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The Brief: Who will pay for criminal justice reform in Texas?

A big question remains for lawmakers as they start the session: If the state is going to reform how county jails address mental health, who is going to pay for those changes in a tight budget year?

Rep. Garnet Coleman D-Houston questions Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw during a September 20, 2016 House County Affairs committee hearing

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 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

Tribune today

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?

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 $) 

‘I’m Going to Leave Politics Alone for Now,’ Julián Castro Says on HUD Exit, Texas Standard

Permian oil fields continue to record rising activity levelsThe Midland Reporter-Telegram

IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income familiesLaredo Morning Times

Rep. Cuellar appointed to key subcommittees for intelligence, defenseThe Monitor 

Dallas Sen. Don Huffines aims to stop cities from regulating gunsThe Dallas Morning News ($) 

Federal housing agency: Houston housing policies violate civil rights actThe 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 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.

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