The Big Conversation

Texas leaders are looking to cut back on state spending as the region’s oil and gas industry continues to struggle.

As the Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reported Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus asked state agencies in a letter last week to cut their budget requests by 4 percent. “Overall, the letter makes a plea for holding back the growth of state government as Texas continues to deal with a downturn in the oil and gas industry,” Svitek writes.

Due to the slowdown in parts of our economy, some difficult decisions will be required to balance the next state budget, and the process of making those decisions begins now, Straus said in a statement.

In Texas’ oil producing regions, meanwhile, schools are facing their own budget woes in the wake of the oil and gas downturn. As the Tribune’s Kiah Collier reports, the bust is threatening to deal a serious financial blow to many districts — particularly if it lingers. Several are projecting sizable deficits for the upcoming budget year, with some looking at dipping into savings to break even. Those in a better financial position are delaying pay raises and hiring and hoping that oil production will pick up again.

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More or less a disaster,” Cuero interim schools superintendent Ben Colwell told the Tribune.

Trib Must Reads

In Unusual Race, Houston Democrats Vie to Succeed Ellis, by Patrick Svitek — In the span of a month, a Texas Senate seat will have been vacated and effectively filled, an unconventional turn of events that has Houston Democrats scrambling to replace one of their most venerated members. 

Analysis: Abortion Stats Reveal Texas Lawmakers' True Intentions, by Ross Ramsey — State lawmakers' 2013 abortion regulations — an effort to circumvent what was spelled out over time by the U.S. Supreme Court — would have been easier to defend with some evidence. But that wasn’t part of the sales pitch.  

Headless Body Leads to Arrest of Border Patrol Agent, by Jay Root and Neena Satija — When Franky Palacios Paz was found naked and decapitated floating off South Padre Island, the local sheriff thought the murder would lead investigators back to Mexican drug cartel violence. He didn't expect a U.S. Border Patrol agent to be among those arrested.

Grimes County Residents Turn Out Against Toll Road, by Madlin Mekelburg — Residents of Grimes County gathered in the gymnasium at Navasota Junior High School to voice their displeasure with a proposed 15-mile toll road that would connect metropolitan Houston with Bryan/College Station.

Abbott Ad Asks British Businesses to 'Declare Independence,' by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott is using this July Fourth weekend to urge British businesses to move to Texas — an "independence" pitch inspired by "Brexit."  

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Trump Campaign Makes Hires With Ties to Cruz, Texas, by Patrick Svitek — As Donald Trump moves to professionalize his presidential campaign, the presumptive Republican nominee is turning to a stable of top-flight operatives with ties to Texas and its junior U.S. senator. 

Elsewhere

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Voter registrations are surging in key Texas counties, despite a lack of funding for volunteer registrarsSan Antonio Express-News

Alarmed over Zika, Texas official seeks nearly $30M for mosquito repellent for poor women, The Dallas Morning News

A new kind of madness, Austin American-Statesman

How UT sniper Charles Whitman’s hatred inspired an Institute for Play, Austin American-Statesman

U.S. Supreme Court messes with Texas Republican leaders, San Antonio Express-News

Syrian refugee finds herself in political crosshairs after crossing Texas border, Houston Chronicle

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San Antonio trial could shed light on disappearances in northern Mexico, San Antonio Express-News

Will Mississippi ruling against religion law deter Texas Republicans?, Austin American-Statesman

Emails show hushed effort to replace powerful Travis County official, Austin American-Statesman

Some Greenspoint-area flood victims face a crippling choice, Houston Chronicle

Residents lament neighborhood conditions in 'new colonias,' Houston Chronicle

DPS denying job licenses for minor offenses, Austin American-Statesman

Traffic count a possible drag on Houston's share of highway money, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

“This is an odd race where money doesn’t matter. There’s not going to be any advertising. No one’s going to go door-to-door. This is all about who’s in the room and who can be persuaded.” 

 — Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, on the race to succeed Rodney Ellis in Senate District 13

Today in TribTalk

The Problem with the Declaration of Independence, by Juan Miró — The Founding Fathers had more limited aspirations in their Declaration than what we want to see today.

News From Home

•    While several high-profile cases have fueled a national debate on police shootings, there is no comprehensive data on such shootings in Texas. With reader support, we hope to introduce a new layer of transparency here. And you can help. Click here for more information on how to assist in making this project a reality.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

•   TribFeast: A Dinner To Support Nonprofit Journalism on Sept. 24 at the University of Texas at Austin's Etter-Harbin Alumni Center

Meet Paige: Our new Facebook Messenger bot helps you keep track of the 85th Legislature. Subscribe by messaging HELLO to m.me/texastribune.org. Learn more.

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