Tribune Today

Lawmakers draw battle lines on border security, sanctuary cities
On the same day that Texas House Republicans doubled down on border security efforts and announced plans to send an invoice to the federal government, Senate Democrats said they were committed to fighting bills to eliminate sanctuary cities. 

Former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson takes heat on Russian stance at confirmation hearing
While his fellow Texans, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, predicted Tillerson would serve the country well as the next U.S. secretary of state, others expressed deep reservations about his position on Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Energy secretary pick Rick Perry to divest of holdings that could present conflicts
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now the nominee for U.S. energy secretary, is moving to disentangle himself from potential conflicts of interest.

UT Regent Hall's attorney faces tough questions in Supreme Court hearing
University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall's attorney argued before the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday that he should be allowed to see confidential student admissions records that the UT System chancellor has denied him.

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Welcome to the 85th Legislature (podcast)
On this week's TribCast, Emily talks to Evan, Ross and Aman about the start of the 85th Texas Legislature: the Speaker's race, a smaller-than-usual budget and the lieutenant governor's priorities.

Texas Legislature faces a shift in border security funding debate (video)
In 2015, state lawmakers approved $800 million for border security efforts. But the election of Donald Trump as president has some Republican lawmakers thinking there will be a change in spending plans this session.

The Big Story

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick shot back at critics of Senate Bill 6, and the House skirmished over which bathrooms Capitol visitors could use. Here's the story:

Arguing in favor of the so-called "bathroom bill," Patrick said Texans overwhelmingly support the measure. In an interview with The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith, Patrick complained vigorously about media coverage of SB 6, which would require transgender people to use bathrooms in certain buildings that correspond with their "biological sex." The only people who oppose the bill, Patrick insisted, are "Anglo liberals, and many of them work in the media."

Patrick also dismissed claims by business groups that Texas would face economic consequences if the bill were passed. He pointed to the example of North Carolina, which passed similar legislation last year, saying, "Every report of North Carolina shows that they have the second-strongest economy in the country or the second-best place to do business, the second best-place where executives want to move their companies to. It's having no effect."

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, a group of tourism bureau presidents and business organization leaders announced a campaign opposing the bill. “[SB 6] is both a business concern but it's also an issue that we don't condone and tolerate discrimination in Texas," said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Visit Dallas, at the event. “It really hurts the brand of Texas; it creates a perception that we don't welcome people from all walks of life, all backgrounds and that we're not an open and inclusive society — and that's not who we are.”

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And in the House, lawmakers found themselves sparring over who is allowed to use which bathroom under the pink dome. State Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican, proposed a rule Wednesday requiring people in the Capitol to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex during debate over House Resolution 3, a standard housekeeping resolution that sets the rules for the people with access to the House chamber as well as salaries for certain Capitol employees.

The matter was eventually settled through parliamentary maneuvering. House Administration committee Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, called a point of order arguing that Schaefer's proposal wasn't relevant to the resolution because the State Preservation Board, not House rules, decides the policies for the Capitol. After a delay on the House floor, Schaefer withdrew his proposal, and HR 3 passed with 145 votes. 

The scuffle may have served as a test of the lower chamber's willingness to take up the bathroom issue. House Speaker Joe Straus has downplayed the urgency of SB 6, saying it's not "the most urgent concern of mine." And on Tuesday, in his opening remarks of the session, he appeared to take a veiled jab at the bill, telling members to focus on policies that "invite economic activity" to the state and "not turn it away."

New in TribTalk

"I wish I’d had a chance to make a polite and diplomatic plea to the Texas State Legislature. Since I didn’t, I will march alongside other Texas women on January 21st and we will let our bodies, strong, powerful and free, speak for us."

— Author Sarah Bird

News from Home

Are you a Texan going to Washington, D.C., for Donald Trump's inauguration? The Texas Tribune is working on a story about the inauguration and would like to hear from Texans traveling to Washington for the event. Tell us about your plans here, and a reporter may contact you.

What We're Reading

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

Plano GOP Sen. Van Taylor will run for Congress, Dallas Morning News

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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert accused of blocking journalist from photographing protesters, Dallas Morning News

Ambitious Texas Carbon Capture Project Turns Rocky For NRG At $50 Oil, Forbes

Texas drilling permits up 38 percent in December, UPI

Cornyn: Trump’s Border Plan Could Take Financial Pressure Off Texas, Houston Public Media

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   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 on Ethics, Transparency & Open Government, Jan. 31 at The Austin Club

•   A Conversation with Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Feb. 1 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