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Bryan Winter/KUT News

Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry gaveled in the legislative session today at noon. The one constitutionally required duty for state lawmakers is to pass a budget for the next two years. They have $113 billion to work with – $10 billion more than when lawmakers last met in 2013.

While lower oil prices are putting pressure on Texas economic growth, incoming Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is sticking to his campaign pledge to lower taxes. He and Governor-elect Greg Abbott will be sworn in to office next week, marking the end of Governor Rick Perry’s record 14 years in office.

Hegar: 'Moderate Expansion' of Economy is Expected

Jan 12, 2015
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Amid concerns that tumbling oil prices could push the Texas economy into a recession, Comptroller Glenn Hegar offered a cautiously optimistic tone on the future of the Texas economy Monday, announcing that lawmakers will have $113 billion to haggle over in crafting its next two-year budget.

“Our projections are based on expectations of a moderate expansion in the Texas economy and reflect uncertainties in oil prices and the possibilities of a slowing global economy,” Hegar said.

The biennial revenue estimate sets a limit on the state’s general fund, the portion of the budget that lawmakers have the most control over. The general fund typically makes up nearly half of the state’s total budget.

Courtesy of City of Austin

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

Wasting no time, Austin’s newly inaugurated City Council launched into a proposal Thursday to change its meetings and committee structures. The changes, members say, will make for a more efficient, more transparent city government.

For now, the details of the change remain tentative. Council will hold a public hearing Jan. 22 to discuss the change and plan to take up the changes for a vote at the first meeting, set for Jan. 29.

“I’ve been here seven years,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “And I can’t even remember how many times things have gotten to the point of my desk or even to the Council’s agenda where we recognized they had not been fully vetted. So, in other words, we found ourselves dealing with unanswered questions about staffing impact, fiscal impact and other kinds of impacts.”

Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

The next Lieutenant Governor of Texas has announced the Senate will not restore funding to the Public Integrity Unit. The operation, based in the Travis County District Attorney's office, had its funding vetoed by Governor Rick Perry in 2013. That came after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and spent time in jail for drunk driving.

The next Texas governor said his wife is making history as the “first Hispanic first lady of Texas.” The Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas fact-checking team was on the case, digging up ancestry research to assess the validity of Abbott’s claim.

Abbott made the declaration in early December on an episode of Meet the Press.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

Hundreds of people attended the swearing in of Austin's new mayor and City Council last night. Once the council chamber was full, people stood in stairways and hallways and watched on screens as the new council members delivered their first messages to the geographic districts that elected them.

The diversity of those in attendance was significant. In the crowd, there were toddlers in their parents' arms and folks whose age demanded they move with the help of canes. Some wore the most sophisticated brands and others wore simple attire. But the faces of those in the crowd were similar in that they all looked hopeful, according to political consultant and former journalist Mike Madison.

"Even the people here who do this for a living, who have to be here every week, who are going to be fighting with these people going forward on issues that come up – they're still not jaded. They wouldn't be anywhere else,” Madison said.

Austin Public Library

The new Austin City Council being sworn in tonight is historic in that it is the city's first council where the majority of its members – seven out of eleven – are women. 

It took more than a century for the first woman to make it to council. And even after that, Austin's female population continued to struggle for fair representation.

In 1977, Carole Keeton was the first woman to be elected mayor of Austin. No other woman has held that office since.

"Before this election there had only been 15 women – that's counting me as mayor, 14 council members and me as mayor – 15 women since 1839, and now, we've got seven out of eleven,” said Keeton, who calls this election "historic."

The search begins Monday for the jurors who will decide the fate of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks, and the trial is one that many have been waiting for.

A couple of dozen survivors are expected in court for at least part of the trial — including Heather Abbott, who lost a leg in the attack. She's hoping for answers to both why and how the bombing was carried out.

Dozens of congressional staff members walked out of the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday, in a show of support for protesters angered by recent grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

As momentum grows behind a push to let Texans carry handguns openly, the biggest fight may be among Second Amendment advocates themselves.

A conflict is emerging over how far changes to the current state law should go, and some gun-rights supporters fear that the divide may sink efforts to lift handgun restrictions during the legislative session that begins in January.

KUT

County clerks in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio could keep their doors open around the clock, should the state receive a ruling lifting a ban on same-sex marriages in Texas.

San Antonio-based U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is expected to deliver a ruling that could have thousands of gay couples rushing to gain marriage licenses before a higher court could overrule.

Texas Standard speaks with John Wright, freelance journalist and publisher of Lone Star Q, about what county clerks offices could see.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas is part of a lawsuit filed by 17 states over President Obama's executive action on immigration. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday afternoon in the Federal District Court in Texas and names the heads of immigration enforcement agencies as defendants. 

This post was last updated at 12:03 a.m. ET.

A grand jury did not indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson for any crimes related to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.

Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Brown, who was unarmed and black, in an Aug. 9 incident that has stoked anger and debate in Ferguson and beyond.

(This post was last updated at 11:41 a.m. ET.)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the highest-profile Republican on President Obama's Cabinet, will step down, once his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Calling Hagel an "exemplary defense secretary," Obama made the announcement in the State Dining Room of the White House on Monday.

Hagel, a two-term Republican senator, came to the post in February of 2013, the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense.

Mariana Salazar for KUT

President Barack Obama announced broad changes to national immigration policy last night, affecting up to five million undocumented U.S. residents.

Immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least five years, who have children who are U.S. citizens or whose children are legal residents, may stay in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation, provided they register with the government, pass a criminal background check and pay their taxes. 

After six years of often bitter back-and-forth with congressional Republicans over the issue of immigration, President Obama announced he has decided to go it alone by temporarily shielding up to 5 million immigrants from being deported.

Janis Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Two weeks after losing her bid for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte on Wednesday night announced that she was running for mayor of San Antonio and would not finish her term at the Texas Capitol.

“I’m running for mayor. I’m coming home,” Van de Putte said in an interview with KSAT-TV. "My decision to run for mayor had to do with how I can serve the people the best."

Flickr user Ricardo Maldonado, https://flic.kr/p/5ajTQf

Members of a teacher's union set fire to a local legislative hall. Molotov cocktails splatter against the walls of a ministerial building. A police commander is grabbed off the street by protestors, while students torch state-owned trucks and try to storm the national palace.

This all sounds like scenes from the Arab Spring. But these are snapshots from south of our border right now. It's a popular uprising that's spreading across Mexico triggered by the presumed massacre of 43 students in Iguala.

Some are calling this Mexico's watershed moment, including Alfredo Corchado, Mexico City correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and author of  "Midnight in Mexico". He speaks with Texas Standard's David Brown about what's next for the country. 

Liang Shi for KUT

It's that time of the biennium.

The 84th Texas Legislature is just a few short months away, and state lawmakers are already filing their bills for the first Rick Perry-less session this side of the millennium. So far, the bills include legislative pet projects like texting and driving bans, open carry initiatives and tax cuts. Other proposals target tougher statewide issues like transportation funding and state budgeting.

You can find a roundup of issues that state lawmakers are considering below.

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