The State of Texas: June 19, 2015
Video Of the Day
Just in time for summer (if it ever stops raining), is the crazy, new slide in Waco called The Royal Flush. To celebrate the opening of the new attraction, the water park released a super slick video featuring lots of cool slo-mo shots. Beautiful, smiling women, aerially talented bros, and hip background music not included with purchase of water slide ticket.
The Day They Drove Old Dixie Down – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 yesterday that Texas could, in fact, prohibit vanity license plates with the Confederate flag on them. There was a larger issue, of course, one that focused on First Amendment issues. The majority of the Court found that Texas did not violate the First Amendment by prohibiting the Confederate flag design. More generally, the opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer said the government “is entitled to promote a program, to espouse a policy or to take a position” and that specialty license plates can suggest a message the government doesn’t wish to convey. In the dissent, however, Justice Samuel Alito said this “establishes a precedent that threatens private speech that the government finds displeasing,” according to the New York Times. In short, the court “found that the license plate design falls under government speech” not individual speech. As far as timing goes, there probably couldn’t have been a better outcome, considering the allegedly racially motivated massacre in South Carolina, where the Confederate flag flies over the state house. Nine states still allow a Confederate-themed vanity plate.
Fire Up the Fryer – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is basically that fun uncle or grandfather who always brings a bunch of treats when he visits. Yesterday, Miller announced that all his Texas children will be able to basically eat what they want by lifting the decade-old ban on fried foods and the sale of sodas. In a statement, Miller said his decision was meant to “put an end to a one-size-fits-all approach mandated from Austin.” So perhaps the other sizes he has in mind are XXL and XXXL? As the Statesman points out, however, “don’t expect an immediate return to deep-fried food,” at least in Central Texas. “School districts such as Pflugerville, Hays and Round Rock sold their deep-fat fryers years ago and replaced sodas in their vending machines with water,” and that’s likely the case for other districts around the state. On the plus side, Miller’s announcement means that “booster clubs, sports teams and other school groups can resume selling food and beverages that don’t meet federal nutrition standards during the school day.” Miller, “a self-described ‘pot-bellied’ calf-roper and former teacher, says his focus is firmly on combating childhood obesity,” according to the Associated Press. “But he says government mandates have failed to make kids healthier in Texas.” Which, fair enough. In 2007, Texas kids were still among the fattest, most unhealthy in the country, coming in 32nd in childhood obesity.
Half-Full Kind of Situation – While all the rain and flooding has taken lives, caused millions in damage, and generally put a damper on early summer weather, there is at least one upside: Texas has water again. By the end of May (now officially the wettest month in the state’s history), 82 percent of Texas was drought free, “up from just 11 percent a year earlier,” according to the Wall Street Journal. What’s more, the reservoirs are beginning to look normal again. “In the past month alone, Texas’ monitored water supply reservoirs have increased by five percent statewide, part of an 17 percent rebound of the past year,” according to the Houston Chronicle. West Texas is still bringing down the class average but “Austin reservoir supplies jumped from 43.7 percent full on May 18 to 73.4 percent full on June 18” and “Overall reservoir storage in Dallas reached 100 percent this month, up from only 62.9 percent at the start of 2015” while “Fort Worth reservoirs also reached 100 percent collective capacity, up from 61.1 percent.” As the story notes, “even West Texas’ notoriously dry pools have improved. O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo has risen from just 2 percent capacity a year ago to 14.3 percent today,” an impressive figure for a lake that “hadn’t reached out of the single digit percentile in years.”