Texas

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

A Texas Department of Public Safety seal
Jacob Villanueva

A top official at the Texas Department of Public Safety has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, according to Travis County court records. He was fired the same day.

Vote signs outside early voting locations in Austin on Feb. 23, 2014.
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

Just as they do every year, hundreds of county officials from all over Texas are packing a hotel ballroom in Austin this week for three days of all things elections.

cow
Susanne Nilsson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Presidio County is one of 22 in the state that still abides by open-range laws that allow cattle to roam, more or less, where they want. That means it’s perfectly legal for cattle to wander onto any unfenced property. But a 1980 “estray law,” which applies statewide, allows sheriffs to collect unidentifiable cattle. But that conflicts with the open-range laws in those counties. Now, Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez has asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to settle the dispute.

Photo courtesy of Albert Prieto-Márquez, Miquel Crusafont Catalonian Institute of Paleontology

From Texas Standard:

A dinosaur fossil has stumped scientists ever since they found it in Big Bend National Park in the early 1980s. Now, 30 years later, paleontologists report that new data helped them determine that the fossil actually belongs to a whole new dinosaur species.

Gabriel C. Pérez/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

A recently-published health study indicates expectant mothers living near extensive oil and gas development run a higher risk of having children with birth defects.

CletusDitto/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

For people who experience psychosis, getting care early on helps them better manage symptoms and lead productive lives. But for those living in rural Texas, care is often impossible to find. And without it, those living with psychosis can struggle to stay employed, maintain relationships or simply move through the world.

Image via Social Media

Federal authorities have released an 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen who had been detained in immigration custody for more than three weeks after being stopped at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, according to multiple reports.

TSilver Falls is often dry and overgrown with vegetation.
Leaflet /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Ogallala Aquifer is a massive store of groundwater that quenches the thirst of people, crops and livestock throughout the Great Plains. The aquifer extends, roughly, from Midland, Texas, through the Texas Panhandle and all the way to South Dakota. In fact, it's the aquifer that makes the current way of life on the Plains possible. So what happens if it becomes depleted? 

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán
Drug Enforcement Administration/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

After sentencing Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán to life in prison plus 30 years, the United States ordered a forfeiture of $12.6 billion worth of his assets. But Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, says the money should be put to use in Mexico, where many of his crimes were committed. 

One of NASA's first employees, key to creating the U.S. space program, has died at 95. Chris Kraft was the agency's first flight director and managed all of the Mercury missions, as well some of the Gemini flights. He was a senior planner during the Apollo lunar program. Later he led the Johnson Space Center in Houston and oversaw development of the space shuttle.

From Texas Standard:

In the fall, Texas A&M University will start a new program to better serve Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Aggie ACHIEVE will gives these students access to a full university experience – something not often available to them. They’ll reside on campus, attend classes alongside fellow Aggies, and will have a personalized education plan geared toward future employment. 

Texas Democrats See Opportunity In 2020 House Races

Jul 22, 2019
Democrat Julie Johnson represents House District 115, which stretches from Carrollton to Irving in northwest Dallas County.
Miguel Perez/Kera News

From Texas Standard:

While no one expects Texas to "turn blue" any time soon, an energized Democratic Party could mean tighter races for the Texas House of Representatives in 2020. In 2018, winning margins in 17 House races were 10% or less. And 10 of those were in North Texas

How Texas Fits Into Trump's HIV Eradication Plan

Jul 18, 2019
Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

This week, several federal officials, including the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met with health workers in Austin to talk about a strategy for combatting HIV. It’s part of the Trump administration’s larger plan to significantly reduce the number of new infections of the virus over the next 10 years. The president wants to start that effort by spending $291 million in the next fiscal year.

How Should Texas Choose Its Judges?

Jul 17, 2019
Texas Supreme Court building
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas is one of only seven states where trial court judges are chosen via partisan elections. Gov. Greg Abbott, who is a convert to the idea that this might not be the best way to select judges, signed a law in June creating a 15-member commission to study judicial elections. 

Texas Teachers Are Getting Pay Raises, But How Much Depends On The District

Jul 16, 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Legislature passed a multibillion-dollar school finance bill during its most recent session. The funds provide a pay increase for teachers and other members of school staff. But now comes the hard part: how to actually apportion those raises.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Rockdale, Texas, an hour outside of Austin, was depending on a company called Bitmain – a Bitcoin “mining” company – to bring new jobs and revenue to the town after the Alcoa coal plant closed more than a decade ago. But when Bitcoin started losing value in 2018, Rockdale suffered. Bitmain postponed the opening of its facility, and ended up hiring a fraction of the several-hundred people it had originally promised. 

