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Saying it cannot rely on AG, ethics commission seeks more money for legal fights

By David Saleh Rauf

AUSTIN – The Texas Ethics Commission says it cannot depend on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office to defend the agency in future litigation, and, as a result, is asking budget writers for a huge pot of reserve cash if it has to hire outside lawyers to handle court fights.

Commission officials made their case Monday to staff from the Legislative Budget Board for an extra $300,000 during the 2018-2019 budget cycle to cover possible legal costs for private attorneys.

The money, commission officials said, is needed because of uncertainty that has been sowed by the attorney general refusing to represent the agency in a recent lawsuit.

“Quite frankly, we cannot rely upon the office of the attorney general for representation,” Commission Chairman Chase Untermeyer said at a Texas Capitol hearing.

Embroiled in a barrage of litigation in recent years, the commission’s funding request could cause a stir by highlighting tension, and potential lingering mistrust, between the state’s campaign finance regulator and its chief legal officer.

The attorney general’s office declined comment Monday, though Paxton’s legal team has represented the commission in several recent cases, including some that are ongoing. It also is not unprecedented for the attorney general’s office to deny legal representation to an agency, experts have said.

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Shock Poll: Trump Gets 20 Percent of Black Vote in Florida Poll; Leads Clinton Overall 43 to 41

Twenty percent of African-American voters in Florida support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump according to a poll released Wednesday by Florida Atlantic University.

The poll hit as Trump is visiting Tampa for a mid-day rally at the State Fairgrounds.

The poll shows Trump with a two point lead of rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 43 to 41 percent, within the poll’s 2.7 percent margin of error. Clinton has the support of 68 percent of African-American voters in Florida. 1200 registered Florida voters were surveyed from August 19-22.

The Washington Post reported in 2014 that incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott received twelve percent of the Black vote for his reelection bid, noting that was an eight point improvement over 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s performance with Florida’s Black voters and Scott’s 2010 support.

“In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) hit double digits, earning 12 percent of the black vote — an 8-point bump from Romney and from Scott’s showing in 2010.”

In recent weeks Trump has made outreach to Black voters a significant part of his campaign.

The internals of the poll state that 158 African-American voters surveyed comprised 13.1 percent of the 1200 voters surveyed overall. (Page 13.)

The Roper Center reported that nationally Romney received six percent of the African-American vote in 2012.

Text of the press release from FAU about the poll.

FAU Poll Finds Trump Edging Out Clinton in Florida
Murphy and Rubio Poised for Tough Senate Race

BOCA RATON, Fla. (August 24, 2016) – Republican nominee Donald Trump
leads Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida 43 to 41 percent, with Libertarian Gary
Johnson taking 8 percent and 5 percent undecided, according to a new survey by the
Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI).
In the Florida race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican
Marco Rubio lead by wide margins before their respective party primaries on Tuesday,
Aug. 30, with Rubio leading Murphy 44 percent to 39 percent in a potential general
election matchup in November.

For the presidential race, both candidates are underwater in terms of their
favorability ratings in Florida. Trump scores a 41 percent favorable and 56 percent
unfavorable rating, while Clinton has 40 percent favorable and 58 percent unfavorable
rating. Clinton, meanwhile, has a loyalty score of 90 percent (those who have a favorable
opinion and are voting for her), while Trump has a loyalty score of 94 percent. Trump
leads among males 46 percent to 36 percent, but trails Clinton among women 45 percent
to 41 percent. Independents are voting for Trump by a wide margin of 47 percent to 26

Trump leads among white voters 49 to 33 percent, but trails with African
Americans 68 to 20 percent, as well as Hispanics 50 to 40 percent.

“The race between Clinton and Trump among Hispanics in Florida is closer than
it is nationally,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the BEPI. “Some of that is
probably the Cuban vote. Trump’s support among Latinos in Florida is helping him stay

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RERsports: Aledo too much for Mansfield Legacy

Austin Police Kill Armed Suspect After Responding To Domestic Disturbance [VIDEO]

The suspect was said to be toting a ‘high-powered rifle’ when police arrived, and he is said to have ignored commands to drop it.


AUSTIN, TX — A man shot by police at a North Austin apartment early Monday morning has died, police confirmed.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo staged a news conference later Monday saying the man was warned several times to drop his weapon when they responded to the scene at 8:45 a.m. The suspect failed to comply, prompting police to initially fire non-lethal rounds at him (“bean bag”-style rounds) followed by lethal rounds.

The man died later at the hospital as a result of the shooting.

The incident began as a domestic disturbance call at the San Paloma Apartments on Tech Ridge Boulevard. Officers were warned ahead of time the man had a knife, but upon arrival they found him with a high-powered rifle, Acevedo said at the press conference.


Acevedo acknowledged the man did not fire his rifle during the confrontation with police. But he did say the suspect lifted his rifle in pointing it at officers, who still restrained from taking lethal action.

“The officers gave several verbal commands the subject did not comply with,” the chief said. “They did everything we as a community, we as a police department expect in terms of trying to end this peacefully. But when you have all these innocent folks here, unfortunately it did not turn out the way we wanted it to.”

