The State of Texas: November 18, 2015
New details about self-induced abortions in Texas, Abbott doubles down on Syrian refugees, and the investigation into last year’s bus crash that killed four concludes.
Quote of the Day
Well, it looks like there can’t be any serious, money-where-your-mouth-is Second Amendment rhetoric at February’s GOP debate. University of Houston police chief Ceaser Moore, Jr., said Tuesday that there would be no firearms allowed when the campus hosts the Republican candidates.
— Ben Wermund (@BenjaminEW) November 17, 2015
Texas By The Numbers
Under Attack — The greatest threat to the U.S., according to Texas voters: illegal immigration. Percentage of respondents: 22 percent. Second greatest threat: foreign terrorist groups. Percentage of respondents: 18 percent. Portion that believe state is going in the right direction: 45 percent. The wrong direction: 36 percent.
Graduation Gifts — Number of Texas MBA programs among the top 31 highest post-graduate salaries: three. SMU’s Cox School of Business rank: 31. Average post-grad salary: $100,304. Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business rank: 28. Average post-grad salary: $101,229. UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business rank: 20. Post-grade salary: $107,272. Average amount from highest rated program, Harvard Business School: $125,000.
The Business Climate — Texas’s rank in the Tax Foundation’s 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index: 10. State rank for property tax: 34. Rank for sales tax: 37. Percentage of state and local taxes paid by Texas businessese: 63 percent. National average: 45 percent.
Refusing Refugees — Governor Greg Abbott really doesn’t want any Syrian refugees. A day after announcing that he (as well as 27 other governors) would not accept any Syrian refugees in Texas, Abbott “directed the health commission to formally amend the state’s Refugee Resettlement State Plan and the public safety department to ‘work with federal and local officials to ensure any refugees already in this state do not pose a risk to public safety,'” the Houston Chronicle writes. It’s won’t be the easiest of tasks either, as about 221 refugees have been resettled in Texas since last fiscal year. According to the Chronicle‘s helpful factsheet, only about 2 percent of the refugees admitted into the U.S. are “single males of combat age,” and about half are children. As numerous legal experts have noted, neither Abbott nor any other governor really has any power to ban refugees (it’s a federal thing). But don’t worry! Senator Ted Cruz has a plan. The presidential candidate said that he will “introduce legislation in the Senate this week to cut off federal funding for refugee resettlement,” according to CNN. Cruz has said that though Muslim refugees should be turned away, displaced Christians are welcome.
Back-Alley Horrors — The Texas Policy Evaluation Project just released a pair of unsettling surveys that’ll surely be fodder for both sides of the abortion debate. The surveys are part of an “effort aimed at determining the impact of the state’s reproductive policies,” and found that “between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women between the ages of 18 and 49 have tried to end a pregnancy by themselves,” according to The Atlantic and numerous other national publications. That number is an estimate, as “the figure was found by asking an online, representative sample of 779 women whether they themselves or whether their best friends had ever tried to self-induce an abortion. Of the Texas women surveyed, 1.7 percent said they had performed an abortion on themselves, but 4.1 percent of them said their best friend had or they suspected she had,” and another 7 percent tried to induce their own abortions before going to a clinic. According to the survey, the most common method was the prescription drug Misoprostol, though “other reported methods included ‘herbs or homeopathic remedies, getting hit or punched in the abdomen, using alcohol or illicit drugs, or taking hormonal pills.'” The study comes just as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments concerning the strict rules for abortion clinics around the state. As abortion advocates have also stated, the survey authors say self-induced abortions could become more common if women don’t have access to legal abortions.
Red River Showdown — Rowdy Red River ranchers are all revved up for a row with federal representatives. Or, put less alliteratively, “seven families are suing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in federal district court, accusing the agency of perpetrating an ‘arbitrary seizure’ of land along a 116-mile strip of the river, whose meandering has spurred a century’s worth of property disputes along the Texas-Oklahoma border,” according to the Texas Tribune. “The complaint also argues that the federal government’s claim has jeopardized the counties’ sovereignty and their ability to levy taxes on the land and ‘regulate and provide services for the health, benefit and welfare of its citizens.'” The highly publicized dispute began almost two years ago when bureau officials began to reevaluate its resource management plans, claiming that the federal government owns some of the river land that families hold titles to. The bureau says “its claim comes from a 1923 U.S. Supreme Court decision, one that delineated the boundaries between Texas and Oklahoma and assigned the feds the patches in between.” The lawsuit could turn fairly ugly since “lawyers from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the state’s pre-eminent conservative think tank, are representing the North Texans on the foundation’s dime.”
Changes on the Bus — Federal investigators have released their findings in the Oklahoma bus crash that killed four North Central Texas College softball players. The driver of the semi truck that crashed into the bus said he had been distracted by something in his cabin. But according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s report, the driver’s “[synthetic] drug use was the primary cause of the crash,” a conclusion it arrived at “after looking at toxicology reports, his history of drug use and his behavior at the time of the collision,” according to the Dallas Morning News. In addition, the “board also concluded that the passengers on the bus weren’t wearing seat beats — a contributing factor in their injuries.” That’s an issue Houston ISD is starting to address. It announced Tuesday that all of its new buses will come equipped with “three-point seat belts,” according to the Chronicle. The decision comes on the heels of new federal recommendations, and HISD’s own experience with a fatal bus crash that killed two students in September.
Creepy Details — Both state and national publications remain transfixed by this weekend’s horror story of six people, including a child, being murdered while campsite near Palestine, Texas. A few more details of the case have emerged since the arrest of an area neighbor. “The man charged in the killings of six people at an East Texas campsite had earlier befriended the victims and helped dislodge one of their vehicles from mud,” according to NBC’s DFW affiliate. “William Hudson, 33, spent time with the group Saturday and then returned hours later and killed them all, though authorities have not said how, Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said. Taylor declined to elaborate on the attack or a motive, but said Tuesday that there were ‘several different crime scenes.'” As almost all the stories note, the group was part of a “blended family,” coming from several parts of the country to camp at newly purchased property. There was one survivor.