STATE OF TEXAS, USA

Geography:

Texas is the second-largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state in the contiguous United States. The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas. Located in the South Central United States, Texas is bordered by Mexico to the south, New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Texas has an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2), and a growing population of 25.1 million residents.

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, while San Antonio is the second largest in the state and seventh largest in the United States. Dallas–Fort Worth and Greater Houston are the fourth and sixth largest United States metropolitan areas, respectively. Other major cities include El Paso and Austin—the state capital. Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as an independent republic and as a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas State Flag and on the Texas State Seal today.

Due to its size and geologic features such as the Balcones Fault, Texas contains diverse landscapes that resemble both the American South and Southwest. Although Texas is popularly associated with the Southwestern deserts, less than 10% of the land area is desert. Most of the population centers are located in areas of former prairies, grasslands, forests, and the coastline. Traveling from east to west, one can observe terrain that ranges from coastal swamps and piney woods, to rolling plains and rugged hills, and finally the desert and mountains of the Big Bend.

The term "six flags over Texas" came from the several nations that had ruled over the territory. Spain was the first European country to claim the area of Texas. France held a short-lived colony in Texas. Mexico controlled the territory until 1836 when Texas won its independence, becoming an independent Republic. In 1845 it joined the United States as the 28th state. The state's annexation set off a chain of events that caused the Mexican–American War in 1846. A slave state, Texas declared its secession from the United States in early 1861, joining the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. After the war and its restoration to the Union, Texas entered a long period of economic stagnation.

One Texas industry that thrived after the Civil War was cattle. Due to its long history as a center of the industry, Texas is associated with the image of the cowboy. The state's economic fortunes changed in the early 20th century, when oil discoveries initiated an economic boom in the state. With strong investments in universities, Texas developed a diversified economy and high tech industry in the mid-20th century. As of 2010 it shares the top of the list of the most Fortune 500 companies with California at 57. With a growing base of industry, the state leads in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. It leads the nation in export revenue since 2002 and has the second-highest gross state product.

Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). It is 10% larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, though it ranks only 27th worldwide amongst country subdivisions by size. If it were a country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.

Texas is in the south-central part of the United States of America. Three of its borders are defined by rivers. The Rio Grande river forms a natural border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south. The Red River forms a natural border with Oklahoma and Arkansas to the north. The Sabine River forms a natural border with Louisiana to the east.

With 10 climatic regions, 14 soil regions, and 11 distinct ecological regions, regional classification becomes problematic with differences in soils, topography, geology, rainfall, and plant and animal communities. One classification system divides Texas, in order southeast to west, into the following: Gulf Coastal Plains, Interior Lowlands, Great Plains, and Basin and Range Province. The Gulf Coastal Plains region wraps around the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast section of the state. Vegetation in this region consists of thick pineywoods. The Interior Lowlands region consists of gently rolling to hilly forested land is part of a larger pine-hardwood forest. The Great Plains region in central Texas is located in spans through the state's panhandle and Llano Estacado to the state's hill country near Austin. This region is dominated by prairie and steppe. "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos" region is the state's Basin and Range Province. The most varied of the regions, this area includes Sand Hills, the Stockton Plateau, desert valleys, wooded mountain slopes and desert grasslands.

Texas has 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers. The largest of these rivers is the Rio Grande. Other major rivers include the Pecos, the Brazos, Colorado, and Red River, which forms the border with Oklahoma. While Texas has few natural lakes, Texans have built over 100 artificial reservoirs.

Texas's size and unique history make its regional affiliation debatable: it can be fairly considered a Southern or a Southwestern state, or both. The vast geographic, economic, and cultural diversity within the state itself prohibits easy categorization of the whole state into a recognized region of the United States. The East, Central, and North Texas regions have a stronger association with the American South than with the Southwest. Others, such as far West Texas and South Texas share more similarities with the latter.

