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Posts by jament
Dec 13th - 2:31 pm
(New York, NY) — It’s a “Lone Star” state of mind at Trump Tower today (well, except when Kanye West briefly stole the limelight).
The comings and goings at President-elect Donald Trump’s “transition headquarters” on Manhattan’s frigid 5th Ave. have featured several big Texas political players. However, none of those contenders have been given the “you’re hired” treatment, until now. Sources close to the incoming Republican president say he’s chosen former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. All together now: That’s the one he famously forgot the name of when he was listing agencies of federal government he would eliminate during a 2011 Republican presidential debate. Then, early this morning, multiple reports of Trump’s pick for Secretary of State were confirmed by the campaign. The President-elect intends to offer the gig to Exxon Mobile CEO and Texan, Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s dealings with the Kremlin in Russia have some on Capitol Hill a bit concerned, by the way. Max Gorden has more on that controversy here.
The oil king from Wichita Falls trumped contenders like former New York Mayor and Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, according to Roger Stone, was considered by Trump as a form of torture. Trump’s camp called Tillerson among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world. And according to Trump, Tillerson’s experience as the chief of one of the world’s largest companies gives him a deep understanding of geopolitics, making him an excellent choice for Secretary of State.
While some of his colleagues in Washington are crying foul over the pick, U.S. Senator John Cornyn applauded Trump’s intent to nominate Tillerson for Sect. of State. Texas’ Senior Republican Senator and
the U.S. Senate Majority Whip said he’s long valued Tillerson’s insight and is looking forward to supporting his nomination.
“Rex Tillerson’s successful tenure leading a large multinational corporation reflects a keen ability to navigate complex geopolitical issues across the globe,” Sen. Cornyn said. “His experience will be critical as the next Secretary of State will face a broad array of diplomatic challenges that will define the security and success of our nation for generations. A lifelong Texan, I’ve long valued Rex’s insight and look forward to supporting his nomination.” – Sen. John Cornyn, (R) Texas
Texas’ Junior Senator, Ted Cruz, is also chiming in on the pick. He called for a “full” and “fair” Senate confirmation hearing for Tillerson.
“Rex Tillerson is a Texan who has had an incredible career building one of the world’s largest businesses. With deep expertise in energy, he has negotiated business deals across the globe. I look forward to a full and fair confirmation hearing where Tillerson can describe his record in detail, and lay out his vision for supporting our allies, confronting our enemies, and advancing U.S. interests worldwide.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, (R) Texas
Meanwhile, the choice for Rick Perry for Energy Secretary hasn’t been made official by the Trump campaign.
But multiple media outlets reported late Monday evening sources close to the transition confirmed Perry is Trump’s pick. Some are calling it ironic because, early in the election, Perry called Trump’s candidacy a, “cancer on conservatism.” He later was one of the first to get on board the Trump train after it was clear he would get the nomination.
As head of the post, Perry, who was Texas’ governor for 14 years, would likely move the Department of Energy away from renewables and toward oil and other fossil fuels; resources he touted during his time as governor. He’s a been a vocal skeptic on climate change, well before he had eyes on the White House.
But under his leadership, Texas did become a leader in producing wind-powered energy. Supporters have long championed his ability to make the state a frontrunner in oil and natural gas production, as well as renewable energy.
Democrats and environmentalists have expressed their concern about the choice.
“It is deeply unsettling that our current secretary of energy, a renowned nuclear physicist, could be succeeded by a contestant on ‘Dancing with the Stars'” Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Associated Press. “Governor Perry is simply not qualified for this position and should be rejected.”
And the Texas Democratic Party has been quick to weigh in on the Perry nod. They said Texans are still suffering from the former governor’s failed policies.
“What better way to destroy our energy future than to put the guy that wanted to eliminate the department in charge of it. America can’t afford another Rick Perry ‘oops’ moment. Across our state, Texans are still suffering from Perry’s failed policies and the Republican culture of corruption he instituted across government. Frankly, Texas Republican Rick Perry has struggled to remain relevant after two embarrassing presidential campaigns, a horrendous track record as governor, and a cringe worthy appearance on Dancing with the Stars.” – Manny Garcia, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director
The Chair of Texas’ Republican Party is praising both Tillerson and Perry as picks for their respective cabinets on President-elect Trump’s Administration. Chairman Tom Mechler said the nominations will “shake-up” Washington and “change” the status quo.
