The State of Texas: January 30, 2015
Video of the Day
There’s always the some sort of celebrity sighting in Austin. But one on Wednesday night took a weird turn when comedian Kevin Hart, who was in town as part of his tour, challenged Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to a foot race down a city street. One guess as to who beat who.
The Astros had one challenge to its fans: Retweet us 1,000 times within an hour and we’ll give away a prize. With 188,000 followers, this shouldn’t have been a difficult request by any stretch. It appears though that the Astros fanbase have lost interest in their team. Oof:
— Houston Astros (@astros) January 29, 2015
Allah Help Us All – The recent winter heat must be getting to people. In case you somehow missed it, the Captiol grounds were the scene of some pretty hateful and angry protests against the planned Texas Muslim Capitol Day. In a terrible ironic twist, the Muslim group was there to promote—among other things like bill advocacy—tolerance. Unfortunately, the Christian protestors had some rather un-Christian reactions to this demonstration of democracy. “CAIR-TX spokeswoman Ruth Nasrullah had barely begun the program when a woman briefly commandeered the podium and attempted to claim the Capitol in the name of Jesus Christ,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. And it pretty much went downhill from there. While she wasn’t in Austin, freshman Representative Molly White instructed her staff “on how to handle visitors … including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States,” according to the Texas Tribune. On her Facebook page, White said she wanted the Muslim groups to “publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.” (For those wondering who White is, Texas Tribune has a profile of her from November.) All-in-all, it’s been a bad month for Texas-Muslim relations. The Fort Worth “Stock Show’s Facebook page lit up this week after Moujahed Bakhach of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County offered the public prayer at Sunday night’s rodeo performance,” as part of an effort by officials to offer a more inclusive pre-rodeo prayer, according to the Star-Tribune. And of course there was the 1,000-strong protest during the Garland Muslim conference earlier this month. Symbolic and completely toothless demonstrations of Sharia law (be sure to read the calm reminder of this from Texas Monthly’s own Erica Grieder) isn’t nearly as alarming as Texas’s shameful mob mentality.
GTFO, ETF – Our new governor is wasting no time in fixing a few problems that our former governor touted like it was summertime ice cream. Governor Greg Abbott “said that the Legislature should take the [Emerging Technology Fund’s] liquid assets — estimated by some legislative budget experts at around $110 million — and give half to a new push by state universities to recruit top scientists, engineers and other researchers to Texas. Abbott said the other half should go into the deal-closing Texas Enterprise Fund, which also has received criticism. Abbott has joined others in saying it should be overhauled,” according to the Dallas Morning News. As the story notes, “The announcement was yet another move by Abbott to separate himself from some of Perry’s practice. Earlier, Abbott announced changes to state contracting practices, in response to disclosures the Health and Human Services Commission skirted state procurement laws. He also repudiated Perry’s policy of keeping his office’s emails for just seven days. Abbott upped that to 30 days.” It would seem even business-minded folks aren’t too sad to see the ETF go away. The Austin Business Journal talked to several company men—including the CEO of the Texas Business Association—all of whom praised the decision.
Pax Vobiscum, Paxton – Great news for the state’s attorney general: he’s no longer under the Public Integrity Unit’s spotlight. An PIU investigation “determined that Travis County lacked jurisdiction over the [Ken] Paxton allegations, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said Thursday,” according to the Statesman. “Lehmberg’s office referred the case to prosecutors in Collin and Dallas counties, she added.” It appears Paxton—who paid a fine and acknowledged a reprimand for being both a broker and legislator at the same time—is now in the clear. “Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk said her office has no avenue to pursue a case against Paxton, if one were warranted,” writes the Morning News. And “Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, a Republican, is a longtime friend of Paxton’s. Bill Dobiyanski, the first assistant district attorney under Willis and chief of the felony trial division in Collin County, declined to say whether the office would investigate the matter.”
Admiral Safety – The University of Texas’s new chancellor, Admiral William McRaven, came out yesterday against campus carry, or “legislation that would allow licensed persons to bring handguns into campus buildings,” according to the Morning News. “In a letter Thursday to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Straus, the newly installed and highly respected chancellor told leadership that parents, students, faculty, law enforcement and administrators have all expressed concern with the proposed law.” The campus carry legislation is one that has long been touted by Patrick (he’s also promised that one current campus carry bill will passed quickly), so this is a particularly awkward dialogue between state leaders. In his letter, McRaven wrote that “Unease has been express by our university mental health professionals [and] there is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”
Kids These Days – They’re actually not as bad as they once were! According to a “sweeping nonpartisan study … the number of juveniles held in state centers fell 66 percent between 2007 and 2012, from around 4,305 to about 1,500. Youth crime rates over the same period declined by a third,” writes the Associated Press. “Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, said much of the country has moved to reduce the number of juveniles jailed in state facilities and youth crime rates have also declined in many areas— but Texas’ saw both fall sharply at the same time. Lawmakers spent years redesigning the system after pervasive 2007 reports of physical and sexual abuse at youth lockups. As the number of young people confined to state facilities began to fall, many were assigned to community-based programs run by counties and situated closer to their homes.” The study also found that “those assigned to community programs were 20 percent less likely to be arrested again than those sent to state detention facilities.” In short, community outreach is a lot more effective than simply locking kids up (who knew?!). There’s also plenty of other benefits, apart from raising better citizens. By reducing the number of kids in facilities, the state saved $150 million.