The State of Texas: April 28, 2015
Quote of the Day
“Can we just call an ambulance ‘an ambulance?’”
– Dallas City Council member Sandy Greyson, who is apparently tired of all the bureaucratic-speak she’s surrounded by.
Video of the Day
Governors—they’re just like us! They go to jury duty! They try to hold inane conversations with strangers about the weather! For proof, look no further than this video of Greg Abott, who answered his jury summons like a good citizen. Spoiler: he was not selected for duty.
Here We Go Again – Did you enjoy the 2013 legislative session? The one that attracted national attention, ignited fierce debate, and severely limited medical facilities available to rural and poor women? Well, you’re in luck, because the wait is over—it’s back! “Rep. Matt Schaefer broke [the] quiet Thursday when he filed a bill amendment to ban abortions after 20 weeks even when a fetus shows signs of severe abnormalities and little hope of survival,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. The amendment failed on technicalities but attracted plenty of support and is “likely to be tried again.” As the story notes, the measure “illustrated a subtle divide among Republicans, between those whose anti-abortion beliefs are absolute and others who are more willing to allow exceptions.” It’s also another example of the increasing hostility between the more pragmatic Republicans and the purist tea party wing. In this case, Speaker Joe Straus had efforts to “streamline state health bureaucracy” hijacked by politicians peddling moral absolutism. Regardless, expect the abortion fight to continue. “Taylor’s proposal is among several bills making their way through the Legislature,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Mad Tax: Fury Mode – Speaking of various wings of the Republican party beginning to gnaw at each other, the dispute over just how much the state tax cuts should be and where they should come from has created a showdown between the Senate and the House. Everyone is really starting to take notice, seeing as there are only about five weeks left in the session. As the Statesman notes in a lengthy and detailed story about the dispute, “how to cut taxes has emerged as the biggest point of disagreement between the two chambers this legislative session, with each dedicating about half its $4 billion-plus package to business franchise tax cuts but disagreeing about what to do with the rest.” A tentative truce seemed to have been in place last week, but “that delicate political balance shifted again” when the House Republican Caucus wrote an open letter to the public, claiming their sales tax plan was better. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, in keeping with his campaign promise, “has said he would reject a state budget that doesn’t cut property taxes.” How this will all play out is still up in the air, as both chambers appear to be playing a very nerdy game of chicken. As for the man with the final say, Governor Abbott “has left it to the two chambers to grapple over the details, requesting cuts to the business franchise tax but not specifying a preference for cutting sales or property taxes.”
A Cautious Creamery – The public is desperately hungry for Blue Bell to return, and the company is working overtime to make sure its products are no longer tainted. “About 750 Blue Bell plant operations employees today attended a training session led by an outside expert microbiologist,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “Simultaneously, the company is continuing to test individual pieces of equipment, the floor, and other surfaces throughout its plants as it looks for the source or sources of the bacteria. Equipment will be disassembled and swabbed, and samples will be obtained from throughout the production facilities.” While the company is doing things like employing science to prevent another disaster, local Blue Bell fans are doing what they can, which is to say, nothing of much concrete use, although it’s the thought that counts. Breitbart Texas writes that “more than 200 true Blue Bell ice cream aficionados gathered for a prayer vigil” in Brenham over the weekend. “It has grieved our hearts that our beloved product . . . could ever become a source of harm to anyone,” said one pastor.
Class Dismissed – Think you’re having a bad week of classes near the end of the spring semester? Try being the A&M-Galveston professor who reportedly failed his entire class and quit the course, essentially telling school officials that the little jerks are their problem now. In an email to his students, ethics and business management professor Irwin Horwitz listed some specific incidents and then went on something of an epic lecture. “None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates [to and expects them to] have within their personal character. . . . I am frankly and completely disgusted. You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level.” According to Inside Higher Ed, “[the] university has said that Horwitz’s failing grades will not stand,” or, at the very least, the F grades will be reevaluated. Horowitz, meanwhile, stands by his actions. Talking with the Houston Chronicle after the news broke, “Horwitz blamed the unwillingness of the administration to enforce the Texas A&M honor code. . . . ‘I have nothing left. . . . I put my neck on the line for what I thought was the right thing to do.’” Call it a master class in mike-dropping. The university said “no action had been taken regarding Horwitz’s employment.”