“President-elect Trump has made some excellent additions to his cabinet by nominating Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State and former Governor Rick Perry as his Energy Secretary. These selections will shake-up Washington and change the status quo, which is exactly why the American people elected Donald Trump to serve as our next President. There is no one more qualified to restore order to our dysfunctional federal government than a Texan, and we’re confident that both of these Texans will help Make America Great Again.” – Tom Mechler, Texas Republican Party Chairman
We’ll continue to monitor this latest news from the Trump transition team. Tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight, reporter LeAnn Wallace will have more reaction to Gov. Perry’s nomination. Our political analysts will also weigh in on the Texas picks. Capital Tonight airs on Spectrum News, which you can watch on Channels 8 and 200 if you are a Spectrum subscriber.
Sep 6th - 3:50 pm
A new report done by the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Family and Protective Services recommends Texas limit its pre-kindergarten classroom sizes to 22 students. The report said most pre-K programs statewide already have 22 students or less, but an estimated 13 to 16-percent of those classrooms in the study exceed the suggested limit.
The report also found pre-K classrooms with an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio or less preformed the best. The current average of student-to-teacher ratio in Texas pre-K classrooms is 12:1.
Results of this study were determined through classroom observations, data voluntarily reported by 18-percent of Texas school districts from the 2014-2015 school year, and a review of national research on pre-K quality.
Stephanie Ruben, CEO of Texans Care for Children, said her group “wholeheartedly” agrees with the report.
“Pre-K is a proven strategy to help children succeed in school and provide a great return on investment for taxpayers, but only if class sizes and teacher-student ratios are manageable and teachers can effectively engage their students,” said Ruben. “During the next legislative session our state lawmakers should build on HB 4 and establish these quality standards for all pre-K classes.”
You can read the full statement from Ruben’s organization here.
The legislature had the TEA and DFPS look into pre-K class sizes, as part of the state’s sweeping 2015 pre-K initiative under House Bill 4. Under the legislation, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had pledged districts get up to $1,500 per student, if they put into place stricter pre-K standards. However, qualifying districts currently only receive $734 per pupil.
Aug 15th - 6:25 pm
Academic performance by individual schools in the state showed slight improvement according the 2016 STAAR accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency on Monday, but overall performance within entire school districts dropped slightly.
The TEA reports 1,131 (93.7-percent) Texas public school districts or charters received a passing rating of “Met Standard” or “Alternative Standard” in 2016, and 66 districts (5.5-percent) were given an “Improvement Required,” or failing, rating.
In the 2015 school year, 1,152 districts (94.5-percent) met standards or alternative standards, and 55 (4.5-percent) had an “Improvement Required” rating.
However, individual campuses across the state showed improvement compared to last school year, with 7,667 schools (88.4-percent) garnering a passing rating, while 467 (5.4-percent) required improvement.
In 2015, 7,476 (86.5-percent) individual campuses met standards or alternative standards while 603 (7-percent) required improvement.
To find out how schools in Austin ISD and San Antonio ISD performed, you can use this district accountability report finder provided by the TEA.
This year’s accountability ratings come amidst a battle over the validity of the STAAR test in Texas schools. Technical snafus this past testing year prompted Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to cancel some exams, and not require students to retake tests from March or May if they didn’t perform well.
And in July, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment sent several recommendations to Gov. Greg Abbott for tracking academic performance.
Those recommendations included reducing the amount of material students should be tested on, and allowing school districts to develop their own writing assessments instead of using the STAAR writing assessments in fourth, seventh and high school grades.
The legislature will decide on whether or not to approve these recommendations in the upcoming session.
Aug 12th - 3:53 pm
The state’s hopes of temporarily halting the Obama Administration’s directive on transgender bathroom rights in public schools will have to wait another day. A U.S. District Judge in Fort Worth did not issue a ruling on Friday over the Texas led, multi-state lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction on the directive.
Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a 13-state coalition suing the federal government over the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice in May. The guidelines say all U.S. public school districts must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their chosen gender identity. But Paxton, along with several other top state Republican leaders, argue the directive threatens privacy safeguards.
Here’s how Paxton is responding to Friday’s hearing:
Several national civil and LGBT rights groups are urging the U.S. District Court to reject the state’s efforts to block the directive. They also sent out a response shortly after Friday’s hearing concluded.
The Obama Administration’s directive came just days after the DOJ sued North Carolina in May over their statewide law requiring people to use public restrooms that coordinate with the sex on their birth certificate. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had compared that state’s policies to racial segregation. And following the release of the transgender bathroom guidelines, Lynch said there is “no room in our schools” for discrimination.
