QUOTE OF THE DAY
“He’s kind of a toxic guy in an office. The guy who microwaves fish.”
—Senator Al Franken, commenting on Ted Cruz, to CNN on Wednesday. The Minnesota Democrat has been promoting his new tell-all book all week, and the part that seems to be making the biggest buzz is the entire chapter dedicated to ragging on Ted Cruz. The Washington Post has a full breakdown of the beef between Franken and Cruz.
Texas State Senator Carlos Uresti pleaded not guilty to fraud and corruption charges in a U.S. District Court in San Antonio on Wednesday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. You need both of your hands and a few toes to count up all the charges against Uresti—he has thirteen, ranging from fraud to money laundering and bribery, adding up to more than 200 years in the slammer if the San Antonio Democrat is found guilty on all counts. After the FBI and IRS raided Uresti’s offices in February, he was hit with two separate indictments this month, one of them in connection to his alleged involvement in running a Ponzi scheme to sell fracking sand for oil production, and the other alleging that between 2006 to 2016, a Lubbock businessman paid Uresti $10,000 a month to secure a Reeves County Correctional Center medical services contract for his company. “Senator Uresti has entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ on all charges, because he is not guilty of all charges,” Uresti’s attorney Mikal Watts wrote in an email to the Express-News on Wednesday. “It is a shame they do not allow a person to plead ‘innocent’ because that’s exactly what he is—innocent of every one of these charges.”
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on Wednesday two separate bills aimed at reforming the troubled pension systems for the cities of Houston and Dallas. Had Abbott not signed the Dallas reform bill, HB 3158, which primarily targets the city’s broken fire and police department, then the pension plans likely would have gone broke within ten years thanks to unsustainable benefits and poor investments that had long been overvalued, according to the Dallas Morning News. With HB 3158, there will be a new board of trustees, benefit cuts, and the addition of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars more than what the city had previously paid into the pension fund. Abbott also signed SB 2190, which will presumably help shrink the $8.1 billion unfunded liability in Houston’s municipal, police, and firefighter funds by slashing benefits, while also lowering the fund’s rate of investment return to a rate closer to the nation’s average, according to Reuters. But the reform negotiations have been tense in both cities, and the firefighter’s pension fund in against the city over the new pension reform plan on Wednesday, alleging the plan violates the Texas Constitution, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Advocates feared a chilling effect after ICE agents detained a woman as she was seeking protection from an alleged domestic abuser at an El Paso courthouse in February, and now those fears seem to be taking root. According to the El Paso Times, at least three victims of domestic violence have expressed fear of deportation to the El Paso County Attorney’s Protective Order Unit since that incident, indicating that they did not want to proceed with their protective order cases because they were afraid of being detained by ICE. Lucila Flores Camarena, the trial team chief for the County Attorney’s Protective Order Unit, told the Times that she was able to convince the women to continue with their cases and they were all eventually granted protective orders. But the nationally publicized February detainment seems to have done damage in the immigrant community. The El Paso County Attorney’s Office received 532 applications for protective orders February 16 to April 30, 151 fewer than the same period in 2016. “We want them to come in; we want them to apply for protective orders,” Flores Camarena told the Times. “We would do everything in our power to help them. We just don’t want them to feel so afraid that they stay in the situation that they are in.”
Fliers containing what appeared to be recruiting material for the Ku Klux Klan littered more than a dozen yards in Texas City this week, and police are investigating the incident as a crime, according to the Houston Chronicle. Investigators believe the flyers were thrown from a vehicle on Monday night, and residents discovered the unwelcome trash in their yards on Tuesday inside plastic bags weighed down by fishing weights and chocolate or Twizzlers, per KHOU. Some of the flyers bear Confederate flags and the message “Say No to Cultural Genocide,” while others show a hooded Klan member with the phrase “Join the Best or Die like the Rest.” Earlier this year, a white supremacist group papered a handful of Texas college campuses with racist propaganda. And according to the Houston-based Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League, the organization has seen a 50 percent jump in hate incidents this year compared to last year.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
We’re keeping the heartbroken burger-lovers in Liberty in our thoughts after their Whataburger went up in flames Wednesday morning San Antonio Express-News
Joaquin Castro will visit with deported veterans in Tijuana this weekend Austin American-Statesman
An East Texas high school is banning backpacks for the final week of classes in an effort to avoid pranks KYTX
An Amarilloan remembers the agony of being the runner-up at the national spelling bee Amarillo Globe-News
Days after winning the Indy 500, Takuma Sato shared a glass of milk with a racing fan/faculty member at Denton’s Ryan High School Denton Record-Chronicle