Texas

2015 Legislative Session
5:30 am
Thu January 22, 2015

If the Texas Legislature Were a Symphony, This is What it Would Sound Like

Each 140-day legislative session begins slowly, before reaching a frenetic pace at the end.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a story that originally ran in January 2013.

The Texas Legislature is back in session, though the casual observer might not know it.

This week, the highlights included the swearing in of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The Senate made changes to its rules yesterday. But you might notice that things are quiet when it comes to actual law-making. The clock is ticking: There’s 131 days left in the 140-day session.

And while it might seem like a slow start to the every-other-year meeting, actually, it’s all part of the plan.

In musical terms, each session has its own rhythm and tempo.

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Texas
5:33 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Paid Leave, Child Care Could Help Reduce Gender Inequalities

A study from UT Austin and the UC-Santa Barbara suggests if more workplaces support work-family balance, women are more likely to prefer egalitarian relationships.
Credit morgueFile

Most young women and men prefer to equally share family and work responsibilities, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California Santa Barbara.

The researchers found that regardless of their social class, both men and women ages 18 to 32 prefer relationships in which the woman isn’t doing more of the housework and the man isn't spending more time at work.

Women who participated in the survey say they’d prefer to not be the primary caregivers and homemakers, if they could have support from their workplaces.

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Wayback Wednesday
12:13 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Wayback Wednesday Video: Perry's First Day as Governor

Rick Perry applauds at the end of then-Gov. George W. Bush's speech announcing his resignation.
YouTube

To mark yesterday's gubernatorial passing of the torch, this edition of Wayback Wednesday hearkens back to the days when James Richard "Rick" Perry was Texas' lieutenant governor, waiting in the wings to take George W. Bush's seat after his political ascension to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Below is a video, courtesy of the Texas Politics Project, showing George W. Bush's final speech under the Capitol dome as governor on December 21, 2000, in which he announces his resignation and passes the reins to the longest-serving governor in the state's history.

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2015 Legislature
9:08 am
Tue January 20, 2015

After Today's Inauguration, Legislature Will Get to Work

Several events take place in Austin on Jan. 20 in the inauguration of Texas’ Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.
Gage Skidmore

Several events take place in Austin today as part of the inauguration of Texas’ new governor and lieutenant governor, from a swearing-in ceremony to a black-tie ball.

The day kicks off on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol at 11 a.m. Governor-elect Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick will take the oath of office, and so the 48th governor and 42nd lieutenant governor of Texas will be sworn in.

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2015 Legislature
3:18 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

Texas Nursing Homes Could Get Licenses Revoked Under Three Strikes Bill

State Sen. Charles Schwertner has filed a 2015 bill that would lead to revoking the license of a nursing home with three or more violations.
KUT News

A bill filed Friday in the Texas Senate would lead to revoking the license of any nursing home with three or more violations. 

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, filed this bill to raise the standards at nursing homes, which have gotten national criticism recently. Last year, national advocacy group Families for Better Care ranked Texas as the worst state for nursing home quality.

Schwertner's bill is informally called the three strikes bill because it would require the Department of Aging and Disability Services to revoke a nursing home’s license if the facility has three or more serious health and safety violations.

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2015 Legislature
11:20 am
Mon January 19, 2015

Texas Health Care Spending Discussion Begins As House Releases Base Budget

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has released a two-year base budget, a starting point for budget discussions over the 2015 legislative session.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released a two-year base budget last week, while the Senate is still working on its version.

Base budget estimates like this one [read a PDF version here] are just starting points for budget discussions over the course of the legislative session, but budget analysts are looking to see what's the starting point for spending on health care.

The House is beginning that discussion with almost $76 billion for Health and Human Services, while Medicaid would get about $60 billion – both small increases over the last budget. Mental health and substance abuse would get more than $3 billion, about the same as the last budget.

