The Big Conversation
An investigation in Harris County into allegations that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue yielded indictments on Monday against the makers of undercover recordings of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston, meanwhile, was cleared of breaking any laws, reported the Tribune’s Alexa Ura.
A series of undercover videos made of Planned Parenthood officials nationwide discussing how they obtain fetal tissue for research became a focal point of anti-abortion activists last year and spurred the Republican leadership in this state to initiate investigations into Planned Parenthood.
“Among the undercover videos were recordings of staff at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, where two abortion foes in April misrepresented themselves as research executives and provided fake California drivers’ licenses,” Ura wrote. “The videographers visited the facility last April ‘under the guise of discussing tissue research with our clinic research staff,’ according to Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas do not currently donate tissue for medical research, Ura wrote.
The state’s Republican leaders said late Monday afternoon that the grand jury action would not end the state’s own investigation into Planned Parenthood.
“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation," Gov. Greg Abbott said in statement. "The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Trib Must Reads
Border Catholics Wonder What Message Pope Francis Will Bring, by Julián Aguilar — With Pope Francis scheduled to visit Ciudad Juárez next month, the area's Catholics are speculating whether the famously outspoken pontiff will bring up hot-button social issues like immigration, poverty and corruption.
Lawmakers to Review Open Carry and Campus Carry Laws, by Matthew Watkins and Morgan Smith — Supporters and opponents of two controversial new gun laws passed last year — open carry and campus carry — will update Texas lawmakers Tuesday on how the measures are working so far.
Richard Benson Named Sole Finalist for UT-Dallas President, by Matthew Watkins — Richard Benson, the engineering dean at Virginia Tech University, will almost certainly become the next president of the University of Texas at Dallas after being named the sole finalist for the job Monday night.
Nobel Laureate Professor: I'm Banning Guns in My UT Classroom, by Matthew Watkins — A Nobel Prize-winning physicist at the University of Texas at Austin declared Monday that he will try to ban guns from his classroom this fall, even if university rules and state law say he can't.
To Cruz, New Rubio Attack is Tiresome, by Patrick Svitek — Campaigning Monday in Iowa, Ted Cruz found himself responding to familiar criticism: his defense of a Chinese tire company for patent infringement when he was in private practice.
Texas Faces Lawsuit Over Provision of Border Security Law, by Julián Aguilar — Taking aim at a new Texas law making it a state felony to harbor undocumented immigrants, a national civil rights group announced Monday that it is suing the state.
Cruz Campaign, Super PACs Launch TV Ads Against Trump, by Patrick Svitek — Underscoring how competitive the race has become between Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, the Cruz campaign and super PACs supporting him are launching their first TV ads taking aim at Trump.
The Day Ahead
• Voters in the Bexar County-based House District 118 decide between Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomas Uresti. The men are competing in a special runoff election to determine who will serve out the remainder of the term originally won by Joe Farias, who resigned his seat in August.
• The Senate State Affairs Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Senate Chamber to discuss the implementation of open and campus carry. The committee will also look at the current laws that regulate the places where handguns can be carried.
• The House Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol extension to hear invited testimony about the repair of state parks from damage caused by flooding and wildfires.
• The Senate Business and Commerce Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol extension to discuss how to protect older Texans from financial exploitation and the collection of late property taxes.
• The Senate Finance Committee meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol extension to hear the Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Legislative Budget Board discuss the impact of oil prices and production on the state’s revenue and budget. The committee will also identify ways Texas can maximize the use of state funding for mental health.
The Interview: Annise Parker, Texas Observer
Chancellors to appear at legislative hearing on guns, Houston Chronicle
Federal investigators: Texans still face risk of West-like blast, Dallas Morning News
Interim Pres. Opperman wants to 'keep momentum going' at Texas Tech, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Presidential race has Texans considering what it means to be Republican, Houston Chronicle
Lujan, Uresti duel in District 118 special runoff, San Antonio Express-News
Ted Cruz, under siege in Iowa, tries to play ‘underdog’, The Washington Post
Adler offers new measure dropping fingerprint mandate for Uber, Lyft, Austin American-Statesman
Rick Perry and other Texans line up behind Ted Cruz, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
A Clinton-Castro ticket gets put to an early test in Iowa, Los Angeles Times
Quote to Note
"We're like a bunch of Indian tribes. Each tea party is open to their own interpretation of what they're going to do."
— Dale Huls, who is with the Clear Lake Tea Party, on why some local tea party organizations are backing different Republican candidates for president.
Today in TribTalk
Candidates’ legislative records offer insights to primary voters, by Mark P. Jones — In most Texas House and Senate races, voters face a steep informational hurdle in attempting to predict how competing candidates’ campaign proposals and rhetoric will translate into actual behavior in Austin. But five legislative districts offer Republican primary voters a chance for a true comparison.
News From Home
• If you've received a campaign mailer, let us know about it. You can loop us in by sending an electronic version to this email address. Help us collect campaign communications ahead of the vital March 1 primary elections.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• A Conversation on Health Care: Bending the Cost Curve on Jan. 28 at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth
• 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