Texas

Texas
8:22 am
Wed July 1, 2015

State Employees' Same-Sex Spouses and Their Children Are Now Eligible for Benefits

Diane Jones and Bryna Wortham stand with Rev. Richard Bates at their wedding ceremony at the Travis County Courthouse on June 26, 2015
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Today is the first day state employees can apply for benefits on behalf of their same-sex spouses and their children.

Every year, during the summer's open enrollment period, Cathy Terrell's typically pretty busy. Terrell and her team manage the benefits of close to 333,000 state employees and retirees with the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). The ERS oversees the benefits of every state agency excluding the UT and Texas A&M systems.

After last week's Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in every state, Terrell realized this open enrollment season will be busier than ever.

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HB 2
9:41 am
Tue June 30, 2015

Supreme Court Reprieve Lets 10 Texas Abortion Clinics Stay Open For Now

The U.S. Supreme Court gave a reprieve to Texas clinics that provide abortion services.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 11:38 pm

Tuesday would have been the last day of operation for 10 clinics in Texas that provide abortion services. But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its final actions of this session, said the clinics can remain open while clinic lawyers ask the court for a full review of a strict abortion law.

Two dozen states have passed regulations similar to the ones being fought over in Texas.

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Abortion
3:04 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Texas Abortion Rules

Credit Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked some elements of Texas' House Bill 2, which puts new restrictions on abortion clinics in the state. Abortion providers say the rules in question, which were to go into effect July 1, would have forced as many as 10 abortion clinics to close.

That would have left Texas with as few as eight abortion clinics, mostly in big cities.

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Marriage
1:09 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Texas AG: Clerks Can Refuse Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples (Updated)

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

UPDATE Monday 1 p.m. A Texas State Senator is asking the Department of Justice to monitor and intervene, if necessary, in Texas' implementation of the Supreme Court's ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.

The request comes after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory opinion yesterday, saying some government officials could refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, if they object on religious grounds.

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Same-Sex Marriage
12:09 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

First Austin Couple in Line For Marriage License Gets Legally Married

Rev. Karen Thompson of Austin's Metropolitan Community Church marries Lupe Garcia, left, and Cindy Stocking on June 27, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

The first same-sex couple to get to the Travis County Clerk’s Office on Friday, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, was legally married over the weekend.

At their ceremony on Saturday, Lupe Garcia and Cindy Stocking seemed calm, as though they’d stood at the altar together before with Reverend Karen Thompson, but they were getting married for the first time.

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Texas
10:54 am
Mon June 29, 2015

Many Central Texas Counties Now Issuing Marriage Licenses to All Couples

The Travis County Clerk issued 313 marriage licenses Friday to both same- and different-gender couples.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

After the Supreme Court decision Friday legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, some county clerks around the U.S. began issuing licenses right away, including Travis County in Texas. Other counties held out, though, citing a need for updated forms that incorporated the new rule.

Those forms had been distributed by Monday, so more counties opened up marriage licenses to both same- and different-sex couples Monday morning. This is despite a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that called the Supreme Court's decision "lawless" and said that Texas county clerks could opt-out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples if it violates the clerk's religious beliefs. They'd still face lawsuits if they did so, he said, but the state would provide pro bono representation in those cases.

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Memorial Day Floods
12:16 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

Blanco River Levels Still Too High for Damage Assessment

It's been one month since the Memorial Day weekend flooding devastated communities in Central Texas. Pictured here is discarded damaged furniture in a neighborhood in San Marcos.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

One month ago, the Memorial Day Floods devastated many communities here in Central Texas, and today, the rebuilding continues.

How much officials can do is still limited, though, because the water hasn’t fully receded.

Local agencies are still searching for two children who went missing when the Blanco River flooded. The problem is that the water hasn’t receded enough to enable search teams to access all the areas.

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Affordable Care Act
9:34 am
Thu June 25, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Obamacare Subsidies

The Supreme Court's decision in the King v Burwell case means that one million Texans who purchased health insurance through the federal marketplace will get to keep their subsidies.
KUT News

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the health insurance tax subsides in the case of King v. Burwell.

After much anticipation, the High Court ruled 6-3 this morning that people who received tax subsidies for health insurance premiums purchased on the federal exchange can keep them.

At issue in the case was whether four words in a section of the Affordable Care Act that deals with tax subsidies — "established by the state" — meant that only people who bought an Obamacare plan on a marketplace established by a state government can get a tax subsidy to help them pay for it. 

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Affordable Care Act
7:30 am
Wed June 24, 2015

As Austin Musicians Struggle to Make Ends Meet, Many Forego Health Insurance

Kalu James, left, plays with his band member JT Holt, on Thursday nights at the Continental Club in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

In Austin, the music industry generates almost $2 billion a year for the local economy, but some musicians say they’re lucky if they leave a gig with $5 in their pocket.

Fewer people are willing to pay cover charges to watch live music, but rent keeps rising in Austin.

As a result, a lot of musicians forego health insurance, and now some are worrying about how Austin will keep musicians here if they can’t afford basic expenses.

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Texas Standard
4:52 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Scientists Find 'Alarming' Levels of Chemicals Around Barnett Shale

A recent study of water quality near fracking sites found that contaminated water remains a problem.
Credit cipher/flickr

From Texas Standard:

The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that contamination of drinking water from fracking isn’t as widespread as previously feared. But is the panic over water contamination a thing of the past? A new study is re-igniting the fears of some.

