Texas

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

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday said it will begin returning more migrants to Mexico after they apply for asylum in the U.S. and ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to speed up the redeployment of its agents to help the Border Patrol process a growing surge of migrants arriving at the border.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard

A federal judge in Arizona on Thursday sentenced Border Patrol agent Marco De La Garza Jr. to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine. De La Garza had been indicted on three counts of passport fraud and making false statements on his application for a federal background check.

Steve Earle's Guy Clark Tribute Celebrates A Songwriting Craftsman

Mar 29, 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX

From Texas Standard:

Steve Earle has been a lot of things: an actor, an award-winning musician and one of the more famous Texas natives to call New York City home. It's been a long time since the days when he was knocking around Texas as a protégé of Townes Van Zandt.

About 10 years ago, Earle and his band, the Dukes, recorded a tribute to his mentor and partner in crime, called Townes.

Companies Express Opposition To 'Bathroom Bill 2.0'

Mar 29, 2019
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Supreme Court's decision in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple left open a larger question of whether a business can discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community based on the religious principles of the businessperson.

Now, Texas lawmakers want to provide licensed professionals in Texas with legal cover in the event they are accused of discriminating on the basis of the businessperson's religious beliefs.  

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

For years, short-term rentals – the rooms and homes on apps like Airbnb and HomeAway – have been the subject of lawsuits and hand-wringing on the part of regulators and people looking to rent out properties.

Miguel Gutierrez / Texas Tribune

The U.S. House’s main investigative committee has opened an inquiry into the Texas secretary of state’s review of the voter rolls for supposed noncitizens.

Texas House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond, talks with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Wednesday, as the House took up the budget debate.
Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

In Dennis Bonnen’s first major test as speaker of the Texas House, the chamber he oversees resoundingly passed a $251 billion budget Wednesday after a long but largely civil debate — a departure from the dramatics that have typically defined such an affair.

Terry McCombs/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

After over a year without a superintendent, Houston ISD seemed ready to name a finalist in their search on Monday. However, a state-appointed overseer called a halt to the process, and now the district is back to square one.

Two Bills Aim To Bring Broadband To Rural Texas

Mar 26, 2019
vgivanov/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

In the 1930s, a young congressman named Lyndon Johnson decided he wanted to do something grand – on the scale of his hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He pushed for rural electrification, i.e., bringing electricity to remote areas that didn't yet have power – both in Texas and across the country. Today, there's a similar urban-rural divide when it comes to broadband internet access.

As thousands of migrant parents and children continue to stream across the U.S.-Mexico border every day, the Border Patrol is bringing in more agents and asking the Pentagon for additional help.

The Border Patrol says it needs more manpower to care for the migrants — more of whom are coming with infectious illnesses. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says agents are on track to stop nearly 100,000 people crossing illegally this month — far exceeding last month's total.

NDU Audio Visual/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The longtime president of the University of Texas at El Paso, Diana Natalicio, is stepping down after more than 30 years on the job. But some are concerned about the UT System Board of Regents' choice as the sole finalist to replace Natalicio as UTEP president, Heather Wilson.

Toshiyuki IMAI/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In 2016, a groundskeeper from California named Edwin Hardeman filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, an agribusiness company that's since been acquired by Bayer. Hardeman had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and he claimed that using the popular weed killer called Roundup for the past two decades partly led to him contracting cancer. Earlier this week, a jury agreed with his claim.

Rap325/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Though he hasn't made an official announcement, Texas Monthly recently reported that Joaquin Castro could soon announce plans to challenge John Cornyn for his Senate seat in 2020. If Castro runs, his own seat in Congress will be open. He represents a district that's been solidly Democratic for years, and now some are speculating about who would run to replace him. 

Gilbert Garcia, metro columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, has been pondering the musical-chairs game of sorts that a Castro Senate bid could set in motion.

Garcia says San Antonio comprises five congressional districts, and that the 20th is the one Democrats covet most.

Andi Lichterfelde/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The U.S. population is aging, and many older adults have, or will have, some form of dementia. Right now, the health care workforce is not prepared to meet their needs, says sociologist Christopher Johnson. But Johnson is particularly poised to help fix the problem, as professor at the country's first master's of science program in dementia and aging studies, at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Photo by Jarekt https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/wiki/User:Jarekt

From Texas Standard:

Tuesday, after five years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in a challenge to rules allowing the federal government to detain immigrants with criminal convictions, even if they entered the U.S. lawfully, and even after they have served their time. The decision prevents such an immigrant from appealing a detention decision, and could allow indefinite detention.

Dozens Of Rattlesnakes Removed From Under Texas Home

Mar 20, 2019
Forty-five rattlesnakes were pulled from under a home near Albany, Texas last week.
Big Country Snake Removal / Facebook

A Texas homeowner who reported seeing "a few" snakes under his home actually had dozens of rattlesnakes living beneath his house.

