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The State of Texas: February 3, 2015

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They brought some rattlesnakes to the Capitol and let them hang out under the dome. What’s could possibly go wrong? Yes, exactly that.

Daily Roundup

Keepin’ Busy – Despite Representative Molly White’s unnecessary Muslim bashing and her later realization that there “fringe groups out there watching every word you say and things you do” (like news organizations?), the Lege really is working on actual legislation. Although everyone loves a tax break, the Austin Business Journal says the proposed $4 billion in tax cuts isn’t a done deal and “more like a work in progress.” There’s debate as to what will get funding (and what will lose funding), but also “Senators on both sides of the aisle are concerned about whether the volatility in the state’s oil and gas tax would smooth out over the next few months.” It’s funny how the legislative mood changes. An example of the opposite is the open carry bill. First it looked like a sure thing, then a not-sure-thing, then a no-way-in-hell thing. And now?  “Two gun bills that would legalize the open carry of handguns in Texas are on a fast-track in the state Senate,” thanks specifically to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Over the past week the senators have been working hard to build support and I look forward to working on these 2nd Amendment priorities,” said Patrick. Maybe target practice will replace steak dinners with lobbyists, who may face tighter restrictions on “money they spend on wining and dining Texas’ legislators and other public official,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. Charlie Geren, “one of the Texas House’s most powerful members,” proposed legislation that, if it becomes law,” could “be the beginning of a broader legislative movement to reform lobbying practices in Texas,” according to the Statesman.

Running Outta Gas – In the past couple of months, we’ve been reminded that the good times don’t last forever. The latest evidence of that comes from the letter to the Texas Workforce Commission in which “GE Oil & Gas and two other energy companies warned state regulators of plans to cut 720 employees around the state,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “GE said the facility is a union plant and the layoffs are expected to be permanent, though some employees will have bumping rights.” The other two companies are rig contractor Lariat Services and oil explorer SandRidge Energy, which will together shed 265 employees. That recent drop in oil prices might’ve been great for customers ($2 gas!) but it’s wreaking havoc on companies. “GE’s oil and gas segment will probably see double-digit declines in sales, battered by falling oil prices.” Don’t feel too bad for them, however.  “The company has $110 billion in revenue underpinning its financial position and it should be able to save costs through restructuring efforts, Moody’s said.”

Dead Air – All the Weird Al Christmas videos in the world couldn’t save the company and now it looks likes the slow, sure death of RadioShack is one step closer to reality. Trading for RadioShack shares on the New York Stock Exchange halted Monday and the NYSE “has started the process to delist its shares,” reports the Dallas Morning News. Turns out, the NYSE requires companies to have at market value of $50 million for at least a full month, and that just ain’t happenin’ (RadioShack has lost about 90 percent of its value in the past year). According to Bloomberg News, RadioShack “is preparing to shut down the almost-century-old retail chain in a bankruptcy deal that would sell about half its store leases to Sprint Corp. and close the rest,” which means “RadioShack would cease to exist as a stand-alone retailer.”

Y’all Smarter Than An Eight-Grader?Much has been made of Texas students performing poorly on state-mandated standardized tests like STAAR. But in his latest column Dallas Morning News writer Steve Blow turns the table on readers. Taking seven questions from last spring’s social studies test (available on Texas Education Agency website), Blow asks readers to try their best at answering “How did the War of 1812 affect the U.S. economy?” and “Which of these [answers] best summarizes the Monroe Doctrine?” Looking at the possible answers, it’s easy to see how Texas kids (always inundated with talk of tough border control, states’s rights, etc.) might get confused. And keep in mind, the kids have to answer more than fifty of these questions. Despite his look at the tough-ish questions, Blow doesn’t give the kids much of a defense by quoting the TEA. “Spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said the lower scores on the test have certainly been noted. One theory is that the test ends up being a reading test, which is a challenge for many students.”

Johnny ‘Lohen’ Manziel – For those who thought all of Johnny Football’s partying was nothing more than a young man experiencing great riches for the first time, there’s been an unfortunate development. Manziel has gone into rehab. What’s odd is that there doesn’t seem to be one particular reason for it, no one coke-fueled incident and drunk-driving arrest that usually leads celebrities to seek a backdoor escape from justice. Rather, the move appears, at best, to be a preventative measure. “The quarterback is voluntarily entering treatment as a direct result of his lifestyle away from the field,” writes ESPN. More than anything, it almost sounds like the Browns want to secure their multi-million dollar investment. “Sources talked of a yearlong pattern that showed a lack of commitment and preparation, a failure to be ready when given a chance in his first start against Cincinnati and a continued dedication to nightlife, which affected his preparation and work while he was in the team facility.” No one is yet talking much about the decision except that “Manziel is expected to be in rehab at least a few weeks, but the amount of time depends largely on what doctors recommend.”

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