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The Brief: Oct. 23, 2015

Texas health officials on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, making visits to facilities in four cities.

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The Big Conversation

Texas health officials on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, making visits to facilities in four cities.

The object of their visits were records, reported the Tribune's Alexa Ura, including "Medicaid records, billing information and personnel information... Additionally, investigators delivered subpoenas to at least three facilities requesting all records, including 'ultrasound records,' related to Medicaid patients who donated fetal tissue after obtaining an abortion."

This move comes days after the state announced its intent to bar Planned Parenthood's participation in Medicaid well-woman care programs such as cancer screenings and birth control. The inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission wrote in a letter on Monday to one Planned Parenthood affiliate that "the women’s health provider had violated state Medicaid rules and put Texans at risk of infection ... Planned Parenthood officials disregarded federal law by agreeing to change the timing or method of abortions in order to procure fetal tissue for medical research."

At another Planned Parenthood facility that does not perform abortions, officials sought "records related to specific services provided to Medicaid patients, employee information and appointment books."

Planned Parenthood officials on Thursday called the visits "political grandstanding."

“Representatives from the Texas Office of Inspector General showed up at Planned Parenthood health centers in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio looking for an excuse to take health care away from thousands of women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive care,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of the organization’s state political arm Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “But what they will see is professional, compassionate and quality health care."

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

Pete Gallego Mounts Campaign Against Will Hurd, by Abby Livingston – Democrat Pete Gallego is determined to take back the 23rd congressional district from Will Hurd. But his rival is leveraging the benefits of incumbency and mounting a stronger campaign than last time around.

Analysis: When Apathy Becomes a Political Tactic, by Ross Ramsey – Election turnout surged the last time Texas votes really mattered in a presidential primary, but the 2008 runoffs a month later were marked by a full relapse of electoral anemia. It could happen again next year, and some challengers are counting on it.

Campus Carry Advocates Make Their Case at TCU, by Johnathan Silver — Students and guest speakers at a Thursday evening forum lamented what they saw as misperceptions of firearms as they advocated for Texas Christian University to allow concealed firearms on campus.

Teacher Groups Ask For Health Care Help — Again, by Kiah Collier – Teacher groups on Thursday renewed their call for the Legislature to put more money into a health insurance plan that has seen school employees foot an increasing share of the premiums as the state contribution has remained the same.

Texas Delegation Mostly Backs Paul Ryan, by Abby Livingston – Texas' Republican congressional delegation endorsed U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan Thursday for the speakership, giving the Wisconsin lawmaker the largest GOP state voting bloc in the House.

In D.C., Texans Continue to Question Ozone Science, by Jim Malewitz – As evidenced Thursday during a U.S. House committee hearing, Texas officials and lawmakers are continuing to fight against tougher federal ground-level ozone standards implemented recently by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Texas Files New Obamacare Suit Over Health Insurer Fee, by Edgar Walters – In Texas' latest salvo against Obamacare, Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed suit over a fee states must help cover to pay for the sweeping federal health reform law.

Elsewhere

Perry seeks criminal case dismissal without trialSan Antonio Express-News

AG Ken Paxton asks Supreme Court to invalidate order that Texas pay $1 million in legal fees, The Dallas Morning News

Jeb Bush, campaigning in Nevada, suggests Texas for potential nuclear dumpHouston Chronicle

Who exactly is Austin suing in its appraisal lawsuit?Austin American-Statesman

Feds cap rates for inmate phone callsHouston Chronicle 

More early voters casting ballots in TexasFort Worth Star-Telegram

Abbott ‘apprehensive’ at idea of fantasy sports regulationHouston Chronicle

Bastrop Fires Likely 'New Normal' Thanks to Climate ChangeTexas Observer

Gary Cobb suspending D.A. campaign following death of son Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“If you let states start deciding that they don’t want to include Jewish clinics or black clinics or people who wear tacky clothes-clinics or anything beyond that, it is discriminatory." 

  Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities on the state's efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program. State investigators requested a high volume of records from clinics across the state on Thursday.

Today in TribTalk 

Texas Violates 14th Amendment in Denying Birth Certificates, by Jim George – The 14th Amendment to the Constitution makes clear that Texas has an obligation to make sure all children who are born in this state have a birth certificate issued shortly after birth — even those of undocumented immigrants.

News From Home

•    SpaceX and Blue Origin have big — and sometimes secretive — plans for commercial space flight from South and West Texas. While some of the companies’ neighbors are hopeful this new space race will bring economic development and jobs to their communities, others are skeptical, fearing the effects on beaches, wildlife and small-town life. Take a look at the Tribune's latest project, Starstruck

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUTIn 2008, POLITICO and Huffington Post took center stage in the presidential race. In 2012… we saw the rise of BuzzFeed. In 2016, some think this will be the year of Snapchat. To explain what election coverage on Snapchat means, The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root and KUT’s Ben Philpott talk with Peter Hamby, Head of News at Snapchat.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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