Another day, another Willie Nelson sighting. And this one is huge! Specifically, building-sized. It’s about time Austin caught up to Nashville.
— TWC News Austin (@TWCNewsAustin) February 19, 2016
Stacking The Deck — It’s been an intense, back-and-forth fight between horse racing enthusiasts, the Texas Racing Commission and legislators. But did anyone really bet against The Lege to stack the deck—bingo lobbying, playing puppet-master with patsy commissioners—in its own favor? “In a 5-4 vote, the commission repealed a rule that would have allowed a controversial form of gambling called ‘historical racing’ to be implemented,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. What happens next, no one really knows. “Representatives from the racing community had mixed reactions after the vote. Some predicted the ultimate demise of the Texas racing industry, while others spoke more hopefully.” The battle goes back as far as 2014, when the Commission first voted to allow historical racing. Proponents have said it’s needed to help the struggling industry, while opponents say it’s nothing more than slot machine gambling (not that that’s much of an argument). Maybe this’ll be a clean slate for the state and the commission, which saw its chairman resign in December after refusing to following Governor Greg Abbott’s lead. ““We’re trying to find solutions, here,” the commission’s chairman, Rolando Pablos, told the Texas Tribune shortly before the vote. “We have the power to press the reset button, get together and find solutions that are not this controversial. Certainly, I think we need to move forward. By repealing the rules, we are helping the industry in the short term.”
State of Hate — Maybe your neighbor is friendly, but apparently Texas is a pretty hateful place.”Texas had the most hate groups in the United States dedicated to promoting anti-LGBT sentiment and racism in 2015,” writes the San Antonio Express-News, citing a new report for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Additionally, rhetoric by Texas politicians could be partially to blame for a 14 percent rise in the number of hate groups across the country, the report’s author said.” Before anyone grabs their pitchforks to rail against haters, keep in mind that the SPLC, while an ever-popular organization for news makers, likes to call everything that looks at it funny a “hate group.” With that in mind, the report found that “The number of those groups increased from 784 groups in 2014 to 892 in 2015” nationally. The report pointed to the state’s high-profile Republicans such as Ted Cruz and Governor Abbott as the ultimate hate mongers, noting that “Cruz himself has also included people in his presidential campaign that are ‘violently’ anti-LGBT.” (Unless they mean that literally—and they don’t—that’s a “no.”). That said, Texas has had some pretty embarrassing incidents in the past year: Look at the fear campaign surrounding HERO, which successfully convinced voters that men dressed up as women just to look at girls in bathrooms; and pretty much the entire city of Irving (particularly its mayor), which is a place that has a habit of demonstrating just how
much its hates local Muslims patriotic it is. In related “hate” news, it looks like the charges against Tyler, The Creator for inciting a riot at SXSW in 2014 have been dropped. The charges were suspicious because “Tyler has been the first performer in at least a decade to be charged in Travis County with ‘riot,’ a Class A misdemeanor,” reports the Statesman. It adds that “Authorities have said the case was appropriately handled given the safety concerns caused by the melee and its timing … But several lawyers and law professors say the charge against Tyler played into a larger trend of criminalizing young, black rappers and their art.” Ain’t Texas grand?
Hurst Council Dynasty? — With all the nuttiness happening in Crystal City, Texas sure could use some more entertaining city council news. And that is why God created Duck Dynasty, which never ceases to provide absurdity. As with many Louisiana families, some of the Duck’s flock is in Texas. “Trasa Robertson Cobern, 40, is the daughter of Si Robertson — Uncle Si on the popular show — and is running for the Place 4 seat on the Hurst City Council. She is currently unopposed,” details the Dallas Morning News. What’s particularly great is that “Cobern, a history teacher, does not shy away from her family’s fame and has appeared on the A&E show that follows her relatives and their company, Duck Commander, that makes products for hunters. Cobern often shares stories with her students about her father and the business.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also has a quick profile of Cobern that pretty much runs through the same details, which probably indicates that Cobern is already running a lovely PR campaign as smoothly (or, er, maybe better!) than her family’s TV show operation.
Malpractice — If you go up against the politicians who have demonstratively had more interest in politics than protecting women’s health, expect a negative prognosis. Such was the result for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission director of research, Rick Allgeyer, who is stepping down after helping research a report on women’s health, according to the Texas Tribune. The report—which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine—had two main problems: it was unauthorized, and, more importantly, it pretty much said the opposite of what officials have been saying since gutting women’s health programs, specifically Planned Parenthood. “The study, which was co-authored by Allgeyer and researchers from the health commission and the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project, found that the removal of Planned Parenthood led to a 35 percent reduction in claims for long-acting contraceptives … and also led to a 1.9 percent increase in childbirths paid by Medicaid, the federal-state insurer for the poor and disabled.” Politicians with no medical expertise whatsoever said “the research was flawed because it was funded in part by the Susan T. Buffet Foundation, a donor to Planned Parenthood, and because it did not account for two new women’s health programs launched by the state.” Regardless, “a spokesman for the state health commission said it violated the agency’s policy for an employee to ‘moonlight,’ or work part-time outside of the agency, without explicit permission.” The spokesman said ” [Allgeyer] should have never been putting in time on this study during the normal business day, he was paid to perform state business.”