State News

News pertaining to the state of Texas.

Railroad Commission Executive Director to retire

22 hours ago
Milton Rister

Texas’ oil and gas regulator is losing one of its leaders.

Milton Rister, executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission, plans to leave the agency on Aug. 31, according to a letter he sent to commissioners Wednesday.

The former Republican political operative and aide to former Gov. Rick Perry will depart after nearly three years in the position.

Emails provide rare glimpse into Abbott's world

Jun 25, 2015
NPR

The governor hit the send button just before midnight.

It was his sixth day on the job and he was feeling the weight of tragedy inside the state’s foster care system.

“Maybe the best way to start would be with the simplest and most profound idea,” Gov. Greg Abbott wrote his top aides on that Sunday evening. “No more child deaths.”

New consul takes on Mexico's Texas Diaspora

Jun 24, 2015
Consulado General de México de Austin

California has more Mexican immigrants living within its borders than Texas. But in the Lone Star State, the Mexican community is much more diverse. That's just one takeaway from Mexican Consul Carlos González Gutiérrez. After one month at the helm of Austin's 75-year-old consulate general's office, González, who served most recently as his country's consul in Sacramento, discussed the challenges and benefits of being a Mexican national in the capital city.

Toll road projects in limbo following session

Jun 24, 2015
Mark Haslett

The Texas Legislature began this year’s session with a major case of toll fatigue. After more than a decade of letting local and state planners partially fund large highway projects through toll collections, most lawmakers had little appetite left for such projects. Some talked openly about scrapping many tolls already in place.

Trade clears Senate hurdle, despite Cruz backing out

Jun 24, 2015
NPR

Despite Sen. Ted Cruz’s eleventh-hour change of heart on the biggest vote since he became a presidential candidate, the U.S. Senate cleared a major procedural hurdle Tuesday that will likely give President Obama the authority to negotiate the largest trade deal in American history.

Momentum builds to remove UT Confederate statue

Jun 22, 2015
utexas.edu

A push to remove a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the campus of the University of Texas at Austin has gained new momentum after last week's deadly shooting in a black church in South Carolina.

Texas politicians return money from white supremacist

Jun 22, 2015
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz announced he was returning $8,500 in contributions from a known white supremacist.
NPR

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Cruz's plans for the campaign donations.

A number of elected officials from Texas are parting ways with campaign donations from the white supremacist leader of a group tied to the recent massacre at a church in South Carolina.

Earl Holt, a Longview man who heads the Missouri-based Council of Conservative Citizens, has given to dozens of Republican candidates and causes across the country, according to federal records. In Texas, he has spread around several thousand dollars over the past four years, state records show.

Supreme Court: Texas does not have to make Confederate license plates

Jun 18, 2015
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Texas has the authority to reject designs for its specialty license plate program.
provided image

The U.S. Supreme Court has backed Texas’ decision to forbid specialty license plates sporting an image of the Confederate flag, a ruling that could have national implications for how free speech protections apply to government services. 

In a 5-4 ruling released Thursday morning, the court ruled that messages on license plates constitute "government speech," as the state of Texas had maintained in court filings and oral arguments. 

Preying on Texas prisoners: When guards demand sex

Jun 17, 2015
Texas prison records name 133 employees, contractors and volunteers indicted on sex charges in cases involving prisoners between 2000 and 2014. Of those convicted, nine were sentenced to serve time in jail.
NPR

As a prison nurse, Domenic Hidalgo had access to prescription medication, a highly coveted commodity among the inmates at the Clements Unit in Texas, the state prison where Hidalgo worked. 

He tried to use that access to get what he wanted: sex with Matthew, a prisoner at the facility. When Matthew reported Hidalgo’s advances to prison staff in April of 2011, officers wired him with a recording device and told him to prove it. 

Eltife not running for re-election in 2016

Jun 15, 2015
State Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) was recently elected president pro tempore of the Texas Senate.
provided image

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, has decided not to run for re-election in 2016, bringing to a close more than two decades in public service and setting off a potentially crowded GOP primary to replace him.

Road maintenance is a major responsibility of Texas Counties.
StateImpact Texas

An effort to overhaul the county revenue system in Texas didn't get very far in the 2015 Texas Legislature. Lonnie Hunt, a former Houston County judge and current County Relations Officer for the Texas Association of Counties, says that he understands the frustration with the high property taxes that fund county budgets. However, he also points out that Texans pay more in sales taxes than in property taxes.    

UT reviewing claims that basketball players cheated

Jun 11, 2015
Walker transferred to Oakland University in Michigan.
University of Texas

The University of Texas at Austin is reviewing several allegations of cheating or academic noncompliance by former basketball players during the tenure of former men's coach Rick Barnes, school officials confirmed Wednesday.

The school has also notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association about the allegations, which were first raised publicly in a Wednesday article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Abbott signs 'Pastor Protection Act' into law

Jun 11, 2015
Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB #2065 into law today. Sen. Craig Estes R-Wichita Falls and Rep. Scott Sanford R-McKinney authored the bill.
NPR

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from state Rep. Celia Israel.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed a bill Thursday that allows clergy members to refuse to conduct marriages that violate their beliefs, said that "pastors now have the freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights."

Chairman of Water Development Board stepping down

Jun 10, 2015
StateImpact Texas

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, has announced he is stepping down after serving in the position for nearly two years.

Abbott nixes water conservation, contract bidding bills

Jun 10, 2015
StateImpact Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott has vetoed two more bills in the aftermath of the 84th legislative session, including a proposal that aimed to curb water use by prisons, particularly in times of drought.

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