Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In Texas, gambling is illegal in almost all forms. But you’d never know it driving down Business 77 in Willacy County. It cuts through a rural area of the Rio Grande Valley, but bares a passing resemblance to Las Vegas. It’s a headache for law enforcement, but a remedy could be on the way.

From Texas Standard:

"Unidentified: How Kids Can Age Out Of Texas Foster Care Without Documentation" is a series of reports from Texas Standard about the lack of needed identification documents among Texas foster youth.

In "Unidentified," one foster mom described the crucial role played by her children's attorney ad litem in getting their documentation. That attorney ad litem no longer works in that role. Maya Guerra Gamble is now a judge on the 459th Civil District Court in Travis County. She says persistence was a key ingredient in her success representing foster youth.

"Some of the documents, like a birth certificate, can be very hard to come by," Guerra Gamble says. "When children show up, their parents may not have any of their documentation."

From Texas Standard:

The changing news landscape has been a struggle for many local papers. The Associated Press cites a study that found some 1,800 newspapers have shut down in just the last 15 years. Many of those were community weeklies.

That's bad news for the newspaper industry, but Texas A&M professor Johanna Dunaway says it's also impacting our politics. She co-authored a study in the Journal of Communication that found newspaper closures polarize voting behavior, as evidenced by a decline in split-ticket voting.

With all the talk about property tax and school finance reform in the Texas Legislature so far, one has to wonder — what about guns?

From Texas Standard:

When the 2019 Texas legislative session gaveled in earlier this month, leadership named fixing the state’s troubled school finance system as a top priority – maybe even giving teachers an across-the-board raise.

School districts, especially in rural Texas, are paying attention. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas has more schools in rural areas than any other state. But when it comes to public policy, big cities can dominate the conversation.

In Texas, Rural Teachers Face A Big Pay Gap

Jan 29, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Texas ranks 28th in teacher salaries, according to the most recent data. Teachers here make about $7,000 less than the national average. But that could change, with some legislators and state leaders talking about an across-the-board raise.

Sounds great, right? Well, maybe not for rural teachers, who can lag significantly behind their urban and suburban counterparts, compensation-wise.

From Texas Standard:

Ever since two important cases struck down gun restrictions in Washington, D.C. and Chicago – rulings that essentially protected gun ownership in the home – a question has remained as to whether it's legal to carry guns in public. But now, the Supreme Court is planning to review a case dealing with that very question; it's known by the shorthand "New York State Rifle."

Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law who specializes in American constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Winkler says the case challenges a New York City ordinance that limits where people with permitted guns can bring them into public; they can bring them to specified gun ranges, for example.

From Texas Standard:

We have talked about the influence Texas lost when senior members of the U.S. House retired or lost re-election bids. But what about the freshman members who replaced them? On what committees did they land, and does a freshman committee assignment have any influence on that lawmaker's trajectory in politics? And while we're at it, what will the elevation of two non-freshman Texans, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Will Hurd, mean for the state?

Paul Fabrizio, professor of political science at McMurry University in Abilene, says Colin Allred, a Democratic freshman from Dallas, scored seats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

From Texas Standard:

Texas is home to three types of oaks: red, white and live; all are susceptible to a deadly fungus called oak wilt. It's one of the most destructive tree diseases in the United States, and it's quickly changing the landscape of Texas – especially Central Texas.

Jim Houser, regional forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, says oak wilt has been an issue for longer than most people probably realize.

'Coerced Debt' Often Follows Domestic Violence Survivors

Jan 18, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Once survivors of domestic abuse are in a safe place, and looking to start building their future, they can face another roadblock: debt. Abusers can use debt to hurt or trap a potential victim. And for many, credit cards and loans taken out under two names, but never paid back, can cripple a survivor financially. It's called "coerced debt." The person who coined the term is Angela Littwin, a law professor at the University of Texas specializing in bankruptcy and consumer protection.

From Texas Standard:

Monday, about 34,000 teachers will walk off the job in Los Angeles – a move described as "historic." It echoes what happened almost a year ago when a West Virginia teacher walkout triggered similar strikes elsewhere in the US. Teachers all over the country are lobbying for higher pay.

Here in Texas, 10 percent of all first-year teachers leave their jobs before their second year. Better pay may be key to keeping more of them in the classroom, and last week, top state lawmakers pledged that 2019 will be the "Year of the Teacher" in the Texas Legislature, promising to boost salaries. But there's still many details yet to be decided.

From Texas Standard:

For years, there's been talk about the growth of the craft beer business. Breweries have been popping up all over Texas to fill a thirst for locally made suds. But it's worth wondering whether we've reached a saturation point. In December, Big Bend Brewing announced it was suspending its operations and Noble Rey Brewing in Dallas just filed for bankruptcy protection.

From Texas Standard:

The next Texas legislative session kicks off in less than a week, and one issue facing lawmakers will be how to address the backlog of about 15,000 untested rape kits. One solution lawmakers proposed during the last session was to give Texans the option to donate to a fund for kit testing when applying for, or renewing a driver's license or vehicle registration. Texans did donate, and the state collected more than $560,000.

