Sunday, March 31, 2013

South Dakota the first state to pass a measure explicitly allowing school employees to carry guns

On March 8, South Dakota passed a law overtly authorizing school employees to carry guns under a measure signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The passing of this law is now fueling the nationwide debate even more after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 first graders died last December.  Shortly after the shooting, legislation proposed a plan to allow school personnel to carry guns in about a dozen states.

South Dakota is currently the only state with a statute that specifically authorizes teachers to carry a firearm in a K-12 school. However, the law leaves it up to the school districts to decide whether or not to arm teachers.

South Dakota is a state where children begin shooting BB guns when they are just 8, and shooting shotguns by 14.

 “Our kids start hunting here when they’re preteens,” said Kevin Jensen, who supports the bill and is the vice president of the Canton School Board in South Dakota. “We know guns. We respect guns.”
Supporters of this measure think this plan is important to have in schools who live 30 to 45 mins away from a local emergency responders.

Don Kirkegaard, superintendent of Meade School District agreed that although some schools are isolated, he did not see any evidence to suggest that they would be safer if teachers were armed.
Many people would be more comfortable providing resources to districts to hire law enforcement for schools instead of training teachers who will not be able to fully protect the students. In an online survey of 10,661 teachers and administrators from all 50 states conducted in late January, nearly three in four educators said they would be unlikely to bring firearm to school if allowed to do so. 

Rian Worm

Update on School Nutrition

There has been no action taken on this bill since January 22, 2013.

Although many changes have been made in the past decade, there needs to be more to come. They have implemented breakfast programs, altered the beverages to be provided to the children, and a few more minor things. Our youth today aren't being taught proper education, so many people argue that educating the children would help them to make better food choices. I agree with this point of view. Many young children do not understand the huge effect the food they are eating has on their health.

There are many problems that come from poor nutrition, diabetes being one of the major ones. According to Diabetic Care Services, the international Diabetes Foundation says that "Diabetes and obesity are the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century." They also stated that as of 1999, diabetes affected 16 million (six percent) of Americans. That is an increase of 40 percent in ten years. They also claimed that every three seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes. This is an epidemic that can be cured and prevented at an early stage (childhood).

Diabetic Care Services also claims that "of the people diagnosed with type II diabetes, about 80 to 90 percent are also diagnosed as obese." This just shows the direct link between obesity and diabetes.

For more information about the link between diabetes and obesity, see this link:

The chart below shows the increase of obesity over a period of ten years, and it has gotten even worse since.

Shelby Knight

Tuition Freeze Status


With tuition rising about eight percent for universities all across the country, many of these universities are looking to enforce the tuition freeze. The thought behind this is that your tuition fees will remain the same from the first year of attending a University until you graduate, that is as long as it's within the standard graduation period for the specific degree. Because of the rising tuition with these Universities, many students are having to find alternatives to getting college educations.

Public and private schools both, such as University of Phoenix, The University of Rhode Island, The University of Nebraska, and The University of Minnesota, are moving towards implementing these tuition freezes.  Along with these tuition freezes, some schools are looking to increase the financial aid available to students, current and future. Many of these schools are looking to adopt these new ways due to student outcry and economic changes. There might be certain requirements that the students have to make, but at least the Universities are trying to make changes.

In Texas, House Bill 1834 is still trying to be passed through legislature to help Texas public universities implement tuition freezes.  On the Texas Insider Report, State Representative Abel Herrero said, "A tuition freeze will allow Texas to reinvest in its commitment to provide a high quality, affordable education for all students. If passed, this law will make attaining a higher education degree more affordable and accessible, as well as encourage students to complete their degree plans timely.”

-Shelby Campbell

What's next for CPRIT?

CPRIT is desperately trying to move forward. In December, $183 million in combined grant money was frozen. Now that the moratorium period is over, CPRIT representatives are hoping to use the grants for what the were intended: research. Senator Jane Nelson, who authored SB 149 (which outlines the restructuring and establishes protocols to make sure grants are handled as they were intended), stated, "We will not allow the actions of a few individuals to stand in the way of our effort to find treatments and cures for this terrible disease." 

In the end, the people who are being affected by this are the researchers. Without these grants, projects were halted or cancelled. As of now, CPRIT cannot commit to any new grants, but Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus decided that they should allow for the grants to 25 researchers that were promised before December. 

One of the researchers, Hua Xu of the UT Health Science Center, said, "This is great news. I'll now be able to buy the equipment and hire the people I need to finally get to work on the research project" (Houston Chronicle)

Former Miss Houston empowers women through gun self-defense courses

Former Miss Houston, Nikki Turpeaux, is empowering women today, not through self-image help or tips for success, but by preparing them to be ready to defend themselves with a firearm if they are put in a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Turpeaux is the lead instructor for the Get A GRIP Ladies Program that is a firearms instructional course specifically designed to teach women how basic knowledge about firearms and how to effectively and confidently use them if necessary.

