The State of Texas: August 13, 2014
Photo of the Day
Fun fact: The world’s largest backyard swimming pool is in El Campo, Texas. (“Everything’s bigger in El Campo”?) A Houston Chronicle piece about the private splash center describes it “21-foot water slide, two hot tubs, sunken bar, outdoor kitchen, six water falls and 500-foot lazy river.” And they’re not stingy with the fun; the owners of the $3 million pool invite people from the community for what are probably the best pool parties ever.
Texas By The Numbers
Report Card — Number of San Antonio ISD schools that need improvement, according to the Texas Education Agency’s latest report: 18. Number of Rio Grande Valley ISDs earning a “post secondary readiness” mark: Four. Total in the state: 26. Percentage of ISDs statewide school that received passing marks: 90 percent. Schools: 85 percent. Number of schools that flunked: 37.
Fraud Antibodies — Amount of medicaid fraud Texas has identified thanks to new technology: $42 million. Number of fraud cases investigated: 1,165. Cost of software: $19.8 million. Amount state handles in medicaid spending: $28.3 billion.
Regulation Rumblings — Here’s some comforting news for the residents of Azle. After listening to complaints from the town—and other North Texas communities affected by an increase in seismic activity—the Railroad Commission has proposed stricter fracking guidelines and a bit more transparency. “The suggested changes would require oil and gas companies to provide more information in their permit applications for underground disposal wells used to store waste from oil and gas drilling, including data from the U.S. Geological Survey about area fault lines, past earthquake activity and geologic mapping … Also, companies would need to more frequently report fluid pressures and well data to regulators,” according to the Dallas Morning News. While the changes “would increase the burden for oil and gas companies” which are struggling so much, it sounds like a win for the communities that have endured an unusually high number of earthquakes—Azle had thirty earthquakes in as many months. But there’s still debate on causation: “The three commissioners have said that there is not a conclusive link between the earthquakes and disposal wells, and that regulatory changes should be made with caution given the state’s robust oil and gas economy … With more than 34,000 of these wells currently operating in Texas.”
Senators, Guns And Money — Don’t bring a knife to any kind of fight in Hidalgo County. They have grenades. “Although [San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez] did not provide total figures, he said that his department has seen at least seven separate incidents of grenades in the last two years,” reports The Monitor. “In October 2009, San Juan police with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrested a man after he sold nearly 200 grenades to an undercover agent posing as a drug cartel member” and the “incident was the first time his department became aware that explosives could become a problem locally.” And in Austin, state senator Jane Nelson, of Flower Mound, lobbed political grenades, who said “it’s a great time to speed in my area” because all of the law enforcement officials are “down in the Valley” during a contentious Senate Finance Committee hearing to address the recent National Guard deployment. As the Morning News notes, the arguments “largely broke along party lines” with Republicans saying something had to be done and Democrats saying the $17 million-a-month bill was too much to pay for a performance piece by Governor Rick Perry. Along with border security costs, “Much discussion also focused on the strain that the new undocumented immigrants would place on the state’s education system and finances,” according to the Texas Tribune‘s recap.
A National Army of One — A Dallas man reportedly tried to ambush police and emergency responders by setting a fire and then actually opening fire when help came. No one appears to have been injured although a fire truck did take a bullet. The man was taken into custody and charged with seven counts of aggravated assaults against public servants. What would drive a person to do such a thing? “The family members said he had been watching Al-Jazzeera TV quite a bit lately,” said Assistant Chief of Corinth Police Greg Wilkerson. Authorities are now looking into the man’s “anti-government views” since he had called the 911 operator and said he was “seceding from the nation. …So far, all we are getting is, he is tired of the U.S. … he is tired of the government, and he wants to make his own.”
Johnny Ratings — Johnny Manziel does not disappoint, at least where it concerns the NFL’s primary focus: money and ratings. Manziel made his debut in the second half of the Cleveland Brown’s preseason game and performed pretty well (he ran a lot). But more importantly, Manziel’s “debut was a smash hit on television,” according to USA Today’s The Big Lead. The “monster numbers” include a “1.81 rating and an average of 2.2 million viewers, resulting in the highest-rated and most-watched preseason game ever on the NFL Network.” As the author notes, the good news (if you can call it that) is that “People finally care about the long-suffering Browns.” The bad news for elitist Manziel-haters, however, is that “Every TV station and website just got reinforcement that the masses care deeply about Johnny Manziel, so expect more Manziel coverage …” Expect it! Especially since the second-string Manziel will be getting some first-string practice and could very well be up for the starting spot.