2011 Legislative Session

Health
12:13 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

1st Birthday for Federal Healthcare Bill

A birthday those opposed to the Federal Law aren't celebrating
Photo by KUT News

O.K.  We're actually a couple of days early, since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.  But advocacy groups have been celebrating/commiserating the anniversary for the last week…so we thought we'd give you a sampling of what's already out there.

Political parties are saying pretty much what each has been saying over the last year.  Democtrats seem to be keeping quite so far... but those on the "Right" are vocal about their displeasure.

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News Brief
6:05 am
Thu March 17, 2011

Top Morning Stories March 17, 2011

Photo by KUT News.

House Panel OKs Guns on Campus Bill

A Texas House committee has approved legislation that would allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons to carry guns on college campuses.  The House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee passed the bill 5-3 Wednesday.  The guns on campus legislation now goes to the full House.  The Associated Press reports the vote was split along party lines, with Republicans backing the measure. 

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Texas
3:24 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Perry, House Reach Rainy Day Fund Deal

State leaders agree on tapping some of the Rainy Day fund to get the state's budget through August.
Image by KUT News.

Governor Rick Perry and House leadership have struck a deal that would use $3.2 billion from the so-called "Rainy Day Fund" to help close the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

In a joint statement by the governor, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Comptroller Susan Combs, the remainder of the budget gap would be closed by $800 million in cuts and by using an additional $300 million that's come from increased state sales tax collections over the past few months.

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Texas
4:58 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

$300 Million More in State Coffers

State Comptroller Susan Combs told lawmakers Monday that the Texas wallet is a little greener than first thought.
Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Education
12:46 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Education Protesters Give Lawmakers Sardines

Photo by KUT News

Teachers, school officials, parents and students from across the state are once again flocking to the State Capitol today.  They’re jumping off the momentum from the thousands who showed up for an education rally on Saturday.  Monday's lobby day for the Texas American Federation of Teachers.  People will be handing out sardine cans to legislators. 

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Politics
9:25 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Former Speaker Craddick Falls at Committee Hearing

Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland)
Photo by KUT News

Former Speaker Tom Craddick fell to the ground during a House Transportation committee hearing this morning at the Capitol.  The Dallas Morning News is reporting Craddick was at the meeting to lay out his bill banning texting while driving when he apparently fainted and fell to the ground.

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Education
4:05 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Hochberg Files Bill To Illustrate Education Cuts District-By-District

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

It's not often that state lawmakers admit they don't like the bill they just filed, but that's exactly what State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) did today after filing HB 2485.  The bill is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows how drastic cuts to public education would affect individual school districts.

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools.  But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) out of their local district," Hochberg said.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Fri March 4, 2011

Is There a Cost to the Abortion Sonogram Bill?

Lawmakers debate the abortion sonogram bill.
Photo by KUT

Last night the Texas House gave initial approval to the abortion sonogram bill by a 103-42 vote. House Bill 15 requires a woman seeking an abortion to receive a sonogram within 24-hours before the procedure. The bill would also require to show the image of the fetus while explaining to the patient what's on the screen and playing the audio of the heartbeat.  

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Politics
5:18 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

House Continues Debate on Sonogram Bill Amendments

Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston proposes an amendment to kill the sonogram bill.
Photo by Ryland Barton/ KUT.

The debate over HB 15—which would require physicians to provide a detailed description of a fetus to its would-be mother—continues to drag through the House this afternoon as Democrats put up a gaggle of amendments and arguments against the bill.

The bill is expected to be approved by the House sometime this evening.

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Politics
12:40 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

House Expected to Take Up Sonogram Bill Again Today

Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels thanks GOP support from New Braunfels.
Photo by Ryland Barton/KUT.

Today the so-called "Sonogram Bill" returns to the Texas House, after being sent back to committee yesterday by Democrats. House Democrats took issue with a technicality in how the bill moved from the State Affairs committee to the full House. Barring additional delays, the House is expected to vote on the Bill today.

The bill is one of five pieces of emergency legislation that are being fast-tracked through the Capitol. Pro-choice advocates probably don’t have the votes to stall the bill any longer; though it’s possible more procedural stalling could ensue.

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Education
1:43 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Austin School Board Declares Financial Exigency

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and school board president Mark Williams during school board meeting Monday night.
Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

After a marathon board meeting, Austin School Trustees voted in the wee morning hours to declare the district to be in a state of financial exigency. The declaration will give Superintendent Meria Carstarphen more power to reduce AISD's projected budget deficit of $94 million.

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Politics
2:48 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

House Committee Holds Sonogram Bill Hearing

The House State Affairs Committee is hearing testimony on the sonogram bill.
Photo Courtesy of KUT News

The House State Affairs Committee is taking invited testimony on a bill that would require women considering an abortion to receive a sonogram and have a doctor explain what they're seeing.

The bill, authored by Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), is similar to a bill already passed by the Senate. 

Becky Turner, a woman who had an abortion over 25 years ago, agrees with the bill.

"I'm hoping that you guys also consider it important and valuable enough to tell others, what's inside the womb. Because we can't see it," Turner said.

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Education
9:43 am
Fri February 18, 2011

Official Says 2,500 UT-Austin Students Could Be Affected By Financial Aid Cuts

House lawmakers are hearing from higher education leaders this morning.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Financial aid for graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin could be slashed because of state cuts to higher education, UT Austin's chief academic officer Steven Leslie testified this morning.

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Health
1:00 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Legislation Filed To Prevent Unplanned Pregnancies

Photo courtesy of Chris Martino http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismar/

Two Democratic lawmakers from Austin have filed bills they say would reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in Texas.  The legislation would extend the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which provides low-income women with  family planning exams , health screenings, and birth control. 

The program is set to expire this December, and in a press conference this morning, Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Mark Strama said it saves the state $21 million a year by preventing pregnancies.  

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Education
11:49 am
Mon February 14, 2011

Austin Community College Sets New Enrollment Record Of 45,000

Austin Community College's Rio Grande campus downtown. ACC reports record enrollment this spring semester
Image courtesy http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:WhisperToMe

Enrollment growth at Austin Community College's spring semester grew by ten percent, according to ACC, setting a new enrollment record of 45,056. The college says most of the growth came from people aged 25 and older.

Hispanic enrollment at ACC increased sixteen percent to almost 12,000. African-American enrollment was up seven percent to just under 4,000.

ACC president and CEO Stephen Kinslow is using the announcement to make a point about proposed state funding cuts to community colleges.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Wed February 9, 2011

Eminent Domain Bill Passes Senate, 31-0

The Texas Senate gives its okay to a new eminent domain protection bill
Image by Liang Shi for KUT News

The Texas Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would give property owners more rights, when the government wants to exercise eminent domain.  The bill was one of a handful of issues that Governor Rick Perry designated "emergency legislation," to bring it to the senate floor within the first two months of the legislative session.

Politics
2:24 pm
Wed February 9, 2011

Texas House Committees Posted

Speaker Straus had plenty of changes in the new committee list
Picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

House Speaker Joe Straus has released his list of committees for the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  The list has dozens of changes from the last session.  Which was expected after Republicans gained 25 seats since 2009 and now have a supermajority in the House.  Democrats lost chairmanships on high profile committees like Ways and Means (where tax bills originate) and Transportation (which is were road bills originate).

Here's the list and demographic breakdown:

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Texas
9:05 am
Sun February 6, 2011

Sunday Morning Brief

Governor Rick Perry will lay out his legislative agenda Tuesday
picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

You know what they say, if you don't like the weather in Texas...just wait a minute.  After 72-hours below freezing in Austin, we got into the upper 60's Saturday with another nice day ahead today.  BUT, we've got freezing temperatures and rain (or sleet or whatever) in the forecast this week.  So, don't pack your heavy coats yet.

On to the news of the day:

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Politics
3:04 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

The Daily Show Comes to Austin

    

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made a stop in Texas a few weeks back to tape a story on the Texas House Speaker's race.  The reason for the trip was the inclusion of some anti-semitic messages in the campaign to oust current Speaker Joe Straus, who is Jewish.  The segment aired Thursday night.  

Austin's state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who's also Jewish, was interviewed for the story but sadly didn't make the final cut.

Education
11:31 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

AISD Task Force Won't Name Specific Campuses On Its List Of Closure Options

Image by KUT

No more naming schools names for possible closure. That's the decision of an Austin ISD task force responsible for coming up with options for the district's facilities.

This Facility Master Plan task force began meeting last Spring. It was supposed to develop a list of options for the district to manage its facilities: its schools, its offices, its warehouses, that kind of thing. But the process was quickly interrupted by parents last month who were traumatized when a draft list of options began naming specific schools as facilities that could be closed.

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