2011 Legislative Session

Politics
2:48 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Abortion Sonogram Bill Clears Another Hurdle

Sen. Dan Patrick (l), R-Houston, listens to an amendment by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, during the debate on HB15 on May 2, 2011.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Senate lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial measure to require women seeking abortions to receive sonograms — and have the details of the fetus described to them — prior to the procedure. Pending a final vote tomorrow, the bill will head back to the House so the lower chamber can sign off on the Senate's changes. 

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Politics
2:58 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

House Committee Approves Tax Breaks For Yachts

Image courtesy Chrissy Olson http://www.flickr.com/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/lightbox/#/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/

Hold on to your yacht club officer hats! The Texas House Ways and Means Committee has approved a tax break for big yachts, the San Antonio Express News reports.

The bill, authored by State Rep. John Davis (R-Houston) would limit Texans’ sales tax on boats to $18,000, matching Florida’s sales tax, regardless of the cost of the yacht.

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Politics
4:11 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Texas Comptroller Combs: "I Am Responsible" For Security Breach

Comptroller Susan Combs giving the biennial revenue estimate in Austin January 10, 2011.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher's Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and Internet surveillance - along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for KUT and the Texas Tribune, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

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Politics
3:14 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Ogden: Still No Budget Deal in Texas Senate

State Sen. Steve Ogden R-Bryan during Senate Finance Committee hearing on April 19th, 2011
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Senators left a meeting this morning looking no closer to an agreement on the budget — and Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the method of financing remains the sticking point.

“If we’re not going to use the Rainy Day fund when it’s raining, we might as well get rid of it," Ogden told reporters after this morning's caucus. "This is what it’s for.”

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Education
4:39 pm
Tue April 26, 2011

Anti-Bullying Bill Passes State Senate

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

An anti-bullying bill that passed Texas Senate today would require school districts to adopt a policy to prohibit, prevent and investigate bullying, both in person and online.

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Austin
9:26 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Austin School Trustees To Hold Public Hearing On Budget

AISD has $690 million to spend on everything from school buses to teachers in the 2011-12 school year, but that's $94 million less than 2010-11.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The nine elected officials who govern the Austin school district want to hear from the public tonight on the largest financial challenge AISD has faced in recent memory: a $94.4 million projected budget gap.  The deficit has already been cut in half by the elimination of more than 1,000 positions, but board members still have a $46 million shortfall to confront.

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Education
3:16 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

State Education Boss Scraps Controversial Texas Projection Measure

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott at an event in February.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

A contentious calculation used by the state to measure academic performance at schools will be abandoned, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced today. The Texas Projection Measure (TPM) counted some students as passing, even if they failed, as long as they were algorithmically predicted to pass in the future. TPM had long drawn the ire of conservative business leaders, minority education activists and progressive policy groups.

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Politics
11:31 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Texas Senate Budget Spends Another $3 Billion From Rainy Day Fund

In an 11-4 vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved a spending plan that draws another $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Senate Finance Committee has approved a budget that spends down an additional $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day fund, according to our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune.  The 11-4 vote came faster than expected this morning, and it sets up a showdown between House and Senate lawmakers.

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Environment
3:41 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Report: "Fracking" Harms Climate More Than Coal

A coal power plant in West Virginia. A new study says hydraulic fracturing, a method used to extract natural gas, is more harmful than coal energy because of the large amounts of methane gas it emits.
Photo by Wigwam Jones http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/

Cornell University researchers are about to publish scientific evidence that a controversial method to drill for natural gas used in Texas and elsewhere is more damaging to the environment than using coal for energy production, reports The Hill.

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Texas
10:49 am
Sun April 10, 2011

News Roundup for Sunday April 10, 2011

The Cathedral fire (Brewster County) viewed at night in April 2008.
Photo courtesy the Texas Forest Service.

Wildfire Danger at Historic Highs Today

State officials are warning of extreme wildfire danger across much of the western half of Texas today, as hot, dry, windy conditions couple with low humidity. 

The Texas Forest Service was fighting several wildfires yesterday, but was bracing for more, reported the Associated Press.

