- Galveston, TX Weather :: 71F Fog/Mist February 24, 201871F Fog/Mist
- Galveston, TX Weather :: 71F Fog/Mist February 24, 2018
- Love in the air at Minute Maid Park: Couple left with more than just love for Astros baseball February 23, 2018Many Astros share a love for the team, but last season, Cupid showed up to Minute Maid Park, leaving fans with more than just a love for baseball. "Our first date was an Astros game," said newlywed Lori Tolopka, laughing. PHOTOS: Astros super fans prepare for spring trainingShe and her now-husband, Wes, are preparing for […]
- Simone Biles to hold international invitational at family's World Champions Centre in Spring February 22, 2018America's most decorated gymnast, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles will have her very first international invitational at her family's World Champions Centre in Spring.Biles sat down with KPRC where she discussed her invitational, preparations and plans for Tokyo 2020 and her message of encouragement to current Olympians in Korea.She watched the historic win in Pyeongchang […]
- Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa form special bond with Astros February 22, 2018One stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and the other a mere 5 feet 6 inches.Carlos Correa and Josel Altuve make up the best middle infield in baseball, and they have a mutual respect that goes far beyond the field."Just his work ethic, he works hard and smart. He knows what it takes to be […]
- Carlos Correa's dog getting into trouble at spring training February 22, 2018When one of your owners is a World Series champion and the other is a former Miss Texas USA, you get to cause a little trouble.Groot Correa is a dog, who is doing just that, but, he is super adorable, so it's okay.Astros star Carlos Correa and his fiancee Daniella Rodriguez took their dog with […]
- For Elana Meyers Taylor, bobsled silver is sweeter this time February 22, 2018Silver is sweeter this time for U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.Her perspective has changed so much, and in so many ways, over the last four years. The silver medal she got at the Sochi Games in 2014 represented failure. It was nothing more than a shiny reminder of a loss, a bauble that she wanted […]
- This silver may be the most important medal Mikaela Shiffrin ever wins February 22, 2018Both Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn raced the Alpine super-combined on Friday, the first time the two American skiers competed against each other at the Olympics, and almost surely the last. The experts made Shiffrin the pre-race favorite for gold. For Vonn, medal prospects were akin to -- in her words -- Russian roulette.Shiffrin didn't […]
- USA defeats Canada to win gold in women's hockey February 22, 2018In perhaps the ultimate Olympic grudge match, Team USA earned a 3-2 shootout victory over Canada in the women's hockey gold medal game.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados on a deke after the shootout remained tied 2-2 after the first five shooters.WATCH: Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scores the shootout winnerWhen U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney turned away […]
- A plethora of pitchers: Astros' Hinch must make decision February 21, 2018With virtually every position already a lock for the Houston Astros at the beginning of spring training, the toughest decision manager A.J. Hinch might have to make this spring is which of his talented pitchers won't make the rotation.On a championship team with Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, newcomer Gerrit Cole and […]
- Dallas Mavericks launch probe after allegations of workplace misconduct February 21, 2018The Dallas Mavericks have hired outside counsel to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by former team president Terdema Ussery in a Sports Illustrated report that described a hostile workplace for women.Ussery was accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to several women. He spent 18 years with the team before going to the sports apparel company […]
- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for tanking comments February 21, 2018The NBA has fined outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for comments about tanking during a podcast with Hall of Famer Julius Erving.Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the fine was for "public statements detrimental to the NBA." The podcast with Erving was posted Sunday, the day the All-Star game was played in Los Angeles.Cuban […]
- Love in the air at Minute Maid Park: Couple left with more than just love for Astros baseball February 23, 2018
- 18-wheeler strikes Hitchcock church during crash February 24, 2018HITCHCOCK, Texas - First responders and power crews were in place to help remove an 18-wheeler that ran into a church on Highway 6 in Hitchcock in Galveston Countyon Friday. Police said that, just after 4 p.m., the truck driver swerved to avoid a car that had pulled out in front of the big rig.
- Tractor-trailer crashes into church in Hitchcock February 24, 2018The tractor-trailer's male driver swerved to try and avoid a car on the 15000 block of Highway 6 near Avenue A and hit the side of the small church. The driver had a passenger and at least one of the truck's occupants was injured and taken to the United Texas Medical Branch Trauma Center in […]
- Galveston police officer arrested on drug charges February 24, 2018Galveston police officer John Rutherford is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official information and evidence tampering. Police Chief Vernon Hale said Friday that the 40-year-old Rutherford provided 32-year-old Salvador Rivera with information on officers' locations, ...
- Galveston police officer arrested on drug charges - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and ... February 24, 2018GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - A Southeast Texas police officer faces felony drug charges alleging that he supplied a suspected drug dealer with information that helped him avoid other police officers. Galveston police officer John Rutherford is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of ...
- Moody Foundation Launches Generation Moody Education Initiative With $8613679 Investment February 24, 2018GALVESTON, Texas, Feb. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Moody Foundation has launched its Generation Moody Education Initiative, a signature project benefitting Galveston Island by providing a catalyst for exceptional education opportunities for infants through high school and into post-secondary ...
- TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast February 23, 2018022 FPUS54 KHGX 232142. ZFPHGX. Zone Forecast Product for Southeast Texas. National Weather Service Houston/Galveston TX. 341 PM CST Fri Feb 23 2018. TXZ211-241000-. Austin-. Including the cities of Bellville and Sealy. 341 PM CST Fri Feb 23 2018 .TONIGHT...Partly cloudy early in the ...
- The Ultimate Galveston Spring Break Guide February 23, 2018Galveston Island, dubbed the Playground of the Southwest, is one of the top spring break destinations for travelers looking for anything from exciting beach parties to relaxing attractions for all ages. Every year, Galveston turns in to a road trip destination in the month of March, as the island begins ...
- Galveston Cop Arrested On Felony Organized Crime Charges February 23, 2018GALVESTON, TX — The Galveston Police Department arrested one of their own officers on several felony charges related to organized crime and evidence tampering, officials said Friday. The officer, who has not yet been named, is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official ...
- Galveston police officer arrested on felony organized criminal activity charges February 23, 2018The Galveston Police Department has arrested one of their police officers on three felony charges Friday morning. According to a brief statement released by Galveston PD, a Galveston police officer was arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official information and ...
- Galveston police officer arrested, charged with organized criminal activity February 23, 2018The Galveston Police Department arrested one of its own officers, who faces three felony charges including engaging in organized criminal activity, the department announced Friday. No other information was readily available, but the department will hold a new conference at 1 p.m. today to release ...
- 18-wheeler strikes Hitchcock church during crash February 24, 2018
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- Electronic Plan Review Coming to Galveston’s Development Services Department February 22, 2018Galveston's Department of Development Services will take its first step toward offering electronic plan review to those doing business with the city beginning the week of February 26th.
- Galveston City Council Workshop February 22, 2018Galveston City Council, during its workshop today, received an update on city pension funds.
- Kemah City Council February 22, 2018Kemah City Council voted unanimously to approve the implementation of a K9 patrol unit with the Kemah Police Department.
