Texas

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

Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

From Texas Standard:

Though some parts of Texas hit their coldest temperatures of the season this week, overall, this winter has been fairly mild south of Oklahoma -- and wet. That's led to a pretty productive wildflower season. Folks in the Big Bend area say they've seen the largest bluebonnet bloom in decades. And many parts of the state are seeing that bloom slightly early.

EFFIE YANG/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

As we reported several months ago, Texas has a policy that makes it illegal for state government entities to contract with companies that boycott Israel. A speech pathologist in Pflugerville ran afoul of the law because she refused to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. Now, short-term rental company Airbnb has run into a similar conflict with the state's law.

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

From Texas Standard:

The term "socialism" seems to be an early front-runner for the top buzzword of the 2020 election season. Democrats and Republicans have been using the word a lot lately, but what does it really mean?

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, President Donald Trump told the crowd, "Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism. They want to replace individual rights with total government domination."

But Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University specializing in political rhetoric, says the way Trump characterizes socialism is different than its technical definition.

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From Texas Standard:

In the United States, over 10 million children live below the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's the lowest child poverty rate in decades, but researchers and public policy experts are determined to bring down that number even further.

In a recently published report called "A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, its co-authors suggest policy changes that they claim could cut child poverty in half in just 10 years.

Cynthia Osborne contributed to the report. She's associate dean and director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Osborne says the irony of child poverty is that it's expensive.

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Courtney Meeks was 32 years old when she died in February.

Her name may be familiar. Texas Standard’s Joy Diaz followed Meeks' story several years ago when she was a pregnant mom living with addiction and without a home in Austin.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard:

College has become a prerequisite for most high-paying jobs in the U.S., but college itself is out of reach for millions, and that number is growing. And the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that in the past 10 years, student loan debt has grown by more than 100 percent. People ages 19 to 29 hold more than $1 trillion in student debt, and that's just the Millennial generation. With a wide-open Democratic primary field, it's almost certain that college affordability will be an issue during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Adam Harris writes in The Atlantic that the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates have focused their attention on how to make college affordable in the future,  proposing free college tuition or policies that would allow students to leave school without debt.

Harris says that prior to the 2016 election, momentum had been building nationally for some sort of free college program. But once Donald Trump was elected president, that momentum shifted to the states.

Kristen Cabrera/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Last week, at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, high school students from all over the Lone Star State gathered for the 2019 UIL Mariachi State Festival. They displayed their skills for judges and peers, but for almost all of the attendees, this year’s festival represented something deeper.

Jon Shapley/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Senate Committee on Finance held a public hearing Monday to discuss a bill that would give a $5,000 pay raise to full-time teachers across the state. But before it passed in the committee, there was pushback from a group of school professionals who testified the bill’s definition of “full-time teacher” wasn’t adequate.

 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Army Spc. Hugh Gary Bryan was buried Wednesday with full military honors at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.

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From Texas Standard:

The total market value of the video-gaming industry reached almost $135 billion in 2018, and with that growth has come an increased demand for game developers. In hopes some of its graduates stand out in that market, the University of Texas at Austin is launching a new degree program in video game design and development.

Texas Criminal Court of Appeals judges at the state Capitol in January.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

In a major blow to the state’s government transparency laws, Texas’ highest criminal court has struck down a significant provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.”

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Texas Economic Stabilization Fund, often called the rainy day fund, is doing well. Really well, actually. By the end of 2021, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar projects, it will have about $15 billion in it. Lawmakers say the account needs to have a minimum of $7.5 billion to help the state maintain a top credit rating.

Natalie Krebs

From Texas Standard:

Many of President Donald Trump’s comments about the U.S.-Mexico border have been disputed. But not this statement, from his recent campaign rally in El Paso:

“Last year Juarez had 1,200 murders. El Paso, right next door, a few feet away, had 23 murders,” Trump said.

Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — As part of an ongoing flurry of litigation in federal court here over the state’s bungled citizenship review of its voter rolls, a federal judge on Monday told a handful of Texas counties they may not — for now — purge registered voters or send them letters demanding proof of citizenship.

