Texas Legislature

What We Learned at The Texas Tribune Festival

Oct 19, 2015
Image via Josh Guerra/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

This weekend, as thousands of politicians and political insiders gathered for the 2015 Texas Tribune Festival, more than a few GOP members were talking about what they plan to make a priority in the next Texas legislative session.

Here's what they told Texas Standard.  


On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Congressman George Thomas “Mickey” Leland.

Paul Woodruff

Kenneth “Ray” Farabee died at his home in Austin on Thursday, November 20, 2014.  He was 81.

Farabee was born in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932. He graduated from Wichita Falls High School before attending the University of Texas at Austin. Ray was elected Student Body President at UT and served with the National Student Association where he traveled the nation working with other university student government organizations.

Liang Shi for KUT

It's that time of the biennium.

The 84th Texas Legislature is just a few short months away, and state lawmakers are already filing their bills for the first Rick Perry-less session this side of the millennium. So far, the bills include legislative pet projects like texting and driving bans, open carry initiatives and tax cuts. Other proposals target tougher statewide issues like transportation funding and state budgeting.

You can find a roundup of issues that state lawmakers are considering below.

KUT News

A federal commission is researching how the U.S. can reduce the number of deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Today, a member of that group told Texas lawmakers that no one state agency is to blame for these child fatalities.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is working on a report for Congress and the President on how the U.S. can fight child deaths. The commission’s Susan Dreyfus says more people like doctors, police officers and caretakers need to call Child Protective Services when they see a child at risk.

Flickr user: Covernor Rick Perry, https://flic.kr/p/9Mx7Xy

With the November elections just over two months away, Texans around the state are registering or renewing their voter status. That is, if they first have a government-issued identification card.

Texas' voter ID law is currently being challenged in court by the U.S. Department of Justice, but until a decision is reached, Texans will be required to show an ID to register as voters. But what does this mean for voters in rural areas? Or for Texans who mail in their ballots? 

Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry is in charge of informing Texans of the voter ID law and how to register. Berry sits down with Texas Standard host David Brown to discuss the requirements for voter registration, and how to attain a government-issued ID before the November elections. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Even after a weekend full of panels and discussion of Texas politics and policy at The Texas Tribune Festival, many political wonks are looking to the main event: January's new legilative session. 

State Senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, sat down with Texas Standard host David Brown during the festival to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda, the state's budget surplus, the upcoming election for governor and more.

Texas Fails In Nursing Home Care, Prompting a Push for Change

Sep 16, 2014
Image courtesy flickr.com/hapal

Texas is the worst state in the nation when it comes to nursing home quality, according to a new report from a national advocacy group – Families for Better Care.

The group has ranked Texas last for the second year in a row, so Texas lawmakers have been discussing what to do to change this when they return to Austin in January.

Julian Aguilar/Texas Tribune

Sending additional state police and National Guard troops to the border will cost Texas between $17 million and $18 million dollars a month. That's according to a presentation Tuesday by top officials with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), who told state lawmakers they will have to find a way to keep paying for it. 

About one-third of that cost is for salaries, travel and other expenses of Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers sent to the border as part of "Operation Strong Safety II."  Close to two-thirds of the $18 million will cover salary, meals, lodging and other costs of deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops. 

State Senator Wendy Davis on the floor of the Texas Senate on June 25, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Last legislative session, House Bill 2 proved to be a landmark moment for the abortion debate in Texas. It further politicized the issue both sides of the aisle, garnered national media attention, boosted political profiles and launched campaigns.

When the debate was over and it finally passed, HB 2 established a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, required clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers, and forced abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Gov. Rick Perry signing the bill into law.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission are hearing from the public today about reports recommending large-scale changes to several state agencies – including shutting down six state-supported living centers. 

