The Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety is considering legislation for the 2015 session that would completely revamp the Texas Driver Responsibility Program.  

The program allows the Department of Public Safety to assess surcharges on traffic tickets on top of the fine and court cost. DPS notifies the drivers via mail through a private contractor, the Municipal Service Bureau or MSB.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

The largest school district in Central Texas has hit a record high graduation rate. But the Austin school district still lags behind the state average.

In the five years that former Austin ISD superintendent Meria Carstarphen oversaw the district before leaving for Atlanta, graduation rates rose by ten percent. In 2013, it hit a new high of just over 84 percent. And the increases in graduation rates were across all student groups in AISD, including Hispanics, African-Americans, economically disadvantaged and special education students. 

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

The number of abortions in Texas decreased by about 13 percent statewide and 21 percent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley following the passage of strict abortion regulations that went into effect last November, according to a report that academic researchers released Wednesday. 

Bob Daemmrich / Alyssa Banata/Texas Tribune

As the recent surge of Central Americans entering the country illegally through Texas’ border with Mexico has drawn national attention, it has also become a major talking point for the 2014 candidates for lieutenant governor.

And while state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, have distinct differences on immigration and border security, political observers say they each have advantages as the issue remains at the forefront.

Van de Putte has indicated that the state should secure the border by providing local law enforcement with ample resources to ensure "that troopers can focus on catching criminals, not kids” while calling for immigration reform at the federal level to get to the root of illegal immigration.

World Resources Institute via Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune:

DENTON – Voters will decide whether this North Texas college town will become the state's first city to ban hydraulic fracturing. 

After a public hearing Tuesday night that stretched into Wednesday morning, the Denton City Council rejected a proposal to ban the method of oil and gas extraction inside the city, which sits on the edge of the gas-rich Barnett Shale. The 5-2 vote kicked the question to the city’s November ballot, the next step in a high-profile property rights clash that will likely be resolved outside of Denton.   

President Obama said over the weekend that he is seeking to fast-track deportations of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America who cross into the United States.

More than 52,000 have been caught in South Texas since October, and hundreds more arrive daily, overwhelming Border Patrol stations and overflowing temporary shelters.

But once they get here, what happens? Do they just get to stay, as the president's critics charge?

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Democrats support immigration reform – so it came as no surprise that the issue arose on at the party's convention of Saturday. But at the start of the day, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins made an unexpected announcement regarding the surge of unaccompanied minors in Texas from Central America:  the county is locating facilities to take in roughly 2,000 unaccompanied minors. 

"We had a lot of the elected officials here, all of whom stand for the proposition that it is the right thing to do to be compassionate to children," Jenkins said, when asked why he made the announcement at the convention. "If [the state] would open up facilities to the federal government and work with them instead of working against them, then we could move these children from cages on the border to compassionate care." The move is expected to take place by late July;  the average stay of children will be about 21 days. After that, the children would be taken to relatives' homes.

Listen: A World Cup Translation for Texans

Jun 27, 2014
Millennium Entertainment

Been following the World Cup?  If so, you can stop right here.  

This one's for the rest of us. 

Sonny Carl Davis (you know, that guy from "Bernie" who broke Texas into five states?) has been thinking about America's new love affair with what much of the rest of the world calls football.  

Sonny's been doing so much thinking, he reckoned it high time to offer something of an explainer for fellow Texans baffled by the phenomenon. Texans like … him. Take two minutes to listen:

Texas Politics To Be Lone Star Of New HBO Series

Jun 16, 2014

Between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Wendy Davis, Texas politicians in recent years have lived up to their state's reputation for producing larger-than-life characters.

That makes the Texas political scene a natural for the Hollywood treatment.

HBO has given God Save Texas, a drama about the state's often raucous political culture, the green light for development. It's set to unfold at the Texas statehouse, a perennial flashpoint for national debates about issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the size and role of government.

Support and protection for reparative therapy has been included in the 2014 Republican Party of Texas Platform. But a leading mental health organization said this further stigmatizes and shames the Texas LGBT community.

The reparative therapy platform was introduced by Cathie Adams, executive director of the Texas Eagle Forum and adopted without any changes:

Overcrowding and disease at a temporary immigration detention center in McAllen has the U.S. Border Patrol themselves calling on congress for humanitarian aid. 

Because of the McAllen facility's temporary status, capacity is about 300. But this past week Border Patrol agents brought in 1,000 immigrants and the situation has Chris Cabrera with the local Border Patrol agent's union calling on Congress for help.

What are Texans naming their babies these days? And how does that compare to Lone Star babies from 50 years ago?

Sophia was the most popular baby girl name in Texas in 2013. For the boys, Jacob was No. 1 in Texas.

Texas' Biggest Power Company Files For Bankruptcy

Apr 29, 2014

As they say: Everything is bigger in Texas.

Today, the state's biggest power company filed for one of the biggest Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in corporate history.

menoutdoors.com via imgur

With spring in full swing, it's time for wildflower pictures – including photos among Texas' iconic state flower, the bluebonnet.

But something's taking the bloom off this wildflower season: images of snakes among the flowers.

Since he left office, former President George W. Bush has devoted part of his free time to painting – everything from his dog Barney to self-portraits. A year after a hacker revealed some of his works-in-progress, Bush had his first real art show Friday at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.

The exhibit, titled "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy," opens to the public Saturday. It features portraits of 24 world leaders, including Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama.

Flickr user Brian Turner, https://flic.kr/ps/VxiMo

Texas is in a judicial vacancy crisis according to a report released today by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington and Austin-based Progress Texas.

The report shows Texas has the most vacant federal judge seats of any state, with 10 spots open as of March 19. The report warns those 10 vacancies could grow to 13 if no action is taken, since three more seats are set to open up next year.

Those 10 vacant seats translate into backlogged cases, with especially high caseloads along the U.S.-Mexico border, the report notes. The majority of current and future vacancies also happen to be concentrated in the southern and western parts of the state.

KUT News

These days restaurants are spending obscene amounts of money on limes. Think about what that means for Mexican food alone: limes are used in practically everything, from margaritas to ceviche to guacamole.

Last week, the rising price of limes became personal for this reporter.

I stopped by La Moreliana, a small eatery in southeast Austin that serves up authentic tacos. The food was great – but the tacos were missing the citrusy, acidic bite only lime juice can add. 

As the Coast Guard prepares to open the Houston Ship Channel after an oil spill over the weekend, environmentalists were trying assess the damage to a sensitive ecological system.

The Associated Press reports the Coast Guard is hoping to reopen "one of the nation's busiest seaports Monday."

The AP adds: