Texas

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

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Everyone needs a copy editor. (Thank you, Susan and Amy and Pam.)

Today, the Texas Republican Party is probably wishing it had one, too.

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From Texas Standard:

This week, Texas lawmakers in both the Senate and House vowed to end the abuse of emergency leave for state workers.

Beth Cortez-Neavel/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, most low-income, black and Hispanic people were segregated to the east side of what is now IH-35 in Austin. Now, the same people who’ve lived in the area for decades are being pushed out. Old houses are torn down to make way for new ones and property taxes are rising rapidly.


Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

About a year ago, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett posted a haiku on Twitter:

Who would the Donald/Name to #SCOTUS? The mind/reels. *weeps — can't finish tweet*

Maybe those were tears of joy. 

Are Cops in Schools Creating a 'Climate of Fear?'

May 18, 2016
Flickr/Jan Paul Yap (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard: A viral video was making the rounds, showing a 12-year-old girl body slammed by a police officer in a San Antonio school. That officer has since been fired, but the incident raised concerns about 

Callie Richmond and Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Will public schools really lose federal education funding if they refuse to comply with a new Obama administration directive regarding transgender students?

That's the basic query posed by top lawyers from Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia in a letter sent Tuesday to the U.S. Justice and Education departments seeking clarification on the directive, which advises the nation's public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

From Texas Standard:

Friday morning the Obama administration issued a directive – what some on the right see as a decree – telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. If schools refuse to allow this, they could be in violation of the Civil Rights act of 1964.

The notice comes in the middle of a heated national debate over bathroom laws in public spaces, but it has no official force of law behind it. It amounts to what the New York Times calls an “implicit threat.”

Attached to the letter that went out to schools across the U.S., was a 25-page booklet of what are called emerging practices, or tips on how to comply.


Flickr/Charles Wagner (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's here: A long-awaited decision from the Texas Supreme Court on how schools are funded. The plaintiffs are two-thirds of the state's school districts, charter schools and even business interests, all claiming that the Texas way of financing education is so inefficient as to be unconstitutional.

Now the state's highest court has handed down its opinion.

Kate McGee, education reporter for KUT in Austin, says the court ruled the state's school finance system isn't unconstitutional. The court's opinions – three concurring opinions with no dissents – say the system "satisfies minimal requirements," reversing a lower court's decision that the state's school finance is so bad as to be illegal.


Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Members of the University of Texas System Board of Regents met Thursday expecting to approve new rules for guns on their 14 campuses. Instead, they raised new worries about the proposed guidelines and signaled intent to try to change them, especially at the flagship UT Austin.

In a 45-minute discussion, regents became bogged down in debate over issues like trigger guards, bullets in gun chambers, and if and how faculty should be able to ban weapons in their individual offices. Practically every regent seemed to have a unique opinion. A consensus seemed out of reach. Ultimately, the regents delayed a vote on the issue and will take it up again at a future meeting.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

On April 17, around 7:50 in the early evening, an explosion at the Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Company rocked the small town of West, Texas. That was three years ago.

Fifteen people died, including 12 volunteers fighting the fire at the plant. More than 160 people were injured. The blast was so severe it caused a small earthquake – the concussion waves were visible to the naked eye. A nearby middle school, nursing home and apartment complex were demolished. Neighborhood homes were destroyed.

It seemed possible that the fires could have been started by a short circuit somewhere – the facility was old – or that a golf cart with dodgy electrics might have been the spark that set off the blaze. But state and federal officials say the explosion at West was the outcome of a criminal act.


Don't Get Soaked by Buying a Flood-Damaged Car

May 11, 2016
Jocelyn Augustino/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

You may have noticed we've had a damp past few months. Of the many images from the recent downpours across Texas, few of those images communicate the depth of it all better than photos of capsized cars, up to their windshields in floodwaters. Even more dramatic is if your own vehicle has been flooded. Recently, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced it's stepping in to help compensate many of those who have lost their cars due to water damage.

Flickr/eulothg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

You can't talk Texas oil without talking about the competition. In that regard, the eyes of Texas are upon Saudi Arabia right now. Over the weekend the Saudis ended the 20-year tenure of oil minister Ali al-Naimi. Al-Naimi is credited as a pillar in the development of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. Now, energy investors and analysts alike are waiting to see how this change could affect an already tumultuous oil economy.

Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, says that timing is the most surprising aspect of al-Naimi's replacement.


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From Texas Standard:

There’s yet another battle for transgender civil rights in the U.S. – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is calling for the resignation of the new superintendent of Fort Worth schools, Kent Paredes Scribner. Scribner recently issued new guidelines asking that students have access to restrooms consistent with "the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts.”

Patrick released a statement saying Scribner has lost his focus and his ability to lead Fort Worth ISD through placing his personal political agenda before the needs of the district's students.


Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Texas' lieutenant governor is calling for the resignation of the Fort Worth Independent School District superintendent over guidelines intended to support transgender students.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Walk onto any historically Black college or university campus across Texas and you’re likely to hear calls from a Greek organization like Kappa Alpha Psi. That's one of the many Greek organizations established by African-Americans. Greek life is often strong at HBCUs and so is the emphasis on black identity, empowerment and leadership.

Three Secrets of Life From My 101-Year-Old Mother

May 5, 2016
Courtesy W.F. Strong

My mom lived to be 101 and five months. She said once you reached 99, you started counting your age like a newborn – in months: 99 and six months, 99 and nine months. She used to advise that if you wanted to live to be a hundred, you should live to be 99 and then be very, very careful.

Mary B. Strong, whose name doubled as her motto, was a tough, no-nonsense woman. A Daughter of the American Revolution, survivor of the Great Depression; an honest as the day is long woman of the Texas soil. She had what John Wayne called True Grit.

I think anyone who lives so long, one in about 40,000, must have True Grit. So what was the secret to her longevity?


Pixabay (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

These days clean water from the tap is often a privilege that is taken for granted. We're accustomed to running to the sink whenever we're thirsty. But as the brown tap water in Flint and Crystal City show, we cannot always trust that clean water will be available.

But water contamination isn't always something that is easy to sniff out because of its color or smell. For some, especially those living in rural agricultural areas, water may have substances that put pregnant women in danger without their knowledge.


Shelby Knowles / Texas Tribune

Across Texas, universities are preparing to make concealed handguns a part of campus life. The Senate bill known as campus carry, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2015, takes effect the first of August. Under the law, public universities have only some power to regulate where guns are allowed on campus.

The University of Texas at Austin has been bolder than other state schools in designating gun-free zones, and the school is feeling the heat from pro-gun student groups.


From the Texas Tribune: Charles Smith, a longtime ally of Gov. Greg Abbott, will be the next executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the governor announced Tuesday.

Smith, the chief deputy executive commissioner at the massive agency, will start his new position on June 1.

WOCinTech Chat/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas led the country in exonerations last year, with 54 statewide. in the state. New York placed a distant second with only 17, according to the National Registry of Exonerations’ latest report.

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