High Plains Public Radio

Texas Legislature

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Conservative Texas lawmakers have seen hope in the election of Donald Trump when it comes to abortion legislation.

As The Daily Beast reports, in the wake of Trump’s election, Texas Republicans have filed multiple bills banning abortions. The laws are being decried by critics as a bridge too far, even by Texas standards.

Dallas Morning News

Hundreds of bills were filed this week by Texas lawmakers, who are hoping to shepherd their legislation through the process of becoming law.

Most of the bills are DOA. Last year, for example, 6,400 bills were filed in the Lone Star State. And only one in five of those made it all the way to becoming law.

Here are some of the more unique potential laws on offer this year, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News.  

Wikimedia Commons

There’s a lot more happening on Lone Star ballots today besides Trump vs. Clinton. Here are some things to watch for tonight in Texas, courtesy The Dallas Morning News.

Illusive Photography / Flickr Creative Commons

Five years ago Texas slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs. That same year, a new study shows, the state experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths.

Kiichiro Sato / AP photo

The State of Texas has given up the fight—for now—on trying to prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining birth certificates for their children born legally in the States.

Patrick Michels / Texas Observer

There’s a major movement afoot in American politics, notes The Texas Observer, but it’s seldom mentioned by name. It’s known as dominion theology, or dominionism, and Texas is one of it’s main strongholds. It began as a fringe evangelical sect in the 1970s, but now dominion theology has grown to reach the highest levels of power in the Lone Star State. Dominionism fundamentally opposes the separation of church and state.

Callie Richmond / Bob Daemmrich / Pete Souz / Texas Tribune

The State of Texas has sued the Obama administration 40 times since the president took office in 2008. All told, the lawsuits have cost taxpayers over $5 million. So, The Texas Tribune wondered, what is the Lone Star State getting for its money? Texas has definitively won 15 percent of its cases, or six of them. The state has lost 10 of its challenges. And the state withdrew eight of the cases.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Health advocates cheered this week when Oklahoma officials announced they were considering expanding Medicaid in that state. Oklahoma has been missing out on millions of federal health care dollars with its decision to not participate in the Affordable Care Act. But with ballooning budget problems and rising health care costs in the state, opting out no longer seems viable. And that means Texas could be next, reports member station KUT.

Callie Richmond / Texas Tribune

Providers of early childhood intervention programs in Texas are deeply troubled by budget cuts, reports The Texas Tribune. In-home therapy providers have been warning that the work they do for families and children could be in jeopardy because of severe budget cuts. The cuts were ordered last year by Republican lawmakers in the Texas Legislature.

Texas Tribune

In Texas, all state agencies must win legislative permission every 12 years to remain open. But who decides if these agencies stay alive? The task is handled by what’s known as the Sunset Advisory Commission, reports The Texas Tribune. It’s the commission’s job to periodically recommend changes in how agencies operate.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

When Texas lawmakers leave office, they often have a sizable amount of money still sitting in their campaign war chests. What they choose to do with that money can vary widely, reports The Texas Tribune. For example, Sen. Kevin Eltife, who is not seeking re-election, had well over a million at the end of last year. And Rep.

Eric Kounce / Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in 12 years, Texas job creation has been lagging behind the rest of the nation. The numbers come from a new study by the Austin non-profit Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. “The ‘Texas Miracle,’ as our state’s nation-leading economic engine has been dubbed, is currently on ice,” said Dale Craymer, the author of the report.

National Conference of State Legislatures / fivethirtyeight

Are higher-paid legislators better at running their states? There are two schools of thought. Many experts believe when it comes to state government, you get what you pay for. Conversely, states where lawmakers bring in higher salaries have often been linked with corruption. Even so, states like Texas with a very low legislative income are certainly not free from corruption. And low pay can limit state representation to the wealthy.

Blake Rocap campaign / Texas Observer

The Texas Observer has been busy. In a massive file, they’ve aggregated every campaign photo of every candidate actively running for the Texas Legislature this year. Here are some of the Observer’s more interesting discoveries:

25 of this year’s campaign photos prominently feature the Texas Capitol. The most common pose was the crossed-arm-candidate-with-attitude. This posture can be seen in 23 of the pictures. The images feature 23 cowboy hats, two tractors, five horses and 13 dogs.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Early voting started yesterday in Texas. And despite the way presidential politics have dominated the headlines, there are other elections happening this year.