The names of the two officers who fired at the suspect have not been released. Acevedo said one of the officers is a 27-year law enforcement veteran and the other has eight years’ experience. Per protocol after officer-involved shootings, they will likely be placed on administrative desk duty as the investigation is conducted, the chief said.

But based on the preliminary information at hand, Acevedo said he believes the officers acted professionally in dealing with the rifle-toting suspect.

“One of the things we always tell our officers if we have somebody armed — especially with that type of weapon in this type of environment, that is a target-rich environment — we have to get resources quickly, we have to contain the suspect quickly and we have to make sure we do everything we can to safeguard the lives of our residents back here just minding their business in their apartment complex trying to go on with their day and their holiday here on Labor Day.

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Democrats hope Trump helps them turn Texas more blue in November


Come November, local Democrats are hoping for the perfect storm.

They believe this could be the year, thanks to Donald Trump, that they might begin to regain some of the posts lost through the years to the Republican Party.

If all goes well, some say enough Republicans may stay home — or avoid voting a straight-party ticket because they can’t support the Republican presidential nominee — which could open doors for down-ballot Democrats.

“We have a unique opportunity this cycle to make inroads,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples said. “Tarrant County is right on the bubble.

“I think Republican leaders have to be worried about what Trump will do to their ticket, making some Republicans stay home or split the ticket,” she said “We are hoping it opens up opportunities for us all across the board.”

Most experts doubt the Democrats will finally achieve their long-awaited rebound this year.

“It would take a blue tsunami to keep any of these Republicans from returning to D.C. and Austin in January,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“But just as we still can’t rule out a hurricane hitting the Texas coast between now and the end of September, we also can’t completely rule out a blue tsunami in Texas this fall.”

Republicans, however, are virtually certain that won’t happen.

All that speculation is just “wishful thinking,” said Tim O’Hare, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party.

“This certainly is a different type of election year, and we are seeing things happen we’ve never seen before,” he said. “But for every person who comes out and says they won’t vote for Trump, someone else will come out and vote for him.”

That’s different, he said, than what was seen when voters stayed home and didn’t vote for GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney or John McCain and no new voters stepped up in their stead.

“There is no panic among Republicans in Tarrant County,” O’Hare said

At risk?

If the long-shot blue tsunami does barrel through Tarrant County, political experts say Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would benefit and several local Republican politicians could be at risk.

At the top of the list could be the 6th Congressional District, long represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.

This year, he faces challenges by Democrat Ruby Faye Woolridge and Green Party member Darrel Smith Jr.

At least one article has featured the race, saying it could be “a real surprising win for us given the right supporting GOTV effort.” Others disagree, saying there’s little money in the race, other than Barton’s.

“It’s hard to win a House seat on sheer coattails alone, and Trump will probably win the district anyway, and it may not be all that close,” said Kyle Kondick, managing editor for Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “TX-6 is consistently 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential voting.”

Murphy to revive sex offender, habitual criminal bills in 85th Legislature

Senior State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-District 133, is pushing for criminal justice reform in the upcoming legislative session.

Murphy highlighted his desire to revive bills that died in the 84th Legislature, including the ability for small cities to regulate where registered sex offenders are allowed to live.

Currently, only home-rule cities are allowed to do that – bigger cities like Houston. But general-rule cities, like the Memorial Villages, are not allowed to keep registered sex offenders away from certain areas like playgrounds or youth centers.

“Large cities have that ability,” Murphy said. “Small cities don’t, so we want to make that fair.”

Murphy authored House Bill 1872 in 2015 which he said would have made it legal for the smaller cities to pass ordinances regulating where sex offenders live, but that bill died before House members could vote on it.

Habitual Criminals Bill

In a more contentious fight, Murphy said he wants to also re-address a career criminals bill that targets those convicted of multiple misdemeanors.

Murphy’s 2015 bill, HB 191, would have increased the punishment range for someone charged with a Class A or Class B misdemeanor – who was also previously convicted of two or more Class A or Class B misdemeanors – up to one year in jail but no less than 180 days. The bill would have also increased the fine for such offense up to $4,000 but no less than $2,000.

Current, a person facing a Class A misdemeanor who was previously convicted of a Class A misdemeanor faces 90 days to one year in jail and a possible fine not to exceed $4,000. A person facing a Class B misdemeanor who was previously convicted of either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor faces 90 to 180 days in jail and a possible fine not to exceed $2,000.

Murphy’s HB 191 died in committee.

It is possible for someone who is facing a state-jail felony drug possession charge to plead guilty to a Class A misdemeanor. If that person was convicted of the state-jail felony three times, and was charged with any other felony again, the punishment range would jump to 25 years to life in prison.

But Murphy said because criminals are able to plead felonies down to misdemeanors, their punishment range does not exceed one year in jail.

“You have people commit multiple misdemeanors, because they learn that if you commit three felonies, you get (up to) a life sentence,” Murphy said. “If you keep pleading them down and taking deals, they’ll never cross that threshold.”

