› While formal City Council business is off-dais until Jan. 23, candidates for next fall's Council continue to accumulate, formally and informally. See "The More and the Merrier."
› The 5th Circuit is slated to consider an appeal filed by the state of Texas challenging a lower court's ruling that some of the controversial House Bill 2 is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the state has finalized new rules that would change the way abortion clinics are regulated by the state, a move likely to end in its own legal challenge. See "DSHS Rules."
› Prosecutors have rejected a plea deal that would avoid a trial and would send Brandon Daniel to prison for life, without parole, for the 2012 murder of Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron, opting instead for the chance to send Daniel to death row. Daniel pleaded not guilty to the charge on Monday, clearing the way for his trial, slated to begin early this year.
› 24 drivers were arrested on New Year's Eve as part of APD's annual "No Refusal" crackdown on drunk driving. That's lower than the 66 arrested in 2012, but the No Refusal period was shorter in 2013. The arrests took place during the larger Arrive Alive Central Texas/Home for the Holidays initiative.
› Another deadly year on Austin's roads. Margaret and Cale Howard became the 74th and 75th people to die in car crashes in 2013 after Nicholas Wyzykowski drove into their vehicle. The total number of deaths is slightly down from 2012's grim record of 79.
› An ignominious end to the Mack Brown era: The veteran Longhorn coach's final match was a 30-7 loss to Oregon at the Dec. 30 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
› Oil tycoon and philanthropist Jack Blanton died on Dec. 28, aged 86. While his career and charitable work was centered on Houston, the UT-Austin graduate was a tireless fighter for the UT system, and the Blanton Museum of Art was named in his honor.
› Rep. Steve Stockman's plan to out-conservative Sen. John Cornyn in the GOP March primary seems to have collapsed. Polling 6% to Cornyn's 50%, he is now also under Federal Election Commission investigation over allegations of campaign donations in exchange for voting for legislation on Indian casinos.
› On Saturday, Dec. 28, extended federal unemployment benefits ended for about 1.3 million people nationwide, an estimated 68,000 in Texas. If Congress does not agree to resume the program, a total of 4.9 million people will be cut off during the coming months, in the name of GOP fiscal austerity and "motivating" people to look harder for jobs – a standard that never applies to tax cuts for the wealthy.
› An off-duty Texas game warden was shot Dec. 29 while bow hunting on Cooper Wildlife Management Area in Delta County. At press time, Game Warden Chris Fried, 31, of Cooper was listed in stable condition at Dallas' Parkland Hospital. Two men, both from Illinois, have been charged in connection with the shooting.