Second Hit — SXSW just can’t get past the 2014 incident in which Rashad Owens killed four and injured numerous others after driving through a crowded street. Owens was found guilty of his crimes back in November, but now two of the injured victim are suing him, the city of Austin, and the festival itself. The two plaintiffs “claim SXSW organizers were negligent because they failed to provide enough personnel to maintain city street closures, lacked adequate security and failed to create and implement a safety plan,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “The two of them lost wages as a result of their injuries and continue to suffer pain and mental anguish, their suit said.” As the story notes, “Eight other victims, including the families of three people killed in the crash, sued SXSW and the city in December 2014.” Just to cover all their bases, the two plaintiffs also named the guy who gave Owens his keys so Owens could get stuff out of the trunk of the car.
Still Rattled — One battle between tradition and progress, rural and urban continues to crawl across the state. A group established by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to examine the practice of “gassing” has failed to come up with any conclusion (i.e. a solution that wouldn’t tick off one side or the other). Gassing is used to lure out snakes, a the popular practice for rural areas with rattlesnake roundups, like, say, Sweetwater. The snakes are then used in stunts, milked for their venom, or put on display. But gassing is also detrimental to other wildlife, according to environmental experts. As the Statesman notes, “Decision-makers typically appoint working groups for political cover, often eventually adopting the recommendations of said working group,” but it seems this issue is so controversial even they couldn’t come up with an answer. Everyone agreed snake-rounding events are a “long-standing tradition” but were divided as to how much it hurt other species. “Ralph Duggins, the commission’s vice-chair, said he would ‘like to take time to digest the report’ and asked that the commission address the matter at its next meeting, in March.”
Gun Check — It was bound to happen. Despite the fanatical efforts of gun extremists, lots of people in Texas really don’t want firearms to be carried openly in public spaces. Now, Attorney General Ken Paxton has some work to do. His office is “set to determine if any of the 34 pending complaints regarding facilities in Texas that ban concealed handguns have merit,” according to the Associated Press. As the Houston Chronicle notes, “Under the law, the complainant first must send a written complaint to the entity. If three days go by without a response, he can file a complaint with Paxton’s office. The attorney general then investigates the allegation – which must include proof of the improper signage and lack of local response – and forwards it to the appropriate division if further action needs to be taken.” If the entities are found violating the new law, they have a little more than two weeks to comply, or otherwise face a lawsuit from the AG’s office and expensive daily penalties. Many of the complaints were filed against city halls, but also zoos and museums. The deputy chief appraiser for Bexar County perhaps put it best: “The law’s insane. If this were legitimate public policy then H-E-B and Torchy’s Tacos couldn’t opt out. If open carry was a good idea, then it’d have to be allowed everywhere.”
Rotten — This is your weekly story of ridiculous bureaucratic overreach. Two cafeteria workers for an Odessa elementary school were fired after, wait for it, taking uneaten fruit home. “Director of Communications for Ector Country Independent School District said two workers at Murry Fly Elementary School … were terminated on Jan. 15 when Facebook photos sent to the district revealed they had violated a code of ethics agreement they signed upon hiring which forbids taking food home,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s simply our school nutrition department code of ethics, which specifically states that school nutrition employees cannot take food from the cafeteria home under any circumstances,” said the Director of Communications. To be clear, the “leftover” fruit is, for example, items children put on their tray but later decide not to eat. Don’t want to put it back in the stock? OK, fine. But the rules dictate that it’s supposed to be “discarded” entirely, which is one of the biggest wastes of all, right up there with bureaucratic officials who follow “the rules” and not decent, common sense.
Angry Fantasies — Hell hath no fury like a sports nut scorned, especially if that sports nut is Mark Cuban. As it would turn out, fantasy sports entrepreneurs were holding their annual conference in Texas the same week more news came out about the industry’s future here, including Governor Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton’s denouncements of the “gambling” practice. Needless to say, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association isn’t going to sit down and take it. “We weren’t looking to pick a fight, but fights have come to us,” said the association’s president, according to the Dallas Mornings News. Then Cuban, known for his colorful approach to life, went on the offensive. Calling the politicians fighting against fantasy betting hypocritical, Cuban said, “Seeing politicians just do something for skins on the wall, to try to make a name for themselves, that pisses me off, as much as anything.” Cuban was also rather even-handed about the issue as well. Concerning regulations (as opposed to all-out bans) to the industry, Cuban said, “While this is a steppingstone that we have to step over and on and across, I think it’s going to happen and it will create a foundation that makes fantasy sports, in particular daily fantasy sports, much, much stronger.” Basically, once politicians figure out how they can get their hand in the pockets, everything’ll be just fine.