Friday, May 30, 2014

Massive flooding causes caskets to float away from graves - KPTV - FOX 12

Massive flooding causes caskets to float away from graves - KPTV - FOX 12



Measles in U.S. reaches two-decade high, hits Amish communities hardest | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour

Measles in U.S. reaches two-decade high, hits Amish communities hardest | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour

Could you pass your child's STAAR Texas standardized test? By John Boyd | May 29, 2014

Conservatives’ real “reproductive health” plot: “These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion”

Conservatives’ real “reproductive health” plot: “These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion”

Five years after George Tiller’s murder, women carry on his legacy 05/30/14 01:05 PM—UPDATED 05/30/14 05:17 PM

HERO Testimony Dalea Lugo

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Houston City Council Votes To Pass LGBT Equal Rights Ordinance by: Omar Araiza Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:00 AM CDT

2 Dem Ladies Need Help 4 StateConvention

Our corporate classrooms: Bill Bigelow on the dangers of standardized curriculums and fresh ideas by Sue Zalokar | 21 May 2014

2014 data for May 27 runoffs Go deep inside the various elections taking place throughout the Houston area Tuesday in this handy database. And check for the latest coverage on this year's elections.

Playlist Rachel Maddow RACHEL MADDOW 05/28/14 Execution drug makers’ appeal for privacy backed by big campaign donations Rachel Maddow alerts viewers to a story in Texas in which A.G. Greg Abbott will decide whether to protect the identity of execution drug makers or risk offending an industry that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign for governor.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

National Anthem -- 2014 Memorial Day Ceremony | USAA

Memorial Day 2014 Ceremony | USAA

Memorial Day 2014 -- Here's To Our Heroes | USAA

Celebrating Service: Missing Man Table

"Fake" Tea Party Tries to Deceive Voters in Runoff Posted on May 25 2014, 12:50 pm by Jamie Nash in Local / Area News

80% Of Teenage Girls Have Been On A Diet, And The Results Should Make Our Country Look In The Mirror

Greg Abbott Takes Campaign Money From Bond Lawyers But Attacks Davis Firm For Doing Bond Work By: Adalia Woodburymore from Adalia Woodbury Sunday, May, 25th, 2014, 6:07 pm

Despite #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram attacks on the rise

Despite #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram attacks on the rise

My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice

My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice

Laura Bassett Wendy Davis Greeted By 'Abortion Barbie' Posters In Los Angeles Posted: 05/22/2014 3:19 pm EDT Updated: 05/23/2014

Reps. Say Civil Libertarians Try To Scare You, Then Try To Scare You

Reps. Say Civil Libertarians Try To Scare You, Then Try To Scare You

BREAKING: Japans research whaling ruled illegal by International Court of Justice | GREENPEACE New Zealand

BREAKING: Japans research whaling ruled illegal by International Court of Justice | GREENPEACE New Zealand

In Texas, Conservative Candidates Ride Out Hard Hits by Morgan Smith May 25, 2014

In Texas, Conservative Candidates Ride Out Hard Hits

A conservative talk radio host with a history of bankruptcy, litigation and attention-grabbing on-air moments, Dan Patrick is a candidate out of an opposition researcher’s fantasy.

Investigations into Patrick’s past have led to several hard-hitting attacks against the Republican state senator from Houston who is trying to unseat Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Tuesday’s runoff, including forays into mental health records three decades old. But attempts to dull support for Patrick have so far failed to change his front-runner status in the race; he is the favorite of conservative voters.

Candidates who have aligned themselves to the right of their opponents in two other statewide runoffs are also expected to win despite blows to their credibility. Critics say the attacks are an indication that candidates have failed to find ways to fault their opponents on matters of substance. Luke Macias, a Republican political consultant who has clients in state legislative races, said voters were savvy enough to understand that such attacks occurred when opponents “cannot show themselves to be more conservative, so their only option is to go all-out negative on personal stuff.”

“You listen to it, it’s like ‘Catch Me If You Can’ type stuff. I just think it’s a little overboard,” Macias added. “They can’t point to the things that really engage the voters on the issues they care about.”

Competing Republican factions threaten to exacerbate a battle for the future of the party in Texas — one that could extend beyond Tuesday’s runoff.

“Part of the problem is that people are so frustrated, so disillusioned that there isn’t a unifying leader. There is no team of people working together,” said Tom Pauken, a former state Republican Party chairman who dropped out of the governor’s race in December when it became clear that he could not win. “I’m just over all concerned that the Republicans are not standing for sound policies. Everyone is just calling themselves conservatives and getting away from really addressing the issues.”

An outspoken opponent of Patrick has been Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who finished fourth in the March primary.

Before the primary, Patterson hired a private investigator who found evidence that Patrick had hired an undocumented immigrant to work at a chain of sports bars he owned in the 1980s. After the primary, Patterson, who eventually endorsed Dewhurst, questioned how Patrick had avoided military service in Vietnam, accusing him of dodging the draft. Patrick explained that he had received a medical deferment.

Earlier this month, Patterson distributed 30-year-old medical records to the media showing that Patrick had attempted suicide and had been treated in a psychiatric facility. The records were part of a libel lawsuit Patrick had filed in the 1980s against a Houston Post reporter.

The move caused an uproar even among some of Patrick’s staunchest opponents and forced Dewhurst to deny any involvement, though he stopped short of condemning their release, saying that voters should consider Patrick’s medical history if they believed it spoke to his capacity to lead.