American Life League / Flickr Creative Commons

Houston found itself at the center of a political firestorm this week, when a grand jury investigating wrongdoing against Planned Parenthood instead indicted two abortion opponents.

Texas Senate Video

The Texas Observer just released a list of Texas politicians’ most embarrassing internet moments of 2015, and there are some doozies. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was taken to task for his habit of photographing himself. At one point, Patrick held up a Senate Education Committee hearing so that he could take a selfie in front of the panel.

New Texas Laws Take Effect on New Year's Day

Jan 1, 2016
Pal Weaver / Creative Commons

A number of measures passed by the 84th Legislature will become law today, reports The Amarillo Globe-News. The most high-profile of these is the state’s controversial new open carry legislation. People with concealed handgun licenses will now be allowed to carry their firearms openly. However, guns will not be allowed in schools, hospitals, courthouses, some government buildings or in businesses and other private properties posting “handguns prohibited” signs.

Amarillo State Rep. John Smithee to Seek Re-election

Dec 8, 2015
amarillo.com

Amarillo state rep. John Smithee has been considering retirement for a few years. But now he plans to seek another two-year term in House District 86, reports Amarillo.com. Supporters say that, due to his seniority, Smithee’s reelection will mean the Texas Panhandle will hold clout in the state legislature.

KUT news

Texas lawmakers are trying to determine how much the decline in oil prices is hurting ranchers, reports KUT. The topic is one of the interim charges for the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock. That means, the committee has been asked to study the issue before the next legislative session.

In Integrity Rankings, Every State Scores Poorly

Nov 16, 2015
Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has released its 2015 State Integrity Investigation, reports The Rural Blog. The rankings are based on various measures of legislative integrity, transparency, and accountability. And the news isn’t good. No state scored higher than a C overall.

In Texas, Property Tax Relief Comes at a Cost

Oct 13, 2015
Peoria Public Radio

Texan voters are likely to approve a constitutional amendment next month that will provide a bit of relief from property taxes, according to The Texas Observer. The measure is expected to save homeowners’ property an estimated $126 per year on average—but it comes with its own price tag.

Texas to Combine Women's Health Programs

Sep 30, 2015
Callie Richmond / Texas Tribune

Texas health officials are working to consolidate two of the state’s main women’s health programs, according to The Texas Tribune. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Wednesday that it would combine the services to create the “Healthy Texas Women” program. Lawmakers say the consolidation will improve efficiency. The new initiative will begin on July first.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Starting in September, Texas will have one set of procedures for politicians and bureaucrats and another set for everybody else.

Abbot Campaign Takes in Massive Nine-Day Haul

Jul 19, 2015
Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

Potential challengers to Governor Greg Abbot in the 2018 elections will be in for a fight, reports the Texas Tribune.  Last month, Abbot raised $8.3 million over a period of nine days.

In the first six months of this year, Abbot’s campaign has spent $2.5 million, leaving him with a war chest of almost $18 million dollars—a daunting sum for even the most well-heeled of opponents.

Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

When it comes to gerrymandering, or the redrawing of political lines to favor a political party, Texas has come under fire over the past couple of decades. Republican lawmakers in Austin have consistently redrawn the map to ensure that Republicans would fare better in elections.

Denton Fracking Ban Tees Up Local Control Fight

Mar 17, 2015

The city of Denton put a bulls eye on the friction between local control and the oil and gas industry when the city banned hydraulic fracturing last fall, Now, lawmakers are weighing in, and it looks like local control is headed for a beating report Jim Malewitz for The Texas Tribune.

Texas State lawmakers are hearing testimony this week on a controversial bill aimed at limiting the type of ordinances and rules that city councils can pass.

gunwatch.blogspot.com

There are several bills allowing Texans to openly carry handguns facing the legislature this session.  But, they have some challenges reports the Amarillo Globe News

State Rep. John Smithee is the senior lawmaker in the Texas Panhandle delegation.  He says, “There’s two issues:  one is how strict your licensing is, and two is where you could take your open carry and what restrictions would be placed upon it.”

The Amarillo Republican says he hasn’t take a formal position on the matter yet.

Smithee doesn’t expect lawmakers to debate the proposed bills until March. 

texaschllicense.com

In Texas this session will be unremarkable.  All the new people at the top will get along, and those wringing their hands about change are manufacturing drama reports the Texas Tribune.

Of course, there is the other side where the mix of new personalities, the split in the Republican party, and a Legislature easily stampeded by noisy outside partisans will provide drama to keep the worriers busy.

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