To RFRA or not

Fri, Apr 3, 2015 - 10:38am

In a 1989 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, involving two men who were fired for smoking peyote as part of a sacred Native American ritual and then denied state unemployment benefits, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower court ruling declaring that the two were not fired out of religious bias but because they violated state drug laws.

The U.S. Supreme Court returned the case to the Oregon Supreme Court to decide if a state could deny unemployment benefits to a worker fired for using illegal drugs for religious purposes? The Oregon Supreme Court ultimately sided, in a 6-3 decision, with Oregon’s...

A Major Fight for Minor Marijuana

Wed, Apr 1, 2015 - 12:58pm

Alexis Bortell has been using marijuana since March 2. She’s not a pothead, a Deadhead or a Wall Street banker winding down from a 15-hour workday. She’s a 9-year-old Texan who’s spent the last two years in and out of hospitals and the school nurse’s office, fighting the symptoms of intractable epilepsy — a fancy name for epilepsy that medicine can’t seem to soothe. That is until she tried cannabis. “It’s worked where everything else failed,” says her father, Dean Bortell. He remembers watching from the sidelines as Alexis underwent hours of testing and medicating during her first seizure episode, when she was just 7...

House panel approves ‘campus carry’ bill

Tue, Mar 31, 2015 - 11:59am

A House committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow for the concealed carry of handguns in most public university buildings.

The three Democrats on the nine-member House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee opposed the bill. The legislation, which has already passed the Senate, is among the most high-profile gun bills moving through the Legislature.

The bill – authored by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball – now heads to the Calendars Committee to receive a...

As Texas college tuition climbs, lawmakers to air ideas

Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - 9:22am

When Republicans first gained control of the Legislature in 2003, they embarked on an overhaul of higher education by giving university governing boards the power to set tuition rates. It was an effort to make up for declining state support to universities by shifting the costs to students via tuition.

Now, as many middle-class families fear they’ve been priced out of a college education, there’s an effort among bipartisan lawmakers to rein in the increases.

Senate and House committees are slated to hear some of those proposals Wednesday.

But any expansive changes are likely to be stymied by the GOP majority’...

University chancellors divided on campus carry

Fri, Mar 20, 2015 - 10:50am

A bill that would allow concealed handguns at public universities has faced controversy not only in the Texas Legislature, but also among college chancellors.

University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven opposes the campus carry bill because he thinks if it becomes law it would create a “less safe” environment for the students, faculty and staff.

McRaven cited concerns that, if passed, the law would lead to an increase in accidental shootings. He also expressed concerns about allowing guns in university hospitals and laboratories because they are places where emotions can run high.

But for Texas A...