Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Texas Education Spending - Opinion

After charting the progress of Texas education spending for the last few months, I have found that there has been some progress made, but this progress is definitely lacking.

Since the last legislative session took $5 billion away from Texas public schools, the education economy has been suffering. I went to Ranger College (a small two-year college in west Texas) when the legislature wanted to cut the school, which is why this issue is so important to me. Even though Ranger was a small school, and I know attend TCU, the impact it makes on student's lives was important and the school should not have been on a cut list just to give money to other programs.

Legislatures need to make the changes now and not only restore, but increase the education fund throughout the state. Our school districts and high education institutions desperately need this money or the future generations are going to suffer dramatically.

Hopefully as the legislature closes, the education budget will be increased and talked about more. Other issues in education are starting to take center stage (State testing was addressed earlier this week) so I know education is top of mind for both the House and Senate.

Please write, call or email your legislatures to encourage them to vote yes to education budget increases. The investment now will make a difference in the future. 

Ivy Anderson

Children Obesity- Last Post

By researching this for four months now, I feel that I have learned about the current child obesity epidemic. In my opinion, the changes that need to be made are very simple and would have a huge impact. At the beginning of the project, I thought the major problem was what the schools were feeding the children, but after my last blog post, I have come to the conclusion that it is in the parents hands. First, if a child’s parent isn’t making good decisions, then how is a child supposed to. I can assume that more than 75% of a children’s yearly food intake is under their parents watch. In the school year, only one of their meals is not under their parents watch, and in summertime, the parents have full control of what their children eat. Even during the school year, the parents can have control over what their child is eating for lunch by not giving the child lunch money and packing a healthy lunch for their child to take to school.

In higher grade levels, like middle school and high school, I think the best option would be to offer healthier foods and also require strictly a “nutrition” class, along with the health class that is already required. 

Shelby Knight

HB 892 Not Passed

It turns out that Texas House Bill 892, proposing a lowered drinking age to 18 for those in active duty Military, didn't really go anywhere. According to LegiScan, it looks like the bill was filed on February 1, 2013. It was read for the first time on February 19, and on the same day it was "Referred to Licensing and Administrative Procedures," whatever that means. So I decided to do some research and find out what exactly that does mean.

The "Licensing & Administrative Procedures" action on HB 892 was referring to the committee in the House of Representatives that goes by that name, The Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee of Texas. It's a committee made up of nine representatives that have jurisdiction over the Alcoholic Beverage Code and the regulation of the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Thus far, nothing else has happened with this Bill. It looks like we're gonna have to wait for another session to see if this passes in the state of Texas.

After visiting the Capitol, I learned that there is a lot going on and it is easy for some things to get overlooked. I think it's a good thing in this situation that the bill didn't go very far. The research I found showed that lowering the drinking age is only a detriment to a person's well-being, and has no real benefits.

-Hannah Teague

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

If a rainy fund spills open, will a body of water be replenished?

The 2013 legislation has less than 30 days left, and while some are claiming HB 11 is out of the running, Gov. Rick Perry thinks differently. “We have plenty of time to get the work done in the session,” said Perry, continuing his optimistic outlook with “there is nothing more important [than the water legislation] to this state” (Texas Tribune).

Gov. Rick Perry discusses the remaining legislation
Source: Texas Tribune

While HB 11 allocates for $2 million to be taken from the Rainy Day Fund and used for the implemented state water plan, many soundly disagree. Democrats and Republicans alike are fighting for valid, and crucial, allocation of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Due to the $5.4 billion in education cuts last legislation, many democrats feel that that money should be replaced by tapping into the Rainy Day Fund.

They have a valid point. State educators provide the foundation of a student’s educational career, and budget cuts in education impact the lives of both these students and educators alike. In addition, further debate stems from many far-right conservatives who fear tapping the Rainy Day Fund for anything, claiming it “should be reserved for emergencies,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Tapping into the Rainy Day Fund is a shaky move from any stance. There is no telling exactly how bad the drought will be this year, what will happen to our economy the next few years, and what kind of emergency or natural disaster could occur at any moment in time. We may each have opinions on where to designate money from the Rainy Day Fund (if at all), but this opinions have the ability to change given the circumstances that come our way and the cards we are dealt. Democrats, republicans, and far-leaning republicans may differ on allocation of Rainy Day Funds, but we all share the common fear of where the money will end up now and how this will affect us in the long run.

