Texas

National Weather Service

The Texas drought is forecast to diminish slightly in the latest long-range outlook from the National Weather Service.

Meteorologist Anthony Artusa says most of the improvement is expected in northeastern Texas, with a sliver of some improvements in the central and southeastern parts of the state.

Update: More signs from the City of Austin that Attorney General Greg Abbott's opinion won't mean any changes for now: a memo from City Manager Marc Ott on the matter. It reads, in part: 

While we will continue to evaluate the Attorney General’s opinion, it continues to be our belief that the City’s domestic partner group benefits program is not prohibited by the Texas Marriage Amendment, and that the Texas Legislature did not intend the Amendment to have that effect when it was placed before the voters in 2005.

The Attorney General’s opinion does not require the City to take any specific action, and we do not intend to change domestic partner eligibility for our benefits program at this time. 

It’s been called the Texas Miracle: Hundreds of thousands of jobs added, millions of people and thousands of companies moving here from other states.

But that sense of pride inside Texas isn’t shared outside the state. Critics say the majority of jobs created don’t pay well and the state’s low tax-low service model has led to crumbling schools, inadequate roads and a water crisis.

Marissa Barnett for KUT News

Update: Students in the town of West are back in class today for the first time since Wednesday’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion. Some school buildings were destroyed or damaged by the blast.

Older students are taking classes at an old school building in a nearby district. Some younger students are in portable classrooms. STAAR exams scheduled for Tuesday there are being delayed. For those who'd like to donate, the West Independent School District says monetary donations are best

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The investigation into what caused the fire at the West Fertilizer Plant that led to Wednesday's explosion is still ongoing. But officials say they’ve found no sign of criminal activity.

Investigators will also look into any safety or regulatory issues at the plant. But even at this early stage, there are signs that not all was right with the plant. The disaster has also brought up questions about how well regulation of facilities like these works in Texas.

facebook.com/TexasAttorneyGeneral

Update (Saturday): As of 3 p.m. today, some residents of West, the site of a major explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday, will be allowed back into their homes in part of the severely damaged neighborhood in the north section of town. 

Residents 18 and over living in the area from Walnut street southward will be allowed to enter until 7 p.m. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the city will have a curfew, and residents will need to either stay in their homes or leave the neighborhood. North of that area, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said at a press conference this afternoon that the city will work "as quickly as possible"to allow people back to their homes. More information for residents is available at the City of West's website.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News.

Getting married nowadays can be really pricey. But getting divorced can be just as expensive.

In Austin, a good divorce attorney can charge anywhere between $150 and $500 an hour. When parties disagree, cases can drag on, and raise costs into the thousands of dollars. But there is one divorce attorney in Austin who offers her services for free – to a very exclusive clientele.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

St Mary’s Church in West, Texas was packed with hundreds of residents grieving for those who were injured or killed by the explosion Wednesday evening.

"A former justice of the peace has been charged with murder in the slayings of a North Texas district attorney and his assistant who prosecuted him for theft, officials announced Thursday," The Associated Press reports. Eric Williams is also charged with the murder of the district attorney's wife.


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If the astounding explosion in West caught most Texans off-guard, it might be because they weren't aware that a chemical facility holding tremendous amounts of a deadly explosive fuel could operate within the confines of a town, incredibly close to homes and schools.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is trying to convince more businesses to move to Texas. Now he’s targeting Illinois with aggressive print ads comparing the business climate in that state to a “burning building on the verge of collapse.”

Today, Perry also launched a 30-second radio ad on four stations in Chicago.

"The wife of a former justice of the peace is being held on a capital murder charge in the killings of the Kaufman County District Attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor," The Dallas Morning News reports.

flickr.com/dionnehartnett

Ordering the most recent Jodi Picoult novel or maybe a nice throw blanket on Amazon?

Now you can get a robust, full-bodied cabernet to complement them both.

Today, Amazon opened up their wine delivery service up to the Lone Star state, offering over 350 wines and 2,200 labels from across the world.

The gate leading to the river crossing into northern Mexico near the village of Boquillas, Mexico.

A border crossing opened yesterday for the first time since 9/11 – reconnecting Big Bend National Park with Boquillas, Mexico. The opening reunited families and friends and restarted the tourism-driven commerce that once flowed across the border.

