Texas Lawmakers Call for Review of Sexual Harassment Policies at the Capitol: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: Texas State suspends fraternity and sorority events after a student’s death, groups fear that hate crimes are underreported in Texas, and business group tells the Legislature to stop focusing on things like the bathroom bill.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived.”
—A tweet from President Donald Trump on Tuesday, November 14. The strangely timed tweet—nine days after the Texas shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and hours after another shooting at an elementary school in Northern California—prompted speculation that Trump, or a staffer, copied and pasted a similar message from last week and forgot to change the name of the town.
Breaking up the Boys Club
Lawmakers in both chambers on Tuesday called for the Texas Legislature to review its policies on sexual harassment, according to the Texas Tribune. The push from Texas leaders comes after a Tribune story published Monday revealing that women at the Capitol, both lawmakers and staffers, largely have to fend for themselves when it comes to sexual harassment. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told the Tribune through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he’s asked Senate Administration Committee Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst to review chamber procedures to “make sure they are current and effectively protect every state employee.” House Speaker Joe Straus told the House Administration Committee and business office to review sexual harassment policies and make changes “where necessary,” according to the Tribune. He also directed officials to put in place a sexual harassment training—a program the Senate already has—before the end of January. Governor Greg Abbott also pledged that changes were coming, saying through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he would work with the Legislature to seek improvements. “Any form of sexual harassment at the Capitol is unacceptable & I will work on remedies to end it,” he tweeted on Tuesday. As the Tribune notes, not a single sexual harassment complaint has been filed since 2011, despite both chambers having policies in place. That doesn’t mean that sexual harassment isn’t happening. For its story on Monday, the Tribune spoke with two dozen former and current lawmakers and aides, who painted a picture of rampant sexual harassment at the Capitol.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Texas State University has suspended all fraternity and sorority activities indefinitely after a student died following a fraternity event, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Matthew Ellis, a twenty-year-old sophomore at Texas State, died after attending an off-campus fraternity party, which Texas State newspaper The University Star reported was a Phi Kappa Psi initiation event. The Express-News reports that the Phi Kappa Psi chapter was already under investigation at the time of the incident. Ellis’s death—which police say might have been alcohol-related—could be another instance in a disturbing trend of hazing-related deaths among fraternities across the U.S.
State of Hate?
The number of hate crimes rose nationally for the second year in a row in 2016, even as monitoring groups question if Texas is among states that are underreporting them, according to the Houston Chronicle. An FBI statistics report revealed on Monday that across the U.S., law enforcement agencies reported 6,121 criminal incidents last year, up from 5,818 in 2015. In Texas, however, that number dropped to 178 bias-related crimes in 2016 from 191 the previous year. “We believe Texas is one of those states that has a significant issue of underreporting,” Brian Levin, of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told the Chronicle.
The head of the state’s top business lobbying group said that Texas lawmakers spent too much time focused on the bathroom bill in the last legislative session, according to the Dallas Morning News. Texas Association of Business Chief Executive Jeff Moseley said his group would have preferred that the Legislature focus on issues like the franchise tax and other business-related bills in the state. William Mellor, the vice president and general manager of economic development consulting firm AngelouEconomics, told the Morning News that the bathroom bill, which ultimately failed, could have cost the state billions of dollars. “Every minute we spend legislating social issues, such as the bathroom bill or sanctuary cities or bills like those, is time not spent on the business climate and the competitive edge of our state,” said Mellor, whose firm conducts studies on behalf of the business association.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
A Buc-ee’s location is about to receive a Guinness World Record (and not even for cleanest roadside restrooms!) Austin American-Statesman
Documents show that mechanical failures and a lack of planning led to the Arkema plant explosion Houston Chronicle
It ain’t ocean front property, but you can buy George Strait’s $3.9 million San Antonio mansion San Antonio Express-News
CNN SUX and other license plates recently rejected by the DMV Houston Chronicle
Representative Louie Gohmert details his belief that Uranium One is a left-wing conspiracy is a flowchart Twitter