The State of Texas: October 2, 2015
Blue Bell to return to North Texas and legislators back down on therapy cuts.
Video of the Day
Did UT know that freshman point guard Kerwin Roach Jr. could fly when it recruited him? Because there’s really no other explanation for how he pulled off this amazing feat.
Them boys up to something they just not just bluffing
Brighter Bells — It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten fresh news about Blue Bell’s full return, but North Texas can now breathe a sigh of relief (and stop smuggling the product in dry ice from Austin or Houston). “Distribution to Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco and southern areas of Oklahoma will begin on November 2,” according to WFAA. As promised, the company has moved to Phase II of its full return after it was pulled from shelves for listeria-tainted products. But according to NBC 5, “Blue Bell said they do not have a date for any other phases at this time and have not said when the company’s facility in Brenham, Texas will resume production.” Perhaps more importantly, especially as a symbolic sign of its return, Blue Bell “expects to begin production at its main plant in Brenham during the next few months,” Bryan-College Station’s The Eagle reports.
Cuts Curtailed — The great Texas budget battle appears to be over for now, with the forces of children with disabilities coming out on top. “Texas’ top health agency announced Thursday it will make less drastic cuts than originally planned to a therapy program for children with disabilities, even if that means spending more than lawmakers budgeted for the program,” writes the Texas Tribune. “Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor said in a letter to Texas Senate leadership that his agency would work to ‘preserve access to care even if it means’ the full budget cuts lawmakers passed this year ‘cannot be achieved.'” As Erica Grieder pointed out Thursday, these letters (Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senator Jane Nelson sent one to Traylor) aren’t exactly clear cut and there’s plenty of room for “interpretation.” Traylor writes: “I understand your letter to direct HHSC to preserve access to care even if it means the full rate reductions contemplated by Rider 50 cannot be achieved.” And as the Tribune notes, it’s not yet clear “how the health commission plans to modify the planned cuts, or whether the announcement would affect the status of the ongoing lawsuit.
Firearms 101 — People like to assume all Texans are pro-gun, but the state’s school have displayed an incredible resistance to concealed-carry laws. That contradiction has led to some tension, particularly in Austin Thursday: “A rally against the new law Thursday on the West Mall of the Austin campus was disrupted by two counter-protesters who were arrested after they refused to leave,” the Austin American-Statesman reports. University officials at UT and beyond are working overtime to use policy exceptions to keep guns out of the classroom. “Schools can write ‘reasonable rules’ in light of ‘the nature of the student population, specific safety considerations, and the uniqueness of the campus environment.’ And there’s a catch to the catch: The rules may not ‘generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus.’ In other words, schools can establish gun-free zones, but they must be limited.” The UT System’s deputy chancellor “said officials hope to reach a consensus in the next few weeks on campus ‘exclusion zones,’ which might include child-care centers, hospitals, schools on university grounds for kindergarten up to 12th grade and laboratories with potentially dangerous chemical or biological materials.” One law professor overseeing online comments from the community said the majority of them have been against the new expanded gun rights. As the Statesman article notes, “The issue has special resonance at UT-Austin, in part because of its history. The new law takes effect Aug. 1, 2016, exactly 50 years after Charles Whitman opened fire from 230 feet up on the UT Tower in a rampage that ultimately took 16 lives.”
Troll Slain — Texas has a serious patent problem (or perhaps less of one now). “The most prolific patent troll of last year, eDekka LLC, has had its patent wiped out. The ruling will shut down 168 lawsuits that eDekka filed,” according to Ars Technica. “The ruling comes from a surprising source: US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other US judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.” eDekka, the demon brainchild of a Texas lawyer, was pretty ruthless with its trolling, filing “more than 100 lawsuits last year alone, making it the top patent troll in terms of number of lawsuits. Most of its targets, like 3balls, are retailers doing straightforward sales online. Other defendants included Fab, Harry & David, Dress Barn, the NFL, Etsy, and Estee Lauder.”