The State of Texas: April 17, 2015
Explosion of the Day
Super-bland country act Lady Antebellem is really hot in Texas. So much so that the tour bus carrying lead vocalist Hillary Scott actually caught fire near Dalrock, en route to Dallas. Although the fire aint’ no joke, everyone made it out just fine and Lady Antebellem will continue to perform its particular brand of “country.”
It doesn’t get much weirder than this: Several NBA champions calling themselves Spuran Spuran and doing an eighties-inspired music video in which the only words are pretty much “Spurs!.” Weirdo-experts Tim and Eric helped put togerther this odd sing-a-long and it is uncomfortably awesome.
Still Smoldering – It’s been two years since the West fertilizer plant explosion and things still aren’t completely back to normal. While there’s been some rebuilding, “the city is still trying to recoup money it says the fertilizer company owes them and lawmakers in Austin are still grappling with what role state government should play in regulating the seventy-odd similar facilities scattered across Texas,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The legislative proposals include bills that would allow fire marshalls to examine plants storing ammonium nitrate and that would “authorize the state commissioner of insurance, in consultation with the state fire marshal, to adopt fire protection standards for ammonium nitrate storage.” But those measures are still floating around in the Lege. As for those putting their lives back together, “City officials are treating the second anniversary as a low-key affair,” writes the Fort Worth Star-Tribune. “With West Fertilizer’s liability coverage not nearly enough to cover damages, uninsured residents ‘might get 10 cents on the dollar if they’re lucky,’ said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, which represents insurance companies.” Regarding the rebuilding efforts, mayor Tommy Muska said the city will recover financally by next year. Still, there’s plenty of work and pain to get through, including about 200 lawsuits related to the explosion in the works.
Rep. Moneybags – Being a representative of the people ain’t cheap. Yesterday was the deadline for Texas congressmen to file their campaign and fundraising reports, and the Texas Tribune has a breakdown of all the dollar-signs being flashed. Of all the congressmen, the one most often in the spotlight—Joaquin Castro—didn’t actually raise as much money as some others. Congressman Will Hurd raised $529,000 and had $505,000 in cash on hand, “monster numbers” that put him “near the top of fundraising among fellow Republicans in similarly competitive districts.” Meanwhile Castro “raised $150,000 and reported about $304,000 in cash on hand,” though being the giving soul he is, he “donated $20,000 of that sum to the House Democratic campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.” Perhaps another surprise comes from frequent spotlight seeker Louie Gohmert, who had “a lethargic haul with a high burn rate. He raised about $20,000 but spent $54,000.” As the story so beautiful notes, too, Gohmert “spent a substantial amount of money—$4,330—on pens.”
For Their Own Protection – The Department of Public Safety is having a rough moment. Director Steve McCraw is “asking the head of the state’s anti-corruption unit to renew a halted investigation into $20 million no-bid border security contracts,” according to the Tribune. As the Houston Chronicle reported in January, part of the controvesy stems from the Rick Perry funding veto that would’ve allowed Public Integrity Unit to investigate the no-bid contracts. The DPS is also trying to squash various rumors and stories, including some coming from folks at the anti-Muslim Judicial Watch and the pro-apocalypse World Net Daily, which said the DPS was forced to discuss the possibility of “Islamic State militants were organizing in Mexico only a few miles from El Paso,” reports the Washington Times. That “possibility” is, as it turns out, just a flight of fear-mongering fancy. The DPS’ strongly-worded statement on the subject, (a great Twitter effort form Texas Monthly’s own Erica Grieder), said that “DPS does not have any credible information to confirm the statements.” The DPS also reminded officials of Judicial Watch’s previous, completley wrong, statements. This is not to suggest that the border isn’t dangerous. A new report from the U.S. State Department puts a travel warning on four Mexican states bordering Texas,” according to the San Antonio Express-News.