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Texas
8:24 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 7, 2011

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill easing graduation requirements for high school students.
Photo by KUT News

House May Ease Graduation Requirements

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill that would ease graduation requirements for Texas students. Starting next year, high school students are required to take a total of 12 end-of-course exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and they have to pass the exams in order to graduate.  In the bill the House will vote on today, high school students will have to pass fewer of the new state exams in order to graduate.

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Politics
2:04 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Dueling Sides of the Texas Budget Debate Make Noise at the Capitol

American's for Prosperity-Texas leader Peggy Venable warns lawmakers to cut state spending.
Photo by KUT News

Political battles are often fought on the right or left of a topic.  But today ideology was divided by the North and South sides of the Capitol.  

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Politics
4:55 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Senate to Pass Bill Regulating Homeonwners' Associations

The Texas Senate has passed a bill to restrict HOA's potential abuse of foreclosing on homeowners.
Photo by KUT News

Homeowners’ associations might not be able to turn the heat anymore on homeowners.

The Texas Senate passed SB 142, which restricts associations from exercising their rights to foreclose homeowners who didn’t pay dues and fees.

The bill, filed by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), aims to protect homeowners from potential abuse of foreclosure, especially on the families of soldiers serving overseas.

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Politics
3:28 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

School Finance Pops Up in House Committee

Lawmakers will have to change the school funding system to mach the billions cut in public ed.
Photo by KUT News

So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

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Politics
12:35 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Football Helmet Bill Working Its Way Through the Texas House

The helmet bill hopes to keep unsafe equipment off the field.
Photo by KUT News

A bill in the Texas House that hopes to reduce head injuries in middle and high school athletics received initial approval today. The bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) would prohibit the use of all football helmets in use 16 years.  It would also require any 10-year-old helmets to be reconditioned at least once every 10 years.

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Politics
1:41 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Texas Lawmaker Tackle Feral Hog Legislation

A bill up in the House could allow Texans to hunt feral hogs from helecopters.
Photo by flickr.com/pierceplace532/

O.K...Maybe "tackle" was NOT the right word to use on this bill, because the bill passed without ANY debate. Rep. Sid Miller's bill passed 137 - 9.

The proposal wasn't exactly a new idea. The bill passed the House in 2009, but never got a hearing in the Senate, according to Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville).

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Politics
5:31 pm
Sun April 3, 2011

Texas House Budget Debate - Part II

Debate today is going much faster than Friday/Saturday.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

If you're watching the Texas House budget debate today - don't blink.  

While it took about 16 hours to get through the first three articles of the budget Friday, lawmakers are zooming through their debate on the remaining parts of the budget.  

Many amendments are simply being withdrawn - or moved to Article XI in the budget.  That's the place were projects without funding go to hang out just in case money can be found to fund them.  

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Politics
12:39 am
Sat April 2, 2011

Texas House Closes Budget Debate for the Night

Lawmakers will break until Sunday.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House has ended debate for the night on the state budget.  Lawmakers were able to get through the first 3 articles of the $164 billion bill - that includes general government (I), health and human services (II) and education (III).

Politics
8:48 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Budget Protesters Fill Hall Outside Texas House

ADAPT protestors mourning the "death" of several state programs.
Photo by KUT News

House Democrats aren't the only ones not happy about the spending cuts made in that chamber's version of the state budget.  ADAPT of Texas, a grassroots disability rights group, has a full protest on the 2nd floor landing right outside the House chamber.  Their chants have been heard over the last couple of hours anytime the debate in chambers hits a lull.  The ADAPT website lists several reasons for their opposition to the things the group says the bill does:

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Politics
6:48 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

House Moves to Education Section of State Budget

The education debate begins in the House.
Photo courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Family planning was the target in in Article II of the budget. The Windham School District (an education system run in state prisons) appears to be the piggy bank for Article III. The first three amendments take about $1.1 million from Windham to pay for other educational programs. The fourth takes sweeps the entire Windham budget, $84 million, for other programs.

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