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Texas Station Collaborative

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:

In the first months of his administration, President Donald Trump has made good on a campaign promise: to tighten immigration restrictions and crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, has rounded up immigrants in raids across the country, creating a boom for private prisons — an industry that's a growing part of the Texas economy.

It’s estimated that 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. A few years ago, National Parks decided to try and make a small dent in that number by banning water bottle sales on parkland. Now, the Trump administration has reversed that policy.

The special session of the Texas Legislature began with an announcement by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, pushing — among other priorities — property tax reform. But that call to action fell short of producing a bill in the 30-day session. And no change in property tax law might be OK, because Texans may not be as overburdened by property taxes as they believe.

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:

Even though the Texas Legislature failed to pass measures to reform property taxes or the school finance system during the regular and special sessions, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says the Texas economy continues to grow at a solid pace.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar is the chief tax collector, accountant and revenue estimator for the state government. Among his responsibilities is providing the legislature with an estimate of state revenue before each regular legislative session.

 

Gov. Greg Abbott told a radio program Wednesday he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court a federal ruling that could force state lawmakers to redraw two congressional districts in Texas before the 2018 elections.

NAFTA Renegotiations Begin This Week

Aug 16, 2017

From Texas Standard:

As the U.S., Mexico and Canada begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA — an agreement that President Donald Trump famously promised to end — American businesses have doubled down on the argument that NAFTA has been good, on balance, for everyone.  

From Texas Standard:

President Donald Trump staged one of the most memorable press conferences in U.S. history Tuesday afternoon: a combative exchange about last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Va. It was an opportunity to reinforce his heavily scripted message from Monday, condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Instead, he went off script, reiterating talking points of the self-described “alt-right.”

From Texas Standard:

In a much-anticipated ruling, a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio has invalidated two of the state's 36 congressional districts. The ruling represents the sixth time this decade that Texas electoral districts have been invalidated by federal courts, based on findings of intentional discrimination.

From Texas Standard:

There has been a growing public debate over President Donald Trump's plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but many residents in Texas' Rio Grande Valley say a whole host of other issues affecting their region are being ignored.

At two protests last weekend against the wall in Mission, Texas and at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, south Texans tried to call attention to the untold stories.

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:

The saying, you’re only as good as your equipment, has serious implications for first responders. A faulty service weapon can mean the difference between life and death for police officers and those they protect, which makes what's happening in Houston all the more frightening.

From Texas Standard:

On Saturday, members of the media received a press release titled: “Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M.” The message came from a group organizing a White Lives Matter rally featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer, scheduled to take place on September 11th at the Texas university. There's plenty of outrage on social media, and a counter-protest has already been planned.

A bill that would change the way cities and counties collect property taxes is moving forward in the Texas House. On Saturday, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1 on second reading. The measure would lower the rollback rate, or the annual percent increase in property taxes, from 8 percent to 6 percent. Any increases above that would have to go to the public for a vote.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, repeatedly noted that SB 1 does not aim to save taxpayers any money, but it would allow them to weigh in on some increases.

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.

 

The science on whether there's a link between oil and gas activity and a surge in earthquakes in Texas isn't clear-cut, says the new seismologist for the agency that regulates the industry here.

The Boot Whisperer

Aug 10, 2017

From Texas Standard:

Ulli Johnston says most customers at her store don’t know her name, they just call her the "Boot Whisperer."

At her Wild West Store in Wimberley, Texas, Johnston is known for being able to look at people’s feet and find them the perfect pair of cowboy boots.

From Texas Standard:

The first few days of the school year are an anxious time for most kids. But there’s a group whose levels of stress and anxiety are so high that they can only be compared to those who have experienced trauma.

Silvia Zuvieta Rodriguez is one of them.

“Since I was little I always had anxiety when it came to my parents not coming home at a certain time,” she says.

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.

When transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders about refugee policy leaked to the press last week, one line got a lot of attention. It was a reference to “local milk people,” presumably dairy farmers, whom the president thought refugees wouldn’t work for.

As it turns out, though, some “milk people” worry it's Trump's immigration policies that may be bad for business.

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:

new study has opened fire against the commonly held belief – particularly in Texas – that carrying guns can reduce violent crime.

From Texas Standard:

It's not unheard of for an obituary to be published by mistake. A few years ago, People.com put up an obit for actor Kirk Douglas, who – at 100 – is still alive.

Something similar happened to Dallas-based Half Price Books chain, Austin’s BookPeople and independent bookstores across the country when the first e-reader made its debut. The death knell never rang so loud.

But it turns out bookstores aren't dead after all, at least not some of the best-known ones in Texas.

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:

A controversial proposal to bring American troops home from Afghanistan, replacing them with contractors, wouldn’t involve private citizens manning tanks or Humvees. Instead, they would fly military-style planes above the battlefield – amounting to a private air force. The proposal comes from Erik Prince, whose contacting firm Blackwater made headlines during the Iraq War.

 

From Texas Standard:

Members of the House and Senate are scrambling to plug a $212 million hole in the teacher retirement system, which provides health benefit for retired educators. Changes made to the TRS-Care system during the regular legislative session could cause some retirees' health care costs to increase tenfold.

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.

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