-Becca Adkins
Post 5:  If a rainy fund spills open, will a body of water be replenished?

So what's happening with CPRIT

Over the past months of watching CPRIT and their legislative bill, I feel like not a whole lot has happened. More and more scandals and negative evidence keep leaking, but this has not expedited the Transparency Board. If anything, the bad press this organization has received seems to be providing people with more evidence of government corruption. So can the government fix the cronyism and neglect that was rampant in CPRIT? How can a system that relies on cronyism and back scratching provide thorough transparency for the public? Firstly, "the legislation [Senate Bill 149], which was approved by the Senate and is pending in the House, tightens controls on the grant process to ensure that political considerations do not taint CPRIT decisions" (

But the fight against cancer is too important.

The funding that is currently sitting in CPRIT can be used to provide research and researchers for this terrible disease. As the second largest source of cancer funding in the nation, they have a responsibility to commit to their original intents. According to James Gray of the American Cancer Society Action Network, only three out of the 500 grants were "focus of controversy" (

House Bill 951, a CPRIT overhaul bill, proposed by State Representative Jim Keffer, "would enable the agency to start giving out money again" (

Many support the revamping of CPRIT because they see the value of those funds benefiting those in need. Yet this investigation has dragged on and drudged up so much. 

Avery Ruxer
Post 5

Need for Stability

For the last three years, I’ve had to privilege to work with CASA- Court Appointed Special Advocates in Fort Worth as well as in my hometown. Trained CASA volunteers serve as advocates for children from abused or broken homes in court. Whether you are a trained advocate or volunteer within the organization to raise funds and support, spending time with this organization has taught me one very important thing. Children from foster homes or abused homes have a need for stability.

Senate Bill 245 concerns the contracts and eligibility for advocacy centers to be allowed to provide services for children from abused or neglected cases. While House Bill 915 relates to the care and monitoring of health care services for foster children. These two bills are making progress and the bill sponsors are optimistic.

It is necessary for these bills to be passed because it will require the consistency and stability these children need. These are services most parents regulate for their own children, and foster homes and advocacy centers must be required and legally allowed to provide those same care measures. Children from neglected homes or foster care deserve the same quality of treatment as any other child, and someone has to look out for their well-being. If that means legislation, then it is essential for SB 245 and HB 915 to be passed.

Brelle de Groot

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Texas Legislature Working Together for Women’s Health?

Rep. Sarah Davis 
According The Texas Tribune, it seems that the two parties have a mutual agreement. Democrats will not push to reinstate Planned Parenthood in the Texas Women’s Health Program and Republicans will not put up barriers for women’s health care in Texas. During the Texas Tribune symposiumon The State of Women's Health, Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) said, “the major difference is we’re not fighting about it, we’re just doing what’s right for women and the state.” Davis is the only Republican member of the House Women’s Health Caucus.

Davis negotiated a bipartisan “grand bargain,” that would prevent amendments on the House budget bill that would have jeopardized an agreement to

The 2014-15 state budget is still in committee but at this point lawmakers have allocated more financing towards women’s health services before the 2011 budget cuts. Right now the house version of the bill has doubled financing for family planning services to $75 million. The Senate version increases family planning services to $43 million. The House and the Senate have both added $100 million to support the Texas Women’s Health Program. The programs was formally the Medicaid Women’s Health Program which lost $9-to-$1 federal match when the state decided to remove Planned Parenthood clinics from the programs.

“We should not be playing political football with women’s health,” Davis said, “because it doesn’t do either side any good.”

For more information on the state of women's health in Texas watch the Texas Tribune's symposium below. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

What...So What?

Let’s be real. SB 182, the bill that would make it legal to carry firearms on campuses of higher education, is not going to advance in this legislative session, nor will it in the future. Based on what I have learned about advocacy and seen first-hand in Austin, here’s why:
1)      There is not a large push for this issue by the house or the senate.

2)      There does not seem to be a lot of people talking about it

3)      The time has passed in which this issue had more momentum
Momentum is crucial for a bill to move through the process of becoming a law. Without this, it might as well disappear into the black hole that is dead bills. Not to mention, there hasn’t been a lot of media attention about this issue except at the federal level in terms of all Americans.
My freshmen year, the common reading was a pamphlet containing the Second Amendment and other articles that portrayed the same thing. The discussion revolved around would we as students, want the right to have guns on our campus. TCU allows students to have their firearms, but it must be registered and kept at the TCU Police station.
My personal opinion is that I would not want this because I wouldn’t want to increase the chances of something happening. I’d be afraid to go to class knowing that someone in there could be packing. There is that saying that those who carry guns are twice as likely to get shot. TCU is great the way it is and so, I am glad that as a private institution it can choose to not allow SB 182 if it ever does pass in the Texas Legislation.