Patterson defended his actions, saying in an email after the release, “There is a reason Democrat San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and other Democrats have said that Dan Patrick is the Democrats’ ‘meal ticket’ back to a statewide win.”

Patrick and his supporters blamed the attacks on his opponents’ desperation. Bob Wickers, a strategist for Patrick, said in an email on Friday that conservative voters would recognize the “very personal attacks” for what they were — “shameful and irrelevant.”

“Runoff voters want the real deal — conservatives who’ll fight Obama in Washington and fight for issues they care deeply about here in Austin,” he said. “That’s Dan Patrick, not David Dewhurst.”

A similar dynamic has played out on a smaller scale in the Republican runoffs for agriculture commissioner — one candidate, Sid Miller, has been accused of mismanaging campaign funds — and for attorney general, in which the Tea Party-backed candidate, Ken Paxton, admitted to violating state securities law.

Miller, a former state representative, has maintained momentum in the Republican race for agriculture commissioner despite criticism of how he has managed campaign funds, including investing in the stock market and repaying himself for a personal loan with 10 percent interest. He is one of the few candidates who has earned the endorsement of Gov. Rick Perry, who called him “a proven and trusted conservative leader.”

In late April, Paxton, a state senator from McKinney, amended nine of his personal financial statements to correct omissions in his disclosures in the wake of a Texas Tribune investigation into business and professional relationships that he had not reported. As a result of that investigation, he received a reprimand from the Texas State Securities Board, which found he had violated the law by previously soliciting investment clients without being registered.

Paxton said that the filing lapses were administrative oversights and that he took immediate action to solve the problems when they were brought to his attention.

But State Rep. Dan Branch, Paxton’s Republican opponent, said the violation was enough to disqualify Paxton from the office of attorney general.

"These transgressions, which began in 2004, represent repeated illegal behavior by Ken Paxton in violation of laws that are in place to protect Texans from being victimized by swindlers," Branch said in a statement. "The Republican Party of Texas cannot promote a lawbreaker as our standard-bearer to replace Greg Abbott as our attorney general.”

The development led two police associations in North Texas to withdraw their endorsements of Paxton. But the conservative groups backing him over Branch have only reaffirmed their support.

“Senator Paxton took care of business immediately,” said Michelle Smith, the Texas director of the Concerned Women for America, adding that the lapse had “absolutely not” caused her to question a vote for Paxton.

Patterson said that Patrick’s sustained lead in the face of what he said were substantial questions about his character and ability to lead showed the hefty influence of the Tea Party in Texas. While he said he agrees with the principles advanced by the conservative movement, he expressed dismay at what he saw as a reluctance among Republicans to criticize candidates who have captured its support.

“We are going to have to stop saying, ‘Well, we can’t hurt the ticket,’” Patterson said. “We are going to have to vet our candidates and not act like, ‘O.K., we are all Republicans, we have to stay together.’”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

David Dewhurst: Why me and not Patrick or Van de Putte via @TribTalkTX

Dan Patrick: Why me and not Dewhurst or Van de Putte

Castro is making a mistake By Matt Mackowiak, May 22, 2014

3,000 turn out to witness unveiling of MLK statue Speakers including son emphasize honoring memory with forgiveness, legislation By Carol Christian

Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Win Millennials: Equality, Climate Change, and Gay Marriage - Moral Messaging

Meet Miss Texas Read More at:

San Antonio & Charles Barkley - Lets Get Over It Already! - WOAI News 4 San Antonio - Top Stories

San Antonio & Charles Barkley - Lets Get Over It Already! - WOAI News 4 San Antonio - Top Stories

Senate OKs abortion buffer zone of 25 feet |

Senate OKs abortion buffer zone of 25 feet |

Thursday, May 22 2014, 11:02 PM MDT Utah Lawmakers Pass Child Sex Abuse Prevention Education Bill

Chris Brown - Don't Wake Me Up

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Texas is a women's health nightmare By Cecile Richards, May 20, 2014

The New Underground Railroad

The New Underground Railroad

Jon Stewart Blasts The NRA's Opposition To 'Smart Guns' The Huffington Post | by Ed Mazza Email RSS Posted: 05/21/2014 8:59 am EDT Updated: 05/21/2014 9:59 am EDT

Paid 'Menstrual Leave' For Women: Special Treatment Or A Necessary Benefit? HuffPost Live Posted: 05/20/2014 1:03 pm EDT Updated: 05/20/2014 1:59 pm EDT

Republican Argues Immigration Reform Debate Leads To Child Sex Trafficking The Huffington Post | by Roque Planas Email RSS Posted: 05/21/2014 4:54 pm EDT

Amendments On Undocumented Immigrants In The Military Won't Get A Vote In The House Posted: 05/21/2014 12:38 am EDT Updated: 05/21/2014 11:59 am EDT

What Happens When We Share Our Abortion Stories: Hate, Vitriol, But Also Love Renee Bracey Sherman by Renee Bracey Sherman, Abortion Access Activist May 16, 2014 - 11:05 am

Campaign for Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Ballot Initiative Fails Teddy Wilson by Teddy Wilson, Reporting Fellow, RH Reality Check May 20, 2014 - 10:59 pm

George Strait - I Cross My Heart (Official Music Video)

Lloyd Doggett: Pay For a Permanent Tax Credit That Incentivizes Necessary Research by: Katherine Haenschen Tue May 13, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT

George Strait - The Chair (+playlist)

Alameel Laredo "Latinos turn Texas blue, Jobs, Education, Immigration Re...

