A lively legislative session — and a special session — that featured fights over bathrooms. Legal battles over abortion, immigration policy and political maps. A devastating hurricane. 2017 was filled with nonstop news in Texas. Here are the highlights.More in this series
News in 2017 was relentless.
Texas lawmakers met for an explosive legislative session that nearly ended in blows. The governor called an ambitious special session, a hurricane ravaged the coast and scandals rocked the state's members of Congress.
The Texas Tribune was there to cover it all. Here are some of our most-read stories from the year that didn't stop:
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton apologizes for graphic online photo (Nov. 22): The longest-serving member of Congress from Texas found himself apologizing the day before Thanksgiving because of a graphic nude photo of him that circulated online. Barton, R-Ennis, originally sent the photo to a woman he was having a relationship with. The congressman said the relationship was with an adult — and was consensual — but he was sorry he "did not use better judgment." Questions remain about whether Barton was the victim of a new Texas law banning revenge porn. A little more than a week after the photo surfaced, Barton announced his retirement. In the 2018 GOP primary to replace him, Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright is the early favorite.
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With proposal to penalize men for masturbating, legislator aims to shake up health debate (March 12): State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed a satirical bill during this year's legislative session that would fine men $100 for masturbating. The bill also would have made it more difficult to get a Viagra prescription. With the legislation, Farrar was taking aim at several anti-abortion bills. News of her legislation went viral and attracted international attention. But at the Capitol, the bill made no progress.
- How to get (and offer) help after Harvey (Aug. 28): Hurricane Harvey — a record-breaking storm that dumped 50 inches of rain in parts of Houston — left more than 80 dead. Thousands of other Texans were left with damaged property. With this article, the Tribune outlined ways readers could help Texans in need.
- New Texas law means Harvey victims have good reason to file claims by Friday (Aug. 28): After days of rain because of Hurricane Harvey, Texans in Houston were greeted by unwelcome news: A new law was about to go into effect that could lessen their payout from insurance companies. The measure would reduce the penalty insurance companies would face for late payments on claims that were taken to court. Critics called the law a money grab by the insurance industry, but proponents said it was needed to get rid of unnecessary lawsuits.
- When UT denied this valedictorian, she got it to change admissions rules (May 22): Madison Mau graduated the top of her high school class — but the University of Texas at Austin still denied her admission. UT-Austin automatically admits the top 7 percent of graduating high school classes in Texas, but because Mau was graduating in a class of 10 students, it was was mathematically impossible for her to be in the top 7 percent. So, she got UT to reverse the decision. But in the end, Mau decided to attend Texas A&M instead.
- Republican lawmaker: I called immigration authorities on Capitol protesters (May 29): On the last day of the legislative session, chaos erupted in the Texas House chamber. Protesters of Texas' ban on "sanctuary cities" disrupted the proceedings from the gallery and had to be escorted out by law enforcement officers. A Republican lawmaker bragged he had called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on the protesters, and a tussle broke out between him and several Democratic lawmakers. The scuffle ended with threats of violence. The ban on "sanctuary cities" — Senate Bill 4 — passed earlier in the year and is currently held up in court.
- Bush daughter headlines Planned Parenthood fundraiser (Feb. 24): The news that Barbara Bush was the keynote speaker for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser was especially striking given that her father — former President George W. Bush — was firmly opposed to abortion. But it wasn't the first time the daughter had struck a different path than the president. Earlier in the year, Barbara Bush attended a fundraiser for then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
- Citing religious refusal of adoption rule, California bans state travel to Texas (June 22): After Texas lawmakers passed a bill that allowed child welfare providers to refuse services to children or prospective parents on religious grounds, California's attorney general banned state-funded travel to Texas. A huge potential impact: college sports teams.
- Gov. Abbott demands Travis County reverse new "sanctuary" policy (Jan. 23): As the legislative session started, Gov. Greg Abbott took aim at Travis County's policy of reducing its cooperation with federal immigration authorities with deportations. He called on Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez to reverse the new policy and threatened to revoke state funding if she didn't.
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