"I take women that have never dealt with the aspect or dealt with firearms before through a step-by-step process, in an environment that is comfortable and safe to ask questions," Turpeaux said.

Turpeaux presents a unique experience to women since most self-defense, firearms courses are taught by men. The Get A Grip Ladies Program offers five levels of instruction ranging from the fundamentals of marksmanship to shotgun proficiency. Turpeaux calls these skills “life-saving life-defending”.

Turpeaux teaches women about gun specifics, how to use a range of gun types, and, most importantly, how to keep themselves safe and remove themselves from harms way.  The Get A Grip Ladies Program is mobile and instruction is available in any location where needed.

Women should not feel helpless without a man if they were to experience a home intruder or any other kind of dangerous situation. Turpeaux’s specially designed program is a way for women to gain this security and confidence when it comes to their personal safety, as well as their family’s safety.

Ashton Theiss
Blog Post 3

How Growing Pot is Growing in America

In the January issue of the Fort Worth Weekly newspaper, Jeff Prince writes about the rising business of growing domestically-owned marijuana in the U.S. He reports that the U.S. marijuana business has grown into a "sophisticated industry," and it is now known as "hydro," which just basically means that people are growing pot inside of their homes.

"Texas didn't rank among the top 10 states in outdoor marijuana production, but came in at No. 5 for indoor growing (115,000 pounds annually)," Prince said. Terry Nelson,  who is a member of Law Enforcement Against  Prohibition (LEAPS) and who previously spent 30 years in law enforcement before he retiring, told Prince that because of marijuana growing so quickly and the fact that it's not legalized it makes it harder to regulate. He said, "We need to legalize these drugs so we can regulate and control them. That will reduce about 80 percent of your crime and violence related to the drug trade." It doesn't seem as if many members of law enforcement or federal agencies are typically "for" legalizing the use of marijuana in the state, but his reasons are just another perspective on the topic.

In Prince's article he reports that "Congress created the Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, and its influential director, Harry J. Anslinger, became the country's figurehead for cannabis misinformation for the next three decades...which helped create the strong anti-marijuana views that older generations still embrace," (Prince, 2013).

About 85 percent of Texans are now in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Medical marijuana activist, Richard Lee founded the Oaksterdam University, the pot college in Oakland, Calif. in 2007. It will be interesting to see Texas' progress on this issue and whether or not it will be known to legalize marijuana for medicinal, recreational, or simply financial purposes.

You can view Jeff Prince's article here.

Alyson Morales
Blog post 3
Issue on Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana

SB 537 Virtual Ban on Abortion in Texas

Senate Bill 537, filed by Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), is currently in the Health and Human Services Committee.

If SB 537 passed, it would require all abortion facilities to follow the same standards that outpatient surgical center abide by.  According to Planned Parenthood, Texas currently has 42 abortion providers and right now only five are equipped to meet the new standards that would be required under SB 537.

In an interview with CBS 11, Danielle Wells, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said,  “we’re very concerned. SB 537 does absolutely nothing to protect women in Texas by subjecting clinics to onerous and medically unnecessary regulations.”

CBS 11 also reported, “women deserve a certain standard of care in Texas,” says Becky Visosky, spokesperson for Catholic Pro-Life Committee. “There’s no reason why surgeries that are provided at abortion facilities should somehow be provided at a lower standard of care than any other surgical facility here in the state of Texas.”

According to Ruth Wiley, M.D., a Fort Worth Ob/Gyn in private practice, and other local physicians, this bill seems to be centered on ideological opposition to abortion than women’s health safety.  “Plastic surgeons routinely do much more invasive thing in their private offices and are not subject to these regulations. Why is this procedure singled out? Because it’s about women.”

If SB 537 receives a two-thirds vote in the Senate, the act would take effect September 1, 2014. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

SB 245 Takes Steps Forward

Since February, SB 245 has undergone a series of steps within the Senate. On March 13, 2013 SB 245 was read twice and passed engrossment both times. The vote was recorded as passed by the Senate and delivered to the House on March 14, 2013.

This past month has recorded progress for this bill concerning advocacy centers eligibility to provide services for children of child abuse or from neglected families. Without any revisions to this bill, sponsors Royce West, Jane Nelson and Carlos Uresti are hopeful it will pass through the House with flying colors similarly to the Senate.

Along with SB 245, HB 915 relates to the administration and monitoring of certain medications provided to foster children. This bill is sponsored by six representatives: Lois Kolkhurst R-D13, Naomi Gonzalez D-D76, Elliot Naishtat D-D49, Cindy Burkett R-D113, Dawnna Dukes D-D46 and Bill Zedler R-D96. Tarrant County volunteers from CASA have been advocating for HB 915 in Austin alongside State Senator Wendy Davis and Matt Krause

House Bill 915 has been introduced to the House, but has yet to be voted on. Fortunately, it has been reported on favorably by House committees throughout March.

