The State of Texas: November 19, 2014
It’s a twenty-first century version of life imitating art. Video gamers awaiting the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 (a game in which you play a guy on a crime spree) at a store were heldup by gunpoint. At least they weren’t in line for the latest Call of Duty:
Texas By The Number
Shiv Surplus — Number of makeshift weapons seized from Texas inmates this year: 1,400. Number of offenders: 150,000. Number of facilities: 108. Number of weapons seized last year: 1,700.
Cash Parties — Total amount raised by candidates and committees in Texas’s 2014 elections: $243,452,955. Amount raised by the Texas Republican Party committee: $2,205,764. And the Texas Democratic Party committee: $865,020. Top candidate contributor: Texans For Lawsuit Reform. Total: $3,149,474.
Premature — State’s premature birthrate in 2013: 12.3 percent. In 2006: 13.7 percent. Among blacks: 16.1 percent. Hispanics: 12.5 percent. Whites: 10.8 percent. Highest concentration of premature births: Rio Grande Valley. National rate. 11.4 percent.
Re-Surge-nce — Apart from the church’s Nativity story or a haphazard high school production of a Christmas Carol, Texas might get another theatrical production this holiday season. “Texas plans to spend nearly $90 million to extend through August 2015 a show of force along its border with Mexico that includes the deployment of up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops, officials said on Tuesday,” reports Reuters. The Big Three politicians—Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus—made the announcement Tuesday, saying part of the funding ($47.9 million) will come from the Department of Transportation’s general revenue bond fund, because Texas’s roads and public transit are already the best in the world. As it turns out, there is an oncoming surge of migrants. “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the closure of the temporary shelter [in New Mexico]” and “All the residents at Artesia will be moved to Texas by the end of December,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. The move is related to the construction of “one of the largest detention centers in the U.S.—also planned to hold women and children from Central America—south of San Antonio in Dilley.” From the legislative side of things, state representative Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, is on the case. Perry re-introduced an old bill Tuesday that “would prevent local governments, such as cities and counties, from having policies that keep local law enforcement from enforcing state and federal immigration laws, so that police could ask about a person’s immigration status or share that status with federal authorities,” reports the Wichita Falls Times Record News.
Lawfully Wedded Inmate — State prison officials are changing their policy on banning jailhouse weddings. “Texas plans to allow marriage ceremonies inside prisons between an inmate and an intended spouse who isn’t incarcerated,” according to the Associated Press. Texas used to allow prisoners to get married by proxy, but a state law that went into effect last year said both parties had to be present for a wedding ceremony. It had “the unintended consequence” of denying prisoners the right to marry, which is a thorny issue since the Supreme Court has declared such an action unconstitutional. “According to the [new state] plans, the marriages would have to comply with prison visitation rules, be consistent with the prisoner’s visitation status and require no special amenities.” In addition, the future spouse of the for-better-or-recidivism “would have to obtain the marriage license, make arrangements for someone to conduct the nuptials and be responsible for any payment to that person. Prison chaplains would not be involved [and] Attendance would be limited to the offender, the spouse and the person conducting the ceremony.” In short, it sounds like the perfect ceremony.
Less Pollution, Mo’ Problems — Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, and it seems that law of physics also has very immediate consequences. A new report from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas says the EPA’s recent clean energy plan to reduce carbon dioxide could mean a 20 percent increase in electricity bills. Oh, no, it gets worse. “It also could affect power reliability by forcing coal plant shutdowns,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “ERCOT said about half of Texas’ coal-burning capacity might face retirement under the plan. The semi-independent state agency, which manages most of the state’s power network, also noted the challenges of integrating new wind and solar power into the state’s grid.” Thankfully, IKEA has a plan for that new wind energy. Yes, that IKEA. The “IKEA Group announced that it has purchased its second U.S. wind farm, a 165 megawatt (MW) facility in Cameron County, Texas,” according to Forbes. “The Texas location will deploy 55 of Acciona’s 3 MW turbines. When the Cameron project is operational (late 2015) the two facilities together are expected to generate close to 1,000 gigawatthours of electricity (to put that in perspective, according to IKEA that is enough for about 90,00 average U.S. homes).” Only hitch is you’ll have to put together the windmill yourself, and it’ll never quite look right.
Game On — The Governor Perry Legal team is striking out left and right. Failing to get the entire Lehmberg case dropped, Perry’s all-star legal team tried to get the prosecutor thrown off the case for not being properly sworn in. No dice. In a sixteen-page decision, “a judge ruled Tuesday that the prosecutor was properly sworn into office,” reports the Texas Tribune. As a reminder of just how technical the Perry team was getting, [Perry lawyer] Tony Buzbee said the Texas Constitution required [prosecutor Michael] McCrum to sign an anti-bribery statement before taking his oath. McCrum testified that he did the reverse, taking the oath first. “Richardson is expected to rule on previous challenges made by the Perry team to the indictment by the end of November or in early December. No hearing on those issues is scheduled.”
False-Positive — Ebola’s back! Kidding. That’s not funny. And we know this for a fact. “Prosecutors in South Texas plan to charge an inmate who they say caused an approximately five-hour lockdown at a county jail after claiming to have come into contact with the Ebola virus,” according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The sheriff said “the hoax cost the county more than $10,000.” The City of Houston also had its own little scare as well. “A patient who sought treatment on Monday at a Houston emergency room and was suspected of having Ebola is not being tested for the virus,” according to the Chronicle.