Thursday, February 28, 2013

Van ISD employee shot during gun class

According to KLTV, Texas school worker Glenn Geddie was shot yesterday at a hand gun training class for Van Independent School District employees.

In January, the Van Independent School District school board allowed specific school staff members and employees to carry firearms on campus in order to protect their students. In addition to that they immediately started training those staff members who would be carrying concealed weapons.

According to the Van ISD, Geddie stayed behind with the instructor for more private instruction but they realized that they had a malfunction with their gun. Van Independent School District said in a statement. “With the assistance of the instructor, the malfunction was addressed, but the gun misfired and the bullet ricocheted coming back to strike the VISD employee in the left leg.”

A school board member told The Tyler Morning Telegraph that the shooting would not affect their decision to arm employees on campus.

Now how backwards is that.

It is understandable that Texas School Districts want to prevent another event similar to the Sandy Hook shooting, especially after the Lone Star College shooting that took place this January in north Houston where students were left defenseless.

But the last thing Texas schools need, is a 3rd grader getting shot by one of these bullets in another accident. Even if these teachers do undergo the initial one or two day training, it does not adequately prepare them to protect their students. These teachers are unqualified to use the firearms to protect their students and this event goes to show what can go wrong when using deadly weapons. Sad as this incidence was for Glenn Geddie, hopefully it is a wake-up call to legislation that allowing guns into teacher's hands is the wrong way to go about this issue.

By Rian Worm

SB 245 Passes Stage Two

The Senate Bill 245, regarding the Child Protective Services Community Action Council (CAC) was heard by the Senate on February 19th at 9:00 a.m. This bill has been said to be put on the back-burner but will now move forward to stage three of the seven stage process. This bill was filed January 24th and passed out of the senate committee February 26th. The next stage will be the senate vote, followed by the house committees, house vote, and governor action before it will become a law.

This bill is currently sponsored primarily by Royce West, a Democrat from District 23. West is supported by two cosponsors, Jane Nelson, R-D12 and Carlos Uresti, D-D19.  

If passed, this bill will benefit the CPS program in Texas and primarily the responsibilities of caseworkers. This bill is attempting to improve the quality of work by caseworkers and balance their responsibilities more effectively. This will improve the work of current caseworkers and avoid the layoffs of workers in the future.

On February 26, 2013 the bill was reported on favorably by the senate without any amendments. And on February 27 the co-author had been authorized.

-Brelle de Groot

Education Budget: A brief history

The education budget has always been an issue in Texas history. Most notably was the budget cut last time the legislature met. The 82nd Legislature cut $4 billion of the education budget. They thought this was a good idea, but in the past two years we have seen dramatic changes occurring across the board. The student to teacher ratio is extremely disproportionate. When the legislature approved the budget, they did  not account for new students coming to the system or how many teachers they would have to cut as a result. This cut was the first major cut to education since World War II.

But there is good news! The Senate Financial Committee panel has just approved a proposed budget to add $1.5 billion dollars to the state's education fund! The rest of the Senate still needs to approve the budget, but if it passes this money would significantly impact education in Texas. The money includes funding for Teach for America, pre-kindergarten programs and Texas' Virtual School Network. The budget does not currently have money allocated for important programs such as early college education programs or a program designed to help students who are falling behind in school.

Ivy Anderson

Four Year Tuition Freeze

Many parents and students are unsure how much money they are actually going to spend on tuition each year. Andrew Roush with the Alcalde stated “Tuition was deregulated by the Legislature in 2003, and has increased by 55 percent in the past decade, while state general revenue funding has decreased.” D-Republican and house higher education committee chair Dan Branch has filed house bill 29 that would make it so state schools have a “tuition freeze” that gives each incoming class the same tuition for each year, presuming an on time graduation.  

Gov. Jerry Brown of California proposed the same freeze in tuition apparently the state's legislative analyst is saying it is a bad idea and is moving to reject the idea.  "While this would help current students, it likely would increase volatility for future students," said Mac Taylor in the SFGate.

Less than 30 percent of students have been graduating within a four year period.  The thought behind the freeze is not only to help families save money but to help students focus more on getting through college in the standard four year time period.
This is Gov. Perry also proposing a four year tuition freeze for state schools.


-Shelby Campbell

Texas State Water Plan: A Personal Perspective

Photo from Texas Agriculture Talks

The city isn’t the only party closely following the 2013 Texas legislation and the State Water Plan; there is a larger voice of concern that is often less heard: the farmers.

