The State of Texas: February 18, 2015
Texas By The Numbers
Bad Teens – Percentage of pregnant teens who used one or more substances in the past year, according to a new UT study: 59 percent. Percentage of non-pregnant teens who did so: 35 percent. Use of alcohol: 16 percent. Marijuana: 14 percent. Other illicit drugs: 5 percent.
Money Test – Contract amount the state is paying for student testing over five years: about $438 million. Per year: $87.6 million. State spending on testing in 1995: $19.5 million. In 2001: $68.6 million.
The State of Texas – Governor Greg Abbott gave his State of the State address yesterday, and it certainly seems like it’s going to be something of a new day in Texas. The Texas Tribune writes that the speech “was a something-for-everyone speech, hitting on all the major initiatives he proposed in the 2014 governor’s race and then some.” Abbott also dropped some “emergency items” that he plans to fast-track, including “early education, higher education, transportation, border security and ethics reform,” notes the Austin American-Statesman. As for border security, Abbott “noticeably shifted his plans for the Texas-Mexico border to accede to demands by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” by doubling related spending, writes the Dallas Morning News. It’s not all spend-spend-spend, however. “He said the budget he submitted Tuesday calls for a $2 billion reduction in the business franchise tax and a $2.2 billion reduction in property taxes” and “called for a constitutional amendment that would limit the growth of the state budget to population growth plus inflation.”
A Gayer Texas? – A Travis County judge ruled yesterday that our state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. But don’t go running to the altar just yet. Because “the judge didn’t instruct the county clerk to ‘begin to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,’” reports the Dallas Morning News, the county clerk (who fully supports the decision) would rather avoid a giant legal mess at the moment. As per Texas tradition in such cases, the decision came through odd means, this time via an estate fight. The gay-rights movement in Texas does seem to be having something of a moment. “More than a hundred people of faith gathered at the Texas Capitol [to] call on lawmakers to end discrimination based on sexual orientation,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. And no, that’s not a typo. “Other religious leaders from across the state also spoke before dispersing into the Capitol to ask lawmakers to promote the rights of the LGBT community.” And don’t forget to get the latest copy of Texas Monthly, in which Pamela Colloff’s cover story takes a deep look into the battle same-sex marriage proponents have been fighting.
Straddling the Border – At the moment, President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration is in limbo. On Monday, a Brownsville-based judge ruled that the order—the challenge of which was led by Texas—would indeed harm the state. The decision shouldn’t have been too surprising for those paying attention. In a great reminder from The Monitor, the judge presiding over the case, U.S. district judge Andrew Hanen, has some … interesting theories based on his time overseeing immigration cases. Hanen “once accused the Obama administration of participating in criminal conspiracies to smuggle children into the U.S. by helping reunite them with parents who live here illegally.” According to The Monitor, “The judge compared the cases to the government seizing weapons being smuggled across the border and delivering them to the criminals inside the United States.” Now, pro-immigration advocates are wondering about their next possible move. The Department of Homeland Security secretary said the agency will respect the decision, and “supporters of the program conceded that the ruling is a setback,” according to the Texas Tribune. “But they said they were confident that the White House would ultimately prevail,” said the Tribune, which notes that the Obama administration can file an appeal or ask the judge to stay the decision.
It’s Complicated – Things are awkward in the Dallas Cowboys world, and this time it has nothing to do with racy Jerry Jones photos. In a public message that would probaly get a normal person fired, wide receiver Dez Bryant responded to a fan’s tweet remarking on Bryant’s dedication to the team by saying, “I wish They felt the same way but it’s cool.. It’s #business.” To be fair, Bryant’s frustration comes because the team is wondering whether or not to keep him in the cattle pen, even after Bryant has said he would be “highly disappointed” being a franchise tag, writes the Dallas Morning News. It really is all business since “it’s likely to cost the Dallas [Cowboys] $13 million to use [a tag] on Bryant.” Jones, not one to fool around, made it clear who will get the final decision. Jones said he “expects Bryant ‘will be a pro and he’ll play.’”