Jill Ament | KERA News

Jill Ament

From Texas Standard.

Texas has been more urban than rural since the 1950s, and though the state’s wide open space has a lot to do with its mystique, rural Texas is often overlooked when it comes to resources.

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece for the Texas Observer, Christopher Collins writes about the seven most pressing issues facing rural Texas.

From Texas Standard:

The last time a Democrat won statewide office in Texas, grunge rock topped the music charts. The state has been solidly red ever since Republican George W. Bush took over from Democrat Ann Richards in the Governor's mansion. That was more than 20 years ago.

From Texas Standard.

For decades, if you pulled into any gas station in Mexico, the brand name on the pump would invariably be PEMEX, the name of the state-run oil monopoly. Now oil giant Exxon Mobil has announced it will open 50 gas stations in Mexico in 2018. Eight are opening this week. Most other major energy companies have begun operations in Mexico since the nation opened its energy economy to private companies.

From Texas Standard.

Something happened last night that hasn’t happened in 25 years: The state with "Heart of Dixie" stamped on its license plate elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. The question is whether Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama is an anomaly or a turning point. His opponent, Roy Moore, was a flawed and controversial candidate, but with a Democratic victory, and the weakness of President Donald Trump among some moderately conservative Republicans, it’s possible to envision Democrats making more gains, even in bright red Texas. 

From Texas Standard.

The deadline for Texas candidates to file to run in the 2018 primaries was Monday. And if you’ve been trying to keep up with the latest rash of Congressional retirements and scandals, plus what’s turned out to be a pretty crowded field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates, you may be wondering how to sort through all of the noise.

The Austin American-Statesman’s Political Editor Bob Gee highlights five Texas races that are worth a closer look.

From Texas Standard.

The U.S. House has passed a bill allowing gun owners with licenses to carry firearms to carry those firearms weapons across state lines. It’s a bill the National Rifle Association has dubbed a “legislative priority.”

Following the deadly mass shootings in Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas, legislators in Washington are also looking for a consensus on improving the national background check system for gun purchases, as well as banning a device known as “bump stocks.”

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus stunned colleagues and political observers alike when he announced that he would not seek re-election to his place in the Texas House of Representatives a few weeks ago. The news also meant that Straus would not be returning to his position as Speaker. In light of his upcoming departure, Texas House Republicans are seeking to have a greater influence over the choice of his replacement.

Texas Tribune Political Reporter Patrick Svitek says that on Friday, the House Republican Caucus agreed to make changes to their process for selecting a speaker candidate.

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.

Pages