Final Blog Post
Cody Coke
SB 182

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don’t Mess with MY Texas: Defending my 2nd Amendment Rights

As a born and bred Texan, I have been raised with traditional, conservative Texan values that include a strong belief in 2nd Amendment rights. My parents, grandparents, and nearly all other relatives  have owned guns. I come from a family of hunting sportsmen and have spent some time during every fall and winter that I can remember on a ranch and waiting to see who can kill the biggest game of the season.
In my family’s home, we have dozens of different types of guns locked safely in a designated vault that it under passcode protection. While at alone at home in highschool, I was terrified when an unidentified vehicle pulled into our driveway and up to the back barn. Instinctively, I went to the vault and retrieved a gun. Having been taught how to properly use a gun since a young age, I felt confident and secure with having some means of protection. Ultimately, the unidentified vehicle ended up being my uncle who came over for an unannounced visit. Had the visitor been not so friendly or welcome, I would have felt completely helpless without a gun to protect myself.
From my personal point of view, I think that restrictive gun legislation is a horrible infringement on our rights as American citizens to bear arms. Individuals like my family and myself should not have these rights stripped from us. To me, this fact stands: Guns do not kill people. People kill people. If a person decides to kill, they will find a way no matter what kind of regulation is enacted. With proper background checks completed, law-abiding, responsible citizens should be able to own and carry a firearm so should they choose. 
For information on current bills pertaining to Texas gun legislation, see The Texas Tribune.

Ashton Theiss 
Blog Post 5 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Planned Parenthood Through the Eyes of Texas Women

Planned Parenthood is asking Texans to support HB 2819, the Restore Medicaid WHP Bill. Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-141) filed the bill in the House on March 7.  The bill was last referred to the Public Health Committee on March 18. The bill would restore health care for tens of thousands of women and save taxpayers $40 million a year.

This year Texas courts held up legislation that would remove Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program that was implemented to replace the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. In 2011, the Texas State Legislature cut funding for the Family Planning Program by two-thirds leaving 130,00 women without access to basic health care as well as: breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and other preventive health care.

Planned Parenthood has had to fight to remain open in Texas where over one million women are without health insurance. 

Planned Parenthood has built a advocacy campaign around the bill. They are asking people to contact their legislators in support of the bill. They have created an application that would send a message to legislators on the constituent’s behalf.

The message states:

“Please support Rep. Thompson's bill HB 2819 and all other bills that would restore the Medicaid Women's Health Program (WHP). Preventive health care is good for Texas women and good for the state. Every $1 spent on family planning saves the state almost $4 in Medicaid costs for prenatal, delivery, and first-year infant care.

Texans trust women to choose their health care provider. Planned Parenthood was vital to the success of the Medicaid Women's Health Program. Almost half of the women enrolled in the Medicaid Women's Health Program chose a Planned Parenthood health center to receive their basic health care through WHP.

Texas needs Planned Parenthood to keep Texas women healthy and save taxpayer dollars.

Put politics aside and support Texas women and Rep. Thompson.”

The video shown above, Planned Parenthood: Through the Eyes of Texas Women, highlights Texas patients who rely on health care from Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Medical Marijuana: Rogerian Argument

It's hard to say where I stand on HB 164 because I'm very much understanding of both sides. I understand why legislators and business people might be opposed to passing this bill. They see it more as a danger and a threat than anything else. Others see it as nothing more than any other substance that's used and abused nowadays; they say marijuana isn't any more dangerous than alcohol. In face, they argue that it's much less dangerous.

I will say that because of the background I grew up in, generally middle class with each of my family members and friends working in the service industry, I've been exposed to this issue for a while now.

I neither partake or encourage excessive use of any drug; however, I am understanding when it comes to its need for medical usage. I'm also an advocate of privacy--what you do with your money and personal time for recreation is your business.

Because research has proven that marijuana can, in fact, help anxiety, depression and physical pain I would like to see a law passed that enables those who truly need it to be able to access it in a timely and financially-efficient manner. Honestly, I don't believe that it would cause more harm than good. I don't think enough people are getting the proper medical care that they need in the first place, so if this is something that is proven to help, something should be done about it.

