The State of Texas: March 26, 2015
People wonder why the wheels of legislation move so slow. Maybe it’s because lawmakers don’t meet all that often, or because much of their time is wasted on political grandstanding. Or it could also be because politicians apparently can’t even agree on the most basic definitions without a committee of some sort. Below is the curious item reporter Christopher Hooks found on the Lege website:
— Christopher Hooks (@cd_hooks) March 25, 2015
Got Their Fix – The Texas Department of Criminal Justice was getting really antsy, but it looks like it finally got its drug fix. The state previously had enough of the execution drug, pentobarbital, for only one more lethal injection, but officials say they now have a fresh batch. It’s a temporary fix, and the TDCJ will eventually face the same problem again, as the department obtained only a “small supply,” according to the Austin American-Statesman, and “the agency now has a sufficient amount of the powerful sedative for the other three” executions scheduled soon. Per the ongoing controversy, officials won’t reveal their drug supplier, citing unspecified threats. A spokesman “would confirm only that the new drugs were purchased ‘from a licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound.’ He declined to say if it was the same provider the agency has used previously.”
Tough Parenting – Someone needed to crack down on the state’s less-than-ideal foster care system and it appears Governor Greg Abbott is playing the role of disciplinarian. “In a letter to [Department of Family and Protective Services] Commissioner John Specia, Abbott asked the agency to step up enforcement, develop a tool for screening potential foster parents, and educate caregivers about gun safety, among other changes,” reports the Texas Tribune. The letter couldn’t have come soon enough, as three foster children under the state’s care have already died this year. That’s in addition to the systemic problems that Texas’s Child Protection Services has had in recent years in providing adequate protection to foster children, whether the problems resulted in death (nine children died last year) or neglect or if it was simply an issue of sheer lack of oversight of the numerous foster homes and facilities.
Side Effects – Normally, lower rent is a good thing. But in the case of Midland rental costs, it’s just more evidence that the end of the energy boom is well on its way. “Apartment rates started falling in February after a large increase in the second half of 2014,” according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. “The data shows that median rents for one-bedroom apartments in Midland increased monthly by at least 7.8 percent year-over-year for the months of July 2014 through January 2015 before an 8.3 percent drop in February.” Overall rental occupancy has dropped as well. No one is really that surprised with one source saying the drop is directly attributed to “oil companies ‘trimming the fat’” and “a lot of the people who are leaving are unskilled people who were hired during the last five years because of the severe labor crunch in the Permian Basin.”
Wet Barbecue – Lots of ranchers are cautiously optimistic about all the rain Texas has received this winter and what it means for the cattle market. The low supply has been rough on meat lovers, causing a jump in prices and more than one instance of theft for black market operations. “As of Jan. 1, the inventory of cattle and calves totaled 11.8 million in Texas, up 6 percent from Jan. 1, 2014,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Although Texas has the most cattle and calves of any state, the years-long drought had resulted in larger producers “moving their herds out of Texas in 2011, taking them to rain-fed pastures in such states as Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming,” while others simply cut their stock. Even with this year’s solid rain, there’s still a long ways to go. “It would take about three years to rebuild their herds and drive down beef prices. . . . Live cattle were trading at $1.62 a pound Tuesday, compared with 95 cents in 2010 — before the drought took hold.”
Now Hiring – The General Land Office isn’t wasting any time. After wresting control of the Alamo from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas just a couple of weeks ago, the office is now actively looking for new management. “The state agency issued a request for proposals this week for a group or company to run the state shrine,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. The office “hopes to select a new manager in June, with the DRT’s contract termination officially ending July 10.” In theory, a foreign management company could win the contract bid, meaning Senator Donna Campbell’s fears of a U.N. takeover would have come true. No word yet on whether 21CT, which has had so much experience with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, plans to put in a management bid.