Texas

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

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

We've all heard the stories about how a lack of health insurance can force someone to ignore small health issues, until they end up in the emergency room with a more traumatic, and sometimes untreatable, problem. This is happening frequently with the country's uninsured Latina population.

In Austin and across the U.S., nonprofits are helping connect them with health care resources in their communities.

Update: Denton Police have discontinued an AMBER Alert for a missing 4-year-old boy. But Ricardo Lara has not been found yet.

Police say the investigation no longer fits requirements to continue the Amber Alert – though they are still pursing all leads to find the child.

Police still believe Lara is with his father – 23-year-old Ricardo Martinez. The two were last seen in Denton on Friday afternoon. Martinez is also a suspect in the murder of Lara’s mother.

Original Story (Dec. 15, 2014, 6:04 a.m.): Law enforcement officers across the state are keeping an eye out for a missing 4-year-old boy.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas' gay marriage ban will remain in effect for now. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declined today to permit immediate same-sex marriages in Texas. 

In February, Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Texas’ same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law, but placed a hold that prevented same-sex couples from immediately getting married. Today, Judge Garcia declined a request to lift that stay on marriages, citing an impending appeal in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is recommending that all Texas health agencies be consolidated into one “mega-agency," but the move would need approval from Texas lawmakers next legislative session.

Back in 2003, Texas lawmakers passed a measure that reduced the number of health and human services agencies from 12 to five. Now, the Sunset Advisory Commission has approved merging those five agencies into one.

Patrice Gilbert

Tech maestro Elon Musk worries too much.

That seems to be Walter Isaacson’s conclusion – at least when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott says his staff is ready to get to work when the 2015 legislative session begins in January. At a press conference on Monday, he laid out his priorities.

Education started off the list. Abbott says he wants more pre-kindergarten classes and improved reading and math skills by the time students reach the third grade. He says he also wants to elevate the quality of Texas universities.

Sean Hobson via Texas Tribune

Hoping to weave stronger social safety nets for inmates after they are released, the Texas prison system is making it easier for family members to visit loved ones behind bars.  

Please visit the Texas Standard website here.

In the 21st century, as Texas goes, so goes the rest of the nation?

Many think so – and not just Texans. As a Time magazine cover story proclaimed, "it's not an accident that three of the five fastest growing cities are in Texas. It's more like destiny."

Lizzie Chen for KUT News

A group of Texas experts on infectious disease has submitted a report with advice on how to handle any future outbreaks of viruses like Ebola.

The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease chose technology as one of its priorities. Dr. Brett Giroir, the task force director, says they ended up working with Google on an app, which allows someone being monitored to enter his or her temperature and a public health official would have access to that.

KUT News

The Department of Public Safety says the number of people crossing the Texas-Mexico border has fallen dramatically since DPS expanded its operations there earlier this year.

Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a panel of House lawmakers that monthly apprehensions have dropped by about 25,000 people between June and now.

"Clearly we’ve had an impact," McCraw said. "There’s no question we’ve had an impact in the Rio Grande Valley."

KUT

The Texas Capitol will take on a somber mood Friday, as friends and family take time to honor the life of Former Texas State Senator and KUT Board Member Kenneth "Ray" Farabee. A memorial will be held in the Senate chamber Friday, December 5 at 2 pm. Farabee died at his Austin home on November 20. He was 81.

Farabee was born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the base of the High Plains.

But it was in Austin where he would make his mark, first as a leader in student government at the University of Texas at Austin and later in the Texas Senate.

NASA

Fifty-five years ago, on December 4th, 1959, the U.S. launched the Mercury spacecraft which contained a scared little rhesus monkey.

The silent news footage above chronicles the pre-launch preparations of that monkey, Sam, the third primate in space, who was born in 1957 at the Austin animal colony of the now-defunct Brooks Air Force Base -- his name was an acronym representing Brooks' School of Aviation and Medicine. Sam's flight was a test of the Mercury's launch escape system, a precursor to space capsule systems used in manned flight. On that fateful December morning in 1959, Sam went up on a small Little Joe rocket, soared 51 miles into the air and experienced three minutes of weightlessness before plummeting back down to earth. Unlike many early animal astronauts, Sam was retrieved safely several hours later by a U.S. Navy destroyer after landing in the Atlantic Ocean in a floating drum.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is ordering all state agencies under control of the governor's office to use E-Verify to check the residency status of employees and prospective employees. According to his office, 17 state agencies already use it. This announcement is something of a change of heart.

TDCJ via Texas Tribune

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has halted tonight's scheduled execution of Scott Louis Panetti, who killed his wife's parents in Fredricksburg more than 20 years ago.

His attorneys argued his mental illness has worsened and he needs to undergo new mental competency tests because he's too delusional to understand why he's being punished.

Panetti represented himself at his trial and attempted to subpoena the Pope and Jesus. A group of prominent conservatives, including former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asked Governor Perry to intervene. 

healthcare.gov

Enrollment for plans on the health insurance exchange has started, but not many people know this.

"A recent Kaiser study reflected that less than 20 percent of those eligible to enroll in the marketplace exchange is aware that open enrollment is taking place today," says Jeff Hudson who works with UnitedHealthcare, one of the insurance providers on the marketplace in Texas this time around. "So it’s very important that you take the time to get connected, become aware and get enrolled by Feb. 15."

Donate Life Texas

More than 120,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting an organ transplant, and of those, 13,000 live in Texas.

One Texas-based nonprofit is trying to educate people, particularly minorities, about the critical shortage of organ donors.

KUT News

When mayors from across the U.S. gathered in Austin last month for the National League of Cities annual convention, a group of them took time during the event to express support for President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Martin do Nascimento/Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune:

Greenery has begun to cover the scars of a devastating fire that ripped through 32,000 acres of Central Texas three years ago. Feeding on tinder and trees withered from a searing drought, the Bastrop County Complex Fire burned for nine days, destroying more than 1,600 homes, before it was brought under control.

Also lost to the blaze was 96 percent of Bastrop State Park, a 6,565-acre home to the loblolly Lost Pines Forest and the endangered Houston toad.

As shrubs and seedlings have taken hold in the scorched park, however, park officials face a new quandary. An abundance of whitetail deer, they say, is threatening the new growth. Park officials will soon begin allowing the deer to be hunted, saying it is necessary if the park is to bounce back.

Jenna VonHofe/KUT

The day after it was announced a grand jury had chosen not to indict the police officer who shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August, University of Texas at Austin students held a march and a rally to protest the decision.

More protests are planned for tonight in Austin and other cities around the country.

flickr.com/home_of_chaos

UPDATE 11/26/14: Visiting judge Doug Shaver rejected a request Tuesday for additional DNA testing in Rodney Reed’s case.

Judge Shaver said the additional DNA testing would delay Reed’s execution. His execution date was moved from January to March 5th.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Texas court will hear testimony today about whether or not to allow DNA testing of additional evidence in the murder case of Rodney Reed. He was convicted in 1998 of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites near Bastrop, Texas. Reed says he is innocent.

Some of Stites' family members are convinced law enforcement got the wrong man, and that law enforcement should look within their own ranks to find Stites' real killer.

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