Texas is the southernmost part of the Great Plains, which ends in the south against the folded Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. The continental crust forms a stable Mesoproterozoic craton which changes across a broad continental margin and transitional crust into true oceanic crust of the Gulf of Mexico. The oldest rocks in Texas date from the Mesoproterozoic and are about 1,600 million years old. These Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks underlie most of the state, and are exposed in three places: Llano uplift, Van Horn, and the Franklin Mountains, near El Paso. Sedimentary rocks overlay most of these ancient rocks. The oldest sediments were deposited on the flanks of a rifted continental margin, or passive margin that developed during Cambrian time. This margin existed until Laurasia and Gondwana collided in the Pennsylvanian subperiod to form Pangea. This is the buried crest of the Appalachian Mountains–Ouachita Mountains zone of Pennsylvanian continental collision. This orogenic crest is today buried beneath the Dallas–Waco—Austin–San Antonio trend.

The late Paleozoic mountains collapsed as rifting in the Jurassic period began to open the Gulf of Mexico. Pangea began to break up in the Triassic, but seafloor spreading to form the Gulf of Mexico occurred only in the mid and late Jurassic. The shoreline shifted again to the eastern margin of the state and the Gulf of Mexico passive margin began to form.

Today 9 miles (14 km) to 12 miles (19 km) of sediments are buried beneath the Texas continental shelf and a large proportion of remaining US oil reserves are located here. At the start of its formation, the incipient Gulf of Mexico basin was restricted and seawater often evaporated completely to form thick evaporite deposits of Jurassic age. These salt deposits formed salt dome diapirs, and are found in East Texas along the Gulf coast.

East Texas outcrops consist of Cretaceous and Paleogene sediments which contain important deposits of Eocene lignite. The Mississippian and Pennsylvanian sediments in the north; Permian sediments in the west; and Cretaceous sediments in the east, along the Gulf coast and out on the Texas continental shelf contain oil. Oligocene volcanic rocks are found in far west Texas in the Big Bend area. A blanket of Miocene sediments known as the Ogallala formation in the western high plains region is an important aquifer. Located far from an active plate tectonic boundary, Texas has no volcanoes and few earthquakes.

Agriculture:

Texas has the most farms and the highest acreage in the United States. Texas leads the nation in livestock production. Cattle is the state's most valuable agricultural product, and the state leads nationally in production of sheep and goat products. Texas leads the nation in production of cotton. The state grows significant amounts of cereal crops and produce. Texas has a large commercial fishing industry. With mineral resources, Texas leads in creating cement, crushed stone, lime, salt, sand and gravel.

Weather:

The large size of Texas and its location at the intersection of multiple climate zones gives the state highly variable weather. The Panhandle of the state has colder winters than North Texas, while the Gulf Coast has mild winters. Texas has wide variations in precipitation patterns. El Paso, on the western end of the state, averages as little as 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rainfall while Houston, in southeast Texas, averages as much as 54 inches (1,400 mm) per year. Dallas in the North Central region averages a more moderate 37 inches (940 mm) per year.

Snow falls multiple times each winter in the Panhandle and mountainous areas of West Texas, once or twice a year in North Texas, and once every few years in Central and East Texas. Snow rarely falls south of San Antonio or on the coast except in rare circumstances. Of note is the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm, when 6 inches (150 mm) of snow fell as far south as Kingsville, where the average high temperature in December is 65° F.

Maximum temperatures in the summer months average from the 80s °F (26 °C) in the mountains of West Texas and on Galveston Island to around 100 °F (38 °C) in the Rio Grande Valley, but most areas of Texas see consistent summer high temperatures in the 90 °F (32 °C) range. Night time summer temperatures range from the upper 50s °F (14 °C) in the West Texas mountains to 80 °F (27 °C) in Galveston.

Thunderstorms strike Texas often, especially the eastern and northern portions of the state. Tornado Alley covers the northern section of Texas. The state experiences the most tornadoes in the United States, an average of 139 a year. These strike most frequently in North Texas and the Panhandle. Tornadoes in Texas generally occur in the months of April, May, and June.

Some of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Texas. A hurricane in 1875 killed approximately 400 people in Indianola, followed by another hurricane in 1886 that destroyed the town. These events allowed Galveston to take over as the chief port city. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 subsequently devastated that city killing approximately 8,000 people (possibly as many as 12,000), making it the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Other devastating Texas hurricanes include the 1915 Galveston Hurricane, Hurricane Audrey in 1957 which killed over 600 people, Hurricane Carla in 1961, Hurricane Beulah in 1967, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Tropical storms have also caused their share of damage: Allison in 1989 and again during 2001, and Claudette in 1979 among them.

