HOUSTON – Texas was on the national stage throughout the year 2022.
Here are just some of the Texas issues that dominated the headlines, along with what was at stake and what’s to come as we look toward the future of the state and the nation.
1. Uvalde massacre
Nineteen children and two adults -- teachers -- were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County on May 24, making the massacre the deadliest school shooting in Texas’ history.
Amid all of the reporting and the information going back and forth, we want to take this opportunity to remember the real children and adults whose lives were ended. We remember them and we want you to remember them, too. We’re going to say their names. Our hearts are still with those in Uvalde grieving this incredible loss of life in 2022.
Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, 10
Jacklyn Cazares, 9
Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
Jose Manuel Flores Jr., 10
Eliahna Garcia, 9
Irma Garcia, 48
Uziyah Garcia, 10
Amerie Jo Garza, 10
Xavier Lopez, 10
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10
Tess Mata, 10
Maranda Mathis, 11
Eva Mireles, 44
Alithia Ramirez, 10.
Annabell Rodriguez, 10
Maite Rodriguez, 10
Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, 10
Layla Salazar, 11
Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
Eliahna Torres, 10
Rojelio Torres, 10
The investigations and reports continue to be compiled. Here are takeaways from the first investigative report issued in July.
2. The Border
Like in 2021, border issues continued to be a top headline from Texas that drew the eye of the nation to our state.
Texas, in its proximity to Mexico, has always been at the center of the border debate, but the debate became a funding issue and a national humanitarian issue as migrants from Texas were bused to several states, including Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania in 2022.
KPRC 2 Investigates’ Robert Arnold has made the trek to the border for years, reporting on migrant crossings, law enforcement, and humanitarian issues. In the video below, Robert talks about his experience covering issues along the border and how they’ve changed or haven’t changed over the years. He also explains some of the misconceptions or misinformation many people have about issues at the border.
Among the issues Robert and Daniella Guzman explored in 2022 were, among other things, the backlog of cases in immigration court, the hurdles in building a state-funded border wall, the types of arrests and the impact it’s having on local community courts.
3. Texas judge blocks Biden’s student loan forgiveness policy
Eyes were on Texas -- or at least one of its judges -- in November as a federal judge in North Texas ruled that President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is “unlawful,” the latest challenge to the policy that has seen several attacks from conservative groups.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman said in court files that he declared the loan forgiveness plan unlawful, because Biden did not follow federal procedures to allow for public comment prior to the policy’s announcement.
Prior to that, as the Associated Press reported, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit temporarily halted the program in response to a lawsuit from six GOP-led states. The Texas lawsuit joins a growing number of legal challenges to the loan forgiveness plan that Biden announced in August. Borrowers started applying for the program in October.
As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Education closed the online portal for student debt relief. “Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program. As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders,” the website reads.
The Texas lawsuit alleges that Biden’s program violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not providing a public comment period. The lawsuit also argues the Secretary of Education does not have the authority to implement the program.
In response to the lawsuit, the Justice Department argued last month that Biden’s plan doesn’t require notice and comment.
Midterm Election Day in Texas was a well-watched event.
In the wake of the 2020 election and questions raised by former President Donald Trump about the count, many states enacted new voting legislation, including Texas. The midterm election brought all of that to the fore once again.
Prior to Election Day, authorities announced Harris, Waller and Dallas counties’ voting would be monitored.
When Election Day came around, in Harris County, there were multiple issues reported throughout the day. The Harris County GOP said the Harris County Elections administrator should issue an ‘apology’ after Election Day problems. Protesters gathered outside the Commissioners Court following the Election Day mishaps.
5. Astros win the World Series
The Astros won the World Series in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies on Nov. 5.
6. Paper license plates
Texas’ temporary license plate tags are getting a huge design overhaul following KPRC 2′s extensive reporting on the issue in 2022.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles announced in November that the brand-new designs are coming soon and will bring several security features.
This comes after KPRC 2 Investigates, and specifically Amy Davis, explored the issues of fraudulent paper tags and their link to criminal activity. Law enforcement agencies have collaborated with TXDMV to combat the increase.
Complete coverage of paper license plates in Texas on Click2Houston.com:
7. Takeoff murder in Houston
Rapper Takeoff, of the popular group Migos, was fatally shot during a private party at a bowling alley in downtown Houston on Nov. 1.
Takeoff’s primary cause of death was listed as “penetrating gunshot wounds of head and torso into arm” and his manner of death was called homicide.
Takeoff, whose off-stage name was Kirsnick Khari Ball, formed one-third of the Grammy Award-nominated rap trio Migos with uncle Quavo and cousin Offset from suburban Atlanta.
The 28-year-old rapper was killed when gunfire erupted outside of 810 Billiards & Bowling following a private party.
Investigators were looking to speak with the 40 people who attended the party and fled after the gunfire, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said after the shooting.
At least two people discharged firearms, according to Finner. Two others were hit by gunfire but had non-life-threatening wounds and went to hospitals in private vehicles, he said.
The investigation continues. KPRC 2 will bring you the latest updates as they become available.
Complete coverage on Click2Houston.com:
Like 2021, abortion remained a top-level issue in the state -- and the nation.
The near-ban on abortions in Texas became national and international news when Senate Bill 8 was signed into law in September 2021. In June 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned. This is what Texas and national leaders said about the decision.
Following the decision, via Texas Tribune, we provided a comprehensive look at the decision and what it means for Texas. The federal decision became a mid-term elections issue, but Texas came out largely in the same way it always has, despite some a big impact in some states.
As the Texas Tribune reported, polling shows that a majority of voters in Texas oppose the state’s near-total ban on abortion. While exceptions to the Texas law are being mulled concerning rape and incest, there’s no official word yet from Abbott who has repeatedly declined to say whether he supports them.
9. Brittney Griner imprisoned in Russia
NBA star Brittney Griner, 32, has begun serving her nine-year sentence for drug possession at a Russian penal colony, her lawyers and agent said in November.
Griner, who was born in Houston, was transferred to a penal colony in Mordovia, about 210 miles east of Moscow, after a Russian court last month rejected her appeal of her sentence.
The all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
At her trial, Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but testified she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.
She was convicted in August and sentenced to nine years in prison.
The Biden administration has been trying for months to negotiate the release of Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, including through a possible prisoner swap with Moscow. Whelan was also sent to a penal colony in Mordovia after being convicted of espionage-related charges in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
President Joe Biden told reporters that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate the release of Griner now that the U.S. midterm elections are over.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this section.
What Texas stories do you remember from 2022? Let us know in the comments and we could include in an update on this report.