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Senate comm. considers tighter open records law

Witnesses told a Senate Committee Monday that Texas’ open records law should be tightened and clarified to reduce lawsuits.

Freedom of information advocates said the Legislature could improve on one of the best public information acts in the country, but should make sure to provide more information, not less.

One source of recent litigation is whether a public official must share e-mails sent from a private account talking about government business. The attorney general’s office said they must, but the city of Lubbock and a Bexar County commissioner are fighting that decision in court.

Contractors are also fighting to keep information about their government work private, representing more than a third of the lawsuits over the public information act in Texas.

Senators said they would consider new laws next year.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press, All rights reserved.
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Perry taps chief of staff for Texas Supreme Court

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed his chief of staff to the Texas Supreme Court.

Jeffrey Boyd will join the state’s highest civil court Dec. 3 and finish a term that expires at the end of 2014.

He replaces Dale Wainwright, who resigned Sept. 30 to join Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Austin.

Boyd became Perry’s chief of staff last year and was previously the governor’s general counsel.

In 2004, Perry named his then general counsel, David Medina, to the Supreme Court. Medina lost a re-election bid during the Republican primary in July.

The general counsel helps the governor review death-penalty cases.

Perry has overseen 253 executions and commuted one sentence–granting life in prison to a death row inmate who drove the getaway car during a robbery and murder.

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Obama re-elected to 2nd term

Barack Obama has won re-election to a second term as president, beating back a fierce challenge from Republican Mitt Romney.

Obama prevailed despite a weak economy and high unemployment.

A subdued Romney conceded to his supporters in Boston. He said he "left everything on the field.” Romney offered thanks to running mate Paul Ryan, who he called the best choice he ever made beside his wife Ann.

Romney asked for unity. He said the nation is at a critical point and can’t risk "partisan bickering and political posturing.” He urged supporters and Republicans to reach across the aisle.

The former Massachusetts governor, who lost nearly all the battleground states, called on all Americans to work to rebuild the nation.

Romney called on job creators to invest and to hire workers. He said Democrats should put the "people above politics.”

Copyright 2012 Associated Press, All rights reserved.
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Federal court rejects Texas voter ID law



YNN’s Erin Billups shares reaction from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the video above.

A federal court has ruled against a Texas law that would require voters to present photo IDs to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots in November.

A three-judge panel in Washington ruled Thursday that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

The decision involves an increasingly contentious political issue: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governor’s offices, to impose strict identification requirements on voters.

The ruling comes in the same week that South Carolina’s strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected in time for the November election.

Click here to read the court’s full opinion.

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To see all of Erin’s conversation with Attorney General Greg Abbott, click the video below.

Craddick wins runoff for Texas Railroad Commission



Photo courtesy ChristiCraddick.com


Christi Craddick defeated state Rep. Warren Chisum for the Republican nomination for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, which has nothing to do with trains but regulates oil and gas exploration statewide.

Craddick will face Democrat Dale Henry in November’s general election for the Place 1 seat on the three-member commission.

Born in Midland, Craddick is an Austin oil and gas attorney whose father is former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. Chisum has been a Texas lawmaker for more than 25 years.

All the candidates for the board campaigned against overregulation by the Environmental Protection Agency and said the Railroad Commission’s name should be changed to reflect its true duties.

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Smitherman gets GOP nod for Railroad Commission



Photo courtesy Texas Railroad Commission.


AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman has defeated Gregory Parker for the Republican nomination to retain his seat on the board that has nothing to do with trains but regulates oil and gas exploration statewide.

Smitherman faces no Democratic opposition in the November general election for the Place 2 seat on the three-member commission.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Smitherman to the chairman position last year, replacing Michael Williams. Smitherman is running to complete Williams’ original term, which expires in 2014.
Smitherman was an attorney for the Public Utility Commission and later became its chairman. He helped create Texas’ robust wind power infrastructure.

All the candidates for the board campaigned against over regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency and said the Railroad Commission’s name should be changed to reflect its true duties.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press, All rights reserved.
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Paul: ‘We will no longer spend resources’



Ron Paul says he is done spending money on his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Paul on Monday issued a statement that insisted he would continue the fight for delegates, taking the battle to the GOP convention in Tampa. But the favorite of libertarians and tea partyers says he would no longer spend “many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.”

Mitt Romney is 171 delegates shy of the 1,144 needed to capture the nomination, and Paul faces an all-but-impossible task of catching him. Paul’s supporters have been causing trouble at local delegate selections but are unlikely to derail Romney’s route.

Paul, a longtime congressman, is not running for another term to represent his Texas district.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press, All rights reserved.
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Statement from Ron Paul:

As I reflect on our 2012 Presidential campaign, I am humbled by the supporters who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much. And I am so proud of what we have accomplished.

We will not stop until we have restored what once made America the greatest country in human history.

This campaign fought hard and won electoral success that the talking heads and pundits never thought possible. But, this campaign is also about more than just the 2012 election. It has been part of a quest I began 40 years ago and that so many have joined. It is about the campaign for Liberty, which has taken a tremendous leap forward in this election and will continue to grow stronger in the future until we finally win.

Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process. We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.

Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted. Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.

I encourage all supporters of Liberty to make sure you get to the polls and make your voices heard, particularly in the local, state, and Congressional elections, where so many defenders of Freedom are fighting and need your support.

I hope all supporters of Liberty will remain deeply involved – become delegates, win office, and take leadership positions. I will be right there with you. In the coming days, my campaign leadership will lay out to you our delegate strategy and what you can do to help, so please stay tuned.

TX attorney general asked court to clear voter ID




Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is asking a federal court to clear the way for the state’s Voter ID law after the Department of Justice failed to clear it.

In a court case filed Monday, Abbott said the Obama administration was hostile to laws like the one passed last year in Texas, which requires voters to show a photo identification card in order to vote.

Texas is one of 16 states where all changes to voting laws must first be cleared by the justice department or the Washington D.C. district court before they can go into effect.

Abbott is asking the court to clear the law because similar laws exist in other states and he said the Obama administration is taking too long to decide whether to clear the law.

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Cornyn: Texas’ April primary likely faces delay



U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he doesn’t expect the Texas primary to be held on April 3 and calls the potential delay “not desirable.”

Monday, the Texas Republican said he believed a later primary date was likely considering that the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to rule on a dispute over the state’s redrawn voting maps.

Minority groups say redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature last year diluted their voting power, and the Justice Department hasn’t given required federal approval. The Supreme Court is considering the state’s challenge to federally drawn interim maps.

Cornyn said the high court should respect the Legislature-drawn maps.

Once redistricting is settled, officials need 45 days to mail absentee ballots. The primary is supposed to be held before state party conventions in June.

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Bachmann quits race, says she’ll fight for issues



Michele Bachmann is quitting the Republican presidential campaign, saying she’s “decided to stand aside” in the wake of her sixth place finish in the Iowa precinct caucuses.

Speaking at a news conference in Des Moines, Bachmann said she had “no regrets” whatsoever and said she ran her race with integrity and will continue to fight for the causes she emphasized on the campaign trail.

It has been a long, deep slide for the Minnesota congresswoman, who enjoyed a high point in her campaign when she won a Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa several months ago.

In her statement, Bachmann referred repeatedly to “Obamacare” and said the Republican Party must not miss a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to repeal both the sweeping health care law under Obama’s watch and the financial regulation law known as Dodd-Frank.

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