Vol 29, Issue 8 Print Issue

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

The Rubber Meets the Road

Texas joined six other states and a handful of Catholic organizations in suing the federal government to block requirements that all employers include coverage for contraceptives in employees' health care benefits.

The University of Texas at Austin.
The University of Texas at Austin.

UT Goes to Washington

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this to hear an affirmative action case against the University of Texas, the university’s policies are once again poised to become a flashpoint in national discourse about the proper role of race in college admissions.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Gov. Rick Perry’s last financial filing as a presidential candidate showed a campaign spending money much more quickly than it was taking it in during the final days of his failed bid. In three weeks, the campaign shelled out $3 million on consultants, expensive TV advertising and travel. At the same time, the campaign took in a mere $400,000. Perry dropped out of the race on Jan. 19. His remaining campaign account balance was $860,168.

Texas A&M University hosted what some considered an unlikely guest for Presidents Day: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. At the George H.W. Bush presidential library, she praised the elder Bush — who sat in the front row at the event with his wife, Barbara — for his civility and leadership. 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in the Rio Grande Valley this week for a two-day visit, joined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David Aguilar. She was briefed by law enforcement officials on a broad range of border security issues and was asked to continue providing federal grant money to help local departments step up their operations in combating spillover violence from Mexico. Hidalgo County alone has received more than $6 million since 2004 under the Operation Stonegarden program.

As the Lower Colorado River Authority presented its new water management plan for Central Texas, heavy rain caused lake levels to rise substantially across the state. The drought had lakes at record-low levels, but the downpours were enough to boost the levels by about 7.5 percent. The drought is far from over. But the volume of winter rains caught meteorologists off guard and led to optimism about easing of water restrictions. The LCRA’s plan for water management included capping releases for rice farmers downstream from the lakes and doubling reserves for cities and power plants. 

Two death row inmates had their appeals rejected by the Supreme Court this week. The high court refused to consider the appeals of Britt Ripkowski, convicted of killing a 2-year old girl in 1997, and Marcus Druery, a former student at Texas State Technical College who was convicted of robbing and shooting a fellow student in 2002.

Tensions in Hidalgo between two factions led by the mayor and his uncle came to a head with the resignation of Mayor John David Franz, who had served as the city's leader for 22 years. His political committee will field a slate of candidates in May, and he hopes to ensure their success by stepping aside after more than a year of strained community relations surrounding his legal residency. It’s widely known that Franz lives in neighboring Pharr, but the issue has received more scrutiny since his break with his uncle, whose group, Concerned Citizens of Hidalgo, led a march on City Hall in October to publicize the matter.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry was scheduled to have a 90-minute surgery on his collarbone Friday morning; it didn't heal properly after a bicycling accident in 2009.

Mark Vickery is retiring as executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in May after 25 years in government. He has headed the agency since 2008.

Perry reappointed Douglas Wilson of Pflugerville as inspector general of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Perry appointed John "Mark" McWatters of Dallas to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. McWatters is director of graduate programs and an adjunct professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, and an adjunct professor in the Cox School of Business.

Press corps moves: Dave Montgomery, a terrific reporter who's covered Austin, Washington, the USSR and who knows what else for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is taking a buyout as that paper shrinks its newsroom.