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Jill Ament

From Texas Standard:

In an attempt to manage the growing congestion on Texas highways, and corresponding rates of frustration for drivers, the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, has been implementing what could be called  a market-driven approach to driving. Rather than spend more state dollars on highway-building, Texas has turned to the private sector, which has built toll roads where the cost to drivers fluctuates with traffic demand.

From Texas Standard:

President Donald Trump's insistence that the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is a bad deal sparked talks aimed at renegotiation among the U.S., Mexico and Canada. And until now, groups representing farmers and ranchers in Trump-supporting states have been willing to wait and see where those negotiations go. But Politico reports the agriculture lobby is now going on offense, sending a sharply-worded message that the trade pact must be saved.

From Texas Standard:

A lone gunman killed 26 people and injured dozens more during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A few miles down the road in the small town of Stockdale, pastors are looking for ways to comfort their congregations: parishioners who are not only grieving for their neighbors, but who may also be concerned that their “sanctuary” is not immune to these horrific events.

From Texas Standard.

A new proposal from Republican lawmakers would cut some tax rates and overhaul portions of the U.S. tax code. House Republicans rolled out the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in Washington on Thursday.

Among the most controversial aspects of the GOP tax plan is that it lowers the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Current homeowners wouldn’t be affected, but new borrowers would only be able to deduct the first $500,000 – that’s down from the current limit, which is $1 million.

John Diamond, director of Rice University’s Center for Public Finance says that the mortgage deduction change could lower Texas home values by 1-2 percent.

From Texas Standard:

Two Houston-area high school students protesting the Pledge of Allegiance say their constitutional rights have been violated by their school districts – and they’re taking their protest to court.

From Texas Standard.

The story of an undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy detained by Border Patrol agents after she underwent gallbladder surgery in Corpus Cristi this week has sparked outrage among immigration rights activists – and, frankly, way beyond.

A front page piece by the editorial board of the McAllen Monitor reads “Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should ‘shock us’ all.” Here’s the story.

The body of a 3-year-old girl found in a culvert in a Dallas suburb over the weekend has been identified. Sherin Mathews had been missing since Oct. 7. The girl’s father – now in police custody – originally said she had gone missing after he left her in an alley outside his home early one morning, as punishment for not drinking her milk.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election. The conservative Republican made an emotional speech on the Senate floor, condemning the “coarseness of our leadership” and warning his colleagues in Congress that the Republican Party was “complicit.” Flake has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, though he did not mention the president by name.

Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston and author of the book Inside Texas Politics, says Flake joins fellow Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and 17 House Republicans, including one-fourth of the Republican women in the chamber, who have announced their retirements ahead of the 2018 election cycle.

From Texas Standard:

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently formed a new committee to study the problem of opioid addiction in Texas. The Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse is tasked with developing concrete principles and action items for lawmakers.

From Texas Standard:

Texas’ reputation as a law-and-order state often overshadows the fact that the state leads the nation in some aspects of criminal justice reform. But that reform carries a rather high price tag – one that might be greater than what many lawmakers initially imagined.

From Texas Standard:

While the Trump administration says the "war on coal" is over, market forces are having their say when it comes to the fossil fuel, closing plants in several Texas communities.

Texas' largest generator of coal-powered energy, Luminant, says it is ceasing operations at two plants in the state. The company says Texas' competitive energy market and cheap natural gas  make these older coal-fired plants unprofitable. Another Texas coal operator has already announced plans to close two facilities.

From Texas Standard:

After months of demands from many rank-and-file Democrats to impeach the president, formal articles of impeachment have been filed against President Donald J. Trump. The resolution, field by Rep. Al Green (D-Houston), cites four reasons for impeachment, ranging from incitement of bigotry and racism, to falsely accusing opponents of voter fraud.

From Texas Standard:

Sixty years ago, the Texas Water Development Board was tasked to learn about or manage everything being done across the state to meet our water needs. It was the dawn of an era of planning for water shortages.  

From Texas Standard:

Following this year's contentious regular and special sessions at the Capitol, the divide between the Legislature's upper and lower chambers couldn’t be more apparent. Many of the priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, like the hotly debated transgender bathroom bill and sanctuary cities law, didn't fly in the House.

