheja – Following a legislative session in which lawmakers debated whether to cut property taxes, business taxes, sales taxes or a combination of the three, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick signaled an interest Wednesday in continuing the conversation.

Hurd Continues to Out-Raise Gallego, by Abby Livingston – U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, maintained a financial advantage over his likely Democratic rival for Texas' 23rd Congressional District — the man he unseated, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego — in the most recent campaign period. 

The Day Ahead

•    Join us for a breakfast conversation with Democratic political adviser and commentator Paul Begala. The 8 a.m. event takes place at the Austin Club and is being livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

•    The daylong Texas Conference of Women takes place at the Austin Convention Center. Speakers include Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, actress Patricia Arquette and morning show anchor Robin Roberts.

•    Emergency management officials brief Gov. Greg Abbott this morning on the Bastrop County wildfires. Afterward, Abbott holds a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in Smithville with updates on how the fires are being managed. 

•     Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton meets with Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the historic Sunset Station in San Antonio at 11 a.m. to discuss her plans for Hispanic businesses and the community. This is the the chamber's fifth meeting out of six with 2016 presidential candidates. She will stay at the Sunset Station for a Latinos for Hillary grassroots event at 12:30 p.m.

•     State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, is hosting an SD-24 candidate forum in Temple from 6:30-8 p.m. Two candidates, CJ Grisham and Brent Mayes, have committed to attending the event.

Elsewhere

Ted Cruz says White House shields Hillary Clinton from criminal charges in email case, The Dallas Morning-News

Four Texans eyeing top GOP job in U.S. House, Houston Chronicle 

Under fire from Democrats, Dallas lawmaker stands by Tweet with Nazi meme, The Dallas Morning-News

Hurd maintains campaign cash advantage over Gallego, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Senate gets final between-session assignmentsCorpus Christi Caller-Times

Bastrop County fire: Disaster declared in Hidden Pines blaze, Austin American-Statesman

Proposal would eliminate HISD suspensions for pre-K to 2nd grade, Houston Chronicle

Texans owner Bob McNair donates $10,000 to anti-HERO effort Houston Chronicle

Inside a Texas Lawyer's Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp, ProPublica and NPR

Quote to Note

“It is almost accepted wisdom in Washington that Hillary’s indictment will just depend on some political hack in the bowels of the White House deciding Hillary up or Hillary down. That’s not how criminal justice is meant to operate.”

Ted Cruz, referring to Hillary Clinton’s private email server case. Cruz said he thinks interference from the White House is what’s stopping criminal charges against Clinton.

Today in TribTalk

Lamar Smith's lesson in congressional hypocrisy, by Alex Formuzis – U.S. Rep Lamar Smith’s record reveals a public servant staunchly on the side of protecting Americans’ privacy — unless you’re a victim of asbestos-related disease. In that case, he believes you should be required to make public large chunks of your sensitive personal information on the Internet.

News From Home

•    We’re close to reaching our $100,000 goal. With only a few days left of our Fall Member Drive, join today to help support our nonprofit newsroom.

•    The fifth-annual Texas Tribune Festival is just ONE day away! Join us at texastribune.org/festival

•     Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. Jay Root and Ben Philpott talk with Evan Smith about how Texas could play a defining role in both party primaries. And Jay and Ben offer their analysis of the first Democratic presidential debate.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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