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Texas News & Politics

Texas News & Politics

State lawyers say they can’t stop GOP from nixing Farenthold’s name

by Nolan Hicks, American-Statesman Staff

The Republican Party of Texas managed to clear a path Tuesday in federal court for its chairman, James Dickey, to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name from primary ballots. But as of press time, a party spokesman said Dickey still had not reached a decision on the fate of the congressman’s name on the ballot. The drama late Tuesday came after a remarkable half-hour hearing hours earlier...

Texas News & Politics

Texas GOP pulls Blake Farenthold off primary ballot, Democrats sue

The Texas Republican Party has withdrawn embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name from the 2018 primary ballot, but not without some more legal drama on Wednesday. Farenthold, a Republican from Corpus Christi, had asked the party to remove his name from the ballot after deciding not to seek re-election last week amid a widening harassment scandal. But Farenthold’s decision came after...

Texas News & Politics

Blasted by Harvey, coastal towns’ mayors worry about being forgotten

by Nolan Hicks, American-Statesman Staff

Mayors of small South Texas towns devastated by Hurricane Harvey demanded Wednesday that state lawmakers remember their plight four months after the storm hit, as they battle housing shortages and massive looming budget shortfalls. “We’ll be forgotten because it didn’t hit Corpus Christi,” Fulton Mayor Jimmy Kendrick told members of the House Land and Resource Management Committee...

Texas News & Politics

Houston area to move forward with final phase of bayou project

by AP, Associated Press

Officials in the Houston area are moving forward with designing the final $14 million stretch of a decades-long project to widen and deepen Brays Bayou. Harris County commissioners voted Tuesday in favor of paying CivilTech Engineering Inc. nearly $600,000 to design the final phase of the project. Construction is expected to begin next summer and conclude in 2021, the Houston Chronicle reported. The...

Texas News & Politics

Small town mayors tell lawmakers of Harvey’s continued toll

by Nolan Hicks, American-Statesman Staff

Mayors of small South Texas towns devastated by Hurricane Harvey demanded state lawmakers remember their plight four months after the storm hit, as they battle housing shortages and massive looming budget shortfalls. “Hurricane Harvey hit us first,” longtime state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, told his colleagues at a House Land and Resource Management Committee hearing in Corpus...

Texas News & Politics

Prosecutors’ appeal accepted in Ken Paxton criminal case

by Chuck Lindell, American-Statesman Staff

In a ruling that keeps alive, at least for now, the criminal prosecution against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state’s highest criminal court announced Wednesday that it will determine whether the prosecutors in the case can be paid $300 an hour for their work. Unpaid since January 2016, the three prosecutors have said they will step aside if denied the payments, potentially putting...

Texas News & Politics

Some caught with pot in Travis County could be 4 hours away from zero charges

by Amanda O'Donnell

What if you could avoid a drug charge by taking a class, much like defensive driving?  According to KUT, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously adopted a proposition for a four-hour class that would allow qualifying individuals caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana to skip charges. The class would cost $45. Prior the proposal, Travis County offered an eight-hour class...

Texas News & Politics

Austin school district awarded $4.5 million for mental health clinics

by Julie Chang, American-Statesman Staff

The Austin school district has received $4.5 million to open mental health centers in 22 elementary schools in the eastern part of the city during next semester. The one-year pilot program could be extended, depending on the program’s efficacy and need, among other factors. Mental health centers currently operate in 18 middle and high schools in an effort to help students who have experienced...

Trump pick to lead Export-Import Bank rejected by Senate panel

by Maria Recio, American-Statesman special correspondent

In a rare rejection of a Trump administration nominee by Republicans, the Senate Banking Committee voted down a former GOP congressman to head the Export-Import Bank, a move supported by Texas business interests who depend on bank financing to support exports. At the same time, the committee advanced four nominees to the bank’s board of directors, giving the bank a quorum for the first time...

Texas News & Politics

Plastic bags woven into mats to help homeless people in San Angelo

by Yfat Yossifor, San Angelo Standard Times

Mavis Bell, board member of Project Dignidad, unrolled a white and brown mat with a yellow tie to show it off to those around her. The mat was about 3 feet by 6 feet and constructed out of grocery bags. The mats are soft but durable and intended for homeless people to sleep on. Several Mosaic clients and volunteers from Calvary Lutheran Church recently presented five grocery-bag mats to the staff...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: U.S. copyright laws are 40 years old. It’s time to update

by David H. Donaldson Jr., Special to the American-Statesman

Copyright laws have been fundamental to American culture since the founding of our nation — they are one of the specific powers granted to Congress under the Constitution. Next month, we celebrate 40 years of operating under the 1976 revision of the copyright law. Simply put, the revision has been one of the best upgrades in a long time and has been critical in the success of the arts in our...