Most people at the Capitol are testifying in support of the Sunset staff’s report on the Department of Family and Protective Services and severe inadequacies that lead to child deaths and caseworker turnover. But others are there to testify against a Sunset staff report [click here for PDF] suggesting the Department of Aging and Disability Services should shutter the Austin State Supported Living Center, off of W. 35th Street near Camp Mabry, by 2017.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

June 25 marks the one-year anniversary of Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster on the Texas Senate floor.

It was one year ago that Democratic Sen. Davis began an 11-hour filibuster intended to derail Senate Bill 5, a bill containing several new restrictions on abortion. While Davis' filibuster ended before the legislature adjourned, a supportive crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in cheers and screams minutes before the midnight deadline to pass SB 5 – squashing Republican efforts to pass it that night.

KUT News

The second day of the Sunset Advisory Commission’s public meetings at the Capitol is underway.

Today, the public can comment on recommendations made in recent commission staff reports on how to fix major flaws at state agencies, including the Department of Family Protective Services. A June report [click here for PDF] of the Sunset Advisory Commission had about 100 pages of recommendations for reforming the department.

Sunset staff member and project manager Amy Tripp, who worked on the report, told lawmakers Tuesday that caseworkers complain about the punitive work environment.

Between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Wendy Davis, Texas politicians in recent years have lived up to their state's reputation for producing larger-than-life characters.

That makes the Texas political scene a natural for the Hollywood treatment.

HBO has given God Save Texas, a drama about the state's often raucous political culture, the green light for development. It's set to unfold at the Texas statehouse, a perennial flashpoint for national debates about issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the size and role of government.

Why Veterans Could Influence Texas Medical Marijuana Laws

Jun 3, 2014
flickr.com/eggrole

Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana?

William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly. In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

A Texas agriculture industry group is calling for more stringent reporting by people who possess the fertilizer ammonium nitrate. The Texas Ag Industries Association (TAIA) wants people with fewer than 10,000 pounds of the chemical to disclose to state officials how much they're storing and where.

Mental Health Support for Texas Inmates on Lawmakers' Agenda

Apr 22, 2014
Liang Shi, KUT News

Texas lawmakers are looking into whether more should be done to provide mental health services for inmates at state prisons.

Prison officials say inmates already have access to medication and individual or group counseling for mental illness. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston says the legislature has provided enough mental health funding in recent years for prisoners and parolees. And, he says, it shows.

Sam Ortega, KUT

Women's healthcare has been a political seesaw in the Texas legislature the last few years -- from budget cuts in 2011 to budget increases in 2013.

Yesterday a Texas Senate committee heard how women's health programs were doing, with the answer falling along party lines.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, says Texas has never spent as much on women’s health as it does right now, and she says she wanted to "set the record straight" during a hearing of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee -- the committee she chairs.

Texas Judge Reopens School Finance Trial (Update)

Jan 21, 2014
Kate McGee, KUT News

Update: Travis County District Judge John Dietz heard opening arguments today in the second round of Texas' school finance trial. The two sides are arguing over whether actions taken by the legislature last year change the judge’s preliminary ruling that the state’s public education finance system is unconstitutional.

When the legislature reconvened last year, it added back $3.4 billion for public education after it cut $5.4 billion during the 2011 session. Lawmakers reduced the number of required standardized tests for graduation from 15 to five.

At issue: were those changes enough to create a fair and equitable system to finance public education and allow schools and students to meet the state standards?

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

State Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, recently announced his candidacy for speaker of the House, an election for which will not be held until 2015.

His timing is more provocative than the candidacy itself, because it could force candidates in the Republican primary for the House to declare their preference for a sitting speaker perceived as a moderate or for an alternative — Turner or someone else — thought to be more conservative. It’s not about the speaker’s race. It’s about those primaries.

Michael Stravato

Nghi Ho and Al Hoang, the Republicans who are vying to unseat Rep. Hubert Vo, are talking about the usual issues, like abortion. They are also talking about some unlikely topics, like the Communist government in Vietnam, the birthplace of all three candidates running in the southwest Harris County district, which includes most of Alief.

