The State of Texas: Is Ted Cruz In Trouble?
Plus: Texas’s maternal mortality rate rises sharply, Laredo loses its bag ban fight, and a study calls Texas public colleges ”dropout factories.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I can’t talk right now. I’m being s—stormed right now.”
—Jimmy Feigen, Olympic gold medalist and former University of Texas at Austin swimmer, to the San Antonio Express-News. Feigen was one of four U.S. swimmers, including University of Texas swimmer Jack Conger, who said they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio. But that story has since, uh, unraveled a bit. Brazilian authorities have kept Feigen in the country for questioning, and on Wednesday Conger and another teammate were pulled off of an airplane bound for the U.S. because police wanted them for further questioning.
Aiming For Ted
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has always had haters—few of his Washington, D.C. colleagues hold particularly warm and fuzzy feelings for him, and he’s been somewhat shunned by his own party since his non-endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a speech at the Republican National Convention in July. The national Ted Hate has been well-documented, but he’s still always been able to come home to Texas and feel the Lone Star love. But that love appears to have faded slightly. A recently released Texas poll shows 48 percent of respondents disapprove of the job Cruz is doing, while only 39 percent said they approve, and only half of Republicans polled want Cruz to be their Senate nominee in 2018, according to the Austin American-Statesman. When those pollers were presented with former Governor Rick Perry as an alternative to Cruz, only 37 percent stuck with Ted. Perry probably won’t run for Senate in 2018, but there have been a number of rumored challengers recently, including Democratic U.S. Representative Joaquín Castro and Republican U.S. Representative Michael McCaul. According to the Texas Tribune, McCaul expressed a tepid interest in running as he spoke to reporters on Wednesday, but he didn’t commit either way. “Like Reagan said, never say never,” McCaul said. He also threw a bit of shade at Cruz, saying that repping Texas is an important gig but that Cruz has been “focused on his ambition running for president.”
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Texas’s maternal mortality rate nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014, and no one seems to know why. According to the Dallas Morning News, a new study set to be published in September shows that more than 600 pregnancy-related deaths occurred in that four-year span. Texas wasn’t alone—there was an upward trend nationwide in maternal mortality—but no state had anywhere near as big of an increase as Texas. There were 148 pregnancy-related deaths in Texas in 2012, up from just 72 in 2010. Before 2010, the maternal mortality rate hovered just above 18 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2014, that number startlingly jumped to 35.8. As the Morning News notes, the rise coincides with the state’s slashing of its healthcare budget, specifically reducing spending on family planning by two-thirds. In 2013, the state Legislature created a task force to look into maternal mortality, but it has so far yielded no recommendations (the task force is expected to release its first report on September 1). The leader of the task force, a doctor in obstetrics at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Morning News that the task force “doesn’t have a specific answer” for why so many pregnant women are dying.
A Texas appellate court dealt what may be the final blow to Laredo’s plastic bag ban, ruling on Wednesday that the city ordinance was unenforceable, according to the Laredo Morning-Times. The judge sided with a group of Laredo businesses and free-market advocates fighting the ban, who argue the bag policy is preempted by a state law that regulates the way waste is disposed of. The Laredo Bag Battle of 2016 was an unlikely hot spot in the war over local control. Twenty state Republicans, mostly from places other than Laredo, filed amicus briefs in the case arguing that the city’s bag ban limited individual liberty. The ruling only affects Laredo at the moment, so pro-bag banners in other Texas cities can take a breath. But if there’s another appeal, then the case would head to the Texas Supreme Court, and a decision there would hold for all Texas bag bans, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, in Laredo…
Stay in School
In a new study on public higher education, a Washington think tank called Texas public colleges “dropout factories,” finding that students at public universities here have just a 40 percent chance of getting a degree within six years, according to the Houston Chronicle. The report doesn’t pin this entirely on the Lone Star State, however, identifying the dropout problem as a nationwide trend. But Texas’s six-year graduation rate is still lower than the 50 percent national average, and two Texas schools cracked the bottom ten in that category: University of Houston-Downtown (with the sixth-worst degree completion rate of just 12.8 percent) and Texas Southern (at 13.79 percent). State higher education officials were understandably defensive, pointing out to the Chronicle that the study strangely counts transfer students as “dropouts” just because they didn’t earn a degree from the school they started at. And, as the Chronicle notes, a lot of students work through college, so it takes them more than six years to get a degree.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Looking for a new place to live? Try Fort Hood Austin American-Statesman
Dallas bro steals car for “joyride” and to “pick up hookers” Dallas Morning News
How lucrative can the monkey breeder scam really be? Houston Press
The Clinton campaign is opening a new outpost in Lubbock, of all places FOX 34
Law enforcement seized a ton of ammo and guns from a Houston bingo hall KTRK