Texas Standard for October 20, 2021

There’s been a lot of concern among Democrats about weakening numbers in the Rio Grande Valley. But there’s another argument that it might not matter so much in the end when it comes to election results. And there’s some evidence that not taking full advantage of redistricting power has weakened Democratic power across the country – we’ll break it down. And: Staff vaccination rates at Texas nursing homes are not moving up much despite a looming federal mandate. That’s a Texas Standard special report. Also: We’ll get up close with the mighty peregrine falcon.

By Texas StandardOctober 20, 2021 9:16 am,

Lege winners and losers

The third special session of the Texas Legislature has come to a close. And Bob Garrett with The Dallas Morning News is handing out report cards. The broadsheet’s Austin bureau chief has identified what he deems the winners and the losers at the Lege this year, and joins us with his thoughts.

Rural vs. urban voters in Texas

A headline at politics and polling site FiveThirtyEight suggests recent electoral gains for Republicans could end up a wash. To wit: “Why Democratic Gains In Texas’s Big Metro Areas Could Outweigh Republican Success In South Texas.” We’ll hear from its author, Alex Samuels.

VA mortgages

A red-hot housing market during the pandemic has been great news for many sellers. But what’s good for sellers has been bad for many buyers – and the scramble can be especially hard for service members or veterans who want to buy a home with a mortgage backed by the VA. Chris Haxel of the American Homefront Project explains.

W.F. Strong: Peregrine Falcons

It’s the time of year that peregrine falcons make their incredible journey from Greenland to Argentina and Chile, a distance of over 8,000 miles. One of the most popular migration stopovers for peregrines is Padre Island, where they rest and eat for a few days. Texas Standard commentator W.F. Strong says it’s like a Buc-ee’s for birds – and then some.

Hold music follow-up

About 15,000 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That’s higher than before the pandemic – but a far cry from the early days of COVID-19, when over 300,000 people filed for jobless benefits each week. That onslaught led to jammed phone lines and long hold times, soundtracked by an endless loop of hold music. Now, as KUT’s Matt Largey tells us, that loop got an upgrade over the summer.

Jenny Waldo on ‘Acid Test’

As a teenager in the 1990s, Jenny Waldo discovered feminism through the Riot Grrrl punk movement. She also dabbled a little with drugs. Those teenage experiences inspired her feature film “Acid Test,” shot in her current hometown of Houston. We’ll hear from her ahead of its theatrical premier at the Austin Film Festival.

Nursing home vaccinations update

COVID-19 hit Texas nursing homes and assisted living facilities hard early in the pandemic. The Biden Administration has since announced plans to mandate that nursing home staff be vaccinated; a deadline hasn’t been announced yet. Still, word of the mandate doesn’t appear to have spurred more Texas nursing home staff to get the shot. For the latest on the numbers, we’re joined by Texas Standard digital reporter and producer Caroline Covington.

Nonpartisan redistricting

Democrats nationwide have long pushed for nonpartisan redistricting commissions, hoping to curtail partisan gerrymandering. And they’ve had some luck, too: several states have approved such commissions in the past 15 years. But what if Dems’ push for nonpartisan redistricting commissions backfires on them? Atlantic staff writer Russell Berman explores that question in a new piece for the magazine, and joins us today.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.