The State of Texas: January 22, 2015
The taco world lost a giant yesterday with the passing of Bill Waugh, who is credited with building the first Taco Bueno in Abilene in 1967. His lesser achievements were no less impressive, having also established Crystal’s Pizza and Spaghetti.
Image of the Day
Pope Francis has really been shaking things, and now he’s apparently gone Texan. Or heavy metal. Or neither. Yesterday, The Pope was snapped trying what more than one person described as a holy attempt at “Hook’em Horns.” (Apparently, “I love you” in sign language looks a lot like the UT sign, which makes makes perfect sense):
First Kill – The state flexed its capitol punishment muscle for the first time in 2015 with the execution of Arnold Prieto last night. The first lethal injection of the year (and the first under Governor Greg Abbott’s watch) garnered a number of headlines across the country. The formerly condemned had been found guilty of a triple murder in 1993. According to reports, his last words were “”There are no endings, only beginnings. Love y’all, see you soon.” As most stories note, the man was “the 519th person executed in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.” Last year saw the fewest number of people, 10, executed in Texas.
A New Day In Texas – That was the theme of Dan Patrick’s inauguration speech, and he wasted no time in putting that idea to practice. Unfortunately for Democrats, that new day doesn’t involve them. “In a 20-10 vote, largely along party lines, the Senate watered down a 64-year tradition requiring approval from 21 senators to allow a floor vote on a bill,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Now needing 19 votes, the 20-member Republican Senate caucus can thwart Democratic efforts to dictate what bills can be voted upon — a situation some Republicans described as dysfunctional.” The rule change is largely a symbolic one since the Republican majority controlled legislature can pretty much pass bills as it pleases. This just allows the consideration of bills to happen much quicker. But Democratic Senators like Kirk Watson “said the rule changes went much farther than floor votes. With only 19 votes, the Senate will be able to suspend a host of rules meant to improve transparency, including public notice of committee meetings, the requirement to hold public hearings on legislation and detailed reports on changes made by conference committees.” Think of it as expediting Texas Republican principles, or as one Republican said, “the new rule should help reduce the need for special sessions by allowing contentious legislation to advance during the regular session.” The news is about as exciting as reading Roberts Rules of Order cover-to-cover but maybe it’ll make for some heated fights as legislators move quickly to dealing with live ammo.
Ominous Odessa – Apart from having the world’s largest roadside jack rabbitt, Odessa can now claim another prize: According to the latest FBI statistics, “Odessa had the highest violent crime rate out of 24 metropolitan areas in Texas in 2013,” reports the San Antonio Express-News. “The West Texas city recorded a violent crime rate of 806.4 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2013. By comparison, the San Antonio metro area had a 459.7 incidents per 100,000 that year, the 9th most of any Texas city.” And that’s not all! Odessa is apparently not a place you go to without first wearing protection as it has “ highest number of aggravated assaults in 2013: 645 per 100,000 residents.” To be fair, Odessa had one of the two fastest growing local economies last so maybe the violence is just very bad growing pains.
Bad Teacher – If you’ve been reading the news and thought that Texas teachers have a particularly bad habit of assaulting their young charges, you’re not imagining things. Earlier this month, a former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Education and his Houston-based PR firm compiled every available news report regarding school employees who were accused or found guilty of sex crimes with students. As the researcher notes, his methods aren’t exactly scientific (and laws vary from state to state), but the finds are troubling. Texas had 115 cases last year, besting every other state by more than triple the number. This is sort of a long-simmering issue with Texas. As the Department of Education employee, Terry Abbott, notes in a recent Washington Post piece, “investigations into alleged inappropriate teacher-student relationships has grown 27 percent over the past three years, to 179.”