The State of Texas: June 17, 2015
Tweet of the Day
Poor Wichita Falls, it’s been the butt of the joke since long before Larry McMurtry was around. Some things never change.
“I don’t want to get stuck here.” -Actual guy on the phone in Wichita Falls
— Bob Loblaw Law Blog (@Jordan_Stewart) June 17, 2015
Texas By The Numbers
Kid-Sized – Number of K–4 classrooms that exceed the state’s 22-kid maximum: 5,883. Number of kids in oversized classrooms: 130,000. The classroom figure during the 2010–2011 school year: 2,238. Average class size across all grades in 2011: 14.7 students. In 2013: 15.5.
Texas Floods – Amount of rain dropped in 36 hours during the 1921 Thrall Flood: 39.7 inches. Amount of Fort Worth’s worst flood, in 1949: 11 inches. Amount in the valley after 1954’s Hurricane Alice: 35 inches. Flooding after Hurricane Beulah in 1967: 20+ inches.
Border Bucks – Panic over some sort of border invasion has decreased since last year and so have busted border crossers (by about 44 percent). But that isn’t stopping Texas from continuing to ramp up its efforts. The Associated Press takes a look at the two-year, $800 million Governor-Greg-Abbott-approved border operations, which is “more than double any similar period during Perry’s 14 years in office.” For that sweet deal, Texas is hoping for “a second $7.5 million high-altitude plane to scan the border, a new border crime data center, a 5,000-acre training facility for border law-enforcement agencies and grants for year-round helicopter flights. The state also wants to hire two dozen Texas Rangers to investigate public corruption along the border and 250 new state troopers as a down payment on a permanent force along the border.” As the story notes, no other border state comes close to Texas’s spending. The AP does its best to assess exactly what our state is getting in return, but unfortunately, the answer they catch isn’t too different than the one we’ve heard before. “Texas officials say that all law enforcement agencies, including the federal border patrol, have tracked more than $2 billion in drug seizures, mostly marijuana.”
Frack Denton – It’s one thing for the government to actively side with the interests of industrial money-makers, but kicking locals while they’re down is a new low for the State of Texas. “Even after the North Texas city conceded that the Legislature defanged its six-month-old ban on hydraulic fracturing …the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) and the state’s General Land Office (GLO) have expanded the scope of their lawsuits against Denton, with both taking aim at the city’s moratorium on new gas drilling in addition to the fracking ban the city is no longer enforcing,” reports the Texas Tribune. The original lawsuits were filed just hours after Denton passed its anti-fracking ordinances, and the amended effort cites the new state law banning local control of energy operations. Denton got the message, and last night the council voted in favor of a “strategic repeal” in hopes that will “neutralize” the lawsuits, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Hall’s Monitor – If you thought in-fighting amongst your family was bad, it’s nothing compared to the UT Systems and the state. Yesterday, Attorney General Ken Paxton said long-embattled regent Wallace Hall “is entitled to hire a lawyer to sue the system” for refusing to turn over records from its admissions investigation (incited by Hall). And it gets better. “Paxton said in a letter Monday to Chancellor Bill McRaven, the system should pay the legal fees for [Hall] because the outside lawyer would be representing Hall in the regent’s official capacity,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The ruling is another small battle won for Hall thanks to Paxton, who last month said Hall was entitled to the records. With all of this continued commotion, the feud “appears more likely than ever to land in court,” according to the Tribune, although neither Hall nor UT will comment at the moment.
America’s (Clandestine) Pastime – It’s been a long time since baseball has had a proper controversy (steroid use was so yesterday), but now there’s a real homerun of a scandal. “Investigators have uncovered evidence that [St. Louis] Cardinals employees broke into a network of the Astros that housed special databases the team had built, law enforcement officials said. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss a continuing investigation,” reports the New York Times. The FBI (!) is now investigating this attack, which “would represent the first known case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team hacked the network of another team.” That said, the infiltration wasn’t all the sophisticated, with the “hackers” from the Cardinals office basically running through a list of passwords their former general manager (and current Astros manager) had used. Obviously, the story is developing. But fun fact: the Astros’s database is known as “Ground Control.”