State News

Texas Government
3:23 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Eltife, Hall, Estes receive leadership roles

Bob Hall (R-Van) will serve as Vice Chair on the Border Security Subcommittee.
Credit KETR

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has announced committee assignments for this year’s Texas Senate and Northeast Texas will be fairly well represented. Each one of the three Republican state senators from the KETR listening area has an assignment as either chair or vice-chair on one of the 14 committees in this session of the Texas Legislature.

Kevin Eltife of Tyler will chair the Committee on Business and Commerce. Eltife, whose district includes Lamar, Franklin and Wood Counties, will also serve on the Committee on Administration and the Committee on Finance.

Freshman Senator Bob Hall of Van has replaced Bob Deuell as the lawmaker representing Delta, Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, Rockwall and Van Zandt Counties, as well as part of Dallas County. Hall will serve as vice chair of the Border Security Subcommittee. That group will be led by chair Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury. Hall also received three other assignments, most notably on the Transportation Committee. Hall was also selected to serve on the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs and also on the Committee on Natural Resources and Economic development.

Craig Estes of Wichita Falls has a large North Texas district that includes part of Collin County, including Farmersville and Princeton. Estes lost his chairmanship of the Committee on State Affairs, though he will continue to serve in that group. Estes was replaced by Houston Republican Joan Huffman. Estes will be the vice chair of the Committee on Natural resources and economic development. Estes will also serve on three other committees: Health and Human Services, Nominations, and State Affairs.

Patrick eliminated four committees that were organized in the 2013 Senate. Absent from this year’s session will be last session’s committees on Open Government, Jurisprudence, Economic Development and Government Organization.

A closer look at the State Senators and their districts:

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Texas Government
3:12 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Lt. Gov. Patrick on Open Carry: The votes aren't there

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick cast doubt Tuesday on the possibility that a bill legalizing the open carry of handguns could pass during the current legislative session.
Credit NPR

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick cast doubt Tuesday on the possibility that a bill legalizing the open carry of handguns could pass during the current legislative session.

“Second Amendment rights are very important, but open carry does not reach to the level of prioritizing at this point,” he said. “I don’t think the votes are there.”

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Texas Tribune
10:17 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Report: Blind, deaf, disabled inmates abused in prison

A recent report alleges abuse of disabled prisoners at the state prison in Huntsville.
Credit KUT

Floyd Blackburn recently included the following anecdote in a letter from his cell at the Estelle Unit in Huntsville to the Prison Justice League, a prisoner rights group in Austin: “One sergeant stuck his hand through the bars of my cell and hit me on the head and said, ‘What are you going to do blind man? I will beat your blind ass.’” 

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Texas Education
9:53 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Lawmakers push to reclaim control over college tuition

Some Texas lawmakers are seeking to regain control of state college tuition rates.
Credit NPR

Some Texas lawmakers want to reclaim the right to set college tuition rates.  The legislature had given that authority to the schools in 2003.  But now, higher tuition costs are making college unaffordable for a section of Texas students and that is one of the reasons some lawmakers are rethinking that decision.

It’s a cold wintry day on the University of Texas campus in Austin,  the bells from the school’s fabled clock tower echo throughout campus.   Trevor Goodchild, a senior majoring in geography,  is bundled up as he heads for the financial aid office. 

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Texas Politics
2:48 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Analysis: Out of office, but not finished with politics

Susan Combs, the state's comptroller of public accounts for eight years, left that post this month as quietly as you can leave statewide office.
Credit State Comptroller's Office

Susan Combs, the state's comptroller of public accounts for eight years, left that post this month as quietly as you can leave statewide office.

The other Texans serving out their time in statewide office last year were either on the ballot looking for another job, on the ballot trying to keep the jobs they had, or off the ballot and thinking about national affairs and Iowa and New Hampshire and where to live after turning in the keys to the Governor’s Mansion.

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Texas Transportation
3:37 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Bill targets Toll Road's power to take land

A proposed private tollway to relieve traffic in the area appears to be dead.
Credit Texas Turnpike Corp.

A year ago, the Texas Turnpike Corporation was optimistic about its plans to build the state’s only private toll road northeast of Dallas.

But following several months of public backlash, the project appears all but dead, and the Legislature is being asked to drive the final nail into its coffin.