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West Texas
10:58 am
Mon January 19, 2015

Prison Bus Wreck Investigation Could Take More Than a Year

Workers clean up the wreckage from the prison bus/train crash west of Odessa on Wednesday.
Credit Tom Michael

From Marfa Public Radio:

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said icy roads likely caused last week’s deadly prison bus wreck that killed eight prisoners and two prison guards in West Texas.

But it could be more than a year before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) makes the official call on why the bus with 12 prisoners and three prison guards on board slipped off an I-20 overpass west of Odessa and hit a Union Pacific train passing on the tracks below.

Pete Kotowski – the NTSB’s Investigator-in-Charge – said last Thursday his team expects to be on site for about a week. They’ll be looking at factors that could’ve contributed to the accident, ranging from the condition of the highway and the vehicle itself to any possible human factors that could have caused the crash.

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Immigration
5:05 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Ahead of Deferred Actions, Mexican Consulates Issue Birth Certificates

Dozens of people trickled into the Mexican Consulate Friday to get certified copies of their birth certificates. The documents will be needed if Obama's deferred action for adults goes forward. Friday was the first day Consulates started issuing.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

Mexican Consulates all over the U.S. are now providing Mexican nationals with birth certificates. The change comes after President Obama's executive action that would prevent some undocumented adults from deportation. That program is believed to be similar to the deferred action for children.

In the past, birth certificates for Mexican nationals came from relatives back home, and the process normally took weeks, if not months.

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Affordable Care Act
8:53 am
Fri January 16, 2015

More Spending Underway to Boost Texas Obamacare Signups in 2015

Insurance agents working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas answered questions outside of a Target in San Antonio from potential customers on Dec. 12, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured Texans have signed up for health insurance since the federal government began requiring it last year.

Still, Texas continues to have the highest rate of uninsured people in the country. The state doesn’t spend any money to promote the federal health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

Last year, nonprofits spent much of the enrollment period educating people on the ACA. Their efforts were slowed by the botched rollout of the healthcare.gov website. In the second year of the insurance marketplace, some Texas nonprofits are changing their strategy, and insurers, hospitals, and city governments are also doing more to help people enroll.

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Affordable Care Act
12:53 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Obamacare Deadline Is Today For Coverage Starting Feb. 1

For consumers wanting a health insurance plan through the federal marketplace, Jan. 15 is a deadline for coverage that becomes effective Feb. 1.
healthcare.gov

People who qualify for health insurance through the federal marketplace should keep in mind some looming deadlines – like today, for people wanting coverage to start Feb. 1.

Open enrollment will end soon for those who qualify for a health insurance plan on the federal marketplace. That deadline is Feb. 15 for coverage that begins on March 1.

People who want their coverage to start Feb. 1 must enroll and pay for their health insurance plan by the end of today, Jan. 15.

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Drones
11:43 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Homeland Security Calls Border Drones Costly, Ineffective

A CBP unmanned aerial vehicle.
Gerald Nino/wikimedia commons

From Marfa Public Radio:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General is out with harsh words for the agency’s eight-year-old border drone program, saying unmanned air patrols of the border are “dubious achievers.”

In a report released last week, Inspector General John Roth said the department’s own sub-agency – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – hasn’t proven the drone program is worth paying for, and that CBP should scrap any plans to expand it.

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2015 Legislature
9:30 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Will Texas Senate Keep Its Two-Thirds Rule in 2015?

The Texas Senate will vote whether to keep or scrap the two-thirds rule after Jan. 20, 2015.
Bryan Winter/KUT News

Texas senators have long honored a tradition known as the two-thirds rule, which means two-thirds of the chamber’s 31 members – or 21 of them – have to agree to bring a bill up for a vote.

The full Texas senate will have a vote to decide whether to keep this rule or scrap it in the 2015 session, but Texas senators will have to wait until after the Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is sworn in before they vote whether to keep the two-thirds rule.  