The recent study checked the water quality at 550 wells across 13 Texas counties along the Barnett Shale. It’s one of the largest independent surveys on water near fracking sites ever conducted in the U.S., and the conclusions are alarming.

The Barnett Shale, a gas reservoir located near the Dallas-Forth Worth area, spans at least 17 counties. It’s believed to have more usable natural gas than any onshore oil field in the country. But the shale in the area has a reputation for being naturally hard to drill into, so it was largely untapped — until hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, came along.

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Texas Standard
2:49 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Lawmakers Tour Immigration Detention Centers with Reform on Their Minds

The Karnes County Civil Detention Center is one of two centers in Texas holding about 2,000 women and costing about $350 a day per detainee.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas StandardNot all of the women and children that try to cross Texas’ Rio Grande Valley from Central America make it into the land of the free. Instead, they end up in one of three family detention centers that are used to house illegal immigrants. The centers are run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and they currently hold about 2,000 women and children awaiting either release or deportation.

The detention centers are getting the spotlight in D.C., with calls to either improve or abolish the centers. Now eight Democratic lawmakers are making their way to privately run Texas detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley. Among the Texas contingent are Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio).

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Texas
11:34 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Court: Texas AG Cannot Halt Same-Sex Couple's Divorce

Texas Supreme Court justices listen to the State of the Judiciary speech on February 23, 2011.
Credit Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: As Texas waits on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, the state's highest civil court ruled Friday that the Texas attorney general tried too late to stop the divorce of a Texas couple married in Massachusetts.

Five members of the Texas Supreme Court affirmed a 2011 opinion from the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals that said the attorney general's office did not have standing to appeal the divorce between Texas residents Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly.

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Texas
2:00 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

Prosecutor: Grand Jury to Hear Paxton Case in July

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at Texas Public Policy Foundation's grand opening of new building on April 21st, 2015.
Credit Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

A Collin County grand jury will hear a case against Attorney General Ken Paxton next month, according to a special prosecutor investigating whether Paxton has violated state securities law. 

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Texas
9:59 am
Thu June 18, 2015

Supreme Court: Texas Can Ban Confederate License Plates

An image of the specialty plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans from the appendix of the court's decision.
U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has backed Texas’ decision to forbid specialty license plates sporting an image of the Confederate flag, a ruling that could have national implications for how free speech protections apply to government services.

In a 5-4 ruling released Thursday morning, the court ruled that messages on license plates constitute "government speech," as the state of Texas had maintained in court filings and oral arguments.

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Affordable Care Act
7:26 am
Thu June 18, 2015

Texas Has No Answers To What's Next After Obamacare Ruling

Anita Hoffman works with Elizabeth Colvin, director of Foundation Communities' Insure Central Texas, to sign up for a health insurance plan on June 17, 2015.
Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, possibly today, on a case that will decide whether tax subsidies for health insurance plans bought on the federal marketplace are legal.

If the court strikes down the subsidies, however, the matter of who decides what happens next in Texas remains murky. 

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Texas Standard
8:36 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

This Old Feed Mill Is Now A Hands-On Science Museum

A shot of the old mill in Johnson City.
Photo via San Antonio Charter Moms/(CC BY 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

For more than 130 years, a mill has been a landmark of the Johnson City community. It’s served as a steam grist mill, cotton gin, feed mill and even a restaurant. But it was vacant for a while, until its latest tenant moved in: a science museum.

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Texas Standard
5:07 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

Do You Need Eggs For Breakfast Tacos?

ferrariguy90/flickr

You’ve seen the headlines this month: “America’s Egg Shortage Threatens Austin’s Breakfast Taco Supply," “Austin Restaurants Respond To National Egg Crisis.”

But - wait a minute. We need to think through this clearly. Deep breaths.

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Affordable Care Act
10:14 am
Mon June 15, 2015

About One Million Texans Affected if SCOTUS Invalidates Obamacare Subsidies

When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on King v. Burwell, the decision could affect the price of health insurance for roughly 1 million people in Texas.
Photo courtesy wallyg, flickr.com/70323761@N00

Before the end of the month, possibly as soon as today, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case called King v. Burwell. The decision could affect the price of health insurance for roughly 1 million people in Texas.

It's a decision that comes down to four words.

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Texas Standard
2:38 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Does Your Water Bottle Really Need to be 'Smart?'

Photo via Flickr/minutesalone (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Imagine a world where you could count every sip of water you took – and your boss could see it too. That’s the idea behind brothers Jac and Davis Saltzgiver’s new invention, Trago.

“We allow coaches and teams, or even parents, to monitor an entire group of people with multiple bottles, so a coach or trainer could make sure their entire team is well hydrated before a game,” Davis Saltzgiver says.

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HB2
2:18 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Texas Abortion Providers Ask Appeals Court to Suspend Order Upholding HB2

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a provision of a 2013 Texas abortion law, HB2, which requires abortion physicians to receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Daniel Reese/KUT News

Abortion providers in Texas want a federal appeals court to block its own ruling. They’re asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay its decision upholding a 2013 abortion law, because allowing the law to go into effect would leave Texas with no more than eight clinics. [Read the stay request here.]

On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit upheld the Texas law (HB 2) requiring abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. 

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