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

UT Austin Team to Develop Campus Carry Plans

Aug 20, 2015
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves announced Thursday that he has convened a working group of students, faculty and staff to recommend new rules to comply with a state law allowing people to carry guns on public college campuses.

State lawmakers passed the campus carry legislation this spring, but it doesn't go into effect until 2016. It was originally written to allow the concealed carry of handguns on virtually all areas of campus, but it was amended at the last minute to allow schools greater autonomy to choose where guns can and cannot be carried. Each policy must be approved by the school's governing board of regents, and will probably face strict scrutiny from gun rights advocates and opponents of the law. 

Guatemalan Activist Granted Stay of Deportation

Aug 18, 2015
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Sulma Franco, an LGBTQ activist from Guatemala, was granted a stay of deportation today by immigration officials in San Antonio. She traveled this morning from Austin to San Antonio with a group of activists and supporters to submit her application for the stay.

Franco had been facing deportation, and since June she'd been living in sanctuary at Austin's First Unitarian Universalist Church. Franco requested asylum in the U.S., but was denied based on a “clerical error,” according to activists working for her cause.

In Guatemala, LGBTQ activists have been targeted and killed, Franco argued. She says that she feared for her life there.


Austin, Houston, Brenham and parts of Alabama will be the first to see Blue Bell ice cream back in stores later this month.

The Brenham-based company said today it would start rolling products back out Aug. 31, after listeria contamination at its production facilities forced it to recall all of its products and shut down its factories for cleaning. The contamination was linked to 10 illnesses, three of which resulted in deaths. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton avoided contempt of court charges this week by issuing a death certificate to the surviving member of a same-sex married couple that was amended to refer to the men as one another’s husbands, rather than significant others. The AG also said the state would acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates and list both same-sex parents on birth certificates going forward.

CC0 Public Domain

From Texas Standard:

Seventy years ago this week, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mike Cox is an author and award-winning journalist, he writes that Texas’ Padre Island was on the short list for testing the bomb.

On how close Padre Island was to becoming a test site:

“South Padre Island was one of eight sites that the U.S. Military considered as a place to explode the first atomic bomb. And it actually came down to about three sites that were pretty high on the list: one was in California, one was the Alamagordo site in New Mexico and the other one was South Padre Island — which, admittedly, at the time was pretty remote. But eventually they decided on blowing up that first device in New Mexico.”

Collin County Jail

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton turned himself in to authorities in Collin County this morning. He's charged with three felonies relating to his solicitation of investments in a technology company.

He was immediately released from Collin County Jail on $35,000 bond after booking.

Two of the charges — first-degree felony securities fraud — carry the possibility of hefty jail sentences. 

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

From our political reporting partners at The Texas Tribune

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of immigrant rights lawyers who have said the current detention of immigrant children violates a court settlement from 1997 known as the Flores vs Meese Agreement. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee issued her decision in California.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has yet to announce how it will proceed. DHS recently changed the rules of how it releases mothers and children currently in detention. 

Image courtesy Frank Tilley/Victoria Advocate

From Texas Standard:

85-year-old Wharton County rancher Mark DeFriend was living his life as usual and was shocked to learn that he’d been declared dead. DeFriend first contacted The Victoria Advocate to talk about his life-after-death experience. Now, he joins the Standard to share his story.

On how the mix-up happened:

“The lady that waited on me was very helpful and considerate and I said, ‘I can’t understand how somebody can say…’ and she said, ‘Mr. DeFriend, there is a delete on the computer and a dismiss and a demised – and in a hurry sometimes they’ll hit that demise.’ So she said this happens all the time is what she told me.”

State Seeks to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Birth Certificates

Jul 23, 2015
Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked a federal district judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims a state agency violated the U.S. Constitution by denying birth certificates to U.S.-citizen children of immigrant parents.

Attorneys with Paxton’s office said that the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is being sued by 17 families living in Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties, has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and cannot be sued in federal court because it has not waived that right, according to court documents. 