- Galveston ISD Board of Trustees February 22, 2018The Galveston Independent School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted 5-0-1, with Anthony Brown abstaining, to nominate Tom Farmer for appointment to the Galveston Central Appraisal District Board of Directors.
- Friendswood Police recover stolen guns, a stolen car, drugs and cash during search warrant February 22, 2018The Friendswood Police Department today reported that Jeremy Dwayne Clemons has been arrested on drug and weapons charges in connection with Wednesday's search warrant executed at 2802 West Bay Area Boulevard.
- Friendswood offering Skywarn training February 22, 2018The City of Friendswood will host Skywarn training on March 20.
- Texas City City Commission February 22, 2018The Texas City City Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to create a marketing/tourism coordinator position and appropriate funding for the position.
- Friendswood ranks high on Safest Cities list February 22, 2018The City of Friendswood on Wednesday announced that the city has been ranked the eighth safest in Texas by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.
- Galveston College Board of Regents February 22, 2018The Galveston College Board of Regents on Wednesday voted unanimously to nominate Tom Farmer for appointment to the Galveston Central Appraisal District Board of Directors.
- Electronic Plan Review Coming to Galveston’s Development Services Department February 22, 2018
- Indian Americans question Trump’s armed teacher solution to campus violence 24 Feb 2018 11:00 The Times of India KOLKATA: Donald Trump’s insistence on backing a plan to arm teachers in US schools despite the lack of evidence showing this would end school shootings has come under criticism from Indian Americans. They have joined the protests registered by America’s …
- Trump says Jared Kushner's security clearance is up to chief of staff 24 Feb 2018 10:57 Japan Times WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump says he’ll leave it up to chief of staff John Kelly to decide whether Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will keep his interim security clearance. “I will let General Kelly make that decision and he’s going to do …
- Suit accusing Trump of taking foreign gifts is now personal as well as official 24 Feb 2018 10:57 Japan Times WASHINGTON – Attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia on Friday expanded their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting gifts from foreign and state governments, suing him not only as president but in his personal capacity as …
- Trump: Officer in Parkland didn't 'love the children' CNN 24 Feb 2018 10:54 Video Games UK & Ireland Yahoo Trump: Officer in Parkland didn't 'love the children'More (CNN)President Donald Trump continued to criticize the armed school resource officer in Parkland, Florida, who stayed outside of the school during the shooting, saying during a White …
- ‘This is why nepotism is a terrible idea’: Legal analyst puts a stake through the heart of Trump’s Kushner problem 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. (Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO) A CNN legal analyst on Friday pinpointed why President Donald Trump’s insistence on …
- Trump company settles lawsuit for $5.45 million over golf club members who demanded a refund and were refused 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story An image of Pres. Donald Trump playing golf (Twitter.com) A Florida golf club owned by U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to pay $5.45 million to settle claims by former members that it wrongfully refused to refund their deposits when they …
- ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and Trump fans are behind #FireSheriffIsrael hate after he shouted at NRA spokeswoman 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story On Friday night, hashtags calling for the firing or resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel began trending on Twitter — and they appear to be directed by both fans of President Donald Trump and, peculiarly, proponents of the so-called “Blue …
- The NRA just honored Trump’s FCC chair Ajit Pai with rifle for killing ‘net neutrality’ 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday …
- Former US Attorney explains how Mueller can build a case of conspiracy against the Trump campaign 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade (MSNBC screenshot) Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told MSNBC’s Joy Reid Friday that the plea deal from Rick Gates could be the beginning of the end for President Donald Trump. “I think it’s a significant …
- ‘They should be ashamed’: Don Lemon rips Trump and CPAC crowd for ‘low blow’ attacking John McCain while he’s ‘fighting for his life’ 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story President Donald Trump had promised Meghan McCain and Cindy McCain that he would refrain from attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) while he’s fighting glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that has a very low survival rate. Political contributor Chris Cilizza …
- Sweeny woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy involving minors
- Man extradited from Mexico to face charges in 2015 deaths of 2 Baytown teens
- 2 Galveston Ball HS students charged after stolen gun found in vehicle on campus
- After four weeks, state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud case heads to the jury
- TRUMP SLAPS RUSSIA WITH SANCTIONS OVER ELECTION MEDDLING:
- Mechanic stabbed in neck during argument at Galveston tire shop
- Hitchcock HS student threatens school after being caught cheating on test, police say
- 2 dead in possible murder-suicide in Galveston, police say
- Houston Fire employee relieved of duty while facing felony charges in Colorado
- Speeds reach 130 mph in chase from Dickinson to South Houston
- Man accused of beating 4-year-old to death, injuring two other children facing charges
- SAISD police officer arrested, accused of causing wrong-way crash on Loop 1604
- 2 women charged in deadly shooting of Dollar General employee
- Woman offered sex acts to deputies for squatting rights, deputies say
- Officials: Deputy shoots roommate of handcuffed man who shot another deputy
- LIVE: 13 Russian nationals, 3 Russian entities charged with interfering in US political process
- Dog food withdrawn over concerns about euthanasia drug pentobarbital
- Indictment says Russians communicated with a person affiliated with a Texas grassroots group during 2016 election
- George P. Bush’s secret mansion is financed by an undisclosed loan from Texas donor’s bank
- AT&T project bringing faster internet leaving damage, headaches in its wake
- Local candidate’s campaign ad draws criticism
- DPS reverses decision to lay off more than 100 older officers
- Man accused of using counterfeit money trying to buy iPhone X through OfferUp
- 13 suspected in tire, wheel theft ring that operated in 7 counties, officials say
- Audit: Company behind Texas ‘clean coal’ project used federal funds for liquor, limousines and lobbying
- Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis on voting for Gov. Greg Abbott: “It’ll be hard to do that.”
- Family wants justice for woman struck by 3 vehicles, killed in north Harris County
- Massage parlor workers offering sex for money in Fort Bend County, sheriff says
- Appeals court mostly upholds ruling against Harris County bail practices
- ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ is a Pleasant Flashback to One of the Wildest Stories of the ’60s
- Harris County assistant district attorney fired after 2 days on job, authorities say
- Woman charged with retaliation after threatening Harris County judge
- Pregnant passenger injured in high-speed chase, crash in Conroe
- Coastal communities hit by Harvey will get $1 billion for hazard mitigation, Abbott announces
- At Border Patrol Checkpoints, an Impossible Choice Between Health Care and Deportation
- He’s been a Texas Supreme Court justice for a month. Now Jimmy Blacklock must become a candidate.