Before the border was closed, 300 people lived in Boquillas. Now, just 90 live there.

flickr.com/bsterling

Texas’ official motto is “friendship.” And the state’s long drawn on its welcoming ways to attract tourism and convention crowds from all over.

One example of Texas hospitality is its event trust funds: the Major Events Trust Fund and the Events Trust Fund. (And that’s not counting the Motor Sports Events Trust Fund and the Special Events Trust Fund.)

"My first thought was I need to go catch him."

Todd Wiseman / Stephen Johnson, Texas Tribune

Professional sports and live events are big business in Texas, and a bill before state legislators today aims to ensure fans who buy tickets can resell them or give them away without interference from venues or ticket brokers. But opponents of the measure say it actually protects scalpers and the secondary ticket market — not consumers.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The biggest Republicans in Texas stood side-by-side today and argued against expanding Texas Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said it doesn’t matter if the federal government has offered to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.

Two county prosecutors fatally shot in Texas. Colorado's top prison official gunned down. And a dozen more members of the U.S. justice community — ranging from police to judges — victims of targeted killings since the beginning of the decade.

What's going on?

"Security is high this morning for both elected officials and employees" in Kaufman County, Texas, after the shooting deaths of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthina, KERA reports.

courtesy flickr.com/photos/46523905@N00/

After predictions of a bumper crop, freezing temperatures hit Fredericksburg this week, forcing peach growers to use drastic measures to protect the fragile blooms.

Some lit hay bale fires and paid for helicopters to push warmer air down onto their crops.

flickr.com/branditressler

For more than a decade, Bill Bragg’s voice greeted visitors to the Texas State Fair in Dallas.

“Howdy, folks! Welcome," was one of the classic catch phrases. But Bragg would also provide other information, such as details on events happening at the Fair that day.  Then, in October, Big Tex burned. “We’ve got a rather tall cowboy with all his clothes burned off," a Dallas Fire Rescue dispatcher said in this recording.  

flickr.com/thecrazysquirrel

If you are one of those parents who drag your kids all over town to find the picture-perfect patch of Texas bluebonnets in the spring, then brace yourself: There aren’t as many flowers this year.

That’s, in part, because 2012 was the hottest year on record and the long drought continues. That has many native species feeling the heat.

Lawmaker Pushes for More Funds to Address Domestic Violence

Mar 20, 2013
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) wants to restore some state funding of domestic violence-related services.

Last legislative session, lawmakers cut funding for Batterer Intervention and Prevention Programs or "BIPP" in half. It went from $2.5 million to $1.25 million.

General funding for main domestic violence services like shelters is at about $51 million.

Photo by Rune Mathisen, Texas Tribune

How many tests are too many?

If you’ve got kids, you know the state rolled out a new testing system last school year called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR. It includes 15 end-of-course exams that high school students must pass in order to graduate. A number State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) wants to cut.

Booming production of oil and gas is just one of the reasons for the rapid population growth in Texas.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports Andrews County, near oil-rich Midland, is the state’s fastest growing county. But in second place, Travis County has attracted more than 71,000 people within two years.

flickr.com/bcfoto

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a warm and breezy day, with highs in the lower 80s.

Lead Story: As more people move to Texas, the state is facing a growing need for water. At the state Capitol yesterday, a plan to establish a long-term fund for water projects took a significant step forward.

flickr.com/23748404@N00

Texas lawmakers looked at a bill today that would require some people to undergo drug testing in order to receive unemployment benefits.

The bill, filed by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), would require drug tests for unemployment applicants who are looking for work in industries that usually require them for new employees.

Challenging Work Standards for Texas Hotel Housekeepers

Mar 13, 2013
flickr.com/bwalsh

Texas lawmakers are looking at a bill that would set new standards for hotel housekeeping workers. The bill’s author says the workers are not getting fair treatment, but some in the hotel industry disagree.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) says if Texas hotels can prove housekeepers earn minimum wage, she’ll drop her bill. But, she says, she’s skeptical they can.

flickr.com/chrissamuel

Tonight is one of a few chances Austinites will have to see a passing comet.

The PAN-STARRS comet, or C/2011 L-4 as it’s known by stargazers, will make its way across the Austin skies around 30 to 40 minutes after sunset tonight – which is at 7:37 p.m, according to the National Weather Service.

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