The State of Texas: July 23, 2015
A high-speed rail might actually be possible, and Patrick picks sides in the budget fight.
Video of the Day
J.J. Watt can do no wrong, even if he’s shilling for some home security company. Why? Because he’s amazing at whatever he does and just looks so darn cute doing it:
Representative Stickland is never one for hyperbole, so this is probably exactly what happened:
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) July 22, 2015
Questions Remain – You’d think the release of the traffic stop video in the Sandra Bland controversy would allay at least some concerns. Nope, the confusing details just keep coming. Upon her arrest, Bland apparently told booking officers that she had attempted suicide in the past. “But the booking papers released Wednesday also indicate Bland did not have suicidal thoughts at the time of her arrest and that neither the arresting officer nor anyone else at the jail believed she was at risk,” writes the Associated Press. “The suicide questionnaire also notes that Bland told jailers she had epilepsy and was taking medication for it. But in another document, this one to be filled out by the inmate and signed by Bland, “no” is circled by the question asking if she’s currently on any medication. In a third document, it is checked ‘yes’ that she’s taking medication.” A transcript of the traffic stop is now available, although there are many lingering issues. The video of the arrest, released to the public, has definite continuity issues, with some raising questions of tampering. But “Texas police have now told Mother Jones that the 52-minute video of Bland’s was not deliberately edited, and that the glitches were the result of a YouTube upload error.” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said: “Some of the video that occurred during this conversation was affected in the upload and is being addressed.” More questions remain, particularly how on earth does a minor traffic stop lead to death? In it’s understated way, the Associated Press writes that, at the very least, the “video rekindles debate about police treatment of blacks.” Although, really, that debate was never really burned out.
On the Right Track – A bullet train in Texas is now less of a pipe dream! “Texas Central Partners, which aims to build the nation’s first bullet train between Texas’ two biggest cities, announced Wednesday they’d raked in $75 million in private investments in the company’s first round of fundraising,” according to the Houston Chronicle. That money will allow the ambitious $10 billion project to move forward from feasibility studies to development planning.” With the studies out of the way, authorities will then be able to “work with federal authorities to settle on rules for high speed rail in Texas, grow the company with key hires, expand their consulting base and sponsor more ridership studies.” So far, the train’s construction is on time and could possibly be open to the public in just five years. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes, “the trains would travel at speeds of roughly 220 mph, making it possible for riders to get to and from Dallas and Houston in roughly 90 minutes at a fare comparable to the price of an advanced-purchase airline ticket.”
Certifiably Silly – That’s the state’s position in a lawsuit accusing it of denying birth certificates to children born here by immigrant parents. “Attorneys with Paxton’s office said that the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is being sued by 17 families living in Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties, has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and cannot be sued in federal court because it has not waived that right,” reports the Texas Tribune. The families claim their 14th Amendment rights are being violated because, ‘Local vital statistics offices, which are overseen by DSHS, have refused to accept what the families argue were once acceptable forms of IDs for non-citizens, including passports and Mexican matrícula cards issued by the Mexican consulate offices throughout Texas.” The Texas Observer broke the story earlier this month and as Fox News puts it, it’s “a tricky case that pits Texas’ strict ID laws against the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”
Bros Before Vetoes – Governor Greg Abbott’s suddenly controversial vetoes had another day in the news cycle as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick backs him up. The Legislative Budget Board recently announced that it thinks Abbott overstepped his constitutional powers with $295 million in line-item vetoes in the budget. Now, his lieutenant governor “is distancing himself from the staff analysis of the board he co-chairs with House Speaker Joe Straus and calling for a special legislative committee to examine the workings of the board, which is made up of members of the House and Senate,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. As previously reported, Abbott’s office has said the board’s fourteen-page report is wholly without merit and merely an attempt by the board to gain power. Even if it’s dealing with budget numbers, it could make for an interesting fight. “[Speaker Joe] Straus’ office said Wednesday both it and Patrick’s office had asked the board to analyze Abbott’s vetoes for Hegar after lawmakers raised questions about the vetoes,” notes the Texas Tribune.