The State of Texas: March 27, 2015
Traffic backed up on a Houston highway yesterday thanks to a classic scenario: a military tank fell off the tracks of a trailer that was pulling it. As the Houston Chronicle notes, “drivers took their time passing by to check out the unusual sight, which added to the traffic delays.”
Tweet of the Day
As if he didn’t already prove that he’s the top selfie politician on Inauguration Day, Dan Patrick once again made a show of his millennial skills. This time, however, it occurred in front the Senate Education Committee, because, #YOLO:
— KarinaKling (@KarinaKling) March 26, 2015
Lone Stop State – Texas continues its penchant for putting a serious wrench in the federal government’s plans. The past few weeks it was immigration. Yesterday, it was access to benefits for same-sex spouses. A federal judge in Wichita Falls “issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the rule in Texas and three other states that joined [Attorney General Ken] Paxton’s lawsuit—Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The attorney general had sued the Labor Department because “the change, set to take effect Friday, would require Texas agencies to violate state law by granting family leave benefits to same-sex couples who were legally married in other states.” To the judge’s credit, there wasn’t any talk of “appropriate” marriage. Rather, it was a lack of clarity from both the Feds and the law (although that’s changing rapidly). He noted that a previous benefits rule was dependent on a person’s residency while this new one simply acknowledges where someone had their wedding ceremony. “The Supreme Court will soon address these issues and provide much needed clarity for the lower courts,” wrote the judge, who will preside over another hearing making the injunction permanent in mid-April.
Greyhounded – During a single day this month, Hidalgo County police issued fourteen citations to buses. The crime? The buses had violated a city ordinance requiring operators to “have an office within ‘walking distance’ of the bridge, and passengers must load only at that office,” according to a very interesting McAllen Monitor piece. Since the citations, the offending bus company has “obtained a temporary restraining order against the city, giving [the owner of S to N bus company] two weeks to operate his four buses free of citations.” This scenario sounds fairly mundane until the Monitor drops the bombshell: S to N’s only other competitor and the owner of three fourths of the city’s twelve permits, STS! Transit, is owned by city councilman Rudy Franz. S to N’s owner says, “The ordinance is the city’s attempt to protect the monopoly Franz enjoyed from 2001 to 2013, when S to N was awarded its permit after several years of trying unsuccessfully despite having the requirements.” The Hidalgo bus wars started back in 2013, with plenty of ethically questionable actions from business-savvy councilmen. “The hearing to extend the order is Tuesday.”
Oh No, Oh No, Oh No – Someone really, really, really, doesn’t want people to know how much Matthew McConaughey is being paid to speak at University of Houston’s May commencement. In a brief filed with the Texas attorney general (!), McConaughey’s booking agency said it shouldn’t have to reveal the price tag because “‘a reporter or someone else’ might create ‘unfair negatives online and take things out of context,’” according to the Houston Chronicle. In addition, “the company says the amount UH, a public university, is paying the actor and other details in his contract are a trade secret that, if revealed, would give an unfair edge to Celebrity Talent International’s competitors.” For its awkward part, “UH said in a statement last month that it does not believe the contract information is confidential.” The State of Texas will make this very important decision regarding Matthew McConaughey’s face value by April 29.
Dope Business Idea – Willie Nelson: country music legend, rebel, “sentient pot cloud,” and now . . . your dealer? As is being reported by, like, everyone, Willie Nelson announced he’s starting his own marijuana brand (in states where recreational use is legal, of course). Well, Willie didn’t announce it actually. More like accidentally coughed it up. As the Daily Beast details, there are a lot of people in between, and so far, it appears as if it’s just Willie’s face on the ziplock bag. Appropriately, Willie broke the news to the reporter during SXSW, getting high, at his Luck township. As a PR man later told the Daily Beast, the weed “was developed by his family, and their focus on environmental and social issues, and in particular this crazy war on drugs, and trying to be a bright light amongst this trail as we’re trying to extract ourselves from the goo of prohibition.” Willie will offer his own signature strains as well as others. “It will be like when you walk into a Whole Foods store [which] has their 365 brand.” For the record, the company is called Willie’s Reserve.