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The Brief: Nov. 4, 2015

Voters statewide went to the polls on Tuesday, but the biggest headlines of the day came from a couple of local elections in Houston, where voters defeated a nondiscrimination ordinance, known as HERO, and sent Sylvester Turner and Bill King to a runoff for mayor.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker after the Houston Unites election watch party for Proposition 1 on Nov. 3, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Voters statewide went to the polls on Tuesday, but the biggest headlines of the day came from a couple of local elections in Houston.

Voters there defeated a nondiscrimination ordinance, known as HERO, after opponents were able to make the debate prior to the election about whether the ordinance would allow sexual predators into women's bathrooms. As the Tribune's Alexa Ura reported, both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were urging the ordinance's defeat.

Ura wrote, "On Tuesday, Patrick attributed the defeat of the 'misguided' ordinance to voters standing up to 'pandering to political correctness.'

“'The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality – that is already the law,' Patrick said. 'It was about allowing men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms — defying common sense and common decency.'”

The defeat came despite the efforts of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. “Unfortunately, I fear that this will have stained Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming, global city,” Parker said, as reported by Ura. “And I absolutely fear that there will be a direct economic backlash as a result of this.”

There was also an election to pick Parker's successor as mayor. That one will go to a Dec. 12 runoff between the top two finishers — state Rep. Sylvester Turner and former Kemah Mayor Bill King. Turner went into the race an early favorite to at least make the runoff and King was able to effectively consolidate the Republican vote in Houston. But the other big storyline was the collapse of Adrian Garcia, who stepped down as sheriff to run for mayor.

As the Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported, "The race started with Turner and Garcia appearing to be safe bets for the runoff, though Garcia's dominance began fading after a series of stories raising questions about his handling of the Harris County jail." Garcia finished a distant third.

At the statewide level, all seven proposed changes to the state constitution won easy passage, with no proposition receiving less than two-thirds support from the voters. The most prominent items were an increase in the homestead exemption to the property tax and the dedication of some of the sales tax on car sales to the State Highway Fund.

Also receiving approval were propositions to allow statewide officials to live outside of Austin, professional sports teams to conduct charitable raffles and further enshrining the right to hunt and fish in the state constitution.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: A Dubious Future for Historical Racing, by Ross Ramsey – If lawmakers do nothing to restore the budget of the Texas Racing Commission, the agency will shut down. If it shuts down, the tracks around the state are barred from conducting any wagering. They can sell sodas, but not much else.

Could Texas Fatigue Affect Brady's Bid for Chairman?, by Abby Livingston – As the race to become U.S. House Ways and Means chairman comes to a head this week, lots of related conversations are revolving around U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady's home state.

Sanders Campaign Hires Texas State Director, by Patrick Svitek – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent chasing the Democratic presidential nomination, has hired a Texas state director to help woo voters in the state.  

Audit Finds Fire Safety Concerns at School for the Deaf, by Eleanor Dearman – At the historic Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, strobe lights are supposed to flash in case of fire. But in some places on campus, those visual alarms do not work, according to a state audit report released Tuesday.

On Quakes, Regulator Sides with Energy Companies, by Jim Malewitz – The Texas Railroad Commission has officially cleared two oilfield companies of responsibility for earthquakes that rattled two North Texas towns — despite research suggesting otherwise.

Elsewhere

In Texas, elementary schools mete out more punishment to black studentsThe Washington Post

CBP apologizes for 'candy only for American families' Halloween sign outside agent's Texas homeSan Antonio Express-News

New Texas college rankings unlike any we’ve seen beforeAustin American-Statesman

Texas health commission to launch 'integrity initiative'Houston Chronicle

Texas House committee to study economic effect of fed regulationsSan Antonio Express-News

Employee who blew whistle on research program settles with VAAustin American-Statesman

New pro-Cruz radio ads tout record on religion, guns and Senate showdownsThe Dallas Morning News

High court hears exoneree child-support caseHouston Chronicle

Ellis County DA tapped to join suit to oust Dallas DA Susan HawkThe Dallas Morning News

Texas churches can engage in recall electionsSan Antonio Express-News

Tech group will fund yet another annexation studySan Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

"I'm not a fan of Jeb (or anyone in the Republican field) but I almost feel bad for him since he's having such a hard time with his campaign. It can't be easy to be constantly overshadowed by your dad and brother."

–Austin City Council candidate Jimmy Flannigan on Jeb Bush's efforts to revamp his presidential campaign. Flannigan purchased the domain name "JebCanFixIt.com" after Bush's team unveiled the new slogan without purchasing the web address to match. 

Today in TribTalk

Quarterly revenue forecasts make sense for Texas, by Mike Collier – The Comptroller's Office should be required update the state's revenue forecast every three months. That’s how we do it in business, and it would be a tremendous improvement over the ancient method of predicting revenues at the start of each legislative session, baking a two-year budget around the numbers — and then not revising the forecast until after the governor has signed the budget and lawmakers have gone home.

News From Home

If you missed it the first time, be sure to check out Starstruck, the Trib’s first fully immersive multimedia experience. It combines breathtaking timelapse video, sweeping photography and take-you-there audio — and represents a seismic shift in telling a story, this one of Texas once again becoming the center of an emerging space industry.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation about the future of healthcare in Texas on Nov. 10 at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

•    A discussion about Public Education: The Next Five Years on Nov. 13 at the University of Texas at El Paso. 

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

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