The Big Conversation
A Waller County grand jury took action Wednesday against the Department of Public Safety trooper involved in the July arrest of Sandra Bland, charging him with a single count of perjury.
The perjury charge stems from Trooper Brian Encinia's statement explaining why he had to pull Bland from her vehicle during a traffic stop, reported the Tribune's Johnathan Silver and Terri Langford. Bland died three days later in the Waller County Jail, pushing the incident into the ongoing national conversation about race and policing, jail safety and mental health awareness.
After the indictment was announced, DPS said it planned to fire Encinia.
Silver and Langford wrote:
Bland's arrest and subsequent death drew national attention, in part due to the video of the traffic stop recorded by a dashboard camera inside Encinia's patrol car. In the video, Encinia can be seen opening Bland's driver's side door and reaching in for her. She refuses to come out and the trooper then threatens to use a Taser on her.
But in Encinia's report, he wrote: "I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation." (Special prosecutor Darrell) Jordan confirmed that was the statement grand jurors keyed in on.
The Bland family's attorney told the Tribune that he did not understand why the grand jury needed to take so long when the evidence was captured on video. He added that Encinia should face further charges of assault and battery.
"They feel toyed with," he said of the family. "They feel disrespected."
Trib Must Reads
Humble Trucker Wins Hollow Victory in Workers' Comp Case, by Jim Malewitz — State regulators have told an injured truck driver what he already knew — that his insurance company failed to properly document his debilitating back injury — but the finding won't help Juan Boston pay his medical expenses.
Texas Zoos Struggle to Limit Guns Under New Laws, by Morgan Smith — Zoos that want to limit firearms on their property are walking a legal tightrope under a pair of new Texas gun laws.
In Iowa, Cruz Confronts Politics of Ethanol, by Patrick Svitek — With a pro-ethanol group hounding his trail in Iowa, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has found himself defending his stand on eliminating the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which is politically sensitive in the corn-growing state.
Rubio Avoids GOP Slugfest at First Texas Rally, by Jordan Rudner — Facing his first Texas crowd at a rally Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio gave a wide-ranging speech that touched on nearly every conceivable topic — except his fellow Republican candidates.
Congressional Hispanics Endorse Gene Green, by Abby Livingston — Congressional Hispanics are lining up behind U.S. Rep. Gene Green as he seeks to fend off a primary challenge from former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
Video: 2016 Arrives, Officially, by Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn — After more than a year of nonstop punditry, predictions and stump speeches, 2016 is finally here. Texans can expect more candidate visits and more campaign ads with the state’s March 1 primary very much in play.
Ted Cruz Enjoys — and Endures — the Iowa Frontrunner's Life, by Patrick Svitek — As he makes his way through a six-day tour of Iowa, Ted Cruz is enjoying — and enduring — life as a frontrunner in the first-in-the-country caucus state.
Cruz Blames Clinton, Obama for North Korea's Bomb Test Claims, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz on Wednesday blamed President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton for North Korea's claims it had tested a nuclear weapon, insisting it shows the “sheer folly” of their foreign policy.
The Day Ahead
• The House Economic & Small Business Development Committee meets at noon in the Capitol extension to discuss economic development incentives. Among the topics expected to come up is the future of F1 racing in Austin.
• The second day of the three-day Texas Public Policy Foundation Policy Orientation 2016 features a breakfast keynote address from former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn.
Trump accuses Cruz of supporting 'amnesty', Politico
Trump spokeswoman: Cruz Canadian birth shift, Politico
McCain questions Cruz’s eligibility for president, The Hill
Feds arrest Bandidos leaders, including Conroe man, Houston Chronicle
Bingo operators, tribe join Tigua legal fight, El Paso Times
Cameron County tax collector-assessor accused of bribery, San Antonio Express-News
Immigration court halts some deportations after raids, Houston Chronicle
City Council members give first nod to pilot program that’d allow tickets instead of arrests for marijuana possession, The Dallas Morning News
Texas Dems try to cash in on 'open carry', Houston Chronicle
Straus launches first TV ad in primary race, San Antonio Express-News
Academic intervention going strong at Premont ISD, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Qataris say Texas A&M pact for Doha branch should remain secret, The Washington Post
Texas TV station mistakenly erases hundreds of political ad buy documents from public database, San Antonio Express-News
TransCanada sues over Keystone XL denial, Houston Chronicle
Quote to Note
“You know, I think without question he is qualified and would make the cut to be prime minister of Canada, absolutely without question, he is qualified and he meets the qualifications.”
— GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul, making light of Donald Trump's statement this week that Ted Cruz's birth in Canada could become "a big problem" for the party should he win the nomination. For the record, Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship in mid-2014.
News From Home
• In the first weekly podcast of 2016, Ross, Evan, Emily and Alexa talk about women in politics in Texas, about old online postings that could put Jonathan Stickland into electoral distress, the eight-week race to the March 1 primaries and the state of the presidential nominating contests.
• Voters will be settling many political and policy disputes this year, from the presidential nominating contests to legislative races, from comebacks to grudge matches. You be the pundit: Take our quiz and predict what will happen.
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
• A Conversation with Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Jan. 21 at the Austin Club
• A Symposium on Urban Public Education on Jan. 22 at the University of Texas at El Paso
• The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin
• The Ticket: A Live Recording and Democratic Primary Debate Watch Party on Feb. 11 at KUT Public Media Studios in Austin
• A Conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville
• A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on March 23 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine
• A Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station