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State of Texas: Sept. 19, 2013

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Thursday Time-waster

“Yes to Texas,” a Buzzfeed for the rest of us, posted a wonderful list: 16 Signs You Went to School in Texas via @TexasHumor

Daily Roundup

Wendy Davis is Strappin’ on Her Runnin’ Shoes (Probably) — You’re the state’s first really viable Democratic candidate in years, not to mention a nationally known figure, and suddenly everybody’s got an opinion. Look out, here comes Julián Castro. J/k! If you’ve been alive the past 24 hours, or worse, been on the Internet, you know dang well Wendy Davis is definitely maybe running for Governor. The standing champion and rising political star sent an email to supporters announcing that she’ll be announcing some news come October 3. Since it’s probably not a sneaker endorsement deal, everyone’s offered a thought on What It All Means. As our very own Paul Burka so devilishly notes: “So the game is on.” The competition against Attorney Republican General Greg Abbott is expected, almost gleefully, to be a real horse race. Everyone knows Democrat Davis has a tough sprint ahead of her, say nothing of the wagering that’s already off and running. Burka highlights that the key to winning will be “suburban women, a voting group with which Republicans have been losing ground in recent years.” Evan Smith told KUT that Davis’ probably-run involves a “complicated calculus” since a failed bid would be a “double-whammy” against her and Democrats, who could very well lose her vacated senate seat. An Amarillo Globe News editorial, takes an even more cautionary approach, saying that “it remains to be seen how well a candidate best-known for her pro-abortion stance will fare in a statewide race that will be decided on more than a single issue.” They even got opinions up in D.C. with the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza saying Davis needs to step up her fundraising, which lags far behind Abbott. Texas Tribune, however, hedges its bets (perhaps wisely) with a headline that pretty much sums up everything we actually know for sure: “An Announcement From Wendy Davis, Sort Of.”

Poorly Executed — A damning report on the state’s death penalty is one thing. But having it presented by a former governor and a former death row inmate later proven innocent could really spark something. The report — presented yesterday by former Guv Mark White and Anthony Graves — concluded, in short, that “ the state should do more to prevent wrongful executions.” The two-year study by the American Bar Association doesn’t take a position on capital punishment. It does, however, offer several recommendations in way of reform, namely, that the “state do even more for inmates post-conviction.” Among the recommendations is a requirement for the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to “conduct public hearings in any case in which clemency is sought,” according to the AP. The comprehensive, 500-page tome examined “every step of the process from evidence gathering and testing to final clemency hearings,” according to the Dallas Morning News. And the “team recommended changes at almost every level.” Anthony Graves—whose wrongful conviction and years of fighting on death row led to both a marshalling of forces and Texas Monthly’s massive, two-part report—was probably the most persuasive advocate for change. “We have a failed system from top to bottom,” Graves said at the conference. “I am your living flaw.” The stats for zap-happy Texas are a bit astounding: “it has accounted for nearly forty percent of the more than 1,300 executions carried out since 1977 … Virginia is a distant second, nearly 400 executions behind.” Though he offered a small caveat, even pro-death advocate Dudley Sharp said, ”the recommendations are fine.”

Gummit Sponsored Monopoly Uber-Annoying, Uber-Expensive — The Dallas Observer published a great, and lengthy, story yesterday on the ongoing battle over up-in-coming app-based taxi services like Uber that basically allow anyone to become a taxi driver. The company has run into regulatory roadblocks in a number of cities nationwide, but the roundup of governmental ridiculousness by the City of Dallas is a bit astounding. First there were the city-mandated stings conducted by actual police officers, during which “[s]ome 31 other Uber drivers were also cited … over the course of several months.” The suspect reasoning for the costly and man-power-draining operation was safety, which even the police chief said was “baloney” and “garbage.” Also noted is the taxi industry’s mafia-like stronghold over regulation. No broken legs, but government-approved taxi dons like Floyd Richards and Jack Bewley paid off long-time council member Al Lipscomb (convicted) or donated generous to the city council, respectively. Around August of this year, the city council began revving up regulations that specifically targeted Uber and its ilk. The cherry on top of this mess was that the proposed ordinances “appeared as a last-minute addition to [a] City Council consent agenda, where it could have passed without any discussion,” according to the Dallas Morning News. Thankfully, there have been enough screeching tires regarding a service citizens benefit from and clearly enjoy. Last week the “Regional Transportation Council asks cities to tap the brakes before clamping down on Uber.“ There are genuine issues regarding Uber-like services that need to be addressed — things like insurance and worker protection — but as the Observer story demonstrates, the most immediate problem is unchecked “regulator capture.”While any drastic changes in regulation are currently stuck in neutral, Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez—who initiated the whole Uber crackdown—is being “scrutinized” by the mayor’s office. Hopefully there’s an app that notifies you of his job status.

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