Texas Legislature

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.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The 2013 regular session ended with  50 new criminal and juvenile justice bills passed and signed into law.

Legislators passed bills focused on reducing the number of individuals wrongfully convicted or incarcerated in Texas. That included Senate Bill 344, which will "require state to perform DNA testing in any capital offense where the state is seeking the death penalty."

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

TribCast: Filibuster Fallout and Exciting Future Plans by KUT News

On this week's Texas Tribune Tribcast, Reeve Hamilton, Evan Smith, Ross Ramsey and KUT's Ben Philpott discuss the fallout from last week's filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), the Voting Rights Act, the effort to impeach a university regent, and Governor Rick Perry's coming announcement of "exciting future plans."

Image by Matt Largey for KUT News

The future of the Public Integrity Unit - an arm of the Travis County's District Attorney's Office with about 600 statewide fraud cases open that was recently defunded by Gov. Rick Perry - is anything but certain. 

Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court  looked at some alternatives to fund the office, which could shutter its doors on Sept. 30 and leave 31 employees jobless. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Texas lawmakers are back in Austin for a second special legislative session. The first one ended last week with protests and a late night filibuster to block abortion legislation. And the short time off between sessions has only galvanized activists on both sides of the issue.

U.S. Navy/LaTunya Howard

This year the Texas Legislature passed HB 3068, banning the surcharge placed on debit cards. The bill was championed by The Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT), an organization that provides resources to the state’s smaller, community banks.

IBAT Executive Vice President Stephen Scurrlock says the law will have a positive impact on Texas’ small businesses – and that by scuttling the additional cost of using a card not affiliated with a giant bank, payment by debit card will no longer discriminate against community banks. 

Ben Philpott

Update: House members voted 95 to 34 to pass Senate Bill 5. Now it’s back to the Senate, which already approved the bill, but will have to vote on it again – because its initial version didn’t include the abortion ban after 20 weeks.

Lawmakers are running out of time to take action during this special session. It ends tomorrow at midnight. There’s talk of a filibuster in the Senate to run out the clock.

Update: House gaveled in just after 9 a.m. A handful of Democrats have showed up.

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.

Liang Shi, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed a bill today making clear that it’s okay to say things like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” at public schools.

The law also says religious symbols may be displayed, as long as more than one religion is represented.

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.

Senate to Vote on Court-Drawn Legislative Districts

Jun 12, 2013
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A plan to use court-drawn political boundaries is on its way to the full Texas Senate.

Today the Senate Committee on Redistricting approved the district boundaries set by a federal court in San Antonio for the 2012 elections.

Liang Shi, KUT News

One of the matters Gov. Rick Perry is having lawmakers take another look at this month is money for transportation infrastructure.

Today the Senate Finance Committee took up a constitutional amendment that would divert part of the oil and gas taxes from the Rainy Day Fund into a state highway fund.

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

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.

Laura Rice, KUT News

The Texas Senate is holding a public hearing this morning on redistricting.

It’s a chance for people to tell lawmakers what they think about district maps drawn for state House, Senate and Congressional elections.

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.

KUT News

Well, folks it’s the final countdown. It’s almost here. New episodes of Arrested Development. And the end of the Texas Legislative session is coming too.

Lawmakers still have to finish their most important job: passing the state budget. We’ve had an agreement – in theory – between House and Senate budget negotiators for about a week. But depending on the time of day, the agreement has shifted from tenuous to … well even more tenuous.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT

Let’s count it down folks, four days left until the end of the 83rd Texas Legislative session.

Budget Deal Ain't Done

Just because we’re almost at the end doesn’t mean things are ending nicely. The “on-again-off-again” squabble over the final version of the state budget has, like any good Taylor Swift song, ended in a breakup.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

It all ends Monday for the 83rd Texas Legislative session.

The final round of deadlines hit the House and Senate this week. Ending debate on some bills, leaving a trail of dead campaign promises, broken legislative dreams, and a long line of disappointed advocates and lobbyists. That’s right folks...it’s time again for Bill Kill - Volume 2!

flickr.com/tslac

It’s so close folks: There's just three weeks until the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature comes to an end.

But for many lawmakers, this week is the real end of all the work to turn campaign promises into legislation. Because for most bills that originated in the Texas House, it’s pass or pass away Thursday night at midnight.

flickr.com/fabliaux

Alright class: get out your pencils, it’s quiz time. 

True or False: If a bill is brought up for debate in the Texas House, and a majority of lawmakers support the bill, nothing can defeat it.

Time’s up.

Who said True? O.k. none of you get pudding after dinner.

KUT News

Update: The Senate Education Committee approved a bill Thursday that would pay to train teachers and employees who carry weapons on school property.

There’s a new push for a cap on the cost for the training, but now it looks like even that would be more than enough.

The bill would rely mainly on private donations. If there’s not enough private funding, the state would allocate one million. Senator Dan Patrick (R- Harris County) is sponsoring the bill. He says out a the entire state budget, one million for security is worth it. 

Texas Tribune

The state of Texas has not joined in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. At the Conservative Political Action Conference late last week, Governor Rick Perry said he would not let Texas join the expansion unless the Federal government tailored the program for this state.

When Governor Perry spoke at CPAC last week, he gave a list of requirements for Texas to join in Medicaid expansion. Many were items he’s demanded in the past, but one in particular caught the ear of those who support expansion.

Texas Lawmakers Aim to Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking

Mar 19, 2013
Liang Shi, KUT News

Each year human traffickers force thousands of people into slave-like conditions. Several major highways in Texas make the state a hub for human traffickers.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) authored a bill that she hopes will deter people from forcing others into involuntary labor or services – often including prostitution.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

There’s a new effort at the Texas Capitol to tie higher education funding to results -- to use a business term, “productivity.”

And that’s the word Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond used today at an event headlined by State Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee.

Branch has a bill connecting the amount of money colleges get from the state to the number of graduates they turn out.

KUT News

 A bill in the Texas Senate could restrict the prescription of and distribution of the abortion drug RU-486. 

The bill is being offered by Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Patrick has made abortion restrictions a priority since his election in 2006. He passed a mandatory sonogram bill in 2011. And has filed a bill this session to restrict how late a woman can have an abortion. His bill on RU-486 was presented to members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.

"This is a straight forward bill. This is not before pregnancy. This is terminating a pregnancy," Patrick told the committee. "And all we’re asking is that the abortion clinics follow the federal drug administration guidelines and the manufacturers guidelines.”

Felipa Rodrigues / KUT

Texas lawmakers are taking a fresh look at a statewide ban on texting while driving, but the Governor may not be budging.

Members of the House Transportation Committee heard testimony today from people whose relatives were killed in crashes blamed on use of mobile phones.

There are concerns about enforcement.

A veteran Houston Police officer says he has no trouble seeing when someone is texting behind the wheel, but as it is now, he has to wait for the driver to do something more dangerous before he can make a stop.

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