Texas Legislature | KERA News

Texas Legislature


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.  

timlewisnm / (cc) flickr

State Rep. Diane Patrick, an Arlington Republican, has filed school legislation that would reduce the number of end-of-course exams from 15 to 3.

State of Texas

Republican leaders in the Texas House and Senate have released initial state budgets that pay for population growth and inflation, but they would not restore deep cuts in state spending from two years ago.

Shelley Kofler / KERA

Two heavy hitters are weighing in on a growing debate at the state capitol.  The question: should school employees be allowed to carry concealed firearms for protection?

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst says he wants the state to provide money to better train concealed handgun carriers at schools.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Newly elected lawmakers sometimes blend into the woodwork in Austin. But that’s not likely to happen to Republican Jason Villalba whose District 114 includes parts of North Dallas, Preston Hollow and Lake Highlands.

In the first week of the session Villalba is already gaining a reputation as an independent voice who wants to tackle big problems. 

Kumar Appaiah / (cc) flickr

Even before the bang of a gavel opens Texas’ 83rd legislative session around noon, lawmakers will have filed nearly 600 bills that would create or change state law.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Budget analysts are warning lawmakers not to get too carried away by the comptroller’s announcement today that Texas has an $8.8 billion budget surplus.

State Comptroller Susan Combs says the Legislature, which opens its session Tuesday, will have $101.4 billion for general spending over the next two years. That's 12 percent more money than it had for the two-year budget that ends in August .

State of Texas

As the state legislature prepares to open its session Tuesday, lawmakers are hearing a word not spoken in the capitol for a long time. It’s ‘surplus.’ Unlike two years ago, when they faced a massive deficit and cut $15 billion from the budget, there’s talk of an increase in money for state programs and a growing Rainy Day fund. The state comptroller will release the official budget estimate this morning, but the debate over whether and how to spend the Rainy Day money has already begun.

David Chong for KERA News

Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has released  a  list of 78 Texas school districts that have not filed a school safety plan or an updated audit of the plan as required by law.

The list includes North Central Texas school districts in Crandall, Italy, Kennedale, Milford and Melissa. 

The race for the new House District 114 in Dallas County is among the most competitive state legislative races in North Texas. Former State Representative Carol Kent is facing business attorney Jason Villalba


Top Republicans are signaling that lawmakers will likely carve out another lean state budget next year even though the Texas economy is humming along for now.

Neil R (cc) flickr

The state of Texas and the Justice Department are beginning their arguments in a trial over Texas' new voter ID law, setting the stage for a legal battle over the federal Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers for Texas are arguing a 2011 law passed by its GOP-dominated Legislature that requires voters to show photo identification does not violate the Act, passed in 1965 to protect minorities' right to vote. The Justice Department - along with other intervening groups supporting the Justice Department's position - says the law disproportionately discriminates against minority voters.

Euskalanato / (cc) flickr

Both Republican and Democratic senators agree that Texas needs to do more to help the mentally ill.

Tim Rawle

Texas lawmakers continue to monitor the implementation and costs of federal healthcare changes called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. KUT's Ben Philpott reports on a hearing at the Texas capitol on the act.

The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out voting district maps drawn by federal judges in Texas that favored minorities.

Friday’s unsigned opinion left the fate of election primaries set for April unclear. The justices ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to come up with new plans, but the high court did not compel the use of maps created by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature.

Minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Erik Hersman / Flickr

Legal teams preparing for Monday’s Supreme Court hearing over Texas election maps are gathering in Washington for a that fight pits the state and Republicans against Democrats and minorities.

The Texas Attorney General’s office will ask the Justices to approve a map adopted by GOP lawmakers.  It would likely give Republicans three of the four new Congressional districts in Texas. 

Credit: jmtimages (cc) flickr

Dallas, TX – The Supreme Court has been asked to stop a federal court from implementing a state redistricting map in Texas that could increase minority representation in the state Legislature.

The state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, filed the request with the high court on Monday. The court-drawn map was drafted after minority groups challenged the original plan passed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature.