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The Brief: Dec. 7, 2015

It's a potentially big week for Texas at the U.S. Supreme Court with oral arguments scheduled on a pair of high profile cases touching on the hot button issues of minority voting power and affirmative action.

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The Big Conversation

It's a potentially big week for Texas at the U.S. Supreme Court with oral arguments scheduled on a pair of high profile cases touching on the hot button issues of minority voting power and affirmative action.

On Tuesday, the nation's highest court will take up Evenwel v. Abbott, a challenge to the way the state draws its state Senate districts. As the Tribune's Jordan Rudner reports, the plaintiffs argue that basing the districts on total population rather than the population that is eligible to vote leads to giving voters disproportionate influence depending on which district they live in.

"A coalition of Texas legislators, mostly Democrats," Rudner writes, "fears that if voters suing the state succeed, minority communities will have significantly reduced political power."

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, tells Rudner that the "ruling would mean 'lopsided, overcrowded urban districts packed with non-voters,' and 'much smaller districts in rural areas where people are older and there are far fewer non-citizens,' he said. 'The overall effect would be grossly unequal access to legislators, resources, and services.'"

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, a challenge to the school's use of race in admissions. The seven-year-old case has already reached the court once. As the Tribune's Matthew Watkins wrote in late October, "In that iteration, the court upheld the use of affirmative action nationwide but asked a lower court to scrutinize UT-Austin's policy. The lower court upheld the school's use of race in admissions, and the Supreme Court now is reviewing that ruling."

The university will argue that with race still an issue on campus, having a diverse student body is valuable.

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: Bush Takes One Step Forward, One Step Back, by Ross Ramsey – The state's new land commissioner is trying to put some points on the political board. He's erasing some, too.

Texas GOP Votes Down Secession Proposal, by Patrick Svitek – State GOP leaders, in a predictable but closely watched vote, have defeated a proposal to ask Texas voters whether they favor secession.

In Ad, Cruz Makes Commander-in-Chief Pitch to Iowans, by Patrick Svitek – Ted Cruz is ramping up his appeal to voters as the strongest potential commander-in-chief in the GOP presidential field.

LCRA Fights Release of Data on New Reservoir, by Kiah Collier and Neena Satija – The Lower Colorado River Authority has concluded that its new southeast Texas reservoir won't hurt aquatic life downstream in Matagorda Bay, but the organization is refusing to release the data behind that contention.

Texas Tech Planning to Open a Vet School, by Matthew Watkins – Citing student demand and growing industry needs, the Texas Tech University System announced Friday that it will seek to open a veterinary medicine school in the coming years.

Cruz Amps Up Pro-Gun Rhetoric After California Shooting, by Patrick Svitek – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday pushed back against claims that it was insensitive for him to hold a Second Amendment campaign event just days after a mass shooting under investigation as an act of terrorism. 

Cuellar: Time to End Cuban Immigration Policy Provision, by Julián Aguilar – A special U.S. immigration policy provision allows Cubans to apply for legal residency status after living in the country for a year. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says that the provision needs another look.

Feds Freeze Funding on Troubled Child Support Upgrade Project, by Aman Batheja – The federal government has temporarily suspended funding for a project to upgrade the state’s antiquated child support enforcement system — run through the AG's office — whose projected costs have risen dramatically ahead of initial estimates.

Cruz's "Strike Force" of Texas Supporters Readies Iowa Push, Patrick Svitek – Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is officially opening a hub in Iowa for volunteers who have been recruited from Texas to pitch in for the Republican candidate in the first-in-the-country caucus state.

21 Syrian Refugees to Arrive in Texas Next Week, by Alexa Ura – Twenty-one Syrian refugees — including a dozen children — are set to be resettled next week in Dallas and Houston, according to the federal government. Texas had filed a lawsuit seeking to block the arrival of refugees from that country.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Education committee, chaired by Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is holding a 10 a.m. public hearing at the Capitol to study issues related to charter schools and inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

•    The Senate Property Tax Reform & Relief select committee, chaired by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, is holding a public, organizational hearing at 2:30 p.m. at the Capitol.

Elsewhere

Obama Says of Terrorist Threat: ‘We Will Overcome It’, The New York Times

Heidi Cruz is on a mission to make Ted more well-liked, Houston Chronicle 

Cruz: I Would Carpet Bomb ISIS Into Oblivion, The Washington Post 

In new home of Round Top, Rick Perry’s almost just a regular guy, The Dallas Morning News 

Fikac: Greg Abbott fights Bible fire with fire,  San Antonio Express-News

UT’s use of race in admissions at stake in Supreme Court arguments,  Austin American-Statesman

Judge who recused himself in Paxton case speaks out, WFAA-TV

Martinez Fischer likely to challenge Menéndez in Senate primary, San Antonio Express-News

S.A. congressman investigating prescription costs, San Antonio Express-News

State lawmaker charges racial bias in conviction, Houston Chronicle 

DPS searches Hispanics more, finds less, Statesman analysis shows, Austin American-Statesman

Cities see strength in numbers in negotiating for better health care costs, The Dallas Morning News 

Texas continues to move youths to community programs, The Houston Chronicle 

AP Exclusive: Texas birth certificate rules often unenforced, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

“If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS. We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. We will arm the Kurds. We will do everything necessary so that every militant on the face of the earth will know if you go and join ISIS, if you wage jihad and declare war on America, you are signing your death warrant."

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, vowing to kill Islamic State terrorists, if elected president

News From Home

On Tuesday, we are pushing out Texas Public Schools Explorer 2.0 — a completely redesigned, revamped version of our public schools app. It includes extensive records on EVERY public and charter school in Texas, some 8,500 campuses. It also includes full data on every Texas school district.

In addition, the redesign features easier search options and has been built with parents in mind. Stay tuned for a link to the site tomorrow!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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