Texas

News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

Interior of the Texas Capitol
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

This Sunday, 820 new laws passed during the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature will go into effect. They range from the huge — a $250 billion two-year budget — to the symbolic — a number of bills to rename parts of Texas highways. Here's a sample of several that will impact Texans' lives:

Valerie/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Froylan Hernandez has spent the better part of the last two months counting sheep from a helicopter. That’s not a metaphor or a kind of experimental sleep study; it’s his job.

Amy the Nurse/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

From Texas Standard:

The news that four lakes on the Guadalupe River will be drained next month has residents living along those lakes up in arms. 

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, or GRBA, is taking this extraordinary action over concerns about the failures of aging dams. Now, a group of people living along one of those lakes says they want to fight the decision in court.

Flowers and candles line a memorial for the victims of the El Paso shooting outside the Walmart where the massacre happened on Aug. 3.
Armando Morales

When the alleged gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart earlier this month to carry out the worst massacre of Hispanic people in recent American history, he went in with an assault weapon he said he bought from Romania, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The scandal involving House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and a secretly recorded conversation with conservative blogger and activist Michael Quinn Sullivan continues to roil the statehouse.

Mr.schultz /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

Houston-raised football star Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the NFL over the weekend, surprising many observers and sports fans. 

Courtesy of Southwest Key

Texas Health and Human Services has confirmed that applications have come in for two new shelters that would hold migrant youth who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without a guardian.  

The unaccompanied minor facilities are slated for the Rio Grande Valley, in McAllen and Los Fresnos. 

New Texas Laws Address Topics Ranging From Guns And Cigarettes To Lemonade

Aug 26, 2019
A lemonade stand
Christopher Penn / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) www.ChristopherSPenn.com

From Texas Standard:

A number of new laws passed this spring by the Legislature will take effect Sept. 1. They represent changing political winds in the Lone Star State.

The First Baptist Church in Refugio
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast two years ago Sunday. The Rev. T. Wayne Price remembers his lowest point – returning two days after the storm to the First Baptist Church of Refugio.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday convened the first meeting of the newly formed Texas Safety Commission, ramping up the state's efforts to devise policy solutions in the wake of the deadly shooting targeting immigrants and Hispanics earlier this month in El Paso.

Trey Shaar / KUT

A number of the targets of Friday's ransomware attacks are back to normal operations, the Texas Department of Information Resources said.

The department said more than a quarter of the targets have "transitioned to remediation and recovery." It also said the number of local government entities affected is down from 23 to 22.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Most discussions about the high cost of college focus on tuition and fees. But in some places, including the University of Texas at Austin, housing can be an even bigger cost. 

Dallas City Hall.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this summer, law enforcement leaders in Dallas said homicide rates were the highest the city has seen in a decade. They’re expecting 228 by the end of the year. In one of case, police charged a man with killing 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett who was shot in the head while sitting in her home on Aug. 14, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Charlotte Carpenter/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety – the agency that issues driver's licenses and patrols state highways – will start battling white supremacy as part of its duties. This comes after the mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3 when 22 people died. But how equipped are state police agencies to deal with so-called domestic terrorism?

Jeff Gruenewald is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas' Sociology and Criminology Department, and director of the Terrorism Research Center there. He says calling shooters like the one in El Paso “domestic terrorists” is a newer phenomenon in law enforcement, but terrorism researchers like himself have been using that phrase for longer.

Trey Shaar / KUT

Update: The number of local government entities in Texas affected by a ransomware attack is now up to 23. In a release Saturday afternoon, the Texas Department of Information Resources said the local governments reported the attacks Friday morning. The majority of them are smaller local governments.

Mose Buchele/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Despite a relatively wet May and June, it's gotten so dry in Texas ever since that more than 100 of the state's 254 counties are under burn bans. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Nearly two weeks after a mass shooting in El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott promised that his office, and the Legislature, would take appropriate action to stop future tragedies — but quashed any speculation that he’d call lawmakers back for a special session to make it happen.

