The State of Texas: Perry And Tillerson Court Lawmakers Ahead Of Cabinet Confirmation Hearings
Plus: A judge delays his decision in the fetal burial rule case, a high school gets tagged with racist graffiti, and the town formerly known as Bikinis goes up for sale.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I just asked her if she could order a dollhouse and some cookies, and she said, ‘Do you want this?’ and I said ‘Yes.'”
—Six-year old Brooke Neitzel, of Dallas, to WFAA. The Neitzel family was gifted Amazon’s Echo Dot for Christmas, and this genius six-year-old used the device’s digital assistant “Alexa” feature to order whatever her little heart desired, which, apparently, was a $162 KidKraft Sparkle Mansion doll house and a four-pound tin of sugar cookies. Not a bad haul. After the goods arrived, Brooke’s parents decided it was time to figure out how to use Alexa’s parental control features.
Working The Room
President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson were both in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, trying their best to get on the good side of key lawmakers ahead of their confirmation hearings next week. The two Texans could both face a grilling at their hearings due to legitimate concerns over conflicts of interest, though there has been far more red flags raised by D.C. folks regarding Tillerson rather than Perry. So both men made the rounds Wednesday, meeting with senators to try to win some support. According to the Texas Tribune, Perry, who is Trump’s selection for secretary of energy, met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his Texas pal Senator John Cornyn, and three members of the Senate Natural Resource Committee. “I gotta go study my lessons for the night,” Perry said, according to the Tribune. “Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.” Secretary of State pick Tillerson, meanwhile, also met with McConnell, along with Delaware Senator Chris Coons (a Democrat) and Senator John McCain, who has been the most outspoken critic of Tillerson so far. According to the Houston Chronicle, when McCain was asked before the meeting if there was a chance he could throw his support behind Tillerson’s confirmation, he responded: “Sure. There’s also a realistic scenario that pigs fly.” According to the Washington Post, Tillerson tried to ease concerns by openly discussing his close ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin, while he also provided a bunch of legal documents regarding Exxon’s court battles, transcripts of speeches he has given to various groups, and financial disclosure documents (though they did not include his tax returns) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Tillerson and Exxon also announced on Wednesday a plan to sever financial ties should Tillerson be confirmed—Tillerson promised to sell his shares in the company, while Exxon would pay Tillerson an amount equal to his sold stock, about $180 million, which would be put in an independently managed trust.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
We’ll have to wait a little longer before we have a decision in the lawsuit challenging Texas’s fetal burial rule. Judge Sam Sparks initially issued an injunction last month that put the rule on ice until January 6 (Friday), so when the court began to hear arguments in the case on Wednesday, we figured there’d be a decision this week. Not so. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Sparks is extending the injunction until January 27 and said he wouldn’t have a final ruling until sometime during the week of January 23. A group of women’s health providers sued the state last month, alleging the rule had no public health benefit and placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The rule had also faced criticism from health providers and the funeral service industry, saying it’d be needlessly costly. The state, meanwhile, argued in court this week that the rule was meant to treat the fetuses with dignity. It’s unclear which way Sparks’s decision might go, but he’s clearly taking his time to think about it.
A Houston-area high school was defaced by graffiti Wednesday when vandals scrawled racist epithets along the exterior and interior of the campus. From the lead of the Houston Chronicle‘s story: “When Brooklyn Miller got off the bus at Memorial High School in Spring Branch ISD on Wednesday, the first thing she saw was a swastika.” Yeah. Not a good sign. Whoever the culprits were, they definitely wanted make sure they offended as many groups as possible: students and school officials were greeted with “crudely drawn” swastikas, sexually explicit phrases, the n-word, “white power,” and even pentagrams. The tags were apparently fairly widespread, with some witnesses saying there was graffiti nearly every ten feet along the hallways. The graffiti was cleaned up by the time students were dismissed at the end of the school day. Crime stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the vandal’s identification.
Ghost Town For Sale
Bankersmith, the Hill Country ghost town formerly known as Bikinis, is up for sale, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The slice of land made headlines in 2012 when Doug Guller, the owner of Texas “Breastaurant” chain Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill, bought Bankersmith and renamed it Bikinis, with the hope of turning the town into a tourist breastination. Guller’s Mammary Land got off to a rough start (turns out Bikinis’ neighbors weren’t at all OK with living next to a national mecca for salivating dude-bros) and never really recovered, leading to Guller’s decision to kick the Bikinis branding to the curb and restore the original name last year in an attempt to right wrongs and repair broken relationships with the neighbors. Anyway, the whole Breastville, U.S.A thing never gained much steam, and the town has been used mostly for private corporate events and weddings since the name change. If you have $1.5 million to spare, you can have it all.
WHAT WE’RE READING
A portrait of a thriving rural hospital in the tiny town of Childress STAT News
Low-income Texans are literally living in the dark since the state’s electricity discount program fizzled Texas Tribune
McLennan County’s Commissioner was sworn in and took an anti-bribery oath while under investigation for bribery Waco Tribune-Herald
A Dallas couple wants to build a $12 million community for people with autism Dallas Morning News
A gun-toting 74-year-old East Texas grandmother scared off a home intruder by introducing him to her little friend KSLA