Mike Barnett, Director of Publications at the Texas Farm Bureau, met with Ross Stromberg, a Texas farmer, and discussed his outlook for farming this spring. According to Barnett, Stromberg’s soil had good moisture and he was grateful for the recent rainfall. However, “He worried though, like so many farmers in Texas are worrying, about prospects for rain this spring. Forecasts aren’t encouraging.” Because Mother Nature hasn’t been on the farmers’ sides the past few years, the future of Texas farmers and agriculture will also be directly affected by the State Water Plan outcome.  (Texas Agriculture Talks)

According to Mike Barnett, this year’s state legislation and the potential funding for the State Water Plan from the Rainy Day Fund are hopeful. However, he claims there are also risks, “Agriculture—with a stellar record of improving efficiency and conservation and doing much more with less over the last two decades—is still the top water user in the state.” He voice’s concern for the future of the state, saying “as water gets more expensive and sources disappear, a clamor could arise to take agriculture’s water—drying up livelihoods, a rich agriculture heritage and ultimately, the food supply” (Your Houston News).

Mose Buchele, State Impact writer, also discusses concerns of agricultural groups who “worry that their water needs might be sidelined this legislative session” (
One way to allocate fairness between agricultural and municipal budgeting, according to farming and ranching interests, “would be to direct money to conservation technologies for agriculture. Machines that monitor soil moisture and double drip irrigation methods were showcased at the [Texas Ag Water] Forum.” (State Impact)

As the 2013 legislation continues, the debate of funding the State Water Plan is again raised. According to the Amarillo news, “what's being discussed in the Capitol isn't so much whether, but how to fund the plan,” which is hopeful news to farmers (News Channel 10).

-Becka Adkins

Over Before it Started

Over Before it Started

For many No Kill Texas Advocates, the white flag of defeat was raised before the war even began. I had contacted the President/Executive Director of No Kill Texas Advocates, Bett Sundermeyer, and she had told me that the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) had not been filed in the Texas Legislature this year and is extremely unlikely that it will. She did mention to me, however, that several attempts for similar bills have been created and attempted to be filed. Unfortunately, she, too, mentioned that the similar bills received plenty of opposition and would be unlikely to even become filed.

It saddens me to see that the Texas Legislature refuses to see an apparent problem that can be easily fixed. Because of Legislature's lack of interest, I'm going to have to keep reading and hearing stories such as this. Several states have already passed CAPA and many more are filing it in their state legislatures, why can't the great state of Texas do the same?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MPP's M.O.

Marijuana Policy Project's Rob Kampia Speaks on this Present Issue of Legalizing Marijuana in Austin, TX.

(Video Credit: MPP Staff's YouTube channel)

Several organizations have gained notoriety within the news media as of late. One that stands out amongst others involved in the legalizing of the medical marijuana issue is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

MPP was founded in 1995 as a nonprofit organization that--according to their mission statement on their website--seeks to:

  • Increase public support for non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
  • Identify and activate supporters of non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
  • Change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for the medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
  • Gain influence in Congress
  • They also go on to say in their vision statement, "MPP and MPP Foundation envision a nation where marijuana is legally regulated similarly to alcohol, marijuana education is honest and realistic, and treatment for problem marijuana users is non-coercive and geared toward reducing harm."

    On MPP's website, they describe a part of their purpose as being "Because MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, we focus on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with a particular emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors."

    With over 32 thousand followers on Twitter, MPP remains active within the social media realm. However, at first glance, it does seem a little one-sided; each tweet contains only basic facts of what is going on with the legalizing of the marijuana issue. MPP is even more active on Facebook, on the other hand, with more than 67,800 "likes." The conversations carried between MPP and its followers on Facebook seem to be more in depth and extensive. Even though it's a "DUH" statement, MPP's posts have a more "conversational" tone.

    Here is a link to all of the legislation in Texas currently happening in regards to this issue.

