State of Texas: Lawmaker brings teacher’s view to school finance

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Voters elected several new people on Nov. 6 to represent them at the State Capitol. Most of them will take office when the legislature convenes in January. But, one new lawmaker is already at work.

James Talarico took the oath of office on Tuesday.  His mother held the Bible as Speaker Joe Straus led the swearing-in ceremony. Talarico won a special election on Nov. 6 to fill the seat in Texas House District 52. The seat has been vacant since outgoing Representative Larry Gonzales resigned in June.

Talarico previously worked as a middle school teacher. “Usually when I tell folks I taught middle school, they comment on my bravery. And, I usually tell them that teaching middle school is the best preparation for Texas politic,” Talarico said during an interview on the State of Texas politics program.

Talarico says school funding will be his top priority at the legislature. “As a teacher, as an educator, I hope to bring a much-needed perspective to the conversation about school finance,” he said.

Denied | Evidence

A mother’s struggles to get evidence after her son died in a Texas jail is leading state lawmakers to push for changes to make it easier for families, journalists and attorneys to obtain details when suspects die in custody.

Herman Titus had a seizure and died while in the custody of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. But his mother, Demeisha Burns, said her son had no history of seizures. When she tried to find out more details about her son’s death, she ran into roadblocks.

Both the sheriff’s and county attorney’s offices cited an obscure loophole to the Texas Public Information Act. It gives law enforcement agencies the discretion to withhold details in closed criminal cases that don’t end in a conviction or deferred adjudication — even when suspects die in their custody.

Now, our ongoing investigation reveals that loophole being broadly used to deny families, journalists and lawyers information that could bring accountability and closure to at least dozens of cases across the state – a discovery that’s sparked renewed efforts at the State Capitol to change the law. 

Check out the full investigation here.
 

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