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The Brief: Dec. 1, 2015

The latest chapter in the prosecution of Attorney General Ken Paxton begins Tuesday with a pretrial hearing in which the Paxton defense team will argue for the dismissal of the securities fraud charges against him.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pleaded not guilty to felony charges in court in Fort Worth on Aug. 27.

The Big Conversation

The latest chapter in the prosecution of Attorney General Ken Paxton begins Tuesday with a pretrial hearing in which the Paxton defense team will argue for the dismissal of the securities fraud charges against him.

As the Austin American-Statesman's Chuck Lindell reports, the dramatic maneuverings between the prosecution and defense in the weeks leading up to this hearing have created expectations of "a legal brawl."

"The bare-knuckles back-and-forth exceeds tensions that are typically present when prosecutors and defense lawyers interact," Lindell wrote, "exacerbated by the high-profile nature of a criminal case against the attorney general, whose agency’s duties range from law enforcement to providing legal advice and representation for other state offices."

The question of how Paxton plans to pay for his high-powered defense team (he can't use his campaign account) was before the Texas Ethics Commission on Monday with no immediate resolution reached.

The San Antonio Express-News' David Saleh Rauf reported that the commission was considering action on draft language that would allow the use of money from an out-of-state donor to pay Paxton's legal bills.

"However," Saleh Rauf wrote, "the commission sent the opinion back for more internal vetting, as regulators cautioned it could open the door for people in Texas to funnel cash through someone outside the state ... Commissioner Jim Clancy said the opinion in its current form essentially gives the green light for a 'good Samaritan in another jurisdiction to write a very big check,' but he cautioned that the possibility for 'mischief' is present."

And in a final development, the Houston Chronicle's Lauren McGaughy wrote that a long-simmering disagreement over allowing a camera in the courtroom on Tuesday could interfere with the hearing happening at all.

The Tarrant County judge overseeing the proceeding ruled in mid-November that a single camera would be allowed.

"We had objected, as you'll recall, after the arraignment to the use of cameras in the courtroom, and we continue to object," Bill Mateja, one of Paxton's attorneys, told the Chronicle on Monday. "There is an exception with the parties' consent, and we have not consented."

Trib Must Reads

Some Fear Texas Unprepared for Panama Canal Expansion, by Aman Batheja – In 2006, Panama voters agreed to modernize their famed canal, allowing it to handle more ships and, crucially, bigger ones. Next year, the expanded Panama Canal is expected to finally open. Is Texas ready?

As Cities Fight Fat, Experts Call for Pedestrian Safety, by Edgar Walters – Experts warn that a lack of safety on Texas roads is not just killing thousands of people each year. It's taking an even greater — if less visible — toll on life expectancy, due to a lack of safe options for pedestrians and cyclists.

Veterinarian Loses Case Over Internet Consultations, by Edgar Walters – A Texas veterinarian who offered pet-care advice online lost a battle against state regulators on Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

Rice University Opts Out of Campus Carry, by Luqman Adeniyi – Rice University is the latest private college in Texas to announce that it would opt out of the state's new campus carry law.

Shakeups Coming to Straus' Office, by Aman Batheja – House Speaker Joe Straus will see a shakeup in his office next year with chief of staff Jesse Ancira stepping down in the spring, Straus’ office confirmed Monday. 

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Education Agency will host a forum to hear public input on the education commissioner's rules for the grant program established through House Bill 4, a bill passed during the session aimed at improving early education across the state. The forum will start at 11 a.m. at the William B. Travis Building in Austin.


Special prosecutor confirms Bland case nearly complete, The Associated Press

Supreme Court Rejects Fee Dispute In Texas Redistricting Case, Huffington Post

For Texan Kevin Brady, rise to powerful House post was matter of timingThe Dallas Morning News

Ted Cruz: Enough condoms for allPolitico

Dallas fair housing case raises questions about bias suits, The Dallas Morning News

Texas threatens resettlement agency over Syrian refugeesAustin American-Statesman

Texas, Planned Parenthood have a Dec. 14 court dateHouston Chronicle

Texas’ primary ballot begins to take shapeThe Dallas Morning News

Calls for training, better cell checks follow recent Harris County Jail suicidesHouston Chronicle

No Child Left Behind: Congress set to dump lawPolitico

Abbott lands in HavanaSan Antonio Express-News

Party may matter as much as experience in controller raceHouston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"You've seen 'Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby'? They call it the shake and bake."

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, likening a car-racing maneuver where the second-place driver pulls ahead of the first-place driver to his polling position behind candidate Donald Trump

Today in TribTalk

Texas reproductive health care is in a state of emergency, by Kamyon Conner – Every day, I witness the pain caused by Texas' inhumane and tyrannical attempts to restrict women's access to abortion and health care. hose seeking abortion and health care access are being forced to put their health and well-being in danger because of the restrictions of House Bill 2. The recent attempts by the state government to kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid have gone even further to make it difficult to access reproductive health care, abortion, and education for so many Texas residents.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation about Health Care: The Next Five Years on Dec. 2 at the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Round Rock

•    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

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

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