The State of Texas: April 15, 2015
Texas By The Numbers
And Babies Make Seven – A set of all-female quintuplets was recently born in Houston. The last time that happened anywhere in the world: 1969. Number of times that has happened in the U.S.: 0. Number of “higher order” births in the U.S. in 2013: 66. Amount of sleep those new parents will get in the next few years: 0.
Mo’ Money … – Two-year state budget amount approved by the Senate: $211 billion. Proposed spending increase in Senate’s budget: 4.6 percent. Number of hours it took to pass: two. Number of hours it took to pass the House version: eighteen.
Misfire – Adversaries of two highly contested Lege bills sort of live to fight another day thanks—of all things—to a computer glitch. “The problem was revealed … moments after the House began considering legislation that would allow holstered weapons to be openly carried by those with a concealed handgun license,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The revelation was no accident either, as it was pointed out by Representative Trey Martinez (the same member who introduced the panic button amendment), who had been “researching ways to derail the open carry bill.” Basically, the computer system failed to properly document the bills’ witnesses, a procedural no-no. “Both bills were sent back to committee and quickly re-approved. They are expected back on the House floor as early as Friday,” and most likely won’t stop the inevitable, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Some 125 bills affected by the glitch are in various holding patterns, but house officials said those “can likely be fixed without requiring new committee votes, minimizing the potential delays, because those bills hadn’t yet been placed on the House calendar for a vote.”
DPShhh – Rick Perry may have given the Department of Public Safety a lot of firepower to combat the surge of migrants coming over the border last summer, but things are a bit different this spring. The El Paso Times reports that the DPS’s director, Steve McCraw, will “again be called to testify before the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee” after his “appearance last week … regarding a controversial border-security contract” that cost taxpayers $20 million dollars. Questions surrounding the contract had already led the Public Integrity Unit to begin an investigation (this was before Perry vetoed its funding). In addition to the testimony, U.S. representative Joaquin Castro is maneuvering around the DPS and asking federal authorities to “provide information on what role federal agents have played during the state’s multimillion-dollar border surge,” according to the Texas Tribune. It’s not a great look for the DPS, who had previously told state representative César Blanco that it “would not provide his office a breakdown of how local, state and federal agencies were each performing during the mission.” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, who always seems to be forced under the hot lamps, indicated that the DPS isn’t releasing the data because such numbers could be misconstrued. “Taking any one entity’s outputs and then attempting to determine the success of the operation based on that one subset of data is completely invalid,” he said.
Viva la Fútbol – Texas is being overrun by Mexico today! That’s because the Mexican national soccer team will play the U.S. team in a friendly game at the Alamodome. For those focused on the other football, this is a pretty exciting deal, especially since it almost didn’t happen. The Mexican Soccer Federation, which probably knows soccer a bit better than its American counterpart, was “not at all happy about the temporary grass pitch that has been laid out over the stadium’s concrete floor,” according to the Washington Post. As the San Antonio Express-News notes, “The temporary grass, brought in from a sod farm in Paige, Texas, about 120 miles east of San Antonio, is laid over concrete at the 60,000-seat stadium in downtown.” A spokesman with the U.S. team assured all worried parties that “the field will be in playable condition in time for tomorrow’s match.” Despite the Great Grass Debate, the match is apparently still on, a good thing since the sold-out event is expected to bring in 65,000 fans.
The Vamps of H-Town – Houston has plenty of colorful characters, but this might top ’em all. “There are many subcultures living and prospering in Houston, but what sets [Reverend Michael Vachmiel] apart from other community leaders in Houston is the nature of his group. They call themselves ‘real vampires’ and live lives that draw inspiration from the supernatural monsters of folk legends and horror films,” writes the Houston Press in a long and super-interesting piece. By “real vampires,” the group means just that: some members offer themselves up as a “Black Swan, a person who allows herself to be cut and have her blood drunk by another individual.” That people are trying out the “vampire” life is not a completely new or foreign practice, but apparently “Houston has a surprisingly large population of them [and] those within the subculture take it very seriously, believing that they are born different from others.” The piece is a fascinating read detailing the often mundane lives of these vampires in and around Houston. Different Bram Stokers for different skin pokers.