The State of Texas: April 29, 2015
Tweet of the Day
Here’s reason number 934 why J. J. Watt is a fan favorite. A woman mentioned in a tweet that she couldn’t attend his charity softball game because of work committments, and (half-jokingly?) wished the Texan would write something like a doctor’s note excusing her from work. Watt, of course, did exactly that.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) April 28, 2015
Texas By The Numbers
Scraping the Barrel – Number of oil rigs in Texas last month: 427. This week: 412. Number of Texas jobs lost in March: 25,000. Number of months since the state last saw a decline: 53. Number of those jobs that included the oil and gas industry: 2,800.
Come and Drink It – The county with the highest prevalence of drinking: Travis. Percentage: 59.5 percent. In Collin County: 55.1 percent. In Gillespie: 54.9 percent. County with the lowest prevalence of drinking: Collingsworth. Prevalence: 19.9 percent.
Rio Silicon Valley – North Texas’s national rank among top 25 places for tech jobs in the country: 11th. Number of jobs out of 1,000 that are tech: 50. Average salary: $86,500. Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos: 9th. Number of jobs out of 1,000 that are tech: 126. Average salary: $130,000.
The Resistance Movement – Alarms and warnings that the military’s planned drills in Texas were the start of a forceful takeover first appeared on the fringes of the Internet. Then the story made local headlines as the cry against a federal invasion became louder and concerned citizens began expressing their paranoia in public forums. Now we’re at the point that the governor is not only acknowledging the fear but addressing it. In a rather ridiculous move, Greg Abbott “has instructed the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation dubbed Jade Helm 15,” writes the Dallas Morning News. It’s ridiculous, because even if it were true, it’s not like the state guard would be any match for “’elite teams such as the SEALs and Green Berets from four military branches.” Still, panic is panic and Abbott is a representative of the people, no matter how panicked we might be. In his letter to the Texas State Guard, Abbott said the military “has assured Texas that each location selected for the training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication.”
Flying Pigs – Lawmakers made a progressive move and listened to testimony about the medical benefits of marijuana. In what the Texas Tribune describes as an “emotional hearing,” supporters brought in their long-suffering families and “recounted the seizures endured by children who they say could benefit from derivatives of medical marijuana.” The bill, HB 892, would “legalize oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.” If that sounds rather uncontroversial, opponents—including law enforcement agencies who are meeting their arrest quotas primarily with petty drug arrests—retorted with the standard (and demonstrably untrue) response that “increased access to any component of marijuana would jeopardize public safety.” Those in favor of sensible drug laws and the use of medical marijuana are calling the bill an “appeasement” that offers little help for other people in need of cannabinoid components. Still, it’s impressive and perhaps a sign of the times that Texas might be heading in the opposite direction from its past as one of the leading states of draconian prohibition efforts. As the story notes, “A number of other bills dealing with medical marijuana, including legislation from [Democratic representative Elliott] Naishtat that would provide an affirmative defense for patients who use marijuana based on the recommendation of their doctors, were slated to be heard by the committee on Tuesday afternoon.”
Radio Transmission – As if concerns about a military takeover aren’t enough, a judge has tentatively approved “bid procedures for the sale of RadioShack’s intellectual property, including data on millions of customers,” according to the Associated Press. Don’t worry! It’s not as bad as it seems. It’s just part of a deal to auction off RadioShack’s intellectual property after it won approval to sell itself to the hedge fund Standard General LP. Still, the powers that be are cautious. “U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon said he was willing to approve the bid procedures proposed by RadioShack, but he said that any potential bidder ‘with an IQ above room temperature,’ should know that there are serious privacy issues that may preclude court approval of the sale.” In addition, the Fort Worth–based chain has “agreed to mediation with concerned state attorneys general regarding sale of customer data” as the “Texas attorney general’s office … still has questions about what information might be sold.” Specifically, the state (and other telecommunication companies) wants RadioShack to “disclose more information about what is included in its transaction data,” something the company lawyers aren’t too keen on.
House of Cuts – We’re one step closer to a possible Senate vs. House showdown over exactly how to cut a lot of money. Yesterday, the house tentatively approved its $4.9 billion tax cut plan that focuses on Texas’s sales tax, reducing the rate for the first time in the state’s history, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The Senate, of course, passed a different tax cut plan last month focusing on a number of different areas including school property tax and franchise tax. “At this point, the two chambers appear headed to a tax cut standoff, with neither side backing down—something that could hang up budget negotiations in the final weeks of the regular legislative session, which ends June 1.” As it stands, “The House’s two-year budget proposal spends $209.8 billion total, while the Senate’s spends $211.4 billion.” Apparently, the two chambers are supposed to “compromise” now, but everyone knows how well that works out in modern politics. Regardless, the clock is ticking, with just 32 days left in session.