2011 Legislative Session

Politics
5:07 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Picking On Family Planning

Republicans had several amendments to move money out of family planning.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

The House is taking up the 371 pre-filed state budget amendments article by article.  There are 11 articles in the budget, although Article 11 is mostly a repository for projects that are not going to get funding. 

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Politics
9:59 am
Fri April 1, 2011

Budget Debate Begins in the Texas House

Debate on HB 1 could last throughout the night.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House is off and running this morning on HB 1, the state budget bill. The $164 billion dollar budget is about $23 billion less than the budget passed in the 2009 legislative session. It also does not take into account population and enrollment growth in many state agencies and programs, like K-12 public education.

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Politics
4:57 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Texas House Cuts To Cover Current Shortfall

Photo by KUT

The Texas House passed a bill today to that would reduce funding to state agencies and institutions of higher education by a total of $1.5 billion for the rest of this fiscal year. The cuts address a $4.5 billion shortfall the state is facing for FY 2011, which ends on August 31st.

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Education
11:30 am
Thu March 31, 2011

Ask The AISD Superintendent About The Budget Tonight

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen speaks to reporters with her CFO Nicole Conley-Abram in the background. The two will be answering questions about the budget tonight at Bowie High School.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will be out in public again this evening with her financial chief, Nicole Conley-Abram, trying to explain the school district's budget situation and take input from the public.

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Politics
10:50 am
Thu March 31, 2011

Watch The Texas House Debate Live

Our political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune, is live streaming the House floor as lawmakers debate several key pieces of budget legislation.  The Trib's Thanh Tan is also live blogging the debate. 

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Education
1:21 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

School District Leaders To Rally At Capitol This Afternoon

Superintendents and school board members from across Texas are set to rally at the Capitol this afternoon in support of funding for public education.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Superintendents and school board members from across the state will try to increase pressure on the Legislature this afternoon to limit cuts to public education. The Make Education A Priority rally is scheduled for 2 pm on the south steps of the Capitol.

"I think generally, what we're looking for is for legislators to really look at addressing the school finance system that was reformed back in 2006," Texas Association of School Boards spokesperson Dax Gonzales told KUT News. "That's where a lot of the problems stem from."

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Politics
12:39 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Bill Would Require Some Stores To Offer Plastic Bag Recycling

Senate Bill 908 would require retail outlets to offer recycling for plastic bags if they provide them to customers.
Photo by KUT News

A bill up for consideration in the Texas Legislature this session would mandate some retail outlets across the state to establish recycling programs for the plastic bags they hand out to customers.

Senate Bill 908, authored by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), would require larger retail stores to offer bag recycling. It would not apply to Mom and Pop operations, but is aimed at stores like Wal-Mart and H-E-B.

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Education
4:24 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Austin School Trustees To Vote On Job Cuts, Facilities Master Plan

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and school board president Mark Williams at a board meeting in February.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The pink slips have already been sent to hundreds of employees in the Austin Independent School District. Tonight, the nine men and women on the AISD board of trustees will vote on whether to officially enact those job cuts. At the same time, a year-long process to develop a master plan for school district facilities will reach its culmination when board members are asked to approve the 10-year plan.

Both issues are highly contentious because of their broad implications for employees, students, and parents.

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Politics
11:14 am
Mon March 28, 2011

A New Proposal to Get Around Capitol Security Lines

Security lines have been a hassle for many at the Texas State Capitol
Photo by KUT News

Getting in to the Texas Capitol has been a bit of an issue during the 2011 Texas Legislative session.  Last year, metal detectors and x-ray machines were installed at each entrance to the building.  Anyone who isn't a lawmaker, staff member, or state concealed handgun license(CHL) holder, must now stop - and go through an airport-like checkpoint - before heading on to any office, committee hearing, or floor debate.  

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Education
3:26 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Round Rock ISD Lays Off 280 Employees

Round Rock ISD is dismissing 280 people, mostly teachers, because it is expecting a $60 million reduction in state funding..
Photo by Forty Two http://www.flickr.com/photos/samxf42/

About 280 employees in the Round Rock Independent School District began learning this afternoon that they will no longer be employed next school year. RRISD is facing an estimated $60 million reduction in state funding.

Districts in Texas are required to notify contracted employees within 45 days of the end of the school year if they are losing their jobs. Austin ISD, the largest school district in Central Texas, has said it is eliminating more than 1,100 positions. RRISD is the second largest district in the region.