Prison Scam Lands The Scammer Behind Bars

Aug 15, 2019
Still Burning/flickr

From Texas Standard:

Two years ago, a Beamont man pleaded guilty to participating in a lucrative scheme involving promises of reduced federal prison sentences in exchange for money. Alvin Warrick, aka Peter Candlewood, received more than $4 million after promising federal inmates and their families that he could reduce an inmate’s time in prison. Warrick and his two co-conspirators operated the scam for several years and conned nearly 22 families. Now, ironically, they are the ones behind bars. 

Charlotte Cuthbertson, The Epoch Times/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Political dynamics in Texas are shifting. That’s, in part, because of a growing Asian population, as well as a massive wave of young people migrating here from other parts of the country. Some argue all that could shift the state from red to blue. But these demographic changes are also happening at the same time as city populations are surging – something some Texas researchers say is an overlooked factor.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Jesus Rosales for The Texas Tribune

Less than two weeks after a gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart and killed 22 shoppers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a Domestic Terrorism Task Force to protect against statewide acts of extremism, his office announced in a Wednesday release.

Tracy Anne Hart, www.heightsgallery

From Texas Standard:

He is one of the most recognizable names in Texas music, known for kickstarting a revival of interest in the blues and for his performances with influential artists like David Bowie. He was headed into a new chapter of his personal and professional life when he died in a helicopter crash in 1990, at the age of 35.

Of course, we're talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro
Michael Minasi for KUT

Julián Castro, a Democratic candidate for president, plans to release a television ad Wednesday on Fox News connecting President Donald Trump to a recent attack in El Paso that federal law enforcement officials have classified as an act of domestic terrorism.

Houston School Board Faces Dismissal Over Dysfunction

Aug 12, 2019
Fujio Watanabe / Houston Public Media

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Education Agency, or TEA, has the power to replace locally-elected school boards with its own appointed trustees, although it rarely does so. Such a step is typically reserved for extreme financial mismanagement or substandard student achievement. But in Houston, TEA officials are now considering replacing the local school board for a different reason: dysfunction.

Africans In Juárez: The Migration Mosaic Expands

Aug 12, 2019
Lorne Matalon

From Texas Standard:

The city of Juárez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, has long been a migrant gateway to the U.S. Between Oct. 29, 2018 and Aug. 2, 2019, 17,778 people have come to Juárez to try and apply for political asylum in the United States, says Enrique Valenzuela, director of Ciudad Juárez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes, a migrant transition agency of the Chihuahua state government.

Lynda M. González for KUT

Leading Latina organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is launching a campaign for U.S. Senate, entering a Democratic primary to oust Republican John Cornyn that has steadily grown throughout the summer.

The gunman who killed 22 people in El Paso specifically targeted Latinos in a city that's nearly 80% Hispanic. A deep fear among some El Pasoans has cast a chilling shadow over their defiant shows of strength and unity. For others, the tragedy offers opportunities to elicit bittersweet smiles, express their love for each other and confront this nation's darkest truths.


Thousands of students in El Paso are returning to school on Monday. It’s the first day of classes for the city’s largest district, El Paso ISD. Many are still struggling to make sense of the mass shooting that claimed 22 lives there, less than one week ago, in an attack targeting Mexican people.

El Paso Shooting Suspect Said He Targeted Mexicans, Police Say

Aug 9, 2019
Courtesy of Armando Morales

The man accused of carrying out last weekend's deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso confessed to officers while he was surrendering and later explained he had been targeting Mexicans, authorities say.

Joy Diaz / Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

A reverse mortgage allows older homeowners to borrow money against their home’s equity. It’s a legitimate financial option that provides cash, helping homeowners remain in their home as they age. The flip side is that thousands of homeowners have also lost the home they love after acquiring a reverse mortgage.

Fellowship Baptist/YouTube

Retired Pastor Al Meredith has become a specialist of sorts on the impacts of mass shootings and the long road ahead for victims' families and survivors.

Twenty years ago in September, a gunman walked into Meredith's Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. He targeted attendees of a youth rally – killing seven and injuring seven more.

In the decades since, Meredith has received calls for advice after many mass shootings.

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