From Texas Standard:

Where do tornadoes come from? It's not a riddle or a trick question, although the answer may seem obvious: the sky, right? Evidently, that's not the case.

From Texas Standard:

Many Texas holiday traditions are in full-swing. Some folks hang lights, some will go to a German-style Christmas market. Others will make tamales and attend at least one posada. If you’ve never been to one – they’re like a holiday block party. Posadas are often organized by a Catholic community to mark the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Some posadas are huge, others are intimate. But almost all of them include a special piñata. A place many folks in the Central Texas city of Manor get their posada piñata. Is one you’d only find by word of mouth.

From Texas Standard:

The federal prison inmate population is about 183,000. That could be cut by almost a third in the course of one year, if lawmakers on Capitol Hill succeed in passing a new law. Monday, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn acting as majority whip – the number two leader in the Senate – delivered an impassioned speech calling for passage of the First Step Act. It's a first step toward major criminal justice reform.

From Texas Standard:

Weeks before Election Day in November, reports indicated that the Texas Senate race would be the most expensive one in U.S. history. The last campaign-finance report showed that Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke collectively raised more than $100 million.

From Texas Standard:

Frank Vickers of Bastrop was on the couch watching “Jeopardy!” when there was a knock on the door. Before he could get up, a Bastrop County Sheriff's deputy was standing in his living room, ready to evict him.

From Texas Standard:

At first glance, Jews and Latinos may appear to have very little in common. That impression may begin to change somewhat on Tuesday with the launch of a new organization that brings the two groups together. It's called the Texas Latino-Jewish Leadership Council, and it's modeled after a fairly new national group by a similar name. Southern Methodist University professor Luisa del Rosal is a founding member of the group, and says members of the Jewish and Latino communities have a lot in common.

From Texas Standard:

This political season in Texas, yard signs have been at the center of stories that sound straight out of The Onion. There’s the couple who turned their front lawn into a giant, hand-painted Beto O’Rourke sign. Or the anti-Brett Kavanaugh sign in Hamilton that police threatened to confiscate after Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller posted about it on Facebook. Our Texas Decides series continues with a listener question you might call a sign of the times.

From Texas Standard:

When it comes to the Latino block of the electorate, you’ve probably heard politicians and analysts describe it this way.

From Texas Standard:

As the clock approached midnight  Sunday, word began to spread that Canada was ready to sign on the dotted line of the new trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico. Formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, the retooled trilateral deal is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. But the new name is only a small part of the changes.

From Texas Standard:

Texas has long had a “tough on crime” reputation, and the numbers back that up.

Texas is seventh in the nation when it comes to its incarceration rate: 891 out of every 100,000 people are in lockup.  And it has long led in number of executions, too. Since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, Texas has executed more than 550 inmates, including two this week.

From Texas Standard:

Two years ago, the Houston Chronicle investigated how Texas had been creating the false impression that there was declining demand for special education. The investigation was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and it showed that Texas had found ways to cap the number of special-education students, and block others from even qualifying. It was essentially a money-saving strategy, but now the federal government says it's time to pay up, and fix the system.

From Texas Standard:

There's some surprising news about the state of labor in Texas: the Lone Star State has been a right-to-work state since 1947, but it appears that unions in Texas are having a moment. Membership numbers are up, and it could be a turning point for organized labor, even in pro-business Texas.

From Texas Standard:

Labor Day once marked the traditional start of election season. That's hard to believe now with 24-hour news cycles, and more and more people tuned in to social media. These days, Labor Day signals the final sprint for those running for office to reach voters before they head to the polls in November. So, with campaigns already well underway, how are the midterms shaping up in Texas?

From Texas Standard:

Up and down the Gulf Coast, Texans are still trying to get back to where they were before Hurricane Harvey hit. Some have had to rebuild from the ground up. For others, the trouble is with the ground itself.

From Texas Standard:

In south Texas, cotton farmers are beginning to reap what they've sown. The harvest season starts in the Rio Grande Valley, and slowly creeps north throughout the fall. Whether it's drought, hail, flood, or pests, there's plenty that can go wrong while growing cotton. But farmers aren't clear of the hazards once they get the crop out of the ground. They still have to avoid cotton contamination. That's something that Jimmy Roppolo knows quite a bit about. He's the general manager of United Ag Cooperative in El Campo, where they're starting to gin this season's cotton.

From Texas Standard:

Raising cattle anywhere is hard, but it’s especially hard in the Rio Grande Valley. And that’s thanks to fever ticks. They can spread a fatal disease that decimated cattle herds through the 1900s and is still feared today. And it’s not just the ticks themselves that can cause headaches, but the regulations designed to control them.

From Texas Standard:

Political pundits, pollsters and activists have been saying for a while that the 2018 midterm elections are likely to result in some upheaval in the ranks of incumbent officeholders. Already, in special elections in other states, Democrats have run strong in reliably Republican areas, and here at home, one senator, and several members of Congress face enthusiastic opposition. But statewide officeholders – Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller – face somewhat easier paths to reelection. Still, Democrats are campaigning aggressively.

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