Court dismisses indictment against former governor
AUSTIN — Former Gov. Rick Perry is no longer facing criminal charges.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Feb. 24 ordered the dismissal of a 2014 felony indictment of Perry by a Travis County grand jury.
The two-count indictment alleged “abuse of official capacity” and “coercion of a public servant” related to Perry’s veto of the budget of the state’s Public Integrity Unit that then operated under the auspices of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
Perry demanded the resignation of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who also headed the Public Integrity Unit, after she was arrested and jailed for driving while intoxicated in April 2013. Lehmberg, who served a brief jail term, refused to resign. Perry then vetoed the unit’s $7.5 million two-year budget.
Perry issued a statement at the time, explaining his veto: “Despite the otherwise good work of the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence. This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the state budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.”
Last week, after the court dismissed the indictment against him, Perry said, “I’ve always known that the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, they were right.”
UH hosts GOP forum
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump of New York, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Virginia and Ohio Gov. John Kasich engaged in a Feb. 25 debate staged at the University of Houston.
The event, live-streamed and moderated by CNN, was the GOP candidates’ last debate before the March 1 Super Tuesday primary elections. Texas is one of 11 states and the territory of American Samoa holding primaries on March 1.
Texans voting in the Democratic primary will choose between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Abbott meets with Nieto
Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 22 met with Enrique Peña Nieto, president of Mexico, in Houston.
The meeting, Abbott said, was to discuss “continued collaboration and progress on the joint energy task force — an agreement reached on the governor’s visit to Mexico last year that will aid Texas in leveraging the vast investment and business opportunities made possible by Mexico’s recent energy reforms.”
Abbott said “Texas and Mexico’s continued commitment to addressing shared challenges on both sides of the border” were affirmed at the meeting.
Mexico is Texas’ biggest trading partner, and Texas exports more goods to Mexico than any other state, according to the governor’s office.
3 states join lawsuit
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Feb. 26 announced the states of Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin had joined a federal lawsuit filed last October by Texas, Kansas and Louisiana, challenging the health insurance provider’s fee in “Obamacare” or the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Paxton said the fee “threatens the Medicaid programs of the states if they refuse to pay an unconstitutional tax, which would total over $120 million annually in Texas.”
Cuba trip promotes trade
Texas Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Jason Fearneyhough, State Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Tracy King, D-Batesville, and representatives from the cattle, rice, sorghum and wheat industries visited Cuba Feb. 22-25.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the goal of the trip was to identify areas for Texas farmers and ranchers to fill gaps and meet Cuba’s supply demands. The Texans met with Cuban companies to develop business relationships and to tour farms.
Safety tips are given
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Feb. 24 posted a reminder to Texans to drive responsibly and to take extra precautions before taking to roads and highways during spring break days and nights in mid-March.
DPS offered these tips: slow down; eliminate distractions such as use of mobile devices; make sure the driver and all passengers are buckled up; don’t drive when fatigued; drive defensively; and make sure the vehicle is properly maintained.
State troopers and local law enforcement will be looking for speeders, drunken drivers and seatbelt violators.