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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Austin
5:04 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Former Texas Lawmaker & KUT Board Member Ray Farabee Dies

Mrs. Mary Margaret and former State Senator Ray Farabee at the KUT Public Media Studios Grand Opening in November
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.

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2015 Legislative Session
12:24 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Bill Filings Begin: Four Things to Look for in the 2015 Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, but what will lawmakers be considering?
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.

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Child Protective Services
5:36 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Experts Say Texas Child Protective Services Needs Help from Community Members

State Reps. Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, left, and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, are members of the Texas House Select Committee on Child Protection. The committee hosted a public hearing on Sept. 30, 2014.
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.

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Texas Standard
3:48 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

What Texas Voters Need to Know Before Heading to the Polls

Texas Governor Rick Perry after a cerimonial signing of Senate Bill 14, which requires voters to present photo IDs upon registration and at the polls.
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. 

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Texas Standard at Tribune Fest
3:13 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

State Sen. José Rodríguez: 'Education is the Highest Priority'

Texas Standard Host David Brown, left, with Senator José Rodriguez (D-El Paso)
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.

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Immigration
7:31 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

National Guard, DPS Border Deployments Cost Texas Up to $18 Million a Month

The presence of Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops cost the state between $17 and 18 million every month, according to the LBB.
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. 

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Abortion and Women's Health
9:05 am
Fri July 18, 2014

The Texas Abortion Debate Continues a Year After HB 2 Was Signed Into Law

Wendy Davis' HB 2 filibuster, catapulting her into the national limelight and serving as a springboard for her gubernatorial campaign.
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.

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Sunset Advisory Commission
4:20 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Sunset Commission Hears Testimony on Closing Austin State Supported Living Center

Members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission are hearing testimony from the public on June 25, 2014 about reports recommending reforms of several state agencies.
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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Anniversay of Davis Fillibuster
1:27 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Listen: When Wendy Davis and a Deafening Roar Slowed Texas' New Abortion Law

Sen. Wendy Davis suring her 11-hour filibuster last June 25.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

June 25 marks the one-year anniversary of Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster on the Texas Senate floor.

It was one year ago that Democratic Sen. Davis began an 11-hour filibuster intended to derail Senate Bill 5, a bill containing several new restrictions on abortion. While Davis' filibuster ended before the legislature adjourned, a supportive crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in cheers and screams minutes before the midnight deadline to pass SB 5 – squashing Republican efforts to pass it that night.

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Sunset Advisory Commission
9:15 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Commission Hears Input on Fixing Major Flaws of Texas Agencies

The Sunset Advisory Commission's first day of public meetings about recommendations to reform state agencies took place on June 24, 2014.
KUT News

The second day of the Sunset Advisory Commission’s public meetings at the Capitol is underway.

Today, the public can comment on recommendations made in recent commission staff reports on how to fix major flaws at state agencies, including the Department of Family Protective Services. A June report [click here for PDF] of the Sunset Advisory Commission had about 100 pages of recommendations for reforming the department.

Sunset staff member and project manager Amy Tripp, who worked on the report, told lawmakers Tuesday that caseworkers complain about the punitive work environment.

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Texas
2:07 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Texas Politics To Be Lone Star Of New HBO Series

A large Texas flag is carried up Congress Avenue toward the Texas Capitol during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State in Austin in February 2013.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 2:54 pm

Between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Wendy Davis, Texas politicians in recent years have lived up to their state's reputation for producing larger-than-life characters.

That makes the Texas political scene a natural for the Hollywood treatment.

HBO has given God Save Texas, a drama about the state's often raucous political culture, the green light for development. It's set to unfold at the Texas statehouse, a perennial flashpoint for national debates about issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the size and role of government.

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Medical Marijuana
12:08 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Why Veterans Could Influence Texas Medical Marijuana Laws

A story in Texas Monthly's June issue poses the question: Can Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers against legalizing medical marijuana?
flickr.com/eggrole

Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana?

William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly. In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says. 

