The State of Texas: October 19, 2015
Institutions begin bracing for new gun laws, and presidential candidates descend on Plano.
Quote of the Day
“I don’t fundamentally believe that I will be selected.”
—Julián Castro, finally addressing his chances of being Hillary Clinton’s VP nominee.
Blazing Battle — The good news is that the Hidden Pines fire in Bastrop County is about 60 percent contained. The bad news, of course, is that that still leaves about 40 percent to go. Firefighters aren’t getting much help from Mother Nature either, with “low humidity levels, wind and pockets of unburned vegetation,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. At least it’s not like four years ago, when 50 mph winds kept the Bastrop County fire alive and hungry. Authorities are “cautiously optimistic,” although “the fire’s footprint remained at more than 4,000 acres through the day.” It is progress, though. Florida has sent firefighters to assist the 275-some people fighting on the burnt front lines, and some residents have been allowed to return to their homes. The fire has destroyed about fifty structures in the area. Somewhat incredibly, Bastrop County sheriff Terry Pickering has had to remind “residents that his officers have been writing citations against people who have refused to comply with a burn ban order, despite the high fire danger and ‘a major wildfire going on,'” according to the Associated Press. Authorities also believe they’ve found the initial spark. “A preliminary investigation has determined a farmer mistakenly started the fire as he dragged a shredder through tall grass, causing an overheated bearing to ignite grass clippings.”
Unloading — The state’s new campus carry law won’t be going into effect for another year, but it’s clearly making institutions very nervous. Three private universities are expected to opt out of the campus carry law, with the presidents of Trinity University, in San Antonio; Austin College, in Sherman; and Paul Quinn College, in Dallas, all sighting campus safety as the reason for being gun shy, according to the Texas Tribune. At least there was some levity to the Saturday news. “University of North Texas System Chancellor Lee Jackson joked that someone suggested to him that his schools ban guns on all parts of campus where alcohol is served—and then begin serving alcohol in all campus buildings.” On Sunday, the San Antonio Express-News took a look at the issue as well, talking with the University of Texas at Austin’s very vocal faculty members and noting that “more than 700 professors, just under 25 percent of the entire faculty at the flagship campus, have signed a petition against having guns in their classrooms.” The university eggheads aren’t the only ones who are clearly nervous about the new gun laws. Open carry will be allowed come January, and the Department of Public Safety would just prefer if non-officers keep their guns at home. Actually, they’re commanding it. Non-police employees will be banned from carrying while on the job, reports the Dallas Morning News. But don’t get your pistols in a twist! “DPS Director Steve McCraw told the state Public Safety Commission … that ‘non-commissioned’ employees with a license to carry would still be able to pack a concealed handgun at work. But, he said, ‘open carry presents a different issue for us.'”
Natural Born Immigrant — It’s now that much harder to be an American. For the moment. “U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin denied an emergency injunction on behalf of immigrant families seeking birth certificates for their children after the Department of State Health Services refused to recognize as valid certain forms of identification,” according to the Associate Press. The judge didn’t completely deny the immigrants the right that’s been recognized since our country was established; he just argued that more evidence was needed. “Pitman called the arguments of the families ‘heartfelt, compelling and persuasive,’ but said that this was ‘not enough without substantiating evidence to carry the burden necessary to grant relief.'” In addition, “the judge said in his ruling that attorneys had not shown that health officials had improperly ‘focused on and excluded’ [documents like matriculas consulares, which were previously used in such cases].” Attorney General Ken Paxton called the ruling “an important first step in ensuring the integrity of birth certificates.”
Lip Service — It sounds like the setup to a joke: six GOP candidates walk into church . . . but that’s exactly what happened Sunday at Plano’s Prestonwood Baptist Church. More than six thousand people were in attendance as Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina took turns at the pulpit, each one humbly offering up their God-cred. As WFAA put it, “U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, on his home turf, was one of the favorites in this crowd,” and while Donald Trump did not attend, Cruz kept a vigil, saying, “[Trump] has really framed this campaign as, ‘who will stand up to Washington?’” Though Cruz loves playing footsie with Trump, even Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham had a less-than-pious comment about Trump’s incessant mouth. Fiorina kept up with her businesswoman theme, even while discussing her “abstract” faith. “I came to think of God as a CEO of a big enterprise. He was in charge, but he couldn’t possibly know every little detail,” she explained, according to CBS News. Santorum was there to remind everyone he’s still a candidate and also not one of those bad Catholics. He “acknowledged that he’s Catholic, but said he’s ‘an evangelical Catholic’—and People magazine has even included him in a list of top 25 evangelicals in America,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.