The State of Texas: December 12, 2014
We all know that Texas is God’s country, but who knew Jesus loved our tacos so much? “Austinite Andrew Key tweeted a photo Wednesday afternoon of an alleged religious experience he had with an almond flour tortilla,” writes the San Antonio Express-News’s Tyler White. Key is offering to give interviews like the Son of God gives out fish and loaves.
— Andrew Key (@andrewCkey) December 8, 2014
Hazardous Area — The DuPont chemical leak that killed four people and the West explosion were all but inevitable. Not for any obvious negligence but because of the sheer odds. In a newly released report, Congress found that “Texas has the largest number of plants in the nation that use the most hazardous chemicals,” according to the Associated Press. “The report is based on data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by facilities that use large quantities of highly flammable and toxic chemicals. The report also says Texas has the largest number of plants that are in proximity to more than 1 million people. Texas has 34 of the 89 plants.” Also, in a report to a senate committee, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said that “failures in equipment design and lax safety,” lead to the deaths of the four DuPont workers, reports the Houston Chronicle. Representative Gene Green said “there should be higher standards and more coordination from state and federal environmental and workplace safety officials to prevent major chemical releases and worker injuries or deaths like those that occurred at DuPont.” That said, Moure-Eraso found that such chemical accidents were less “the result of mistakes by small operators flying below the regulatory radar” and more due to the lack of safety enforcement, such as proper breathing equipment.
Green Brick Road — Say goodbye to those annoying highway potholes. Maybe. Revisions to the rainy day fund means TxDOT just got $1.7 billion in funding, which it’ll start spending on maintenance sometime next summer, reports the Austin American-Statesman. “TxDOT staff has recommended that 30 percent go to congestion relief projects, primarily in urban areas, and 30 percent to what the agency calls ‘statewide connectivity.’ That would be primarily rural projects on interstates and other state highways. The other 40 percent, in TxDOT’s view, should be split evenly between road maintenance and repair of damaged roads in the state’s booming oil and gas areas.” No specific projects have been named yet.
Football Fantasies — ‘Tis the season for new legislative bills. Senator Charles Perry “filed SB 237 to limit the number of teams advancing to the playoffs from each University Interscholastic League district to two teams in several sports, including football and basketball,” according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “Perry said he believes his bill is a ‘common sense’ proposal” because currently, “we have truly watered down competition.” While Perry makes the case that current competition “devalues” hard work, he does make a point that extended playoff time “costs our school districts thousands of dollars that could be spent in the classroom … especially high in rural areas. Some schools in my district are spending an upwards of $8,000 per playoff game.” While the bill might be good in theory, the bill is unlikely to get off the bench for some playing time (it’s the Rudy of legislative bills). Said one anonymous Republican legislator: “I just don’t think this is something people are going to get excited about. … We have a lot of pressing issues and there are other things we could be working on.” That anything could be more important than football seems unlikely, although legislators keeping mentioning stuff like school funding, water and border security.
Games (And Lawsuits) of Chance — “Five hundred Texas lottery players are suing the makers of one of the game’s scratch off cards for almost $250 million claiming they were cheated out of winnings rightfully theirs,” according to the Houston Chronicle. What’s scratching the lotto players is the Fun 5, a tic-tac-toe game introduced in September, that was super confusing and had many people thinking they’d just won thousands of dollars when they hadn’t. The group’s lawyer “says they will argue that [the company responsible for the game] realized their rule was confusing and then tried to cover themselves by using a computer program which scan only three-of-a-kind plus money bag cards as five-times winners.” When the game was continued back in October, the commission said, “a few opportunistic individuals appear to be exploiting the situation.” The group’s lawyer, however, is hoping for strength in numbers. There are currently 520 plaintiffs, but “that number will probably double.”