Texas

Texas
5:39 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Court of Appeals Stays Execution of Rodney Reed

The Huntsville facility in Texas where Death Row inmates are housed. Inmate Rodney Reed was granted a stay of execution Monday.
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay Monday afternoon in the case of Death Row inmate Rodney Reed. Reed was accused of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, and he was scheduled for execution on March 5. Since Reed's conviction, many have come out in support of his innocence and argued that, at the very least, further DNA testing is necessary to determine what happened.

Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet, who works with the Innocence Project, said in a statement:

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Texas
12:25 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Reaction to Immigration Overhaul Block Runs Along Party Lines in Texas

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, criticized U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's temporary stay of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
Credit KUT News

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not start accepting applications Wednesday for a program designed to shield more than four million immigrants from deportation, a direct result of this week's federal court ruling that temporarily halts an expansion of the program to people over 30 and to immigrant parents living in the country illegally.

The reaction to this decision runs along party lines. U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, says the deportation relief provided to people who came to the country as children boosts the economy by putting people to work.

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Texas
11:19 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Judge Halts Obama's Immigration Order

President Barack Obama speaking in Austin on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
Credit Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

Editor's note: read Judge Andrew Hanen's ruling in three parts here, here and here.

Gov. Greg Abbott hailed a federal judge's decision Monday to halt President Obama’s executive action on immigration — a decision that gave the state of Texas an initial victory in its battle against what state leaders call federal overreach.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Obama administration did not "comply with the Administrative Procedure Act" when the executive action was announced in November. The policy seeks to give as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants — including some 1.46 million in Texas, a work permit and temporary relief from deportation.

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Affordable Care Act
2:28 pm
Sat February 14, 2015

Signup Period for Health Insurance on Federal Marketplace Ends Sunday

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visits Austin on Feb. 13, 2015, two days before the deadline to sign up for health coverage on the federal marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Ahead of Sunday's deadline, officials say consumers are stepping up enrollment for 2015 coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law. The President's top health official was in Austin Friday to encourage more Texans to enroll.

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Same-Sex Marriage
4:30 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Gay Couples Ask Court to Lift Hold on Same-Sex Marriage in Texas

Plaintiffs in a case against the same-sex marriage ban in Texas are asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge's ruling that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Karina Kling/Time Warner Cable News

Plaintiffs in a case challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas have filed a new request [read PDF here] asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge’s ruling that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That stay is in place while the appeals process continues.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ruled against the gay marriage ban in Texas, but he put that decision on hold temporarily while Texas appealed it.

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Texas
1:24 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Erroneous Toll Bills Fuel Criticism at TxDOT Hearing

Bill Jacobus/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Approximately 30,000 Texas drivers with valid TxTag accounts erroneously received bills in the mail for using the state’s toll roads, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation and Xerox told state senators Wednesday during a tense hearing.

“I thought it was going to be a large number, but I didn’t think it would be so large,” state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said a a Senate Transportation Committee hearing. TxDOT officials said they plan to refund all of the people who were erroneously charged, but they acknowledged there could be others who might not know they were incorrectly charged.

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The Border
2:23 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Patrick Wants $12 Million to Keep Guard on Border

Dan Patrick, then the lieutenant governor-elect, is shown speaking to reporters at the Texas Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Saying that drug cartels are “ramping up” their efforts as the Texas National Guard prepares to leave the Rio Grande Valley next month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Tuesday that he’s seeking an additional $12 million to keep the troops there through May.

Beyond that, he added at a Capitol news conference, he would work to get a supplemental bill to fund deployments through August, in the hopes that the Texas Legislature would pass a budget that includes deployment funding beyond that. The Senate’s budget includes about $815 million for border security, which is more than the previous seven years combined.

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Texas
12:20 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Previously Unseen Footage of Selma March Found in Amarillo

A screenshot from Joe Jeoffroy's home video of the Selma march. Watch the full video below.
Joe Jeoffroy

When representatives from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) went to collect home videos to digitize in Amarillo, they were excited to see some Texas family footage – maybe a barbecue or a birth or a child's first steps.

But they were even more excited when they stumbled upon a high-quality 16mm home movie of a pivotal point in the civil rights movement: the 1965 Selma, Ala. protest march.

Amarillo resident Joe Jeoffroy brought his father's 1960s home movie collection to TAMI's video roundup to get the films digitized, and he mentioned that one of the videos might contain his father's footage from Selma. 

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Texas
5:14 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Questions Arise About Sexual Assault Findings at Texas Detention Center

Immigration Detention Center in Karnes City, Tex.
KUT News

The Department of Homeland Security says it has found no evidence that women at the Karnes Immigrant Detention Center in Texas are being sexually assaulted. DHS released the results of its investigation today.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) says the DHS investigation was not thorough enough.

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2015 Legislature
4:22 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Bill Would Require More Texas Parents to Vaccinate Children

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is introducing a bill that would reduce the number of reasons parents can use to get their children in public schools exempted from required vaccinations.
Pascal Dolémieux/flickr

A state lawmaker wants to boost vaccine requirements for children in Texas public schools and give parents fewer exemptions.

Right now, public schools in Texas can waive immunization requirements for students whose parents claim exemptions including medical, military or what the state calls reasons of conscience.