Texas emits the most greenhouse gases in the U.S. The state emits nearly 1.5 trillion pounds (680 billion kg) of carbon dioxide annually. As an independent nation, Texas would rank as the world's seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases. Causes of the state's vast greenhouse gas emissions include the state's large number of coal power plants and the state's refining and manufacturing industries.

Government:

The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Like many states, it explicitly provides for a separation of powers. The state's Bill of Rights is much larger than its federal counterpart, and has provisions unique to Texas.

Texas has a plural executive branch system limiting the power of the Governor. Except for the Secretary of State, voters elect executive officers independently making candidates being directly answerable to the public, not the Governor. This election system has led to some executive branches split between parties. When Republican President George W. Bush served as Texas's governor, the state had a Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock. The executive branch positions consist of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Land Commissioner, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of State.

The bicameral Texas Legislature consists of the House of Representatives, with 150 members, and a Senate, with 31 members. The Speaker of the House leads the House, and the Lieutenant Governor, the Senate. The Legislature meets in regular session biennially, but the Governor can call for special sessions as often as desired. The state's fiscal year spans from the previous calendar year's September 1 to the current year's August 31. Thus, the FY 2011 dates from September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2011.

The judicial system of Texas is one of the most complex in the United States, with many layers and overlapping jurisdictions. Texas has two courts of last resort: the Texas Supreme Court, for civil cases, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Except for some municipal benches, partisan elections select judges at all levels of the judiciary; the Governor fills vacancies by appointment. Texas leads the nation in executions – 442 as of October 2009.

The Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption. They have acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Texas governor, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force both for the republic and the state. The Texas Rangers were unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The Rangers were part of several important events of Texas history and some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West.

As in other "Solid South" states, whites resented the Republican Party after the American Civil War, and the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics from the end of Reconstruction until the late 20th century. The state has since become a Republican stronghold.

The Texas political atmosphere leans towards fiscal and social conservatism. Since 1980, most Texas voters have supported Republican presidential candidates. In 2000 and 2004, Republican George W. Bush won Texas with 60.1% of the vote, partly due to his "favorite son" status as a former Governor of the state. John McCain won the state in 2008, but with a smaller margin of victory compared to Bush at 55% of the vote. Austin consistently leans Democratic in both local and statewide elections. Counties along the Rio Grande generally vote for Democrats, while most rural and suburban areas of Texas vote Republican.

The 2003 Texas redistricting of Congressional districts led by the Republican Tom Delay, was called by the New York Times "an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering". A group of Democratic legislators, the "Texas Eleven", fled the state in a quorum-busting effort. Despite these efforts, the legislature passed a map heavily in favor of Republicans. Protests of the redistricting reached the national Supreme Court in the case League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, but the ruling went in the Republicans' favor.

As of the general elections of 2010, a large majority of the members of Texas's U.S. House delegation are Republican, along with both U.S. Senators. In the 111th United States Congress, of the 32 Congressional districts in Texas, 23 are held by Republicans and 9 by Democrats. Texas's Senators are Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Since 1994, Texans have not elected a Democrat to a statewide office. The state's Democratic presence comes primarily from some minority groups in East Texas and South Texas as well as urban voters, particularly in Beaumont, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.

Texas has 254 counties— the most nationwide. Each county runs on Commissioners' Court system consisting of four elected commissioners (one from each of four precincts in the county, roughly divided according to population) and a county judge elected at large from the entire county. County government runs similar to a "weak" mayor-council system; the county judge has no veto authority, but votes along with the other commissioners.

Although Texas permits cities and counties to enter "interlocal agreements" to share services, the state does not allow consolidated city-county governments, nor does it have metropolitan governments. Counties are not granted home rule status; their powers are strictly defined by state law. The state does not have townships— areas within a county are either incorporated or unincorporated. Incorporated areas are part of a municipality. The county provides limited services to unincorporated areas. Municipalities are classified either "general law" cities or "home rule". A municipality may elect home rule status once it exceeds 5,000 population with voter approval. Municipal elections are nonpartisan as are elections for school boards and community college districts.

