Texas Public Radio

The Texas legislature kicked off a new session on Tuesday, a mere six days after a violent mob breached the U.S. capitol. What the 87th legislative session lacked in action on the floor, it made up for with a large police presence.

More than a hundred state troopers in full tactical gear stood outside the entrances. Some officers monitored the capital grounds, and many more roamed inside.

Less than a week after pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, San Antonio Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said the day was much more somber than usual.

The chairman of the Republican Party of Texas is asking Republican legislators to ignore “fairness” in the next round of legislative redistricting this year, adding to the state’s history of gerrymandering.

“They must realize this strategic opportunity and not concern themselves with ‘fairness’ to the progressive socialist left,” said Allen West, in an email to supporters Monday.

Prominent Texas Republicans criticized the actions of a pro-Trump extremist mob at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have been at the forefront of conspiracy theories and court cases around the results of the 2020 presidential election. On Tuesday, Paxton spoke at a Trump rally in D.C. that preceded the insurrection.

Lee esta historia en español.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is suing ExxonMobil for employment discrimination.

The group alleges the Texas-based oil giant denied Aldo De Leon a job because of his immigration status. De Leon is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), authorizing him to work in the U.S.

Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. As Hendrick Health chief medical officer Rob Wiley explained, the intensive care unit has been over capacity for weeks.

“So right now, we are presently staying over probably 130% capacity every day,” he said. “And we've been that way for a very long period of time — for over a month.”

That means there are more patients requiring intensive care than the total number of staffed beds. Hendrick Medical Center and other hospitals have been forced to activate surge capacity.

Hospitals across Texas are struggling under the weight of the state’s worst COVID-19 surge yet. And the situation is likely to get worse.

Since the beginning of December, the state has set records for the first, second and third highest number of daily cases ever. Confirmed cases typically precede hospitalizations by up to a week. As of Sunday, there were nearly 9,200 Texans hospitalized — the most since July.

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.

An oil storage tank exploded near the refineries on the northwest side of Corpus Christi on Saturday, injuring at least seven people, city and Nueces County officials reported.

The explosion site was at the Magellan Midstream storage tank facility in the 1800 block of Poth, north of Interstate 37 and south of Nueces Bay, near the turning basins for tankers and other ships that enter the industrial port channel.

Among the seven injured, two people have since been released from the hospital and the remaining five are in stable condition.

Texas received $11.2 billion in CARES Act funding to cope with bills run up in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there's a catch: it has to spend everything by the end of the year.

Anything left over goes back to the federal treasury. And many state lawmakers and county officials are complaining that Gov. Greg Abbott has been less than transparent as to how his administration is spending the money.

Lee esta historia en español.

The 2020 election will live in history — and misinformation will be part of it. One particular social media platform may have played a big part in swaying Spanish speaking voters.

Several bills have been filed for the next Texas Legislative session that would decriminalize or legalize the use of marijuana in the state. One state representative said legalization could help to fend off a looming $4.6 billion deficit in Texas.

“Every year, over a billion in tax revenue from a mature market and hundreds of millions in savings on enforcement, thousands of jobs generated both directly and in a ripple effect of economic interdependency," said Joe Moody, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House of Representatives.

Research Underway To Find A More Colorful Alamo

Nov 16, 2020

Was the Alamo once brightly painted like other Spanish missions in the area?

Alamo Conservator Pam Rosser believes it most likely was.

“Mission San Antonio de Valero, known as the Alamo during the mid 1700s, was the center of the community. That would explain why it could have possibly been decoratively painted,” she said.

Rosser is setting out to learn more and perhaps discover what those colors were by extracting tiny pigment fragments for examination. But centuries of sun, wind and rain could make it difficult.

Refusing to concede to Democratic incumbent Henry Cuellar last week, Texas Congressional District 28 Candidate Sandra Whitten has raised concerns about Webb County’s use of pencils in voting booths.

In a Facebook Live conducted on Nov. 7, Whitten, a Republican, said she had heard “rumors” about voter fraud from throughout the district, but she zeroed in on Webb County.

This election was the first in decades to not include a straight ticket voting option on ballots across Texas. Back in 2017, the Republican-controlled state legislature scrapped the option, but the change didn’t take effect until this election.

Democrats unsuccessfully sued to stop the change, but not everyone on the left cared too much.

“I was somewhat agnostic on it,” said Ed Espinoza, the executive director of the left-leaning group, Progress Texas.

Luther Hendricks was just a teenager when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. He says he was determined to fight to save his country from the enemy.

"Once President Roosevelt declared war, I went down the next day to the recruiting station to join up, and I was told they didn't take coloreds in the Marines," Hendricks said.

