Follow live: House Human Services Committee hearing on Syrian refugee resettlement

The House Human Services Committee is holding a hearing this morning to receive an update on Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive to Health and Human Services Commission Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw regarding Syrian refugee resettlement.

Chairman Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo,has said he is trying to gather facts, and will also hear from Catholic Charities, which is among the agencies doing refugee resettlement work in Texas.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott wrote President Obama that Texas wouldn’t be accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and instructed the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Public Safety to “use your full authority to comply with this direction.”

In the meantime, Refugee Services of Texas in Houston and the International Rescue Committee in Dallas have moved ahead with resettling Syrian refugee families in Texas.

This morning’s hearing can be viewed on-line at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/.

5 best zingers from the Republican debate

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Cox Media Group National Content Desk

BOULDER, Colo. – Republican presidential hopefuls sparred Wednesday night in their third debate – and, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of memorable moments.

Here are some of the best zingers from the face-off, hosted by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado:

1. Bush and Rubio duke it out. The Florida Sun Sentinel recently called for the resignation of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who reportedly has missed one-third of this year’s Senate votes.

Jeb Bush seemed to agree, telling Rubio to shape up or ship out.

“You should be showing up to work,” Bush said. “I mean literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French work week? You have like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign or just resign and let someone else take the job.”

Rubio was ready with a quick retort.

“The only reason why you’re [attacking me] now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” he said.

>> Click here to watch the clip

2. Cruz calls out the debate moderators. Although plenty of candidates blasted the media in Wednesday’s matchup, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made headlines with his attack, which received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” he said. “This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions – ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”

He added, “The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, ‘Which of you is more handsome and why?'”

>> Click here to watch the video

3. Rubio takes aim at Hillary Clinton – and the media, too. The Florida senator also charged at media outlets while taking a swipe at the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate.

“The Democrats have the ultimate super PAC – they’re called the mainstream media,” he said.

“Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee. She admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, ‘Hey, this attack in Benghazi was caused by al-Qaida-like elements.’ She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. … But she has her super PAC helping her out – the American mainstream media.”

>> Watch the clip here

4. Christie blasts fantasy football topic. After Bush told moderators how he’d tackle regulation of the popular pastime, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stepped in to shut down the line of questioning.

“Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt,” Christie said. “We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaida attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”

He added, “How about this? How about we get the government to do what they’re supposed to be doing, secure our borders, protect our people, and support American values and American families. Enough on fantasy football. Let people play. Who cares?”

>> Click here to watch

5. Carson takes on “PC culture.” When Ben Carson was asked to address his views on homosexuality, the neurosurgeon said, “I believe that our Constitution protects everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And there is no reason that you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.”

But his comments soon turned toward the issue of political correctness.

“They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you are a homophobe,” he said. “And this is one of the myths that the left perpetrates on our society, and this is how they frighten people and get people to shut up. You know, that’s what the PC culture is all about, and it’s destroying this nation.”

>> Watch the video here

Ted Cruz adds billionaire backer to presidential campaign

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a press conference Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Houston. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a press conference Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Houston. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

By Julie Bykowicz

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has picked up the backing of a Texas billionaire and the state’s lieutenant governor, his campaign said Monday.

Darwin Deason, a technology entrepreneur, and his son, Doug, had given millions of dollars to the 2016 efforts of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ended his bid for the White House last month.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a one-time foe of the Texas senator — also will now serve as the Texas chairman of Cruz’s presidential campaign.

Cruz is one of several Republican presidential candidates with Texas ties, but he has dominated the state’s generous donor class. In the first nine months of the year, Cruz raised more than three times as much in the state as did Jeb Bush, according to an Associated Press analysis of donations.

Bush, a former Florida governor, spent much of his youth in Texas, and his father and brother, both former presidents, still call the state home.

Cruz called his own fundraising “astonishing” and said it’s “positively nuts” that he’s in some ways in a stronger financial position than Bush.

“There are some other campaigns that have a lot of high-dollar donors and bundlers, but not much grassroots support,” he said, speaking just a few miles away from where the Bush family was rallying around Jeb Bush at an event for his donors.

Patrick’s backing of Cruz gives him a powerful surrogate in a delegate-rich state where Republican primary voters go to the polls March 1. And adding the Deasons to his financial team could significantly boost Cruz’s presidential campaign accounts.

Earlier this year, Darwin Deason poured $5 million into pro-Perry super PACs — making him one of the biggest contributors in presidential politics. After Perry’s withdrawal from the race, the super PACs returned much of that money.