- Email hack targets Texas EquuSearch members, files
- Harold Farb’s family says report proves he was murdered
- $20K reward offered in 1986 Valentine’s Day murder cold case
- Houston-area officials approved a plan for handling a natural disaster — then ignored it
- A Prison By Any Other Name
- Land commissioner says ‘doctored’ audit critical of his agency’s management the Alamo is under investigation
- Texas community health centers fear layoffs, closures without federal funding
- ‘We don’t have a flu season,’ Texas televangelist Gloria Copeland says
- More than half of Texas public school students are in districts where teacher certification isn’t required
- At East Texas debate, embattled Texas agriculture chief Sid Miller in hot seat
- Medical cannabis dispensaries are opening in Texas, but the newly legal oils still aren’t easy to procure
- Fake Pasadena cop tries to pull over mother
- Man dies after shooting outside of Fish Place in Texas City
- After land office inks Harvey contract, Land Commissioner George P. Bush gets donations from contractor
- “They’re just setting those babies up for the penitentiary”: How minor offenses feed overcrowding at Houston youth jail
- How a federal proposal could affect millions of dollars in Texas workers’ tips
- Houston Forensic Science Center analyst fired for shredding homicide case notes
- Suspect in 3 killings found in Harris County after escaping Mississippi jail
- Report: U.S. Rep. Farenthold of Texas to retire amid sexual harassment scandal
- This Texas lawmaker could finish his term from jail
- Paul Pressler, former Texas judge and religious right leader, accused of sexually assaulting teen for years
- Amid sexual harassment controversy, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold faces tough re-election
- Houston bounty hunter accused of running international sex trafficking network
- Snow falls on Galveston County
- Baby killer pleads not guilty in 1980s deaths of 5 kids
- Texas district attorney who prosecuted Jeff Wood now wants him off death row
- Texas-Bred Anti-Environmentalists Find New Power in Trump Administration
- Requiem for an Alt-Weekly
- Democrat Andrew White, son of late Gov. Mark White, announces gubernatorial bid
- Former Oilers QB Warren Moon sued for sexual harassment
- Texas prisons ban over 10,000 books. An Israeli diplomat wants to know why Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is allowed.
- Who are the 5 jailers indicted in Harris County inmate’s beating?
- Breast cancer survivor faces bullying after Melania Trump-inspired plastic surgery
- Bond concerns: Career criminal allowed to return to streets after 32 arrests
- Texas senators discuss closing youth lockups amid sexual abuse scandal
- Arrests along border dipped sharply under Trump, according to federal data
- Woman with criminal history accused of setting Galveston man on fire turns herself in
- Man’s body found near Seabrook highway
- Officer kills burglary suspect in shootout in La Marque
- Deputy shoots teenage driver after driver attempts to run deputies over
- Gorilla escapes barrier into hog exhibit at Houston Zoo, officials say
- Meet the man who took his daughter out of school early for deer season
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: Texas churches need to know they can have guns
- In Texas, you probably won’t get welfare benefits; even if you qualify
- Texas reform advocates want to close all state-run youth lockups
- Man exposes himself at tanning salon, League City police search for his identity
- Free Press Summer Festival is changing its name to this
- Assault charge against Johnny Manziel dismissed
- How Texas curtailed traditional welfare without ending poverty
- Texas parents wait in limbo as policymakers struggle to save Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Harris County man wanted for 2006 murder arrested in Mexico
- Members of street gang linked to series of burglaries of Apple products, police say
- Arrest expected soon after Galveston man set on fire, police say
- How Breitbart, Trump and Texas Politicians Spun a Tale out of a Border Patrol Agent’s Death
- Man accused of killing teen with whom he had inappropriate relationship appears in court
- Here’s what’s happening in Harris County now that the sheriff issues bail bonds
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts state’s last execution of 2017
- Houston church threatened by gunman at Sunday’s service
- As Bayer and Monsanto push for merger, Texas farmers fear rising prices
- Civil Offenses: Those Calling for Political Civility Often Have the Least to Lose
- Without recovery funds, more than 50 Texas day cares close after Harvey
- 13-year-old robbery suspect shot in the head by apartment tenant, police say
- Man Mistaken for Burglar, Shot by Police then Shackled to Hospital Bed and Barred from Seeing Family
- Coyote attacks increasing: What you should know
- Postal worker accused of kidnapping, choking and fatally shooting co-worker girlfriend
- Medical marijuana in Texas: What you need to know
- Harris County deputy suspended after striking handcuffed man after chase
- Woman with F-Trump sticker adds Sheriff Troy Nehls to display on truck
- Abbott calls White House’s latest disaster aid request “completely inadequate”
- Former United Airlines pilot pleads guilty to running prostitution ring
- Abbott, Patrick push back on TxDOT’s plans for financing new toll projects
- Trial dates set for ex-deputy, husband charged in John Hernandez’s death
- Cities race to annex land before new Texas law goes into effect Dec. 1
- A “glitch” on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s website asked for visitors’ Social Security numbers
- Greg Abbott Declares War on Moderate Republicans
- He thought he had a free court-appointed lawyer. Then he got a bill for $10,000
- Man fights to prove he’s alive after bank reports him as deceased
- Scam costs Friendswood man thousands of dollars
- At the Texas Capitol, victims of sexual harassment must fend for themselves
- Human Rights Lawyer on How Government is Complicit in Mexico’s Drug War
- ‘Sean Hannity Show’ fans smash Keurig brewers over pulled ads
- Another woman accuses former President George H.W. Bush of groping
- Student sent home from school bruised, claims PE teacher slammed him onto concrete
- Gov. Greg Abbott endorses primary challenger to state Rep. Sarah Davis
- Analysis: A media exec in Texas politics, not quite ready for prime time
- Police dogs trained to ignore marijuana
- Former HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence makes first court appearance
- Rent-to-own complaints spur investigation by federal agency
- HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence
- Joel Osteen impersonator breaches security at Los Angeles event
- Former ‘All My Children’ star arrested in Galveston
- Cornyn and Cruz under pressure over allegations in Alabama Senate race
- Family’s beloved pony shot to death in Liberty County
- Coastal officials say feds failing Harvey victims on short-term housing
- 22 Houston gang members indicted for multiple violent crimes, officials say
- The Faith-Tinged Fatalism of Greg Abbott’s Response to Texas’ Deadliest Mass Shooting
- Execution date set for Sugar Land man on death row
- Trump in Japan…
- Free of criminal charges, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes says she was victimized
- With no state-approved textbooks, Texas ethnic studies teachers make do
- Texas back in federal court over anti-“sanctuary cities” law
- Clara Harris granted parole for husband’s murder
- Coast Guard searching area near Freeport after boat catches fire, sinks
- Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez emerges as potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott
- With Trump Cuts, Obamacare Enrollment is a Volunteer Affair in Rural Texas
- Explosion at vodka distillery burns 3 in north Harris County
- Documents: Texas National Guard Installed Cellphone Spying Devices on Surveillance Planes
- Police increase reward for information in case of child’s body found on Galveston beach
- Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’
- Leon Jacob, man accused in murder-for-hire plot, faces new charge
- The Brief: The deadliest mass shooting in Texas history
- Counterprotesters say white supremacists, not Russian Facebook ads, drew them to rally
- What we know about Texas church shooter
- Harris County Precinct 4 deputy constable shot several times, officials say
- $500 million in Ike relief is still unspent. Will Texas do better after Harvey?
- Prosecutor asks for current medical standards in death penalty evaluations
- How to earn quick cash by flipping items
- Rick Perry ties fossil fuel use to sexual assault prevention
- Abbott Supports Removing Inaccurate Capitol Displays. Do Slavery-Denying Plaques Count?
- A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.
