The State of Texas: March 17, 2015
SXSW of the Day
There’s sort of a poetry to the madness, silliness, and pomposity of SXSW. Sometimes, that poetry takes a literal form. Yahoo tech writer Jason O. Gilbert created an entire poem out of panel titles. It’s actually quite deep, man.
— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) March 16, 2015
Locked and Loaded – Open carry is one crucial step closer to becoming a reality in Texas. The Senate approved the bill yesterday, demonstrating exactly where the priorities of the state lie. “It is the first measure to come to the Senate floor not related to Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency items,” notes the Texas Tribune. The bill passed on party lines 20 to 11 and “debate was often emotional,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “When asked by Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, what she should tell constituents who feared seeing a handgun openly carried in an urban setting, [bill author Craig] Estes suggested they seek help.” Another bill, which would allow for handguns on college campuses is also expected to clear its first vote. As for open carry, there’s one final Senate vote today and then “the measure will . . . move to the House for debate in committee.” Abbott has said he’ll sign any open carry bill that comes across his desk.
Less Integrity – It seems the Senate would really prefer not to deal with the headache that is the Public Integrity Unit, at least in its current form. No small problem is the fact that while most of the investigations involve Republican lawmakers (we have a lot of them!), it’s the Democrat-controlled Travis County prosecutor that does all the investigating. Although this seems like a good checks-and-balances system, the State Affairs Committee believes—and voted for—moving the Public Integrity Unit to the attorney general’s office. “[I]rked by high-profile and sometimes problematic indictments against top Republicans, the GOP-controlled Legislature is prepared to change the decades-old system to one that critics believe is convoluted and provides much more opportunity for politics to upend righteous investigations,” writes the Dallas Morning News. “Under the proposed law, any district attorney looking at suspicious activity by a state official would have to refer a complaint to the state attorney general’s office.” Because lawmakers never collude, this is probably the best approach. The proposal will now go to the full Republican-run Senate.
Bayou City Sprawl – Houston gets top billing in a recent Economist piece about the city’s sprawl in the face of cheap oil prices. While the piece takes some pot shots at Houston—“Houston is not pretty, but it thrives”—it does lay out how the city, so dependent on the oil and gas industry, will actually be okay in this latest slump. “[The] signs that, this time, Houston’s spectacular growth will be slowed rather than stopped by the oil slump,” include the city’s economic diversification since the eighties and, surprisingly, its sprawl. “Houston has no zoning code, so it is quick to respond to demand for housing and office space. Houston’s reliance on the car and on air-conditioning is environmentally destructive and unattractive to well-off singletons. But for families on moderate incomes, it is a place to live well cheaply.”
Still Illegal – The Houston Chronicle has an interesting and deftly positioned piece highlighting the fact that “barely two months after a federal judge struck down Texas’s hair-braiding regulations, a move to erase the unconstitutional statute already has bipartisan support. Not so for Texas’s anti-sodomy law, which remains on the books a dozen years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.” The author of the bill to get rid of the braiding regulation law, Republican state representative James White, doesn’t seen the problem with such a glaring oversight, because of business or something. “Absolutely, there is a difference. [The braiding law] was a way of disenfranchising them out of the marketplace. I don’t necessarily think this was the case with sodomy.” Four lawmakers, all Democrats, are pushing to have the anti-sodomy law removed. “While the anti-sodomy laws that remain cannot be enforced, that does not mean they can’t be mis-applied by local prosecutors.”
Bigfoot Wars – Sasquatch isn’t always a quiet, shy creature who spends his time avoiding the spotlight. Sometimes, it seems, he’s an angry beast. According to a Houston Bigfoot hunter, “whose team ventured into the East Texas Piney Wood,” they apparently got too close to a bigfoot, which “in his fury . . . hurled giant logs at the curious humans,” reports the Chronicle. The team wasn’t able to get any photographic evidence but “the two men were lucky to come out with their lives, and [the team leader] declared the beast had issued them a warning.” The entire breathless and exciting story is told with exacting and colorful detail. Definitely worth a read for anyone considering an East Texas hike in the near future.