Cruz also has super PACs working on his behalf. Those groups can take unlimited amounts from donors, while the campaigns themselves cannot accept contribution checks from each donor of more than $2,700 per election.

When super PACs are factored into the mix, Cruz’s fundraising is second only to Bush’s in the GOP field. Together, the pro-Cruz groups had raised at least $64 million by the end of September, fundraising documents show.

Bush and Cruz have both shown they can land big contribution checks. But Cruz holds a sharp fundraising advantage over Bush when it comes to small donors.

While only about 4 percent of Bush’s campaign haul has come from contributors giving $200 or less, 41 percent of Cruz’s campaign money is coming from such small donors, fundraising records show.

Those kinds of givers are especially valuable because they can provide a constant stream of cash without taking up the candidate’s time attending traditional fundraising events.

The Deasons are marquee names for Cruz, but he has quietly consolidated the support of many former donors to Perry and another 2016 dropout, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Cruz campaign added five other former Perry backers to its finance team, officials said on Monday.

Cruz gained a larger share of those candidates’ donors than anyone else in the race, according to an analysis by crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan political analytics company.

After $68 million deal, 2 state workers and vendor being investigated

By J. David McSwane, Andrea Ball

Two state health workers are being investigated for potential conflicts of interest involving how a $68 million contract was awarded by the Health and Human Services Commission, a massive agency struggling to rebuild after becoming the focus of a contract scandal and subsequent criminal investigations.

Technology service managers Jean Garcia and Pam Lamb remain in their jobs while investigators at the commission’s Office of Inspector General look into their potential relationship with a vendor competing for state business, officials told the American-Statesman on Monday.

“There is an open investigation by the inspector general’s office — really into two areas,” Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor said. “One is whether evaluators conducted themselves appropriately in the process and whether or not vendors involved in the procurement conducted themselves appropriately.”

The investigation was triggered last week after the Statesman asked questions about two contracts — one worth $68 million for technology services and another worth $30 million for office furniture — signed last month with SHI Government Solutions.

Both Garcia and Lamb were involved in a grading process that led to the $68 million contract, records show. Officials said both are being investigated for a possible conflict of interest with another vendor that was competing for that business, Austin Ribbon & Computer.

“There is potential that evaluators and vendors may have compromised the procurement in some way,” Traylor said.

Responding to the Statesman’s questions last week, officials discovered Garcia had sent an email to an Austin Ribbon & Computer employee in which she provided her daughter’s resume and inquired about a job for her, Traylor said. The email was sent well before the bidding process began, he said.

Lamb, who works for the Department of State Health Services, is being investigated because as SHI was poised to get the contracts, she tried to boost her score for Austin Ribbon & Computer, said Ron Pigott, the commission’s top contract oversight manager.

Had she been allowed to update her score, SHI would have lost the $68 million deal to Austin Ribbon & Computer, Traylor said.

Why Lamb asked to change her score is unclear. Neither employee responded to emails sent by the Statesman last week and Monday.

Attempts to reach Austin Ribbon & Computer were unsuccessful.

The inquiry is the latest contract hiccup after a year of scandal following the commission’s contract with 21CT, an Austin data analytics company hired to help detect Medicaid fraud. A $90 million contract extension with 21CT was canceled in December following a Statesman investigation that revealed problems with the deal, including the lack of a traditional bidding process, little oversight and a possible conflict of interest.

Investigations by the FBI and the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office continue.

The contract with SHI was brokered through the same program as the 21CT deal, through a so-called master contract awarded to the company by the Department of Information Resources. Unlike the 21CT deal, however, officials say SHI faced significant vetting and competition before given a state contract.

Contract protested

Questions about the $68 million SHI deal emerged in September, when another bidder, CSI Leasing, filed a protest over the technology contract. The company accused the state of not following new contract rules created by the Legislature in the wake of the 21CT debacle. The state contests that, saying they followed proper procedure.

A director for SHI Government Solutions — which has been paid at least $445 million by Texas agencies — said the company won the contract fair and square.

“We are confident that the bidding process was conducted properly and that we were awarded the contract on the merits of our terms,” Darron Gross, director of sales for the company, told the Statesman.

But CSI also argues that SHI was falsely described as a historically underutilized business in the company’s bid for the contract.

Historically underutilized businesses are women- and minority-owned businesses that receive special consideration when competing for state contracts. They must be designated by the state as a small business — criteria can vary — and the company owner must live in Texas.