A plume of smoke above Intercontinental Terminal Company's Deer Park, Texas facility on Tuesday.
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

A fire that broke out at a petrochemical storage facility over the weekend in the industrial Houston suburb of Deer Park has been extinguished, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday morning.

Tony Hisgett/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lemonade stands aren't legal in Texas, but House lawmakers gave a preliminary OK today to a bill that would undo that legislative oversight that's dragged on for 85 legislative sessions.

Ryan Poppe/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

Cannabidiol products – better known as CBD – are fairly new to Texas. They usually come in the form of oils, drinks or snacks containing the nonpsychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis, THC. CBD products usually contain just a minuscule amount of THC, and can't get you high, but when ingested, some say they alleviate inflammation and anxiety. But in Texas, where products containing THC are mostly illegal, where does that leave CBD? The city attorney of Edinburg recently asked just that in a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Molly Smith, a reporter for the McAllen Monitor, says the city attorney wants Paxton to issue a formal legal opinion because he says there's a legal "grey area" in Texas. Smith says most people, including CBD vendors, assume it's legal because their products contain such a minute amount of THC – less than what's legal under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which allows people with certain severe health conditions to use products with less than 0.5 percent THC. Plus, she says federal law also makes it easy to assume that CBD is legal.

BBC World Service/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Pew Research Center recently published a report showing how a majority of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. live in one of 20 metropolitan areas. But there was another statistic within the report that was important in its own right: The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has gone down over the last decade. As of 2016, Pew estimates there were about 10.7 million, compared to about 12.2 million in 2007.

Mark Hugo Lopez is director of global migration and demography at Pew Research, and says there's been a large decline in unauthorized immigrants from Mexico, in particular. At the same time, there's been an increase of unauthorized immigrants from other countries, whom Lopez says have most likely overstayed their visas.

President Trump last week vetoed a congressional measure aimed at blocking his national emergency declaration. The next battle over that emergency declaration will likely be in the courts.

Meanwhile, planning for extending the border wall is already happening in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Yang campaign

From Texas Standard:

More than a dozen Democrats are running for president, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang is one of them. He's the first Asian-American Democrat to run for president, and highlights of his platform include giving every American $1,000 a month, and solving the "fake news" problem.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard:

As the 2019 legislative session continues, Texas Standard is talking with members about some of the bills they’ve filed, and what they hope their legislation will accomplish.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, filed HB 311, which would exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales tax.

Photo Courtesy "J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius" film.

From Texas Standard:

It started as a joke. But when a couple of guys from Fort Worth started distributing literature for their new, fake religious group in the late 1970s, they were surprised when it caught on. Before long, there were factions of the group in New York, San Francisco, Arkansas and many other places.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Texas is lacking in low-income housing, according to a new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The availability of affordable rental housing for extremely low-income renters in Texas – those making below the federal poverty level or 30 percent of an area's median income – was 29 homes available for every 100 renters. The national rate is 37 homes.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Shapter

From Texas Standard:

Leslie Cochran was a man who experienced homelessness and often walked the streets of Austin in a thong and a feather boa. He became an unofficial symbol of the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan before his death in 2012.

Tracy Frazier directs a new film about Cochran's life, Becoming Leslie, which is premiering at South by Southwest.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

At 4:30 a.m. El Paso time Thursday, Beto O'Rourke confirmed, in a video with his wife at his side, that he's tossing his hat into the ring, so to speak, and running for president. O'Rourke is one of 15 Democrats who've announced their candidacy so far. 

Richard Pineda is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Pineda says though O'Rourke will be up against another Texan in the primaries, Julián Castro, O'Rourke is "head and shoulders above" him because of the support he generated during his 2018 Senate race.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

After being rebuked by Gov. Greg Abbott for the state’s botched review of the voter rolls, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety took “full responsibility” Tuesday for providing data to the secretary of state’s office that included thousands of individuals whose citizenship should never have been in question.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In a tweet Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the situation in Venezuela is "deteriorating," and announced plans to remove all diplomatic staff from the country, amid a six-day nationwide power outage, ongoing violence and food shortages. The U.S. also recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's president, though Nicolás Maduro still occupies the presidential palace. But it's unclear what the consequences will be with U.S. diplomats out of Caracas.

Secretary Pompeo, who's in Houston Tuesday for the CERAWeek energy conference, told Texas Standard he's ordering diplomats to leave for their safety. As a diplomat himself, he also says much of his focus is on finding ways to enhance America's security at home, including promoting U.S. oil and gas production. He says so-called energy independence gives the U.S. greater security and more leverage to negotiate with other countries.

Despite growing energy independence, the U.S. has relied for years on Venezuelan oil exports. But Pompeo says right now, the U.S. mainly wants to ensure the well-being of the Venezeulan people.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The embattled CEO of Austin-based Southwest Key Programs, the nation's largest provider of shelters for migrant children, is stepping down.

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