TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 5/2/11

GOP lawmakers' battle against Planned Parenthood resumed this week, as members of a Senate subcommittee passed out a bill that would renew the Texas Women's Health Program but prohibit the country's most prominent family planning organization from participating.

Is it about security or racial profiling? Will U.S. citizens be targets of harassment? Will it stain Texas with the reputation Arizona thrust upon itself? The Texas House will likely entertain those and other sensitive questions when House Bill 12, commonly referred to as the “sanctuary cities” bill, hits the chamber's floor.

Less than a month before his scheduled execution, Cary Kerr had no attorney. And the ones he had had up to that point, he argued, didn’t do him much good. This week, his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution was turned down.

The University of Texas System has released much-anticipated data on faculty "productivity" — noting, however, that the 821-page spreadsheet is in a raw draft form that has not been fully verified and "cannot yield accurate analysis, interpretations or conclusions."

School districts across the state are passing belt-tightening budgets due to cuts expected at the Legislature, but some are gearing up for legal challenges.

It’s tense at the Texas Capitol. It’s May — the last month of the session. Deadlines are arriving daily. Bills are dying. Legislative wish lists are drying up and blowing away. Blame the puppies.

It’s big tobacco vs. little in the effort to smoke out new revenue for the Texas budget. Large tobacco companies, which fork over half a billion dollars to the state every year as part of a 1998 lawsuit settlement, want small cigarette manufacturers to pay their share.

At our TribLive conversation on April 28, Evan Smith interviewed Bill Powers and Bowen Loftin, the presidents of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, respectively, about the need for higher education reform, the impact of budget cuts, the predicament of middling graduation rates and more.

Did former State Board of Education member Rene Nunez violate state law when he encouraged four current board members to extend the contract with the company managing the state's $25 billion Permanent School Fund?

The Texas House approved new political maps last week as part of decennial redistricting. In many cases, the newly drawn state House districts changed boundaries so that Republicans could preserve their majority. Use our interactive map graphic the see the changes.

The Texas Senate voted 19-12 along party lines Wednesday to pass its own version of HB 1, the House’s budget for the next biennium. Not only did the Democrats lose their power to stop the bill under the traditional two-thirds rule, but they may have lost their chance for a Democrat to join the conference committee where five senators and five representatives will develop a compromise bill.

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