The State of Texas: January 13, 2015
Quote of the Day
‘I love when I hear about these programs that have five goals posted up. And No. 1 is No Guns. Well, no s—.
— Arkansas Razorbacks coach Brett Bielema, making an unnecessary late tackle on UT Coach Charlie Strong.
Video of the Day
Need more proof that it takes Washington some time to catch up with the rest of the country? The White House hosted our 2014 NBA champions yesterday in celebration of the Spurs’ big June win. The speech from President Obama was full of jokes and lofty praise, including calling the Spurs “a metaphor for what America is all about.”
Our man from Friendswood is back at it. Representative Randy Weber caused a bit of a digital storm yesterday with a Tweet comparing Obama to Hitler. The comparison was received as well as most comparisons to Hilter usually are. That Weber took a hyperbolic swing at the president was not surprising. He has a history of Twitter zingers. This time, Twitter responded in kind.
Even Adolph Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons
— Randy Weber (@TXRandy14) January 13, 2015
Cash Flow — Everyone is expecting the Texas Miracle to be a little less miraculous this year, at least when it comes to the state’s spending power. Comptroller Glenn Hegar said yesterday that “We must recognize that volatility has significantly increased in recent years,” which is realy just another version of Christmas is going to be a little disappointing this year, kids. This “dampening,” as Hegar called it, is due to our big oil boom slowing down. “Hegar … is projecting oil production and regulation tax revenues to drop more than 14 percent over the next two years. Tax revenues from Texas’ fracking frenzy are expected to fall 8 percent,” according to the Associated Press. We will have about $18 million, but the question is whether this drop in revenue will affect Governor-elect Greg Abbott’s promise for tax cuts. “[Lieutenant Governor Dan] Patrick said in a statement that figures announced Monday are adequate to ‘provide property and business tax relief,’ but he did not elaborate.” The financial forecast is looking even less rosy for smaller governmental bodies. Sweetwater, in anticipation of a continued oil boom, “spent tens of millions of dollars to improve the courthouse, build a new law-enforcement center, and upgrade the hospital. Hotels, truck stops and housing subdivisions were to follow, all catering to truck drivers and roughnecks,” writes the AP. “But those ambitions are fading fast as the plummeting price of oil causes investors to pull back, cutting off the projects that were supposed to pay for a bright new future. Now the town of 11,000 awaits layoffs and budget cuts and defers its dreams.”
The Boys Are Back in Town — The Eighty-fourth Legislature kicks off today, with a lot of turnover in leadership. Some things will remain the same, as illustrated in this extensive Q&A with Speaker Joe Straus, but the occasional governmental silliness will remain, as evidenced by the first official act of Sid Miller, the state’s new agriculture commissioner, who “granted full amnesty to cupcakes,” according the Texas Tribune. “Cakes, pies, and brownies made the list, too. Miller was seeking to reassure Texas parents that it’s legal to bring cupcakes and other treats to school — and that he’ll protect that right. … Miller reminded Texans that the statewide rules that once banned cupcakes and other junk food from classrooms were repealed last July.” One thing that is presumably still banned are South Korean lunch trays, which Miller had previous railed against on his Facebook page, as a Texas school lunch “gone wrong.” As for more pressing matters, all the hot legislative topics will probably be discussed this year, everything from education spending to open carry. The Associated Press has a quick, easy-to-read look at what to expect in the new session.
Ground Control To Major Cruz — Texas officials are getting cozy in new positions on the federal level as well. Senator Ted Cruz has been put in charge of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. While no one would doubt that last category, more than one left-leaning news organization is screaming into space. Their biggest concern is that the appointment, by the now-Republican-controlled senate, is akin to Dr. Kevorkian being named surgeon general or (for a more local and equally dated comparison David Koresh heading a religious outreach program). The Guardian weighed in with the most balanced story, noting that “[Cruz] has publicly stated support for NASA but has also attempted at least once to cut the agency’s funding, arguing that larger government cuts necessitated changes to the space program’s budget.” While the NASA part of Cruz’s control is making the headlines, another panicky concern is Cruz’s treatment of science in general, with many publications noting that “Cruz has also spoken out against decades of science that indicate climate change, telling CNN last year that in ‘the last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming’ to support ‘a so-called scientific theory.’” Those worried parties can be somewhat calmed by the fact that Cruz, the probably-future presidential contender, might not be in the position for long.
Standard Operating Procedure — The Victoria police officer who was filmed tasing an old man would like his job back. The lawyer for the officer recently said there was “nothing unreasonable” about the incident in which the 23-year-old officer pulled over a 76-year-old man for outdated tags, then wrestled him to the ground and shocked him with a stun gun when the man wouldn’t comply with his orders. According to the lawyer, Nathaniel Robinson was acting “constitutionally within the law,” as the Houston Chronicle put it. To be fair, the old man seemed all right afterward, with the lawyer noting that the septuagenarian “wasn’t injured. He scratched his elbow and hurt his feelings, but those aren’t injuries in the constitutional sense. … If you think he could have done it different or better, then that’s a training issue.” The officer’s lawyer also said, “I think he deserves his job back, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.” Robinson has been on the Victoria police force for eighteen months, and his case has been turned over to local prosecutors after an investigation by the Texas Rangers.