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2015 Legislature
4:18 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Gun Rights Advocates Drum Up Support for Open Carry Bill

Murdoch Pizgatti, president of Come and Take It Texas, operates the Ghost Gunner machine outside the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 13, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gun rights activists demonstrated at the Capitol today in support of a bill that would allow people to carry handguns openly without a permit.

The author of the bill is State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Tea Party Republican from Tarrant County. He stood alongside thousands of signed petitions in favor of House Bill 195. Rep. Stickland said paying for a permit is unfair to low-income Texans. 

"There are a lot of people out here who do not have the disposable income to pay these fines for the right to carry," Stickland said.

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State Legislature
7:30 am
Mon January 12, 2015

How Will Falling Oil Prices Affect the State Budget?

Oil prices will be a consideration for the state's two-year budget.

Lawmakers will find out this morning how much money they’ll have to work with as they craft the state’s next two-year budget. They’re expected to have plenty of wiggle room, but rapidly dropping oil prices have raised some concerns. Oil and gas prices could affect those numbers.

At the end of 2013, former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said the state could have about $2.6 billion dollars in unspent revenue from the current budget. Some believe that surplus will be even larger when current Comptroller Glenn Hegar delivers his revenue estimate this morning. And that money could be a big help, considering the state's economic future might not be as rosy thanks to falling oil prices.

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Gay Marriage
4:37 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

Appeals Judges Raise Doubts on Gay Marriage Ban

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building in New Orleans.
Credit Alexa Ura/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Signaling significant doubt about the constitutionality of Texas' ban on same-sex marriages, two federal appeals judges on Friday questioned a state attorney's argument that marriage is a “subsidy” that the state has the right to grant and withhold.

In sharp exchanges with two judges of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Jonathan Mitchell of the Texas attorney general’s office argued during the roughly hourlong hearing that defining marriage should be left to the states, not the courts or the federal government. He added that the state should not be forced to recognize marriages that are not between a man and a woman because such marriages do less to “further the state’s interest” in the procreation of its residents.

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Texas
2:10 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Appeals Judges Grill Lawyers Over Abortion Law

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Building in New Orleans.
Credit Alexa Ura/Texas Tribune

NEW ORLEANS — In a long line of tough questioning Wednesday over a new Texas abortion law, federal appeals judges here questioned whether part of a provision requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital-like standards should be struck down.

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2015 Legislature
8:43 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Abortion, Family Planning Bills Filed Ahead of Texas' 2015 Legislative Session

Texas' 84th Legislature might debate bills related to abortion and family planning in the 2015 legislative session.
Liang Shi for KUT News

The Texas Legislature made headlines in 2013 when it passed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country,

That law, known as HB2, bans most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, it requires doctors to receive admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and only allows abortions at ambulatory surgical centers. Parts of that law are being challenged this week at a federal appeals court.

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2015 Legislature
8:40 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Can Texas Insure More Low-Income People Without Expanding Medicaid?

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott says he expects Texas lawmakers will consider ways to reduce the rate of the uninsured next legislative session.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation, and last legislative session, lawmakers did have some discussion on how Texas could draw down federal dollars to insure more people, but only if the options don't include expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

At least one of the bills filed already would allow Medicaid expansion, but that doesn’t mean any will make it to the floor of the House or Senate for discussion.

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Aging in Texas
10:15 am
Mon January 5, 2015

Texas Researchers Seek World War II Vets for Study on Memory, Identity

World War II veteran Joe Berger receives a visit from Cadet Third Class Garrett Goldstone, who's with the University of Texas at Austin Air Force ROTC, on Nov. 11, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A team of researchers, led by a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, has been studying characteristics of memory among World War II veterans.

The team is finding that these seniors have an unusual ability to remember their life stories, which may be a result of serving in that particular war.

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Texas
2:39 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

With New Land Commissioner, a New Era for Bushes

George P. Bush is sworn in Jan. 2, 2015 as Texas land commissioner as dad Jeb Bush and wife Amanda look on.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

It's official: Texas is once again Bush country.

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