Health commission officials say they didn’t give more preference or points to SHI because of that status, but state agencies often prefer to contract with businesses classified as historically underutilized because of internal benchmarks for giving a certain percentage of work to local companies owned by minorities and women.

CSI says SHI isn’t the sort of company that is supposed to be helped by the program. First, CSI representatives say, owner Koguan Leo does not live in Texas. So on Sept. 29, the Texas comptroller’s office — which approves historically underutilized business designations — sent a letter to SHI’s Austin office asking Leo to prove his residency by providing tax forms, his license, identification or voter’s registration card, and other information.

When the comptroller officials didn’t receive those documents by Oct. 15, the agency pulled the company’s historically underutilized business status.

But the state reinstated that status Monday after Leo’s lawyer said his client had not received the state’s letter and accused the agency of failing to follow its own rules.

“Remedying your premature certification revocation is paramount to my client,” Leo’s lawyer wrote to the state. “Accordingly, my client will provide the requested documentation as soon as possible.”

CSI also contends that SHI is too big to be a small business.

SHI Government Solutions, based in Austin, is an affiliate of SHI International, a $6 billion, New Jersey-based company founded by Leo and Thai Lee. In its bid to the state, SHI Government Solutions stated that it is affiliated with the larger company and that it handles some of the Austin office’s administrative work, such as paying rent, leases and other expenses.

The Austin company files separate tax forms, said comptroller spokeswoman Lauren Willis. Because of that, she said, the state doesn’t have to consider SHI International’s finances when determining historically underutilized business designation. Thus, SHI Government Solutions meets the size requirements, she said.

Is SHI an underutilized business?

Dozens of records reviewed by the Statesman give the appearance that the Texas office is a subsidiary of the multinational company:

• SHI International’s website refers to SHI Government Services as a regional office.

• The New Jersey company advertises for Austin jobs online, noting that SHI International is a $6 billion company.

• SHI International’s career page states that the company was “recognized by our employees as one of the best places to work in both Austin, Texas, and New Jersey.”

• The company shares key employees with Government Solutions, including Gross, who is described on SHI International’s website as “responsible for SHI’s government and academic business across seven states.” A contract specialist listed in the Texas bid documents works on SHI International deals across the county and an IT security employee named in SHI Government Service’s bid has a New Jersey address.

• The domain registration for SHI Government Services was paid for and registered in New Jersey.

Gross did not respond to a phone call and email about the historically underutilized business size questions but did say in an email last week that “for more than 15 years and through multiple re-certifications, SHI Government Solutions has met the qualifications for HUB designation.”

A CSI official said he could not comment because the review of the company’s complaint is ongoing.

Follow live: 2016 Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16

Update 10:15 p.m.: Carly Fiorina took on Donald Trump and won loud applause, remaking the GOP debate dynamic the second time around Wednesday night.

She pounced at times and showed restraint at others, occupying nearly as much air time with the top-runners.

“Every American’s life must be filled with the possibilities that come from their god-given gifts,” she said in her closing statement.

Donald Trump, the front-runner who was on the defensive at times, was still the focal point. Jeb Bush brought more energy than he did in the first debate — he said his Secret Service code name would be Energizer.

With the first voting slightly more than four months away, the candidates have little time to make a move to challenge Trump.

Update 9:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, rejecting a medical opinion from his opponent former brain surgeon Ben Carson, called autism an epidemic and said to address it, childhood vaccines should be curtailed.

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no link between autism and vaccinations,” Carson said, but refused to attack Trump. Instead Carson agreed that vaccines could be spaced out more than they are typically.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, also a physician, said parents should be able to chose when their children receive vaccines.

Update 9:43 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night at the GOP debate that he would consider making Social Security a voluntary program, and that wealthy people like him don’t need it.

“I would be willing to check it off and not get Social Security,” Trump said. “The fact is there truly are people who don’t need it.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said such a voluntary program wouldn’t save Social Security and that some people shouldn’t receive it so that it is available for people who rely on it.

Update 9:36 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush admitted to smoking marijuana “40 years ago” at the GOP debate Wednesday night and said that his mother won’t be happy he said that.

In a discussion about legalization of marijuana, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul accused Bush of being against use of medical marijuana laws, and said that federal drug laws unfairly send poor, mostly black and Latinos, to jail while letting privileged people, like Bush, see little consequence.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina defended laws against marijuana use.

Update 9:25 p.m.: With less than a half hour to go, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has failed to gain the limelight in the second GOP debate Wednesday night.

Other candidates — Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush — have grabbed more airtime than Cruz.