Economy:

As of 2010, Texas had a gross state product (GSP) of $1.207 trillion, the second highest in the U.S. Its GSP is comparable to the GDP of India or Canada, which are the world's 12th- and 11th-largest economies, respectively. Texas' economy is the fourth-largest of any country subdivision globally, behind England (as part of the UK), California, and Tokyo Prefecture. Its Per Capita personal income in 2009 was $36,484, ranking 29th in the nation. Texas's large population, abundance of natural resources, thriving cities and leading centers of higher education have contributed to a large and diverse economy. Since oil was discovered, the state's economy has reflected the state of the petroleum industry. In recent times, urban centers of the state have increased in size, containing two-thirds of the population in 2005. The state's economic growth has led to urban sprawl and its associated symptoms.

As of July 2011, the state's unemployment rate is 8.4%. Texas has a "low taxes, low services" reputation. According to the Tax Foundation, Texans' state and local tax burdens rank among the lowest in the nation, 7th lowest nationally; state and local taxes cost $3,580 per capita, or 8.4% of resident incomes. Texas is one of seven states that lack a state income tax. Instead, the state collects revenue from a state property tax and sales tax, which is charged at the rate of 6.25%, but local taxing jurisdictions (cities, counties, special purpose districts, and transit authorities) may also impose sales and use tax up to 2% for a total maximum combined rate of 8.25%. Texas is a "tax donor state"; in 2005, for every dollar Texans paid to the federal government in federal income taxes, the state received approximately $0.94 in benefits.

In 2004, Site Selection Magazine ranked Texas as the most business-friendly state in the nation, in part because of the state's three-billion-dollar Texas Enterprise Fund. Texas has the joint-highest number of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States, along with California. In 2010, there were 346,000 millionaires in Texas, constituting the second-largest population of millionaires in the nation.

Ever since the discovery of oil at Spindletop, energy has been a dominant force politically and economically within the state. According to the Energy Information Administration, Texans consume the most energy in the nation per capita and as a whole. Unlike the rest of the nation, most of Texas is on its own alternating current power grid, the Texas Interconnection. Texas has a deregulated electric service.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, contrary to its name, regulates the state's oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and surface coal and uranium mining. Until the 1970s, the commission controlled the price of petroleum because of its ability to regulate Texas's oil reserves. The founders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) used the Texas agency as one of their models for petroleum price control.

Texas has known petroleum deposits of about 5 billion barrels (790,000,000 m3), which makes up approximately one-fourth of the known U.S. reserves. The state's refineries can process 4.6 million barrels (730,000 m3) of oil a day. The Baytown Refinery in the Houston area is the largest refinery in America. Texas also leads in natural gas production, producing one-fourth of the nation's supply. Several petroleum companies are based in Texas such as: Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Valero, and Marathon Oil.

The state is a leader in renewable energy sources; it produces the most wind power in the nation. The Roscoe Wind Farm in Roscoe, Texas, is the world's largest wind farm as of October 2009 with a 781.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. The Energy Information Administration states that the state's large agriculture and forestry industries could give Texas an enormous amount biomass for use in biofuels. The state also has the highest solar power potential for development in the nation.

With large universities systems coupled with initiatives like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a wide array of different high tech industries have developed in Texas. The Austin area is nicknamed the "Silicon Hills" and the north Dallas area the "Silicon Prairie". Texas has the headquarters of many high technology companies, such as Dell, Inc., Texas Instruments, Perot Systems, and AT&T.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (NASA JSC) located in Southeast Houston, sits as the crown jewel of Texas's aeronautics industry. Fort Worth hosts both Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics division and Bell Helicopter Textron. Lockheed builds the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the largest Western fighter program, and its successor, the F-35 Lightning II in Fort Worth.