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Education
11:05 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Lawmakers Scale Back Education Cuts But AISD Still Troubled

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen speaks to reporters school district financial chief Nicole Conley-Abram stands to the side, ready to answer more technical questions about the $94.4 million budget.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

State Senators writing a spending plan for Texas approved a measure yesterday that would soften the blow to public education.  The initial budget bill called for a cut of almost $10 billion. Senator Florence Shapiro said school districts cannot absorb that punch.

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Politics
4:42 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Senate Finance Committee Eases Budget Cuts

A state senate committee approved a smaller cut in education spending in the new state budget.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News.

The Senate Finance Committee added $5.7 billion to its budget proposal today.  The adjustment was approved with a 13-2 vote.

Just yesterday, the House Appropriations committee $8 billion in education cuts.

In anticipation of the cuts in state support for education, school districts have already begun laying off teachers but legislators are still tinkering with measures that could avoid massive layoffs statewide.

Here’s a rundown of what’s included in the Senate proposal:

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Politics
12:44 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Testimony Begins on State House Redistricting

Lawmakers are hard a work drawing new State House maps.
Map courtesy Texas Legislative Council

The House Redistricting Committee has begun taking testimony on what the state's new House district map should look like. Based on 2010 Census data it looks like rural West Texas is going to lose representation. While the population growth in South and Central Texas counties means those areas will gain a few seats.

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Politics
12:12 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Voter ID Clears the Texas House

A bill that would require voters to show ID at the polls is one step closer to the Governor's desk.
Photo by KUT News

After years of Republican attempts and procedural blocks by Democrats, a voter ID bill has passed the Texas House and Senate.  The bill passed the House on 3rd reading today on a 101-48 vote.  Today's debate and vote took just minutes, compared to the 11 hours the House spent debating amendments Wednesday.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.  That chamber can either agree with the House changes to the bill or ask for a conference committee to work out the differences.

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Education
9:39 am
Thu March 24, 2011

Austin ISD Wants Your Answers To The Budget Crisis Tonight

AISD wants public input on how to close its estimated $94 million budget gap without drastically affecting the quality of education at schools like Linder Elementary, pictured above.
Photo by KUT News

School districts across Texas are in the sticky situation of trying to calibrate their spending for the next year without knowing exactly how deeply the state will cut public education. The largest school district in Central Texas, Austin ISD, will hold the first of two public hearings tonight to seek public input on how it should manage a projected $94 million shortfall, even though a large portion of that deficit has already been slashed through the elimination of more than 1,100 jobs.

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Politics
12:37 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

The Budget Bill Heads to the House

Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts will bring the budget to the floor on April 1st.
The Texas Tribune

The House Budget Bill is on its way to the full House for a vote.  

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Education
12:16 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

State Senators Encourage Education Cuts Outside The Classroom

State Senators are urging school districts to cut management jobs to save classroom quality.
Photo by e-magic http://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/

Six Republican State Senators stood side by side this morning at the Capitol and proclaimed that the budget can be cut in Texas, even education, without affecting the classroom.  Senator Florence Shapiro says she has filed legislation that would make it easier for districts to relinquish themselves of administrative staff.

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Education
3:43 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Anti-Bully Pulpit

Bullies could be moved to another classroom or campus, under a proposed bill in the Texas Senate.
Photo by KUT News

A Texas Senate committee looked at legislation that would change definitions and solutions for bullying and cyber bullying issues. Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) authored a bill that provides the removal of a bully to another classroom or campus at the request of the victim. Currently, the student-victim of the bullying is moved.

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Education
11:30 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Expert Worries Public School Firings Will Discourage Potential Teachers

Teacher retention expert Ed Fuller worries potential teachers are being discouraged from entering the field by massive layoffs across the state.
Photo by ydhsu http://www.flickr.com/photos/ydhsu/

The sweeping state budget cuts that are prompting public school districts to lay off teachers in droves could discourage university graduates from entering the teaching field, according to a University of Texas educational researcher. 

"That's one of the things I really worry about," said Ed Fuller, a teacher retention researcher at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Education. "Because I think these cuts are going to send a message to people that education is not a profession to go into."

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Politics
12:48 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Voter ID Debate Begins in the Texas House

The highly partisan bill is expected to pass the Texas House this week
picture by KUT

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.:  A point of order on Voter ID bill has been sustained. The bill is headed back to committee for a clean-up. The language in the bill said "Days"; the bill's analysis said "Business Days," so the bill was sent back to clarify the discrepancy.

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