    Alyson Morales
    Blog post 2


    CPRIT fights back

    CPRIT is fighting back. According to the Dallas Morning News, "the Travis County district attorney's office ruled Wednesday that a foundation created to raise private dollars for Texas' cancer-fighting agency is not subject to the state open records act." CPRIT's lawyer, David Minton, is planning a case to explain how the foundation is not a governmental body. Wendy Davis is not giving up. She has filed another bill "that would make the CPRIT Foundation subject to the open records act." Davis' argument back in December that "Texans deserve open and transparent stewardship of their hard-earned tax dollars [and CPRIT] is currently plagued by accusations of cronyism, conflicts of interest, insider deals and a lack of transparency to to the public."
    Even the Livestrong Foundation is sharing its' concerns. Doug Ulman, the president and chief executive, hopes CPRIT can be restructured because "the individuals who are facing this disease are too important to allow this to derail such a monumental effort." The Amarillo Area Breast Health Coalition, who was helped by a grant from the foundation, believes that the loss of their funds from CPRIT will cripple their program. Cancer research and screenings for patients have been helped greatly by the "nearly 500 grants totaling $836 million." (Source)
    Now obviously a great deal of good has been done by the money CPRIT has provided for cancer research and preventative measures, yet it is overshadowed by the allegations of cronyism and misplaced funds. What will become of those who have benefited from the funding? CPRIT's trepidation toward providing open records is a cause of concern - what are they hiding? Or are they in the right by refusing transparency as a private (non-government) foundation?

    Avery Ruxer
    Post 2

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Gun Control Across the Globe

    To the surprise of many, the United States does not top the list of firearms related deaths from a global perspective. South Africa, Brazil and Mexico all rank higher than number 12, the United States, when looking at this issue. When it comes to the regulation of guns, there is a wide variety of laws, or lack of laws, enforced, or not so enforced, in countries around the world.

    South Africa is under great scrutiny in current news because of the tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp, whom was allegedly killed by her boyfriend, Olympian Oscar Pistorius, with a handgun. In recent years, South Africa was seen as a model for gun laws after a great gun-related violence drop was seen since 2004 with the enactment of gun laws that required a two-stage license application process. With this tragedy though, these laws are being aggressively criticized.  

    On the flip-side, Japan has very relaxed gun laws that are not strongly enforced and still has one of the lowest gun related death-rates in the world. Other countries such as Russia and England all but prohibit the ownership of guns by individuals. 

    Firearm related violence and deaths are seen greatest in countries with high concentration of gang activity and drug cartels even if the country employs very strict gun control laws. Central American countries such as Guatemala and Mexico are especially struggling with issues of this type.

    -Ashton Theiss
    Gun Regulation 
    Blog Post Two 

    Teachers Are Still Fighting In Austin

    As the legislative session pushes forward, Texas educators are still advocating for higher salaries while attacking other legislation.

    HB 176, written by Armando Martinez, was introduced and referred to the committee on House Public Education on Feb. 6, 2013. This bill would increase Texas teacher salaries so they are closer to the national average.

    The Texas Classroom Teachers Association is another group advocating for Texas teachers. However, the TCTA is in Austin opposing a piece of legislation. SB 2, presented by Dan Patrick, is being opposed by the TCTA because "the home-rule section of the bill essentially guts teacher rights and benefits, legal protections, parent and student rights, and many other provisions of the Education Code", according to their site

    Something that may impact the outcome of legislation for Texas education is the recent court case that found Texas' system for funding schools unconstitutional. Judge Dietz found the system to be "inadequate" and "unfair". The case is headed to the Supreme Court. You can read the full story here.

    Will the TCTA be successful in opposing SB 2? Will the court case affect what is happening in Austin?

    Quote Source: Court Case Article

    Preston Chilton

    Post 2
    Topic: Increasing Teacher Salaries, Texas Education

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Guns present on campus in Five other states across Nation

    SB 182, the bill that will make it legal to carry firearms on campuses of higher education, is still currently in the Criminal Justice committee. According to the process of bills, this means that the bill is currently in Stage One. Once it has left the Criminal Justice committee, it will move to be voted on by the Senate. Further updates are to come as the bill continues in the Texas Legislature.
    SCC Logo
    According to a Forbes online article, the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 cause the debate for gun on college campuses increased dramatically. In 2008, only one state allowed guns on public institutions. Now there are five states (Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin) that allowed concealed guns on campuses of public institutions. David Burnett of Students for Concealed Carry said that allowing licensed concealed carry would give potential pause and ultimately give innocent victims a fighting chance.

    However, Gary Olson, the former Provost of Idaho State University said that there is no recorded incident in which a victim–or spectator–of a violent crime on a campus has prevented that crime by brandishing a weapon. Olson went onto say that school officers are normally the ones firing the guns and so, it would be difficult for the officers to their job when 10,000 other students could have weapons as well.

    Blog Post #2
    Cody Coke
    Topic: Guns on college campuses bill, SB 182

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Senator Fights Trafficking on the Hill

    Rachel Adcock
    Blog Post #2

    Senator Fights Trafficking on the Hill

    She is known for her active role in furthering small businesses and fighting for veterans’ rights in San Antonio. But this legislative session, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is committed to fighting a new battle: Human trafficking.

