The Big Conversation
Word broke Tuesday that former Gov. Rick Perry has a new paying gig with the largest privately held dental insurance company in the country that was also the top donor to his 2016 presidential campaign.
As the Tribune's Jim Malewitz reported, word of Perry's new job as chief strategy officer for MCNA Dental emerged as part of news coverage of a meeting between Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. "First reported by POLITICO Florida, the meeting was organized by Southern Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that represents the dental company," Malewitz wrote. "The insurer is pushing for a 'dental carve-out' in the state’s Medicaid program that would allow it to cover children."
Malewitz went on to note that the company "was the top donor to Perry’s presidential bid, which ended in September, donating $37,800 directly to his campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org. MCNA Dental also gave $20,000 to Texans for Rick Perry, Perry's state political action committee, in 2010, according to state records."
In addition, Albert Hawkins, who was appointed by Perry to lead the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, sits on the board of MCNA Dental, serving as the body's vice chair.
Trib Must Reads
Analysis: Greg Abbott's Constitutional Changes Require a Salesman, by Ross Ramsey — Gov. Greg Abbott has to get his proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution through his own statehouse, and then through 33 others, a task that will require persuasive abilities he hasn’t exhibited in his first year as governor.
Obama's Final State of the Union Heartens Texas Faithful, by Abby Livingston and Jamie Lovegrove — Even before President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address concluded, Texas Republicans pushed out critical tweets and news releases.
In New Hampshire, Cruz Uncorks on Trump, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz rolled back into New Hampshire Tuesday, attacking Donald Trump, berating reporters and delivering an imaginary state of the union address.
UT System Wants Campus Carry Drafts by February, by Matthew Watkins — The University of Texas System expects its 14 schools to submit rules for concealed handguns on their campuses by mid-February to comply with the state's new campus-carry law.
Bullet Train Opponents Reach Out to Japanese Ambassador, by Jamie Lovegrove — Thirty-three East Texas officials, including 11 from the Legislature, signed a letter to Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae opposing a private firm's proposed high-speed rail that has strong ties to a Japanese company.
Ted Cruz: Are Democrats Behind Trump's Citizenship Questions?, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz on Tuesday went further than ever in needling Donald Trump, suggesting Democrats are behind the billionaire's questions about his citizenship.
Environmentalists Ask EPA to Strip Texas' Authority, by Jim Malewitz — Alleging that Texas has dramatically eroded its safeguards against air and water pollution, two environmental groups are asking the federal government to step in.
Kennedy: A ‘Tarrant’ Tea Party but with Midland money, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Federal Reserve says $30 oil will hurt Texas' job growth, Houston Chronicle
Pro-Cruz super PAC backers a mystery, Politico
Ben Carson names veteran North Texas PR executive as new campaign spokesman, The Dallas Morning News
Louisiana’s New Governor Signs an Order to Expand Medicaid, The New York Times
State will begin to install earthquake monitors in the spring, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Central American migrant numbers swell, rivaling 2014 crisis, Houston Chronicle
Cubans stranded in Costa Rica board flight to El Salvador, San Antonio Express-News
U.S. House District 19 candidates hone in on faith and family issues, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Challengers hit Texas House Speaker Straus, Rep. Geren over illegal immigration, The Dallas Morning News
Quote to Note
"It’s supposed to be a grassroots movement and it’s looking like one wealthy individual has taken control."
— Marie Howard of the Keller Boiling Point Tea Party on a campaign finance report that showed more than half the money given to the NE Tarrant Tea Party came from Midland oilman Tim Dunn
Today in TribTalk
Consumers may foot the bill for Hunt's risky Oncor takeover plan, by Bob Hall — The Hunt name is a good name in Texas, as it should be, and Texas has benefited from the Hunt family businesses. However, their Oncor proposal is primarily financed by hedge funds, which are historically not financially stable.
What Houston can teach other cities battling the urban diabetes epidemic, by Faith E. Foreman, Jesper Høiland and Stephen Linder — During the past 12 months, health care experts, public leaders and government officials in Houston have caught the first glimpse of data that could begin to reshape how cities battle the growing epidemic of diabetes.
Kids, dogs and law enforcement, by Victor O. Obaseki — All kids are more important than dogs. Every right-minded person agrees with that, but two bills passed by the 84th Texas Legislature exemplify how public policy has failed in this regard.
News From Home
• The ballots for the state's 2016 Republican and Democratic primary elections are set. Here's a look at who has filed to run in those primaries, which will be held March 1.
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 Steve McCraw, Texas DPS Director on Jan. 21 at the Austin Club
• 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
• A Conversation with Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer on Feb. 4 at the Austin Club
• A Conversation with Sen. José Menéndez on Feb. 11 at the Austin Club
• 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