- 24 Texas Dairy Queens closing after franchise company files for bankruptcy
- USDA Rolls Back ‘Fair Practice’ Rule That Would’ve Protected Texas Chicken Farmers
- Trump nominating Ryan Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to be U.S. attorney
- Fired in 2009, football coach Mike Leach still rages at Texas Tech and Texas law
- Texas Toxicologist Who Rejects Basic Science Appointed to EPA Science Board
- Abbott presses Congress for an extra $61 billion to rebuild after Harvey
- The ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Ban Has Already Reshaped Some Police Department Policies
- Hurricane Harvey flood looters exposed
- U.S. Supreme Court examines investigatory funding in Texas death penalty case
- Who’s Defending Texas’ Confederate Monuments?
- Kicking in doors and crushing credit: How a Texas-based retailer torments customers
- Harris County jailer accused of letting prisoner attack fellow inmate
- House Democrat: Abbott supports removing Confederate plaque from Texas Capitol
- Legislators mull changing Texas law allowing criminal charges against rent-to-own customers
- Houston woman’s daughter stranded at sea with another woman for 5 months
- ‘Fail State’ Delves into the Shadowy World of For-Profit Colleges
- Grambling State student charged in double homicide
- How renting furniture in Texas can land you in jail
- ‘Wedding crasher’ says she never attacked guest, apologizes to bride and groom
- Something Yuuuge was Missing From Franklin Graham’s Waco Revival
- Family: Florida deputy caught on camera breaking into dying man’s home
- Federal government rolls out eight border wall prototypes
- In ‘The Second Coming of the KKK,’ a Timely Lesson in the History of American Hate
- US launches ‘most advanced’ stealth sub amid undersea rivalry
- Houston man identified as victim of barge explosion near Port Aransas, officials say
- Controversial Halloween decoration in Katy leads to threats against homeowner
- What does boycotting Israel have to do with Hurricane Harvey relief?
- Rep. Dawnna Dukes cleared of criminal charges, attorneys say
- $5,000 reward being offered in shooting that caused man to lose his legs
- Tornado leaves trail of damage in two Dickinson neighborhoods, NWS says
- Former HPD officer indicted in 2016 shooting of unarmed neighbor
- State Rep. Victoria Neave pleads no contest to June DWI charge
- Texas attorney general opens investigation Into Harvey debris removal companies
- Police: 3 Texas men arrested after shot fired at Richard Spencer protesters
- Perry pursuing policy on coal, nuclear power at odds with Texas record
- Cornyn: Trump assured me more Harvey aid for Texas coming in November
- Dallas Fed CEO: Technology, not trade or immigration, is main reason for job loss
- Immigrant Workers in Texas Could Fill Farm Vacancies, but They’re Trapped in the Valley
- Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall
- This man robbed woman who was 9 months pregnant, shot her husband, authorities say
- Ex-KIPP Explore Academy staffer arrested after accusations of child indecency
- U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson walks back comments on sexual assault
- Who is this mystery man? Galveston woman begins search to find apparent veteran’s identity
- U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate
- A look back at Colt Stadium, the home of the Colt 45s
- After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwide
- Potential new murder confession delays Texas serial killer’s execution
- Texas court halts execution to review claims that co-defendant lied at trial
- How much are property taxes in Houston going down next year?
- Cruz presses Sessions on Trump administration’s “catch-and-release” policy
- Federal Prisons Don’t Even Try to Rehabilitate the Undocumented
- Three teens charged with murder after missing teen’s body found
- Houston serial killer faces execution this week
- Insurance company accused of delayed response to storm claims
- Some Texas Republicans in Congress again outraised by challengers
- To fund bid against Ted Cruz, former mayor puts up building as prize in “essay and rib contest”
- U.S. House passes hurricane relief bill after tense day for Texas delegation, Abbott
- It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say
- Prosecutors drop 1 of 13 felony charges against Rep. Dawwna Dukes
- League City mayor hospitalized after heart attack
- ICE Detained a Pregnant Rape Survivor for Six Months, Records Show
- Husband, wife each lose leg after hit-and-run crash in Waller County
- Temporary bans placed on fishing near site of busted cap
- Texas man travels to Orlando to sexually assault 9-year-old girl, police say
- Mom, older brother charged after 11-year-old found smoking meth
- Days from execution, man convicted in prison guard’s murder insists on innocence
- Truck involved in multiple accidents leaves 1 dead, 1 injured in Texas City, police say
- $1M worth of iPads mostly unused after being purchased for local elections
- Woman caught on camera stomping small dog inside elevator
- How much has been raised for Harvey relief — and how’s it being spent?
- The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County
- Mother, son charged in murder-for-hire plot
- How scammers are using homeowners to defraud FEMA
- Police find man’s body stuffed in closet after victim ‘tortured’ to death
- In historic win, charters getting state funding for facilities for the first time
- Dreamers greet DACA renewal deadline with anxiety and unanswered questions
- Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial is delayed for a third time
- Judge blocks Texas secretary of state from giving voter information to Trump commission
- East Texas county sues drug companies, alleges role in opioid crisis
- North Korean workers prepare seafood for U.S. stores, restaurants
- 3 Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees indicted in assault cases
- Reward raised for man on Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list
- Texas business mogul Mark Cuban offers details for hypothetical 2020 presidential run
- Woman accused of killing taxi driver appears in court
- Texas death row inmate Duane Buck has sentence reduced to life after Supreme Court orders retrial
- Hearing in Paxton case to consider delaying trial for third time
- Appellate judges show concern over Harris County bail practices, court ruling
- 28 organizations that got money from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
- Pasadena drops appeal, will remain under federal oversight of election laws
- Almost 400,000 Texans’ insurance at risk after Congress fails to renew CHIP
- How Harris County’s federal bail lawsuit spreads beyond Houston
- HHS Secretary Tom Price resigns amid criticism of his travel on private planes
- Houston mayor calls off property tax hike after Abbott delivers $50 million
- ‘I’m just gonna shoot him if things go sideways,’ cop tells college student during traffic stop
- Hearing set for Friday in wrongful death suit in John Hernandez case
- Aide found half-naked after sexual contact with student, deputies say
- Thousands of Poor Texans Could Lose Health Care With Congress Distracted by ACA Repeal
- Slideshow: For southeast Texas, recovery after Harvey is slow
- Even Hurricane Harvey Can’t Temper GOP Hostility Toward Texas’ Big Cities
- Murder suspect arrested in 27-year-old ‘killer clown’ shooting married to victim’s husband
- Texas attorney general now accepting complaints on “sanctuary” jurisdictions
- Abbott: Houston has enough funding for Harvey recovery
- U.S. House passes tax breaks for victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria
- New state law seeks to reduce the number of child brides in Texas
- Texas can enforce more of ‘sanctuary cities’ law
- Florida trooper accused of showing porn to child
- Town mayor facing assault charges
- 13-year-old accused in kidnapping and rape plot
- Hensarling to flood victims: ‘God’s telling you to move’
- Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say
- Army vet shown walking after claiming he couldn’t owes government $434K
- Analysis: X-factor in 2018’s Texas elections might be Harvey, not Donald
- Federal appeals court to hear arguments on Texas “sanctuary cities” law Friday
- Texas teens to be trained next year on police interactions
- Newlyweds say DJ robbed wedding cash
- How Galveston is offering a free beach weekend
- Lyft ride leads to hate crime charge for Houston man
- Florida woman makes ‘sexy’ plea to get power back after Hurricane Irma
- Report: Indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes spent $51k on online psychic
- Report: Trump’s judicial nominee from Texas called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan”
- Hospital workers in hot water over Snapchat video, picture calling newborns ‘mini Satans’
- How some see Texas as the “gold standard” against wrongful convictions
- New leak discovered on Battleship Texas
- Texas House Speaker Joe Straus calls for removal of “inaccurate” Confederate plaque
- Hey, Texplainer: How is FEMA distributing money to areas hit by Harvey?
