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

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A Travis County judge has ruled that Texas Comptroller Susan Combs must submit to a three-hour deposition to answer questions related to the largest data leak in Texas history. Combs issued a statement this afternoon saying she will appeal.

The comptroller revealed in April that the personal information of 3.5 million current and former state employees was stored on a publicly accessible computer server for about a year.

Image courtesy of US Justice Dept.

Texas may get its first openly gay U.S. attorney. The San Antonio Express-News reports President Obama is set to nominate U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lee Pitman of Austin as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, an area that stretches from El Paso to Austin.  

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Special Session Nearing an End

Photo by dan_a http://www.flickr.com/photos/dan_a/

Remember last month when the state’s electric grid operator said it would have adequate power supplies for the summer? Scratch that. It's too hot.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is now asking people to conserve energy after several power plants were tripped offline today amid unusually sweltering weather.

Photo by KUT News

Another hot day ahead in Central Texas. Not that you needed me to tell you that. The forecast will remain pretty much the same until....hmmm....maybe October?

So why not sit back, stay cool and read this round up of the day's news.

Photo by KUT

With no fireworks in Austin this Independence Day, some patriots may have been planning the trek up to Williamson County to catch the rocket’s red glare. Those plans will have to be canceled. You can count Round Rock’s fireworks display as another victim of the Texas drought.

In Mexico, one controversial part of President Felipe Calderon's war against the drug cartels has been the use of the military to fight organized crime. Now in the border state of Tamaulipas, the Mexican army is taking over full control of the police departments in some of the state's most troubled cities.

Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

First, it was West and North Texas being scorched by wildfire. Now, it's East Texas's turn. Two large fires there have burned a combined total of 22,200 acres since last weekend. Eight smaller fires are also burning in the eastern part of the states.

The Bearing fire, southwest of Lufkin has burned 18,200 acres. The Dyer Mill fire, southeast of Navasota has consumed 4,000 acres and has prompted the evacuation of 1,800 homes and businesses in the area.

The blaze is located in this part of Leander. View Larger Map

Williamson County is urging some Leander residents to evacuate after a fire broke out near their homes today around noon.

The fire is near the Highlands subdivision, which affects approximately 200 homes. Several area fire departments have been dispatched to the area.

Photo courtesy Department of Defense

Army Staff Sergeant Nicholas P. Ballard of El Paso, Texas and Sergeant Glenn M. Sewell of Live Oak, Texas were killed after their unit was hit by an I-E-D attack in eastern Iraq on Monday.

Twenty-six year old Nicholas Bellard leaves behind his 2-year-old daughter, Eva, and wife Victoria. Bellard’s aunt, Susan Ohlenforst of Rayne, Louisiana, says they meant the world to him. 

As many as 4,900 current and former employees of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) may have had their personal information exposed in the latest data security breach involving state workers. The news comes two months after the Texas Comptroller announced that the personal information of 3.5 million employees was potentially compromised.

Photo by Todd Wiseman

U.S. law enforcement officers in Hidalgo County today received heavy weapons fire from Mexico, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The exchange happened when law enforcement officers participating in a multi-agency Texas Ranger Recon operation attempted to interdict a load of drugs. Three law enforcement patrol boats were notified of a suspicious vehicle and two recovery boats on the U.S. side of the border. They were fired on when they arrived at the scene.

Photo by bobthemtnbike http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobthemtnbiker/

The second largest wildfire in Arizona’s recorded history could cause cascading power outages that would leave El Paso and other parts of West Texas in the dark. NPR reports that the 600-square mile fire is expected to reach large electrical transmission lines by Friday.

The fire prompted Texas-based El Paso Electric to issue warnings of possible power interruptions for its customers in southern New Mexico and West Texas.

Photo by KUT News.

House Health Care Bill Gets Initial Approval

The Texas House has given preliminary approval to a wide-ranging health care bill.  It would save the state more than $400 million over the next two years.  Among other things, the bill would allow doctors, hospitals and other providers to work together to lower costs. One of the amendments to the bill would allow Texas to join a compact of states trying to get more control of how federal Medicaid and Medicare dollars are spent. 

Photo by Ian Crawford for KUT News

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit in federal court in Austin, claiming that the state's Department of Family and Protective Services and the Child Protective Services Division in Austin owes some employees overtime pay. Over $1 million, to be specific.

The Associated Press reports that the lawsuit, filed today, alleges that about 800 current and former investigators and case workers were told not to record all the hours they worked.

Labor Department investigators conducted a three-year investigation after a complaint was filed.


The Texas Department of Public Safety has started a process to fire a top official who used to be in charge of administering Homeland Security Grants in the state. DPS said in a statement that the move follows a five-month investigation of Janice Bruno and alleged criminal misconduct involving a grant issued to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

A fire kindled by an arcing power transformer near Reimers Ranch Sunday rekindled this afternoon.

Asst. Chief John Durham with Lake Travis Fire & Rescue says no structures have been threatened by the 60-acre blaze. Some horses had to be moved out of the fire's path, but no injuries have been reported.

Photo by Jayel Aheram http://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/

Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-Lake Jackson), hoping to nab the Republican presidential nomination, raked in more than $1 million yesterday by targeting the perceived GOP front runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

A "money bomb" is a term used to describe an effort to raise a lot of cash over a specific time span, often over the internet.

Photo by Fort Worth Transportation Authority

A style popularized by hip hop artists in the 90's is now banned on public transit in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on the city’s transportation authority enforcing a new dress code on buses and trains.

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation aimed at collecting more tax from online sales in Texas. The bill would have tightened rules on when online vendors must charge sales tax in the state. Under the proposed rules, retailers who maintain distribution centers in Texas would have had to charge sales tax on goods sold in Texas. In a statement Perry said: