QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My oldest daughter is Carolina Blue, and then my youngest daughter is Olivia Rameses and that’s the Mascot’s name. I don’t know what I did to have my wife be able to agree to that.”
—Oscar Aguilar, of Midland, to KWES. Aguilar has been a die-hard fan of the University of North Carolina Tarheels since 1991, despite never having attended the school. Aguilar’s fandom borders on obsession. In addition to naming their children after the team, Aguilar and his wife even had a Carolina-themed wedding.
So It Begins—Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on Monday morning officially announcing the start of a special session of the Texas Legislature next week, and lawmakers wasted no time filing bills. According to the Austin American-Statesman, by 1:45 p.m. members of the House had already filed three dozen bills, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick promised that the Senate, too, will be “prepared to hit the ground running.” The bills filed on Monday cover a wide range of issues, from a proposed raise of teacher salaries to the strengthening of mail-in ballot fraud laws to limitations on how local governments regulate what private property owners can do with trees on their land, according to the Texas Tribune. There were also two nearly identical bathroom-related bills filed by Representative Ron Simmons, a Republican from Carrollton. The bills would strip public schools of non-discrimination regulations that protect transgender students and their ability to choose the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. Bathroom legislation is among the twenty items outlined by Abbott that lawmakers will be allowed to consider during the overtime period, which starts July 18. At the top of Abbott’s list is so-called sunset legislation, which would keep certain government agencies from shutting down. The failure of those must-pass sunset bills during the regular session is what forced lawmakers to return this summer, and Abbott wants the Lege to consider that issue first. “With today’s proclamation, and with bill authors already lined up for all special session items, I look forward to working with the House and Senate to finish the people’s business,” Abbott said in a statement, according to the Statesman. “The day that all Sunset legislation passes out of the Senate, all of the remaining items will be formally added to the special session call. From reining in skyrocketing property taxes to extending the Maternal Mortality Task Force, there are important issues on the agenda for the special session that Texans deserve to see passed, and that I expect to sign into law.”
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Cartographer’s Court—The battle over Texas’s congressional districts continued in a San Antonio federal court on Monday, where civil rights groups faced off against the state before a three-judge panel on the first day of a trial that could last all week. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against Texas in 2011 argued that the Republican-controlled Legislature illegally diluted minority voting rights by adopting a map that had been drawn by the court as a temporary fix in 2013. One former Democratic House member, Trey Martinez Fischer, who represented a district in Bexar County from 2000 to 2016, testified that he was part of the redistricting committee during the 2013 special session, and that Republicans rushed to permanently adopt the court-issued maps despite criticism that it was created as a quick fix and didn’t address all of the districts that were improperly gerrymandered. The state of Texas will present its case and call witnesses later this week.
Persian Gulf Parley—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Doha on Tuesday, where the former Exxon CEO and Wichita Falls native will engage in talks with Qatari officials in an attempt to mend the broken relationship between Qatar and its neighbors, according to Al Jazeera. Tillerson was in Kuwait on Monday, and the trip signals a more assertive role for the U.S. in the ongoing conflict in the region, with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt imposing sanctions on Qatar after accusing the nation of providing financial support for terrorists. As Reuters notes, Tillerson “forged extensive ties in the Gulf” while at the helm of Exxon, but he’s got a long road ahead of him if he hopes to play peacemaker there. Tillerson is also scheduled to meet with leaders in Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department. If it continues to escalate, the Qatar dispute would likely have a detrimental impact on the U.S.’s military presence in the region and on its counter-terrorism efforts.
Dropping Like Flies—The acting director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission unexpectedly resigned on Monday, the latest high-profile departure for the embattled liquor regulating agency that’s been embroiled in controversy since the Texas Tribune exposed its extravagant spending and mismanagement in March. With his resignation on Monday, Acting Executive Director Ed Swedberg became the sixth major departure since April. In a hand-written letter on Friday notifying the TABC of his decision to leave, Swedberg wrote that he was quitting because “my conscience will not allow me to take part in the termination of Amy Harrison from the commission,” according to the Tribune. Harrison, the agency’s licensing director, reportedly helped create a controversial illustrated flier that showed agency officials partying it up and drinking beer while on a flight to an expensive out-of-state conference. Swedberg had been leading the TABC since former Director Sherry Cook stepped down in May. In addition to Swedberg’s departure, the agency’s general counsel, chief of enforcement and head of internal affairs have also left in July.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
The Texas Medical Center is struggling amid a nationwide industry crisis Houston Chronicle
Health inspectors found a breast implant in a bar utensil holder inside an Amarillo strip club Amarillo Globe-News
Feral hogs are invading West Austin KXAN
Did a viral Internet challenge lead a 15-year old San Antonian to commit suicide? KSAT
Shrimp boats are going out with skeleton crews because of a low cap on H2-B visas McAllen Monitor