• Austin gears up for bike share system

    Austin’s bike share system will have folks rolling around downtown by the end of the year, after the city approved contracts Thursday.

    Austin City Council approved $150,000 in a partnership with Bike Share of Austin as a managing partner and system operator, as well as an equipment contract with vendor B-Cycle. Finalizing contract details could take up to 30 days from now.

    B-Cycle has implemented bike share in 17 cities through the country, including San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth.

    The company will provide the city with 400 bicycles, 600 docking stations and 40 kiosks. The stations will have mapping systems to help riders navigate the city, and the operating functions will be available in English and Spanish. The system’s Apple and Android mobile apps will provide dock and bike locations and give overdue notices to riders.

    Shannon Wisner, a Public Works spokeswoman, said the city plans to implement 10 stations and 100 bicycles by the end of the year. An additional 30 stations with 300 more bikes will be implemented in the spring of 2014.

    Though the program targets the downtown area, the city will places the kiosks in part based on resident input through an online location-suggesting tool, to identify prospective locations and vote on them as well. The city will also host meetings to hear location suggestions from the public in July and August.

    New York City implemented a similar bike share May 27. The bike share in New York includes 6,000 bikes and has already gathered 40,000 members.

    Follow Christine Ayala on twitter @christine_ayala.

  • Texas House committee meets on abortion in small room

    A Texas House committee considering new restrictions on abortions has scheduled another hearing when it will likely approve at least some of the tighter regulations.

    House Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook provided notice of the meeting two hours and 16 minutes before Friday's hearing in a room that can hold only 30 people and does not have a video feed. It comes after hundreds of abortion rights supporters packed a hearing Thursday until 3:30 a.m.

    Opponents hoped to stall the measures, but Cook cut off public testimony saying it was becoming repetitive. A Democrat said in 20 years she'd never seen a chairman deny witnesses a chance to speak.

    The proposed laws would limit which clinics and doctors can perform abortions and would ban abortions after 20 weeks instead of 24.

  • The Morning Texan: Ordination, abortion and affirmative action

    According to the National Weather Service, Friday's high is going to be 98 degrees.

    Here is some morning reading:

    Yesterday's most read story online: Mary Ann Kaiser, a youth director at the University United Methodist Church on campus, was suddenly removed from her candidacy to become an ordained minister because she identifies as a lesbian. Some church officials are saying rules were violated because she was not interviewed by the Board of Ordained Ministry before being denied ordination.

    In case you missed it: The House left two abortion bills pending in committee after more than 700 people signed up to testify on the bills and the hearing was nearly 15 hours long. Many UT students testified on the bill.

    What you have to read: It turns out, the Supreme Court could hold the Fisher case till next year and wait to release a decision then. That is because they are the Supreme Court of the United States, and they do what they want. Here's how and why they might hold the case. 

  • UPDATE: Abortion bills pass Texas House State Affairs Committee

    Updated at 1:30 p.m. 

    The Texas House State Affairs Committee approved abortion bills HB16, HB60 and SB 5 Friday afternoon. The full House chamber is expected to debate on bills Sunday. 

    Original Story:

    Following many hours of emotional, citizen testimony on abortion bills, the Texas House State Affairs Committee adjourned and left two abortion bills pending in committee.

    According to multiple twitter reporters, more than 700 people registered to speak on HB16 and HB60, bills that would add additional restrictions to receiving abortions in Texas. Both bills were filed by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Austin, along with several other authors.

    The commitee hearing was almost 15 hours long. Speakers ranged from grandparents to college students, and included voices from both sides of the abortion debate.

    HB 16, or the so-called “fetal pain bill,” would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. HB 60 would add several more restrictions to having abortions in Texas. Lawmakers supporting the bill have said these bills aim to make abortion safer in Texas, but critiquers of the bills have said it would make it more difficult for Texas women to get an abortion.

    Several UT students, recent UT graduates and even UT professors spoke to the committee during the late hours Thursday evening and early hours Friday morning. The committee did not adjourn until 3:45 Friday morning, though registered speakers who did not get a chance to testify kept speaking.

    UT Professor Joseph Potter also spoke in opposition to the fetal pain bill and other abortion legislation. He said the sonogram law from the previous session, which requires women to have a sonogram before receiving an abortion, has made it more difficult for many women to get an abortion.

    “This is not going to be anything to help women’s health,” Potter said. “The brunt of the impact is going to be on low-income women.”

    Leslie Tisdale, communications studies senior and a former president of the University Democrats, pointed out to the committee that Texas high school textbooks say fetuses begin feeling pain at 28 weeks, while HB 16 claims fetuses begin feeling pain at 20 weeks. This is a discrepancy that concerns her, she said, since she is looking to becoming a teacher.

    “I ask you all to reconsider this bill,” Tisdale said to the committee.

    Activists from the LGBTQ community also waited in the long line of testify to speak on the abortion bills. Lauren Cozart, who identifies as lesbian and is a former child protective services investigator for Travis County, said she was speaking against the abortion bills for herself and other women in Texas.

    Quite frankly, I'm a lesbian. Unless I get the next Jesus in me, I'm not getting pregnant,” Cozart said.

    She said she has seen women with minimal-wage paying jobs who have struggled to feed the children they already have. More mouths to feed would make life even harder, Cozart said.

    Ash Hall, a UT graduate and former campus LGBTQ activist, also spoke against the abortion bills for the LGBTQ community. Hall said there are those who will attempt to force themselves on lesbian women in order to have “corrective sex” to try and make them straight. Hall said it is crucial abortion remains an option for these women, who are raped.

    Earlier this week, the Texas Senate passed SB 5, a bill that includes many of the provisions the two house bills include. Many conservative Texas lawmakers have supported the abortion bills, while Democrats have been opposed to the legislation.

    This article has been updated since it was posted.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.