The tea party-backed junior senator from Texas was a debate champion at Princeton and was expected to shine in the debates. But in this debate, and in the first last month, he has struggled to gain an edge.

Cruz has notably taken sides with Trump during the campaign and so stood on the sidelines as other candidates took on the billionaire front runner Wednesday, often to applause.

Cruz, who is seeking the evangelical vote, influential in early voting states, has failed to move the needle beyond mid-single digits in national polls.

Update 9:06 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night that George W. Bush was such a bad president that even Abraham Lincoln would have struggled to win in 2008.

“My brother kept us safe,” Jeb Bush said to applause.

Update 9:01 p.m.: Donald Trump defended his foreign policy chops at the GOP debate Wednesday night, saying few Americans would know the difference between the Iranian al-Quds force and the Kurds, which he had confused in a radio interview.

“I will know more about the problems in this world by the time I sit (in the White House),” Trump said.

Update 8:43 p.m.: Donald Trump criticized Carly Fiorina’s tenure as CEO of Hewlitt-Packard at the GOP debate Wednesday night.

“She can’t run any of my companies, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said, saying the company still hasn’t recovered from her poor leadership, citing a report that the company was poised to lay off thousands more employees.

Fiorina, who defended her business acumen, shot back at Trump, saying the billionaire businessman “ran up mountains of debt,” filing for bankruptcy four times.

“Why should we trust you to run the finances of this nation any different than you run the finances of your companies?” Fiorina told Trump, to applause.

“I got out of Atlantic City at the right time,” Trump said, blaming the failure of casinos there on the declining popularity of the city as a gambling destination.

Not to be left out, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said: “Stop this childish back and forth between the two of you.”

Update 8:24 p.m.: Jeb Bush asked Donald Trump to apologize for saying that the former Florida governor has a “soft spot” for Mexican immigrants because his wife is Mexican.

“I hope you apologize for that Donald,” Bush said at the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night, for bringing his wife into a “raucous” campaign.

“I hear your wife is a lovely person,” Trump said.

Bush cut him off and again asked for an apology.

“I won’t apologize because I did nothing wrong,” Trump said. “He’s weak on immigration.”

Later, Trump was asked about his previous comments criticizing Bush for speaking in Spanish on the campaign trail.

“This is a country where we speak English not Spanish,” Trump said.

Bush, who is fluent in Spanish, said he had spoken in Spanish answering a student’s question in Spanish “out of respect.”

Update 8:10 p.m.: Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has drawn the two longest applause lines so far in the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night.

She made an emotional appeal to defund Planned Parenthood, saying if congressional Republicans don’t do so, “shame on us.”

She was then asked to respond to Donald Trump’s comment in a Rolling Stone article degrading her “face.”

Trump later said he was misinterpreted.

“I think women in this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said Wednesday night.

Trump responded: “I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”

Update 8:03 p.m.: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said religious freedom should be protected for county clerks who don’t wish to marry gay couple and that Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refuses to marry same-sex couples, was jailed for the “criminalization of her faith.”

CNN moderator Jake Tapper sought to pit former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush against Huckabee, saying that Bush had said previously that Davis swore to uphold the law and should follow it.

Bush, though, said Wednesday night he agreed with Huckabee that Davis should not be forced to issue a license to gays as long as someone in her office does so.

“You can’t just say, ‘gays can’t get married now,'” Bush said.

Update 7:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, receiving a foreign policy question in the Wednesday GOP debate, said the three senators on stage with him bore some responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis because they voted against U.S. military action in Syria.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said if the U.S. had targeted the Syrian regime after evidence showed it used chemical weapons, “ISIS would be in Damascus now.”

Update 7:41 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, standing next to Donald Trump in the GOP main debate Wednesday night, suggested he was cozy with several Democratic leaders and said Trump had failed in bringing a casino to Florida.

Trump said that wasn’t true, that if he wanted a casino in Florida, he would have gotten one.

“More energy tonight. I like that,” Trump said of Bush.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a half hour into the debate spoke for the first time, saying on his first day in office he will “rip to shreds” the nuclear deal with Iran.

Updated 7:30 p.m.: Early in the main GOP presidential debate Wednesday night, Donald Trump took the best shots from a few candidates lagging in the polls.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Trump used “careless language” and had a “sophomoric quality,” better suited to entertaining than governing. He also said Trump has at times had a “visceral” reaction to people’s looks.

Trump retorted: “I’ve never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s a lot of material there.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now. … You’re using the talking points of the Democrats.”

Several candidates were asked whether Trump could be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said it was up to the voters.

