The State of Texas: April 3, 2015
Tweet of the Day
It’s gotta be really embarrassing not only when your dad—super famous for being one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history—is on Twitter. He’s always ruining your chances at sounding cool, in a very public way:
— Deion Sanders (@DeionSanders) April 2, 2015
Water Fight – In a ruling “with widespread implications for future water battles in drought-prone Texas,” according to the Texas Tribune, an appeals court ruled that “Texas cannot give special treatment to cities or power generators over more “senior” water rights holders on parched rivers—even if the state declares it necessary to protect the ‘public health, safety and welfare.’” Depending on how you look at the ruling, it kind of sounds like a terrible future in which corporations literally control life and death. The case originated when Dow Chemical—by far the largest water user of the Brazos river—claimed it had proprietary rights to the water, which by law it did as it has the oldest water rights. “Dow issued a series of priority calls beginning in 2009 asserting its ‘senior’ right to divert water from the Brazos River—and force ‘junior’ water rights holders to curtail their use.” The story ends with a kicker about where Texas stands with regard to public rights. “If it’s something that’s for the public … the public can pay for it,” said an assistant general counsel for the Texas Farm Bureau.
Some Tolerance – Thanks to the controversy surrounding Indiana’s religious freedom law—the one many, many opponents say opens the door to discrimination, particularly against the LGBT community—Texas’s own such law is getting renewed attention. As most stories about the Texas law note, however, ours is relative good: it passed with bipartisan support and has the backing of the ACLU. It also has a pretty remarkable history. “The impetus was a case that involved an American Indian who took peyote as part of a religious ceremony and then lost his job,” writes the Dallas Morning News. Despite the fact that the measure is working, or perhaps because the measure appears to be working well, some lawmakers want a change. “A number of state legislators this session are attempting to ‘enhance” Texas’ religion freedom laws,” according to the Houston Chronicle. However, the lawmakers have scaled back some of their attempts thanks to a “intense opposition from the business community, agreeing to tweak their bills to ameliorate concerns that it targets the gay community. Civil rights and business groups, however, say the changes do not go far enough, voicing hope that the outcry lobbed at similar proposals in Indiana, and now Arkansas, will kill the legislation before it gains legs in Texas.” Some lawmakers are calling the response an “overreaction.” Regardless, it’s still something worth keeping an eye on even if it’s “unclear whether any of the Texas proposals will even get a committee hearing this session.”
First Leg of Cruz – The Ted Cruz presidential campaign is really taking off. There’s the successful first fundraising effort in which Cruz raised $4 million in a single week. Then there’s the renewed focus on Cruz himself. As if he didn’t get enough attention when he attempted his “filibuster,” the New York Times takes a look at the budding presidential contender and what his impact will be in Texas. “There is no doubt that Mr. Cruz will have a slice of Texas Republicans on his side, but the question remains how large that slice will be among a crowded field of potential Texas-themed rivals that besides Rick Perry, the former governor, also includes Jeb Bush and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky,” writes the NYT. The piece basically highlights Cruz’s hurdles—his lack of popularity among moderate Republicans, his long-standing beef with Perry—but reminds everyone (themselves included, hopefully) that “the battle for Republican endorsements, volunteers and money in Texas remains in its early stages, 11 months from the state’s primary.” In the meantime, Cruz is pushing forward with seeking homegrown support. Yesterday, Cruz “approached Texas A&M International University about speaking at the Laredo college’s spring commencement,” according to the student newspaper, The Bridge.
Swamp Thing Defeated? – Good news for any and everyone hoping to relax on Galveston’s beaches this summer. “The masses of seaweed that plagued the area last summer seem to be turning toward the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Some may recall the huge seaweed attack from last year, with the resulting twenty-foot-high piles bulldozed on the beach looking like invading green blobs. Or perhaps the seaweed was an attraction? “Despite the smell of rotting seaweed and blocked beaches that soured some tourists on Galveston, they kept coming, said Mario Rabago, Galveston Park Board deputy director. Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, a tax on rooms rented by tourists, last year rose to $75.28 million during the peak tourism months, May-September, from $70.22 million in 2013 and $66.35 million in 2012, according to figures from the Galveston Island Convention Center and Tourism Bureau.” Turning lemons into lemonade, the Park Board even had “bucket brigades,” in which visitors were encouraged to, um, tour the seaweed as part of a nature lesson – the piles were “teeming with life.”