TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of Jun 14, 2010

Steve Munisteri, the state GOP’s new chair, talked to the Tribune about the party’s fiscal condition, redistricting, fundraising across partisan aisles, how to unify with the Tea Party and the status of his relationship with his dethroned predecessor, Cathie Adams.

Can the Republican establishment in Texas and the various Tea Party groups find enough common ground to keep the state GOP from splintering? Mississippi governor Haley Barbour told convention delegates this weekend that they have no choice.

The federal government could begin cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, according to a copy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new strategic plan obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Roughly 900 out-of-state kids were sent to residential treatment centers in Texas in the last five years, part of a national compact that allows states that don't have adequate psychiatric services to send kids to states that do. But the practice has come under fire from children’s health advocates, who say it takes kids away from their families and their communities — two things they need to make a full-fledged recovery.

After shocking abuse was uncovered at Texas Youth Commission facilities in 2007, lawmakers successfully overhauled the state juvenile justice system. Three years later, advocates worry that budget woes will halt that progress.

Texas now has about 24.8 million residents, an increase of 3.9 million, or almost 20 percent, since 2000, and trails only California in the proportion of its residents who identify themselves as Hispanic. We're also the third-youngest state, with a median age of 33; only Utah and Alabama have younger populations. These and other fun facts can be discovered in a new database application that helps explain and visualize how the makeup of Texas counties has changed since the last U.S. Census.

Within Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer accounts for about 40 percent of all water use, but its levels are declining sharply. In a dry growing season, the High Plains Water District recorded an average drop of 1.5 feet. Meanwhile, the 2007 state water plan projects that the Ogallala's volume will fall a staggering 52 percent between 2010 and 2060.

In 2000, higher education in Texas languished compared to other states, and a plan was adopted to “close the gaps” by 2015. A decade later, Raymund Paredes, the commissioner of higher education tells the Tribune that bold steps still need to be taken. But can we afford to take them?

While the right and left don't agree on much, both sides stipulate that the state's budget mess is a multibillion-dollar problem. The executive director of the progressive Center for Public Policy Priorities, former state district judge Scott McCown, and the director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, former state Rep. Talmadge Heflin, debate the best way to dig us out of the hole — and how we got into it in the first place.

 

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