Texas

News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

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From Texas Standard:

Walmart sells everything from guns to grapefruit. But right now, it can't sell liquor – at least not in Texas. The mega-retailer is going to court to change that, but liquor store owners are fighting the effort, alongside the state of Texas.

Some of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's rules preventing Walmart from selling liquor date back to the end of Prohibition. But the big-box store corporation argues the rules amount to unconstitutional discrimination.

 


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

From Texas Standard:

A few weeks ago the U.S. Department of Justice announced they will end federal use of privately run prisons. Now their attention has turned to the country’s use of private immigration detention facilities.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Monday that he has ordered the homeland security advisory council to review processes and costs related to these facilities.

 


Terry McCombs/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

When Sam Espinosa was a kid, it took a while for Austin Independent School District to learn he was homeless.

"My mom is a fairly private person – she was never one to let anyone else into,  you know, what we were going through," Espinosa says.

So, Sam and his five siblings became fairly good at pretending they had a place to live.

 


Michael Rose/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Department of Public Safety is asking for $1 billion to fund its border operations next year. But the state comptroller has been issuing warnings about a possible need for budgetary belt tightening.

But the department says it needs the money to buy new border cameras, replace aging vehicles, buy two helicopters, four planes and, perhaps most significantly, double the number of troops at the border – upping the number of troops at the border to 500.

 


Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

Along with other Texas lawmakers,  state Rep. Diego Bernal, a Democrat from San Antonio, has been getting an earful from all sides on problems with public education in Texas.

But rather than taking someone else's word for it, he did what no other lawmaker has yet to do – he visited every single school in his district, 55 in all.

 


SimonQ/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Concerns are growing over something that's being called the "kill pill" – drugs laced with fentanyl, one of the most powerful prescription painkillers in the world.

Pills laced with fentanyl were linked to Prince's death earlier this year. According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incidents of law-enforcement officers finding drugs containing fentanyl have jumped 426 percent from 2013-2014, the latest figures available.

 


Patrick Svitek/Texas Tribune

The brief, zany tenure of Travis County GOP Chairman Robert Morrow came to an end Friday, as party officials made clear the conspiracy theorist abandoned his post by running for president and he accepted their conclusion without question. 

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

A state judge has struck down a Texas law that limits the distribution rights of craft brewers.

Until a few years ago, beer distributors in Texas used to pay craft breweries for the right to sell their product, but a 2013 state law brought changes to the industry. Breweries could no longer accept payment for their “territorial rights” – in other words, the right to distribute their beer.

biologycorner/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's the first week for classes for most school kids in Texas – and the start of a year that for public school students and teachers will culminate this spring with a standardized test. The idea behind the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests was simple: accountability.

Courtesy Amber Briggle

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this week, a federal judge sided with Texas' request to block a federal directive for schools to accommodate the bathroom choices of transgender students. Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was pleased – but not surprised – by the court's order, and subsequently filed suit to remove discrimination protections against health insurers.

The Human Rights Campaign, among others, blasted that move as shameful, cheap and political. Others have been far more harsh in their assessments – both of Paxton and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who says he's not sure he's ever known a transgender person.

 


Pexels (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has an idea to lower college costs across the board: get rid of what's called "tuition set-asides" for students who need financial help. Generations of Texans have benefited from the financial aid program, but Patrick calls them a hidden tax that unfairly burdens the middle class.

Yesterday, lawmakers began exploring the merits and demerits of Lt. Gov. Patrick's plan, but reporters David McSwane and Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News have crunched some numbers of their own.

 


Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The federal government announced that it's phasing out its use of privately run prisons and now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is warning that it too could close prisons, lay off 1,200 employees and stop providing certain inmate services – but not because of privatization.

Mike Ward, Austin bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, says, like other states, Texas has fewer inmates now than in recent years.

 


ICCNS/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Marla Torrado and Felipa Puente are taking a tour of a Texaco station in the Dove Springs community of Austin. The predominantly low-income neighborhood is a far cry from downtown’s flagship Whole Foods Market and the city’s most Instagrammed restaurants. Dove Springs is situated in the southeast part of the city. To social scientists it’s a well-known food desert. There are few restaurants – mostly fast food – and just one large grocery store on the neighborhood’s edge, that’s difficult to reach without a car.

But residents like Torrado and Puente are leading a movement to bring healthy food to every corner – or corner store. The store owner is showing them some of the healthier food items that need restocking: bags of brown rice, dried beans, and whole grain cereal.

Torrado is the local food retail organizer for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. Go Austin Vamos Austin, or GAVA, is spearheading the effort – it’s a grassroots coalition of nonprofits and community members.

 


Illustration by Todd Wiseman

Ramping up its fight over the rights of transgender people, Texas is expected to file a lawsuit 

Tuesday against the federal government over a regulation prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals in some health programs. 

Michel Marizco/Fronteras Desk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When Sasha Von Oldershausen moved from New York City to Presidio, Texas, a few years back, her friends told her to get a gun and lock the doors. They imagined her moving to the stereotypical lawless Southwest.

But Von Oldershausen knew better – in the vast majority of the tiny Texas towns that dot the borderlands, crime rates are low, the landscape is indescribably beautiful and the sense of solitude is profound. Then ,she discovered she wasn't nearly as alone as she thought. Texas Monthly writer Sasha Von Oldershausen recounts her experience in her article "Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself."

Von Oldershausen says she experienced firsthand the capabilities of Border Patrol's surveillance methods while walking on a trail near the Rio Grande one day.

 


SaveJeffWood.com

From Texas Standard:

Jeff Wood was supposed to die this week.

He was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of a convenience store clerk, even though it's been well established that he never killed anyone. A friend of his killed a Kerrville gas station clerk in a botched robbery and Wood was waiting in a truck outside the store.

He was still held accountable for the crime under the Texas' law of parties. Similar to laws of accomplice liability in other states, Texas law says that anyone who "solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense" is criminally liable as well.

But on Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Wood's execution. The court ordered that his case should be re-tried – not because of any issue with the law of parties, but because of potentially flawed testimony from a psychiatrist nicknamed Dr. Death.

 


Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Today the Sunset Advisory Commission – which evaluates the effectiveness of state agencies and decides whether they should be disbanded or reformed – will meet to look at one agency that’s managed to avoid  reform for years: the Railroad Commission of Texas. 


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

A federal court has blocked the Obama administration’s guidelines for bathroom use by transgender students in schools. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 12 other states filed suit to block the guidelines issued this summer. In Judge Reed O’Connor’s injunction ruling, he says the federal government skirted rules that require public comment prior to a rollout of the guidelines such as these and that the guidelines themselves contradict state laws. 

Execution Halted For Jeff Wood, Who Never Killed Anyone

Aug 19, 2016
TDCJ via Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Jeff Wood — a man who never killed anyone — six days before he was set to die by lethal injection.

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