The testimony in support of House Bill 915 to the committee of Public Health can be seen via video

-Brelle de Groot

Friday, March 29, 2013

DNA Testing in Death Penalty Cases

A new bill proposed by a Democratic senator requires all death penalty cases to have DNA testing of evidence before trial goes into place. The bill, written by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is intended to ensure that only the guilty face execution. The bill has garnered support from both sides of the aisle, more notably from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbot.

False convictions have been prevalent in the American justice system for a long time. In fact, there have been 29 exonerations have occurred in several US states since 2004. Many of these exonerations have occurred when the individual who was falsely accused spent more than 10 years in prison for something they did not do

As far as the bill being in the Texas Senate, it has been filed, read and sent to Criminal Justice. Outside of the coauthor being authorized on March 25, there has not been much action going on with the bill. I'm not too sure if Texas legislators find this bill to be particularly important to them, but I, for one, am tired of hearing about people spending time in prison for something they did not do based off a flawed system.

Stories, statistics, and other information regarding the Death Penalty and exonerations can be found here.

Information regarding SB 1292 can be found here.

Original article can be found here.

Bill:  SB 1292 
Elliot Trejo

SB 1 - Funding Passes!

Sen. Tommy Williams, the chamber’s chief budget writer (right), and Sen. Royce West chatted on the opening day of the session. Source:

On March 22, the Senate passed SB1 which increases funding for public schools, colleges and health care. This bill also provides a pay raise for public employees.

The passage of the bill does not entirely fix the cuts that occurred during the last legislative session; in fact, the bill only puts back $1.4 billion of the $5.3 billion that was taken away. When the bill was passed, only two senators voted no, one of which was Democratic Senator Wendy Davis. Sen. Davis wanted to put more money into the public schools. Other descent was from Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, who voted no because of the small improvement made to the education budget as well.

Sen. Tommy Williams, the chief budget writer, says "we have come a long way, baby, since last session."

Ivy Anderson

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and Gun Policy

Update on SB 182 : this bill, which will make it legal to carry firearms on campuses of higher education, is still currently in the Criminal Justice committee. It can be assumed that this bill is not high on the priority list or that is being heavily debated to further its likelihood of success in the Senate and House. Further updates are to come as the bill continues in the Texas Legislature.

What does a law like this look like in other parts of the world? Well I studied abroad in the summer of 2011 at the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I decided to look into what kinds of laws this university has about firearms. I could not find anything, which then made me believe that the state laws could have something to do with it.

I looked at the Victoria state website and it outlines the guidelines to receive a license to possess and carry a firearm. However, there is not any information outlining where one can and cannot carry their firearms, which then makes me assume that Victoria, Australia does not have the same issues as the United States does in terms of guns.

Photo credit:
Blog Post #3
Cody Coke
Topic: Guns on college campuses bill, SB 182

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

House Hears Bill on Human Trafficking

Rachel Adcock

Last week, the House Judiciary and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard two bills aimed at helping the fight against human trafficking in Texas.

One bill, HB-8, addresses both the punishment of offenders and the need for victim protection. HB-8, or Jessica’s Law, classifies any sexual solicitation of a minor or use of funds from the prostitution of a minor as a second-degree felony, a change from their previous classification as Class A misdemeanors. This bill also changes the sex offender enhancement to include indecency with a child.

HB-8 also protects victims of trafficking or similar sexual offenses by allowing them to maintain the confidentiality of their addresses and personal information through the Address Confidentiality Program. HB-8 would also make victims of human trafficking eligible to receive funding from the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. Click here for more information on this bill. 

The second bill, HB 386 further affects the way those charged with human trafficking are prosecuted. This bill increases the punishment for convictions of human trafficking, the aim of which is to deter other people from committing the same acts. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) authored GB 386. Listen to her commentary on the bill here.

(Photo Source: The Texas Tribune)

Though both bills are still awaiting further committee review, they both hold great promise in the Texas fight against human trafficking. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Teacher Salary Increase: A Nationwide Effort

The issue of increasing teacher salaries is not specific to the Lone Star State. This is a nationwide problem that is being addressed in multiple ways by multiple states. North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania have all recently created legislation that affect teacher salaries.
In North Carolina, Senate leader Phil Berger revived a proposal Tuesday to end job-protecting tenure rules for veteran school teachers and to move forward a pay proposal that seeks to reward the best-performing classroom instructors. Berger hopes this proposal will give teachers an extra incentive to perform well. Read more about this here.

Gov. Rick Scott pushed to give teachers $480 million in new money for pay raises. According to the article, Senate budget writers are likely to go along with Scott's new legislation.
Pennsylvania is cutting teacher salaries in Philadelphia. A recent meeting confirmed that 23 public schools are to be closed, which in effect will reduce teacher pay by 13 percent. Unfortunately, not all states are headed in the direction of increasing teacher salaries. Read more about the cuts here.
No updates on HB 176.
Photo Source:
Preston Chilton
Post 3