Editor's note: The Brief will be on a brief hiatus and return on Jan. 3.

Tribune Today

School finance, testing fiasco topped 2016 education news
School districts lost a court case that could have forced the state to reform its school finance system, and federal officials toured Texas to investigate claims that special education services were arbitrarily capped. 

Texas Congressman on thin ice...on purpose
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth has tried everything from moving baggage on a runway to housekeeping at a Holiday Inn to better understand the lives of his constituents. This week, he helped out at a local ice skating rink.

Trump's rhetoric and state's border surge colored immigration debate in 2016
The president-elect's tough border talk propelled him to victory, the U.S. Supreme Court dashed President Obama's deferred action hopes and the Texas border surge drew questions.

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In light of Arizona ruling, will Texas executions change? A Texplainer
Hey, Texplainer: A federal judge in Arizona  just ruled that witnesses have the right to see the full process of an execution, including the administration of lethal drugs. Will this affect how Texas carries out executions?

The Big Story

As President-elect Donald Trump fills the remaining holes in his planned Cabinet, another Texas connection has emerged. Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M University, is under consideration to be Trump's agriculture secretary, according to his transition team. Here's the story:

On Thursday, aides to Trump aides said that the president-elect will meet next week with Murano, who led Texas A&M from 2008 to 2009. A former top food safety official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Murano has also served as vice chancellor and dean of A&M's College of Agriculture and Life Science.

Murano isn't the only one with Texas ties considered to be in the running for the agriculture secretary post. Signs are emerging that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and former Comptroller Susan Combs are in play for the job. Combs, who has previously served as Texas agriculture commissioner, met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday in Washington, and Miller was poised to make a trip to Trump Tower soon.

Earlier this month, President-elect Donald Trump officially selected former Gov. Rick Perry, a former rival turned loyalist, to lead the Department of Energy. If confirmed by the Senate, Perry will oversee American energy policy and its consequences for the economy, environment and national security.

Another Texan, oil executive Rex Tillerson, has been tapped to be secretary of state. The former Exxon Mobil CEO might be the most controversial appointment yet. Some senators have already signaled they may oppose his nomination over concerns about his ties to oil-rich Russia, which the CIA has reportedly concluded interfered in the presidential election in favor of Trump. 

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What We're Reading

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

Gov. Greg Abbott pardons five Texans, The Dallas Morning News

Child abuse deaths rose and CPS crisis worsened despite Gov. Greg Abbott's pressure to reform 'broken' system, The Dallas Morning News

Kenneth Starr’s Baylor Exit Followed Years of Hidden Turmoil, The Wall Street Journal

Waller County and Texas come through on $1.9 million Sandra Bland settlement, Houston Chronicle

Ethics commission dismisses complaint over Sid Miller campaign loan, Houston Chronicle

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

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

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•   A Conversation with the University of Houston's Renu Khator on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

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

•   A Conversation on Mental Health on Jan. 26 at The Austin Club

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

•   A Conversation with Reps. Senfronia Thompson & James White on March 31 at Prairie View A&M University – W.A. Tempton Memorial Student Center