Police sergeant fired for ordering rookie to use Taser on woman

by AP, Associated Press

A Fort Worth police sergeant has been fired for ordering a rookie officer to use a stun gun on a woman who had called for help during a domestic dispute. Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said in an emailed statement that he fired Sgt. Kenneth Pierce on Monday, saying the 22-year police veteran became impatient and needlessly started the physical confrontation with the woman, who the Police...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: The CDC can’t use 7 terms on paper. Here’s what to expect

by Toni Inglis, Special to the American-Statesman

Just when I think the Trump administration can no longer surprise me, they go and do it. But the latest stunt is more a shock than a surprise. Senior budget officials of the esteemed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were called to a meeting last Thursday and read a list of forbidden words and phrases — including the term “science-based” — that the Trump administration...

Texas News & Politics

Herman: Are crosses in Caldwell County office crossways with the law?

by Ken Herman, American-Statesman Staff

At the invitation of an Austinite who’s upset by something he saw in the Caldwell County district clerk’s office, I recently made the 30-mile drive south to Lockhart to take a look at that something. He’s right. It’s wrong. And we’re not the only two who think so. The outside door to the district clerk’s office has a holiday wreath. Festive and seasonal. Nothing...

Texas News & Politics

Texas GOP drops suit in effort to pull Farenthold from 2018 ballot

by Nolan Hicks, American-Statesman Staff

The Republican Party of Texas on Tuesday said it will drop its lawsuit to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold from the 2018 primary ballot, after lawyers for the state argued they had no power to enforce the law that requires including the lawmaker’s name. The move, effectively rendering the case moot, took place during a hearing that lasted less than a half-hour in the federal courthouse in downtown...

Texas News & Politics

Austin district to devise local system for grading schools

by Julie Chang, American-Statesman Staff

The Austin school district is one of 20 districts and charter systems statewide chosen to participate in a pilot program to develop a local system of grading schools. The program was established under a new law, House Bill 22, that also scaled back the A-F accountability system, unpopular among school district officials. One of the criticisms of the state’s accountability system is that it&rsquo...

Texas News & Politics

Advocates: Lack of Latinos shows flaws in Austin city manager search

by Philip Jankowski, American-Statesman Staff

As the Austin City Council is set to pick the city’s next top administrator Tuesday, many from organizations representing Austin Latinos are crying foul about the selection process because none of the six finalists was Hispanic. The two remaining candidates to be Austin’s city manager are Minneapolis City Coordinator Spencer Cronk and Ann Arbor, Mich., City Administrator Howard Lazarus...

Texas News & Politics

Fort Hood general says ISIS on the run, but challenges remain

by Jeremy Schwartz, American-Statesman Staff

Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, who is leading the anti-ISIS campaign in the Middle East, said Monday that even as the Islamic State is pushed from its territories in Iraq and Afghanistan, stubborn challenges will exist in the region, perhaps for years. Funk pointed to a single neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, the former capital of the terror group’s briefly held caliphate, where...

Texas News & Politics

Austin among districts piloting a new way to rate schools

by Julie Chang, American-Statesman Staff

The Austin school district is one of 20 districts and charter systems chosen to participate in a pilot program to develop its own system of grading itself. The pilot was established under a new law House Bill 22, which also scaled back the A-F accountability system, unpopular among school district officials. READ: Austin district calls on lawmakers to repeal A-F school rating system Under the A-F...

Texas News & Politics

Fort Hood general leading ISIS fight says caliphate defeated in Iraq

by Jeremy Schwartz, American-Statesman Staff

Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, who is leading the anti-ISIS campaign in the Middle East, said Monday that even as the Islamic State is pushed from its territories in Iraq and Afghanistan, stubborn challenges will exist in the region, perhaps for years. Funk pointed to a single neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, the terror group’s de facto capital, where coalition forces have found...

Texas News & Politics

Lack of transparency clouds spending decisions after Harvey

by Emily Schmall, Associated Press

Texas has been awarded billions of dollars in federal aid to help recover from Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flooding that followed, but it’s unclear how the state is spending its share of the money. State records don’t indicate which contracts are storm-related, making fund tracking — and spending accountability — nearly impossible. Disaster recovery experts say a lack...

Texas News & Politics

PolitiFact: Promise to change immigrant tuition law goes broken

by W. Gardner Selby, American-Statesman Staff

Greg Abbott ran for Texas governor signaling he’d go along with disconnecting a political tripwire for Republicans that benefits college students from Texas living in the United States without legal permission. We decided to put Abbott’s statements about in-state tuition for such Texans to the PolitiFact Texas Abbott-O-Meter, which tracks action on his campaign vows. We’ve been writing...

