Texas

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

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.

Ballot Measure Aims To Protect State Park Funding

Jul 2, 2019
Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT

From Texas Standard:

The fate of the Texas state park system will be on the ballot in November. Voters will decide whether to strengthen the rules that currently reserve sales taxes paid on sporting goods to fund parks, or, if they vote "no," to continue allowing the money to be siphoned off for other uses. 

Taxes on sporting goods have been dedicated to park funding since 1993, but legislators have continually found other uses for the money – up to 40% has ended up in the state's general fund over those 25 years. Lack of funding, and greater demand for park access by a growing population has left many facilities in disrepair.

A middle school served as a reunion point for parents and students after a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
Michael Stravato / The Texas Tribune

In the immediate aftermath of the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, a man who said he witnessed the carnage seemed to turn up everywhere.

Residents in the Rio Grande Valley gathered at vigils in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday evening to remember the lives of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria.

The Salvadoran father and daughter drowned as they tried to cross the river between Matamoros and Brownsville on June 23. Valeria's mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, watched as her family was swept away.

Gene Kranz may be the most famous flight director in NASA's history. He directed the actual landing portion of the first mission to put men on the moon, Apollo 11, and led Mission Control in saving the crew of Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank exploded on the way to the lunar surface.

Now Kranz, 85, has completed another undertaking: the reopening of Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

June Has Been A Deadly Month For Migrants Crossing The Border Into Texas

Jun 28, 2019
Residents hold a vigil at La Lomita Chapel in Mission
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

As the wrenching photo of a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande continues to spark national debate about U.S. immigration policy, the death toll of migrants trying to illegally cross the border has been quietly rising in recent weeks.

Caroline Covington/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In 2017, Texas lawmakers approved $300 million to begin an extensive revamp of the state hospital system. It’s a network of 10 hospitals that house kids and adults in need of inpatient psychiatric care.

How Three Texas Cities Are Managing The Rise In Homeless Residents

Jun 26, 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

As the gap between the wealthy and poor has grown in places where the cost of living is high, cities across the country have been struggling with growing populations of people experiencing homelessness – people soliciting passersby, sleeping and living on public streets and in parks. In Austin, where the wealth gap has been skyrocketing, so have the numbers of people living on the streets.

Lucas Blanton/University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

From Texas Standard:

For some Texans, a mosquito bite can cause more than just an itch. From yellow fever to West Nile virus, there's a long history of mosquito-borne diseases in Texas, some of them causing serious harm or even death.

A Grim Border Drowning Underlines The Peril Facing Many Migrants

Jun 26, 2019
The Rio Grande River as seen from Brownsville, Texas as it passes under the Gateway International Bridge between the border cities of Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The man and his 23-month-old daughter lay face down in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande, his black shirt hiked up to his chest with the girl tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments.

From Texas Standard:

Known as a conservative firebrand with a semi-automatic rifle pin on his lapel, Jonathan Stickland has announced he will not be running to maintain his seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 2020. He stated that it was “not the Lord’s will” for him to seek reelection, according to The Texas Tribune.

An ICE agent
Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Federal immigration authorities say they arrested 52 people in Central and South Texas last week.

The arrests came before telegraphed operations in 10 major cities, including Houston, that President Donald Trump had touted. The president tweeted Saturday that he would delay the large-scale raids to give Congress time to make adjustments to U.S. asylum laws.

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