Jill Ament | KUOW News and Information

Jill Ament

From Texas Standard:

As we celebrate this holiday of being thankful, we would be remiss not to also think about those who are struggling. This week, we’ve featured stories of the hard time many of our fellow Texans are having rebuilding their homes and their lives after Hurricane Harvey.

So how much damage did Harvey do to Texas homes?

From Texas Standard:

Of the 3,500 structures in Vidor, Texas – a town outside of Beaumont – more than 2,000 were flooded in some way by Harvey. The First United Methodist Church in Vidor served as a shelter for around 200 flooded out residents in the town of about 11,000 people. That includes the parsonage where Pastor John Mooney and his family live. Many of his church members' homes were also hit.

"The majority of them were actually rescued by their neighbor, by their fellow Vidorian folks with boats, so a lot of these folks, their homes were ruined, they were flooded, they were damaged,” Mooney says. “So a lot of them don't have anywhere to go."

From Texas Standard:

In an attempt to manage the growing congestion on Texas highways, and corresponding rates of frustration for drivers, the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, has been implementing what could be called  a market-driven approach to driving. Rather than spend more state dollars on highway-building, Texas has turned to the private sector, which has built toll roads where the cost to drivers fluctuates with traffic demand.

From Texas Standard.

Gov. Greg Abbott made his first endorsement of a legislative challenger Monday. He said he would be supporting incumbent Republican State Rep. Sarah Davis’ GOP challenger Susanna Dokupil. That’s likely to cause more fraying among Texas Republicans.

Mike Ward, the Austin bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, says the move is rare.

From Texas Standard:

President Donald Trump's insistence that the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is a bad deal sparked talks aimed at renegotiation among the U.S., Mexico and Canada. And until now, groups representing farmers and ranchers in Trump-supporting states have been willing to wait and see where those negotiations go. But Politico reports the agriculture lobby is now going on offense, sending a sharply-worded message that the trade pact must be saved.

From Texas Standard:

At least a dozen of those killed in Sunday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs were children, and some of them attended the school districts surrounding the small town.

Officials from local districts made the decision to go forward with classes on the Monday after the shooting, far from certain as to how many empty seats there might be in some classrooms, or how students might be affected by the trauma the whole area is experiencing.

From Texas Standard:

A lone gunman killed 26 people and injured dozens more during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A few miles down the road in the small town of Stockdale, pastors are looking for ways to comfort their congregations: parishioners who are not only grieving for their neighbors, but who may also be concerned that their “sanctuary” is not immune to these horrific events.

From Texas Standard.

A new proposal from Republican lawmakers would cut some tax rates and overhaul portions of the U.S. tax code. House Republicans rolled out the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in Washington on Thursday.

Among the most controversial aspects of the GOP tax plan is that it lowers the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Current homeowners wouldn’t be affected, but new borrowers would only be able to deduct the first $500,000 – that’s down from the current limit, which is $1 million.

John Diamond, director of Rice University’s Center for Public Finance says that the mortgage deduction change could lower Texas home values by 1-2 percent.

From Texas Standard:

Two Houston-area high school students protesting the Pledge of Allegiance say their constitutional rights have been violated by their school districts – and they’re taking their protest to court.

From Texas Standard:

Gov. Greg Abbott was in Washington on Tuesday, seeking additional federal funding for Harvey relief and getting an earful from Texas' congressional delegation – a group he called "spineless" a few weeks ago when he felt they weren't working hard enough to bring home the bacon.

From Texas Standard

While news that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wouldn’t be seeking re-election reverberated through the state capital last week, we got word of more turmoil in the Texas Republican Party – this time involving state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal columnist Jay Leeson says the Panhandle is rumbling again.

From Texas Standard:

A little-known quirk of Texas law allows the state's rent-to-own industry to file criminal charges against Texans who are unable to pay their debts. A new investigation by the Texas Tribune and NerdWallet found that the law, written decades ago by rental lobbyists, has resulted in unexpected legal and financial consequence for many rent-to-own customers in the state.

From Texas Standard.

The story of an undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy detained by Border Patrol agents after she underwent gallbladder surgery in Corpus Cristi this week has sparked outrage among immigration rights activists – and, frankly, way beyond.

A front page piece by the editorial board of the McAllen Monitor reads “Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should ‘shock us’ all.” Here’s the story.

