TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 2/14/11

Texas' explosive growth during the past decade was fueled by a boom in its minority population, which accounted for 89 percent of the total increase in population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. Census Bureau collected 2010 population totals for Texas counties, breaking down the figures by race and Hispanic origin. The data will be used for redistricting of political districts during the 2011 session of the Texas Legislature. This interactive map displays those totals in shades, with darker colors representing higher rates of total population growth.

Chaplains have been a part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since at least 1910, providing spiritual guidance and programs. Under the proposed House budget, all 121 Texas prison chaplains would lose their jobs.

To solve the state’s budget crisis, lawmakers are considering sweeping cuts to almost everything, from school funding to child welfare services. But a $300-million-a-year cancer institute championed by Gov. Rick Perry and Lance Armstrong has so far escaped the budget knife.

Texas, like many other states, is proposing billions of dollars in cuts to help close a budget gap. But as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, one thing Texas has that nobody else does is $9 billion in a piggy bank called the Rainy Day Fund — and lawmakers are divided over whether to crack it open.

In the five years since Abilene Christian University began preparing for the freshman class of 2011, the private West Texas university with fewer than 5,000 students has done just that, transforming itself into perhaps the most technologically innovative campus in the state.

State Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, has filed legislation to allow licensed handgun owners to carry concealed weapons on community college campuses. But some campus police fear it could actually put students and faculty in more danger.

As hearings continued this afternoon at the Capitol, power plant owners tried to explain why so many of their operations failed during the Feb. 2 rolling blackouts.

The fight over Amazon's taxes isn't just about the giant online retailer. State officials say Texas is losing $600 million annually on taxable items purchased online. And as they work to close a budget gap of up to $27 billion, they're chasing every penny.

Six months after Congress established the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund to help states retain and hire teachers, Texas is one of only two states that has not received its money. Whether the state will gets it depends on a game of political chicken between Gov. Rick Perry and a certain Austin Democrat.

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