The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
What’s something George Strait, Willie Nelson, and Flaco Jiménez have in common? They’ve all been named “State Musician” by Texas lawmakers.
“There is a government code that says that the legislature will name a Texas poet laureate, a state musician, and then state visual artists – one in two-dimensional art and one in three-dimensional art,” says Anina Moore with the Texas Commission on the Arts.
The commission manages the Texas State Artists nomination process which is open through Oct. 15. Moore says artists don’t receive money for this honor but there are other benefits.
“We do see some recipients able to market themselves more widely, or become invited to festivals and other events based on the fact that they’ve been named as state poet laureate or visual artist, things like that.”
Texans can nominate multiple artists for Texas State Artist, and artists can even nominate themselves. Moore says that during the last nomination period, the commission received 300 unique nominations.
A new interactive online tool shows how policy changes could affect the number of people incarcerated in different states. The Urban Institute launched the Prison Population Forecaster Wednesday.
Bryce Peterson is a senior research associate with the Washington D.C.-based think tank. He explains users can adjust a number of variables, such as the types of crimes people enter prison for:
“They can also change the length of stay that a person will have in prison, so how long we expect them to stay in prison, and by changing those two things for a number of different of types of offenses, we can project out how that will affect the prison population.”
Peterson says if no policy changes are made in Texas, the state’s prison population will be an estimated 140,000 people by 2025.
But, he adds, Texas could make a real dent in the number of people behind bars if it kept lower- level offenders out of prison.
“In many states across the country, prisons are already used for those most serious offenses, so trying to change policies around low-level offenses won’t have an impact on the total population. However, in Texas, there is still some room that could be done by focusing on those lower-level crimes.”
He says that could apply to people who go to prison for drug offenses.
“So if you reduce the number of admissions for drug offenses by 50 percent, it leads to about a seven-and-a-half percent decrease in the prison population, if you compare that to the baseline population.”
The American Civil Liberties Union funded the creation of this tool.
A federal judge says he will soon rule on a Texas-led effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Judge Reed O’Connor heard oral arguments in his Fort Worth courtroom Wednesday. Texas is arguing that the entire ACA should be eliminated, since Congress repealed the tax-penalty portion of the law last year. Lawyers defending the ACA say if it’s invalidated, millions of Americans will be left without insurance.