Texas's affluence stimulates a strong commercial sector consisting of retail, wholesale, banking and insurance, and construction industries. Examples of Fortune 500 companies not based on Texas traditional industries are AT&T, Men's Warehouse, Landry's Restaurants, Kimberly-Clark, Blockbuster, Whole Foods Market, and Tenet Healthcare. Nationally, the Dallas–Fort Worth area, home to the second shopping mall in the United States, has the most shopping malls per capita of any American metropolitan area. Mexico, the state's largest trading partner, imports a third of the state's exports because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA has encouraged the formation of controversial maquiladoras on the Texas/Mexico border.

Religion:

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 4,368,969; the Southern Baptist Convention with 3,519,459; and the United Methodist Church with 1,022,342. Known as the buckle of the Bible Belt, East Texas is socially conservative. Dallas-Fort Worth is home to three major evangelical seminaries and a host of monasteries. Lakewood Church in Houston, boasts the largest attendance in the nation averaging more than 43,000 weekly. Lubbock, according to local lore, has the most churches per capita in the nation.

Adherents of many non-Christian religions reside predominantly in the urban centers of Texas. In 1990, the Islamic population stood at approximately 140,000 with more recent figures putting the current population of Muslims between 350,000 to 400,000. The Jewish population stands at around 128,000. Approximately 146,000 adherents of non-Abrahamic religions such as Hinduism and Sikhism live in Texas.

Arts and Culture:

Historically, the whole of Texas culture comes from a blend of Southern (Dixie), Western (frontier), and Southwestern (Mexican/Anglo fusion) influences, varying in degrees of such from one intra-state region to another. A popular food item, the breakfast burrito, draws from all three, having a soft flour tortilla wrapped around bacon and scrambled eggs or other hot, cooked fillings. Adding to Texas's traditional culture, established in the 18th and 19th centuries, immigration has made Texas a melting pot of cultures from around the world.

Houston is one of only five American cities with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines: the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet, and The Alley Theatre. Known for the vibrancy of its visual and performing arts, the Houston Theatre District— a 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houston— ranks second in the country in the number of theater seats in a concentrated downtown area, with 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats.

Founded in 1892, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, also called "The Modern", is Texas's oldest art museum. Fort Worth also has the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the Bass Performance Hall downtown. The Arts District of Downtown Dallas has arts venues such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.

The Deep Ellum district within Dallas became popular during the 1920s and 1930s as the prime jazz and blues hotspot in the Southern United States. The name Deep Ellum comes from local people pronouncing "Deep Elm" as "Deep Ellum". Artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith played in early Deep Ellum clubs.

Austin, The Live Music Capital of the World, boasts "more live music venues per capita than such music hotbeds as Nashville, Memphis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas or New York City." The city's music revolves around the nightclubs on 6th Street; events like the film, music, and multimedia festival South by Southwest; the longest-running concert music program on American television, Austin City Limits; and the Austin City Limits Music Festival held in Zilker Park. Since 1980, San Antonio has evolved into the "The Tejano Music Capital Of The World." The Tejano Music Awards have provided a forum to create greater awareness and appreciation for Tejano music and culture.

Education:

The second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, is the Father of Texas Education. During his term, the state set aside three leagues of land in each county for equipping public schools. An additional 50 leagues of land set aside for the support of two universities would later become the basis of the state's Permanent University Fund. Lamar's actions set the foundation for a Texas-wide public school system. Texas ranked 29th in the American Legislative Exchange Council's Report Card on American Education. Texas students ranked higher than average in mathematics, but lower in reading. Between 2006–2007, Texas spent $7,275 per pupil ranking it below the national average of $9,389. The pupil/teacher ratio was 14.9, below the national average of 15.3. Texas paid instructors $41,744, below the national average of $46,593. The state provided 88.0% of the funding for education, the federal government 12.0%.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) administers the state's public school systems. Texas has over 1,000 school districts- all districts except the Stafford Municipal School District are independent from municipal government and many cross city boundaries. School districts have the power to tax their residents and to assert eminent domain over privately owned property. Due to court-mandated equitable school financing for school districts, the state has a controversial tax redistribution system called the"Robin Hood plan". This plan transfers property tax revenue from wealthy school districts to poor ones. The TEA has no authority over private or home school activities.