Wendy Davis on Greg Abbott's Refusal to Debate: He's Too Afraid to Defend His Record by: Katie Singh Wed May 21, 2014 at 04:00 PM CDT

Enough Is Enough: Poor Women Are Not Having Babies for Money Shanelle Matthews by Shanelle Matthews, ACLU of Northern California May 20, 2014 - 10:28 am

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Patrick, Dewhurst Debate Without Animosity of Campaign by Morgan Smith May 20, 2014 via @TribTalkTX

Patrick, Dewhurst Debate Without Animosity of Campaign

Patrick, Dewhurst Debate Without Animosity of Campaign

SALADO — Making their closing arguments to voters Tuesday night, one week before the election, incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and his challenger, state Sen. Dan Patrick, avoided much of the acrimony that has characterized the Republican runoff in the lieutenant governor race.

The hour-long event, hosted by the Central Texas Tea Party and moderated by conservative radio host Lynn Wooley, marked the first time the two men have appeared together publicly since the release to media outlets last week of documents containing details about Patrick’s mental health history. But neither candidate brought up the development directly — and the moderator didn't ask about it.

Instead, Dewhurst concentrated on his record in office, also avoiding the attacks he's made on Patrick's character in previous matchups. Patrick stuck to making the case that he was the only legitimate choice for conservative voters. 

“If elected, I would be the first grassroots candidate to achieve statewide office,” said Patrick, who referred to himself as a "grassroots conservative before it was known as the Tea Party.” 

The candidates found agreement on a number of topics. Both said they did not believe in global warming. Dewhurst said federal efforts to regulate emissions were “absolutely crazy.” Patrick said he would leave the climate “in the hands of God.” 

They stopped short of endorsing legislation in Utah that would allow executions by firing squads.

"We would not want to do something that our courts would call cruel and unusual," Patrick said.  

The closest the two men came to sparring was during discussion of whether it was appropriate for the lieutenant governor to appoint Democrats to lead Senate committees. 

Patrick said allowing Democratic leadership showed Dewhurst did not prioritize conservative legislation. As lieutenant governor, he said he would not name Democrats to lead half the Senate's committees.

Dewhurst said allowing Democrats to lead some committees was necessary to do business in the Senate.

“My record is one of accomplishment; my opponent’s is not,” he said, adding, "The best indication of what you are going to do is what you’ve already done."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Woman Challenges Georgia City's 'Ludicrous' Sex Toy Ban The Huffington Post | by Andres Jauregui Email RSS Posted: 05/20/2014 9:45 am EDT Updated: 05/20/2014

Film about Modern-Day Slavery: Don't Look Away by Alex Couch and Stephen Morgan

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Mayor Julián Castro and State Sen. Dan Patrick Debate Immigration and Border Policy

Lt. Gov. Runoff Debate Livestream

Gloria Steinem: Feminist Activist

20 Hottest Female Democrat Politicians RANT LIFESTYLE | BY WILLIS PATENAUDE POSTED: MARCH 21, 2014 Read more at

Abbott rejects Davis call for six debates By Peggy Fikac | May 20, 2014 | Updated: May 20, 2014 1:03pm

Montgomery abortion clinic director testifies in trial Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser 6:58 p.m. CDT May 19, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Texas Freedom Network: TFNs Epic Evening

Texas Freedom Network: TFNs Epic Evening

Report: Equal Rights Opponents Sink to New Lows in Houston

Report: Equal Rights Opponents Sink to New Lows in Houston

Why courts are allowing redefinitions of emergency contraception

Why courts are allowing redefinitions of emergency contraception

Woman needs help relocating her 49 chihuahuas - WOAI News 4 San Antonio - Top Stories

Woman needs help relocating her 49 chihuahuas - WOAI News 4 San Antonio - Top Stories

Nurse Practitioners Look to Ease Supervision Rules

Nurse Practitioners Look to Ease Supervision Rules

Rose Okoro, a nurse practitioner who specializes in family medicine, opened the Daystar Family Clinic in Katy last October. Seven months later, she has only enough patients to work there part time.

It is not because of demand but because of a law that ties the work of nurse practitioners to doctors, said Okoro, who has a doctorate in nursing practice. State regulations do not allow her to be reimbursed by insurance companies unless the physician who supervises her has a contract with those companies.

“Any approval the collaborating physician does not have, I cannot get — even if I’m qualified,” said Okoro, who has worked as a nurse practitioner for five years and as a registered nurse for 10 years before that. “It’s so frustrating for us to open a clinic and then we’re not able to see everybody.”

Nurse practitioners in Texas have long fought against state regulations that link them financially and professionally to supervising physicians, a construct they say ties their hands and limits their ability to treat patients in a state with a looming shortage of primary care physicians. Texas lawmakers loosened some supervision requirements during the last legislative session following a compromise with physician groups, which argue that nurse practitioners do not have the training or experience to be entirely independent. But nurse practitioners are still battling for increased autonomy in the state Medicaid program.

Texas offers health coverage to poor children and people with disabilities through a managed care system in which private insurance companies contract with the state to enroll patients and cover medical services like doctor visits and prescriptions. Nurse practitioners argue that a bill passed by lawmakers last year should have allowed them to be approved by these state-contracted insurance companies even if their supervising physicians did not treat patients on Medicaid — a growing trend given the low reimbursement rates. But state officials and the physician lobby said that interpretation of the bill was never agreed upon.

“Obviously we have found out that not everyone is in agreement with the language in the bill and what it accomplishes,” said Kathy Hutto, a consultant for the Coalition for Nurses in Advanced Practice. The coalition and another advocacy group, Texas Nurse Practitioners, helped negotiate the terms of the bill.

Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees Medicaid in Texas, said the bill is “silent on the issue” of whether nurse practitioners could treat Medicaid patients whose insurers had not signed on with the supervising physicians.

“There was a work group put together on the bill in the session, and members of that work group have different memories as to what happened or any decisions that were made,” Goodman said. She added that insurers who participate in the state’s Medicaid program oppose changes to the contractual requirement that the supervising physicians be approved in order for the nurse practitioners to be approved.

Michael Hazel, president of Texas Nurse Practitioners, said the current discord “is just another example of one profession creating unnecessary barriers” for another.

Physicians say the issue is about patient safety, not about creating barriers. They point to the four years of medical school and three years of residency training that primary care physicians must complete after obtaining an undergraduate degree. Nurse practitioners, meanwhile, must complete four years of nursing school and usually two additional years in a graduate-level training program, either through a master’s or doctoral program.

Doctors also say the current “team-based” model — in which doctors who have more comprehensive training partner with nurse practitioners who offer clinic-based treatment — is effective.

The powerful physician advocacy groups involved in the negotiations on last session’s bill, including the Texas Medical Association, which represents more than 47,000 physicians and medical students, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, say the Medicaid issue was tabled after an agreement was not reached.

“Any suggestion that we agreed to it is, frankly, a revision to history,” said Dan Finch, director of the medical association’s legislative affairs division. “Having said that, we understand their concerns, and we’re trying to address that.”

After a series of meetings last week, the physician groups have come back to the negotiating table with alternatives to the exemption that nurse practitioners want. The potential solutions offered by the physicians would give nurse practitioners more flexibility when it comes to Medicaid health plans but are designed to maintain the current supervisory relationship.

The nurse practitioners said they were willing to compromise on a temporary fix in order to not delay care for patients, and were waiting for the commission to determine which solution would be adopted. But they insisted that this would serve only as a “patch,” and planned to readdress the issue during the next legislative session.  

Beyond issues with Medicaid, they are ultimately pushing for complete independence from doctors as part of a national effort.

They have been successful in several states, including Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. In Texas, nurse practitioners argue that barriers to their practice of medicine, like the Medicaid requirement, prevent the state from effectively responding to growing primary care needs, particularly in underserved rural communities.

With the next legislative session eight months away — and a growing number of doctors no longer accepting Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates and the red tape of filing claims — nurse practitioners are hoping for a fix soon.

“I’m certainly hopeful that we can come up with a solution that allows care to be provided during this interim,” said Hutto, the consultant to the nurse practitioners coalition. “And then if we need to clean up the language next session we can do that.”

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Texas Nurse Practitioners was a corporate sponsor of the Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary: Floyd, Virginia | Meet the Ranchers |...

Candlelight vigils for kidnapped girls - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Candlelight vigils for kidnapped girls - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Bring Back Our Girls protest brings Houston-area Nigerian Americ - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Bring Back Our Girls protest brings Houston-area Nigerian Americ - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Bring Back Our Girls protest brings Houston-area Nigerian Americans together Share on tumblrShare on twitterShare on bloggerShare on emailShare on printMore Sharing Services 14 Posted: May 05, 2014 9:22 AM CDT Updated: May 05, 2014 9:22 AM CDT Read more:

Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

How to save the world’s bees before it’s too late

How to save the world’s bees before it’s too late

How to save the world’s bees before it’s too late

How to save the world’s bees before it’s too late

Friday, May 16, 2014


Texas high school sends 170 students home for violating the dress code By Charlene Sakoda May 15, 2014 4:45 PM Odd News

Gay marriage in the U.S., 10 years later 2:02 May 16, 2014 9:18 PM EDT — A decade of legalized gay marriage that kicked off in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, has seen mixed outcomes in the intervening years. Gains in legal status achieved in some states are coupled with continued opposition in others. (AP)

Civil rights leaders look back at the 1960s 3:55 May 16, 2014 5:26 PM EDT — The so-called "Great Society" era was a turbulent time of change with President Lyndon B. Johnson ushering an era of transformation, centered around programs coming from the federal government. A huge part of that decade: the civil rights movement and the people focused on changing the country. (The Washington Post)

The Texas Tribune News App: The 2014 Election Brackets

Abbott Calls for Increased Funding for Online Learning by Alexa Ura May 8, 2014

Abbott Calls for Increased Funding for Online Learning

Calling for millions of dollars in increased funding for online learning initiatives, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott announced the third plank of his education policy plan on Thursday — a proposal to increase access to the Texas Virtual School Network and to create several grant programs to fund the development and implementation of digital learning courses.

Abbott’s plan, unveiled at an elementary school in Tyler, calls for increased reliance on digital and blended learning techniques in Texas schools, particularly in the state’s underperforming schools — campuses with "D" or "F" ratings under the Texas Education Agency’s accountability system — to help close the achievement gaps between students at those schools and the state’s top performing districts.

“Digital learning will propel a transition toward an education system based on personalized education plans that focus on the individual needs of each student rather than seat-time requirements,” Abbott’s proposal reads.

In his plan, Abbott proposed improving enrollment in the Texas Virtual School Network, which was created in 2007 by the Legislature to provide semester-long online courses that count for course credit in public schools.

Enrollment in the program has been dismal: Only 2,400 students out of more than 1 million in the state enrolled during the spring 2013 semester, according to Abbott. In his proposal, he indicates that the enrollment is bogged down for several reasons: A district can deny a student’s enrollment if it offers a “substantially similar course,” and districts will only pay for three online courses for each student per year.

