The State of Texas: August 29, 2014
Headline of the Day
— an editorial from the Concord Monitor (New Hamphire). The internet is still waiting on someone to create an image of Perry, naked and riding a wrecking ball.
How you spend your free time is your business. But if you’re not building impressive replicas of UT’s Royal stadium out of Legos, you’re probably wasting it. (There are plenty more photos here.)
School Daze — It’s taken longer than getting back SAT scores; “nearly three years after more than 600 Texas school districts filed litigation challenging the state’s school finance system, a Travis County district judge has ruled in their favor,” reports just about every publication in the state. “In an almost 400-page opinion [the judge] said that the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax.” The Dallas Morning News has one of the succinct wrap-ups of the Neverending Case. “Schools in rich and poor areas were on the same side in the case because the Robin Hood system requires districts with high property values or abundant revenue from oil or natural gas interests to turn over part of what they collect in property taxes to poorer districts,” reports the DMN. “Poor districts said that wasn’t enough, while schools in wealthy areas argued that voters often refuse to approve local tax increases they might otherwise support since much of the money would go elsewhere. School’s not over, of course. The ruling “will almost certainly be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court by state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office.” As the Texas Tribune notes, the ruling will also “likely fuel continued sparring” between Greg Abbott (who’s against the decision and the judge) and Wendy Davis (who filibusted the lawsuit-causing budget cuts in 2011).
ICE Woman Cometh — Texas is the epicenter for the latest wave of undocumented immigrants crossing the border. Makes sense then that the person in charge of rounding them up should be from here. President Obama announced yesterday that he’s nominated Dallas prosecutor Sarah Saldaña, a U.S. attorney, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It’s a little surprising that Saldaña “would be the first Latina to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the government’s second biggest investigative agency,” wrote the Dallas Morning News. Also surprising is the fact that Saldaña is “the state’s first Latina U.S. attorney.” Surprise number three: the main ICE position has been vacant for a year. Suprise number four: Republicans don’t have a knee-jerk reaction against Obama’s pick. In fact, both Senator John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison sung Saldaña’s praises when she was appointed a U.S. attorney three years ago. Perhaps hedging his partisan bets this time, Cornyn “lauded [Saldaña] but was noncommittal on the promotion.” If Saldaña does become the new ICE head, she’ll be arriving at a very intense time. During a press conference yesterday, “Obama reiterated that he will take executive action on immigration … [noting] that he has asked [Saldaña’s boss if she gets the ICE job] ‘to look at what kinds of executive authorities we have in order to make the system work better.'”
Here Comes The Boom — The oil business is doing great. Maybe too great. Lawmakers are now having to look at how to handle the problems that come with such success, and boy do they have their hands full. Industry practices have been “wrecking roads, straining infrastructure, vexing police departments, draining water resources and polluting the air,” reports Midland Reporter-Telegram. That sounds like like a whole, big mess of unsolvable problems, but the sheer amount of revenue and jobs generated by the oil and gas industry might help. “The industry now employs more than 400,000 people in Texas, at an average salary of $120,000,” not to mention it pays “$11.5 billion a year in mineral royalties to 570,000 families statewide, an average of $20,000 per family.” It also “produced $13.6 billion in tax revenues last year, compared with $7.4 billion in 2010.” There are no answers yet, but the state should probably get on it. “‘People will look back at this in 20 years, this will be seen as part of the golden age,” said one economist. But “oil and gas is not a nice steady business, the way grocery stores might be.” Also not in anyone’s favor, as cheekily noted in the story, is the fact that the “task of regulating this expansion falls to the Railroad Commission, led by an accountant, a lawyer and an investment banker with deep industry ties.” Sounds like the set-up to a bad joke.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a big man who does not often look back. Heck, he doesn’t even really regret taking scandalous pictures with young women. But there is one thing J-Jones does regret, like, a lot: not picking up Johnny Manziel. That’s the juicy little nugget, picked up by Sportsday, from ESPN’s very extensive profile of the man. “If we had picked Manziel, he’d guarantee our relevance for 10 years,” said Jones in the piece. And as the general manager, he really has no one to blame but himself. Well, his family/business partners, too, who help to perfectly illustrate the Manziel paradox. “‘Jones’s son Stephen, the Cowboys’ executive vice president in charge of player personnel, had lobbied hard against choosing Manziel — ‘I’m still so damn mad at Stephen,’ Jerry tells me — but Jones’ younger son, Jerry Jr., told me, ‘I’m the head of sales and marketing — where do you think I came down?'” Over the three-day weekend, read ESPN’s nearly 10,000-word profile of Jones by Don Van Natta Jr. who got some pretty unbelievable access to the master footballer. The story is full of warmth, insults, scandal, and details. For example, if you see Jones out and about, offer him nothing less than Johnny Walker Blue label.