But shortly after the directive was announced, Paxton held a press conference announcing Texas was leading the multi-state lawsuit against the Justice and Education Departments, and also seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the directive.
“It represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempt to accomplish by executive fiat, what they couldn’t accomplish democratically through Congress,” Paxton had said at the news conference.
A tiny North Texas school district also joined Paxton in the lawsuit. Harrold ISD has about 100 students, and according to the superintendent David Thweatt, none of them are transgender. But none-the-less, the school adopted a policy opposite of the federal guidelines, allowing only students to access bathrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.
“Washington’s mandate doesn’t fit our schools so we are suing to keep the federal government out of our children’s locker rooms and restrooms,” Thweatt told reporters at the news conference.
It was later discovered Harrold ISD wasn’t the first Texas school district to be approached by Paxton. The A.G.’s Office also asked Wichita Falls ISD if they would join the lawsuit, but the school district declined.
Aug 5th - 1:57 pm
Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) is joining the chorus of Texas Republicans in Washington accusing President Obama of holding back millions of dollars that the say could be immediately used to combat the Zika virus. U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with the rest of the members of Texas’ GOP congressional delegation, signed a joint letter on Friday, demanding the Obama administration free up around $400 million of a $589 million re-purpose of health program funds meant to go towards Zika virus response.
In the letter, Republican lawmakers expressed their “serious concerns” over the administration’s lack of allocating the money.
Here’s an excerpt of the letter:
Gov. Abbott followed suit of his Republican counterparts Friday afternoon, and also sent a letter to President Obama.
Abbott said it was imperative the federal government act now to free up whatever money is available to combat Zika.
The battle in Congress over funding for the country’s response to the mosquito-borne virus reached a stalemate earlier this summer. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers recessed without approving any of the $1.9 billion President Obama requested earlier this year to help develop a vaccine and control mosquitoes that carry the virus.
In a press conference on Thursday, President Obama chided Washington lawmakers over not passing a Zika funding bill before recessing for seven weeks.
“Congress needs to do its job,” President Obama said.
“Fighting Zika costs money. Helping Puerto Rico deal with its Zika crisis costs money. Researching new vaccines, and by the way NIH just announced the first clinical trials in humans, that costs money. That’s why my administration proposed an urgent request for funding back in February. Not only did the Republican-led Congress not pass our request, they worked to cut it. And then they left for summer recess without passing any new funds for the fight against Zika. Meanwhile, our experts at the NIH and CDC, the folks on the front lines, have been doing their best to make do my moving funds from other areas. But now the money that we need to fight Zika is rapidly running out. The situation is getting critical.”
Aug 4th - 12:32 pm
The Texas Department of State Health Services is holding a public hearing on Thursday over a rule proposed by state health officials this summer that would require embryonic and fetal tissue be buried or cremated after an abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
The rule has been praised by Gov. Greg Abbott, who said in a July fundraising email, “It is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”
Abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood Texas affiliates and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas strongly oppose the regulations.
They are testifying at Thursday’s hearing.
Here’s how these groups are responding to the proposed rule:
Planned Parenthood Testifies at Public Hearing in Opposition to Proposed Fetal Tissue Rule
TODAY: Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. CT
AUSTIN, TX – Today, the Department of State Health Services hears testimony in opposition to new regulations intended to restrict access to safe and legal abortion in Texas.
With little notice and just four days after the Supreme Court struck down restrictions that have already shuttered health centers across the state, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) introduced proposed rules that would force all women to bury or cremate fetal tissue following a safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas submitted public comment to DSHS and Planned Parenthood supporters throughout the state have submitted more than 2,500 comments to the department in opposition to the rule, in addition to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Hospital Association.
More Than 1,100 Texans Decry Proposed Rules Requiring Fetal Tissue From an Abortion be Buried or Cremated
Austin, TX – The Texas Department of State Health Services held a public hearing Thursday on a proposed rule that would require embryonic and fetal tissue to be buried or cremated following an abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. More than 1,100 Texans have signed a petition from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas against the proposed measure.
“This is another politically-motivated move by our state’s leaders to make it harder for Texans to access abortion,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said. “This rule has nothing to do with the safe practice of medicine, but rather is a thinly-veiled attempt to shame Texans who have abortions and make it harder for doctors to provide abortions. Instead of passing laws that complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected and empowered in their decision.”
The rules dictate how health care facilities must dispose of tissue at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for genetic testing, research or pathology and no consideration for best medical practices or patients’ wishes or religious beliefs.