The State of Texas: November 3, 2015
Paxton continues fighting his charges, H-E-B goes all Oprah on its employees, and the Dez Bryant monkey business is settled.
Say hello to the state’s newest professional sports team, the Dallas Wings! The WNBA club was formerly the Tulsa Shock. As with all things, this Oklahoma import looks much better now that it is in Texas. Welcome home, ladies.
— Dallas Wings Hoops (@DWingsHoops) November 2, 2015
Paxton’s Ploy — There’s been yet another (pretty much expected) salvo of legal maneuvers in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal charges, detailed by the Austin American-Statesman in its rather lively article. Paxton’s defense team “argued that misconduct by prosecutors and a previous judge subverted the grand jury process and required the indictments against Paxton to be thrown out.” Specifically, his legal posse says the prosecution leaked grand jury information and indictments to the press, saying those leaks were “clearly timed and calculated to taint the prospective North Texas jury pool.” They’re really going all in, with another motion accusing District Judge Chris Oldner, who formed the grand jury before dismissing himself from the case entirely, of both revealing too much and not revealing enough. Oldner, apparently, told his wife, who in turn “phoned a county official to gossip about the criminal charges.” At the same time, they also argue that the judge’s order to keep the grand jury’s identities a secret “hindered Paxton’s ability to challenge the makeup of the jury.” The list goes on (the filings totaled almost 190 pages). And what does Paxton want in return? Only that all three charges be dropped, of course. Prosecutor Brian Wice called the motions hogwash, or, more accurately, “clearly baseless.” Hey, at least this time Paxton actually has lawyers in place to drop all these motions!
HERO or Zero? — Texans will hit the voting booths to decide local and state propositions on Tuesday, but everyone’s eyes are on HERO. Sure, residents of Waskom will essentially vote on prohibition-era issues, and numerous teachers and students feel as if they’re being used as pawns by the city in Ysleta to pass a $430 million bond. But of course, both statewide and nationally, all the focus is on Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. As Texas Monthly‘s own John Nova Lomax pointed out on Friday, based on the early voting turnout the chances of HERO’s survival are slim. This, despite HERO’s rounding endorsement by the New York Times, not to mention numerous local and national outlets. The issue has overshadowed the city’s mayoral race, arguably just as crucial to the future of the city. Voters seem to realize its importance, as “approximately 130,000 city voters cast early ballots, more than doubling pre-election day turnout in Houston’s last open-seat mayor’s race six years ago,” with observers contributing that uptick directly to HERO, according to the Houston Chronicle. And that’s “despite more than $10 million invested in the Houston mayor’s race.” As one political strategist put it, “The mayor’s race never really took off.” Oh, and statewide, Texans will also vote on seven amendments to the state constitution, which include propositions about taxes, raffles, and our inalienable right to hunt and fish like true patriots.
Employees of the Month — Some big changes are happening at H-E-B, the state’s largest private employer. While the grocery chain will continue to be run by the Butt family, as it has been for 110 years, it employees will now also get a piece. “The family plans to reward 55,000 employees with a stock grant on Jan. 1, with a goal of building that up to a 15 percent stake in the company,” reports the Chronicle. “Under H-E-B’s plan, eligible employees will receive a stock grant valued at 3 percent of their salary on Jan. 1. The stock grant will be augmented with $100 in stock for each year of an employee’s continuous service completed by the end of 2015, the company said.” Employees who have worked at the company for over a year, are over 21, and are at least 1,000 hours a year are eligible, which comes out to 64 percent of H-E-B’s 86,000 employees. Considering H-E-B — the nation’s fifteenth largest private employer — has close to 400 stores around the state and about $24 billion in revenue, that’s huge. At the very least, the announcement is certainly a far cry from Whole Foods using prison labor.
The Dez Monkey Trial — Who would have expected Dez Bryant’s next big controversy to be about a monkey? In case you missed it, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals began howling after the Dallas Cowboy posted photos with what appears to be his a capuchin monkey, a.k.a. “Dallas.” PETA called for DeSoto officials to investigate Bryant for owning the monkey because it is apparently illegal to have fun and/or own a “wild animal” within the city. As the Dallas Morning News notes, it seems like the city grudgingly took up the case, saying it was “aware of Dez Bryant’s alleged illegal possession of a Capuchin monkey within the city limits of DeSoto, TX.” And now, after one phone call with Bryant’s lawyer, the case is closed. “The City Attorney was just contacted by Mr. Bryant’s personal attorney who advised the monkey is NOT in the city of DeSoto,” police said. “We don’t expect to have any further updates on this matter.” PETA can now go back to accusing milk of being racist.