Students in Texas take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in primary and secondary school. TAKS assess students' attainment of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies skills required under Texas education standards and the No Child Left Behind Act. In spring 2007, Texas legislators replaced the TAKS for freshmen in the 2011–2012 school year and onward with End of Course exams for core high school classes.

Texas's controversial alternative affirmative action plan, Texas House Bill 588, guarantees Texas students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatic admission to state-funded universities. The bill encourages diversity while avoiding problems stemming from the Hopwood v. Texas (1996) case.

Six state university systems and four independent public universities exist in Texas. Discovery of minerals on Permanent University Fund land, particularly oil, has helped fund the rapid growth the state's largest university systems: University of Texas and Texas A&M. The PUF principal in fall 2005 was approximately $15 billion, second in size only to Harvard University's endowment. The other four university systems are the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas State, and Texas Tech.

Texas has three nationally recognized top-tier public research universities: The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are flagship universities of the state of Texas. Both were established by the Texas Constitution and hold stakes in the Permanent University Fund. The state has been putting effort to expand the number of flagship universities by elevating some of its seven institutions designated as "emerging research universities." The two that are expected to emerge first are the University of Houston and Texas Tech University, likely in that order according to discussions during the 82nd Texas Legislature.

The state is home to many private institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to a nationally recognized top-tier research university. Rice University in Houston is one of the leading teaching and research universities of the United States and is ranked the nation's 17th-best overall university by U.S. News & World Report. The former republic chartered the private universities Baylor University, University of Mary Hardin–Baylor, and Southwestern University.

Universities in Texas currently host two presidential libraries: George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at The University of Texas at Austin. An agreement has been reached to create a third; the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University.

Healthcare:

The Commonwealth Fund ranks the Texas healthcare system the third worst in the nation. Texas ranks close to last in access to healthcare, quality of care, avoidable hospital spending, and equity among various groups. Causes of the state's poor rankings include politics, a high poverty rate, and the highest rate of illegal immigration in the nation. In May 2006, Texas initiated the program "code red" in response to the report that the state had 25.1% of the population without health insurance, the largest proportion in the nation. Texas also has controversial non-economic damages caps for medical malpractice lawsuits, set at $250,000, in an attempt to "curb rising malpractice premiums, and control escalating healthcare costs".

The Trust for America's Health ranked Texas 15th highest in adult obesity, with 27.2% of the state's population measured as obese. The 2008 Men's Health obesity survey ranked four Texas cities among the top 25 fattest cities in America; Houston ranked 6th, Dallas 7th, El Paso 8th, and Arlington 14th. Texas had only one city, Austin, ranked 21st, in the top 25 among the "fittest cities" in America. The same survey has evaluated the state's obesity initiatives favorably with a "B+". The state is ranked forty-second in the percentage of residents who engage in regular exercise.

Many elite research medical centers are located in Texas. The state has nine medical schools, three dental schools, and one optometry school. Texas has two Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories: one at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, and the other at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio—the first privately owned BSL-4 lab in the United States.

The Texas Medical Center in Houston, holds the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions, with 47 member institutions. Texas Medical Center performs the most heart transplants in the world. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is a highly regarded academic institution that centers around cancer patient care, research, education and prevention.

San Antonio's South Texas Medical Center facilities rank sixth in clinical medicine research impact in the United States. The University of Texas Health Science Center is another highly ranked research and educational institution in San Antonio. Both the American Heart Association and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center call Dallas home. The Southwestern Medical Center ranks "among the top academic medical centers in the world". The institution's medical school employs the most medical school Nobel laureates in the world.

Transportation:

Texans have historically had difficulties traversing Texas due to the state's large size and rough terrain. Texas has compensated by building both America's largest highway and railway systems in terms of length, as well as the largest number of airports. The regulatory authority, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) maintains the state's immense highway system, regulates aviation, and public transportation systems. Located centrally in North America, the state is an important transportation hub. From the Dallas/Fort Worth area, trucks can reach 93% of the nation's population within 48 hours, and 37% within 24 hours. Texas has 33 foreign trade zones (FTZ), the most in the nation. In 2004, a combined total of $298 billion of goods passed though Texas FTZs.