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas will soon become the second state to require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Louisiana was the first state to do so.

The new requirement will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year, with the goal of getting Texans more money for college. 

Andrew Kreighbaum is a federal policy reporter for Inside Higher Ed. He says when college-bound students don’t fill out a FAFSA, they potentially lose out on money available to them. 

Tim Patterson/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

As Texans gear up for the 2020 elections, some hopeful candidates are struggling to get on the ballot. As a result, the Libertarian and Green Parties and others have sued the Texas secretary of state's office, alleging election laws in Texas discriminate against third-party and independent candidates.

Mark Jones is a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, and says candidates who want to get on the ballot for the governor’s race, for example, but who haven’t won enough votes in past elections, have to get signatures from the public.

Lotus Carroll

In a setback for the state in its first enforcement action under a controversial, anti-“sanctuary cities” law passed in 2017, a district judge in Travis County has dismissed several of the Texas Attorney General’s Office’s claims against the city of San Antonio, which the state claimed had “materially limited” the enforcement of immigration laws.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

According to the latest predictions, Louisiana is likely to be hardest hit by a storm that could become a hurricane, if Tropical Storm Barry continues to gain strength. Luckily for Texas, the state likely won’t get much rain from that weather system. Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder for Texas to look at how well it’s prepared for the next major storm.

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University

From Texas Standard

Wimberley Independent School District in Central Texas is moving forward with the construction of a new environmentally friendly school. The project focuses on the conservation of water.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, most of Texas is completely drought-free. That's a stark change from where the state was this time last year, let alone the extreme drought conditions of years past. But even as drought pressure has abated, water remains both a valuable and scarce resource in Texas, making it significant that this Hill Country elementary school is being constructed as the most water-efficient in the state.

Nick Dornak is the director of Watershed Services at Texas State University's Meadows Center. He says the school will be the first “one water” school in the state, incorporating water and wastewater treatment directly into the building.

U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau is having a tough time hiring workers in Texas for the 2020 Census, because the unemployment rate is so low – which means nonprofits and local governments may have to step in to make sure there's an accurate count.

Paul Sableman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The job market surged in Texas after the 2008 financial crisis. But the trend wasn’t spread evenly across the state. The “Texas miracle” seemed to only bless bigger cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Young professionals didn’t exactly flock to smaller towns and more rural parts of the state. 

Texas Billionaire H. Ross Perot Dies At Age 89

Jul 9, 2019
Dallas Film Society

DALLAS — H. Ross Perot, the colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president as a third-party candidate, has died. He was 89.

@Sunjtf Photo /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

From Texas Standard:

Texas Standard has covered the dangers nurdles pose to marine life on the Texas coast. Now, the Texas Observer reports that Formosa Plastics, a petrochemical company outside of Port Lavaca, can be held liable for violating state and federal pollution laws after a federal judge ruled against the company last week.

Nurdles are small pieces of plastic that look like hail.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

From Texas Standard:

If they're in your city, you've certainly seen them, and you've probably formed an opinion about electric scooters – personal transportation devices that are ubiquitous in most urban Texas areas. (Though Houston has been more resistant.) 

Many, mainly younger people, have flocked to the fleet of scooters from companies like Bird, Uber, Lyft and Lime. Scooter boosters say the vehicles – easily available, unlockable via apps and priced by the minute – are an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to get around a city's urban core. 

Their detractors point to an uptick in visits to hospital emergency rooms by riders and innocent bystanders, plus the obstruction of sidewalks, which is an especially tough issue for people with disabilities, to say little of the clutter along college drags from Austin to downtown Dallas to beachside Corpus Christi. 

A crowd at the Texas Capitol protests migrant detention camps
Michael Minasi for KUT

Hundreds of people crowded the Texas Capitol on the Fourth of July to protest the detention of migrants at border camps. 

paul.wasneski/Flickr (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Last week, Texas Standard reported on how three Texas cities – Dallas, Austin and Lubbock – are tackling homelessness. Now, The Texas Tribune reports a twist to the narrative that homelessness is generally on the rise. In fact, the Tribune reports that homelessness is actually going down in Houston.

Black Pumas, Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada
Michael Minasi for KUT

From Texas Standard:

Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, John and Paul, Mick and Keith – music history is full of legendary collaborations. And the next one might just come straight out of the Texas capital city.

Office of the Inspector General

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General released a report on Tuesday detailing severe overcrowding and escalating tensions between detainees and Border Patrol agents at five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Pages