The immunity extends to interim DSHS Commissioner Kirk Cole and State Registrar Geraldine Harris, who are also named as defendants in the suit, Paxton's office argues.

DonkeyHotey / flickr

From Texas Standard:

Immigration is often discussed in terms of government policy and official enforcement efforts – or lack thereof, depending on whom you ask. But when citizens take actions into their own hands, the dimensions of the discussion get more complicated.

In Dallas, one landlord is reportedly checking the immigration status of tenants and rejecting lease renewals of those who don’t have social security numbers. Now some people are urging Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and the Dallas City Council to step in and stop these unofficial immigration checks.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

If anyone runs into National Guard personnel in Texas, they pretty much look like any military personnel dressed in their camouflage fatigues. But, up until now, the biggest difference was that they were not armed.

That's about to change: Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced this weekend that the Texas National Guard will now carry weapons while at military facilities across Texas.

Governor Abbott said this new measure is in response to last week's shooting in two military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr/KUT

A University of Texas task force has a decision to make: Will statues on campus that honor Confederate figures stay or go?

To help it decide, the university invited the public to have a say for the second time this month ahead of a deadline to provide input on the statues' ultimate fate.

Tamir Khalifa/Texas Tribune

From the Texas TribuneUpdated July 15, 2:45 p.m.:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday his office would investigate Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion group released an undercover video showing a Planned Parenthood executive discussing how to preserve an aborted fetus's organs for medical research. 

“The Office of the Attorney General has launched an official investigation into Planned Parenthood following the release of a video that details the organization’s calculated slaughter of human babies to maximize the available body parts they plan to sell," Paxton said in a statement.

Bill Wittliff Courtesy of the Wittliff Collections, Texas State University

Some retired Texas Rangers take an epic journey driving a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana. You know what we're talking about, right?

A couple of hints: 1989, TV miniseries – it was a book first.

Commentator WF Strong says there's something all Texans really should know about Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove." Actually – make that a dozen things. Note: minor spoilers ahead.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The military training exercise called “Operation Jade Helm 15” starts today just outside of Bastrop. While military exercises and war games happen all the time, this one gained a lot of attention after conspiracy theorists started suggesting it was part of a plan to takeover Texas and institute martial law.

Those voices grew so loud that Gov. Greg Abbott even decided to assign the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation.  But, despite a contentious town hall meeting, many in Bastrop say they’re not worried about the exercise.

From Texas Standard.

The Texas Legislature officially named Dripping Springs the “Wedding Capital of Texas” this spring. Chances are good that when Texas lawmakers cast their votes for the designation they probably weren’t contemplating the Supreme Court docket. So how is the big wedding industry in the small city of Dripping Springs adjusting?

Kim Hanks owns Whim Hospitality and the wedding venue Camp Lucy. She’s been serving couples in the area for more than a decade.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

We don’t often hear about the Medicaid 1115 waiver in Texas, but this waiver gives Texas billions of federal dollars to provide some pretty expensive care.

This waiver expires in 2016, though. Texas is in the process of asking the federal government to extend and renew the money, but that renewal isn't guaranteed.

Google Maps

This evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will meet with the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade.

This meeting has been months in the making. Texas and Mexico put so much effort into their relationship, and not just because they’re geographically close. Between exports and imports, the amount of money that crosses the Mexico-Texas border is nearly $1 billion a day.

The total traded between the two in 2014 was $336 billion, according to the U.S.-Mexico trade report from the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. [Read a pdf of the report here.]


From Texas Standard:

An iconic Texas burger chain has found itself in the crosshairs of gun politics in the months leading up to a state law change set to take effect allowing open carry of handguns.

Preston Atkinson, President and CEO of Whataburger, released a statement this week, saying that, “Whataburger supports customers’ Second Amendment rights, but we haven’t allowed the open carry of firearms in our restaurants for a long time, although we have not prohibited licensed concealed carry.”