The Big Conversation
The lead author of legislation this year allowing licensed handgun owners to carry their weapons on campus has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in on how much universities can regulate where handguns can be carried.
The Tribune's Matthew Watkins has the rundown on the action by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. He writes:
In a letter sent Monday, Birdwell argues that banning guns in classrooms would violate the spirit of the law.
"It would effectively force students to leave their handguns in their personal motor vehicles, or in their dormitories or other residential housing," he wrote. "Since students go to college to attend classes, this would effectively prohibit a student/licensee from carrying their handgun on campus."
He also writes that some universities may be considering banning guns in dorms. That, too, appears to violate the law, Birdwell said.
The issue arises after the legislation was tweaked to give universities the ability to create gun-free zones on campus.
"Many professors," Watkins writes, "especially on the University of Texas at Austin campus, have seized upon that clause to pressure campus administrators to ban guns in classrooms. They argue that they'd feel unsafe knowing their students might have guns and that free and open debate would be quashed."
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Trib Must Reads
Analysis: A Judicious Swipe at Lawmaker Pensions, by Ross Ramsey – Between now and the next legislative session, Texas lawmakers will be tinkering with an obscure formula that links their own state pensions to the salaries of state judges.
Presidential Candidates Start to File for Texas Primary, by Patrick Svitek – Presidential candidates are starting to take their first official step toward competing in Texas' March 1 primary: getting on the ballot. Three Republicans have already filed for a spot on the Texas ballot.
Lawmakers Question DPS Director on Race Reporting, by Johnathan Silver – State troopers can end inaccurate reporting of the race and ethnicity of drivers they pull over by simply asking them for that information, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told lawmakers Wednesday.
Education Board Rejects Panel to Review Textbook Errors, by Kiah Collier – Weeks after a Houston-area mom sparked an uproar over a caption in her son’s textbook that described African slaves as “workers,” the State Board of Education tentatively approved several changes to its textbook adoption process.
Halt All Refugee Resettlement, Two Texas Congressmen Say, by Alexa Ura – As Republicans push to temporarily freeze admissions of Syrian refugees into the U.S., U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and Brian Babin, R-Woodville, on Wednesday called for a temporary suspension of all refugee resettlement efforts.
Biden Touts Houston's Green Makeover as National Model, by Jim Malewitz – Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday praised Houston's effort to turn greener — by harnessing millions of dollars in public and private funds to build parks and paths to connect them.
Perry's Lawyers Fight to Finish Off 15-Month-Old Indictment, by Patrick Svitek – Lawyers for former Gov. Rick Perry fought Wednesday before the state's highest criminal court to finish off a 2014 indictment against him, while prosecutors argued that it was too early to let Perry off the hook.
SBOE: Trustees Can't Hire Just Anyone as Superintendent, by Kiah Collier – The State Board of Education on Wednesday rejected a rule change that would have allowed school boards to hire anyone they wanted as superintendent — even if the candidate had no public education experience.
The Day Ahead
• Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond will speak at the TAB Public Education Accountability Conference at 9:30 a.m. in Austin. Hammond will share findings from the association's study into the results of a bill passed during the session aimed at allowing students to graduate without having passed all their exit exams.
• Former Dallas Mayor and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is being announced today as the chairman of a new campaign to educate the public on the benefits of building up Texas' liquified natural gas export industry. According to Texans for LNG, investment along the Texas coast in LNG export facilities in the coming decades could surpass $40 billion.
Donald’s trump card? Negotiating. Ted Cruz’s? Debating., The Washington Post
Biden in Houston to tout infrastructure spending, Houston Chronicle
Biden calls Dallas-Houston bullet train beginning of new transportation era in America, The Dallas Morning News
Texas ‘dark money’ rule set for court fight ahead of primaries, San Antonio Express-News
State executes Raphael Holiday following claims his lawyers stopped fighting for him, The Dallas Morning News
Blue Bell reopens Brenham plant, Houston Chronicle
Austin pro-Syria group to protest Greg Abbott’s refugee policy, Austin American-Statesman
Lawyer running for judge accused of compelling prostitution, San Antonio Express-News
Waco bikers file federal civil rights suit against DA, police chief, Houston Chronicle
Report: State trooper sues DPS for alleged religious discrimination, The Dallas Morning News
House Homeland Security chairman: No religious test needed for Syrian refugees, Austin American-Statesman
DPS director won’t comment on agency’s plans to follow Abbott’s ‘no refugees’ directive, The Dallas Morning News
Quote to Note
"If you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries but I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face."
– U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, challenging President Barack Obama to a debate on refugee policy.
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