He proposes changing state law so that a student can take any course that aligns with the state’s curriculum standards, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and fits into the student's graduation plan.

In the proposal, Abbott also said that the state should cover any additional course costs for students at D- and F-rated schools who want to take more than the three courses districts currently offer.

Abbott’s campaign said the initiative would cost $4.2 million for the 2016-17 school year, with the money coming from the state’s general revenue fund.

“Texas students and parents should be able to determine if enrolling in a TxVSN class would better benefit that particular student than the traditional option at the school they are attending,” Abbott’s proposal reads.

Abbott also proposed creating “innovation grants” to encourage school districts to develop or implement “blended virtual education models.” The proposal indicates that school districts would work with TEA to develop proposals and compete for $250,000 to $650,000 in annual grants. The state would have to budget $1 million per year to underwrite TEA's work with competing districts, and the proposal suggests awarding at least 10 innovation grants.

He also calls for the creation of a technology grant program for D- and F-rated schools that could cost an estimated $100 million each biennium to provide underperforming schools with funding to expand access to technological tools so that students who are less likely to have access to these tools at home will have access to them in the classroom. 

Teacher groups were not impressed with the plan. “Greg Abbott’s digital learning plan is another timid proposal that would benefit only a select few of our students, much like his limited pre-K plan,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker.

And Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, called it an attempt to deflect criticism of Abbott's previous involvement with the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which was found to have awarded millions of dollars in grants without proper peer review.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Patrick Blasts Dewhurst and Patterson for Medical Disclosures by Morgan Smith May 16, 2014

Patrick Blasts Dewhurst and Patterson for Medical Disclosures

Updated, 9:23 p.m.:

State Sen. Dan Patrick blasted Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson for bringing his health records into the race for lieutenant governor Friday evening, saying they have ruined their own reputations without soiling his. As Dewhurst, who faces Patrick in a Republican primary runoff, tried to distance himself from Patterson on Friday, Patterson released more court records in the hope that Patrick's medical history might hurt his candidacy.

Early voting in the runoff between Patrick and Dewhurst starts next week; Patterson was also in the race but didn't make it out of the March primary.

"David Dewhurst and his attack dog Jerry Patterson have sunk deeper into the mire, lowering themselves further into the gutter," Patrick said in a news release. "While it is hard to imagine, they have achieved a new low.

“As I have said, I voluntarily entered the hospital twice in the 1980’s for exhaustion and to seek treatment for depression.  Some of prescribed medications exacerbated my condition and created more serious problems. Through prayer and with the help of my family and physician, like millions of other American, I was able to defeat depression. I have not seen a doctor or taken any medication to treat depression in nearly 30 years. Two weeks ago I released a medical report indicating I am in excellent physical and mental health; I am ready to serve.

“Dewhurst believes my medical issues with depression, nearly 30 years ago, are a problem. He’s mistaken. The problem is when a politician who is sliding in the polls, thinks he can use his opponents health records to get ahead.  It simply won’t work."

Updated, 6:55 p.m.:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is distancing himself from the release of court papers that include a detailed medical history about his GOP runoff opponent Dan Patrick’s treatment for mental health issues. 

The documents, which said that Patrick was diagnosed as having a chemical imbalance in the early 1980s and was hospitalized at two different Houston facilities, were distributed to reporters Thursday evening by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a former candidate in the race who has now endorsed Dewhurst.

"Commissioner Jerry Patterson operates completely independently of my Campaign, and over my objections he chose to release information from Mr. Paul Harasim's files, which are all part of the public domain,” Dewhurst said Friday in a statement, referring to the former Houston Post reporter who was a party in the lawsuit after he had an altercation with Patrick in a night club parking lot.

Dewhurst also denied that Joe Manero — who was addressed in a Friday email from Patterson that suggested the Dewhurst camp was involved in making Patrick’s medical history public — had a position with his campaign. In April, the Texas Tribune, along with other news outlets, reported that two Dewhurst aides resigned after the lieutenant governor brought Manero and a second consultant, Chris Beavers, into campaign leadership.

Updated finance reports, which detail who is on the campaign’s payroll, will not be available until next week. 

Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s consultant, said in a statement that it was "ridiculous for Dewhurst to suggest that he can claim any distance from Patterson’s actions.”

“Jerry Patterson has been a Dewhurst surrogate since before he endorsed him in the runoff.  He has been utilized as an attack dog, ” he said. "Now Dewhurst finds that he can’t put the genie back in the bottle.  I would suggest that he should never have opened the cork on Jerry Patterson in the first place.”

When Patterson sent a second round of documents to media outlets Friday afternoon, he said he was doing so against Dewhurst’s wishes. 

"Dewhurst has asked me to cease distribution of this information. He also asked me not to run against him for Lt. Gov. I didn't really give a damn what David wanted then, and I don't give a damn now,” he wrote in a email. "The voters of Texas need to know. They're going to find out between now and May 27th, or they're going to find out between May 27th and November.  The only other choice in November is Letitia [sic] Van de Putte. Texas is too important for me to remain silent." 

Original story:

An email sent to political reporters Friday suggests Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's campaign was involved in exposing detailed information about GOP runoff opponent Dan Patrick's history of medical treatment for mental health issues. 

The message from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was also sent to Dewhurst adviser Joseph Manero, who officially joined the campaign in April.

With a list of Capitol reporters in the "to" field, Patterson wrote, "These are the addresses to send to ASAP. We CANNOT wait. If we don't do this now, it will not be known before early voting starts."

As a result, everyone on that list received the email.