Texans have heavily traveled their freeways since the 1948 opening of the Gulf Freeway in Houston. As of 2005, 79,535 miles (127,999 km) of public highway crisscrossed Texas (up from 71,000 miles (114,263 km) in 1984). To fund recent growth in the state highways, Texas has 17 toll roads with several additional tollways proposed. In west Texas, both I-10 and I-20 have speed limits of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h), the highest in the nation. All federal and state highways in Texas are paved.

In March 2011, Texas ranked as a bottom-ten "Worst" state (tied with Montana and North Dakota) in the American State Litter Scorecard, presented at the American Society for Public Administration national conference. Public roadways in the Lone Star State suffer from an overall poor quality of landscape cleanliness, attributed to ineffective roadside and adjacent property litter/debris abatement standards, seemingly politicized procedural efforts, and other relevant public performance indicators.

Texas has the most airports of any state in the nation. Largest in Texas by size and passengers served, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the second largest by area in the United States, and fourth in the world with 18,076 acres (73.15 km2). In traffic, DFW is the busiest in the state and the fourth in the United States, and sixth worldwide. AMR Corporation's American / American Eagle, the world's second largest airline in total passengers-miles transported (after Delta Air Lines, and soon third, after the combined United and Continental airlines) and passenger fleet size, uses DFW as its largest and main hub. Southwest Airlines, also headquartered in Dallas, has its operations currently at Dallas Love Field. It ranks as the largest airline in the United States by number of passengers carried domestically per year and the largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried.

Texas's second-largest air facility is Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) with. It serves as Houston based Continental Airlines's largest hub. IAH offers service to the most Mexican destinations of any U.S. airport. The next four largest airports in the state all serve over 4 million passengers annually; they include: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), William P. Hobby Airport, San Antonio International Airport (SAT), and Dallas Love Field (DAL). The smallest airport in the state to be designated an international airport is Del Rio International Airport.

Around 1,150 seaports dot Texas's coast with over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of channels. Ports employ nearly one-million people and handle an average of 317 million metric tons. Texas ports connect with the rest of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard with the Gulf section of the Intracoastal Waterway. The Port of Houston today is the busiest port in the United States in foreign tonnage, second in overall tonnage, and tenth worldwide in tonnage. The Houston Ship Channel currently spans 530 feet (160 m) wide by 45 feet (14 m) deep by 50 miles (80 km) long.

Part of the state's tradition originates from cattle drives in which wranglers herded livestock to railroads in Kansas. The first railroad to operate in Texas was the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, opening in August 1853. The first railroad to enter Texas from the north, completed in 1872, was the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. Since 1911, Texas has led the nation in railroad length. Texas railway length peaked in 1932 at 17,078 miles (27,484 km), but declined to 14,006 miles (22,540 km) by 2000. While the Railroad Commission of Texas originally regulated state railroads, in 2005 the state reassigned these duties to TxDOT.

Both Dallas and Houston feature light rail systems. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) built the first light rail system in the Southwest United States. The Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter rail service that links Fort Worth and Dallas is provided by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T) and DART. In the Austin area Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates a commuter rail service known as Capital MetroRail to the northwestern suburbs. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) operates light rail lines in the Houston area.

Amtrak provides Texas limited intercity passenger rail service both in size and frequency. Just three scheduled routes serve the state: the daily Texas Eagle (Chicago–San Antonio); the tri-weekly Sunset Limited (New Orleans–Los Angeles), with stops in Texas; and the daily Heartland Flyer (Fort Worth–Oklahoma City).

Sports:

While American football has long been considered "king" in the state, Texans today enjoy a wide variety of sports. Texans can cheer for a plethora of professional sports teams. Within the "Big Four" professional leagues, Texas has two NFL teams (the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans), two Major League Baseball teams (the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros), three NBA teams (the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Dallas Mavericks), and one National Hockey League team (the Dallas Stars). The Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex is one of only thirteen American metropolitan areas that hosts sports teams from all the "Big Four" professional leagues. Outside of the "Big Four" leagues, Texas also has one WNBA team (the San Antonio Silver Stars) and two Major League Soccer teams (the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas).

