This is Bobby Blanchard, and starting today, I'll be writing and producing The Brief along with Texas Tribune fellows Sanya Mansoor and Cassi Pollock. You’ll notice a few small changes in today's edition that reflect feedback we received from many of you in a recent survey. We hope you like them, and most of all, that The Brief continues to prepare you for the day ahead in Texas politics. Let us know what you think. Email me anytime at email@example.com. Thanks, and happy Monday! If you have friends who might want to join our list, please forward this email. They can click here to sign up. – BB
Six years after first attempt, fight over anti-sanctuary cities bill has changed
Bills targeting "sanctuary cities" failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011 and 2015, but similar efforts this session have better chances of making it to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.
Texas jail reforms are planned, but some fear unfunded mandates (video)
A year and a half after Sandra Bland was found dead in the Waller County Jail, Texas lawmakers are expected to consider new jail reforms. But rural sheriffs worry the state’s tight budget situation could result in unfunded mandates.
Analysis: When watching lawmakers, think of the high school cafeteria
Not everything is stuck in silos, but following particular groups is a way to cut through the sheer volume of good and bad ideas that steam up the Texas government’s windows every two years.
Houston police chief urges better mental health care for officers
Art Acevedo, the newly hired head of the police force in Texas' largest city, acknowledged at a Tribune symposium on Saturday the difficulty of finding new funding for the effort but argued for its importance.
5 things to watch in the child welfare fight this session
Texas children facing abuse and neglect are going to be a major issue during the 85th Legislative Session as legislators grapple with less funding, a federal court case and troubling headlines about failings at the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Supreme Court to review Texas death penalty case
The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would review the legal complexities in a Texas death penalty case, where a man killed a 5-year-old and her grandmother.
Ted Cruz urges Texas Legislature to focus on school choice
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz urged state lawmakers Friday to take on school choice this session, adding his voice to what is likely to be a tough battle for education reformers under the Pink Dome.
Lockheed Martin CEO says 1,800 new jobs coming to Fort Worth after Trump meeting
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson emerged from a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on Friday promising to add 1,800 jobs at its Fort Worth facility and reduce the cost of its signature fighter plane, the F-35.
Ken Paxton's lawyers fight SEC bid to subpoena 15 more in fraud investigation
Lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton argue the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is scrambling to save its civil securities fraud case against him. Paxton is headed to trial in May on similar criminal charges at the state level.
What you need to know
After Sandra Bland's suicide in a Waller County jail cell, several Texas lawmakers promised criminal justice reforms to help improve the way county jails help inmates with mental health issues. But now a big question looms ahead of the session: Who is going to pay for those reforms in a tight budget year?
- In a wrongful death settlement, the Waller County judge agreed to seek criminal justice reform legislation in Bland's name. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has promised to introduce the Sandra Bland Act, a bill that he says would address several of the issues around her death.
- In addition to requiring additional police training in de-escalation, Coleman says he'd like the act to improve the way Texas jails approach mental illness. Tom Rhodes, the Bland family's attorney, has said the state needs to improve medical care and inmate monitoring. That could include everything from expanding requirements for nurses in jails, making telemedicine available and using a card swipe systems to monitor how frequently inmates are checked up on.
- But Jackson County Sheriff A.J. “Andy” Louderback said he's worried jails will end up paying for these reforms without state funding. “Most of our jails, here in Texas, don’t have the type of resources that are necessary to take care of all the criminal justice reforms that are being asked about and talked about and printed about right now,” Louderback said.
- And lawmakers have significantly less cash to work with this year. Last week, Comptroller Glenn Hegar said lawmakers will have $104.87 billion to craft the budget, a 2.7 percent decrease from the previous session. The question isn't whether there will be cuts but rather where cuts will be made.
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; paywall content noted with $)
Permian oil fields continue to record rising activity levels, The Midland Reporter-Telegram
IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income families, Laredo Morning Times
Dallas Sen. Don Huffines aims to stop cities from regulating guns, The Dallas Morning News ($)
Federal housing agency: Houston housing policies violate civil rights act, The Houston Chronicle ($)
Photo of the day
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith kicked off the Tribune's first-ever symposium on race relations in America by interviewing civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. Photo by Bob Daemmrich. See more photos on our Instagram account.
Quote to note
“It’s something that I’m starting the conversation for. Doing this is not about being punitive. It’s about saving careers, saving marriages and saving lives. It’s the right thing to do.”
— Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo urging better mental health for police officers during a Tribune symposium Saturday
The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Cassi Pollock. If you have feedback or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We're a nonprofit newsroom, and count on readers like you to help power newsletters like this. Did you like what you read today? Show your appreciation by becoming a member or making a donation today.