Texas Standard for October 5, 2021

Two Black members of Congress give testimony at the state capitol. At stake: political maps that would break up communities of color. We’ll have the latest on the fight over representation and redistricting in Texas. And: It started as a petition to force the hiring of more police officers. Now, why a local proposition could have echoes and reverberations statewide. Also: An estimated 40% of Texas nursing home workers are unvaccinated. How a change in the law may create a shortage of nursing home workers, and the help that facilities are asking for from the state. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

By Texas StandardOctober 5, 2021 9:27 am

Here are the stories on Texas Standard for Tuesday, October 5, 2021.

Redistricting Hearings

The Texas Senate Redistricting Committee approved new U.S. House district maps for the state yesterday. For more on what happens next and the state of play of redistricting, we’re joined by professor Mark Jones with the Baker Institute For Public Policy at Rice University.

Prop A Explainer

Next month voters in Austin will decide on a measure to increase police hires by about 500, building staffing levels to two police officers for every 1,000 residents. The ballot measure, Proposition A, comes months after the Austin City Council voted to reallocate funds from the Austin police to other city and community services, and after Gov. Greg Abbott approved a bill designed to punish cities who decrease police budgets. Helping us break it all down is KUT Austin city hall reporter Audrey McGlinchy.

LBJ School Teacher Shortage 

Schools across the country are struggling to stay fully staffed this year. It’s likely a side effect of the pandemic with some teachers or staff members quitting, retiring or finding new jobs. Austin’s LBJ High School has been dealing with staff shortages since the first day of school. KUT’s Claire McInerny reports on what that’s meant for the students and staff.

New Translucent Fish Species

When you think about discovering a new species, the story and setting probably involves a trek through some far-flung locale. The real story is sometimes less dramatic – like in the case of Danionella cerebrum, a tiny fish that our next guest helped discover and classify. Kevin Conway is an associate professor and fish expert at Texas A&M University, and he joins us to talk about his discovery.

Abandoned Wells in the Basin

In West Texas’ Permian Basin, thousands of oil and gas wells fill the landscape. Now, some of that aging equipment is bursting and leading to uncontrolled leaks. Just this summer, one of these old wells in Crane County began spewing toxic water, more than 20 years after it was filled with concrete and abandoned. The spill threw one rancher into a bureaucratic nightmare filled with more questions than answers. Marfa Public Radio’s Mitch Borden brings us that rancher’s story.

Nursing Home Vaccine Mandate

In the months before a vaccine was available, COVID-19 devastated nursing home populations. The virus killed 10% of Texas nursing home residents in the pandemic’s first year. Now, life in nursing homes looks a lot more like it did before the pandemic. But that could change again, due to a looming federal vaccine mandate. The Texas Tribune’s Karen Brooks Harper reports that only about 40% of Texas nursing home workers are vaccinated – and unless those numbers surge, huge staff shortages could reverberate through the industry. She joins us to talk about her reporting.

All this and Texas News Roundup, plus Social Media Editor Wells Dunbar with the talk of Texas.

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