2011 Legislative Session

Politics
10:44 am
Sat September 29, 2012

Austin Supports Gay Marriage. So What Happens Next?

Gay rights advocates in Texas say federal action - not the Texas Legislature - is the best hope for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Proponents of gay marriage in Texas scored a symbolic victory this week when Austin City Council became the first in the state to adopt a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. But what does that actually mean for gay rights in a place that – as Gov. Rick Perry claims – is “the most conservative state in America.”

Gay rights activists believe their best hope for legalizing same-sex weddings in Texas will come in the form of a Congressional action or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to declare prohibitions of gay marriage unconstitutional. Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2005 that defines marriage as the “union of one man and one woman.” (Travis County was the only county statewide to vote against it.)

But same-sex advocates see political opportunities in seeking smaller legislative successes. Equality Texas – the gay rights lobby group – has identified two priorities: making it illegal to fire someone because they’re gay, and allowing gay parents to adopt children as a couple.

Right now, state law doesn’t prohibit employers from firing people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay couples who adopt children must do so as a single person, and only one of them can be listed on the birth certificate as the parent.

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Politics
1:59 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

What’s Happening With Texas Redistricting?

Separate from the Supreme Court's recent decision, a federal court will decide on the constitutionality of Texas redistricting.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/fabliaux

With a flurry of legal actions surrounding Texas redistricting efforts, it's easy to get a little confused.

The confusion, in part, can be blamed on the different courts in play, each playing a part in the battle over the districts redrawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011.

Late last week, the Supreme Court threw out re-redrawn district maps drafted by a San Antonio district court. The San Antonio court claimed the Legislature’s new districts deprived minority voters of the right to equitable representation; the Supreme Court held that while there might be such problems with the Legislature’s maps, the San Antonio court should use the Legislature’s map as a blueprint for further revision, instead of drafting their own. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has since called for the San Antonio court to conclude their work quickly.

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Health
10:54 am
Mon November 14, 2011

First Person: Working With Autism

This morning on KUT, we reported on the challenges people with autism face when trying to find gainful employment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports increases in the prevalence of autism. Meanwhile, the state legislature slashed spending that would help people afflicted by the disorder.

One of the people we talked to was Daniel Shackelford. He has Asperger’s Syndrome but was able find gainful employment at Seton Medical Center through a privately run program called Project SEARCH. You can hear more from Shackelford in the video above, shot and edited by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

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Texas
9:04 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Top Morning Stories for June 30, 2011

The other shoe could drop any day...or not.
Picture by KUT News

THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS OVER!!! (Sorry just had to get that out of my system)

On to the news of the day (so far):

Watching and Waiting for Gov. Perry

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Texas
8:16 am
Sun June 26, 2011

Sunday Morning Round-Up: June 26, 2011

Your round up of the day's news from KUT. (Now with Coffee!)
Photo by KUT News

Another hot day ahead in Central Texas. Not that you needed me to tell you that. The forecast will remain pretty much the same until....hmmm....maybe October?

So why not sit back, stay cool and read this round up of the day's news.

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News Brief
6:14 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Top Morning Stories June 23, 2011

The Texas House and Senate need to reach a compromise on a bill to overhaul the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association before this special session ends.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Lawmakers at Odds Over Windstorm Insurance

Texas lawmakers are running out of time to overhaul the cash-strapped Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  That’s the insurer of last resort for people who live along the Texas coast. The Texas Senate approved its version of a TWIA overhaul bill yesterday. It’s very different from the House version which is stricter and limits how much residents could sue TWIA for, if they feel their policy isn’t being honored.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Gov. Perry Vetoes 24 Bills

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Governor Rick Perry announced late this afternoon that he is vetoing a long list of bills. Sunday was the last day he could veto a bill without it automatically becoming law.

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Politics
4:35 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Non-Profits "Shortchanged" By Specialty License Plate Program

Money forwarded to non-profits through a specialty license plate program would be cut in half under a provision in the recently adopted Texas budget.
Photo by Texas Department of Transportation

Money that non-profits receive from a Texas specialty license plate program will be cut in half unless the legislature takes action, according to a coalition of charities. The diverse group of non-profits includes the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life and the pro-cycling organization BikeTexas.

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Politics
12:37 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Group Calls Education Bill An Attack on Teachers

A state teachers' union says a bill passed by the Texas House is an attack on educators.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House has given final approval to a big education bill.  Supporters say Senate Bill 8 would give school districts more flexibility, as the state makes cuts to public education spending. 

“When you look at the things they put on there, the ability to cut teacher pay, using furlough days, attack on contract rights for teachers, attack on due process rights for teachers, can’t be seen by us as anything but an attack,” Texas American Federation of Teachers President Linda Bridges told KUT News.        

