Agenda Texas

Liang Shi/KUT News

The Texas legislative session ends Monday, and there's not a bunch left for lawmakers to do between today and next week. No more bills can be voted on. Now it's all about conference committees. Those are the groups made up of five House members and five Senators who will be huddled together in meeting rooms and hallways around the Capitol this weekend, trying to come to an agreement on bills that the House and Senate each passed different versions of.

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

There's a buffet of tax cuts lying before state lawmakers this session, and cut supporters say the state wins no matter what gets put on its plate.

Lawmakers have served up plans to cut business franchise taxes, slice sales tax rates and even nibbled around the idea of a proposal to phase out property taxes entirely. While some of these proposals won’t make the plate this session, the state is prepped to approve billions in tax cuts before the legislature’s regular session gavels out in six weeks.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas constitution requires lawmakers to pass one bill each session: the state budget, which was under (rather lengthy) discussion last week in the House and in the Senate this week. But governors can push their own to-do list at the start of each session in the form of emergency items.

In February, newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott named five of those priorities during his February State of the State speech, and today we're going to see how those bills are doing, by ranking their legislative progress so far this session.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

Thursday morning at about 9:15, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple.

You may have already heard about the marriage, but do you know what happened in the hour before that ceremony or the hours that followed?

Let’s spend a few minutes explaining what happened, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It's about a month into the 84th Texas Legislative session, and this week saw the first cracks in any unified front among the state's Republican leadership.

Just like every Texas legislative session – ever, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House won't always agree on things. And that was highlighted this week in the debate over border security.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Two weeks ago Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments, and, this week, House Speaker Joe Straus did the same. That means the sounds that now fill the House and Senate chambers –  of lawmakers giving congratulatory resolutions – is about to change.

Bills often make the news only to quickly disappear from public discourse. Some, like one that moved in the Legislature this week on open carry, gain attention and momentum. Why do some bills fade away while others don't? The answer sometimes lies with House and Senate committees.

How to Pass a Bill

The journey from bill filing to governor's signature is a long and, about 70 percent of the time, unsuccessful journey.  First up, bill referral, when bills are read for the first time in either the House or Senate and then sent to a committee.

Liang Shi/KUT News

This was supposed to be a fairly quiet week at the Legislature.

For the seventh session in a row, Muslim groups from across the state came to Austin for their regular lobby day, just like the lobby day for doctors, or bikers, or any special interest group. Only this time they were met by about 25 protesters, who yelled and held signs with anti-Islamic slogans and briefly took hold of the mic during speeches.

Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, joined the fray by instructing her staff to ask any Muslims who came into her office if they would “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and announce allegiance to America and our laws.” The council on American-Islamic relations has already sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus to see if those instructions violate House ethics rules.

The legislature also broached another currently controversial topic: the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).

Todd Wiseman & Stuart Seeger/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

Two weeks down in the 84th Texas Legislature. This one was filled with the pomp of Inauguration Day, and the curious circumstance of the Texas Senate's rules for bringing up a bill. But today's Agenda Texas talks about the state budget.

Out of the billions and billions spent, there are two numbers to focus on to help understand it all.

RickPerryGoodbye
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

It's KUT's political podcast that let you know what's happening under the dome, and explain how it hits home.

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This week, lawmakers from across the state have returned to Austin for the 84th session of the Texas Legislature. The beginning marked the end, at least for now, of the two long political careers of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.

KUT News

The federal government shutdown is over, for now. But the battle over who gets the blame for the congressional meltdown will likely extend through the 2014 party primaries and general election. So how did the shutdown affect the political landscape in Texas?

A recent Rasmussen poll found 78 percent of the country would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over. And yesterday, the Houston Chronicle expressed regret for its endorsement of Sen.Ted Cruz in the 2012 Senate race. Sounds like there are dark days ahead for our Congressional incumbents in Texas.

Actually … no, says Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith.

Photo by KUT News

When Texans go to the polls beginning Monday, they’ll have the chance to vote on nine constitutional propositions. Two of them would cut property taxes for disabled veterans or their surviving spouse. 