- Friendswood man accused of raking in nearly $2 million in decadelong pay-phone scheme
- Mayor Sylvester Turner has strong words for Red Cross after problems surface
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- STATE LEGISLATURE PUTTING THE BRAKES ON TEXAS CITY ANNEXING SAN LEON WITHOUT SAN LEON RESIDENTS APPROVAL:
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- Man, 25, arrested for DWI after crashing into patrol car, deputies say
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After Kelly Unterburger and his girlfriend were pulled over for speeding in 2011, a state trooper searched the car and found what was described in court documents as a bag dusted with white powder. Unterburger was arrested for possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance and brought before a North Texas court.
The U.S. Constitution says people too poor to afford a lawyer should be appointed one paid for by taxpayers. And Unterburger — who said he was wrongly accused — was told he would be. So he was surprised when, years later, a bill arrived saying he owed thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.
“If I’d known they were going to charge me,” he said, “I would have spent more time screening lawyers.”
In Texas and across the country, defendants are sometimes asked to repay part or all of the costs of their court-appointed lawyer through a practice called recoupment. Texas counties recouped more than $11 million from poor defendants in 2016, 4.5 percent of the total amount spent on indigent defense statewide.
Critics argue the practice can seem “untoward, to say you’re given this [constitutional] right but we’re going to charge you for it,” said Beth Colgan, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. But proponents say it’s sound public policy and a way to tamp down on a ceiling-less mandate borne largely by local taxpayers.
Since 2001, when Texas drastically revamped its public defense system, the costs of assigning lawyers to poor defendants has skyrocketed, from $91.4 million to nearly $248 million in 2016. County coffers have paid the most. Last year, the state allotted around $32 million to indigent defense; counties together paid $216 million, 87 percent of the overall amount.
“Small, economically disadvantaged rural counties like Hill County, we have limited budgets, and we spend a significant amount of money on indigent defense,” said David Holmes, the county attorney there. It “is just and right to ask that if you offend the laws of the state or victimize citizens of this county – and the taxpayers of the county provide you with a lawyer that you don’t have to pay for up front – if you at some point have the ability to do that, you ought to do it.”
Depending on the court, defendants in Texas can be deemed indigent if their income is less than $49,200 for a family of four.
Some defendants are told at the outset of their case that they may be liable for their court-appointed lawyers’ costs. But Unterburger says he wasn’t. He says he didn’t know what seemed like the guarantee of a free lawyer could be rescinded. And he was especially shocked when the bill came in 2014, and it said he owed nearly $10,000.
Policies differ from court to court
Data maintained by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission shows wild variation in how much money Texas counties recoup from poor defendants. Johnson County, where Unterburger was charged, recouped nearly 15 percent of the money it spent on indigent defense last year. According to the data, Andrews County made back nearly 70 percent of its public defense costs in 2016, while 51 others recouped nothing at all.
County-to-county discrepancies aren’t unique to Texas, Colgan said. Recoupment policies differ from court to court but are often part of a “package of economic sanctions” tied to a case’s resolution, she said. Lawyer’s fees are sometimes included in plea deals or listed as a line item alongside administrative court costs that defendants are asked to pay at sentencing.
Colgan, who has researched recoupment policies in different states, said some jurisdictions use a flat fee to make back lawyer’s fees, while “in other places, it’s targeted at the amount of expenses actually incurred.”
Before levying lawyer’s fees, the court is supposed to determine that a defendant can afford to pay them. Critics say that determination does not always happen in a formal way, and they worry defendants may waive their right to counsel if they think they’ll receive a bill for that representation later.
On average, attorneys appointed by Texas courts are paid $200 for a misdemeanor case and $600 for a non-capital felony, said Wesley Shackelford, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission’s interim executive director. Cases that go to trial, like Unterburger’s, can incur significantly higher costs.
With the help of an attorney at the Texas Fair Defense Project, Unterburger was able to have the nearly $10,000 bill dropped.
Unterburger spent about three years imprisoned as he took his case to trial, and then appealed the guilty verdict.
“I didn’t even know that’s a law,” said Unterburger, who now does irrigation and landscaping work. “I worked really hard to stay up with everything,” including paying hundreds of dollars in probation fees.
“It doesn’t seem like it’d be fair,” he said of the recoupment practice.
Emily Gerrick, the lawyer who assisted him, says she argued the court had made a mistake in ordering the $10,000 bill. But “for a lot of people they really aren’t able to challenge it, because they don’t have a lawyer to help them or the court is just going to refuse.”
Donnie Yandell, Caprock Regional Chief Public Defender, said counties’ efforts to receive reimbursement for lawyers’ costs are often fruitless.
“Judges tell you about [setting up] payment plans for these people,” said Yandell, who is based in Lubbock. “You don’t get any more money out of them.” Many of his clients “scrape by,” and “just don’t have the money to start out with.” He added, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”
A new state law
A state law that went into effect Sept. 1 extends the period during which defendants can be asked to repay their lawyer’s bill. While that window used to close at sentencing, defendants can now have their financial status re-evaluated at any point while they serve out their sentence. Whether in jail, prison or on probation, it’s a period that sometimes lasts years.
Shackelford says the law has “safeguards” to protect defendants’ due process rights. Judges must first provide defendants with written notice that they’re on the line for lawyer’s fees and offer them a chance to rebut with evidence their ability to pay.
The law was enacted in “an effort to protect the collateral victims of crime: that being the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens that are having to absorb all these costs when it was unnecessary,” said Mark Pratt, the district attorney of Hill County, who weighed in on an early version of the legislation.
Pratt says if a poor defendant later comes into funds — wins the lottery, say, or gets an inheritance — it makes sense from a public policy standpoint for that person to reimburse the county. The law allows for the reverse, too: If a defendant loses a job while on probation, their financial status can be re-evaluated so they pay less. Defendants can’t be asked to repay more than the county paid.
In a statement, Birdwell said the law was passed “with the simple intent of clarifying that a defendant’s status as indigent can change over time throughout adjudication and serving a sentence.” He added that it “gives judges additional discretion to protect both taxpayers and defendants during the duration of the judicial process.”
Enough precautions have been taken “to ensure that this will be properly used to recover additional funds from those that are able to pay and it’s not used as any form of punishment for those that cannot,” said James Allison, general counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas. He doesn’t expect the statute will be heavily used and said counties are “not interested in wasting our time and resources pursuing people that can’t pay.”
Allison said increased funding from the state for indigent defense is needed to alleviate the burden on counties. Across the country, Texas ranks among those that spend the least per capita on indigent defense – with most of the funds coming from counties, according to a 2008 National Legal Aid and Defender Association report and a 2010 American Bar Association report respectively.