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Texas
7:24 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Texas Agriculture Group Wants Tighter Controls on Ammonium Nitrate

An apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant was destroyed in an explosion April 2013. State lawmakers are considering ways to increase safety at facilities storing ammonium nitrate.
Credit Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

A Texas agriculture industry group is calling for more stringent reporting by people who possess the fertilizer ammonium nitrate. The Texas Ag Industries Association (TAIA) wants people with fewer than 10,000 pounds of the chemical to disclose to state officials how much they're storing and where.

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Medical Marijuana
6:23 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Why a Conservative Christian Group Joined Austin Marijuana Marchers

A conservative Christian organization is calling for legalized medicinal marijuana as a treatment for autism.
flickr.com/eggrole

Marijuana advocates will march on the Texas Capitol Saturday as part of the annual Worldwide Marijuana March. In Austin, the marchers will include members of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), a newly-founded organization which describes itself as a conservative Christian group calling for the legalization of medicinal marijuana use in Texas.

“We are working now with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. They’re a group out of Harris County. They are drafting a bill,"  says MAMMA co-founder and executive director Thalia Michelle. "We believe that Marijuana Policy Project will also be introducing a medicinal cannabis bill."

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Mental Health
4:22 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Mental Health Support for Texas Inmates on Lawmakers' Agenda

Texas lawmakers hosted a hearing on April 22, 2014, to look into what else should be done to provide mental health services for inmates at state facilities.
Liang Shi, KUT News

Texas lawmakers are looking into whether more should be done to provide mental health services for inmates at state prisons.

Prison officials say inmates already have access to medication and individual or group counseling for mental illness. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston says the legislature has provided enough mental health funding in recent years for prisoners and parolees. And, he says, it shows.

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Mental Health
1:13 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Fighting Stigma of Mental Illness Goal of New Texas Nonprofit

Despite money put towards mental health care in Texas last legislative session, Texas ranks near the bottom in spending per capita on mental health. A new mental health policy nonprofit in Texas will work to identify ways to improve access to services.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Improving mental health practices for Texas and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is the goal of a new statewide institute. Its focus will be on children, veterans and criminal justice policies.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute opened its doors today. Tom Luce, its chief executive officer, says the nonprofit will do research to improve access to mental health care in Texas – and not just after emergencies like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

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Education
6:48 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Texas Representatives Hear Update On HB 5 Implementation

State lawmakers gathered at the capitol Wednesday to discuss the implementation of HB 5, which changes graduation requirements for high school students. The law is expected to be fully in place by the next academic year.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Lawmakers were at the Texas Capitol Wednesday talking about the implementation of House Bill 5, the bill that changes graduation requirements and reduces the number of end of course exams for high school students    The meeting gave lawmakers an opportunity to express concerns with the new standards, while teachers, superintendents and education officials gave a status update on implementation.

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Education
4:30 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Another Step in Texas Program Allowing School Marshals to Pack Guns

Law enforcement trainers are in San Marcos this week, learning how to teach the school marshal program.
flickr.com/smarterlam

The groups that will train Texans in the state's controversial school marshals program – allowing an undercover, armed staff member on school campuses – gathered in San Marcos today.

"You’re not going to see someone walking around looking like Joe SWAT, but a normal teacher," said Boake Slape, one of the 18 law enforcement trainers at the training facility. "You won’t even know. But if a problem is going to happen, they can respond much quicker than a police department or sheriff’s department can."  

 

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Women's Health
7:34 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Stance On Texas Women's Health Program Depends On Party Affiliation

Abortion-rights activists took part in an event with Democratic lawmakers at the Texas State Capitol on Feb. 20, 2014.
Sam Ortega, KUT

Women's healthcare has been a political seesaw in the Texas legislature the last few years -- from budget cuts in 2011 to budget increases in 2013.

Yesterday a Texas Senate committee heard how women's health programs were doing, with the answer falling along party lines.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, says Texas has never spent as much on women’s health as it does right now, and she says she wanted to "set the record straight" during a hearing of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee -- the committee she chairs.

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