State News

Texas Geography
1:03 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

Disappearing Rio Grande: A look back at 10 stories

Credit State Impact Texas

Six months ago, on June 19, Colin McDonald set out to explore the Rio Grande from its source in Colorado. From Stony Pass, he has followed the river by boat and, when the water got too shallow or vanished entirely, by foot. Along the way, he’s talked to ranchers, farmers, fishermen, public officials — anyone who can help tell the story of the river. He’s been joined by photographers who bring the river to life.

The Rio Grande is an incredibly important river, yet in many places very little is known about it. Colin is working to change that.

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Texas Government
5:05 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Health Chief says he was misled on no-bid deal

Credit Texas Health and Human Services Commission

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

Texas Health and Human Services Commission chief Kyle Janek said Tuesday he was misled in briefings on a no-bid, $110 million deal handed to an Austin company for unproven software to detect Medicaid fraud.

Janek said the Office of Inspector General, the commission’s audit arm, should have alerted him that its contract with 21 Century Technologies Inc., also known as 21CT, “proceeded outside the normal channels” for approval.

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Texas Government
2:40 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Analysis: Picking Straus, taking names

House Speaker Joe Straus, left, faces a challenge from Frisco state Rep. Scott Turner.
Credit Todd Wiseman / Laura Buckman / The Texas Tribune

Lawmakers love and hate voting on issues because they hate to be pinned down.

That makes no real political difference most of the time, as when legislators plow through resolutions honoring constituents and commemorating historical events.

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Texas Government
3:07 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

As statewide smoking ban stalls, cities go it alone

Credit NPR

A decision by the Paris City Council in March to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants, angered Brent McKee. A restaurant owner, McKee was thinking about the customers who enjoyed a cigarette or two while nursing their morning coffee.

“I built this with my blood and sweat, and then they come in and they tell me what I can and cannot do? That upset me,” he said of the ban.

Now, McKee reluctantly acknowledges a change of heart.

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Texas Education
3:08 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

For public schools, what to watch in next session

Credit NPR

When Texas lawmakers come back to Austin in January, there will be a new governor who touts public schools as a top priority, and plenty of money in the state bank account. But that doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly as the 84th Legislature navigates public education policy.

Here are five things to watch when the legislative session gets underway:

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Texas Politics
2:45 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

In bid for Speaker, Turner looks to beat the odds

Credit NPR

Scott Turner has never been the type to take things slow.

In high school and college, he was known for his fast feet, a talent that led to an eight-season career in the NFL despite naysayers telling him he was too small.

“The Lord gave me a great gift to run,” Turner said with a smile during a recent interview at his North Texas office.

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Texas Environment
3:23 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Regulators pan study on methane gas in wells

Credit NPR

Texas regulators say they put little stock in recent research suggesting that poorly drilled gas wells are allowing methane to seep into a North Texas aquifer, and will not re-examine the high-profile contamination case.

“There are no plans to reopen the investigation,” Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, said Friday.

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Texas Politics
3:31 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Perry planning farewell speech to legislators

Governor Perry passes his job to Greg Abbott on January 20, 2015.
Credit KUT

The Texas Legislature might not have heard the last from outgoing Gov. Rick Perry, who's made an exit request that is unusual for governors of the Lone Star State — at least in recent decades.

Perry has proposed addressing a joint session of the Legislature one more time before he leaves office, Felix Browne, the governor’s spokesman, confirmed on Sunday.

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Texas Government
4:01 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Lawmakers set $7 billion 'floor' for Rainy Day Fund

Credit NPR

The state’s savings account should hold at least $7 billion for the next three years to maintain the state’s high credit ratings and ensure the state is ready for an unforeseen emergency, a group of lawmakers decided Thursday morning.

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Texas Education
7:48 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Texas to close 14 charter school operators

Texas plans to shut down 14 charter school operators.
Credit NPR

Texas will shut down 14 charter school operators that failed to meet heightened financial and academic performance rules this year, state education officials announced on Dec. 9.  

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Texas Health
3:09 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Bid to consolidate Texas health agencies moves forward

Credit texastribune.org

With the next legislative session a month away, lawmakers are preparing to move forward with a planned consolidation of the state’s five health agencies into a single commission.

Members of the Sunset Advisory Commission, a panel that includes lawmakers and makes periodic reviews of state agencies and programs, unanimously approved on Wednesday a recommendation to combine the massive Health and Human Services Commission and the four smaller agencies it oversees.

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Texas Transportation
3:13 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Abbott plans to add $4 billion to road funding

Greg Abbott said boosting transportation funding would be a priority for him during his first term as governor.
Credit NPR

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has set himself a tall order for his first legislative session: nearly closing the Texas Department of Transportation’s $5 billion annual budget shortfall.

“I’ve outlined a detailed plan that will ensure that we add $4 billion more per year for building roads in this state without raising taxes, fees or tolls,” Abbott said at a press conference Monday.

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Texas Education
3:32 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Abbott says education will be top policy priority

Governor-elect Greg Abbott begins his term on January 20th, 2015.
Credit NPR

During a Capitol news conference in which he announced the selection of his senior staff, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said Monday that education will be his top policy priority.

Abbott said he wants to improve the educational foundation that students receive in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. "I want to ensure that all children finish the third grade reading and doing math at or above grade level," he said.

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Texas Politics
4:29 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Analysis: After the elections, fundraising quickens

Credit NPR

The elections are over. Campaign fundraising is not.

If anything, it is surging.

State officeholders — the re-elected and the newly elected — are raising money before a Dec. 13 deadline that prohibits them from accepting political contributions until June 22, a period that includes the regular legislative session every other year and a three-week veto period that follows it.

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Texas Politics
3:47 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Perry stepping up his Presidential game

Governor Perry wants to make sure that if he runs again, he is well-prepared.
Credit NPR

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

If he opts to run for president again, Gov. Rick Perry wants to ensure that his entry into the field bears little resemblance to 2011, when he jumped into the Republican presidential primaries with little preparation or forethought.

He is entertaining potential donors and backers at the Governor's Mansion this week, and planning long meetings with policy experts over the next few weeks.

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