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Criminal Justice
11:49 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Texas' Use of Solitary Confinement Worsens Inmate Mental Illness, Report Says

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project says Texas' prison agency uses solitary confinement way too much.
Still Burning/flickr

Texas prisons kept 6,564 people in solitary confinement in 2014, and civil rights groups in Texas have a new report out that argues the state is using what it calls administrative segregation way too much: for an average of four years per inmate, and in some cases, as long as two decades.

Inmates are locked up alone in a 60-square-foot cell most of the day in Texas, and researchers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project say that worsens mental illness and makes inmates more dangerous to guards and to the public. It also costs taxpayers at least $46 million a year in extra security costs, according to the report.

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Texas
11:49 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Children in Immigrant Detention Centers Face 'Inhumane Treatment,' Attorneys Say

A detention facility in Karnes City, Tex.
Credit Courtesy of ICE

Children should not be held in detention in the same way adults are. That’s according to a federal settlement agreement called Flores v. Reno that gives basic protections to children in government custody. Some attorneys in Texas say immigrant children in detention centers are being denied those protections.

UT Law School's Civil Rights Clinic Director Ranjana Natarajan says she and other attorneys filed a motion in federal court against immigrant detention centers in Texas this past Monday. One thing the attorneys argue is that, per Flores, keeping children in lockdown amounts to inhumane treatment.

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2015 Legislature
8:57 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Senate Finance Panel Starts Tackling Texas Budget

Members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee began tackling the 2016-2017 Texas budget at the State Capitol on Feb. 2, 2015.
Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

Members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee have begun meeting regularly to work on the state budget for the next two fiscal years.

Texas has an estimated $7.5 billion left over from the current two-year budget cycle, which gives lawmakers more money to work with as they plan state spending for the 2016-2017 budget.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says she’s willing to talk about options for that extra money, including paying down state debt.

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Texas
4:07 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

School Voucher Supporters Gather at Capitol

A rally for school vouchers at the Capitol Friday morning.
Credit Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush led a rally at the Capitol today in support of school vouchers and expanded charter school in Texas.

Bush served on the board of one of the state’s top charter-school operators, and his office oversees the nation's largest educational endowment. Also speaking was State Sen. Donna Campbell who, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, has been a strong supporter of vouchers that would funnel state funding to private and religious schools.

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Agenda Texas
8:18 am
Fri January 30, 2015

At the Capitol This Week, Anti-Islamic Protests and a Call for Contract Reform

State lawmakers trimmed about $5 billion from education spending in the last legislative session, which led to the elimination of 32,000 school jobs, according to a report.
Liang Shi/KUT News

This was supposed to be a fairly quiet week at the Legislature.

For the seventh session in a row, Muslim groups from across the state came to Austin for their regular lobby day, just like the lobby day for doctors, or bikers, or any special interest group. Only this time they were met by about 25 protesters, who yelled and held signs with anti-Islamic slogans and briefly took hold of the mic during speeches.

Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, joined the fray by instructing her staff to ask any Muslims who came into her office if they would “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and announce allegiance to America and our laws.” The council on American-Islamic relations has already sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus to see if those instructions violate House ethics rules.

The legislature also broached another currently controversial topic: the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).

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Texas
2:58 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Rep to Staff: Ask Muslim Visitors to Pledge Allegiance

Credit Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, was not in Austin today to celebrate Texas Muslim Capitol Day. But she left instructions for the staff in her Capitol office on how to handle visitors who were, including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States.

"I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws," she posted on Facebook. "We will see how long they stay in my office."

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Death Row
11:05 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Second Execution of the Year Set for Thursday

Texas' second execution of 2015 is set for today at 6 p.m. in Huntsville. Robert Ladd was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a Tyler, Tex., woman in 1996.

Ladd has spent 17 years on death row; he is 57 now.

The sexual assault and murder for which he's condemned occurred during a burglary at the home of the 38-year-old victim. Ladd was out on parole for another murder when he committed the 1996 murder.

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2015 Legislature
8:58 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Opponents of Texas Religious Freedom Bills Say They Lead to Discrimination

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, discusses her concerns with a proposed constitutional amendment at the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 27, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas lawmakers have filed bills that would protect people who claim that city ordinances, state or federal laws interfere with their religious beliefs.

The measures come as the right to same sex marriage gains more traction at the federal level and Texas cities pass measures that protect people based on their sexual preference.

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2015 Legislative Session
5:30 am
Thu January 22, 2015

If the Texas Legislature Were a Symphony, This is What it Would Sound Like

Each 140-day legislative session begins slowly, before reaching a frenetic pace at the end.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a story that originally ran in January 2013.

The Texas Legislature is back in session, though the casual observer might not know it.

This week, the highlights included the swearing in of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The Senate made changes to its rules yesterday. But you might notice that things are quiet when it comes to actual law-making. The clock is ticking: There’s 131 days left in the 140-day session.

And while it might seem like a slow start to the every-other-year meeting, actually, it’s all part of the plan.

In musical terms, each session has its own rhythm and tempo.

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Texas
5:33 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Paid Leave, Child Care Could Help Reduce Gender Inequalities

A study from UT Austin and the UC-Santa Barbara suggests if more workplaces support work-family balance, women are more likely to prefer egalitarian relationships.
Credit morgueFile

Most young women and men prefer to equally share family and work responsibilities, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California Santa Barbara.

The researchers found that regardless of their social class, both men and women ages 18 to 32 prefer relationships in which the woman isn’t doing more of the housework and the man isn't spending more time at work.

Women who participated in the survey say they’d prefer to not be the primary caregivers and homemakers, if they could have support from their workplaces.

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