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The Brief: Nov. 18, 2015

The criminal case against Rick Perry hits a potentially definitive turning point today as a challenge to the remaining felony charge against him is heard this morning by the state's highest criminal appeals court.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to supporters after he is booked into the Blackwell-Thurman Justice Center in Austin following his indictment on two felony counts related to defunding District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's Public Integrity Unit.

The Big Conversation

The criminal case against Rick Perry hits a potentially definitive turning point today as a challenge to the remaining felony charge against him is heard this morning by the state's highest criminal appeals court.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek has the rundown, writing, "The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in the case at 9 a.m. in downtown Austin, a two-hour proceeding that could lead to the remaining charge against Perry being dismissed — or to the case moving closer to trial. The court is not expected to immediately rule Wednesday, but the hearing could be key in shaping the fate of a case that has dogged Perry for more than 15 months."

The case arises from Perry's 2013 veto of funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which at the time was housed in the Travis County District Attorney's Office. Perry used the threat of a veto in an attempt to convince DA Rosemary Lehmberg to resign following a drunk driving conviction.

The case centers on whether Perry's action constitutes an impermissible overstepping of his authority, as the prosecution asserts, or whether the actions were in keeping with his duties as the state's chief executive, as the defense asserts.

Svitek notes that the state has also challenged the ruling "because it struck down a part of the Texas penal code that defines coercion." In addition, the defense received permission to give some of its time to a University of California, Los Angeles professor who has written that the leftover allegation "unconstitutionally intrudes on the governor's veto power."

Trib Must Reads

Sexual Assault Inquiry Presents Conundrum for Texas A&M, by Matthew Watkins – For years, universities were pressured by the federal government to do more about sexual assault on campus. Now, Texas A&M University is being investigated for allegations that it went too far. 

Analysis: Chasing the News, for Better and for Worse, by Ross Ramsey – Greg Abbott and two dozen other governors have latched onto the headlines — and a fair amount of public support — with their words against resettling Syrian refugees in Texas. It's a popular position — for now.

UT-Austin Officials to Review Dustup at Israeli Studies Event, by Matthew Watkins – University of Texas at Austin administrators are reviewing an on-campus confrontation between a Palestinian rights student group and attendees of an on-campus event hosted by the university's Institute for Israeli Studies last Friday.

Report Recommends Police Reform Mental Health Policies, by Johnathan Silver – Holding up San Antonio as an example, a report released Tuesday by the Vera Institute of Justice recommends law enforcement agencies change their practices regarding mental illness, sex workers and addiction.

In Dallas, Clinton Hits Sanders on Health Care, Taxes, by Patrick Svitek – Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a boisterous rally in Dallas Tuesday to offer a thinly veiled critique of Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders, suggesting his health-care proposals would undermine efforts to reform the system.  

Refugee Nonprofits: Texas Response is What ISIS Would Want, by Alexa Ura – A day after about half of the country’s governors promised to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, religious and nonprofit leaders warned that those actions could have a dramatic impact on refugee resettlement.

Red River Landowners Take Battle with Feds to Court, by Jim Malewitz – Tired of waiting on lawmakers and bureaucrats to clear up their limbo, a group of North Texans has turned to the courts in an effort to reclaim thousands of acres of ranch and farmland along the Texas side of the Red River.

The Day Ahead

•   The House Committee on County Affairs will meet at 11:15 a.m. to address how the Texas Department of Public Safety records race during traffic stops along with recommendations on changes to current procedures. Also, the committee will talk about jail suicides as well as changes to screening forms for inmates when they enter jail.

•   Vice President Joe Biden will discuss national infrastructure investment with Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings at two separate events — at noon in Houston and at 2:45 p.m. in Dallas.


Study: Dallas, Collin Shoppers face biggest Obamacare price hikes if they don't switch, The Dallas Morning News

Ted Cruz explains his challenging path to the GOP nominationThe Washington Post

Central Texas health plans severs ties with Seton in rate disputeAustin American-Statesman

Lawmaker asks Texas AG Ken Paxton: Can Texas refuse Syrian refugees?The Dallas Morning News

Texas Republicans target refugee funding after Paris attacksHouston Chronicle

AP Exclusive: Big Texas welcome for Google self-driving cars, The Associated Press

Roger Williams Faces Questions on Auto Dealer Provision, Center for Public Integrity

Dallas County officials approve hiring policy that delays criminal history questionsThe Dallas Morning News

Bell surprises with endorsement of King in mayor runoffHouston Chronicle

Wolff: Post-9/11 adjustments have made Bexar saferSan Antonio Express-News

Which Texas colleges have banned campus carry?Houston Chronicle

Greg Abbott applauds Red River landowners for suing federal governmentThe Dallas Morning News

Legal stakes are complicated for Exxon Mobil in climate change controversyHouston Chronicle

Feds link synthetic drugs to fatal Texas college bus crashFort Worth-Star Telegram

Quote to Note

"Everybody advised me not to do it, but who would best represent me other than me?"

– State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, on his decision to represent himself in court in Montgomery County, where he faces misdemeanor barratry charges. 

Today in TribTalk 

Texas' Rejection of Syrian Refugees Backed by Law, by Matt Krause – If our governor and others thought the Obama administration had an efficient method of screening out potential terrorists from the refugees coming in, there would not be an outcry to deny them entry — after all, Texas has already admitted some Syrian refugees.

Why the Federal Red River Land Grab Matters, by Robert Henneke – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has embedded survey markers on private property along the Red River signifying its claim of federal property. This federal land grab threatens the liberty of all Texans and if the federal government can claim land belonging to people as public property without due process or lawful basis, then private property can no longer be considered a right for any Texan.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A series of conversations about Bridging the Digital Divide on Dec. 4 at Houston Community College

•    A daylong symposium on Cybersecurity and Privacy on Dec. 9 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A conversation about Houston & the Legislature: What's Next? on Dec. 15 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

•    A conversation with former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove on Dec. 17 at the Austin Club

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