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The Brief: Dec. 22, 2015

A grand jury in Waller County did not indict anyone Monday in connection with the death of Sandra Bland, whose July arrest focused national attention on jail safety standards, mental health checks and race and policing.

Vigil at the Waller Co. sheriff's office in Hempstead, Texas for Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who died in the jail days after arriving in the area to start a new job, on July 17, 2015.

The Big Conversation

A grand jury in Waller County did not indict anyone Monday in the case of Sandra Bland, whose July arrest and subsequent death focused national attention on the circumstances of her initial stop and her treatment after she was taken to jail.

The special prosecutor in the case, Darrell Jordan, told the Tribune's Johnathan Silver on Monday night that the decision not to indict included county jail employees. He also said the grand jury would consider other charges in January. "It's not over," he said.

The Houston Chronicle reported that earlier on Monday, members of Bland's family had said at a news conference in Chicago that they did not have confidence in the grand jury. Afterward, an attorney for Bland's mother told the Chronicle, "It's exactly the type of thing we had a concern about, the fact that they were going to do exactly what they did."

Bland's mother has a separate wrongful death suit pending against the Department of Public Safety, Waller County and other individuals, including the trooper who pulled over Bland. It was announced last week that the trial in that suit would happen in January 2017.

Trib Must Reads

In 2015, Water, EPA Dominated Environment News, by Kiah Collier — From a slew of new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to undrinkable water at the Texas-Mexico border, these are the top environmental stories the Tribune covered in 2015.

As Oil Prices Plunge, Questions About Big Tax Credit, by Jim Malewitz — By reclassifying oil wells as gas wells, producers can often claim a generous state tax credit targeting “high cost” natural gas. Now, some lawmakers say the policy deserves a fresh look.

Wendy Davis "Would Love the Opportunity to Serve Again", by Abby Livingston — Nobody, including Wendy Davis, knows where she’s headed in politics. "I don't have my sights set on anything right now," she told The Texas Tribune. But she wouldn't rule out a future political run if an opportunity arises.

FanDuel, DraftKings Push Paxton Petition, by Johnathan Silver — The fantasy sports industry wants its Texas customers to sign petitions urging Attorney General Ken Paxton to leave sites like FanDuel and DraftKings alone, claiming they can legally operate in Texas.

Attorney General's Office: Abbott's Budget Vetoes Should Stand, by Aman Batheja — Gov. Greg Abbott was well within his powers when he vetoed more than $200 million in funds approved by the Texas Legislature this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office wrote in an opinion issued Monday.

Paxton: Universities Can't Ban Guns in Dorms, by Matthew Watkins and Kiah Collier — Texas universities would be violating the state's new campus carry law if they banned guns in dormitories, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a non-binding opinion issued Monday afternoon.

Houston Democratic Leaders to Endorse Gene Green, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, will pick up the support of several Houston political players Tuesday.

Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey Organize "Bernie" Fundraiser, by Aman Batheja — Four years after director Richard Linklater made a dark comedy about convicted murderer Bernie Tiede, the filmmaker and the film's star-studded cast are planning a fundraiser to help pay for Tiede's legal costs ahead of a new sentencing trial.


'Open carry' may not extend to some state employees, Houston Chronicle

Immigration advocates report deplorable conditions at CBP holding centers, The Monitor

Third camp in North Texas to receive migrant children from Central America, The Dallas Morning News

Cruz consolidates support from key Christian conservatives, The Washington Post

That time the establishment wished Ted Cruz well, Politico

Cruz: Close Palestinian group's DC office, The Hill

Rep. Frank gives endorsement to Rubio, Wichita Falls Times Record News

Citgo ordered to pay $460K in overtime back wages, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Elon Musk’s SpaceX returns to flight and pulls off dramatic, historic landing, The Washington Post

International crude price touches 11-year lows, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"It’s very important for leaders to be steely eyed, thoughtful and close their mouth at times and do what’s best for the end objective, in this case destroying ISIS and making sure our community — our us-ness — isn’t destroyed at the same time."

— Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings saying on New York public radio that leaders should tone down their rhetoric on refugee resettlement in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino

Today in TribTalk

Waging the War for Christmas in Texas, by Jim Henson — We shouldn't be surprised that this discussion is shot through with politics, given that differences in religiosity, and more specifically in the embrace of fundamentalist Christian views, reinforce differences in partisan allegiances.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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

•    A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

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