The State of Texas: May 19, 2015
The Arrested Ones – Still less than 72 hours later and the whole nation remains transfixed by the Waco motorcycle gang shootout that left nine dead. The police estimate that they’ve booked about 175 people for the shooting at the local Twin Peaks restaurant, a process that has been “slow and tedious,” according to the Waco Tribune. Police are still trying to make sense of the scene, although it appears that the nine dead came from just two different motorcycle clubs (several had been in attendance that day). One thing is clear, however. That particular Twin Peaks breastaurant is no more. After a day of squabbling with authorities over what they did or did not do to prevent the chaos, the company announced that it had revoked the Waco business’s franchise, according to the Dallas Business Journal. The state of Texas, too, got involved, with Governor Greg Abbott saying in a statement that “Texas will not stand for the type of lawlessness we witnessed in Waco yesterday. . . . My office, along with law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels, is committed to providing any and all resources needed to support the Waco Police Department and the local community.” For their part, at least one Bandido leader says the Sunday incident wasn’t at all intended to be a turf war, but rather a “peaceful gathering for bikers to learn about their rights,” according to KXAN.
Big Texas Government – The era of big government has started in Texas. Or, at the very least, all that Republican rhetoric about small government and keepin’ The Man off yer back is officially hypocritical hogwash. Yesterday, Governor Abbott signed the controversial bill banning local governments from banning fracking. Couching his language in terms of private property rights, Abbott said at the signing ceremony that “Texas is known as a place that believes in less regulation. The fact is that oil and gas is already regulated at the state level by multiple agencies, at the federal level by multiple agencies,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “The last thing we need is to have additional encroachment on private property rights at the local level, adding even more regulatory burden to our private property owners here in the state of Texas.” As the story notes, the law is part of Abbott’s effort to prevent local control, or as he put it, “a patchwork quilt of . . . regulations” that is leading to Texas being “California-ized.”
Expelled – You can only screw up in school for so long before some administrator takes you aside for punishment. And that’s pretty much what’s happened with Pearson, the company in charge of Texas’s school testing for the past thirty years. “As the Legislature moved to reduce the state’s standardized testing program in response to widespread outcry from parents and school leaders in 2013, the state’s contract with Pearson became the focus of much criticism,” according to the Texas Tribune. “Many lawmakers, including former Senate Education Committee Chairman and now Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, who attacked what they viewed as the company’s excessive influence in the policy-making process and called for greater scrutiny of testing contracts.” That’s finally happening as the state is now “in negotiations with Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to take over the bulk of the four-year, $340 million student assessment contract.” The problems with the service (which has earned $1.2 billion from the state since 2001) aren’t entirely the company’s fault. As the Austin American Statesman notes, “a 2013 state audit of Pearson’s most recent contract found holes in state oversight, as well as lax terms that allowed the company to hire former state employees without restrictions or disclosure.” Pearson will retain some work, providing testing for students learning English or with severe learning disabilities.
No Charges – The controversy over a Grapevine police officer who shot an unarmed Mexican immigrant ended its second chapter yesterday after a grand jury decided not to indict the cop. The district attorney’s office also released the video of the incident, a demand protestors have been making for some time, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram. As the story notes, the dash-cam video shows Rubén García Villalpando “walking slowly toward [the officer], with his hands on his head. Clark repeatedly tells García to ‘get to the back of the car.’” The case has drawn a little attention from protestors as being another example of excess force by police when dealing with minorities. And the story is far from over. “In an emotional news conference this afternoon, Martha Angelica Romero said she would ask for an investigation by the Justice Department,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “Her attorney, Domingo García, said he would file a civil rights lawsuit.” The Mexican government, too, has publically expressed its uneasiness with the case. It had previously filed a formal protest over the February shooting and after the decision yesterday it “reiterated its firm call to review the protocols for the use of lethal force by U.S. law enforcement agents amid repeated fatal incidents that have occurred in the last few months to the detriment of Mexican citizens.”