2013 Legislative Session

2013 Legislative Session

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

June 25 marks the one-year anniversary of Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster on the Texas Senate floor.

It was one year ago that Democratic Sen. Davis began an 11-hour filibuster intended to derail Senate Bill 5, a bill containing several new restrictions on abortion. While Davis' filibuster ended before the legislature adjourned, a supportive crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in cheers and screams minutes before the midnight deadline to pass SB 5 – squashing Republican efforts to pass it that night.

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Marijuana advocates will march on the Texas Capitol Saturday as part of the annual Worldwide Marijuana March. In Austin, the marchers will include members of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), a newly-founded organization which describes itself as a conservative Christian group calling for the legalization of medicinal marijuana use in Texas.

“We are working now with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. They’re a group out of Harris County. They are drafting a bill,"  says MAMMA co-founder and executive director Thalia Michelle. "We believe that Marijuana Policy Project will also be introducing a medicinal cannabis bill."

Liang Shi for KUT News

Improving mental health practices for Texas and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is the goal of a new statewide institute. Its focus will be on children, veterans and criminal justice policies.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute opened its doors today. Tom Luce, its chief executive officer, says the nonprofit will do research to improve access to mental health care in Texas – and not just after emergencies like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

Liang Shi/KUT News

Lawmakers were at the Texas Capitol Wednesday talking about the implementation of House Bill 5, the bill that changes graduation requirements and reduces the number of end of course exams for high school students    The meeting gave lawmakers an opportunity to express concerns with the new standards, while teachers, superintendents and education officials gave a status update on implementation.

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The groups that will train Texans in the state's controversial school marshals program – allowing an undercover, armed staff member on school campuses – gathered in San Marcos today.

"You’re not going to see someone walking around looking like Joe SWAT, but a normal teacher," said Boake Slape, one of the 18 law enforcement trainers at the training facility. "You won’t even know. But if a problem is going to happen, they can respond much quicker than a police department or sheriff’s department can."  

 

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Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting left 20 students and six adults dead. It also caused school districts and lawmakers across the country to re-examine security protocols in schools – including Texas. 

“When you talk about Sandy Hook Elementary and what happened that day – I think that a lot of people believe that it created or caused a reaction by law enforcement, first responders – that somehow changed from what we had been doing," says Austin School District Police Chief Eric Mendez.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed yesterday’s ruling striking down part of the state’s new restrictions on abortion.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics was unconstitutional. Judge Yeakel partially allowed another provision to stand, ruling a new requirement that doctors follow FDA protocol for dispensing abortion-inducing drugs was not an undue burden – unless the woman’s life was in danger due to the pregnancy.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Update: With a federal judge blocking enforcement of a key restriction on abortion in Texas, here’s reaction from Gov. Rick Perry:

“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”

NARAL Pro Choice America President Ilyse Hogue:

"We are pleased but not surprised by this development. It has been clear from day one that the laws advanced by Governor Perry and others are unconstitutional and put women at greater risk. We will continue to fight to ensure all parts of this law, and other laws restricting women's health care options, which are clearly unconstitutional are defeated."


Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A lawsuit attempting to block parts of a new restrictive abortion law is expected to wrap up today. Plaintiffs hope the judge will find certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 

Plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Whole Woman's Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights -- are challenging two key provisions of the abortion law, arguing each creates an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, which makes each unconstitutional.

One requires the physician to give two rounds of abortion-inducing medication to the patient in person. The second requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform the abortion.

KUT News

Update: As of today, new specific rules regulating Texas abortion facilities are available for public comment.

The rules were drafted in response to House Bill 2, the abortion-restricting Texas law that Gov. Rick Perry signed in July. As the department that regulates abortion clinics in Texas, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) wrote the specific rules after interpreting the Legislature’s intent.

Update: The Texas Education Commission granted a charter school license to the Magnolia Montessori school, which means Austin will have its first public Montessori school option next academic year on the city's east side. The Montessori school plans to open a second charter school in San Antonio in 2016.

Commissioner Michael Williams announced his decision to grant four charter school licenses Friday. They include three other schools outside of Austin, including Carpe Diem Schools, El Paso Leadership Academy and Great Hearts Academies Dallas.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

A handful of clinics in Texas have closed, or are planning to, just weeks after a controversial bill restricting abortions passed the state legislature.

Planned Parenthood says the closures will hurt the women who came to the clinics for general healthcare services. Anti-abortion groups say there are other doctors for the women to go to. So who's right?

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Last week people packed into a room in downtown Austin. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, was having it’s monthly meeting. There it got some advice from State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso.

"I think it’s time for TxDOT to say we made a mistake," Rep. Pickett said.

A group is calling on back-to-school shoppers to boycott Macy's and Kroger stores in Texas this weekend, in retaliation for the national retailers' efforts to quash a bill that would have strengthened the state's wage discrimination law.

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School starts in three weeks and, for many school districts across Texas, there’s still some confusion over whether teachers can use a system of lesson plans. The so-called CSCOPE lesson plans drew fire over allegations they promoted anti-American ideas. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers announced Texas teachers would no longer use the plans and the non-profit, quasi-state agency that published them would cease to.

State Board of Education leaders say the controversy surrounding CSCOPE will most likely continue into the fall.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Just over an hour after lawmakers ended their second 30-day special session of the year, Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back for a third one, with transportation funding the only issue on the agenda.

"When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher, and a failure to act now could take years — if not most of a decade — to correct, as traffic congestion increases and harms our quality of life," Perry said in a statement announcing the call.

The author of the new state law overhauling many aspects of public education in Texas says he wants school districts to decide how to implement the new standards, not the State Board of Education.

State Rep. Jimmie Aycock (R-Killeen) told the Board Friday that HB 5 was crafted to give local school boards flexibility in establishing paths to graduation. But he’s concerned the SBOE will create too many requirements that will counteract the goal of the bill. He wants to leave it local school districts.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Last week, the Texas Senate passed  House Bill 2, restricting abortions in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it in coming days, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services is already gearing up to start implementing the changes. But even with that battle lost, some Democrats have dared to dream about what the abortion battle could mean for the 2014 elections.

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Update: The Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Monday to discuss an investigation that could lead to impeachment proceedings against a University of Texas System Regent.

The committee is tasked with deciding which articles for impeachment it could possibly bring against Wallace Hall. But at a committee hearing, lawmakers found there's little historic precedent to guide the process. According to Jeff Archer with the Texas Legislative Counsel, there have been few attempts to impeach a public official in Texas and there’s no definition or standard for what’s considered an impeachable offense. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the new star of the Texas Democratic Party, raised nearly $1 million in the final two weeks of June, much of it from small donors who sent her money after she launched her famous filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill, her campaign will reveal Monday. 

According to figures that her campaign expects to report to the Texas Ethics Commission, the Fort Worth Democrat raised $933,000 between June 17 and June 30. Counting money left over from 2012, she ended the reporting period with more than $1 million in the bank.

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