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Texas Tribune
10:50 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Performance bonuses few for Texas hospitals

Under a change mandated by federal health reform, more than 6 percent of Medicare payments to hospitals are now contingent on performance.
Credit NPR

Because they did a relatively good job keeping patients happy and alive, among other measures, a slim majority of Texas hospitals have earned cash bonuses under a federal program that rewards high performance by hospitals that receive Medicare reimbursements.

But what Medicare giveth, it taketh away. Many of the hospitals earning performance bonuses won't see any cash as a result, because two different Medicare evaluation programs are penalizing them for shortcomings in the care provided to patients.

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Texas Government
3:18 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

McCaul Plan would fund Guard, aid Border Patrol

U.S. Border Patrol agents say that illegal traffic on public and private land in the Rio Grande Valley has triggered the need for additional resources in the region this year.
Credit NPR

The U.S. Border Patrol would have greater freedom to patrol federally protected lands, and the Texas National Guard would be fully funded for permanent border security operations if a key Texas Republican has better luck on immigration legislation with a new Congress.

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Texas Government
3:16 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Abbott, Patrick take oath of office

Governor Greg Abbott took his oath of office this morning on the steps of the capitol, succeeding Rick Perry, who served 14 years as governor of Texas.
Credit NPR

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

In a moment he called "highly improbable," Greg Abbott became the 48th governor of Texas in a ceremony on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Tuesday. His wife, Cecilia Abbott, became the first Latina first lady of Texas.

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Texas Government
3:08 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Straus aims to expand authority for House investigations

Representative Joe Straus was elected Speaker of the House for the fourth time on Tuesday.
Credit State of Texas

Fresh off his re-election to a fourth term as House speaker, Republican Joe Straus plans to beef up the House’s ability to investigate state agencies and employees.

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Texas Government
3:39 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Northeast Texas delegation split on Speaker vote

Dan Flynn (R-Van), although strongly allied with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party of Texas, supported Joe Straus for a fourth term as House Speaker. Flynn has cited what he says are Straus' effectiveness at passing legislation and familiarity with the processes of Texas government.
Credit provided image

San Antonio Republican Joe Straus was re-elected to his fourth term as House Speaker today in the first vote of the 84th Texas Legislature. Straus defeated Frisco Republican Scott Turner 128-19. Turner, who represents Rockwall County and part of Collin County (District 33), was supported in his challenge by Tea Party groups and others who said Straus was insufficiently conservative.

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Texas Government
3:09 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Gun advocates take up - and make - arms at Texas Capitol

Gun rights advocates used 3-D printing technology to create parts for an AR-15 rifle similar to the one pictured.
Credit NPR

As Texas lawmakers convened for the first day of the 2015 legislative session Tuesday, about a dozen activists carrying a variety of firearms gathered in front of the state Capitol to protest gun laws.

Members of Come and Take It Texas — a group that organizes armed rallies to protest gun laws and one of several pushing to scrap the state's handgun licensing requirements this session — also demonstrated how to make a weapon with a machine known as the Ghost Gunner.

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Texas Government
2:43 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Straus re-elected as House Speaker

Joe Straus
Credit NPR

With the backing of 85 percent of the Texas House, San Antonio Republican Joe Straus was re-elected to his fourth term Tuesday. 

Straus drew 128 votes for re-election against challenger state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, who drew 19 votes. Turner had worked for the last year campaigning to unseat Straus with the backing of a coalition of Tea Party and conservative groups, all of whom viewed Straus as insufficiently conservative. 

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Texas Government
10:43 am
Tue January 13, 2015

Turner supporters rally in advance of vote

Scott Turner has waged a spirited campaign to become House Speaker.
Credit NPR

“If God gives me the grace to see tomorrow, I’ll be so happy,” state Rep. Scott Turner told more than 100 people crammed into a La Quinta meeting room in downtown Austin on Monday. 

Many in the crowd nodded. They all knew what was so special about tomorrow. At noon, a new legislative session would commence down the street at the Capitol, and the 150 members of the Texas House would vote for their speaker, choosing between two Republicans: Turner of Frisco, and the incumbent, Joe Straus of San Antonio. 

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Texas Government
3:51 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Dan Patrick and the two-thirds rule: A primer

Credit NPR

In 2007, a Republican state senator from Houston chose the first day of his first legislative session to mount a charge against one of the Texas Legislature’s most storied traditions.

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