Aman Batheja, Texas Tribune

Politics
4:58 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

The Pollsters Are Coming! What That Means for Texas Voters in November

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

In the Texas Tribune today, Aman Batheja reports on a significant change that has researchers and politicos drooling: Exit polls are returning to Texas.

Batheja writes:

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Governor's Race
1:42 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Anti-Corruption Unit Chief: No Davis Docs Passed to FBI

Texas gubernatorial candidate, Sen. Wendy Davis speaks to press following an education rally in Austin, Texas on April 14th
Marjorie Kamys Cotera via Texas Tribune

The agency charged with prosecuting state public corruption cases wrapped up an investigation into state Sen. Wendy Davis last year without finding any issues worth pursuing, its director said, and did not uncover anything it believed it should refer to the FBI.

The Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorneys Office closed an investigation into a complaint made against Davis’ law firm last year. The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that documents related to Davis’ legal work as a lawyer for the North Texas Tollway Authority are part of an FBI inquiry into the agency's board members, citing a letter from the Public Integrity Unit about its own closed investigation into Davis.

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Transportation
2:09 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Officials Discussing Texas-Mexico High-Speed Rail Line

Concrete railroad ties are staged for the construction of the new Brownsville rail bridge.
Reynaldo Leal for the Texas Tribune

A high-speed rail line connecting San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico, could be less than a decade away from welcoming its first passengers, according to federal and Texas officials who met with Mexican officials in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss the project.

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Politics
9:48 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Stockman Enters Legal Grey Area with Bitcoin Donations

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, holds a QR code linked to a Bitcoin account at an event at the NYC Bitcoin Center in New York on Dec. 31, 2013.
imgur.com

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, a Friendswood Republican with a history of flouting campaign finance laws, entered a new legal gray area this week when he announced his campaign can now accept donations in Bitcoin, a private virtual currency.

Stockman, who is challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in this year’s Republican primary, was attending an event promoting the NYC Bitcoin Center in New York's financial district earlier this week when he told a reporter with Business Insider that his campaign could now accept Bitcoin donations. Stockman appeared to confirm the report by posting it on Facebook and Twitter.

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Transportation
4:05 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Highways Are Talking Point as Candidates Take to Road

New section opening of the Grand Parkway in Katy, Texas, Saturday, December 14, 2013.
Texas Tribune

In a speech last month kicking off her campaign to be Texas' first Democratic lieutenant governor in 15 years, state Sen.Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio offered examples of what she considered negligence by the state’s Republican leadership.

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Mopac Improvement Project
1:30 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

In Austin, Toll Lanes May Give Bus Service a Boost

View from one of Capital Metro's 1M northbound busses at the intersection of 4th and Congress in Austin.
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

In 2015, an 11-mile stretch of Austin’s MoPac Boulevard will expand to eight lanes from six. The two new lanes will be tolled, giving drivers the chance to pay a premium to avoid the road’s frequent congestion. 

While the toll lanes will help ease traffic on the free lanes, neither the Texas Department of Transportation nor any of the local entities involved in the $200 million project are predicting it will transform MoPac into a free-flowing thoroughfare. With robust population growth projected for the region, MoPac traffic is expected to continue periodically slowing to a crawl for decades. When it does, local officials are optimistic that frustrated commuters will notice that it is not only personal vehicles zipping past them on the toll lanes. 

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Transportation
10:43 am
Sat September 7, 2013

Austin-San Antonio Rail Project May Get Federal Funds

A pair of high-speed Eurostar trains in France. Austin and San Antonio leaders are in initial talks with federal officials regarding a rail project to link the cities.
flickr.com/matt_hintsa

Officials in Austin and San Antonio are in talks with the U.S. Department of Transportation about receiving federal funding to facilitate connecting the two cities via high-speed rail, according to local and federal officials.

“I think that that concept has a lot of promise, and we just have to continue working with the local community to see how to get it in shape and see what we can do on the federal level,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

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University of Texas
8:42 am
Sat June 22, 2013

Pitts Working to Impeach Controversial UT System Regent

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, sits at his desk in the House Chamber on April 3, 2013. Pitts' HB 1 the Appropriations Bill will be heard on the House floor Thursday, April 4th.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Update (June 21, 3:26 p.m.): State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said Friday afternoon that his effort to unseat University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall is still very much alive in the last days of the session, and said he is confident he has the necessary support in the House. Aides to Gov. Rick Perry have been lobbying members to leave Hall in office, but Pitts said he's got the numbers right now.

Original story: The House's chief budget writer and a longstanding critic of the University of Texas System regents is attempting to launch impeachment proceedings against University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall.

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2013 Legislative Session
7:17 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Bill Offering More Breaks From Franchise Tax Hits House

Liang Shi for KUT News

The Texas House will take up what is likely to be its most sweeping attempt at tax reform this year on Tuesday, though for some critics, it doesn’t go far enough.

Lawmakers have been waiting for weeks for House Bill 500, from state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, to reach the floor. The bill would spend nearly $400 million to reduce the burden of the state's franchise tax on businesses, also known as the margins tax. Along with addressing how the tax applies to a handful of industries, the bill would make permanent a popular provision that exempts businesses with less than $1 million in gross receipts from paying the tax annually. The provision is set to expire next year.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:35 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

House Switches on Texas Lottery Commission

Today, the House defeated a bill that would have continued the functions of the Texas Lottery Commission .
flickr.com/callendercreates

Updated, 4:35 p.m.: 

In a 91-53 vote Tuesday afternoon, the Texas House passed House Bill 2197, continuing the the Texas Lottery Commission. An earlier vote Tuesday had failed to continue the commission.