"David has a great idea, but we could've only done it if we had this stuff a week ago," Patterson continued. "Don't let Daivids [sic] indecision snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Patrick is playing the victim well. He says it was a minor bout of depression and he went in for a few days of rest. This will blow his story away."

Calls to Patterson and the Dewhurst campaign were not immediately returned. When asked by The Texas Tribune on Friday morning prior to Patterson's email being sent out, Dewhurst spokesman Andrew Barlow said the campaign had no role in making the information public. 

Patterson, a former candidate in the race who is now backing Dewhurst, released a deposition to news outlets Thursday night that revealed Patrick was diagnosed as having a chemical imbalance in the early 1980s and was hospitalized at two different Houston facilities. In a statement released in response, the Patrick campaign blamed Dewhurst for the release of the documents, and explained that Patrick had sought and received medical attention for “mild depression and exhaustion” in the 1980s. 

Dewhurst was not an obvious participant in making the information public, issuing only a short statement in response to the reports about Patrick. 

"My heart goes out to Dan and his family for what they've endured while coping with his condition," he said.

Three Republican senators who have endorsed Patrick — Sens. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels, Bob Deuell of Greenville and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, all doctors — said in a statement sent late Thursday night that they "sincerely hope David Dewhurst was not responsible for this sleazy attack and would encourage him to stop the negative personal attacks and focus his campaign on the issues."

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson joined them with a statement Friday morning.

"As chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, I was shocked at the recent attack on one of our members, invading his medical privacy — and hitting a new low in Texas politics," wrote Nelson, a Republican. "At a time when we are working so hard for society to accept mental health as they would any other medical condition, it is despicable to turn Senator Patrick's private health information from 30 years ago into a campaign issue. We are better than this."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Despite Water Woes, Texas Says "Pass the Hot Sauce" by Neena Satija May 16, 2014

Despite Water Woes, Texas Says "Pass the Hot Sauce"

IRWINDALE, Calif. — Surrounded by blue storage drums, thousands of plastic bottles and chile grinders the size of refrigerators, a Texas politician this week urged a Southern California businessman to move his factory to someplace more hospitable — like the Lone Star State.

“We’ll take care of you,” state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, told David Tran, the founder and CEO of Huy Fong Foods, which makes the popular hot sauce sriracha.

“I trust you,” Tran replied as the Texas flag flew outside his shiny, 650,000-square-foot facility.

As the Irwindale City Council has made moves to clamp down on Tran’s factory because of itchy eyes and spicy smells, Villalba and other Texans have to tried lure the company east, arguing that such a dispute would happen only in overregulated California, not business-friendly Texas.

The theme is one that has been trumpeted by other Texas politicians like Gov. Rick Perry, who has toured the country to lure businesses from other states.

But Huy Fong Foods, which is staying put for now, is different from Toyota and other companies that have recently been wooed or moved to Texas. It is an agribusiness, relying on thousands of tons of local fresh chiles to operate. And in rapidly growing Texas, where the population is approaching 90 percent urban, some farming advocates complain that agriculture is being left behind in the scramble to accommodate growth. That is especially true when it comes to water policy, water planning specialists say.

“One of the dominant water management strategies for meeting future water supply needs is a conversion away from agriculture” in Texas and most of the West, said Bill Mullican, a former state water planner in Texas who now writes plans for nearby states.

With that in mind, he said, “if you’re going to bring agribusiness to Texas, I would think that you want to focus on those activities that were not water-dependent or at least heavily water-dependent.”

State officials disagree, pointing out that voters just approved spending $2 billion to help finance water projects, and 10 percent of that money is reserved for rural communities. Several dairy businesses have moved to the Texas Panhandle from California in recent years because of lower costs and less regulation, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.

“We have a success story to share with this company on how other successful moves have been made,” Staples said.  

But agricultural lobbyists have complained that no one leading the Texas Water Development Board, the planning agency that will disburse the water fund money, came from a solid farming background.

And most of the stories of Texas agriculture recently have been about high-profile closings and economic losses in the midst of drought, including the loss of a Cargill beef processing plant that employed more than 2,000 people in the Panhandle and the decimation of the Gulf Coast rice processing industry.

Some legislators have suggested that certain crops should not be grown in Texas at all. As the reservoirs that supply both Austin and rice farmers downstream continue to shrink, Austin-area lawmakers argue that growing rice requires too much water, and that those who live and do business alongside the reservoirs have more economic muscle. Along the Brazos River basin, Texas regulators prioritized cities and power plants over rice growers when the river’s users were asked to cut back.

“You already hear in the political realm, ‘Well, agriculture uses 95 percent of the water. We just need to turn the irrigation wells off,’” said Darren Hudson, an agricultural economist at Texas Tech University. “Those conflicts are going to just intensify.”

Villalba has suggested that the red jalapeño peppers needed to supply Huy Fong could be grown in the Rio Grande Valley. But the water rights system there, the result of a court case from the 1950s, prioritizes municipal use over agriculture.

“Agriculture is basically the user of last resort. They get what water is not for cities,” said Ray Prewett, the executive vice president of the Texas Vegetable Association, which is based in the border city of Mission. Even before the drought, agriculture in the region had suffered because of dwindling water supplies and urbanization, Prewett said. Farmers have found it more profitable to sell their water rights to growing cities, and to shift to dryland farming, which pays more in crop insurance.