From Texas Standard:

The middle class is making gains, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest numbers show the median household income for a family of four is now $59,030, the highest median income on record, topping the previous high set during the dot-com days of the late 1990s.

From Texas Standard:

After weeks of legal and logistical wrangling, a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee that had been in Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood for 81 years, was removed Thursday night. Meanwhile, State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) will meet with Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss removing or altering Confederate monuments and plaques on the Capitol grounds.

From Texas Standard:

Grape-growing experts say Texas vineyards could see another banner year this season. But vineyard owners in the High Plains, where more than 80 percent of the state's wine grapes are produced, are concerned about damage to their crops from herbicides used on nearby cotton fields. They say the chemicals are drifting into their vineyards. And that’s causing some tension among neighboring farmers.

From Texas Standard:

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., Confederate monuments are coming down in public places across the country. Overnight, the University of Texas at Austin quietly dismantled four statues from the campus’ South Mall. But they're not going down everywhere.

From Texas Standard:

International homebuyers are banking on the health of the Texas real estate market. A report from the Texas Association of Realtors says that sales of Texas properties to international buyers increased by almost 60 percent between April 2016 and March of this year.

From Texas Standard:

A plan for a high-speed rail line that would allow Texans to travel from Houston to Dallas in a quick 90 minutes is moving forward, but not without a lot of setbacks and continued opposition from some communities along the proposed route. Topics of concern include the possibility that train tracks will bisect private property, the high cost of building the bullet train and its financing.

From Texas Standard:

One issue that's been top priority during the special legislative session is school finance. On Thursday, nearly 1,500 school officials sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urging him to support the primary legislation that deals with school finance, House Bill 21, which passed out of the House on Monday. The Senate's Education Committee heard testimony on HB 21 Friday.

From Texas Standard:

A coalition of rural Texas hospitals says small-town hospitals in the state are facing a "closure crisis" after those in Crockett and Trinity ceased operations over the summer.

The group says the recent closures bring the total number of closed rural hospitals in the past four years to nearly 20. And if the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress don't act, more rural communities will be left without immediate access to quality health- and emergency care.

 

From Texas Standard:

The nation's electrical grid is an interconnected system that powers homes and businesses across the country. But a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine indicates the grid is vulnerable and more needs to be done to protect the system from the growing threat of blackouts.

From Texas Standard:

Rhetoric from lawmakers on both sides of the abortion debate raged on at the state Capitol on Tuesday over a Republican bill that would require women to pay a separate health insurance premium to get coverage for abortions that are not deemed medical emergencies. The bill is one of several abortion-related measures making headway during this legislative special session.

State Reps. Donna Howard (D-Austin) and John Smithee (R-Amarillo), the bill's author, hold opposing viewpoints on the proposed legislation, and each provide a sample of their parties' position on the bill.

From Texas Standard:

The 85th Legislature’s special session is not gaining momentum. Not one of the 20 items Gov. Greg Abbott listed in his special session call has reached his desk. And with the clock ticking, the House and Senate to remain at odds over several legislative priorities. But maybe a long-awaited meeting between the estranged chamber heads could smooth things over?

From Texas Standard:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Friday that the Department of Justice would be cracking down on what he calls the "culture of leaking" that has besieged the Trump administration.

 


From Texas Standard:

Texas Sen. John Cornyn outlined a border security proposal on Thursday that, unlike the president’s signature proposal, does not focus on building a border wall that would fence off the entire Texas-Mexico boundary. Instead, he wants to develop a comprehensive plan, which would likely entail adding border patrol agents and using technology to find and apprehend immigrants as they cross the border.

From Texas Standard:

Tango Blast – the name brings to mind, perhaps, a soda or bubble gum flavor. But Tango Blast is actually considered to be the greatest gang threat in Texas, according to a new, in-depth Texas Department of Public Safety gang activity assessment report.

From Texas Standard:

A Texas lawmaker is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to add ethics reform to his special session call. Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) heads the House General Investigation and Ethics Committee, which is tasked with scrutinizing wrongdoing at the state level. Most recently, she led an investigation into the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission after reports of misconduct and mismanagement of funds within the agency.

From Texas Standard:

Authorities say 10 people were killed in clashes between protesters and law enforcement in Venezuela on Sunday. The nation's president, Nicolas Maduro, called elections to choose a constituent assembly, which would have the power to rewrite the constitution and more.

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