The body of a 3-year-old girl found in a culvert in a Dallas suburb over the weekend has been identified. Sherin Mathews had been missing since Oct. 7. The girl’s father – now in police custody – originally said she had gone missing after he left her in an alley outside his home early one morning, as punishment for not drinking her milk.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election. The conservative Republican made an emotional speech on the Senate floor, condemning the “coarseness of our leadership” and warning his colleagues in Congress that the Republican Party was “complicit.” Flake has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, though he did not mention the president by name.

Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston and author of the book Inside Texas Politics, says Flake joins fellow Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and 17 House Republicans, including one-fourth of the Republican women in the chamber, who have announced their retirements ahead of the 2018 election cycle.

From Texas Standard:

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently formed a new committee to study the problem of opioid addiction in Texas. The Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse is tasked with developing concrete principles and action items for lawmakers.

From Texas Standard:

Texas’ reputation as a law-and-order state often overshadows the fact that the state leads the nation in some aspects of criminal justice reform. But that reform carries a rather high price tag – one that might be greater than what many lawmakers initially imagined.

From Texas Standard:

Eugenio Hernandez Flores, the former governor of a Mexican border state, was arrested earlier this month in Tamaulipas on charges of misuse of public funds and use of illicit funds. Now, federal prosecutors in the U.S. are officially asking the Mexican government to hand over the former governor so Flores can face charges on this side of the border.

From Texas Standard.

It’s mid-October and kids in Port Aransas are finally going back to school in their own community. Classrooms have been closed in the Gulf Coast town since Harvey made landfall. Though Port Aransas Independent School District finally opened its doors, not all of the classrooms are quite where they need to be.

From Texas Standard:

While the Trump administration says the "war on coal" is over, market forces are having their say when it comes to the fossil fuel, closing plants in several Texas communities.

Texas' largest generator of coal-powered energy, Luminant, says it is ceasing operations at two plants in the state. The company says Texas' competitive energy market and cheap natural gas  make these older coal-fired plants unprofitable. Another Texas coal operator has already announced plans to close two facilities.

From Texas Standard:

After months of demands from many rank-and-file Democrats to impeach the president, formal articles of impeachment have been filed against President Donald J. Trump. The resolution, field by Rep. Al Green (D-Houston), cites four reasons for impeachment, ranging from incitement of bigotry and racism, to falsely accusing opponents of voter fraud.

From Texas Standard:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is fuming about the Lone Star congressional delegation. "Get a spine!" That's his message to Texas' elected representatives on Capitol Hill, as the U.S. House gets set to vote on a hurricane relief package.

From Texas Standard

The Texas Education Agency estimates Hurricane Harvey caused $1.64 billion worth of damage to public schools in the state.

Educators and lawmakers are afraid some schools won’t be able to recover. Now TEA says it has a strategy that may save school systems that saw declines in enrollment from lost funding.

From Texas Standard:

Sixty years ago, the Texas Water Development Board was tasked to learn about or manage everything being done across the state to meet our water needs. It was the dawn of an era of planning for water shortages.  

From Texas Standard:

Mark Bethune was celebrating his 50th birthday with his wife Sherrell on Sunday. They were watching Jason Aldean perform at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Then the shots began. The Bethunes are now back home in San Angelo.

From Texas Standard:

Following the Trump administration's announcement that it would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Republican lawmakers in Washington are reportedly working on what they call "fixes" to U.S. immigration policy.

From Texas Standard:

For the majority of the past three decades, most recently at the helm of the El Paso Times, newspaperman Bob Moore has shaken things up. And for those who do not believe in government transparency, his bite has proven worse than his roar.

From Texas Standard:

As Senate Republicans struggle to nail down the votes they need among their own ranks to pass a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, many inside and outside the party are once again consider what it means to be loyal in the era of President Donald Trump. The conundrum has been around since the campaign, when revelations about Trump's actions and behavior kept many GOP members from embracing him fully.

Washington Post Reporter David Fahrenthold is a Houston native who earned a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on then-candidate Trump's claims about charitable giving. Fahrenthold also broke the story of the "Access Hollywood" tape, days before the election. He spoke with Host David Brown at the Texas Tribune Festival.

From Texas Standard:

Following this year's contentious regular and special sessions at the Capitol, the divide between the Legislature's upper and lower chambers couldn’t be more apparent. Many of the priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, like the hotly debated transgender bathroom bill and sanctuary cities law, didn't fly in the House.

From Texas Standard:

The middle class is making gains, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest numbers show the median household income for a family of four is now $59,030, the highest median income on record, topping the previous high set during the dot-com days of the late 1990s.

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