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The Brief: Travis County Veterans Court penalized for sheriff's immigration stance

Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in state grant funds to Travis County over its "sanctuary" policy. One program hit hard by the cut: the veterans court.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.

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Tribune today

In courthouse turf war, Texas counties rally against statewide court records portal
Texas counties are trying to kill an effort to allow public access to court records from all 254 counties through an online portal, and they've found friendly ears in the Legislature. 

Critics say governor’s cuts to Travis County hurt Veterans Court program
In response to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's defense of sanctuary cities, Gov. Greg Abbott canceled $1.5 million in grants set to go to the county, leaving the Veterans Court program in a budget crunch. 

Should "made in Texas" mean 100 percent Texas grapes? Texas grape growers split on wine bill
A bill in the state Legislature would require that Texas-labeled wines be made from 100 percent Texas-grown grapes, rather than 75 percent under current law.

Advocates urge House panel to amend fetal remains bill by outlawing abortion
What started as a state House committee hearing on a bill that would require Texas hospitals to bury or cremate fetal remains turned into a heated debate over whether the proposal should be amended to abolish abortion completely.  

Senate passes bill on inappropriate teacher-student relationships
Senate Bill 7 would punish school principals and superintendents who fail to report teachers with a history of inappropriate romantic or sexual relationships with students.

Texas poised to spend $2.5 billion on urban highway projects
As budget writers and lawmakers eye billions in voter-approved highway money for other matters, transportation officials are touting high-profile projects that will benefit from those funds.  

Bill to bar death penalty for mentally ill faces uphill battle
State Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, has filed long-shot House Bill 3080, which would prevent offenders proven to have had a severe mental illness at the time of their crime from being sentenced to death in a capital murder case.   

Ted Cruz: New health care bill doomed in the Senate without changes
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Wednesday that he has "significant concerns" about the new House health care plan, though he's optimistic those differences can be resolved.

What you need to know

After Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez officially established Travis County as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in state grant funds to the county. One program hit hard by the cut: the veterans court.  

  • County officials have emphasized the Veterans Court program has nothing to do with immigration. The Veterans Court is set up to serve veterans who commit non-violent crimes that can be linked to service-related disorders. 
  • But the court's future is now uncertain. The court serves veterans with post-traumautic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or other service-related disorders
  • For now, the Travis County Commissioners office has picked up the tab for Veterans Court after Abbott slashed funds. In February, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, launched a local fundraising effort to finance Travis County services, which has raised over $110,000, some of which may be used by the Veterans Court.

What we're reading

(Links below lead to outside websites; paywall content noted with $) 

The shale industry is scrambling to catch up to its own boom, Bloomberg

Bill would stop Austin from protesting pollution, Austin Monitor

Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown resigns after guilty plea to Jan. 1 altercation with two college students, The Daily Light

Meet the hundreds of officials Trump has quietly installed across the governmentProPublica

Trump, Cruz dine at White House, proving that while rivalry may be over, politics goes onThe Dallas Morning News ($)

As immigration rhetoric heats up, the number of families crossing the border in South Texas has slowed downSan Antonio Express-News

First clinic specifically serving transgender needs opens in Austin, Austin American-Statesman ($)

Bail bond reform bills introduced in Texas to help poor defendants get out of jailThe Houston Chronicle ($)

He's the only Texas Democrat to support the state's 'bathroom bill.' One vocal critic: His sonThe Washington Post ($)

For your calendar

Join us online or in person for a conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler at the Austin Club this morning. 

Photo of the day

Gov. Greg Abbott discusses the Governor’s University Research Initiative grant program, a $40 million professor recruitment fund, at the Governor’s Mansion during a reception on Monday, March 6. It cost $9 million to attract renowned electrical engineering professor Tom Overbye, third from the right, to join Texas A&M University — but was it worth it? Photo by Marjorie Kamys. See more photos on our Instagram account

Quote to note

"From traffic disputes to the U.S. Supreme Court, our judicial system will not work unless parties trust the independent neutrality of judges to enforce the law and thus accept decisions without resorting to unrest or violence, even when they disagree with the result."

— Craig Smith, Texas District Judge, and Tom Melsheimer, managing partner at Dallas, Winston & Strawn, about the importance of an independent judiciary via TribTalk

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. If you have feedback or questions, please email thebrief@texastribune.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.

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