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RERsports: The Woodlands dismantles Katy

By Demetrio Teniente

SHENANDOAH — Everyone knew points would be scarce on Friday night with The Woodlands and Katy’s stout defenses sharing the field at Woodforest Bank Stadium.

But in the biggest game of the week, mistakes — and not defensive prowess — defined the game.

The Woodlands (3-0) limited its own misfires and capitalized on just enough of Katy’s to pull out a 26-3 win.

“We had a lot of penalties in the first half that didn’t let us get going offensively,” The Woodlands coach Mark Schmid said. “We cleaned some of that up in the second quarter and put together a nice drive at the half. That took the ball game in control, and (we) built off that momentum. I think that was a big win for us.”

As good as The Woodlands was, Katy (1-2) continued to shoot itself in the foot.

Two snaps went over the head of Katy punter Seth Small. The first went out of the back of the end zone and gave The Woodlands a 2-0 lead with 7:26 left to play in the first quarter. A little more than two minutes later, the second bad snap gave the Highlanders the ball at the Katy 32.

The Tigers’ defense bowed its neck and held The Woodlands to a 28-yard field goal. That put the Highlanders’ lead at 5-0 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.

Three minutes into the second quarter, Katy quarterback Rocky Emery fumbled the ball at The Woodlands’ 4-yard line, and Quinn Binney returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. A personal foul called against the Highlanders wiped the return off the board, however.

Still, the play resulted in a huge shift of momentum in favor of The Woodlands.

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RERsports: Lake Travis football team dominates Dallas Jesuit

Jay Plotkin Contributing Writer

DALLAS — After two rough weeks, Lake Travis’ defense had a game to remember, stifling Dallas Jesuit Friday 42-10.

After allowing more than 500 yards against Judson and Steele, the Cavaliers (2-1) held the Rangers (0-3) to just 298 total yards.

“We definitely executed a lot better tonight,” Lake Travis senior safety Austin Hiller said. “There are still things we need to improve on, but I’m very happy with the way we played.”

Maleek Barkley scored on runs of 70 and 49 yards, capping an explosive night that saw him rush for 194 yards on just seven carries. Charlie Brewer completed 12 of 15 passes for 126 yards and three scores while rushing for a career-high 118 yards on five carries. Lake Travis gained 472 yards of offense on just 42 plays.

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RERsports: Bridge City, West Orange-Stark deal with aftermath of racially offensive message

By David Thompson and Brooks Kubena

Security will be increased at tonight’s game between Bridge City and West Orange-Stark after a group text containing a racially offensive image and message was forwarded to Mustangs defensive tackle Teron Brown’s phone this week.

At least two Bridge City players forwarded the text, which circulated among a group of players and students, to Brown on Wednesday evening, Bridge City athletic director Dwayne Dubois said in apologizing for the incident on social media Thursday morning.

Bridge City superintendent Todd Lintzen said the student who created the original message has “already been disciplined” and an investigation has begun to make sure everyone involved is “properly disciplined.”

On the Cardinals’ Facebook page, Dubois called his players’ actions “completely unacceptable” and said “once every single culprit is determined, there will be severe consequences.”

“The reality of the situation is that the relationship between our two communities and schools have been marred,” Lintzen said. “We are in the wrong, and our district has to take responsibility for the actions of its students. I can’t apologize enough. It’s not a good day for us.”

Lintzen said Thursday he was in constant contact with West Orange-Cove ISD Superintendent Rickie Harris about how to handle the situation.

He said they agreed increasing security was the right move.

Bridge City Police Sgt. Robert Bergeron said additional officers will be assigned to the game, and as they have since the start of the season, patrol cars will be stationed near the stadium to prevent confrontations.

“There will be a zero tolerance policy for any unruly fans on either side of the field,” Bergeron said.

The layout of Bridge City’s stadium, which is surrounded by metal gates and allows fans to enter on opposing sides, helps keep the peace, Bergeron said.

Officers will be stationed near the field entrances with a pre-approved list of people permitted on the field.

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Lawsuit Brought Against Former Director Of Texas Ethics Commission As Evidence Of Very Unethical Behavior Surfaces

Posted at 7:00 pm on September 8, 2016 by Brandon Morse

Thursday morning, Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan filed a sworn criminal complaint stating that former Executive Director of the Texas Ethics Commission, Tom Harrison, allegedly stepped out of the boundaries of his office by giving gifts to legislators in order to promote certain legislation. 

From the Empower Texans website:

So today I filed a sworn criminal complaint [pdf format, 101 pages] against Tom Harrison with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. He should be investigated and charged with having knowingly violated Texas Penal Code, Chapter 36 (“Bribery and Corrupt Influence”). Section 36.09 forbids anyone from conferring “any benefit on a public servant that he knows the public servant is prohibited by law from accepting.”

That includes sports tickets, meals, notebooks, golf tees and other items Harrison provided legislative offices.

Sullivan says that Harrison abruptly resigned from his post at the TEC recently when Empower Texans had demanded he release emails he had sent to legislators.

“Now we know why he scurried out the door,” says Sullivan.

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