byAbby L. Johnson
Dozens of people calling for legislators to protect American children from sex trafficking, ideological indoctrination and drag queen storytime competed with counter-protesters advocating for transgender rights at the Texas Capitol on Saturday.
byAbby L. Johnson
Thousands of people rallied with signs of protest and boots in hand at the Texas State Capitol on Saturday to protest a proposed voucher-like program they fear will take away significant funding from public schools.
The rally took place just days before the third special session of the 88th Legislature was to begin Monday. Gov. Greg Abbott called for the special session after House Bill 100 failed to pass in this year’s regular session.
Crystal Chen’s soft voice echoed through the Senate chamber as she recounted nightmares of persecution by her own government for her religious beliefs. In the prime of her 20s, Chen was sentenced to four and a half years of forced labor and torture in China. “I was pinned to the concrete floor and force-fed an all-salt mixture which nearly killed me,” Chen said. The room filled with lawmakers was silent. “Some guards handcuffed me to a radiator pipe,” she continued. “I was left there for three days while a police chief groped my body.” Chen was among a group of victims of political and religious persecution who testified before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services of the Texas legislature in support of Senate Bill 1040 that would prohibit health insurance companies and other benefit plans from covering organ transplant procedures in which the organs come from a country known to engage in forced organ harvesting — namely China.
Rep. John Bucy, D-Austin, has filed House Bill 1346, which would give counties the ability to allow sales of liquor for off-premise use on Sundays. HB 1346 would empower counties to hold an election and allow voters to decide the matter. Bucy filed a similar bill in 2021, but it never made it to a vote.
Since distilleries cannot sell their bottled product on Sunday, they are at a competitive disadvantage with wineries and breweries, which can sell their bottled products to consumers every day of the week, Bucy said. The measure would allow distilleries to better compete with wineries and breweries, he added.
Under proposed legislation, the Texas Grid Security Commission would develop standards “to ensure that energy, electric power, and fuel supplies are protected and readily available for recovery in the event of a severe outage,” said a spokesperson for Senator Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, who is a sponsor of the bill.
The Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, first held in 1958, began as a rattlesnake hunt with the goal of controlling the snake population in this small northwest Texas town. The event is now billed as the largest rattlesnake roundup in the world.
Texas Republicans — who passed a law in 2021 banning transgender athletes from competing on K-12 sports teams that match their gender identity — are working to extend restrictions on transgender athletes to college sports.
House Bill 23, by Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, would prohibit transgender public college students from joining college sports teams that align with their gender identity. The bill stipulates that athletes participate on teams based on the “biological sex” listed on their birth certificate. The measure would allow women to compete on men’s teams if there is no corresponding women’s team available.
Families of victims of the Uvalde shooting joined hundreds of protestors to advocate for laws aimed at preventing violence the Capitol on Tuesday.
Dozens of family members of incarcerated Texans descended on the state Capitol for a rally for criminal justice reform sponsored by Texas Inmate Families Association, a nonprofit group that provides support.
Texas imprisons more people than any state in the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. In 2022 more than 180,000 residents were incarcerated in state prisons and local jails.
byAna Paola Davila Chalita
Chanting “stop trafficking now” and holding signs, dozens of people gathered inside the state Capitol on Jan. 24 for an anti-human trafficking advocacy day
Texas only trails California in the number of people trafficked, according to a 2021 report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in Texas, increasing by 68% to 1.6 million people in the past decade, according to the 2020 Census. But Asians remain underrepresented in the Texas Legislature and other state offices.
byAna Paola Davila Chalita
For Juan Martinez and his truck, a trip usually lasts from Monday to Saturday, starting in Mexico and going north into the United States before returning home. He is one of thousands of truck drivers from Mexico, taking jobs to haul freight across the border under a 1991 commercial trucking agreement between the United States and Mexico.
The opportunity of a higher salary is driving more Mexicans with a B1 visitor visa to a profession that is constantly struggling with a worker shortage.
But the industry still needs 78,000 drivers, “The price of everything we buy is going to go up,” said a manager for trucking company, “because it’s going to cost more to move it, because we have less drivers that want to move it.”
Planning a long-distance trip in an electric vehicle can be tricky, especially in rural parts of Texas where electric vehicle charging stations can be sparse. Texas is working to improve rural access to charging stations. The Federal Highway Administration in September approved $408 million to help the state government to install EV charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors.
With overdose deaths mounting, harm reduction groups are providing overdose reversal medications and other supplies to ensure safer substance use and generally healthier living. But the groups operate in a legal gray area.
“This work is important for everybody here,” one clinic coordinator said after a day of outreach in his group’s mobile clinic. “Don’t you know we all can go to jail right now? Because everything that we do is illegal, technically. When I was doing the (safe syringe exchange) van, all of that stuff on there was illegal. But guess what? Ain’t never stopped me.”
The group takes its clinic van to several encampments each Tuesday through Friday, providing Narcan nasal spray, an opioid overdose reversal medication, safe smoke kits, needle exchanges, hygiene supplies, wound care kits and Plan B contraception pills.
“Fundamentally, harm reduction is about saving people’s lives and increasing safety around unsafe behaviors,” said one expert.
The seemingly laid-back island town of Surfside Beach has found itself at the forefront of oil industry expansion, as a plan to build the Sea Port Oil Terminal, known as SPOT, has divided the community.
The plan includes building an oil pipeline from Harris County through Brazoria County, across vacant lots in the village of Surfside Beach and connecting to a deepwater port 27 nautical miles offshore.
The construction project is one of six new permit applications for offshore terminals in the Gulf of Mexico to export oil or natural gas to the global market. The permit for the Sea Port Oil Terminal has received more than 37,000 public comments, and a final decision on permit approval is expected this month from the U.S. Maritime Administration.