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The State of Texas: November 4, 2015

HERO is zero in Houston, Dallas Zoo fights to keep guns banned, and Jeb! gets owned by an Austinite.

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Watt Wednesday

We know J.J. Watt can do just about anything, and apparently that includes playing basketball. After receiving his own jersey from Rockets mascot Clutch in the fourth quarter of Houston’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Watt attempted to check in and prove his worth on the hardwood. Watch the video here.

Texas By the Numbers

Good Traffic — Increase in loaded container traffic at the Houston Port’s Bayport terminal from last year: 14 percent. Average daily container traffic last fall: 2,800 containers. Current daily average: 3,800 containers.

Do Not Pass Go — Number of fines and/or court costs El Pasoans paid via jail stays in 2014: 38,970. Number of El Pasoans who live below the poverty line: 1 in 5. Amount El Paso spends to jail people with unpaid fines: $375,000.

Alternative Education — The highest ranked Texas college, according to The Economist‘s radically different ranking system: Texas A&M International University. Rank: 9. Next highest ranked school: Texas Woman’s University. Rank: 45. UT-Austin’s rank: 876. Texas A&M-College Station’s rank: 996.

Daily Roundup

Fallen HERO — Houston’s anti-discrimination measure, HERO, got absolutely pummeled at the voting booths when the ordinance was defeated by a 20-point margin. The battle garnered attention from just about every major media outlet, not to mention more than one high-profile politician, partly because Houston is the only major city in Texas or the U.S. without such an ordinance, and partly because everyone loves a good fight. Observers pretty much agree that the 62-to-38 defeat was thanks to the ordinance’s opponents who pushed the idea that men would be allowed to randomly go into women’s bathrooms (Breitbart Texas wins for most disgusting headline in that regard). Although opponents celebrated the defeat against “sexual predators dressed as women to use women’s restrooms,” Houston mayor Annise Parker had a different take.”This was a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies,” she said, as reported by KHOU. “No one’s rights should be subject to a popular vote.” In other ballot news, all seven amendments to the state constitution easily passed, “drawing at least 67 percent support,” reports the Texas Tribune.

Please Don’t Shoot the Animals — Public institutions in Texas really don’t like this whole guns-in-public-spaces thing. Huh! First it was universities looking for ways around the upcoming state law. Now, the Dallas Zoo is trying to fight off the gun enthusiasts who really don’t like its policy. “A Houston lawyer lodged a formal complaint against the zoo last month under a new law, which created an enforcement mechanism for a 2003 law that lets concealed handgun license holders carry guns at most property ‘owned or leased by a governmental entity,'” writes the Dallas Morning News. “Now the state attorney general’s office, which has been charged with investigating such complaints, is reviewing the claim to see if legal action is warranted. If the signs are found to be in violation, the city could face fines of up to $10,500 per day.” It should be an fairly interesting fight. An attorney for the zoo says it has every right to prohibit guns (the facility is run by a private non-profit, but owned by the city) and said the zoo will not be removing the signs. Regardless of what happens, kangaroos will still be expected to exercise their concealed carry rights.

Railroaded — In hearings called by the Texas Railroad Commission, panels have determined that two oil companies are not responsible for earthquakes, “despite research suggesting otherwise,” as the Texas Tribune bluntly put it. The agency called the panel after SMU researchers determined that industry activity “most likely unleashed” two dozen mini-earthquakes in North Texas’s Barnett Shale area. “The peer-reviewed research, published in April, linked the earthquakes to wells operated by XTO Energy and EnerVest.” As the story notes, there seems to be pretty clear and long-documented evidence that drilling practices do indeed cause quakes, but Railroad Commission is still unconvinced. “‘I don’t think we know the answer yet,’ Commissioner Christi Craddick said last month during an on-stage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival.”

Hit and Trial Run — The trial of Rashad Owens, who is accused of killing four people and injuring at least twenty after crashing his car during SXSW in 2013, continues with more heartbreaking testimony. Tuesday was the second day of the trial and the testimony of witnesses, including eyewitness video from the scene, continued to pile on the devastation caused by the wreck. “Travis County prosecutors Amy Meredith and Marc Chavez have argued Owens made no attempt to stop or avoid people as he fled police, which they say shows his intention was to flee at whatever the cost,” writes the Austin American-Statesman, which has been covering the trial extensively. “But through their questioning of witnesses, defense lawyers Rick Jones, Russell Hunt and Benjamin Gergen tried to show that Owens was drunk, scared and disoriented, and didn’t mean to cause others harm.” As KXAN notes, “In order for the jury to find Owens guilty of capital murder, the prosecution must prove he initially, or knowingly, killed people as he made the choice to evade police. If convicted of capital murder, Owens will receive an automatic sentence of life in prison.” Forensic experts are scheduled to testify Wednesday with the trial lasting another week and a half.

Oops! — Poor Jeb! The Republican Presidential candidates with Texas ties just can’t catch a break. Ever since the previous debate, Bush has been trying to reinvigorate his campaign, specifically with an e-book and a new tour/slogan: Jeb Can Fix It.  But one former candidate for Austin city council claims Bush stole his slogan. In retaliation, Jimmy Flannigan bought up JebCanFixIt.com before the actual Jeb could. “Now jebcanfixit.com links to … Flannigan’s site,” reports the San Antonio Express-News, “which replaces the'”Jeb!’ campaign signature with ‘Jeb?’ and displays a hammer emblazoned with, ‘Flannigan Can Fix It.'” Even better, Flannigan appears to be about as liberal as they come, except for the capitalist part. He “bought the name for about $20 and doesn’t know how much he’d charge to sell it to Bush.”

Clickity Bits

Will People Feel the Bern in Texas?

Outsiders Once Again Discover the Glory that is Mums

Bevo Named Best Live Mascot in College

Texas Churches Can Engage in Recall Elections

Protecting America’s Borders Against Little Migrant Candy Eaters

Black Students in Texas Disproportionately Suspended as Early as Pre-K

Did we miss something? Got a hot tip? Email us at [email protected]. Or tweet @TexasMonthly and @ThatWinkler.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oldest regulatory agency, commissioned a study to determine if the activity of two oil companies may have caused earthquakes. 

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  • enp1955

    “I don’t think we know the answer yet.” The stock in trade answer from politicians and industry shills when they know the answer but don’t like that answer.

  • Jed

    the entire RRC is comprised of elected lobbyists.

    i looked at porter’s campaign website. you can donate $10000 with one click.

    texas politics is the star case against electoral democracy.

  • oblate spheroid

    Nice going, Houston. Even Plano (PLANO) has a nondiscrimination ordinance.