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The Brief: Texas alcohol regulators know how to party — on taxpayer's dime

Officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission spent thousands of taxpayer dollars attending conferences and hotels at fancy resorts.

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Tribune today

Liquor regulators partying on taxpayers' tab
Texas alcohol regulators know how to party: records show they've spent thousands of dollars to travel to swanky resorts where liquor flows and industry lobbyists abound. Now the state's top liquor administrator says she may have to disclose more about the money she's received from an industry-funded group.

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What you need to know

Records show officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission spent thousands of taxpayer dollars attending meetings for the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, an industry trade group that brings liquor interests and government regulators together at hotels and resorts across the nation. Here's what you need to know

  • The commission has spent at least $85,000 on out-of-state travel since the 2011 fiscal year, with a lot going toward liquor industry conferences, state comptroller's records show. TABC billed Texas at least $8,000 for a San Diego trip in 2015, and in 2013, the commission spent more than $10,000 in taxpayer dollars for four employees to attend NCSLA's annual conference in Hawaii.
  • Some critics say the commission is wasting tax dollars and raising concerns about the relationship between government regulators and corporate interests. Austin lawyer Howard Wolf said the commission was "not protecting the consumer" or "the taxpayer," but rather the "very wealthy industry companies that own and dominate the industry," such as the NCSLA. 
  • And despite a tight state budget this year, TABC is planning to send employees to the upcoming NCSLA meeting this summer in Colorado. The commission will continue attending NCSLA conferences as long as they're a dues-paying member, said TABC spokesperson Chris Porter. 

News from home

Join us on Tuesday, March 28, at KLRU's Studio 6A for a special screening of Beyond the Wall, The Texas Tribune's short documentary that explores the state's immigration issues through the eyes of undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents and a borderland rancher.

What we're reading

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

Speaker Straus: 'No I won't' block Texas bathroom bill, CBS DFW

Ex-Baylor football player Myke Chatman indicted in 2013 sexual assault, Waco Tribune-Herald

Should Texas turn off its red light cameras?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

HISD special ed director resigns after reports of service denials, The Houston Chronicle ($)

A&M student who lost election files court papers for possible lawsuit, Austin American-Statesman ($)

Trump the dealmaker projects bravado, but behind the scenes, faces rare self-doubtThe New York Times ($)

'Nobody' will lose health care under GOP proposal, Rep. Sessions says, despite estimates millions willThe Dallas Morning News ($)

Photo of the day

FBI Director James Comey spoke at UT-Austin for an Intelligence in Defense of the Homeland symposium March 23. Photo by Shelby Knowles. See more photos on our Instagram account

Quote to note

"It hurts all children when we assume that one type of school is better than the others. Instead, we should be analyzing good schools — of any type — and learning from them."

— Kaitlin Barnes, a Houston ISD teacher, about the school voucher debate via TribTalk

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Cassi Pollock. 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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