Alyson Morales
Blog Post 5
Partisan post

Looking at the Bigger Picture: the Texas Water Plan and Global Water Plans

There is increasing potential for a special session to be held this summer regarding the proposed state water plan. The 2013 legislation is nearing a close and yesterday, April 29, things heated up in the House as HB 11 did not manage to get the necessary votes for approval.  According to State Impact, State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, presented an amendment to HB 11 requesting that the $2 billion that was proposed to be taken from the Rainy Day Fund instead be allocated from across-the-board budget cuts. This upset State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who felt Creighton was using supplementary state programs, and specifically education funding, as a way to coincide with the opposed House members in hopes of funding the water plan.

Similar to the Texas water crisis, population growth has resulted in limited water resources globally. Lack of access to clean water is a growing concern for many countries, such as Ethiopia. In addition, the shortage of sanitary drinking-water also leads to the spread of bacteria and disease. Similar to Texas’s projected Water Plan that includes conservation and harvesting of rain water, thanks to the help of Plan ( around 250 residents in Nepal now harvest rain water in their 6,500 liter capacity tanks.

A more structured and comparative example of the Texas Water Plan to a global plan would be the World Health Organization’s Water Safety Plans, the first edition being published in 1984-85 in three volumes: recommendations, health criteria and other supporting information, and surveillance and control of community supplies. The most recent version was updated and published in 2005 in Geneva. As stated in WHO's, “one-sixth of humanity lack access to any form of safe and improved water supply within 1 kilometer of their home and one-fifth of humanity lack access to any form of adequate and improved excreta disposal (WHO and UNICEF 2000)".

The WHO Water Safety Plans lists current management approaches, similar to the list in the Texas Water Plan: Water supply systems can be considered as a number of steps aimed at assuring the safety of drinking-water, including: preventing pollution of source waters;selective water harvesting; controlled storage; treatment prior to distribution; protection during distribution; and safe storage within the home.

-Becca Adkins
Looking at the Bigger Picture: the Texas Water Plan and Global Water Plans : Texas Water Plan - Post 4

Freeze in Tuition Freezes

Not much has changed with universities, trustees, and legislators on where they stand with tuition freezes. Although many have decided not to partake in the tuition freeze group,  there are still many universities across the county that have decided to take the step towards it and it is really starting to say something about those who aren't.

Earlier this April in Minnesota, a state senate member on the higher education committee voted to fund $80 million to the University of Minnesota's tuition freeze. The more schools that move towards these tuition freezes, the more pressure other schools will be under to do the same.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker also called for a tuition freeze, two year, at the University of Wisconsin after realizing how much money they had for back up in their reserved school funds, approximately $648 million.  It is ridiculous to think that a school would have that kind of money but still increase tuition.  If I found out I was out a school that did something of that sort, I would definitely make a stand.

On a lighter note, schools such as Peace University, that only has around 800 students, is even looking to not only freeze their tuition but their room and board as well.  If a school like Peace University has the ability to make tuition freezes, I think there are many more universities that are capable to do the same. 

-Shelby Campbell

CPRIT still struggling

"When the Texas House votes on a new two-year state budget this week, the proposal includes no new research money for CPRIT — a sign that lawmakers are still not convinced that the agency is back on the right track" (Dallas Morning News). 

More information has been uncovered about under the radar dealings between CPRIT and other companies. The House Committee on Transparency, whom Senator Wendy Davis appealed to all those months ago, is still deliberating how to deal with CPRIT. The Houston Chronicle believes that the House and the Senate's continuing consideration is a good sign that CPRIT will survive, "but if it's to survive, radical treatment is needed to restore the public trust." They suggest "tougher new operating rules," "no private foundation," and "a new board." New rules would ensure that nepotism and cronyism do not enter the foundation. By turning CPRIT into a state-run foundation, money would not be wasted on high salaries and would be subject to transparency. A new board would allow for the foundation to start new, away from the past year's allegations and tribulations (Houston Chronicle).

On April 3rd, the Texas Senate "unanimously passed a bill, authored by Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, to reform the agency." During this hearing, arguments were also made to completely eradicate CPRIT. Some believe the foundation has ruined Texas' credibility: "For many Texans, the scandal is evidence [...] that the state's leadership isn't reliable" (Texas Monthly).

Avery Ruxer

Post 4