Original story:

In an outcome that left many House members stunned, a bill to continue the Texas Lottery Commission failed on Tuesday, potentially abolishing scratch-off tickets, charity bingo and other popular games of chance and blowing a new hole in the state budget.

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Politics
1:38 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

In Bipartisan Truce, House Members Pulling Amendments

Medical assistant Alesia Bolden checks Nereyda Penaloza's vital signs during a visit to Women's Health at CommUnityCare, a federally qualified health center, in Austin, Texas.
Tamir Kalifa via Texas Tribune

While the Texas House began working through 267 amendments on the proposed budget Thursday morning, Democratic and Republican House members confirmed that potentially divisive amendments related to funding for women’s health are being withdrawn as part of a bipartisan truce.

“Both sides are standing down,” state Rep.Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
3:34 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Senate Finance Approves $195.5 Billion Budget

The budget bill may be debated on the Senate floor next week; the House Appropriations Committee is still working on its own budget proposal.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The 15 members of the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday for a $195.5 billion two-year budget that undoes some of the cuts from the 2011 legislative session. 

The budget, which now heads to the full Senate, is 2.9 percent higher than the estimated size of the current two-year budget, which is $189.9 billion after factoring in extra spending lawmakers are expected to approve later this session.

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Politics
7:31 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Texas Lawmaker Files Bill to Regulate Self-Driving Cars

Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Phil Wilson gets a ride in a Google self-driving car on Feb. 19, 2013, in front of the Hilton Austin.
Bob Daemmrich

Two weeks after Google showcased its self-driving car to local officials in Austin, a Texas lawmaker has filed a bill attempting to regulate the use of the futuristic technology.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, filed HB 2932 on Thursday to define “autonomous motor vehicle” and “autonomous technology” in the state’s transportation code. The bill would require that a licensed driver be held responsible for such a vehicle when it is in use, even if the car is operating without the driver inside it. It also directs the Texas Department of Transportation to set up rules for the use of such vehicles in the state, including minimum insurance requirements. Nevada approved similar laws last year, though that state requires a person in the driver's seat and passenger's seat of a self-driving car while it is in use.

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Texas
1:55 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

DPS Changes Security Policy at Governor's Mansion

DPS chief Steve McCraw (R), Ken Armbrister (L), and Brandy Marty of the Governor's Office announce the access policy change to the Governor's Mansion on March 5, 2013.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Federal and state elected officials are now exempted from the background checks required of visitors to the Governor’s Mansion, the Department of Public Safety said Tuesday.

Several members of the Texas Legislature had complained last week after learning they were required to undergo background checks before being allowed to enter the Governor’s Mansion for a reception hosted by the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. Angry legislators had asked DPS officials why the vetting they go through by Capitol security wasn’t sufficient for access to the Governor’s residence.

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Texas
3:07 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Lawmakers Protest Security Policy At Governor's Mansion

A security camera keeps watch on the newly-restored Texas Governor's Mansion on July 18, 2012.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Outraged members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus left a reception at the Governor’s Mansion this week after facing what they described as  heavy-handed and offensive security procedures. One of the lawmakers said he won’t return to the stately residence until the policy is changed.

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transportation
7:43 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Lawmakers Hunt for Cash to Fix Roads Hit by Drilling

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

An assortment of state lawmakers, county officials and energy industry leaders are working this session to fix the growing number of roads torn up as a result of increased drilling activity.

“Roads that are designed for a 20-year-life are being used in five years,” said DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler, who is pressing Austin to come up with a fix this session on behalf of several counties in the Eagle Ford Shale.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
6:40 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Combs: Lawmakers Will Have $101.4 Billion for Budget

State Comptroller Susan Combs makes a face while delivering a keynote speech at the Texas Republican Convention June 8, 2012.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

KUT's Ben Philpott talks with KUT's Nathan Bernier about Combs' announcement.

The Texas Legislature will have $101.4 billion to haggle over in crafting its next two-year budget, along with an extra $11.8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, Comptroller Susan Combs announced Monday morning. (Listen to her full announcement here.)

Combs’ official biennial revenue estimate sets the limit of the state’s general fund, the portion of the budget that lawmakers have the most control over. The general fund typically makes up nearly half of the state’s total budget.

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Politics
3:27 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Straus Says He's Ready for 'Serious' Session

House Speaker Joe Straus holds a press briefing at the Omni Hotel, Fort Worth on June 8, 2012.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

AUSTIN – Despite organized efforts to unseat him, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Wednesday he is confident his colleagues will re-elect him to the post so he can focus the 2013 legislative session on “serious issues” for a fast-growing state.

Speaking to reporters after a luncheon held by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Austin, Straus said he enjoys the "vast majority of support from members of both parties," though he has not publicly released any names or a headcount to back it up. His opponent, state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, officially launched his campaign for speaker this week, and he has not released names or a headcount either.  

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Economic Incentives
10:05 am
Wed December 12, 2012

Calls for Reform of Incentive Programs Grow Louder

Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov, Texas Tribune

The Texas approach to doling out financial incentives to businesses faced fire on multiple fronts Tuesday, adding momentum to calls for broad reform of the state’s economic development programs.

In the Capitol, the Senate Economic Development Committee discussed adding more transparency and accountability to the state’s patchwork of incentive programs and heard support from attendees for such reforms.

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Economy
10:35 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Incentives for Business Scrutinized in Texas

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The billions of dollars in incentives that Texas hands out to businesses each year are set to draw fresh scrutiny this week on the heels of a New York Times series that raised new questions about the practice while also ruffling some feathers.

On December 3, the Times devoted Part 2 of its three-part “United States of Subsidies” series to Texas. The article alleged that the state gives out $19.1 billion a year in business incentives, far more than any other state. (Disclosure: The Texas Tribune has a content partnership with The New York Times.)

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