Texas News & Politics

Texas GOP files suit to remove Blake Farenthold from ballot

by Katie Hall, American-Statesman Staff

The Republican Party of Texas is suing the Texas secretary of state over an election filing deadline that prevents it from removing embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold from the ballot. The move is in response to Farenthold’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in the spring. Farenthold, whose district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties, made the decision after a House...

Texas News & Politics

How the federal government seized Texas property for the border fence

by T. Christian Miller, Kiah Collier and Julian Aguilar, ProPublica/The Texas Tribune

The land agents started working the border between Texas and Mexico in the spring of 2007. Sometimes they were from the Army Corps of Engineers. Other times the U.S. Border Patrol. They visited tumbledown mobile homes and suburban houses with golf course views. They delivered blunt news to ranchers and farmers, sheet metal workers and university professors, auto mechanics and wealthy developers: The...

Texas News & Politics

PolitiFact: College credit promise becomes a compromise

by W. Gardner Selby, American-Statesman Staff

When he was running for Texas governor, Greg Abbott spelled out a pile of proposals including his vow to make it easier for students starting in a community college to transfer course credits toward a degree at a four-year college. Specifically, Abbott called for requiring Texas public colleges and universities to give transfer students credit for taking freshman- and sophomore-level core courses...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: How housing costs are changing Central Texas’ demographics

by Rogelio Sáenz, Special to the American-Statesman

The demographic trends in Texas are clear: The combination of a youthful Latino population and an aging white population has led to Latino dominance in the state’s population growth. Between 2006 and 2016, the Latino population grew six times more rapidly than the white population. Of the nearly 4.4 million persons added to the Texas population during this period, 57 percent are Latino, while...

Texas News & Politics

Herman: A Texas town weirder than Austin?

by Ken Herman, American-Statesman Staff

Yes, we all know that Austin is the righteous and rightful center of the universe and there’s not much reason to care about what goes on in the lesser world around us. But I think it’s healthy to periodically glance outward beyond the Superiorplex and see what’s going on elsewhere in Texas, especially when the goings-on going on in other towns rival our town’s weirdness. So...

Texas News & Politics

Texas cancels no-bid contract for special education analysis

by Andrea Ball, American-Statesman Staff

The Texas Education Agency has canceled its contract with a technology company charged with analyzing special education programs. The TEA had contracted with SPEDx, a Georgia-based company, to look for trends and patterns in special education records. But the $4.4 million project incurred the ire of advocacy groups and parents, who said they worried about privacy and the fact that it was a no-bid...

Texas News & Politics

Trump inauguration riot trial goes to the jury

by Maria Recio, American-Statesman special correspondent

The first trial of nearly 200 Inauguration Day protesters charged with rioting, conspiracy to riot and destruction of property went to a jury Friday afternoon, a month after it began. Freelance photojournalist Alexei Wood of San Antonio and five other defendants could receive more than 50 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted. The judge dropped one felony count of inciting...

Texas News & Politics

Texas CHIP money good through February; Cornyn promises long-term fix

by Julie Chang, American-Statesman Staff

The Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas will be funded one month longer than expected, according to a recalculation by the federal government. The program, which insures more than 400,000 low-income children and pregnant women in the state, will be funded through February. Originally, the Texas Health and Human Services had reported that funding was good only through January after Congress...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: Why Jerusalem policy makes art of the deal hard for Trump

by Richard Sindelar, Special to the American-Statesman

Fifty years ago, former U.S. Consul General to Jerusalem, Evan Wilson, penned a memoire entitled “Jerusalem: Key to Peace,” in which he argued the multifaceted reasons why that city’s status will ultimately determine whether a Palestinian-Israeli peace is attainable. The closest the U.S. ever came to achieving peace — the Barak-Arafat negotiations in the twilight of President...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: For the sake of Dreamers, don’t fall for the ‘Cornyn con’

by Mario Carrillo, Special to the American-Statesman

Over the next two weeks, immigrant youth from across the country will double down on their efforts to call on Congress to pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year. In Texas, young immigrants have been marching and making calls, demanding that our state’s delegation do the right thing and support the more than 120,000 so-called Dreamers who claim the Lone Star State as their home. The fight...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: Failure to fund research is a failure to support Texas

by Mike Mayo, Special to the American-Statesman

Congress recently passed another fractious short-term measure to avert a government shutdown. This piecemeal approach to federal spending is not good for our local Texas economy, nor is it a viable solution for the entire nation. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is in a position to set things right. A long-term deal is needed to reduce constraints impacting basic research funding under the Budget Control Act...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: Why congressional tax plans would crush scholarship funds

by Gregory L. Fenves and Danny J. Anderson, Special to the American-Statesman

Today, U.S. government leaders have enormous decisions to make about tax reform. Their choices will affect the future of our students and our universities. If the proposed policies are put in place, the ability of Texas students — both now and in the future — to earn life-changing degrees will be compromised. We are the presidents of two universities in Texas — one public, one private...

