Tribune Today

Analysis: Dithering federal judges asked to rule on Texas political maps
The judges overseeing litigation on Texas redistricting haven't done anything public for two years. The lawyers who sued the state over its political maps are trying to get the judges to chirp or get off the perch.

Arguments begin in lawsuit over Texas fetal remains burial rule
In the first of two days of hearings, Texas attorneys and the Center for Reproductive Rights went head-to-head over whether the state will be allowed to implement its fetal remains burial rule.

Senator goes for low-hanging fruit in ethics reform
State Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, is taking a realistic approach to ethics reform this year. He's pushing proposals that got wide agreement in both chambers two years ago but ultimately failed to draw Gov. Greg Abbott's signature.

George W. Bush to attend Trump's inauguration
George W. Bush is planning to attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, whom the former president did not support during the campaign along with other members of his family.

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Texas lawmakers file bills to plug "loopholes" keeping government contracts secret
A pair of Texas lawmakers have filed legislation aiming to plug what they called major “loopholes” in public records law that have left taxpayers in the dark about key details of some contracts involving public funds. 

Texas sues FDA over seized execution drugs
More than a year after the feds blocked Texas from importing an execution drug, Texas filed a lawsuit demanding a final decision on whether the drugs can be delivered.

Straus approaches session without a speaker challenger
With a week until the 85th Legislative Session begins, House Speaker Joe Straus is without something he has had before every session since he first took the helm of the chamber: a challenger for the gavel.

Appeals court panel taking up immigration provision in Texas border security law
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals will hear arguments over whether an immigrant harboring provision lawmakers passed nearly two years ago should be implemented.

The Big Story

After U.S. House Republicans backed down on their plan to limit the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics, several U.S. representatives from Texas weighed in on Monday night's secret vote. Here's the story:

House Republicans unleashed outrage from Democrats, watchdog groups — and President-elect Donald Trump — when they moved in a Monday night secret vote to gut the OCE, an investigative arm of the U.S. House. The wave of criticism prompted the members to reverse their decision less than 24 hours later.

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Soon after passage, a succession of Texas Republicans released statements indicating a distaste for the Monday vote. Reps. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, Michael McCaul of Austin, Michael Burgess of Lewisville and John Carter of Round Rock all said they opposed the amendment, while Lamar Smith of Austin said lawmakers should be "held to the highest ethical standard." Rep. Blake Farenthold both supported the OCE revamp Monday night and backed the move to unwind it on Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman.

Among members of Congress, the OCE is a highly controversial institution, an investigative body separate from the House Ethics Committee, which is made up of House members. House leaders created the OCE in 2008 after a number of scandals rocked Congress in the mid-2000s, but since then, its actions on various ethical issues have angered members of both parties, raising questions that the office was using its power to embarrass representatives over alleged transgressions. Rep. Bill Flores, a Bryan Republican, who backed the OCE revamp, on Tuesday described the office as "a creation of [former House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi" that "wasn't structured correctly." 

What We're Reading

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

Rick Perry's Texas GiveawaysProPublica

Here's A Preview Of Education Issues Texas Lawmakers Could Tackle This Session, KERA

City manager says plan to hire 451 new Dallas cops 'extremely difficult if not impossible', Dallas Morning News

Tarrant lawmakers prepare for Texas Legislature — big needs, tight budgetFort Worth Star-Telegram

Julián Castro, Leveling the Playing Field, The Atlantic

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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 

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

•   A Symposium on Race and Public Policy on Jan. 13 at Huston-Tillotson University

•   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

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