“I think the idea behind it is a pretty good idea,” Yandell said of the new law. “I just don’t know how well it’s going to be implemented.”
An unusual coalition of fossil fuel interests, environmentalists and free-market adherents has criticized a proposal from U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would prop up coal and nuclear plants across the country. And some of those familiar with Texas politics are wondering if the Perry that served as state governor for 14 years would have opposed the plan, too.
In a 2011 interview, then-Gov. Perry told blogger and radio host Erick Erickson, “Get rid of the tax loopholes, get rid of all of the subsidies. Let the energy industry get out there and find — the market will find the right energy for us to be using in this country.”
That statement was par the course for Perry, who as governor helped oversee the deregulation of Texas’ electrical sector and has championed competitive markets and opposed federal interference.
But to some, his views have shifted since he became President Donald Trump’s Energy Secretary in March.
“The boot is on the other foot,” Perry said at an event in April. “Are there issues that are so important to the national security of this country that the federal government can intervene on the regulatory side? I’ll suggest to you that there are.”
Perry raised eyebrows in September when he urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give certain fuel sources what amounts to a subsidy, but one borne by consumers rather than the government. And at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Perry called the notion that there’s a free market in electrical generation a “fallacy.”
“We subsidize a lot of different energy sources. We subsidize wind energy, we subsidize ethanol, we subsidize solar, we subsidize oil and gas,” Perry said at the hearing. “Government’s picking winners and losers every day,” he said later.
Lawmakers on the committee were quick to point to the disparity between Perry’s current position and those during his tenure leading Texas.
“It seems like with your new effort you are gaming the system and not doing what we did when you were governor in Texas,” U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, said at one point.
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, warned Perry that he was creating the impression that “you prefer government control over the free markets.”
“We both know that’s a pile of Bevo longhorn poo-poo,” Olson said.
Threat of energy outages
Perry’s proposal says generators that can store 90 days’ worth of fuel onsite — like coal and nuclear plants — should be shored up because they can keep the electric grid running in the event of a disturbance.
Many of these generators face premature retirement, Perry wrote last month. Referencing a 2014 “polar vortex” and the hurricanes that have battered Texas and other coastal areas, he said, “It is time for [FERC] to issue rules to protect the American people from the threat of energy outages.”
If approved, critics say the plan would increase residents’ electricity bills, penalize other sources of energy and signify a break from FERC’s free-market tendencies. Perry has asked the independent commission to make a decision on his recommendation in 60 days — a timeline some say is too fast.
But opponents have taken issue with more than the proposal’s pace. A broad coalition has criticized the plan as an ineffective solution put on too hasty a path. Some criticize it as pollution-causing and backward-looking; others say it amounts to a bailout and argue against government putting its thumb on the scale.
Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a group that represents Koch Industries and is supportive of nuclear and coal power, penned a letter saying the proposal would “distort, if not destroy, competitive wholesale electricity markets.”
Pat Wood, a former chairman of Texas’ Public Utility Commission, expressed his antipathy in more colorful language, likening the plan to a “lovely little Christmas turd” while at an industry conference, according to news reports.
Perry “clearly is acting based on what his boss, Trump, would like him to do,” said Lenae Shirley, a senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund. “When institutes that represent the Koch brothers are aligning with environmentalists on this, that sends a pretty strong message that this is not the right move.”
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to revive the coal industry, and his administration has already dismantled some policies favored by renewable energy advocates.
Even companies that support reforming wholesale electricity markets disagree with the specifics of Perry’s proposal.
“DOE is saying we need to have fuel security in the event of some catastrophic failure of the transportation or natural gas systems,” said Abraham Silverman, vice president and deputy general counsel at NRG Energy, which owns the retail electricity business of Reliant Energy in Houston. “That’s not crazy.”
“That said,” he added, “we are not proponents of bailouts. We’re not proponents of subsidies to targeted generators. We think the DOE was on the right path in highlighting the problems, but the specific proposal that they put forward was, I think, problematic.”
“Good for American energy”
At last week’s hearing, Perry said he’s committed to an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy — and pointed to his “real track record” as governor. “But the wind doesn’t always blow,” he added. “The sun doesn’t always shine. The gas pipelines, they can’t guarantee every day that that supply is going to be there.”
He suggested the Obama administration had been biased toward renewables and, in April, he commissioned a study to see if regulations, mandates or other tax policies are “responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants” such as coal and nuclear generators.
That report, which had been highly anticipated by both members of the energy industry and environmentalists, noted 531 “coal generating units” closed across the country between 2002 and 2016 and laid most of the blame for those closures on the “advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation” — with regulations and rising output from wind and solar energy as lesser factors. The study’s authors did not find that such closures had made the grid unreliable.
That trend has been largely borne out in Texas, where Perry, as governor, helped oversee the deregulation of the state’s electricity market. Under Perry, natural gas production surged thanks to technological advances like hydraulic fracturing, and Texas became the nation’s leader in wind energy generation. Data from the state’s largest grid operator shows wind capacity grew from 116 megawatts in 2000 to more than 11,000 megawatts by 2014.
“If we go back in time, I’m sure we could find a dozen quotes from Gov. Perry very excited about these kinds of developments,” said Chrissy Mann, a senior representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Brandy Marty Marquez, one of the state’s Public Utility commissioners who previously served in the governor’s office as Perry’s chief of staff, said Perry “probably was among the first people to coin the phrase ‘all-of-the-above approach’ because Texas is one of the early adopters of renewable energy, specifically wind.”
While Perry long touted free-market principles as governor, he also championed spending millions in tax subsidies for firms relocating or expanding in Texas, programs critics derided as “corporate welfare.” And as governor, he did push for the permitting of new coal plants while other states were scaling back amid pollution concerns.
But those facilities, or Perry’s lobbying for them, weren’t highlighted in a December 2016 op-ed from a former state regulator about why Perry becoming Trump’s Energy Secretary would be “good for American energy.”
Barry Smitherman, the former chairman of Texas’ Public Utility Commission and Railroad Commision, cited the building of new transmission lines for wind energy, the encouragement of more competition in the electric market and the “shale revolution” as “three particular areas where Perry’s leadership led to significant benefits for working Texans, energy consumers and the broader energy industry.”
Coal plants closing
Marquez said Perry’s proposal is a responsible and reasonable way to approach issues with the grid — and that he’s consistently advocated for a diversified energy portfolio. Anybody surprised by his plan “hasn’t been paying attention,” she said. “He sent it over to FERC so that there can be a transparent dialogue, an open dialogue about it,” she said.
But even if FERC adopts Perry’s plan as is, it would largely not impact nuclear or coal-powered plants in Texas.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s largest grid operator, is not under the purview of FERC. “Only action by the Texas legislature or the [Public Utility Commission] would affect our rate structure,” said Robbie Searcy, an ERCOT spokesperson. Diverse energy sources, she added, have helped ERCOT maintain a reliable system and competitive market.
According to ERCOT data, coal made up 22 percent of the state’s generation capacity last year. But the coming closure of several coal-powered plants in the state has set the stage for wind to overtake coal in Texas’ overall energy mix in 2018, according to Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute.
