The State of Texas: April 15, 2014
Quiz of the Day
Buzzfeed quizzes can be quite meaningless, unless they’re talking about something important to you. And that’s how you find yourself taking the website’s 100-question What Level Texan Are You? quiz. A perfect score would mean that, among other things, you’ve been to the State Fair and seen Matthew McConaughey shirtless in real life.
Valley Low — Just seventeen days after he stepped down as Hidalgo County Sheriff, Lupe Treviño pleaded guilty to money laundering Monday. The Monitor’s coverage has done a superb job detailing just how this years-long scandal unraveled, and its very descriptive account of the court proceedings highlights just how monumental this plea was: “With a hand in his pocket and a slight tilt to his head, Treviño agreed to the facts of the case that … Treviño conspired to conduct financial transactions involving the proceeds of illegal activity.” Treviño had accepted campaign funds that came directly from the Panama Unit, a drug task force that got into the drug trade itself and included Treviño’s own son. For his part, Treviño—who had previously denied knowledge of wrongdoing—now faces real consequences. “The possible range of punishment for money laundering could lead to a maximum 20-year sentence … the former sheriff agreed that even though he could face that much prison time, he still wanted to plead guilty.” Written almost like a comprehensive obituary, The Monitor‘s piece breaks down the entire scandal, which became public back in January of 2013, and is definitely worth a read. An additional piece gathers reactions from a number of county officials, including the district attorney, a clearly drained Rene Guerra: “What else can you say? Whatever is done, is done.”
Perry’s Wrinkle — A second grand jury has been selected in the investigation of abuse-of-power by Governor Rick Perry. “At issue is Perry’s veto of $7.5 million for the state Public Integrity Unit after the prosecutor whose office oversees it refused to resign following a drunken driving arrest,” according to the Associated Press. “A political watchdog group filed a complaint alleging Perry tried to coerce Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to leave office.” How serious is the inquiry? Well, serious enough for Perry to hire, in the words of KVUE, “a high-profile Austin defense lawyer.” Not that Perry thinks he needs a lawyer, just that he wants to “ensure the special prosecutor receives the facts in this matter,” according to his spokeswoman. Fair enough, particularly since the aforementioned special prosecutor has “yet to ask for formal charges against Perry and says he may not ever do so depending on the investigation.”
Thinking Inside the Box — State legislators are “considering requiring fertilizer dealers to store ammonium nitrate in fireproof bins or install fire sprinkler systems,” according to the Waco Tribune. The news comes just days before the one-year anniversary of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed fifteen people, injured 160, and devastated a town. The announcement that legislation will be forthcoming (in 2015) itself comes after an extensive investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Of the 100 or so ammonium nitrate facilities, it found that about half “were storing the chemical in wood-frame buildings as West Fertilizer Co.” Other proposed changes that could make their way into a legislative draft include giving the fire marshal’s office “primary authority for inspecting and regulating the sites, mostly in rural areas of Texas, that would be required to comply with additional safety measures,” as well as offering first-responders additional training in “how to fight fires and avoid explosions” like West.
Trouble At School — Everybody worries about the children, but—as The Who would say—the kids are alright. The same cannot be said for school officials in Beaumont ISD, which is being taken over by the state, in part because at least two officials embezzled more than $4 million from the school district. The Texas Education Agency conducted two investigations recently and a “financial review released this month concluded that the district in the past five years has lost the public’s trust and acquired a reputation tainted by multiple incidents of fraud, waste and abuse. The report cited a continuing lack of internal controls over finances and operations despite 2013 reviews and recommendations for improvement.” The school district’s “accreditation status will be lowered to ‘accredited-probation,’ which means the district must fix its problems in order to avoid revocation of its accreditation status,” according to the Associated Press. The little bit of good news from this meeting in the principal’s office? The “change in accreditation status won’t affect how students and parents see a school’s day-to-day operations.”