QUOTE OF THE DAY
—Texas lawmakers when the bluebonnet was floated as the potential state flower of Texas. The wildflower was officially adopted as a Lone Star State symbol on March 7, 1901, but it wasn’t without its detractors. There were also impassioned arguments for the cotton boll and the cactus flower. Read about the surprisingly contentious flora fight in this 1991 Texas Monthly piece.
The Senate State Affairs Committee is expected to take up Senate Bill 6, known colloquially as the bathroom bill, on Tuesday morning, according to the Texas Tribune. It’s not clear if there will be a vote on the bill, which would require people to use the restroom that corresponds with their biological sex in government buildings and public schools and universities, but the bulk of the a.m. proceedings are expected to go toward public hearings. As the Tribune notes, Republicans are expected to rollout a new version of the legislation with two big changes: taking away increased penalties for certain bathroom-related crimes and adding a legislative findings section that spells out the rationale behind the bill. SB6, which has been a legislative priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, has drawn criticism from LGBT advocates across the country and sparked concerns from Texas businesses that its passage could create a backlash similar to what happened when North Carolina passed its own bathroom bill. Just ahead of the hearing, Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., a Democrat from Brownsville, bucked his party and threw his support behind the bill. “Children, youth and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security from other students and parents,” he said at a news conference Monday, according to the Texas Tribune. With Lucio’s vote, eighteen senators—seventeen of them Republican—have pledged to vote for the bill, so it looks likely that it’ll clear its first hurdle in the upper chamber of the Lege. In a briefing on Monday, Patrick compared the fight for the bathroom bill to the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. “Today, on this day, 189 people sacrificed their lives at the Alamo because they believed in something,” Patrick said, “We’re not asked to give our lives. We’re not asked to grab our guns. We’re just asked to go cast courageous votes.” It’s unclear if Sam Houston or Davy Crockett will be in attendance. You can watch the hearing, which begins at eight in the morning, at the Tribune‘s livestream.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Two wildfires in the Texas Panhandle that threaten hundreds of homes that lie in their path have prompted evacuations, according to the Dallas Morning News. A 40,000-acre fire in Ochiltree and Lipscomb Counties is estimated to be about 30 miles in length and threatens around 200 homes. A separate fire in Potter County, near Amarillo, has ballooned to 23,000 acres, but the “forward progression has been stopped and crews are making good progress battling it,” as the Dallas Morning News reports. There are about 150 homes in its path. Evacuations were ordered in Higgins, which has a population of 424, but the fire passed without claiming any homes. As David Finfrock, NBC5’s chief meteorologist, noted in a tweet, wind shifts accompanying a cold front in the area have complicated fighting the fires. Monday, Governor Greg Abbott sent the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid Strike Teams to assist local first responders with battling the blazes. The governor urged residents to “heed all warnings” from emergency management officials due to the “unpredictable nature” of wildfires.
Cash for Class
A bill filed on Monday would increase funding for Texas schools by $1.6 billion, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The bill, unveiled by House Republicans and Democrats, would increase the amount of state aid going to 95 percent of school districts, which House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty noted is “nearly every school district and every charter school in Texas,” according to the Dallas Morning News. Under the bill, the allotment for each child would be increased by $210. As the American-Statesman points out, because it’s unlikely that Texas will pass a overhaul on its education funding system, this would be a quick fix for cash-strapped districts. This comes amid Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s push for a voucher system to be set up in Texas, which critics say would ultimately take away money from poorer districts, alarming public school advocates.
Twenty-five years after he killed Theresa Rodriguez, hit man Rolando Ruiz is scheduled to be executed at six in the evening on Tuesday. Ruiz’s execution in Huntsville has been scheduled twice before—the first time in 2006—but both times he received last-minute stays from federal and state appeals courts. Ruiz was hired in 1992 by Rodriguez’s husband, Michael, and his brother Mark, who wanted to collect a $400,000 life insurance policy that they had taken out on Rodriguez. Ruiz confessed to murdering Rodriguez without remorse, telling authorities that he went to play basketball afterward and scored 20 points. He was paid $2,000 for the murder. As Reuters notes, if this execution goes through on Tuesday, it would mark 541 executions in Texas, the most of any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Actor and Dallas native Bill Paxton’s cause of death revealed. Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Fliers found at Texas State University’s campus target Jews. Houston Chronicle
Two San Antonio ex-cops were found guilty of using their power to coerce women into having sex with them. San Antonio Current
Sid Miller’s “hog apocalypse” plan on hold for now. San Antonio Express-News
Tom Herman starts to rebuild Longhorn football. Fox Sports