Tribune Today

Risk of terrorists crossing U.S. border into Texas is real — but low
The number of illegal border crossers from faraway countries— including some considered sponsors of terrorism — has been rising, but they're still a tiny fraction of apprehensions.

Richard Spencer's host at Texas A&M is the country's "Strongest Skinhead"
The man bringing Richard Spencer to speak at Texas A&M University next week is himself a white nationalist who has been inviting incendiary guests to College Station for years. 

Feds, TEA to tour Texas for public comment on special ed
U.S. Department of Education and Texas Education Agency officials will hit five Texas to ask the public about their experience with special education, part of an ongoing investigation of the state's services.

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Lawmakers hope to enact port-staffing bill before Trump takes over
The race is on for Texas lawmakers to pass legislation beefing up staffing and improving facilities at the country's land ports while Obama is still around to sign it.

Trump passes on Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling for Treasury secretary 
Despite being overlooked, Hensarling will enter his eighth term with the most influence of his career.

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The Big Story

Following a report from the Houston Chronicle that the state education agency had been purposely keeping the special education rate capped at 8.5 percent, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday it would send representatives to tour Texas and take comment from school community members on special education. Here’s the story so far:

Representatives from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services will join Texas Education Agency officials for “listening sessions” in five Texas cities between Dec. 12 and 15 where members of the public will get a chance to share their stories directly with government officials.

• Wednesday’s announcement comes after the Houston Chronicle reported that the TEA had been keeping the special education rate at 8.5 percent, the lowest of any state in the country. The U.S. Department of Education later sent a letter expressing concern that Texas was not complying with federal special education requirements, but the TEA denied allegations that it had capped special education services.

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• According to the Chronicle's report, the Lone Star state imposed this target while facing a $1.1 billion state budget cut. It was implemented without consulting the federal government, state lawmakers or any research.

• Officials from the Texas Education Agency have been planning the listening sessions with the federal government, agency spokeswoman Lauren Callahan told the Tribune. The sessions, Callahan said, are “parallel with our ongoing efforts on the state level to continue to get feedback on this important issue. As a result, TEA will have representatives at each stop.”

#TxLege Today 

There will be a Legislative Budget Board meeting today (2 p.m. E1.036) where lawmakers will set the constitutional spending limit for the upcoming budget.

The House Committee on Insurance will meet today (10 a.m. E2.036) to examine available data on the cost of weather-related property insurance claims. See the full committee schedule

What We're Reading

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

Trump's wall? McCaul prefers more fence and sensors--as does Homeland Security chief he may replace, The Dallas Morning News 

Texas EPA candidate says Trump ‘likes a good deal’ on environment, San Antonio Express-News

Cruz blasts 'young socialists' Trudeau and Obama for 'praising' Castro: 'We're not mourning the death of some revolutionary romantic', Business Insider 

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From potential vice president to the political wilderness, what's next for Julián Castro?, The Dallas Morning News

Today in TribTalk

"In faith-based foster care, there is an increased likelihood of prospective foster and adoptive parents’ theological and personal convictions directly conflicting with the acceptance and affirmation LGBT youth require."

— Adam McCormick, Assistant professor of social work, St. Edward's University

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   A Conversation with Michael K. Young, President of Texas A&M University on Dec. 1 at The Austin Club

•   San Antonio & the Legislature: A Preview of the 85th on Dec. 2 at University of Texas at San Antonio – Downtown Campus

•   A Conversation with Sen.-elect Dawn Buckingham & Rep.-elect Hugh Shine on Dec. 8 at Temple College – Arnold Student Union

•   Health Care and the 85th Legislature on Dec. 15 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio - Pestana Lecture Hall

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

•   A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center

•   A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center

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