    In the 2013 Texas state legislature, Senator Van de Putte is introducing three bills that will aid victims and target traffickers. Senate Bill 92 focuses on victim relief. It sets forth guidelines concerning how the legal system should regard young victims of trafficking, relieving them of criminal charges of prostitution.

    In 2009 the Texas Attorney General initiated the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. This force, installed by Sen. Van de Putte during the 81st legislative session, works with law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, and prosecutors to establish policies that assist in the successful prosecution of human traffickers.  Senate Bill 93 during the 2013 session will extend the task force for another two years.

    The third bill in the series however, Senate Bill 94, focuses on those convicted of trafficking humans. It will allow victims to sue traffickers and website owners whose sites served as a media through which the victims were sold.

    “There's one group of people I want to make their life miserable. That's human traffickers,” Van de Putte said in a San Antonio news conference in January.

    “This is one of the worst crimes that exists,” Van de Putte said. And she is committed to stopping it. 

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Control Over Gun Shows on Public Property

    County officials soon vote on if gun/weapon shows should be allowed at their public centers.   

    Gun's and gun shows are a big thing here in Texas.  With everything that has been going on lately with shootings and guns being in the hands of the wrong people, it's starting to really cause a problem with those who deal with gun's for a living and those who use them for sporting and hobbies.

    Because of all of bad things that some of these people have been doing with these guns, some officials are trying to figure out if it is a good idea to have these massive gun shows at these public places where anyone is allowed to attend. Gun shows are a big business here in Texas, especially in Fort Worth.  At the Will Rogers Center, there is a gun show just about every month that hundreds of people attend.

    Along with trying to take a stand with gun shows on public property, there are other things trying to be changed with gun control too such as background checks.  Texas is one of only about a dozen states that don't require background checks with the purchasing of guns at gun shows. 

    The Star Telegram had a great quote from Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson that said, "But these politicians are doing knee-jerk reactions that won't make any difference. This is low-hanging, politically correct fruit for politicians who want to say they did something."


    -Shelby Campbell

    Read more here:

    Sunday, February 3, 2013

    Innocent until proven guilty?

    In Texas, and many other states, the presumption of innocence is a right that the legal system has failed many of those accused of criminal acts. The principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty has in-turn wrongfully imprisoned many people, who are either pardoned after death (including execution) or years of prison- of which they did not owe one hour. It turns out, in many cases, that DNA and other forms of evidence and procedure prove such civilians innocent. Thus, it has been suggested that The Code of Criminal Procedure be amended by adding a “Texas Innocence Commission.” This bill suggests the creation of a commission to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions.

    In short, the bill calls for the creation of the committee, the details of how the nine members are to be selected, and the duties of the committee. The duties listed include: the investigation of all post-conviction exonerations, including convictions vacated based on a plea to time served, to: (1) collecting errors and defects in the prosecutor’s case, (2) identifying errors and defects in the criminal process of Texas, in general, (3) developing solutions to correct such errors or defects, and (4) identifying procedures and programs to prevent future wrongful convictions. To read the bill in its entirety, click here.  

    The bill was first read on January 28, 2013 and was referred to the Criminal Justice Senate Committee that same day. The bill’s status has not changed since last week, and it is still in committee.

    For information on the Innocence Project of Texas, one of the main contributors to this bill, visit and take at a look at some numbers, including Texas exoneration statistics

     Timothy Cole, the first person in Texas history to be formally cleared of a crime after his death.
    "He passed away in prison while serving a 25-year sentence for rape. He maintained his innocence until the end, hoping that one day he would receive vindication and a pardon from the Texas Governor."

    Images provided by

    Henrietta Williams
    Innocent until proven guilty?

    Drinking Age--Up or Down?

    For the purpose of this blogging session, I will be following the initiatives to change the drinking age. I’m going to be looking into bills and proposals that are attempting to lower the drinking age, those that are attempting to raise the drinking age, and others that pertain to alcohol consumption in the state of Texas or even federally. I’ll be following several issues, because alcohol-related bills often get denied.
                I’m following this issue because alcoholism rates are very high in our country and I’m researching to find out why. I’m observing the things we do differently than other countries with lower rates and trying to uncover why we have such poor statistics related to alcohol. After research, I discovered that Texas is about in the middle of all the states in terms of alcohol consumption. Would lowering our drinking age reduce or increase overall consumption? Would raising the drinking age reduce or increase overall consumption? Which would promote healthier relationships with alcohol, and reduce alcoholism? These are all questions I will be asking throughout this semester as I follow various bills.

    -Hannah Teague