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Politics
12:19 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Texas Moves Ahead With Secure Communities Program

Photo by Liang Shi/KUT News

Republican lawmakers in Texas, unfazed by state governments across the country opting out of a controversial immigration enforcement program, are instead seeking to expand it here.

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Politics
12:31 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

Online Purchases Might Get Taxed, After All

Photo by alancleaver_2000 http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/

Texans may soon have to pay sales tax on many of the products they buy online, despite an attempt by Governor Perry to stop that from happening. Last week, Governor Perry vetoed a bill that would have required internet retailers with a physical presence in Texas to charge sales tax.

But now that same provision has found its way into House Bill 1, a sweeping fiscal matters bill being considered during the special legislative session. Perry would not have line-item veto power on House Bill 1, so he would have to veto the entire spending bill to block the internet tax provision he already vetoed when it was House Bill 2403.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

E-Verify Bill May Find New Life in Special Session

The inside of the dome at the Texas Capitol
Photo by KUT

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last week upholding an Arizona law that punishes employers who hire illegal immigrants may give Texas lawmakers some newfound momentum to file immigration-related legislation with the hope that the governor adds the topic to the special session now underway.

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Environment
3:54 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Texas Environmentalists Mostly Disappointed With Legislative Session

A door hinge inside the Texas Capitol
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas environmental activists are pleased with changes in fracking disclosure laws and renewable energy initiatives that cleared the state legislature this session, but they are unhappy with cuts to state parks, delays in air quality requirements for oil and gas miners, and environmental legislation that died before making it to the Governor’s desk.

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Politics
3:29 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Texplainer: How Does a Special Session Work?

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Hey, Texplainer: How does a Legislative special session work?

Consider a special session the legislative overtime in Texas. If both the House and Senate reach a stalemate on key issues or if the governor decides the legislative show must go on, he or she can call for a special session. 

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Politics
2:36 pm
Sun May 29, 2011

A Make-or-Break Day for the Texas State Budget

The 2012-13 budget has been approved by both the House and the Senate, and now, with less than two days left in the legislative session, lawmakers have to pay for it by passing one more piece of legislation that raises $3.5 billion in "non-tax revenue" and revises school finance law to allow the state to reduce aid to public schools by $4 billion.

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Texas
9:32 am
Sun May 29, 2011

Top Stories May 29, 2011

With a budget passed, lawmakers turn to SB 1811 to find out how to pay for it.
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News.

 

Legislators passed a new, very tight state budget Saturday night – one that conservatives hail as a fiscally responsible victory that shows the state can make tough choices in hard times and which democrats decried as a long list of poor choices that will hurt students from Pre-K through college, families and those with disabilities.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Sat May 28, 2011

Smoking Ban Dead, Again

A state-wide smoking ban has once again died in the legislature.
photo by KUT News

Many thought this was the year. But Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, acknowledged on Saturday that a measure establishing a statewide smoking ban in Texas is dead. 

Crownover blamed its failure on a "handful" of Senate conferees who refused to keep a smoking ban amendment on Senate Bill 1811, a sweeping fiscal matters bill. She said the amendment would have saved taxpayers $30 million in Medicaid spending over the next biennium. 

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Politics
5:01 pm
Sat May 28, 2011

How New School Funding Formulas Cut Districts

Public education cuts have been key in this year's budget debate.
Photo by KUT News

The House and Senate will take up SB 1811 tomorrow. The bill creates about $2.5 billion for the state budget, while also cutting public education by around 4 billion.

How that money will be cut from individual schools wasn't known until this afternoon when the House put out what's called the district runs. The spreadsheet shows how funding in each district will change in 2012 and 2013.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

School Finance Deal Running Out of Time

Sen. Florence Shapiro (l), R-Plano, visits with Health & Human Services Committee chairman Sen. Jane Nelson on May 3, 2011
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

he House and Senate must agree on how to distribute the $4 billion reduction in state public education funding by 5 p.m. today, say Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks.

"The thing that I'm most concerned about is, if we don't come up with something, what are the schools going to do?" Shapiro asked. "We really are in a very precarious period of time."

After rejecting an initial proposal from the House late last night, the Senate sent a counteroffer back across the dome, which members there are currently considering.

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Politics
1:38 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

Women's Health Program Stands, But Questions Remain

Photo of Women's Health Program website by KUT

The Women's Health Program — long believed to require legislative renewal — lives on, at least for now, in the form of a budget rider.

Jose Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, said the rider directs the Health and Human Services Commission to renew the program. But he said recent opinions by the Attorney General's Office would apply — which means that Planned Parenthood and other clinics "affiliated" with organizations that provide abortions would likely be forced out.

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