Water for cities is also much more highly valued than irrigation water, according to the 2012 state water plan. The plan forecasts a shortfall of 260,000 acre-feet of agricultural water in the Rio Grande region by 2060, resulting in a loss of $48 million and 655 jobs. The water deficit for municipal users in the region is slightly above that, but its estimated impact is much greater — $2.2 billion and 54,000 jobs lost.

“Yes, we need food,” said Dan Hardin, a senior water planner for the state, pointing out that water for irrigation is important. But “unfortunately, we still don’t pay a lot for food in this country,” he said, “so the value of the product per acre-foot is a lot lower in agriculture.”

While chiles are a relatively drought-tolerant crop, requiring far less water than rice, other issues the agricultural industry faces could create problems. Ben Villalon, a well-known horticulturalist from Texas A&M University dubbed “Dr. Pepper” for his expertise in growing chiles, said chiles are largely gone from Texas because of higher labor costs and the difficulty of finding farm workers. Most Texas Republicans favor immigration policies that could further tighten the farm labor supply.

“It’s a sinking boat,” Villalon said. “They’ll never make it. The money’s just not there. It’s not profitable anymore.” Huy Fong's pepper supplier has used mechanization and other techniques to cut costs, and in 2011, chile yields per acre were almost 10 times higher in California than in Texas. 

Still, a single grower with a steady contract can prove more profitable for farmers. And Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, said agriculture’s water situation in the state is “just fine.” 

After all, Hall pointed out, the farmers won their protest against state regulators who pushed them aside when restricting water use on the Brazos — although they had to go to court to do so.

“We know where the courthouse is,” Hall said, “and we’ll go there again if we have to.”

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the Texas Farm Bureau are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Friday, May 9, 2014

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Davis Calls for Reduced Emphasis on Standardized Testing by Alexa Ura April 30, 2014

Davis Calls for Reduced Emphasis on Standardized Testing

*Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from a spokeswoman for Greg Abbott.

In her fourth education reform proposal, Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Wendy Davis says she wants to reduce the weight standardized testing carries in the state’s education system and emphasize more local control of educational accountability measures.

In the proposal, which was announced at San Antonio College on Wednesday, Davis indicated that she would direct the Texas Education Agency to revamp its state accountability system to consider “quality of education” metrics, rather than only focus on test scores. Her plan also calls for local alternatives to standardized tests to give school administrators and parents more control of the frequency and types of assessments used in local school districts.

"Teachers know that a student's success is measured not by one test on one day, but by growth over the year,” Davis said in a statement. “My proposal will help ensure genuine local control that empowers schools to teach more and test less.”

Davis, who in 2011 filibustered to try to block $5.4 billion in spending cuts lawmakers eventually made to public education, has attempted to make education a key issue in the governor’s race. Though some of those funds were restored in 2013, Davis said in her latest policy proposal that more action by state lawmakers is needed to reform the current education system. She vowed that she would designate “standardized testing as an emergency matter for priority consideration by the Texas Legislature” to make schools “more than test-prep factories.”

Davis’ proposal to redesign TEA’s state accountability system draws from a bill she filed in the 2013 legislative session that would have revised the Texas Education Code to include teacher retention and class sizes as school performance indicators. She also said she would sign into law legislation that would create alternatives or review current testing models, including House Bills 2824 and 2836, which were passed by the Legislature last session but were ultimately vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. The bills would have allowed the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium to pilot an alternative accountability system with parent and teacher input and would have required exams at lower grade levels to be reworked so that most students could complete them in two hours or less, among other mandates.

Davis’ proposal comes after weeks of hammering her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, for language in his early education policy proposal that appears to call for the biannual testing of pre-kindergarten students to tie additional funding to academic outcomes.

The Abbott campaign has said his plan does not call for standardized tests, and that “suggestions to the contrary are absurd.” But Davis has continued her attacks, saying that Abbott's plan flies in the face of concerns by parents and educators about the state's reliance on standardized testing.

Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said Davis' plan imitated Abbott's latest education policy proposal, which he revealed last week. It calls for providing school districts and parents with increased control of students' education by tossing out state mandates and regulations.

"Parts of Sen. Davis’ plan read a lot like a Cliff’s Notes version of the policy proposals Greg Abbott has been promoting for months, except hers lacks any substance or detail," Chasse said. "Greg Abbott's plan ensures genuine local control that gets away from the one-size-fits-all mandates that have been imposed by Austin."

Davis has indicated that she would direct TEA to challenge the “most draconian provisions” of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind, which she says comes with “rigid” regulations that leave school administrators wary of losing federal funding if they do not follow student accountability guidelines under the law.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Two Texas Colleges on Title IX Investigation List by Reeve Hamilton May 1, 2014

Two Texas Colleges on Title IX Investigation List

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from a spokesman for SMU.

Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas-Pan American are on a list of higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law in their handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released the comprehensive list of schools under investigation for issues relating to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender at institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

Thursday's release marks a departure from their previous practice of confirming Title IX investigations at individual institutions. 

"We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. She also noted that a university's appearance on the list does not indicate that it has violated or is violating the law.

Kent Best, a spokesman for SMU, said the matters under federal review have been investigated by SMU and predate a university task force review of sexual misconduct policies and procedures.

"The University has been aggressive in putting into practice wide-ranging new procedures to inform and protect our students, to provide prompt and effective resolution of complaints, and to hold violators accountable while treating all students fairly," Best said in the statement. He added that SMU continually reviews and updates its programs in comparison with national benchmarks.

According to a statement from UTPA, the university received a federal complaint notice in late April alleging that the university discriminated against a student on the basis of gender by failing to promptly and equitably respond to her complaint that she was sexually assaulted.