Update 6:53 p.m.: Four Republican candidates for president lagging in the polls offered a rousing warm-up this evening to what promises to be a lively main event, as the top 11 candidates are poised to take the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at 7 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sparred effectively with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, highlighting his foreign policy experience and pragmatism.

Graham also showed some humor, after invoking Ronald Reagan’s regular meeting with Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill over drinks, saying if he’s elected, “we’re going to drink more.”

The debate opened with questions about billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner who has confounded the Republican establishment with his widening margin in the polls. All candidates took swipes at Trump, perhaps foreshadowing direct sparring with Trump in the main card.

CNN moderators have said they want to encourage direct debating, and it worked in many instances in the first debate.

Earlier: Follow along live with the 2016 Republican presidential debates at the Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, Sept. 16, as American-Statesman reporters and other political writers and pundits tweet through the night. Among the candidates participating in the prime-time event are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Austin-born businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, of course, Donald Trump.

There are actually two debates.

The first, at 5 p.m., is for those candidates lagging in the polls. There are four: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Three candidates who were in the under card debate last month on Fox will be missing. Former Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race last week. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia was not invited because he didn’t meet the minimum 1 percent average in recent polls. And Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, graduated to the main debate stage thanks to an impressive performance at the last debate.

The main event – scheduled to run about two hours and 45 minutes – begins at 7 p.m.

In addition to Fiorina, that debate will feature all 10 candidates who participated in the last debate. They are: Trump, Bush, Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

RELATED COVERAGE

Follow live: Monday’s Donald Trump rally in Dallas

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Follow along as Statesman political reporter Jonathan Tilove live-tweets Donald Trump’s address in Dallas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.

 

Live coverage of Texas Senate hearing on Planned Parenthood

Ken Paxton JAY JANNER/AUSTIN-AMERICAN STATESMAN
Ken Paxton
JAY JANNER/AUSTIN-AMERICAN STATESMAN

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday on Planned Parenthood’s policies on providing fetal tissue for research, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Capitol, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton scheduled to testify. Statesman reporter Chuck Lindell will provide live updates from the hearing:

Ivana, can I buy a vowel? How Trump’s Texas visit prompted a newspaper apology

Before Donald Trump’s hastily announced, eagerly anticipated appearance in Laredo, the ostensible GOP frontrunner was already causing trouble for the Laredo Morning Times, the daily newspaper in the Texas-Mexico border city.

The LMT’s lead headline Thursday featured an unfortunate typo: “Trump vists Laredo.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 11.48.47 AM

The newspaper sought to set things straight with The Donald with an online apology Thursday that did more than just apologize to a candidate who has talked tough on the border and Mexican immigrants, both of which are hot topics in Laredo.

Said the apology:

Laredo Morning Times apologizes to Laredo and to Mr. Donald Trump for the typographical error on Page 1A in today’s edition of LMT. We welcome Mr. Trump. Enjoy your visit.

Later, the apology to Mr. Donald Trump was updated to add another sentence that pretty much sums up the episode: “Let’s all learn from today’s lessons.”

U.S. Supreme Court delays Texas abortion law while case is appealed

By J. David McSwane

American-Statesman Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court suspended the enforcement of strict standards on abortion clinics in Texas Monday, a move that buys time for abortion providers fighting against far-reaching restrictions that have already closed more than two dozen clinics.

The 2013 abortion law, known as House Bill 2, required clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — such as wider hallways, new infrastructure and expensive medical equipment — and required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Abortion rights advocates have argued those restrictions were onerous and placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions, particularly women who live in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas, hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic that meets the standards of an ambulatory surgical center. Supporters of the law, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have said the restrictions ensure women’s safety.

The full implementation of the law, set for July 1 before the Supreme Court suspended it, would have closed all but eight clinics that already meet the hospital-like standards in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

A ninth facility in McAllen, however, was granted an exception from the surgical center requirement by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier this month upheld most of the abortion law.

If that particular clinic closed, it would place an undue burden on women in the Valley who would need to travel more than 200 miles to the nearest abortion clinic, the three-judge panel ruled.

The owners of several abortion clinics had asked the appeals court to temporarily halt its June 9 ruling. The appeals court rejected that request, prompting abortion rights attorneys to file an emergency petition to the Supreme Court to step in and halt implementation while the case is appealed.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices granted that request.

The nation’s highest court is the final stop for abortion rights advocates whose protracted legal challenge has seen victories in a federal district court in Austin, only to be reversed in large part by the more conservative federal appeals court in New Orleans.