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

Brian Khorey/AP

Update 4:45 p.m. Governor Greg Abbott today declared a state of disaster in Bosque, Clay, Denton, Eastland, Gaines, Montague and Van Zandt counties, authorizing further mobilization of state resources to assist affected communities. Additional counties may be added to the declaration as the situation develops.

Current state forecasts indicate the continuation of possible severe thunderstorms, large hail, damaging winds, flash flooding, river flooding and tornadoes across the state throughout the week. 

Liang Shi/KUT News

Less than a month remains in this year's legislative session, and Texas lawmakers face hundreds of bills and several procedural deadlines this week.

Today is the last day House committee members can vote on bills that originated in the House, which means it's the last day a House bill has a chance of being placed on the calendar for the whole chamber to hear.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

A waiver program that provides billions of dollars for Texas hospitals expires next year, and a panel of House lawmakers is asking state health officials if they have a Plan B. 

The 1115 Medicaid transformation waiver, among other things, gives billions in federal dollars to Texas hospitals that provide care for patients who don't have health insurance.  

In 2013, Texas spent almost $4 billion in what's called "uncompensated care" for low-income Texans.


Listeria bacteria was found in Blue Bell ice cream's Oklahoma plant two years ago, according to test results the federal government released yesterday.

The report, which was released after a Freedom of Information Act request from the Houston Chronicle's Mark Collette, also revealed the company continued to ship ice cream produced in that plant after what the FDA said was inadequate cleaning. The reports also showed failures at a Blue Bell facility in Alabama and at the company's flagship facility in Brenham.

Jennifer Whitney/Texas Tribune

Governor Greg Abbott’s bill to improve pre-kindergarten got one step closer to his desk yesterday. The Texas Senate approved House Bill 4 in a 25-6 vote. The Texas House had already approved the bill before sending it to the Senate, but it still has a few more hurdles to jump through.

The bill puts $130 million dollars toward pre-K programs, but those programs would have to meet certain standards to receive the money, including teacher certification and curriculum standards.


On Wednesday, Texas Senators passed a bill (SB 1252) that would create an inter-state southern border compact — a group of states that would share resources to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the bill.

It didn't pass, however, before Democrats and Republicans brought up their differences on the need for border security. 

flickr via myloonyland

Teens in Travis County say they’re not getting taught about safe sex, and parents say they don’t know how to talk to their kids about it, according to a new report from the University of Texas and the Healthy Youth Partnership. [Read a PDF version of the report here.]

Travis County, and Texas as a whole,  have higher teen birth rates than the country overall, which the new report attributes to teens receiving misinformation about birth control, an embarrassment associated with buying condoms and peer pressure surrounding sex.

KUT News

The Texas Senate has approved a bill, SB 1735,  that would scale back free tuition benefits given to some military veterans and their dependents. Lawmakers expanded eligibility for the law, known as the Hazlewood Act, in 2009, but under the new bill it would be scaled back again.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), a veteran himself, says he wrote the bill because public institutions can’t afford to cover everyone who qualifies, so the state has to cut back to save the program for future veterans.


On Tuesday, the Texas Senate tentatively passed a bill that would prohibit abortion coverage under many health insurance plans. It could get final approval today.

The bill would only allow coverage for abortions in cases where there’s a medical emergency. State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) says his measure gives Texans who don’t support abortion the choice not to pay for others to get the procedure.


As time goes by, the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo seems to be turning more into a Texas celebration. Sure, Texas used to be Mexico — and that's in part why there's a shared tradition. But some wonder if the tradition could become exclusive to Texas.

Hernan Jaso likes to claim Texas should have some exclusivity to Cinco de Mayo because, "General Ignacio Zaragoza was born in what is now Goliad, Texas."

Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave final approval Monday to a bill that would change how schools report how much of their student body is vaccinated. The bill passed, 98 to 40, but only after a loud and long debate.

Right now school districts anonymously collect data on how many kids are vaccinated and then report that data district-wide. Austin Independent School District has an overall vaccination exemption rate of 1.6 percent, for instance. The bill that passed out of the House Monday would break down the data for individual schools.

The self-declared Islamic State is taking credit for a thwarted attack on a contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas.


From Texas Standard:

Last year, music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify generated more revenue than CD sales. Musicians say they aren’t happy with how much they’re getting in return, especially now that streaming companies like Amazon, Google, and even NPR, have formed a lobbying group to try to lower the amount they pay to musicians. 


American Airlines recently unveiled its 787-8 Dreamliner. It carries 226 passengers, 198 of them in coach — and industry insiders have said if you’re not in first class, the airplane is uncomfortable for long trips. But the silver lining could be that when you get to the airport, you might almost mistake it for a shopping mall.

Garland police now say SWAT team officers were involved in the shooting that left two gunmen dead outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest Sunday night.

Abbott: State Officials Probing "Senseless" Attack

May 4, 2015
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott said late Sunday that Texas officials are investigating a "senseless attack" in Garland that left two gunmen dead outside a contest featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. 

CW2 Janet Schmelzer, PAO, 4th Regiment, TXSG

This week, a lesser-known unit of the Texas Military Forces got some attention when Governor Greg Abbott called on them to “monitor” U.S. military training exercises planned for this summer.

Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to ensure that Texans’ rights were not being infringed and help facilitate communication with residents during the exercises designated “Operation Jade Helm 15.” The operation is set to take place in Bastrop and several other locations across Texas and in some neighboring states between July 15 and September 15.

Exactly how that monitoring will be carried out is still unclear. When asked for details, the Governor’s office told us to call the Texas State Guard. In an email response, the Guard said “we are always ready to answer the call of the Governor and currently leadership from our Texas State Guard are in the process of examining the best way to meet the Governor's intent.”

Is the Texas Economy Headed Towards a Recession?

May 1, 2015

From Texas Standard:

When a leading economist warned Texas that it should brace for a recession, the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank wasn’t rattled. Then-President Richard Fisher said, if anything, the state might experience a downturn in economic growth. But here we are on the first day of May – after months of negative workforce and economic data. Dan Zehr with the Austin-American Statesman spoke with the Texas Standard to answer the question: Is the Texas economy in the middle of a recession?

Joy Diaz/KUT News

A lot was going on in the year 2000: Computer experts were trying to fix Y2K, and it was the first time a Latino artist topped the charts: Ricky Martin with the song "Livin' La Vida Loca."

It was also a big year for births: Nearly 400,000 girls were born to Hispanic parents that year. This year those girls are turning 15, and they'll be celebrating their Quinceañeras.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

More than half of U.S. prison inmates are parents of children under 18 years old, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics from 2007. A new international group is looking to help the children of those incarcerated parents in the U.S. and abroad.

No matter the crime, children of those sent to jail are affected in big ways — often sharing the attitudes and behaviors of their imprisoned parents.