"The University of Texas-Pan American takes its responsibilities under Title IX seriously and condemns sexual violence, harassment and misconduct by or against any member of our University community," the statement said. "We endeavor to treat all claimants with respect and dignity, and achieve a result that is fair and just to all parties involved in a timely manner."

The university indicated that no further comment on the pending investigation was forthcoming. 

Failing to comply with Title IX has serious consequences. As noted in the education department's press release, violating the law and refusing to address issues raised by the Office of Civil Rights can result in loss of federal funding or referral to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2013. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

In Texas, Obamacare Enrollment Spiked Before Deadline by Shelby Sementelli and Alexa Ura May 1, 2014

In Texas, Obamacare Enrollment Spiked Before Deadline

Total Texas enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act more than doubled in the month leading up to the deadline, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Prior to March 1, 295,000 Texans had enrolled for health coverage under the federal health law, which requires most people to sign up for an insurance plan this year or face financial penalties. By April 19 — a deadline the federal government extended in part to account for technological troubles — that number had grown to 733,757, the highest enrollment jump in the nation.  

Though the enrollment numbers reveal extensive growth, they don't make an enormous dent in Texas’ sky-high rate of the uninsured. In 2012, more than 6 million Texans — roughly a quarter of the population — lacked health insurance, according to U.S. census data.

Outgoing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the enrollment spike demonstrated the “brisk demand for quality, affordable coverage.”

“Together we are ensuring that health coverage is more accessible than ever before," Sebelius said, "which is important for families, for businesses and for Texas’ health and well-being.”

Opponents of the law have criticized the Obama administration for its decision to extend the enrollment deadline from March 31 to April 19, which they said was another example of how flawed the process has been. Advocates for enrollment in Texas say that extension allowed individuals in the midst of enrolling to complete the process, following months of technological problems with the federal marketplace. 

Texas ranks third in total enrollment since the launch of on Oct. 1. California had the highest enrollment with 1,405,102, and Florida had the second highest with 983,775.

In Texas, Latinos made up 33.6 percent of those enrolled — the highest rate in the country. Women made up 55 percent of those enrolled in Texas. Individuals between 45 and 64 had the largest enrollment; they made up 44 percent of the total. Young adults between 18 and 34 made up 30 percent of those enrolled in Texas, falling short of the feds' 40 percent goal.

Supporters of the federal health law celebrated this week's enrollment figures, saying they were a huge success in a state where Republican leaders have vehemently opposed Obamacare and chosen not to expand Medicaid to poor adults. 

But John Davidson, senior health care policy analyst for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said that while the increase was “unexpected and significant,” it is too early to know how much of an impact it will have on decreasing Texas' uninsured population.

“Many are estimating that up to two-thirds of those covered through the marketplace were previously insured,” he said. "It would be very easy for the administration to get those numbers, but they haven’t.”

The figures provided by HHS did not include information on how many individuals who signed up through the marketplace were previously uninsured, or the number of individuals who have paid premiums on their insurance plans. In Texas, 84 percent of those who purchased health insurance through the exchange received financial assistance in the form of federal subsidies, according to HHS data. 

The figures also indicate that hundreds of thousands of additional Texans went through the eligibility process but did not ultimately purchase insurance plans in the marketplace.  

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Houston Teachers Sue Over Student Test-Based Evaluation

Houston Teachers Sue Over Student Test-Based Evaluation

Seven teachers are suing the Houston Independent School District over a recently instituted policy tying standardized test results to pay and employment decisions. 

The federal lawsuit, backed by the Houston branch of the American Federation of Teachers, a national labor union, claims that HISD officials pressured administrators to “manufacture deficiencies or otherwise find fault with the instructional practices” of teachers who received low scores through a district formula that uses students' prior standardized tests to predict academic growth in the current years.

The suit comes as state education officials are updating a statewide teacher evaluation system to include such an approach — known as a "value-added measure" and intended to provide an objective component to evaluations — as a part of a deal with the U.S. Department of Education to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“It’s dispiriting and insulting to be told I’m ineffective, a judgment that doesn’t mesh with my classroom performance or the time and effort I devote to my students. Texas is using a broken evaluation system that isn’t properly identifying who really needs help to improve,” said sixth-grade social studies teacher Daniel Santos, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement. “My students are being tested on material that is not aligned with our curriculum.”

A spokeswoman for the Houston district said she could not comment on pending litigation. 

The district has faced controversy over an incentive pay system tied to student test scores since the 1990s. It was started under Superintendent Rod Paige, who later became President George W. Bush’s secretary of education. The teachers’ lawsuit focuses on a policy change during the 2012-13 school year that made student achievement on standardized tests, calculated by through the value added measure, the "most significant component" of teacher evaluations.

“Due to a faulty, incomprehensible and secret formula, good teachers like the ones filing this suit are being labeled failures, and our entire education system is being reduced to a numbers game,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “Testing isn’t aligned with the purposes of public education. It doesn’t measure big-picture learning, critical thinking, resilience, creativity or curiosity, yet those are the qualities that great teaching brings out in a student."

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said the state would pilot a new, optional evaluation system, including a test performance-based measure in about 40 districts statewide during the 2014-15 school year, when he announced the No Child Left Behind waiver in September.

Asked at the time whether he would push for the authority to require districts to use the state-developed system during the next legislative session, Williams said the agency had not yet focused on a legislative agenda. Efforts to tie student performance on standardized tests, which teachers' groups in the state have long opposed, failed during the most recent legislative session amid a widespread backlash against high stakes exams in public schools. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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