Both propositions have their origins in an oversight and look to tweak current laws to give returning Texas veterans and their families property tax breaks.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

A handful of clinics in Texas have closed, or are planning to, just weeks after a controversial bill restricting abortions passed the state legislature.

Planned Parenthood says the closures will hurt the women who came to the clinics for general healthcare services. Anti-abortion groups say there are other doctors for the women to go to. So who's right?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Last week, the Texas Senate passed  House Bill 2, restricting abortions in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it in coming days, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services is already gearing up to start implementing the changes. But even with that battle lost, some Democrats have dared to dream about what the abortion battle could mean for the 2014 elections.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as you’ve no doubt heard, announced Monday he won’t seek a fourth term in office.

Gov. Perry will stay in office until his replacement takes over in January 2015. But the scrambling to be that replacement – and the dominoes falling into place – has already begun.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is fond of special sessions. Since 2000, he's called for 11 special sessions as governor. And, after the legislative fireworks in the final hours of the last special session, Gov. Perry called yet another special session, bringing lawmakers back to Austin to address transportation, criminal justice and abortion regulations not covered last session's call.

flickr.com/foshydog

The Texas Legislature passed several bills this year focusing on public education. But one garnered much of the attention: House Bill 5 reduced the number of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests a student must pass to graduate high school. Instead of passing 15 different subject areas to graduate, now it’s just five.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Governor Rick Perry has eliminated funding to the only office in the state that investigates and prosecutes political corruption cases.

It started with a mistake that landed Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in jail for drunk driving.

Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

We talked about the people on Texas Monthly's 2013 list of worst lawmakers. Now, now let’s hear about the best. All picked using Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Paul Burka’s guiding principle.

“It’s a lot about how you play on the playground with the other children," Burka said.

Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

You may have heard, this week Texas Monthly magazine released its list of best and worst lawmakers for the 2013 Legislative session. So I sat down with their writers to go over who made which list and why.

Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

At the end of every legislative session, Texas Monthly releases lists of the best and worst lawmakers from the 140 days under the dome. It’s a tradition that’s both praised and scorned by lawmakers, often based on which list they find themselves on.

Lizzie Chen for KUT News

Texas Monthly has released its list of the 10 best and 10 worst lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session.

For now, there's no explanation of why people ended up on either list. That comes later as the magazine hits newsstands. So without further ado, here's the list:

KUT News

This week marked a beginning and an end for some major legislation from the 2013 session. On Monday House Bill 5 ended as Gov. Rick Perry signed the legislation to revamp the state’s public education accountability system and graduation requirements.

KUT News

Everything was going so well for higher education during the 2013 legislative session. With less than a week left in the session, House Higher Education committee chairman Dan Branch (R-Dallas) was pleased.

Texas Tribune

The battle over funding the Women’s Health Program was one of the most contentious fights in the 2011 Texas legislative session. The program provided family planning and healthcare services for low-income women who, if they became pregnant, would qualify for Medicaid.

Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

It was supposed to end last Monday.

After 140 days, lawmakers were supposed to pack up and head home. Instead we’re now a week into a special legislative session on congressional and legislative redistricting.

It was a week some thought might be the last for a short special session. But there's nothing quick or easy about redistricting.

Photo by KUT News

The end of a legislative session usually triggers the beginning of the next election cycle. But before anyone could throw his or her hat in the ring, we had an incumbent exit the arena.

Daniel Reese

We all know traffic and road conditions are issues across Texas​ – from monster traffic jams in our cities to disintegrating rural roads in heavy oil and gas production areas.

Heading into the just completed legislative session, the Texas Department of Transportation reported just how much more money it needed just to keep things from getting worse.

Lower Colorado River Authority

Lawmakers across the Texas Capitol are tearing rotator cuffs patting themselves on the back for finding a way to pay for desperately needed water infrastructure projects.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

It was a busy final day in the Texas Legislature. The House adjourned at a couple minutes past five Monday. The Senate joined them about ten minutes later.

Veronica Zaragovia

Monday was a busy night for Texas lawmakers.  By 5:18 both chambers had adjourned sine die, meaning without a future meeting time, to officially end the 83rd legislative session. But by 5:30, they had a future meeting time: 6 pm that night.

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