Report: Texas Children Rank Low on Markers of Well-Being

Also, Fort Worth U.S. Rep. Kay Granger pulls the plug on a candidacy to lead the powerful House Appropriations panel, and Texas Democrats mull how to use Donald Trump's rhetoric to their advantage.

School children at Cantu Elementary in San Juan, Texas, are shown eating breakfast on April 24, 2013.

Texas is among the worst states in the country for children, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national nonprofit.

The annual report ranked Texas 43rd on its scale of overall child well-being, slightly worse than the state’s showing of 41st in 2015. A quarter of the state’s children live in poverty, compared to 22 percent of children nationally. The state was tied with Alaska for the highest percentage of children without health insurance — 11 percent, compared to the national rate of 6 percent.

According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, that figure is likely a reflection of the high uninsured rate among Texas adults, because most kids share their parents' insurance status. In Texas, Latino children are especially likely to lack health insurance: 15 percent lack insurance, compared to 7 percent of white and black children.

The Lone Star State was also in the bottom half of states for all four indicators that comprised the overall scale: 33rd for economic well-being; 32nd for education; 38th for health; and 47th for family and community, which took into account the number of children in single-parent homes, the number whose parents lack a high school diploma, and the number who live in high-poverty areas, as well as the rate of teen births.

The state’s child population grew faster than almost any other between 2000 and 2010, due to a combination of immigration and migration within the U.S.

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A new report says that judges on state courts nationwide are disproportionately white and male, and Texas is no exception.

The report from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is based on the research of two law professors, Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon, who looked at the race, ethnicity, and gender of 10,000 sitting state court judges. The report gave Texas a D grade and ranked it 22nd among states for how closely its state judges reflect the diversity of its population.

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U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, pulled herself out of the running for chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee last week, according to Politico.

Instead, she threw her support behind New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who outranks her in seniority.

Granger will likely have another shot at the chairmanship in six years, thanks to the House Republican term-limit rules on committee chairs.

Her fellow Republicans consider her a powerful behind-the-scenes player in House politics. She will continue to have a serious shot at the Appropriations chairmanship — one of the most coveted positions in the House — if the position opens up again. That will most likely happen in six years, assuming Republicans continue to control the House and the next chairman exits in the next round of chairman term limits.

She will, however, be closing in on 80 years old at the time, and could be mulling retiring from Congress by then.

Granger’s trajectory is important to the state. Currently, seven Texans hold chairmanships in the House. But they will begin to cycle out in the coming years thanks to that term-limit rule.

Granger is currently the Texan best positioned for a future chairmanship.

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A group of 20 state lawmakers filed an amicus brief Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban.

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, argued in the brief that the ordinance violates the state's health and safety code. A lower court previously ruled that the bag ban does not violate state law.

"Cities need to understand that the Legislature can and will step in when authority delegated to them by the sovereign state of Texas has been abused to restrict liberty and constrain the free flow of commerce," Rinaldi said in a statement.

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The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity-Texas is supporting a lawsuit against the city of Austin over an ordinance that regulates short-term rental units.

Specifically, the ordinance prohibits guests staying in short-term rental units from hosting "outdoor assemblies" during certain hours. AFP-Texas argued in a news release that the regulation effectively prevents guests from holding "backyard birthday parties, summer barbeques, or games of pickup basketball without risking thousands of dollars in fines."

In a statement, the group's state director, Jerome Greener, called the ordinance an "unconstitutional violation of the rights of property owners in Austin."

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Texas Democratic Party officials are planning on using Donald Trump's controversial campaign rhetoric about women and immigrants to draw contrasts and unseat some House GOP incumbents who support the businessman's presidential bid.

Their remarks during a conference call on Wednesday came in response to a partisan poll the party released, which says that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, is "poised to top" President Barack Obama's vote in 2008.

Even though the poll found Trump leading Clinton 37-29 percent, it said 52 percent of self-identified Republicans said they may vote for candidates not on the Republican ballot. Twenty-seven percent said they may not vote Republican because of their doubts about Trump.

“The poll suggests that Texas is a single digit state, and we see it offers [an opportunity] to win down-ballot races," said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who predicted that Democrats could win about three seats in the North Texas area.

"It's not suggesting we'll be a swing state, but it's setting us up for the long-run,” she added.

Leland Beatty, an Austin-based pollster, conducted the poll. Nine hundred and ninety-eight people, a random sample of Texas voters balanced to the likely 2016 general election turnout, were surveyed on June 13 and 14. It has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities has been a financial sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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