Collegiate athletics have deep significance in Texas culture, especially football. The state has ten Division I-FBS schools, the most in the nation. Four of the state's universities, the Baylor Bears, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, and Texas Tech Red Raiders, compete in the Big 12 Conference. Also, four of the state's schools, the Texas Longhorns, the Texas A&M Aggies, the TCU Horned Frogs, and the SMU Mustangs claim at least one national championship in the sport.

According to a survey of Division I-A coaches the rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, the Red River Shootout, ranks the third best in the nation. A fierce rivalry, the Lone Star Showdown, also exists between the state's two largest universities, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas.

The TCU Horned Frogs and SMU Mustangs also share a rivalry and compete annually in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) organizes most primary and secondary school competitions. Events organized by UIL include contests in athletics (the most popular being high school football) as well as artistic and academic subjects.

Texans also enjoy the rodeo. The world's first rodeo was hosted in Pecos, Texas. The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest rodeo in the world. It begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state that convene at Reliant Park. The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth is the oldest continuously running rodeo incorporating many of the state's most historic traditions into its annual events. Dallas hosts the State Fair of Texas each year at Fair Park. From 2012 Austin will play host to a round of the Formula 1 World Championship[249] – the first at a permanent road circuit in the United States since the 1980 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.

Visiting in Texas:

In summer, the Texas heat is hotter than sizzling fajitas around 110°F. In warm weather, it's best to drive in the early morning hours or after sunset. And if you really plan to wander about, always tell someone when you plan to return.

Always be on the lookout for road signs, and if you see a notice, observe it. Obey flash flood warnings: A sudden rainstorm can turn a wash into a deadly torrent. Never cross a flooded roadway; it may be deeper than you think.

When driving through open-ranch cattle country on farm-to-market or ranch roads, be on the lookout for livestock and deer wandering across the road, especially near dusk.

If you are driving on a two-lane highway do not be surprised if as a car comes towards you and passes you the driver raises a finger (or even the whole hand) to wave at you. Please note that unless you are driving erratically or the gesture is accompanied by a honk and yell this is normally a very friendly gesture. Try it out for yourself (just make sure to use the correct finger – index versus middle) and you’ll be amazed at how many waves you get back!

If you happen to be traveling along a two lane highway and find yourself quickly gaining on a car in front of you, please do not panic if you see that car suddenly veer off to the right and drive on the shoulder. Texans are very considerate for the most part and the person in front of you is giving you the opportunity to pass them so that your travel is not slowed and you are not inconvenienced. Granted this can be a bit disconcerting when you are driving at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Your best bet is to get past them quickly before a curve appears or they veer just a tad bit too far and gravel begins flying up at your car. Is this legal? Who knows! But it is a fact of life on Texas two-lanes. Now you will also understand why that car that just flew up behind you is flashing their lights, tailgating, and honking. They are expecting you to pull over so that they can pass.

Pay very close attention to your map and know the distances your car can travel even when sitting on empty. It is entirely possible to go hundreds of miles on country roads and not pass an open gas station. If you are driving late at night the odds double that the stores will be closed in the little towns that you are passing through.

Do not count on the passing scenery to entice your little ones for very long. If you are in West Texas you will find miles and miles of flat country with little to no variety in the scenery. Texas has a wild and beautiful feel to it but it is also a wide and long state and it literally takes hours to get from one location to another.

The maximum daytime speed limit on most interstate and state highways in Texas is 70 miles per hour. At night, the maximum speed limit is 65 miles per hour. In some areas, the speed limit is higher because of fewer people traveling on certain roads.

Observing speed limits means more than driving faster or slower than the posted speed: it means driving to conditions. When it's raining or foggy, when ice is on the road, when traffic is heavy or when road construction is ahead, adjust your speed accordingly.

Watch for signs on Texas multi-lane highways that read "Left Lane For Passing Only." These signs let you know that the left lane on a divided highway is not a "fast" lane; it is a passing lane. After you pass someone, move into the right lane once you've safely cleared the vehicle. Impeding the flow of traffic by continuing to drive in the left lane is punishable by a fine of up to $200.

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