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The State of Texas: January 8, 2015

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Video of the Day

There are a lot of perks to having a stellar baseball career. One of them is being named to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Another is parlaying that honor into an invitation to read David Letterman’s Top Ten. Such was the case for former Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio and his fellow inductees:

RIP

Jethro Pugh went to that big football field in the sky yesterday. Pugh was a part of the Dallas Cowboy’s famed “Doomsday Defense,” and “helped anchor the defensive line, helping the Cowboys win their first two Super Bowls,” writes the Dallas Morning News. Below are highlights from the famous 1967 Ice Bowl between the Green Bay Packers, the third year Pugh was kicking butt and taking names:

Daily Roundup

New Year, Same Fight — Welcome, 2015! You look a lot like 2014! The abortion fight is back in court, and lawyers and judges continue to argue over the same questions that launched a thousand protests. A case against HB2 has wound its way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was heard Wednesday by a three-judge panel. Judges scrutinized the state’s defense, questioning “whether part of a provision requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital-like standards should be struck down,” according to the Texas Tribune. “The possibility that [the judges] … would rule in favor of the abortion providers seemed slim before this week’s hearing. … But on Wednesday, the judges took turns grilling attorneys in taking a deeper dive into the provision” that “requires facilities that perform abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.” Judge Catherina Haynes questioned the argument that the provision addresses safety issues, asking, “What about that improves the standard of care?” The court won’t hand down a decision for weeks, and in the past, the traditionally conservative court has sided with the state. But even the New York Times suggested things might be different this time. “From the questioning, it appeared possible that the appeals court would send the case back to the district court in Texas that blocked the surgery-center requirement last fall, requiring it to parse the rules more finely rather than voiding the law wholesale.”

Shooter Revealed — Plenty of details are coming to light after the shooting at the Fort Bliss VA that left two dead, including the gunman by a self-inflicted wound. It’s now being reported that the killer was an Army veteran and former clerk at the clinic named Jerry Serrato. “Officials did not provide a motive for the shooting,” according to the Associated Press. “However, Fjordbak had reported Serrato made an unspecified verbal threat against him at an El Paso supermarket in 2013. Serrato had some sort of perceived or real grievance against Fjordbak and had said something to the effect of, ‘I know what you did and I will take care of it.’”

Auditing the Auditors — The legislature seems on track to learn a lesson from the 21CT scandal that saw the healthcare auditing company come under scrutiny for landing a $20 million contract with the state. The head of the Sunset Advisory Commission, Senator Jane Nelson, is “calling for stronger rules to limit conflicts of interest in contracting at the state health agency as well as increased oversight of such major contracts,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Nelson said Wednesday she will add provisions to the Sunset bill to establish rules to prohibit conflicts of interest between state workers and vendors who do business with the Health and Human Services Commission. She also called for public disclosure of all no-bid contracts and additional reporting requirements and oversight of major contracts at the agency.” It’s a classic case of give-me-a-sweetheart-no-bid-deal once, shame on you …

Over-Regulation, Unbraided — Sometimes, overzealous regulatory laws get put in their place. A U.S. District judge ruled yesterday that “Texas laws that regulate businesses that teach African hair braiding are unconstitutional and do not advance public health and safety or any other legitimate government interest,” according to the Associated Press. The rules and subsequent fight, which garnered national attention for being so silly, is the end of a two-year battle for Isis Brantley, a Dallas woman who was running a hair braiding school. She’d been required by law to turn her tiny, very specific business “into a fully equipped barber college, including having at least 10 student workstations that include a chair that reclines and install a sink behind every two workstations.” The judge untangled that mess real quick, saying the rules were  “absent ‘a rational connection with … fitness or capacity to engage in hair braiding instruction.”

Clickity Bits

Now the Obvious Question: Did Fracking Cause the Dallas Quakes?

Anger After Police Shooting and an Activist Keeping the Calm

What’s David Dewhurst Going to Do With All His Free Time?

The Eighty-Forth Legislature, Streamlined

The New Black Panther’s New Vigilante Groups

Did we miss something? Got a hot news tip? Send it our way: [email protected]. Or tweet Texas Monthly and Jeff Winkler

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