The State of Texas: December 3, 2014
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Considering how long they’ve been around, it was inevitable that the Rolling Stones would lose a member to the fates. Not Keith or Mick, but rather the band’s longtime saxophonist Bobby Keys, who went to the big tour bus in the sky Tuesday. Born and raised in Texas, Keys’s work on Brown Sugar, which really kicks off at the 1:38 mark, is something to behold:
Texas By The Numbers
Gusher — Amount of Texas oil produced per day in August: 3.18 million barrels. Last year: 2.6 million barrels. Portion of country’s crude oil produced in Texas: 36 percent. In 2009: less than 20 percent.
Big House — Number of people who moved to Texas from out of state in 2013: 584,000. Amount international homebuyers contributed to Texas economy: $11 billion. Change in median household income from last year: 9.6 percent increase. Nationally: 5.6 percent.
Nearly Unanimous — With his execution set to take place today, Scott Panetti's case is making national waves. Everyone from NPR, USA Today, MSNBC and Buzzfeed have highlighted the case. And nearly everyone opposes the execution, arguing that he is very much mentally handicapped (both the Dallas Morning News and the Chicago Tribune have penned recent editorials against the state's impending actions, as have the San Antonio Express-News and the New York Times, among others). Yesterday, Mother Jones noted all the conservative and Christian groups who opposed the killing, including Catholics. While time is all but run out, Panetti's appointed lawyers have been doing their damndest. "Lawyers for Scott Panetti have multiple requests pending before Justice Antonin Scalia, asking the justice to stop Texas from executing their client at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday. ... In addition to the stay requests at the Supreme Court, there also are requests for the court to grant his habeas corpus petition and declare that he cannot be constitutionally executed due to his serious mental illness." As of now, only Governor Rick Perry or the Supreme Court can stop the execution.
Roadside Assistance — A month after reports that road fatalities have dramatically increased in oil boom areas, the state says it's going to hit the pedal to the metal when it comes to reform. "Under a recently adopted emergency rule change, the [Texas Department of Transportation] can decide in four weeks to reduce speed limits by up to 12 miles per hour on some roads, bypassing its normal review process that typically takes months," according to the Houston Chronicle. In drilling regions, the past four years has seen a shocking 240 percent increase in such deaths. "TxDOT officials declined to identify specific roads where speed limits will be lowered. Bee County, in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale, appears likely to see changes soon. TxDOT singled out the county in its official notice of the emergency rule change. The crash rate on rural, two lane, two-way roadways in Bee County is three times higher than the statewide average, according to TxDOT."
A Good Bet — Texas doesn't just love playing the lottery; we're a bit dependent on it. "Lawmakers studying whether it's time for the state to cash out on the Texas Lottery reported Monday that they oppose ending the game because that would devastate funding for public education and could spark higher taxes for nearly all Texans," reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The legislative committee said in its release that "the loss of state funding [from lottery profits] for education and other valuable programs, as well as the loss to Texas businesses, would be highly detrimental to the state." They're not kidding. As the story notes, "lottery sales ended the year at a record-breaking pace in Texas, generating $4.38 billion in sales — $1.2 billion of which went to public education and veterans programs." And since the lottery was created 22 years ago, it has "generated $22 billion for the state" and contributed "more than $17 billion to the school fund."
The People's (Poor) Choice — The Dallas Morning News took a fun look at who voters chose for write-in candidates for govenor. To be clear, there was only one official write-in candidate for governor (Sarah Pavitt), but "more than 1,000 Texans ... jotted down a medley of former politicians, historical figures and celebrities — real and otherwise. Looking for a man of action, perhaps, some wanted Chuck Norris. Others hoped for a miracle, putting down Jesus Christ or Pope Francis as their choice. [Also included were] Stephen Colbert, Homer Simpson and, of course, Willie Nelson." Kudos to reporter Marissa Barnett, who did the necessary research into the fake candidate phenomena. "Cartoon characters are popular choices for write-ins, local election administrators say. But the leader of Transformers’ heroic Autobots 'was a new one,' said [the] Denton County elections administrator." That Big Tex has never once won any election is the true failing of democracy.
Retro-Grassing — Apparently Texas is seeing a grass movement that is totally unrelated to Willie Nelson. "Across the state, rural landowners, a new generation of urban refugees, are removing acres of Bermuda grass and creating pioneer-era landscapes that require less water and chemicals and provide habitat for a variety of critters," reports the Associated Press, in a story about reclaiming prairie land, a subject that sounds incredibly boring on the surface but is actually quite interesting. "The push is in response to the steady decline of the quail, an iconic Texas bird that uses the tall grasses for shelter and food." Unfortunately, the state's prairie land began disappearing due to modern farming, roads, and ranches, and "the changing landscape has put quail in peril, with the bird's numbers dropping 75 percent over the past 30 years or so ... To help reverse the quail population's decline, Texas lawmakers last year earmarked $6 million for restoring prime habitat, expanding research into the species and educating landowners."