QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The first night it happened, I said, ‘We are going to rebuild this thing.’ This is our dream come true.”
—Abe Ajrami, a member of the Victoria Islamic Center, to the Victoria Advocate during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new mosque. The old mosque burned down in January, but the community came together and helped raise more than $1 million to rebuild.
The Eighty-fifth Texas legislative session went out with a bang on Monday, a fitting denouement after 140 days of gridlock, rising tensions, and political chaos. The day started with a protest, as hundreds of immigrant advocates dressed in red shirts descended on the Capitol in a demonstration against Senate Bill 4, the controversial law banning sanctuary cities. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the protesters lined the balcony of the Capitol’s rotunda, chanting and waving signs, disrupting the proceedings in the House. Republican State Representative Matt Rinaldi was not happy. So, according to the Texas Tribune, he then called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the mostly minority protesters. That upset some of Rinaldi’s fellow lawmakers, particularly Representative Poncho Nevarez, leading to some pushing and shoving on the floor that stopped just short of an all-out brawl. Once the kerfuffle calmed down, Rinaldi said in a statement that Nevarez “threatened my life on the House floor” and challenged him to a fight outside. “I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense,” Rinaldi said. Nevarez admitted to the Tribune that he did put his hands on Rinaldi and told him to take his argument outside. “But was I going to shoot the guy? No,” he said. Nevarez also tweeted about Rinaldi, writing: “He’s a liar and hateful man. Got no use for him. God bless him.” Hispanic Democratic lawmakers spoke out against Rinaldi after the fight. “He came up to us and said, ‘I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported,'” Representative César Blanco told the Tribune, an account confirmed by several other lawmakers. “He said, ‘I called ICE—f—k them,'” Representative Ramon Romero said, adding that Rinaldi then turned to the Democrats and yelled, “F—k you,” to the “point where spit was hitting” their faces. The incident has already made national headlines. You can watch the altercation on video over at the Tribune.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Monday morning that overrides local rules on background checks that have caused ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft to leave town in several Texas cities, including Austin. “What today really is is a celebration of freedom and free enterprise,” Abbott said during the signing ceremony, according to the Texas Tribune. “This is freedom for every Texan—especially those who live in the Austin area—to be able to choose the provider of their choice as it concerns transportation.” The companies barely waited for the ink to dry before officially restarting their operations in Austin, the city that they bailed on last year after residents voted against an Uber and Lyft-supported ballot measure that would have repealed stricter fingerprinting regulations for ride-hailing drivers. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Abbott signed the law shortly after ten in the morning. The Lyft app went live in Austin at about 10:40, and Uber reactivated at around noon.
Feeling The Heat
The CEOs of fourteen of the biggest companies in the world sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott on Saturday, warning him not to sign any discriminatory laws, according to the Dallas Morning News. The signees include some famous names, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, and the leaders of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and CISCO. “As large employers in the state, we are gravely concerned that any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas’s reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families,” the CEOs wrote in the letter. “Our ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent, encourage new business relocations, expansions and investment, and maintain our economic competitiveness would all be negatively affected. Discrimination is wrong and it has no place in Texas or anywhere in our country.” The letter didn’t call out a specific piece of legislation, but it’s likely a response to the Texas House passing restrictions on which bathrooms transgender kids can use in public schools.
The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an audit of Texas’s broken foster care system on Tuesday, and the findings are not particularly surprising. The eighteen-page report identified bureaucratic lapses that could potentially put children in danger, according to the Associated Press. The feds reviewed 1oo child welfare cases, finding 46 that did not comply with federal requirements, including investigators not discussing findings with supervisors in a timely fashion. According to the report, those failures “undermines the State agency’s internal controls for providing oversight of the investigation and could place foster care children at risk.” The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services took issue with the title of the report, which claims Texas didn’t always investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in accordance with state and federal rules. DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman told the AP that the title is “inflammatory” and sensationalized, and pushed back at the report’s findings. “There is no suggestion that there were any actual problems in the investigations caused by delay in obtaining supervisory approval,” Whitman said.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
The remains of thousands of Texans who served in the military have yet to be found Houston Press
Global warming worsens the impact of hurricanes Houston Chronicle
The site of the Waco Twin Peaks biker shootout remains vacant two years later Waco Tribune-Herald
The feds released a whole bunch of documents about a deadly panhandle train crash last summer Amarillo Globe-News
A former mayoral candidate in Dilley said someone set his car on fire because he claims to have uncovered illegal voting in the election that he lost KENS