Texas

flickr.com/thecrazysquirrel

If you are one of those parents who drag your kids all over town to find the picture-perfect patch of Texas bluebonnets in the spring, then brace yourself: There aren’t as many flowers this year.

That’s, in part, because 2012 was the hottest year on record and the long drought continues. That has many native species feeling the heat.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) wants to restore some state funding of domestic violence-related services.

Last legislative session, lawmakers cut funding for Batterer Intervention and Prevention Programs or "BIPP" in half. It went from $2.5 million to $1.25 million.

General funding for main domestic violence services like shelters is at about $51 million.

Photo by Rune Mathisen, Texas Tribune

How many tests are too many?

If you’ve got kids, you know the state rolled out a new testing system last school year called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR. It includes 15 end-of-course exams that high school students must pass in order to graduate. A number State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) wants to cut.

Booming production of oil and gas is just one of the reasons for the rapid population growth in Texas.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports Andrews County, near oil-rich Midland, is the state’s fastest growing county. But in second place, Travis County has attracted more than 71,000 people within two years.

flickr.com/bcfoto

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a warm and breezy day, with highs in the lower 80s.

Lead Story: As more people move to Texas, the state is facing a growing need for water. At the state Capitol yesterday, a plan to establish a long-term fund for water projects took a significant step forward.

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Texas lawmakers looked at a bill today that would require some people to undergo drug testing in order to receive unemployment benefits.

The bill, filed by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), would require drug tests for unemployment applicants who are looking for work in industries that usually require them for new employees.

flickr.com/bwalsh

Texas lawmakers are looking at a bill that would set new standards for hotel housekeeping workers. The bill’s author says the workers are not getting fair treatment, but some in the hotel industry disagree.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) says if Texas hotels can prove housekeepers earn minimum wage, she’ll drop her bill. But, she says, she’s skeptical they can.

flickr.com/chrissamuel

Tonight is one of a few chances Austinites will have to see a passing comet.

The PAN-STARRS comet, or C/2011 L-4 as it’s known by stargazers, will make its way across the Austin skies around 30 to 40 minutes after sunset tonight – which is at 7:37 p.m, according to the National Weather Service.

George P. Bush - son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the nephew of former president George W. Bush - announced today he's running for Texas Land Commissioner.

There's been intense speculation about which office Bush would pursue since he filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission late last year without specifying which office he planned to run for.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Should Texas take money from the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund for water projects? It’s an idea that will get a closer look today.

Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee are holding a public hearing this morning on the proposal. The bill would set aside $2 billion from the economic stabilization or "Rainy Day" fund for water projects.

The bill’s author – Rep. Allan Ritter (R-Nederland) – says prolonged statewide drought has revealed the importance of developing a dedicated source of revenue for the state’s water plan.

Free Tree Seedlings at the State Capitol Today

Mar 6, 2013
flickr.com/dhwright

The Texas Forestry Association is giving away 5,000 hardwood seedlings near the south steps of the Capitol this morning. The association will begin handing out the trees at 8:30 a.m. and will continue until 11:30 a.m. or until the supply runs out.

The seedling giveaway is a biennial tradition. The TFA began their seedling giveaway during the 72nd legislative session to raise public awareness of the tree planting efforts that take place across the state.

Mike Martinez via Facebook

Supporters of Texas expanding access to Medicaid, among them representatives of Planned Parenthood, marched up Congress Avenue Tuesday to the Capitol steps.

They’re calling on Texas lawmakers to accept Federal money as part of the Affordable Care Act to get healthcare to more than a million Texans who otherwise would not have it.

flickr.com/joegratz and rosenthalwatson.com

Update: Austin attorney Marc G. Rosenthal was convicted by a federal jury late last week. 

A statement from the Southern District of the U.S. Attorney's Office reads in part

After a four-week trial, jurors convicted Rosenthal of conspiring to bribe a state district judge, bribe witnesses in both state and federal court cases, file fraudulent personal injury cases in both state and federal courts, and deprive the citizens of Cameron County, Texas, of the right to honest services of an elected official.

Rosenthal's sentencing is scheduled in June. 

Original Post (1:49 p.m.): The ongoing saga of Marc G. Rosenthal continues winding its way down the rabbit hole. The Austin attorney, and former Mr. Texas bodybuilding champion, is currently on trial in Corpus Christi, accused of leading a conspiracy that turned trials in his favor.

Remembering Van Cliburn

Mar 3, 2013
Van Cliburn Foundation

Funeral services will be held today for one of Texas' most famous classical musicians, Van Cliburn. He died last week at age 78.

Austin author Prudence Mackintosh wrote a beautiful memory of her attempts to contact the pianist before his death, which follows below. Mackintosh came to KUT to talk about Cliburn's legacy.  

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Update: This morning, Jeb Bush had much to say on education reform and potential strategies Texas can use to ensure student achievement. His main point was, basically, if you want success, you have to fund it.

“A lesson we learned is put money behind the reforms and you’ll get better results," Bush said. "There’s enough money in the system. This whole argument that somehow we’re not funding schools adequately and I know it’s a big debate here. I would argue that maybe we should be funding the first things first. Put the priorities where you want to see the results and you’ll get a significantly better result.”

Legendary pianist Van Cliburn has died at his home in Fort Worth, former CEO of the Cliburn Foundation Richard Rodzinski confirms. Cliburn was diagnosed with bone cancer in August. 

flickr.com/indyplanets

Texas lawmakers are trying again to pass a statewide law banning texting while driving. A similar measure passed in the Texas House and Senate last legislative session, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Today, Texas Rep. Tom Craddick’s House Bill 63 is getting its first public hearing. The bill is going before the House Committee on Transportation.

Emily Donahue, KUT News

Update (6:58 a.m.): About 1,200 Austin Energy customers remain without power this morning. High winds yesterday broke tree limbs and brought down power lines.

At one point yesterday afternoon, around 18,000 Austin Energy customers were without power.

Right now, Austin Energy repair and tree trimming crews are working to fix harder-to-reach problems. An Austin Energy spokesperson tells KUT News that power should be restored to most customers by early this afternoon.

Customers should report outages by calling (512) 322-9100.

Gage Skidmore, Texas Tribune

After more than a decade representing blood-red Texas in the U.S. Senate, John Cornyn finds himself in an unusual spot: burnishing his conservative credentials.

One would think the senior Texas senator’s reputation would be secure: Cornyn, who has ascended to minority whip, spent two election cycles as chairman of the Senate’s Republican campaign fundraising arm, and National Journal last week ranked him second in its 2012 list of the most conservative senators.

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