The Big Conversation

Texas’ agriculture commissioner is facing a Texas Rangers investigation over the use of taxpayer funds to pay for two out-of-state trips.

The Texas Tribune’s Morgan Smith reported Wednesday that Sid Miller is being investigated over two state-paid trips in February 2015. Media reports indicated that Miller might have traveled for personal benefit, including to participate in a rodeo and to receive a controversial injection known as a "Jesus Shot."

The investigation comes after the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas filed complaints over the trips.

Earlier Wednesday, Miller told the Tribune that there was "absolutely no validity" to the complaints.

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In March, the Houston Chronicle first reported Miller's trip to Oklahoma to obtain the "Jesus Shot," which some believe cures all pain for life. Miller said he made the trip in part to meet with Oklahoma officials. But those officials told the Chronicle they had no plans to meet with him that day.

Miller, a calf roper, also traveled to Mississippi in February 2015 to participate in the National Dixie Rodeo. He told the Chronicle that he intended to meet agriculture officials there and that he repaid the state after those meetings fell through. But in a conflicting story, Miller's then-communications director, Lucy Nashed, told the Tribune that the trip was always designed to be personal and was mistakenly booked by a staffer as a business trip.

Nashed resigned this week, saying there was a "tremendous lack of communication" at the department. 

Trib Must Reads

In Texas Drilling Country, Oil Plunge Means Too Many Rooms at the Inn, by Jim Malewitz and Lauren Flannery — Cotulla, population 4,000, built 20 hotels during a years-long oil boom, calling itself the "Hotel Capital" of the Eagle Ford Shale. A plunge in oil prices has prompted questions about whether that was a good idea.

Some Democrats Boiling Over Attacks on Julián Castro, by Abby Livingston — Julián Castro’s allies are boiling over criticism from progressive corners regarding his tenure as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

New Prison Rule Means Texas Jailbirds Can't Tweet, by Madlin Mekelburg — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has decided that prison inmates should not be allowed to have active social media accounts, even if friends or family on the outside run them.

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Study: Oil Activity May Be Cause of East Texas Quakes, by Jim Malewitz — University of Texas at Austin researchers call it “plausible” that underground injections of oil and gas waste triggered a series of temblors that rattled Timpson residents in 2012.

Lawmakers Promise Fix for Teacher Health Care Plan, by Kiah Collier — A special panel of state lawmakers On Wednesday began trying to figure out how to address skyrocketing premiums for teachers under state-run health insurance plans.

Texas Seeks Court Permission to Cut Therapy Budget, by Edgar Walters — Texas should be allowed to move forward with cutting payments to therapy providers who serve children with disabilities, a lawyer for the state argued in appeals court Wednesday.

Lawmakers Probe Pension Fund's Interest In Hunt's Oncor Bid, by Jim Malewitz — Texas lawmakers raised tough questions Wednesday about a plan to invest up to $250 million of teacher retirement funds in the Ray L. Hunt family’s bid to buy and reshape Oncor, the mammoth electric utility.

Few Major Restrictions in Texas A&M's Campus Carry Rules, by Matthew Watkins — Texas A&M University's proposed new campus carry rules include few major restrictions for handguns and will allow the weapons in classrooms and dormitories.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Veteran Affairs & Military Installations Committee meets at 9 a.m.  at Corpus Christi City Hall to hear testimony about the best practices for improving military value at military installations in Texas and determining cost-effective policies that would strengthen military value. 


Seeking Bold Tax Overhaul, Texas Lawmaker to Test Congress, The New York Times 

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Officials standing by ban on firearms at Brazos County courthouse, Bryan-College Station Eagle

The Time Ted Cruz Defended a Ban on Dildos, Mother Jones

Cruz suggests veepstakes are underway, Politico

Heidi Cruz on husband Ted: He’s good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him, The Dallas Morning News 

Houston lawyer loses Cruz 'birther' lawsuit, Houston Chronicle

Tent City will start closing next week, though many don’t know where they’ll go, The Dallas Morning News 

Candidate tells tale of political espionage, San Antonio Express-News

Medicaid cuts mandated by Legislature, state health official says, Austin American-Statesman 

Cruz likely to block Trump on a second ballot at the GOP convention, The Washington Post

Quote to Note

“You take out one, we have a spare.”

Jason Stanford, who worked for Julián and Joaquin Castro, joking that if recent attacks on the Housing and Urban Development secretary work, Hillary Clinton can always pick his brother for vice president.

News From Home

•    The Texas Tribune is exploring how the downturn of the oil and gas industry has affected shale towns across the state. If you or someone you know has been affected by the changing tides of the oil industry, share your story with us.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Dawn Buckingham on April 21 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation on San Antonio & the Legislature: The Issues in the Interim on April 26 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

•    The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation on Mental Health Matters on May 10 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin