2011 Legislative Session

Politics
1:59 pm
Mon January 10, 2011

How To Watch The 2011 Legislative Session From The Comfort Of Home

Image Courtesy StarMama http://www.flickr.com/photos/thestarmama/

Political junkies who don't have time to spend all day at the Capitol can watch the Texas legislative session unfold from behind a TV or computer monitor.

Here's how you can do it:

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Politics
11:35 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Estimated Texas Budget Gap Still Between $15 and $27 Billion

After today's eagerly awaited revenue estimate from the Texas Comptroller, it appears we are not much closer to knowing how deep and how wide the state's dreaded budget shortfall will be.

Listen to KUT's Ben Philpott talk about it with KUT freelancer Gretch Sanders.

Comptroller Susan Combs' revenue estimate, issued this morning, predicts the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend in the 2012-13 biennium, the two year time span for which legislators must draft a budget in the once-every-two-years session that begins tomorrow.

So that's how much money is coming in, but we won't know how big the budget gap is (and consequently, how severe cuts to government could be) until we receive a baseline budget from the Legislative Budget Board. No exact date has been set, but it is not expected for a couple weeks.

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Politics
9:45 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Comptroller Projects State Revenue Will Be $72.2 Billion

Image by Dave Burnstein for KUT News

Texas comptroller Susan Combs estimates the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend on the 2012-2013 state budget. That's $5.6 billion less than the nearly $77.8 billion the state was certified to spend last legislative session two years ago. (Read the revenue estimate report here.)

The Comptroller says the state will bring in $76.5 billion over all, but Texas is already $4.3 billion behind on its current budget. The difference amounts to $72.2 billion.

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Education
11:58 am
Fri January 7, 2011

Texas School Districts Ready For Cuts From 2011 Legislative Session

Image courtesy Jonathan Pobre http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnny/

The Texas Education Agency isn't the only organization bracing for cuts to education spending as lawmakers look to rein in a budget gap that could exceed $25 billion.  School districts are also girding for what they dread will be severe cuts to public education.

Round Rock ISD has enacted a hiring freeze, as we reported yesterday.  

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Education
4:36 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Round Rock ISD Enacts Hiring Freeze

Image courtesy Forty Two http://www.flickr.com/photos/samxf42/

The Round Rock Independent School District says it is implementing a hiring freeze in anticipation of budget cuts in the upcoming Texas legislative session.

In a release today, Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Jesús. H. Chávez said the district is reducing spending by at least five percent - or about $17 million - in preparation for the cuts in state education.

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Politics
11:19 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Are Looming Job Cuts At TEA Sign Of Things To Come?

Most Texas Education Agency employees work in the Wililam B. Travis building on Congress Ave. near 17th St. A letter to employees from Education Commissioner Robert Scott is promising job cuts at the agency this year.
Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott sent a letter to staff this week, welcoming them back to work from the holidays and warning them they might be fired. With state lawmakers ready to begin a legislative session next week that will require closing a budget gap as big as $25 billion or more, is this an impending sign of the pain that will be wrought on Austin's economy?

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Education
10:38 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Buyouts Of Tenured Professors In Texas And Across Nation

Image by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

We're beginning to see the consequences of state budget cuts at Texas' public universities. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Katherine Mangan reports today how more than 130 tenured professors at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University have accepted buyouts.

While the early retirements are expected to save nearly $18 million annually, they also carry administrative consequences for their colleges, Mangan reports.

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Politics
12:29 pm
Mon January 3, 2011

These People Don't Want Lawmakers To Take An Ax To State Government

Image by Erik Reyna for KUT News

After months of speculation, we will finally get an idea of just how big Texas' budget shortfall is when the Comptroller Susan Combs releases her revenue estimate within the next seven days. Meanwhile, a group of mostly progressive organizations has banded together to urge a "balanced" approach to closing the budget shortfall.

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Politics
6:25 pm
Tue December 28, 2010

Hartnett Appointed Discovery Master in District 48 Race

State Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) will issue a report on the outcome of November's District 48 election
Image courtesy of the Texas House of Representatives

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) appointed Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) to serve as "master of discovery" to determine a winner in the Donna Howard-Dan Neil race in House District 48

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Politics
11:02 am
Tue December 21, 2010

Family Feud: GOP Edition

The Speaker's election could be a one party race
Picture by Erik Reyna for KUT News

State House member Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) says he has collected a enough signatures to force the Republican caucus to take a vote on who will be the next House Speaker

In a e-mail statement released this morning, Rep. Chisum says the party needs the caucus to meet to select "one conservative candidate" for Speaker of the House. 

