Texas Legislature | KERA News

Texas Legislature

1.8 million Texans lack broadband Internet access, and most of them live in rural Texas. Studies from the U.S. chamber and others have shown the massive impact connecting Texas could have. This is part one of a multi-part series focusing on Connecting Rural Texas.

The Houston skyline.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

The interest group representing Texas cities used to be one of the most powerful legislative forces at the Capitol. This session, it has become the GOP’s most prominent adversary.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Four years after Sandra Bland died in a Waller County jail, her name is still reverberating in the Texas legislature.

State Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carollton, speaks to the press in Austin to announce the new LGBTQ Caucus on Feb. 5, 2019.
Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

In every session since she was elected to the Texas House, state Rep. Celia Israel has taken aim at the controversial practice of conversion therapy for minors, proposing to penalize state-licensed counselors and therapists who attempt to change children’s sexuality or gender identity.

The Texas House advanced a bill Monday that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program. The program, which is one of the most restrictive in the country, allows only patients with intractable epilepsy to be prescribed CBD oil with low levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC.

In Austin, Texas, a new raft of anti-LGBT legislation is working its way through the state legislature. One of the bills would allow state licensed professionals of all stripes — from doctors and pharmacists to plumbers and electricians — to deny services on religious grounds. Supporters say the legislation is needed to protect religious freedoms. But opponents call them "religious refusal bills" or "bigot bills."

On its face, you might think a bill to treat wastewater from oil and gas operations would get the support of environmental groups. But you'd be wrong.

When Texans head to the polls on Super Tuesday in 2020, the act of voting could be very different. Texas lawmakers are looking at bills to cut property taxes and boost school spending, and they're also looking at ways to secure elections in the state, particularly with Senate Bill 9. 


Salma Paredes, a senior at Arlington Collegiate High School, enjoys graphic design, watching documentaries and hanging out with friends — when she has the time. She’s typically busy taking college courses and planning her future. She will graduate from high school this spring with 60 college credits, the equivalent of an associate’s degree, or half of a bachelor’s degree.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Texas law that requires people contracting with the state to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. 

Could Texas High-Speed Rail Hit A Speed Bump This Legislative Session?

Apr 25, 2019
The Japanese Shinkansen is a high-speed train used by JR Central in Japan. A private company is planning to build a rail line between Dallas and Houston using the same trains.
Norihiro Kataoka

High-speed rail developers have been eyeing a 240-mile stretch of mostly rural land sandwiched between the urban hubs of Dallas and Houston for years. Their goal: buy it up and build America’s first bullet train.

But several rural landowners don't plan on giving up their private property without a fight. 

At least one person has died on Texas roads every day since Nov. 7, 2000. Despite efforts to “End the Streak,” as the Texas Department of Transportation puts it, the state still leads the nation in traffic deaths.

Fatalities did fall about 2% between 2016 and 2017, but more than 3,700 people died in 2017.

MJ Hegar speaksat an early vote rally at her field office in Austin, Texas on October 25, 2018. Hegar unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Former Democratic congressional candidate MJ Hegar is running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, mounted a high-profile bid to unseat U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in November, fueled by attention-grabbing ads and massive fundraising. She ended up losing by less than 3 percentage points in the traditionally Republican district.

House Bill 1325 from state Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp.
Juan Figueroa/The Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave broad preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp — a move lauded as a win for the state’s farmers.

Yesenia Alvarado holds her daughter, 2-year-old Medicaid patient Melanie Almaraz, while waiting to see Dr. Alberto Vasquez for treatment of a fever at Su Clinica Familiar in Harlingen.
Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

Katherine Edmundson didn’t know her 7-year-old son was off Medicaid until she took him to the dentist for his annual cleaning in February. An employee at the front desk told her that his coverage was invalid and that her son couldn’t be seen that day.

More Texans than the population of San Antonio lack broadband internet access, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Fifteen million Texans don't use broadband speeds, according to a new Microsoft study. Two bills aimed at closing the digital divide in rural communities could be voted on as early as this week.

In early April, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced that they will support a proposal to raise the sales tax in Texas and use those proceeds to cut property taxes.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Bedford, testifying against House Bill 906 on April 12, 2019.
Screenshot

The issue of improving mental health care across the state seemed like a unifying theme at the outset of this legislative session. It was also highlighted as an emergency item by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who called for more student mental health screenings in response to last year's Santa Fe High School shooting.

Now, it's become the subject of some controversy at the statehouse. 

Texas House Passes Bill To Tackle Backlog Of Rape Kits

Apr 17, 2019

The Texas House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that aims to tackle the state’s backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. House Bill 8 requires an audit of untested rape kits to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in the state.

Closed On Sundays: A Guide To Some Of Texas' Confusing Alcohol Regulations

Apr 17, 2019
In Texas, laws governing the sale of alcohol can be complicated and confusing.
Erika Rich for The Texas Tribune

Texas politicians love to portray the Lone Star State as a mecca for free-market capitalism and low regulation. But those lawmakers might want to take a gander at their state’s byzantine alcohol policies. 

Debris covered a street corner in Rockport in December, more than three months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the tiny town that sustained extensive damage.
Brandon Formby / The Texas Tribune

More than a year and a half after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, killing dozens, the state is still waiting on billions in federal recovery dollars. In the meantime, Texas lawmakers are looking to prepare the state — the most disaster-prone in the nation — for future storms.

The state Senate passed legislation Monday that increases criminal penalties for election-related crimes in Texas. Voting rights groups have said they worry the bill could criminalize honest mistakes, among other things.

A bill before the Texas Senate would allow felons to seek public office only if they have received a pardon.

Current election code says a candidate who has been convicted of a felony must either be pardoned “or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities” – but it doesn’t define “resulting disabilities.” Senate Bill 466 would remove that clause.

Texas begins redistricting in two years. The process will slice up the state into political districts. When the districts are redrawn to benefit a particular party, it's called gerrymandering. For some Texans, it's time to finally end that particular political game.

Texas is one of nine states that picks district court judges with a party ticket vote. And Texas is only one of six states that also selects the justices on its supreme courts and appellate courts with partisan elections. Is there a better way to pick a Texas judge? Some legislators may try to offer new ideas to address that old question.

The state’s labor regulator on Tuesday approved a controversial new rule on gig economy workers – a rule opponents say will have far-reaching implications for these workers going forward.

A heavily wooded area of a property off of CR 4515 near Athens that the owners got designated as an ecolab research area.
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

As a former mayor, five-term state senator and champion of limited government, state Sen. Robert Nichols was familiar with the Texas property tax code.

But in 2016, in a visit with a local appraiser, the Jacksonville Republican was surprised to learn there was something strange happening on properties across central Texas.

Lawmakers wrapped up two days of hearings Friday on a fire last month at a chemical storage facility in Deer Park. The fire at the plant owned by Intercontinental Terminals Co. burned for days, spewing millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air and forcing residents indoors.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, speaks at the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on June 16, 2018.
Bob Daemmrich / The Texas Tribune

After news broke that an activist pushing a “constitutional carry” gun proposal tried to visit the homes of several Texas House leaders, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, declared his bill on the matter dead and wrote in a statement Friday he’s “officially canceling” his request for a committee hearing.

Wind power in Texas is often seen as one of the state’s great success stories. It’s grown so much in the last 20 years that the state now leads the country in the amount of electricity it generates from wind. Experts say that’s brought the price of electricity down and helped reduce air pollution.

But wind is facing a lot of opposition this year at the Texas Capitol. The fight centers around subsidies and incentives that have helped grow the industry here.

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