The State of Texas: May 16, 2016
The state GOP takes a weekend retreat in search of itself, a bus crash kills eight outside Laredo and the state supreme court hands down a surprising school finance ruling.
Quote of the Day
“There’s a countdown clock heading to zero and that’s when you start to think, ‘Boy, this is a really dumb thing I’m doing,.”
—Astronaut Scott Kelly to University of Houston’s class of 2016 graduates, according to the Houston Press. Kelly, fresh off of spending the past year floating in micro-gravity while exploring the final frontier, gave advice to the next wave of anxious 20-somethings still trying to find their footing here on Earth.
Party’s Over—The Texas GOP turned introspective during its weekend getaway to Dallas, exploring how to become one with itself during the state party’s convention, which kicked off Thursday and wrapped up on Saturday. After Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race, it was unclear if the state’s Republicans would come together to back Donald Trump. According to the Texas Tribune, feelings were mixed, and though there was “little visible resistance to Trump,” he was still sort of an, uh, elephant in the room among the convention’s keynote attendees. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick came out strong for the taco-bowl loving mogul, while Governor Greg Abbott called for the party to unite under the only remaining candidate, but without actually ever saying Trump’s name. According to the Tribune, a “soft-spoken” Cruz, perhaps humbled by defeat, promised to stay active in the presidential race and to fight to keep Trump’s tiny hands off of the national party platform, but tried to steer clear of mentioning him. “I recognize that Donald is like catnip to reporters, but I don’t have anything else to say about Donald Trump,” he said, according to the Tribune.
Bus Crash—A bus rolled over just outside Laredo on Saturday, injuring 44 passengers and killing eight, in what was the state’s deadliest bus crash since a prison transport ran off the road and claimed ten lives in January 2015. Seven of the eight victims of Saturday’s crash were women, and they all ranged in age from 52 to 81. According to the Laredo Morning-Times, the bus was taking 51 passengers to the Kickapoo Lucky Casino Hotel in Eagle Pass when, at around 11:30 a.m., it rolled over. But it’s still unclear exactly what happened. “Our troopers are going to look into what happened but it’s going to take us some time,” a state trooper told the Morning-Times. “We just know the driver lost control.” According to Reuters, the National Transportation Safety Board will also be conducting its own investigation into the crash. OGA Charters, the small South Texas company that owns the bus, doesn’t have a sparkling-clean track record. The Associated Press reported that regulatory inspectors in Louisiana twice ordered the company to take one of its buses off the road last year after discovering repeated problems with the brakes and emergency exits. It’s unclear if the bus that rolled over this weekend is the same one that had issues in 2015, but OGA only has two buses.
School Finance—The Texas Supreme Court handed down a surprising ruling on Friday, voting to uphold the state’s school finance system. This is a pretty big blow to schools throughout the state, who had for years been fighting the legality of a system that reduced the state’s cash flow for education to little more than a trickle. On the flip side, it’s a big win for the state’s Republican political leadership, who argue that more money is not a solution to the state’s school problems, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The decision also will likely keep future education finance-related lawsuits out of court, since the justices decided this sort of thing is best left up to the state legislature. The unanimous decision was hardly a vote of confidence for the current system. The most positive thing the justices said about the finance system was that “it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements,” as Justice Don Willett wrote in the decision, according to the Texas Tribune. But Willett also said “Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement,” and in her concurring opinion, Justice Eva Guzman wrote: “Shortfalls in both resources and performance persist in innumerable respects, and a perilously large number of students is in danger of falling further behind.” It’s unclear how these shortfalls will be patched, but the court has now handed that responsibility over to the legislature.