The Brief: Dec. 23, 2015

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The Big Conversation

A day after a Waller County grand jury decided not to indict any county jail employees in connection with the July death of Sandra Bland, the focus remained on the Department of Public Safety trooper who made the initial traffic stop.

The grand jury, which will reconvene next month, has yet to take action in Brian Encinia‘s arrest of Bland. The Houston Chronicle‘s St. John Barned-Smith reported that protesters across the country want an indictment against Encinia, blaming the arrest as contributing heavily to her subsequent death.

An attorney representing Bland’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit told the Chronicle that he was skeptical that Encinia would be charged. “They’ve had video of what Encinia did — there’s 52 minutes that shows exactly what Encinia did,” he said. “He had no probable cause to pull her out of car and make her get out. He was just upset she didn’t want to put her cigarette out.”

Politicians like U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also weighed in on the Bland arrest in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict. Sanders said, via a tweet, “There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman.”

Trib Must Reads

Uber, Tesla Messed with Texas Transportation in 2015, by Aman Batheja — Silicon Valley heavyweights like Uber, Tesla and Google challenged the transportation status quo this year, along with a private firm that is hoping to build the country’s fastest high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

Texas Drops Planned Parenthood From HIV Prevention Program, by Alexa Ura — Amid an ongoing battle over Planned Parenthood’s participation in the state Medicaid program, Texas health officials are cutting off funding to a Planned Parenthood affiliate for an HIV prevention program.

Texas-Mexico Border Apprehensions Dipped in 2015, by Julián Aguilar — The number of people apprehended by immigration agents while trying to enter Texas illegally dropped by more than 35 percent during the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year, according to new Department of Homeland Security figures.

Abbott Nixes Capitol Freedom From Religion Tableau, by Matthew Watkins — A “winter solstice” display by the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been ordered removed from the Texas Capitol after Gov. Greg Abbott called it a “juvenile parody.”

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott travels to Weslaco where he will meet National Guard troops and military officials at 3 p.m. in the National Guard Armory.

Elsewhere

Open carry in Texas after Jan. 1: chance for fashion statement?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Campus carry rules would pass legal muster, UT panel members say, Austin American-Statesman

Texas Tech campus carry task force proposes dorm gun ban, an idea targeted by AG, The Dallas Morning News

Inmates accused, charged despite workers’ own misconduct, Houston Chronicle

Fugitive Real Estate Heir Agrees to Los Angeles Extradition, The Associated Press

As TV Ad Rates Soar, ‘Super PACs’ Pivot to Core Campaign Work, The New York Times

Conservative group targets Ted Cruz in Iowa, Politico

Poll: Ted Cruz approaching Donald Trump, Marco Rubio comes in third, Politico

Gov. Greg Abbott pardons four Texans who committed minor crimes, The Dallas Morning News

More than a million Texans sign up on insurance exchange, Houston Chronicle

Lost Pines Groundwater District approves Forestar water permit, Austin American-Statesman

High-Tide Flooding May Be Next Threat For Galveston, KUHF

Quote to Note

“It’s such a manly industry and there weren’t products that understood that fashion is important to women. We provide women the opportunity to customize or personalize their holster to whatever color or pattern they prefer.”

— Carrie Lightfoot, owner of online company The Well Armed Woman, on the growing trend of guns and holsters made with designs specifically made to appeal to women

Today in TribTalk

It’s time to help Texas become a national research leader, by Gordon England — While Texas has proven itself as a leader in science and innovation, competition for research funding is unrelenting. To continue its forward momentum, Texas will need to do a better job of cultivating a top-tier research environment, where the world’s brightest can do their best work.

Farewell, Austin, by Ellen Sweets — Ever since I decided to leave Austin, I’ve tried to write a farewell devoid of anger and frustration, and every time I’ve had to move on to writing something else. A Facebook post. An email. A grocery list. I’d rather write about the vestiges of the Austin I once loved.

News From Home

•    We are taking a “Brief” break for a couple of days for the Christmas holiday. Thanks for reading and our sincerest wishes for meaningful moments with family and friends. We’ll see you again Monday.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward’s University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune’s second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

•    A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Source: Texas Tribune Blue Left Wing News

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