State government

 Justin Dehn

TribBlog: Praying for Church and State [Updated]

In a morning prayer to open the State Board of Education meeting, social conservative member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, mixed worship with a constitutional argument against the separation of church and state — previewing the politically charged debate to come later today, as conservatives tackle their last big agenda item before approving the state social studies standards.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

TribBlog: Workers' Comp Chief Blasts Whistleblowers

As the Division of Workers' Compensation heads into a public hearing at the Sunset Advisory Commission next week, Commissioner Rod Bordelon is blasting his former employees for their allegations reported by the Texas Tribune.

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 Bob Daemmrich

Hussein in the Membrane

A member of the State Board of Education's internationally notorious conservative wing trotted out Barack Obama's middle name late in a marathon meeting Thursday, a fitting end to a debate over social studies curriculum standards that was marked by irritable outbursts and inane dialogue. Members fought over slavery, Jefferson Davis, Joseph McCarthy — even over when they could finally adjourn.

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 Marjorie Cotera

Separation Anxiety

At a public hearing today, the State Board of Education's social conservative bloc is expected to launch attacks on the church-state “wall” as part of hundreds of changes to the social studies curriculum standards, which could provide the outline for tests and textbooks years into the future. The board expects to take a final vote on the entire curriculum on Friday.

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 ERCOT

TribBlog: Room at the Top, and Then Some

Jan Newton — who chairs the board of directors at the state's electric utility grid operator — is stepping down from that post, leaving the agency with interim officeholders and holes in key positions at the top of its organization chart.

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 Wikimedia

TribBlog: History Paige

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Houston Superintendent Rod Paige this morning asked the State Board of Education to delay adopting its standards, saying they had “swung too far” to the ideological right and diminished the importance of civil rights and slavery. Asked if the board should delay a final vote expected Friday, he said, "Absolutely."

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 Graphic by Task Force on Indigent Defense

Defenseless

Before adopting the Fair Defense Act in 2001, Texas was considered abysmal in legal circles when it came to providing representation for the poor. Proponents and critics of the current system agree the situation has improved since lawmakers started requiring counties to implement minimum representation standards. But has it improved enough?

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 Graphic by Jacqueline Mermea

Generation Next

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, may be 50, but he's only been in the House for three sessions. He's part of a youth movement in the power corridors of the Legislature — one that's less about age than lack of seniority.

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 Jacqueline Mermea

Lame Ducks Unlimited

Four members of the State Board of Education who are exiting their seats in January are preparing to cast decisive votes this week on controversial curriculum revisions that will alter social studies textbooks for 4.7 million public school children in Texas. But, just maybe, not so fast: Two Republicans who'll likely win election to the SBOE this fall, and a Democrat who is vying for another soon-to-be-vacated seat, said in interviews that they'd support reopening the standards process if consensus emerged on the newly constituted board.

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Uninformed Consent

Lawmakers said Monday that the state's newborn disease screening program — which has been used to warehouse infant blood samples for biomedical and forensics research — has misled parents and given them few options to protect their babies' DNA.

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 Graphic by Bob Daemmrich, Caleb Miller

Workers' Comp: What's Next?

Lawmakers are pledging to take a closer look at the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers' Compensation in light of allegations by former employees that their higher-ups failed to sanction or remove dozens of doctors accused of overmedicating patients and overbilling insurers. The chairman of the House panel that oversees workers' compensation says he's planning a hearing on the matter this summer, and the chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission plans to question the division's commissioner at a public hearing next week.

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 Katie Hayes

Unemployment Stimulus Still Available?

Rick Perry made national headlines last year when he announced Texas was turning down unemployment insurance benefits available as part of the federal stimulus package. Attempts by state lawmakers to get their hands on the money anyway ran out of time at the end of the Legislative session, but as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, the $555 million is still there for the taking.

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