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More Than 1 Million Young Texans Voted Early In 2020 Election

Nov 2, 2020

Texas was one of the first states to cast more votes in the 2020 election than in all of 2016.

More than a million young Texans cast their ballots before early voting ended on Friday. That also put the Lone Star State first in the U.S. for young voter turnout.

On the same day, the statewide total vote soared to about 9.7 million, compared to just under 9 million in 2016.

On Saturday morning, Bexar County reported 594,735 early votes.

Juan Venancio and his parents flipped through an old photo album in their home in Southwest Houston, reflecting on the chaos of 2020. A first time voter, Venancio keeps COVID-19 and the economic fallout in mind as the election approaches.

“Most people, when they turn 18, they’re really happy you know to get a car or go to college,” Venancio said. “I was obviously happy to go to college and do these things and become more independent, but one of the things I was most excited about about turning 18 is being able to vote.”

Slowly And Cautiously, The VA Is Reopening Its Medical Clinics

Oct 28, 2020

You won't see rows of parked cars on the first floor of the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital parking garage in Tampa. Instead, the garage is filled with hospital beds, computers, medication carts, and an X-ray machine.

The medical center has begun seeing more patients after it initially sharply restricted care at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But to do that, it has moved most of its emergency department outside.

Patients with minor issues like sprained ankles can receive treatment in the garage and never have to step foot inside the hospital.

Sylvia Cervantes is 74 years old, retired and spends a lot of time tending to her front garden in Laredo.

“These are my pride in joy,” she said in Spanglish. “These are my Angel Trumpets. See how beautiful they open up.”

Her garden is filled with flowers like Angel Trumpets, Plumerias and Hibiscuses. The upkeep can be grueling work.

“When you’re poor, you have to work very hard because you don’t have to get a gardener. I don’t have the money,” she said.

But she’s used to hard work.

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate and the California U.S. senator, will be visiting Texas on Friday, according to an email Biden’s campaign sent to Democratic lawmakers in Texas on Sunday.

Harris will be the highest-profile representative of the Biden campaign to visit Texas in person during the general election, though his campaign was already set to spend millions of dollars on TV ads in Texas.

Three years after the #MeToo movement went viral, the military is having its own version of the movement: #IAmVanessaGuillen.

People are using the hashtag to share their accounts of being raped, sexually assaulted, and sexually harassed in the military. They say there often were few or no consequences for their attackers.

When Debbie Chen temporarily closed her Houston restaurant in March due to the coronavirus, she was worried about her health and her financial livelihood.

But as a Chinese American, she was also worried about vandalism and her physical safety, given how President Donald Trump and others were blaming China for the pandemic and using racist monikers for the virus.

Seven months later, as Texans head to the polls in the 2020 elections, she hasn’t forgotten. Chen works on Asian American and Pacific Islander voter turnout every year, but this year she feels even more motivated.

The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners will no longer prohibit social workers from turning away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

A statewide rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations suggests another surge may be on the way in Texas.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas plateaued in early September at slightly around 3,000, then began climbing again on Sept. 20.

More than 4,200 Texans are now in the hospital with COVID-19.

Texas Health Department spokesman Chris Van Deusen says the state is closely tracking these numbers and — by request — is sending extra health care workers to El Paso, Amarillo and Lubbock, where cases have spiked in recent weeks.

Texas counties may collect mail-in ballots at only one location, a federal appeals court ruled late Monday, once again upholding an order from Gov. Greg Abbott that restricts voting options.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced two new contracts for nearly 40 miles of border wall construction in Webb County on Wednesday.

The Trump administration has now awarded four contracts for its proposed border wall in the Laredo area for a total of more than $1 billion.

When Jarrod Stringer updated his driver’s license address in 2014, the Texas Department of Public Safety website asked if he wanted to register to vote. He clicked yes and thought he was registered. That fall, when he went to vote in San Antonio, he was denied. According to the system, he had never registered. It was past the registration deadline, so he couldn’t vote.

That kicked off a six-year legal battle that included two lawsuits for the right for Texans to register to vote online while updating their licenses.

Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Elimination Of Straight-Ticket Voting

Sep 28, 2020

Less than three weeks before early voting begins in Texas, a U.S. district judge has blocked the state from eliminating straight-ticket voting as an option for people who go to the polls this November.

In a ruling issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo cited the coronavirus pandemic, saying the elimination of the voting practice would “cause irreparable injury” to voters “by creating mass lines at the polls and increasing the amount of time voters are exposed to COVID-19.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at a webinar Thursday hosted by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce where he discussed the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on the Latinx community and other people of color.

The U.S. death toll exceeded 200,000 deaths this week.

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