Texas Legislature

From education to abortion, roads to water, taxes, budgets and more – if it’s important to Texas, it’s come before the Texas Legislature.

The 83rd session of the Texas Legislature concluded this summer, following one regular and three special sessions. New abortion restrictions, funding agreements for state infrastructure projects, and changes to public education took center stage. But with hundreds of other laws approved, the 2013 legislative session will impact Texas in numerous other ways for years to come.

Covering the Texas Legislature for KUT is Agenda Texas, your guide to everything under the Capitol dome and how it hits home. Agenda Texas is a co-production of KUT 90.5 FM and our reporting partners The Texas Tribune.

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Liang Shi/KUT News

The Texas legislative session ends Monday, and there's not a bunch left for lawmakers to do between today and next week. No more bills can be voted on. Now it's all about conference committees. Those are the groups made up of five House members and five Senators who will be huddled together in meeting rooms and hallways around the Capitol this weekend, trying to come to an agreement on bills that the House and Senate each passed different versions of.

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

There's a buffet of tax cuts lying before state lawmakers this session, and cut supporters say the state wins no matter what gets put on its plate.

Lawmakers have served up plans to cut business franchise taxes, slice sales tax rates and even nibbled around the idea of a proposal to phase out property taxes entirely. While some of these proposals won’t make the plate this session, the state is prepped to approve billions in tax cuts before the legislature’s regular session gavels out in six weeks.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas constitution requires lawmakers to pass one bill each session: the state budget, which was under (rather lengthy) discussion last week in the House and in the Senate this week. But governors can push their own to-do list at the start of each session in the form of emergency items.

In February, newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott named five of those priorities during his February State of the State speech, and today we're going to see how those bills are doing, by ranking their legislative progress so far this session.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

Thursday morning at about 9:15, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple.

You may have already heard about the marriage, but do you know what happened in the hour before that ceremony or the hours that followed?

Let’s spend a few minutes explaining what happened, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It's about a month into the 84th Texas Legislative session, and this week saw the first cracks in any unified front among the state's Republican leadership.

Just like every Texas legislative session – ever, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House won't always agree on things. And that was highlighted this week in the debate over border security.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Two weeks ago Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments, and, this week, House Speaker Joe Straus did the same. That means the sounds that now fill the House and Senate chambers –  of lawmakers giving congratulatory resolutions – is about to change.

Bills often make the news only to quickly disappear from public discourse. Some, like one that moved in the Legislature this week on open carry, gain attention and momentum. Why do some bills fade away while others don't? The answer sometimes lies with House and Senate committees.

How to Pass a Bill

The journey from bill filing to governor's signature is a long and, about 70 percent of the time, unsuccessful journey.  First up, bill referral, when bills are read for the first time in either the House or Senate and then sent to a committee.

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).

Rep to Staff: Ask Muslim Visitors to Pledge Allegiance

Jan 29, 2015
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."

Todd Wiseman & Stuart Seeger/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

Two weeks down in the 84th Texas Legislature. This one was filled with the pomp of Inauguration Day, and the curious circumstance of the Texas Senate's rules for bringing up a bill. But today's Agenda Texas talks about the state budget.

Out of the billions and billions spent, there are two numbers to focus on to help understand it all.

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.

RickPerryGoodbye
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

It's KUT's political podcast that let you know what's happening under the dome, and explain how it hits home.

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This week, lawmakers from across the state have returned to Austin for the 84th session of the Texas Legislature. The beginning marked the end, at least for now, of the two long political careers of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.

Paul Woodruff

Kenneth “Ray” Farabee died at his home in Austin on Thursday, November 20, 2014.  He was 81.

Farabee was born in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932. He graduated from Wichita Falls High School before attending the University of Texas at Austin. Ray was elected Student Body President at UT and served with the National Student Association where he traveled the nation working with other university student government organizations.

Liang Shi for KUT

It's that time of the biennium.

The 84th Texas Legislature is just a few short months away, and state lawmakers are already filing their bills for the first Rick Perry-less session this side of the millennium. So far, the bills include legislative pet projects like texting and driving bans, open carry initiatives and tax cuts. Other proposals target tougher statewide issues like transportation funding and state budgeting.

You can find a roundup of issues that state lawmakers are considering below.

KUT News

A federal commission is researching how the U.S. can reduce the number of deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Today, a member of that group told Texas lawmakers that no one state agency is to blame for these child fatalities.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is working on a report for Congress and the President on how the U.S. can fight child deaths. The commission’s Susan Dreyfus says more people like doctors, police officers and caretakers need to call Child Protective Services when they see a child at risk.

Flickr user: Covernor Rick Perry, https://flic.kr/p/9Mx7Xy

With the November elections just over two months away, Texans around the state are registering or renewing their voter status. That is, if they first have a government-issued identification card.

Texas' voter ID law is currently being challenged in court by the U.S. Department of Justice, but until a decision is reached, Texans will be required to show an ID to register as voters. But what does this mean for voters in rural areas? Or for Texans who mail in their ballots? 

Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry is in charge of informing Texans of the voter ID law and how to register. Berry sits down with Texas Standard host David Brown to discuss the requirements for voter registration, and how to attain a government-issued ID before the November elections. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Even after a weekend full of panels and discussion of Texas politics and policy at The Texas Tribune Festival, many political wonks are looking to the main event: January's new legilative session. 

State Senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, sat down with Texas Standard host David Brown during the festival to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda, the state's budget surplus, the upcoming election for governor and more.

Image courtesy flickr.com/hapal

Texas is the worst state in the nation when it comes to nursing home quality, according to a new report from a national advocacy group – Families for Better Care.

The group has ranked Texas last for the second year in a row, so Texas lawmakers have been discussing what to do to change this when they return to Austin in January.

Julian Aguilar/Texas Tribune

Sending additional state police and National Guard troops to the border will cost Texas between $17 million and $18 million dollars a month. That's according to a presentation Tuesday by top officials with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), who told state lawmakers they will have to find a way to keep paying for it. 

About one-third of that cost is for salaries, travel and other expenses of Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers sent to the border as part of "Operation Strong Safety II."  Close to two-thirds of the $18 million will cover salary, meals, lodging and other costs of deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops. 

State Senator Wendy Davis on the floor of the Texas Senate on June 25, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Last legislative session, House Bill 2 proved to be a landmark moment for the abortion debate in Texas. It further politicized the issue both sides of the aisle, garnered national media attention, boosted political profiles and launched campaigns.

When the debate was over and it finally passed, HB 2 established a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, required clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers, and forced abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Gov. Rick Perry signing the bill into law.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission are hearing from the public today about reports recommending large-scale changes to several state agencies – including shutting down six state-supported living centers. 

Most people at the Capitol are testifying in support of the Sunset staff’s report on the Department of Family and Protective Services and severe inadequacies that lead to child deaths and caseworker turnover. But others are there to testify against a Sunset staff report [click here for PDF] suggesting the Department of Aging and Disability Services should shutter the Austin State Supported Living Center, off of W. 35th Street near Camp Mabry, by 2017.

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