Texas Legislature | KERA News

Texas Legislature

The hashtag #StandWithWendy took off into the social-media stratosphere: Even a certain White House tweeter joined the party. Buzzfeed takes a look at how Wendy-mania took hold.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

From Austin to Hollywood to the White House, Wendy Davis had the political world riveted Tuesday night with her marathon filibuster of bill that would have given Texas one of the toughest abortion laws in the nation. Turns out the 50-year-old Democrat is no stranger to political, and life, battles.

Dallas Morning News colleague Christy Hoppe provides a timeline of events that concluded in a raucous public display in the Senate gallery. The loud outburst essentially extended Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster and ran out the clock on signing the abortion bill before the midnight deadline. Question now: Will Governor Perry call another special session?

State Senate/Texas Tribune

Update, 6:20 a.m.: Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis started it. A raucous, roaring crowd of spectators finished it. And when the dust finally cleared about 3 a.m., Texas Republicans admitted it: One of the strictest anti-abortion bills in the nation didn't get the required Senate vote by a midnight deadline.

Outnumbered Democrats declared victory after the daylong (and nightlong) drama. But their win could be shortlived: Gov. Rick Perry, who called the 30-day special session that ended at midnight, could do the same thing again. No official word came by early Wednesday morning on whether he would.

State of Texas

Senator Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, says she’s prepared to filibuster to block new restrictions on abortion. 

Early this morning the House passed a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Senate Republicans who favor the restrictions were unable to suspend the rules to vote on the restrictions this afternoon. 

That puts the Republicans in a race against the clock to pass the restrictions before the special session ends tomorrow at midnight.

The Senate takes up the contentious abortion issue again at 7:00 tonight.  

Wendy Davis campaign / KERA News

State Senator Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, says she was surprised and saddened to learn Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a bill she sponsored which sought to prevent pay discrimination against women in Texas.

Davis says the legislation she carried would have aligned Texas law with federal law by giving women in Texas more time to take action if they believed they were the victims of pay discrimination.

For 40 years "Texas Monthly" magazine as evaluated state lawmakers and chosen the 10 best and 10 worst at the end of each regular session. Political editors say North Texans Wendy Davis, Charlie Geren and Jim Pitts were shining standouts, while Lon Burnham, John Carona, Kelly Hancock and Van Taylor turned in the poorest performances. "Texas Monthly" will provide its reasons for the choices next week.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Gov. Rick Perry has added proposed legislation tightening abortion regulation and a mandatory life sentence for murders committed by 17 year olds to the agenda of Texas' special legislative session. 

beri-school.com

Gov. Rick Perry has signed into law a much debated high school curriculum overhaul that cuts the number of standardized tests Texas students must take. 

Todd Dwyer / Texas Tribune

With only two weeks left, Gov. Rick Perry has added funding for transportation to the special session which until now has been devoted solely to redistricting.

Office of Texas Attorney General

One of the bills awaiting Gov. Perry’s signature, House Bill 1009, would allow trained school employees to use firearms to respond to threats.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Many Texas lawmakers said their top priority for the legislative session that just ended was to improve public education.  So what did they accomplish?

As part of KERA’s American Graduate initiative, three North Texas legislators came to our studios to talk education: Rep. Helen Giddings, a Dallas Democrat; Rep. Diane Patrick, an Arlington Republican, and Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican.

KERA News

Thousands of North Texas drivers could have their vehicles impounded or their registration blocked under Senate Bill 1792, legislation Governor Perry is expected to sign.

Aman Batheja / Texas Tribune

At this hour Gov. Rick Perry is signing House Bill 4 which  creates a $2 billion state fund to finance new water projects.  Voters in November will have the final say on whether to approve the fund. 

Late yesterday Perry convened a special session of the legislature almost immediately after the regular session ended.  

He’s asking lawmakers to approved redistricting maps that have been tied up in the courts.

dagnyg / flickr.com

A bill creating school marshals is headed to the Governor for his signature. The state Senate gave final approval to the bill today.

SalFalko

The Texas Senate and House have passed legislation that’s supposed to rein in judges who are abusing or misusing their authority.

It’s a problem KERA looked at last year in a special series, Texas Judges: Out of Order.

shutterstock.com

The two-year state budget deal that appears to be coming together in Austin would restore $3.93 billion of the $5.4 billion in public education money cut last session. 

