TXdecides | KERA News

TXdecides

Texas Decides is a crowdsourced statewide reporting project where we let listeners decide what stories you'd like us to tell and what questions you'd like us to answer. The occasional series comes from the Texas Station Collaborative, which includes KERA, KUT in Austin, Texas Public Radio in San Antonio, Marfa Public Radio and Houston Public Media

The project started in the fall of 2016. Leading up to the election, public radio reporters across Texas investigated listener-submitted questions related to national, statewide and local politics. 

During the 85th Legislature and special session, stations teamed up again to help listeners understand the complicated lawmaking process in Texas. 

You can listen to stories from the collaborative on the Texas Standard at 10 a.m. every week day on KERA 90.1 FM.

Some states have a full-time legislature, while others pay their lawmakers almost nothing. In Texas, we’re somewhere in between. 

Mengwen Cao / KUT

The special session is underway, and of the 20 items Gov. Greg Abbott says he wants lawmakers to tackle, one is getting a lot of attention from teachers: pay increases for educators.

Will a statewide ban on texting-while-driving replace ordinances already on the books in cities across Texas? 

State lawmakers are back in Austin to kick off some legislative overtime.

And, as it's been reported over and over and over again, the special session is needed because lawmakers couldn’t pass a bill to keep a handful of state agencies open and operating. That got some of our listeners wondering if lawmakers could’ve spend their time at the Capitol a little more efficiently.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT News

During the regular legislative session, Texas lawmakers meet every two years for 140 days. The special session is best described in two words: legislative overtime.

With the start of the special legislation session less than a week away, Morning Edition is looking at issues on the agenda. Today, we answer a listener question about a proposed $1,000 pay increase for teachers: Who is pushing for the increase and where is it coming from?

Texas Station Collaborative

The 85th Texas Legislature ended with dramatic flair last month, leaving key legislation in the balance and tensions high between the House and Senate.

And it’s not over: In July, lawmakers return to Austin for a special session. Texas has seen legislative overtime before, but nothing packed quite like this.

There's a fight looming at the Texas Legislature: how to balance the state budget for the next two years.

The Texas House's version of the budget pulls $2.5 billion from the state's savings account, also known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, or Rainy Day, Fund.  Right now, there's more than $10 billion in that reserve.

The Senate, though, says it doesn't want to pull out any of that money.

But before that debate heats up, we got to wondering how all that money got there in the first place.

The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers debate a flurry of bills ahead of sine die, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Today's question comes from Eric Staib: 

Greg Abbott seems to make the news more often than governors in other states I've lived in. How powerful is the Texas governor compared to other states? 

Why Is The State’s Share Of Public School Funding Shrinking?

May 1, 2017
Sally Beauvais / Marfa Public Radio

Every year, the state of Texas and local school districts pay more and more for public education. Together, they’ll spend a projected $46 billion on Texas schools in 2017. That money comes from two main places: the state government and local property taxes. But that burden isn’t shared equally.

Shutterstock

The 85th legislative session ends on May 29. Texas lawmakers have just over five weeks to figure out some of the state’s most pressing issues, plus hear and vote on dozens, possibly hundreds of bills. In all, legislators have filed more than 9,000 bills this session.

It might be hard to believe, but Texas’s voting maps, those lines that decide where your representative district is and what seat you’re voting for, have been in flux for the past six years.

Rachel Osier Lindley / KERA News

One of the most heated debates in Austin this legislative session is over Senate Bill 6. Introduced as the Privacy Protection Act, the "bathroom bill" would bar people from using restrooms or locker rooms in schools and other government buildings that don’t match the gender on their birth certificates.

Five Ways You Can Influence Texas Lawmakers

Apr 3, 2017

Voters don't like Congress. Only about 40 percent of the country approves of the job the president is doing. And, because of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections, people feel like their voices don't count as much as a large campaign donation.

The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Today's question, submitted by Charles Douglas III:

What is a typical ratio between the number of bills proposed versus the number of bills voted on during a legislative session?

What Would It Take To Summon A Convention Of States?

Mar 20, 2017
r.classen/Shutterstock photo illustration

Gov. Greg Abbott spent more than a year speaking and writing about the need to pass a series of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, in order limit the power of the federal government. His chosen vehicle: invoking Article V of the Constitution to call a “convention of states.”

The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

The Texas Legislature gaveled in just a few short weeks ago. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

The Texas Legislature gaveled in just a few short weeks ago. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Today’s question comes from Gerryl Krilic:

When a bill is presented, what is the process? How many votes required to pass a bill?

Texas Station Collaborative

For the last few weeks, we’ve been asking what you wanted to know about the Texas Legislature: How it works, why it works the way it does and what you want lawmakers to do.  

The Texas Legislature gaveled in just a few short weeks ago. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Today's question comes from Sammi Curless: 

What powers to govern are assigned to the governor versus the lieutenant governor versus the Texas Legislature?

The Texas Legislature gaveled in just a few short weeks ago. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Paul Woolrich via flickr

While Donald Trump won Texas handily, Hillary Clinton won most of the state’s big cities. Dallas County went blue by a big margin, and Democrats dominated local races. While they flipped a handful of state house seats, Democrats fell short of the gains they had hoped for. In Dallas County, just one seat moved from red to blue.

Samantha Guzman / KERA News

The excitement at the Dallas County GOP watch party cranked up a notch each time a state was called for Donald Trump. Republican leaders and GOP supporters celebrated a race that stunned them all.

A ballroom at the Westin Dallas Park Central erupted with cheers each time Donald Trump’s electoral vote total ticked up.

Last week we launched TXDecides, our collaborative project with public radio newsrooms across the state. The goal was simple: Answer Texas voters' questions ahead of Election Day. Y'all had lots of questions. So many, in fact, that we had to pare down the questions to a scant five.

Luckily, we culled some of the remaining questions and decided to answer them as best we could. 

Since 1972, Texas has had a lower voter turnout rate than the national rate for presidential elections.

Jacqueline Mermea / The Texas Tribune

Any registered voter may vote early in person. To vote early by mail, applications for a ballot were due Oct. 28. To get your vote counted, submit your completed mail-in ballot to your county's voter registrar office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8.

Why Is Voter Turnout So Low In Texas?

Oct 28, 2016
Erik Hersman / Flickr

In recent years, voter turnout in Texas has been...well, let’s just say not everything is bigger here. State voter turnout has been below the national average for the past few decades, regularly falling below 50 percent.

PHOTOS BY THE TEXAS TRIBUNE AND GAGE SKIDMORE

It’s no secret Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most disliked major party nominees to ever run for President. That has some Texans searching for other options…any options…when it comes to our next commander and chief. Austinite Kaia Tingley asked: “Can we vote for either Libertarian or Green Party candidates in Texas?”

Shutterstock

Voters continued to turn out in record-breaking numbers across North Texas and the state on the second day of early voting Tuesday.

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