The State of Texas: March 19, 2015
A kind of clever attempt from an obvious whippersnapper at The Monitor.
SXSW of the Day
Somebody is slapping “Exclusively for White People” stickers all over Austin that “include the City of Austin logo and [say] the message is ‘sponsored by the City of Austin Contemporary Partition and Restoration Program.’” The police are now investigating and more than one news outlet is calling the sticker “racist,” with one victimized business calling it a “hate crime.” The sticker is obviously a commentary on Austin’s shifting demographics, but this Banksy-esque person is conflating race and class—one targeted business was a couture clothing store and another a “fair trade” bakery.
Unbeneficial – Attorney General Ken Paxton is keeping up the work of his predecessor, Greg Abbott, in the pursuit of suing the U.S. government. This particular instance follows the pattern of Texas refusing to give up any ground on gay marriage. The Obama administration issued a rule change to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act that gives paid family leave to gay spouses. It only affects federal workers and it would not allow same-sex couples to get married here. “[O]nly couples who were legally married elsewhere would be eligible for the benefits,” notes the Texas Tribune. Still, dems da rules in Texas. “The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution,” said Paxton, who apparently made no mention of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Misconduct – The prosecutor in a Texas death penalty case that garnered national headlines has been “formally accused of misconduct over allegations that he concealed evidence during the 1992 murder trial,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “The State Bar of Texas has asked a Navarro County court to discipline John H. Jackson,” whose efforts got Cameron Todd Willingham executed. A prisoner who shared a cell with Willingham claimed that Willingham confessed to the killings. That prisoner, who was to receive special treatment for his cooperation, later recanted. Along with that, “several fire science experts and a state panel have since said [the accusation of an intentionally set fire] was wrong and unsupported by evidence.” Jackson, through his attorney, has requested a jury trial.
Prison Break – Having a riot in your prison is bad for business, which helps explain why the Willacy County Correctional Center has lost its federal contract. The immigration prison was the site of a prisoner riot last month, although authorities didn’t cite that as a reason for ending the relationship. The private prison’s spokesman said “the bureau decided to end the contract because inmate numbers were down and the facility became unnecessary,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “The number of inmates in federal prisons has decreased by about 5,000 in the past year. However, the number has almost quadrupled since 1990, overcrowding facilities and prompting the government to seek help from corporate contractors like [the one in Texas] to store inmates.” For those many, many men stuck in prison, there is at least one tiny bit of good news. “The TDCJ is now preparing to permit any of its inmates to grow beards,” reports the Dallas Observer. “The beards must be grown for religious reasons and no more than a half-inch long.” The policy change comes on the heels of a Supreme Court case concerning a Muslim man’s facial hair preferences.
Miracle Flop – More bad news on the economic front. New U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data has found that Texas ceded its position to California as the top job-maker in January. As the San Antonio Express-News notes, “the change could be caused by lower energy costs in other states.” The Dallas Fed added to the bad news when it “lowered its job growth forecast for Texas this year due to the impact of plunging oil prices,” writes the Dallas Morning News. According to one expert, “this year, Texas could trail the nation in job growth for the first time in 12 years.”