Gabriel C. Pérez/Texas Standard

Vatican officials have just wrapped up an unprecedented four-day gathering, all about the sexual abuse that’s shaken the church to its core.  At the same time, the population of what researchers call “women religious” – people like nuns – in the United States is experiencing “a dramatic decline.” But in the Central Texas city of Georgetown, a new Catholic convent, an outpost of the order of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, just opened its doors.

Di Qiu/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

Ever heard of bartonella henselae? It’s the bacteria behind an illness you’re probably more familiar with – cat scratch fever. What about this one: bovine spongiform encephalopathy? You may know it better as mad cow disease. As you can see, nonscientific names for certain afflictions tend to stick. But sometimes, their meanings may get lost in translation.

Why The STAAR Test May Be Setting Students Up To Fail

Feb 22, 2019
Montinique Monroe/KUT

From Texas Standard:

From botched distribution of exams to concerns about so-called teaching to the test, educators and parents alike have been critical of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standardized tests since their rollout in 2012. And over the past few years, something unusual has been happening: students who are otherwise successful in the classroom are failing the exams.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A new report calls for improved translation services after two Mayan children from Guatemala, 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died in Border Patrol custody.

Photo courtesy of UT-Austin

From Texas Standard:

Humans create a lot of trash. It's everywhere, from the oceans to the sides of Texas highways to our own backyards. But planet Earth isn't the only place that we've deposited our junk. There's also lots of junk in space, including decommissioned satellites and pieces of rockets. And it's all stuck orbiting around the Earth without much rhyme or reason. That means space junk can collide with and damage working satellites. A UT engineer wants to do something about it.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The opioid epidemic killed more than 1,300 Texans in 2016. The next year, state lawmakers passed legislation to mandate a prescription-monitoring program that requires medical providers to check a patient’s health records before prescribing opioids. The mandate is supposed to take effect in September, but the program may be delayed at the request of doctors.

Jill Ament/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

As Texas lawmakers begin tackling one of this session's top legislative priorities – school finance reform – a state Senate measure proposes giving public-school teachers a raise. How much money is on the table and what difference would it make for teachers living paycheck to paycheck? It depends on whom you ask and where you live.

Texans, it turns out, don't know their U.S. history. A new study from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found 63 percent of respondents in Texas failed a quiz based on questions from the U.S. citizenship examination.

Screenshot from Twitter/@NtfbVoice

From Texas Standard:

Representatives from Texas food banks will gather at the Capitol on Tuesday to talk with legislators about food insecurity and lobby for ways the state can help. Food insecurity is a bigger problem than some may think. The term doesn't just describe people who are going hungry; it also describes people who don’t have the household resources to consistently buy healthy food.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Hampton

On a clear spring day in 2013, two smoke stacks fell in El Paso. They had been a part of the landscape, and the El Paso economy for years. It took a mere 30 seconds for them to come down.

Pexels

The Calhoun Port Authority has spent $360,000 in taxpayer money to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the Victoria Advocate newspaper. The suit alleges the authority violated open-meetings rules during the hiring process of disgraced Congressman Blake Farenthold.

Angela Paxton celebrates victory in her state senate race on March 6, 2018.
Laura Skelding / Texas Tribune

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Prepare to be shocked: People keep moving to Texas.

A new Texas Realtors study looking at Census Bureau and U-Haul rental data found more than half a million people relocated to the Lone Star State in 2017 – the second highest number of relocations in the U.S. after Florida. 

Mike Fisher/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A planned liquefied natural gas facility near Brownsville would boost energy export opportunities, but also poses a risk to Texas ocelots.

Eric Gerard McGinnis was not supposed to have a gun. After a violent altercation with his girlfriend, a Texas judge barred him in 2015 from possessing a firearm. A year later, McGinnis tried to buy a gun anyway, but the purchase wouldn't go through after a background check revealed the court order.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley at a state Senate Committee on Nominations hearing on Feb. 7, 2019.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Facing an uncertain path to confirmation after ordering a deeply flawed voter citizenship review that seemingly focused on naturalized citizens, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley is now apologizing to state lawmakers for the way his office rolled out the review — but he is still holding firm behind the overall effort.

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