It would also take $2 billion in Rainy Day savings money to create a loan fund to build water projects. 

It’s unclear whether another proposed loan fund of up to $2.7 billion to build new roads will be part of the new budget.  

Andre.abu / flickr

Governor Perry has signed Senate Bill 186, giving health officials another tool to fight West Nile.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Helen Giddings and Sen. John Carona, both of Dallas, gives authorities access to stagnant water on abandoned properties and swimming pools.  

Dallas County health officials say that last year they had numerous complaints about standing water on uninhabited properties that was breeding mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus that can be fatal or cause severe neurological damage.

House Committee on Education / flickr.com

The Texas House has passed a measure that would create a pilot program offering concussion insurance for parents of public high school students in football and girl’s soccer.

Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville says the Texas Education Agency and the UIL, University Interscholastic League would choose participating schools and run the pilot program.

Lucio says the voluntary insurance would cost about $5 and could pay off in the long run. 

Office of Rep. Chris Turner

Gov. Rick Perry has said there’s no way he’ll sign legislation that expands access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, what he calls Obamacare.  But one North Texas Democrat believes that issue is still alive and kicking in the legislature.  And Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie says there’s also some good news about money for public schools.

In today’s “Capitol Closeup” he tells KERA’s Shelley Kofler why he’s feeling optimistic.

Texas House of Representatives

State Rep.Dan Branch says he’ll decide whether to run for attorney general at the end of the legislative session in May.

Right now the six-term lawmaker has his hands full as Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee.

In today’s “Capitol Closeup,” the Dallas Republican talks to KERA’s Shelley Kofler about changes he’s proposing for colleges and universities, and one proposal that would hit where it hurts if they don’t produce better results.

Bryan Frazier / Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A group that wants state lawmakers to restore funding for parks is asking the public to get involved.

Tonight in Dallas, “Keep Texas Parks Open” will hold a town hall meeting.  The group is holding town halls in six other cities this week. 

Group director Ian Davis says they’re calling on lawmakers to dedicate money from the sales tax on sporting goods to parks, which is what the tax money was originally supposed to be used for. 

The tax is expected to generate about $265 million for the next two- year budget. 

shutterstock.com

A Plano mother whose infant son died pleaded with state lawmakers today to approve a bill that would automatically test newborns for congenital heart defects.

Office of Rep. Myra Crownover

On Wednesday state lawmakers on the House Public Health Committee will consider screening newborns for congenital heart defects. The bill filed by Denton Republican Myra Crownover continues her efforts to expand genetic testing for babies.

Autumn Miller's lawsuit claims officials at Dawson State Jail in Dallas denied and delayed medical care as she delivered her daughter prematurely. Gracie died four days later. Miller's story and the deaths of other women at the jail for non-violent offenders is among reasons the Senate Finance Committee has recommended that the state not renew its contract with Corrections Corporation of America to operate Dawson and that the jail should be closed in August.

Shelley Kofler / KERA

State Senator Royce West, a Dallas Democrat, says he expects the full legislature to adopt a measure that will close the Dawson State Jail in Dallas where the deaths of a baby and some inmates have raised alarm.

State lawmakers are more than a third of the way through their session and key legislation is beginning to take shape. 

As a member of three powerful committees Rep. Helen Giddings of Dallas is among a few House Democrats positioned to influence some of the biggest bills.  She talked with KERA about some of the latest developments and her priorities.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

  The battle to help mentally ill people is personal for one state legislator.  Representative Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, has bipolar disorder.

This week he participated in a mental health forum, Erasing the Stigma, which was sponsored by KERA, The Dallas Morning News, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Then Rep. Coleman sat down to share his story.

Texas Tribune

Two SMU political science professors disagree on whether Governor Rick Perry’s call for a tax cut will sail through the legislature. We asked professors Cal Jillson and Matthew Wilson to watch the governor’s state-of-the state speech yesterday and tell us what impressed them.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Governor Rick Perry is adamant, Texas will not make Medicaid available to more Texans by taking part in a federal program. But recently other Republican governors in Nevada and Arizona have changed their minds, saying they can’t ignore the billions of federal dollars they’d lose by opting out.

Lawmakers in Austin are now debating what Texas should do, including a senator from  Greenville who also wears a stethoscope.  

Pages