“It shows that a place like Alief has come a long way from what it was when it was first established as a fairly Anglo suburb of Houston,” said Mustafa Tameez, a political consultant for Vo’s first race.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

If you order a mixed drink in Texas tomorrow, you might see the price on your bill higher than what you’re used to. That’s because of a new state law that goes into effect on Jan. 1.

In Texas, if a bar sells you a mixed drink, it has to give 14 percent of what you pay back to the state. And that tax doesn’t show up on your receipt.

If the bar only sells beer and wine, it doesn't pay that tax. In that case the customer pays a sales tax of 8.25 percent. And that does show up on the receipt.

Tomorrow – on Jan. 1 – a new law goes into effect, which changes that. 

flickr.com/tudor

The holidays are a time for gift-giving and celebration but, for some, it's also a time of increased family and financial pressure. Some mental health health professionals say this pressure can lead to a spike in domestic violence. 

In Texas, domestic violence victims who find the courage to leave an abusive situation can now have their pets included in protective orders.

Patt Nordyke of the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies fought for eight years to pass the law in the Texas legislature.

Should Texas Pay Power Companies Just For Opening New Plants?

Nov 26, 2013
Jessie Wang for KUT News

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. And some lawmakers voiced concerns during a public hearing at the Capitol yesterday.

The Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing to question the Public Utility Commission, or PUC, about the possible change to the market.

State Appeals Ruling Striking Down Part of Texas Abortion Law

Oct 29, 2013
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed yesterday’s ruling striking down part of the state’s new restrictions on abortion.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics was unconstitutional. Judge Yeakel partially allowed another provision to stand, ruling a new requirement that doctors follow FDA protocol for dispensing abortion-inducing drugs was not an undue burden – unless the woman’s life was in danger due to the pregnancy.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A lawsuit attempting to block parts of a new restrictive abortion law is expected to wrap up today. Plaintiffs hope the judge will find certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 

Plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Whole Woman's Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights -- are challenging two key provisions of the abortion law, arguing each creates an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, which makes each unconstitutional.

One requires the physician to give two rounds of abortion-inducing medication to the patient in person. The second requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform the abortion.

KUT KUTX Belo Media
KUT News

The College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin will soon have a new name – the Moody College of Communication.

The Moody Foundation is donating $50 million to the college, the largest donation in the college’s history.

The donation will be paid out over 10 years and will fund various initiatives, including a $10 million innovation fund and $13 million for graduate student recruitment and retention.

Money will also be used to build a sky bridge across Dean Keeton Street to link the Belo Center for New Media and the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. UT will provide an extra $5 million to improve classroom space and facilities, which includes the sky bridge.

Ben Philpott

Texans head to the polls later this month to vote on constitutional amendment propositions. Though water funding is receiving the most attention, there are 8 others to consider, including one that expands the use of what’s called a reverse mortgage in Texas.

A reverse mortgage is a financial tool that allows senior citizens to receive equity payments each month while staying in their home. The reverse mortgage is paid back, with interest, only after the house is sold when the owner either moves out or dies.

Four abortion clinics are preparing to close in the coming months as a result of stricter requirements imposed by a new state law regulating abortion. The Dallas Morning News reports that one of the main obstacles the clinics face is a requirement that doctors who perform the procedure obtain admitting privileges at hospitals. The clinics that will close are in Bryan, Harlingen, San Angelo and Midland. Two others closed earlier this year.

Spencer Selvidge via Texas Tribune

Update: Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a special election to fill the State House of Representatives seat formerly held by Austin State Rep. Mark Strama will be held Nov. 5.

Strama resigned late last month to become the head of Google Fiber in Austin. The person elected will serve out the rest of Strama’s term – which expires in January 2015.

Original Story (June 26): Democratic Austin State Representative Mark Strama is leaving politics to become the head of Google Fiber in Austin.

Strama announced earlier this year that he’d be resigning his seat in the Texas House. At the time, he was considering running for Austin mayor.

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