Texas News & Politics

Commentary: End Texas’ long history of abusing juveniles in detention

by William S. Bush, Special to the American-Statesman

Ten years ago, I published a commentary in this newspaper on the physical and sexual abuse of youth in Texas’ juvenile correctional facilities. Noting that adult officials had participated in or sanctioned the abuse of youth placed in their care, I warned that the state had traveled this path several times before. Today’s reports sadly echo the lurid inventory of abuses that has characterized...

Texas News & Politics

Senate panel begins discussion about sexual harassment policy

by Johnathan Silver, American-Statesman Staff

The Texas Senate could meet in the coming months to establish a new sexual harassment policy. Amid reports of sexual misconduct by staffers and lawmakers at the Capitol, members of the Senate Administration Committee met Thursday to discuss possible changes to the policy. Committee Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said she plans to make recommendations to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Secretary of...

Texas News & Politics

‘Pathetic’: Texas AG aide resigns after criticizing ‘#MeToo’ movement

by Johnathan Silver, American-Statesman Staff

A top official in the Texas attorney general’s office resigned Thursday after criticizing the “#MeToo” movement in a Facebook post. “Aren’t you also tired of all the pathetic ‘me too’ victim claims?” then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie said in a Facebook post Wednesday, according to The Dallas Morning News, which first reported...

Texas News & Politics

James Ho, former Texas solicitor general, OK’d for U.S. appeals court

by Staff, American-Statesman staff

James Ho, a Dallas lawyer and former Texas solicitor general, was confirmed 53-43 Thursday by the U.S. Senate for a position on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for Ho’s appointment. The Senate on Wednesday approved along party lines Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to be a judge on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court.

Texas News & Politics

Students in 47 counties will get STAAR reprieve because of Harvey

by Julie Chang, American-Statesman Staff

Public school students in 47 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey won’t be held back a grade if they fail state standardized tests this school year. Typically, students in the fifth and eighth grades must pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. Mike Morath, head of the Texas Education Agency, told school districts on Thursday that students in...

Texas News & Politics

‘PATHETIC’: AG aide resigns after criticizing ‘#MeToo’ movement

by Johnathan Silver, American-Statesman Staff

An aide in the attorney general’s office resigned Thursday after criticizing the “#MeToo” movement in a Facebook post. “Aren’t you also tired of all the pathetic ‘me too’ victim claims?” the now-former Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie said in a Facebook post Wednesday, according to The Dallas Morning News, which first reported it. &ldquo...

TEXAS DIGEST: University of Houston fraternity indicted in hazing

by Wires, From wire services

HOUSTON University of Houston fraternity indicted in hazing A Harris County grand jury has indicted the parent company of a University of Houston fraternity on a misdemeanor hazing charge for depriving pledges of adequate food, water and sleep during a three-day November 2016 event where one student was body slammed and sustained a lacerated spleen. The university already has suspended the fraternity...

Texas News & Politics

Herman: Why Blake Farenthold should step down now

by Ken Herman, American-Statesman Staff

A bit late, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told us Thursday he didn’t know how to run a congressional office when he won the job in 2010. It’s kind of too bad he didn’t tell us that back then or during his latter three successful races for the office. The overdue admission came as he announced he’s changed his mind and will not seek a fifth term. Good call, Farenthold...

Texas News & Politics

University of Houston to lead new hurricane research center

by AP, Associated Press

As part of a multistate effort to respond to damages wrought this year by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the University of Houston will lead a new Gulf Coast hurricane research institute. The Houston Chronicle reports that the institute will examine flood mitigation, hurricane modeling and public policy. Seven universities in Texas, Florida and Louisiana will contribute a combined $1.87 million...

Texas News & Politics

Blake Farenthold won’t seek re-election amid sexual harassment claims

by Robert W. Gee, American-Statesman Staff

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold said Thursday he won’t seek re-election, a week after a House committee opened an investigation into sexual harassment claims by a former aide and days after fresh allegations of lewd comments to another former aide. Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, whose district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties, made the announcement Thursday morning in a video statement...

Texas News & Politics

Here’s why the Drag is looking a little more colorful...

by Amanda O'Donnell

One of the University of Texas at Austin’s busiest crosswalks is looking a little more colorful as of Wednesday. Capital Metro tweeted early Wednesday morning that Guadalupe Street in front of the University Co-Op would be repainted. What they did not mention is that it wouldn’t be painted white... According to American-Statesman photographer Ralph Barrera, UT Design graduate student...

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