Vistra Energy’s subsidiary, Luminant, announced earlier this month that three of its Texas coal plants will shutter next year, if ERCOT gives the okay. In environmental groups’ crosshairs for years, the Monticello, Big Brown and Sandow plants have earned the dubious distinction of being among the “dirtiest” in the country. But the plants succumbed to financial, not activists’, pressure, according to company officials.
“The long-term economic viability of these plants has been in question for some time,” Curt Morgan, president and CEO of Vistra, said in a statement. Because a few of the retiring plants were built in the 1970s, Rhodes said they probably needed some capital investment just to upgrade and maintain the facilities.
If ERCOT determines the plants aren’t needed to keep the state’s energy grid reliable, their retirements could prompt the elimination of more than 800 jobs.
“Coal’s powered America for a long time,” Mann, the environmental advocate said; but the closures align with Perry’s proposal. Natural market forces — and for some, an inclination toward renewable sources — means “coal has to get phased out,” Mann said. “Perry’s report recognizes that and is looking for a way to artificially prop up a dying industry rather than finding ways to help transition communities that have relied on coal.”
Bill Peacock, vice president of research at the conservative-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, said a better solution is to rid the market of subsidies, rather than adding more. “We support markets as a way to decide which fuel is best to meet the energy needs of America,” he said. “To that extent, we don’t believe in subsidies for wind or solar or coal or nuclear or natural gas. It’s across the board. We’re not trying to pick winners and losers and we don’t think anybody else ought to either.”
Disclosure: The Environmental Defense Fund, NRG Energy, Vistra Energy and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Though a new Texas law allows hunters to shoot feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons, it’s not easy to find a balloonist offering the activity.
“I have never had a phone call from anybody asking to do this,” said Pat Cannon of Lewisville, spokesman for the Balloon Federation of America. “I think that people have not stopped laughing yet.”
The law went into effect Sept. 1, but state permitters, insurers and balloonists say they haven’t heard of anyone planning to hunt hogs from hot air balloons. They point to factors like visibility and difficulty steering that make the activity hard.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has not granted any of the permits needed for hot air balloon hunting, said Steve Lightfoot, a department spokesman. Rob Schantz of Jacksonville, Florida, who heads one of the country’s few balloon insurance agencies, said no balloonists had asked if the activity could be covered under their policies. His agency will not offer coverage for aerial hunting.
Among other logistical challenges, the balloon’s burners make a “horrendous roaring noise,” Schantz said. “It would scare anything away, and if they had a chance to take a shot, you could shoot somebody’s dog or shoot a person.”
The new law, authored by state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, is just one of Texas legislators’ attempts to curb the feral hog population in the state. Called a menace, the estimated 2 million feral hogs in Texas are responsible for about $400 million in damage each year, and their population would grow rapidly if left unchecked. A “pork-chopper” bill – allowing hogs to be hunted from helicopters – has been on the books since 2011, and state officials have considered poisoning the animals with a lethal pesticide.
Lightfoot said department rules that govern hunting from a helicopter are similar to those for gunning from a hot air balloon. Among them is a requirement that there be an agreement with a landowner permitting aerial hunting on his or her property. Lightfoot said Tuesday the department had received one phone call inquiring about the needed permits, but that none had been issued.
Keough said in a statement the new law “will open a whole new industry towards eliminating the growing population of feral hogs in the State of Texas.” After the measure passed both legislative chambers in May, state Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott saying it could lead to “future catastrophes” without increased oversight of commercial ballooning.
Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, said feral hogs pose a very significant problem to farmers and rural communities, as they destroy land and can carry diseases.
“There hasn’t been a good way to control them,” she said. Hunting from a hot air balloon isn’t expected to be a magic bullet, she said, but it seems like a “reasonable additional tool to add.”
But balloonists and pilots point to numerous challenges that make hunting from a hot air balloon difficult, if not impossible.
First, hot air balloons only fly under certain conditions. Wind, clouds, thermals and time of day are taken into account by the balloonist, and aren’t always conducive to hunting. For example, because balloons float on the wind, they couldn’t circle a pack of feral hogs while the hunters tried to shoot them.
“Let’s just assume you have a herd of feral hogs running one way and … they turn left. The balloon can’t turn left,” said Schantz, the insurance underwriter. “The balloon just keeps going and the feral hogs are off on their merry way the other way.”
For similar reasons, balloons would likely be unable to stop to retrieve the carcasses of shot hogs, said Joe Reynolds, a private pilot in Austin. Because the animals can weigh hundreds of pounds, it would also be difficult to hoist them into the balloon’s basket, and they might exceed the balloon’s load limit, said Reynolds.
Ideally, Cannon said, hot air balloon hunting would take place over land that has a large feral hog population, is owned by one person, and is in a fairly rural area – as balloons must fly at higher altitudes over houses and populated zones. A GPS tracker could help balloonists navigate boundaries that demarcate one property from the next, and make notes of where shot feral hogs fall. The landowner or someone else on the ground could pick up the carcasses.
Still, spotting those property limits from the air can be difficult, Cannon said. If the balloon is accidentally flown over a neighbor’s property, and “somebody points a gun down and shoots and discharges a weapon over that guy’s land,” Cannon said, “he could be prosecuted for that.” Dogs, donkeys or other animals could be mistaken for feral hogs and coyotes from the vantage point of a balloon.
Reynolds, the private pilot, said he’s fielded calls about the activity. But it often becomes immediately apparent “that the reality of it is not going to work.”
“I can’t speak for every balloon pilot in the world,” he added, “but nobody that I’ve talked to is going to try to take any of this on.”
Disclosure: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
As the extent of the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey becomes apparent, federal and state relief efforts are coming into focus.
The death toll for the storm has reached 50 people, the Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday, and the Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 185,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by the storm, according to the Washington Post.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Houston on Saturday, where he’s expected to meet with Harvey survivors after being criticized for not doing so while in Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday. Houston activists are reportedly planning to protest Trump’s midday visit to a relief center, according to the Chronicle. Saturday’s visit will be Mayor Sylvester Turner’s first opportunity to talk to Trump since Harvey made landfall, the Chronicle said, though the president has communicated regularly with Gov. Greg Abbott.
Trump on Friday called for $7.9 billion in federal assistance, a first installment in what’s expected to be a more expansive relief package, according to the Associated Press. Of that, $7.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $450 million to disaster loans for small businesses. The New York Times reported a second request for $6.7 billion would follow.
Abbott said Wednesday he expects the state will need far more than $120 billion, the amount of federal relief provided after Hurricane Katrina, the Post reported. And Turner told CNN Friday, “We need immediately, right now, just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million.”
In a message posted to Twitter, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the chamber will “act quickly” on disaster relief funding, with a vote expected to come next week when Congress returns from an August recess. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have set a committee hearing for Thursday to discuss housing needs in the wake of Harvey. Abbott has already said a second special legislative session would not be necessary, and that the state has enough resources to “address the needs between now and the next session.”
Abbott, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all said they would commit $100,000 through their campaigns to a Harvey relief fund announced by the governor Friday. Patrick added in a message posted to Twitter that he and his wife would make a personal donation of $25,000 to the fund – which Abbott wants raise $100 million for over Labor Day weekend.
