The State of Texas: The Eighty-Fifth Legislative Session Kicks Off Today

Plus: New revelations about Exxon’s international business could spell more trouble for Rex Tillerson, a Fort Worth cop gets disciplined for a controversial arrest, and a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy is accused of bestiality.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“I just feel like an old man trying to save somebody’s life. I’d do it again if I had to.”

—Lindell Marbut to KDFW. Marbut, 85, saved two young women from a fiery car crash in Burleson after their vehicle flipped over in front of his home. He reportedly used his walking cane to pull the women out of the car before dragging them to safety while his caretaker ran to a neighbor’s home to call 911. 


BIG NEWS


The Texas State Legislature on May 16, 2003 in Austin, Texas.

Matt Archer/Getty

Opening Day
The eighty-fifth legislative session starts today, and there is much to be done. But the bill you’ll probably hear about the most during this session is Senate Bill 6, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s controversial bill that would restrict restroom access in government buildings and public schools to a person’s biological sex. You should start steeling yourself now for all the toilet talk we’re about to be hit with over the next 140 days. There are, of course, plenty of other (arguably more important) things to watch for this session. According to the Texas Tribune, the House needs to elect a speaker (it’ll probably be Republican Joe Straus again), while there is expected to be an emphasis on education and fixing the state’s broken foster care system. The Dallas Morning News has a complete breakdown of everything expected to happen this session, touching on all of Texas’s favorite topics, from gun control to abortion to local control. So much to do, yet so little to spend: lawmakers are expected to work on a pretty tight budget this session, entering the session with just $104.87 billion—nearly three percent less than they had two years earlier. A big reason for the shrinking budget? The oil bust, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the Lege will look more or less the same as it always has: very white, very male, and older, according to the Tribune‘s analysis of the legislature’s demographic makeup.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Confirmation Problem
New details about ExxonMobil’s international business dealings could spell even more trouble for Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, as his confirmation hearing approaches. USA Today reported on Monday that Exxon, under Tillerson’s leadership, did business through a European subsidiary with Iran, Sudan, and Syria while those nations were under sanctions imposed by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism. Citing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, USA Today reported that from 2003 to 2006, Exxon made $53.2 million in sales to Iran, $600,000 in sales to Sudan, and $1.1 million in sales to Syria through Infineum, a joint venture with Shell Corporation. Exxon told USA Today that the sales were legal because Infineum was based in Europe and the dealings didn’t involve any U.S. employees, but this new information is yet another tidbit that could prove costly for Tillerson at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Although it appears that he’ll be confirmed as Secretary of State, Tillerson is expected to face harsh questioning regarding his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Crime And Punishment
A Fort Worth police officer was suspended for ten days on Monday, a few weeks after a video showing his controversial arrest of a woman and her daughter went viral, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The officer, William A. Martin, will also go before a grand jury to determine if he’ll face charges for the incident. The video shows Martin, who is white, responding to a call on December 21, when Jacqueline Craig, who is black, summoned the police after she said a neighbor had choked her seven-year-old son for dropping raisins and refusing to pick them up. The officer responded by asking Craig, “Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” Craig became understandably upset after that, yelled at Martin, and was thrown to the ground and arrested—he also handcuffed Craig’s two teenage daughters. Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Martin made “multiple errors in judgment” and “violated state and departmental rules and policies.” Fitzgerald called the suspension a “significant punishment,” but Craig’s family didn’t see it that way. According to the Dallas Morning News, one of Craig’s attorneys said the suspension was more like a “ten-day vacation,” while another family attorney said Craig told her “You would get more justice if someone kicked a dog.”

In The Dog House
There are bad days, and then there are days when a public servant gets fired amid accusations of bestiality. Yes, you heard that right, so early on a Tuesday morning. Be sure you put down your coffee mug for this one, folks. According to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County sheriff’s deputy was fired after he was arrested and charged with obscenity. “The allegation involves production of obscene material that includes sexual contact with a dog,” Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, told the Chronicle. The officer, who had been assigned to the crime control division, was apparently identified as a suspect after investigators were alerted to “obscene online material” coming from an account (it’s unclear what kind of account) in Harris County, and an investigation determined that the officer was allegedly involved in the production of the material. That’s pretty much all we know at this point, but it’s almost certain that more details will emerge.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will run for re-election Texas Tribune

The Great Bee Heist in Brazoria County netted “bee rustlers” (yes, really) 300 honey bee colonies Houston Chronicle

A young opera singer from Odessa is making waves with her voice KOSA

Veterans in Edna are searching for the rightful owner of a lost Purple Heart Victoria Advocate

Texas’s latest city water crisis is in San Benito Valley Morning Star

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