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2012 Presidential Election
11:54 am
Thu December 16, 2010

Tea Party Caucus Announced

Sen. Patrick (R-Houston) hopes to strengthen Tea Party voice at Texas Capitol
Dan Patrick

The Tea Party played a big role in this year's national and state elections.  Now, one Texas lawmaker hopes to strengthen the loosely structured group's voice at the Texas Capitol.  In a release today, Tea Party caucus chair Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced the first 49 members of the caucus.  Sen. Patrick said he wants the caucus to keep the power the party showed at the polls going during the 2011 legislative session.

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Politics
4:47 pm
Tue December 14, 2010

Two State House Democrats Defect To Texas GOP

The Republican majority in the Texas House is swelling to 101.   State Representatives Allen Ritter of Nederland and Aaron Pena of Edinburg both announced today that they were both leaving the Democratic Party. 

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Politics
2:56 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

The ATM in the Lobby

Lawmakers can raise money for their campaigns until 30 days before the Legislature convenes.
KUT News

Big receptions hosted by members of the Legislature in the month-plus since the election have been fairly common. Some of the guest lists have been things in common, too.

Of the 181 members of next year’s Texas Legislature, 89 have held fundraising receptions in the five weeks since the November election. So reports Jason Embry in the Austin American-Statesman.

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Education
12:41 pm
Wed December 1, 2010

Walkout and Protest at University of Texas Over Budget Cuts

Image by Nick Robertson for KUT News

A group of students, faculty, and staff walked out of their buildings and held a loud marching demonstration this morning on the University of Texas campus.  They were protesting existing and future budget cuts brought on largely as a result of the state's budget gap, a shortfall that could exceed $20 billion.

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Austin
2:50 pm
Mon November 29, 2010

Economist Says Budget Cuts Will "Hurt" But Not "Be Fatal" to Austin

University of Texas labor economist Daniel Hamermesh doesn't expect budget cuts will cause major harm to Austin's economy.
Image courtesy Daniel Hamermesh

Take a look at our reporting partners the Texas Tribune's story on what lawmakers are telling constituents about the carnage coming to state government. In a post entitled, "There Will Be Blood,"  Ross Ramsey writes about State Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) speaking to a Tea Party group last week.

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education
4:43 pm
Mon November 22, 2010

Teachers Don't Want AISD to Cut Full Day Pre-Kindergarten

Education Austin will urge Austin School Trustees not to reduce full-day pre-kindergarten or cut back on teacher planning time.
flickr.com/laffy4k

The Austin teachers' association Education Austin is planning to stage a rally tonight outside Austin Independent School District headquarters. The local group, representing about 4,000 teachers and school staff, wants the Austin ISD school board to maintain full-day pre-kindergarten and not reduce planning time for high school teachers.

KUT’s Ben Philpott spoke with Rae Nwosu, co-president of Education Austin.

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politics
3:39 pm
Fri November 19, 2010

Gambling Lobbyists Dream of Texas Casinos

Gambling lobbyists in Texas dream of building casinos as opulent as the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
Photo courtesy Talke Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/talkephotography/

We already knew gaming lobbyists were pushing hard  to convince lawmakers that one answer to the whopping budget gap could be found at the Blackjack tables. But what kind of adult wonderland do these people envisage? 

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Texas Speaker's Race
2:25 pm
Wed November 17, 2010

Speaker's Race Hits Below the Bible Belt

The Speaker's Race Gets Personal
KUT News

Over the last few days there have been reports of campaign phone calls being made to voters in Dallas and San Antonio telling Republicans the "Christian" thing to do would be to elect a new speaker.  Supporters of current Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) say the calls are anti-Semitic...since the speaker is Jewish.

This afternoon speaker  candidates Ken Paxton (R-McKenny) and Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) released a statements rejecting the idea that faith has anything to do with the race.  You can read Chisum's statement below.

 

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Politics
4:59 pm
Thu November 11, 2010

Paxton Enters Speaker's Race

The race to occupy the Speaker's rostrum in the Texas House has expanded
Photo by KUT News

And then there were three.

State Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) has announced he's running to be the next Speaker of the Texas House.  The Associated Press reports that Rep. Paxton has thrown his hat into the ring because voters sent a message "that they favor leadership dedicated to protecting our freedoms and fighting government growth."

Conservative Republicans have been critical of current Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) for not being conservative enough.  Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) has already announced that he's challenging Rep. Straus for the Speaker's chair.

politics
12:02 pm
Wed November 10, 2010

Straus and Strain in the GOP

A battle is brewing in these Capitol hallways over who the House Speaker will be
Photo by KUT

UPDATE:

Today Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) withdrew his pledge for Straus. In a statement he said he made his decission after receiving a phone call from an unnamed lawmaker he says is on Straus's leadership team.

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