City governments, particularly those led by Democrats, are the source of problems nationwide, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said during a nationally televised interview Friday.
“People are happy with their governments at their state level, they’re not with the city,” said Patrick, a Republican, in an interview with Fox Business Network. He was responding to a question about gubernatorial races.
“Our cities are still controlled by Democrats,” he added. “And where do we have all our problems in America? Not at the state level run by Republicans, but in our cities that are mostly controlled by Democrat mayors and Democrat city council men and women. That’s where you see liberal policies. That’s where you see high taxes. That’s where you see street crime.”
The comments drew a quick response from mayors in Texas. In a message posted to Twitter, Austin Mayor Steve Adler responded, “If it’s wrong to have lower jobless and crime rates than Texas as a whole, I don’t want to be right. Certainly not that far right.”
Patrick’s remarks came halfway through a special legislative session in which lawmakers have repeatedly taken aim at local governments. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has proposed to lawmakers a long list of ideas related to how cities and counties set budgets, regulate land use and approve construction projects.
Some of the most controversial bills now making their way through the Legislature would require a local election to approve property tax rate increases over a certain percentage and legislation that would regulate which bathrooms transgender people can use. Current versions of the bathroom proposal would preempt parts of local nondiscrimination ordinances that include protections for transgender people.
Many city officials have criticized the Legislature’s efforts, saying city governments need freedom and flexibility to govern.
“We are closer to our residents than the state is or the federal government, so we know what is best for our community because we are responsible for our community,” said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican. “Not only is El Paso the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border, we’re also ranked as the safest city in the nation.”
Mayors from two of the state’s six biggest cities are Republican: Margo, plus Betsy Price of Fort Worth.
But “the fact that city elections are nonpartisan is one of the greatest things about city government,” said Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League. “We like to say that potholes aren’t Democratic or Republican… it costs the same amount regardless of ideology.”
Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, and Dee Margo have been financial supporters of the Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
A fast-moving Senate gave unanimous early approval to critical “sunset legislation” on Wednesday afternoon, using two bills to extend the life of five state agencies held political hostage at the end of the regular legislative session.
The special session’s Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 60, authored by state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, would reauthorize the Texas Medical Board and four other state agencies. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he won’t add other hot-button items to legislators’ agenda until after they keep those agencies afloat.
The Senate will reconvene one minute after midnight, when lawmakers in the upper chamber can take a final vote on both bills.
“I will bring the pizza and the soda pop,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joked.
If they pass, as expected, they’ll head across the hall to the Texas House, which has made clear it’s not motivated by a speedy timetable.
Senators also announced that several committees would hold public hearings Friday, including on the controversial “bathroom bill” that has yet to be filed.
The House State Affairs committee on Wednesday approved sunset legislation of its own — House Bill 1 by Round Rock Republican Larry Gonzales — which would leave the five state agencies open for another two years. It’s unclear how soon that bill will head to the full chamber.
The House would also need to pass House Bill 2 to fund the agencies.
Andy Duehren contributed to this report.
Licensing Director Amy Harrison is the seventh official out at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission since April. TABC spokesman Chris Porter said Friday Harrison “separated” from the agency Wednesday.
Jo Ann Joseph, previously the deputy director of licensing, will act as licensing director until a decision is made about Harrison’s permanent replacement, Porter said.
Harrison helped oversee the creation of a controversial flyer depicting agency honchos partying during out-of-state junkets. Her departure comes less than a week after the acting executive director abruptly quit, saying he did not want to participate in the “termination” of Harrison.
“I believe you are a good man who faces a very challenging situation and who must make some difficult decisions,” the acting executive director wrote in a letter to TABC Chairman Kevin Lilly. “However my conscience will not allow me to take part in the termination of Amy Harrison from the commission.”
The TABC has seen a spate of departures since The Texas Tribune began reporting a series of stories about the agency, including lavish trips officials took to out-of-state resorts, questionable use of peace officer status by agency brass, and failures to accurately maintain records of state-owned vehicles.
Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Lilly to clean up the agency’s mess. And on Tuesday, a decorated military officer and practicing lawyer, Adrian Bentley Nettles, was picked to head TABC after the acting executive director’s departure.
A lawyer with a lengthy military background has been tapped to clean up the embattled Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, after a series of controversies and high-level departures at the agency.
TABC commissioners appointed Adrian Bentley Nettles, a decorated military officer and practicing lawyer, to head the Texas liquor agency after a closed-door session on Tuesday.
Nettles will replace Sherry Cook, who announced in April she would step down from the executive directorship amid a series of spending controversies at the TABC.
“Brigadier General Bentley Nettles is a tested leader whose integrity, skills and experience, in both the military and the private sector, make him the ideal choice to get the TABC back on track,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “As a highly decorated military officer, and Texas lawyer, General Nettles has dedicated his life to serving Texans and his country, and I am confident he will continue to be a dedicated public servant in his new role. I have no doubt that his steady hand will restore trust in the agency, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”
Nettles was released from active duty in 2015 and now has a law office in Bryan, focused on assisting veterans with issues related to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, estate planning, Medicaid and small business. Over the course of his military career, he was awarded 24 awards and badges, including a Purple Heart.
TABC Chairman Kevin Lilly said six candidates were interviewed for the executive director position on Tuesday. Lilly praised Nettles’ leadership, strong legal background, character and history of public service. “I think he’s a great American and a great Texan and his history of public service is unblemished,” he added in a brief interview Tuesday.
Lilly was tapped by Abbott, who has expressed public concern about TABC, to reform the agency. After Cook announced she would step down, Abbott said in a tweet, “It’s time to clean house from regulators not spending taxpayer money wisely.” He added, “This is a good start.”
Robert Saenz, executive chief of field operations, will serve as acting executive director until Nettles can take over, likely in three to four weeks. Julia Allen, an assistant general counsel at the agency, will serve as acting general counsel.
Six high-level officials have left TABC in the past few months, including Ed Swedberg, who became acting executive director after Cook’s departure. He quit Friday after a few weeks on the job.
The TABC has seen a spate of departures since The Texas Tribune began reporting a series of stories about the agency, including lavish trips officials took to out-of-state resorts, questionable use of peace officer status by agency brass, and failures to accurately maintain records of state-owned vehicles.
Since the Tribune began its reporting, Texas lawmakers have also voted to ban most out-of-state travel for agency personnel.
In June, the Tribune reported that the TABC tried to cancel every permit held by Spec’s liquor stores or fine the retailer up to $713 million. In a blunt ruling, a panel of judges said the TABC failed to prove any serious infractions made by Spec’s and recommended that no fines be imposed on the Houston-based liquor store chain.
Besides Swedberg and Cook, the agency’s general counsel, chief of enforcement and head of internal affairs have all left the agency since the beginning of July.
When Swedberg quit on Friday, he said he did not want to participate in the “termination” of another high-ranking official, Licensing Director Amy Harrison. Harrison, who helped oversee the creation of a controversial flyer depicting agency honchos partying during out-of-state junkets, still had her job Tuesday, TABC spokesman Chris Porter said.
Additional reporting by Jay Root.