The State of Texas: October 29, 2015
Examining the new normal of forest fires and debating God’s existence in Katy.
Here’s a perfect explanation as to why T. Boone Pickens is the coolest grandfather you’ll never have, all in one tweet. But if the 140 character limit won’t deliver your T. Boone fix, there’s an entire article to go with it.
— Sarah Mervosh (@smervosh) October 28, 2015
Smokey the Scare — Now that the Hidden Pines fires have been completely snuffed, it may be time to start preparing for the next one. Or better yet, learning how to prevent it completely. The Associated Press has a very interesting, if kinda scary, look at the increasing frequency and size of wildfires in the state. “Texas had 157,000 wildfires over a nine-year period ending in 2014, said Mark Stanford, fire chief of the Texas A&M Forest Service. Nearly 80 percent of those fires raged within 2 miles of a community, he said.” Stanford said the threat to neighborhoods was “unheard of” when he started, and that wildfires primarily affected rural areas. The problem is partly due to community expansion, but continued drought conditions are also to blame. Experts speaking to the AP point to increased community awareness and more controlled burns as possible solutions, but as Texas continues to grow it needs to take a serious look at the problem before the worst happens: we become California.
Matter of Fact — The story of a Texas seventh grader is quickly gaining attention after she told the Katy ISD school board that her reading teacher said, “God is a myth.” Jordan Wooley, a student at West Memorial Junior High, said that while completing an exercise in which she was asked to distinguish statements from opinion, factual claim, or commonplace assertion, the twelve-year-old marked the statement “There is a God” as both a fact and an opinion. According to Wooley, that was when her teacher told her God was a myth. This did not go over well. An argument ensured, books were slammed, apparently one child began went home crying. “I didn’t feel like it was fair for my faith and my religion to have anything to do with what I’m learning about in school,” Wooley told the school board. The incident has really fired up Christians, most publicly conservatives (even Governor Greg Abbott offered his opinion), but school officials are pleading for a bit of understanding. Wonderfully understated, officials called the activity “ill-conceived,” but disputed some of how the student described the scene, and stressed that the teacher “is distraught by this incident, as some commentary has gone as far as to vilify her without knowing her, her Christian faith, or the context of the classroom activity.”
Medicaid Madness — Who’s in charge of Planned Parenthood and what’s it allowed to do? State officials seemed pretty sure it was under their jurisdiction last week when they raided numerous Planned Parenthood offices as part of an ongoing effort to cut Medicaid funding for the organization. Now the Obama Administration is (gingerly) making the argument that it’s the federal government calling the shots. “Officials with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services contacted the state Medicaid director on Tuesday to give notice that removing Planned Parenthood from the program ‘may be in conflict with federal law’ because poor women who obtain family planning services through Medicaid would be limited from receiving health care from the qualified provider of their choice,” according to the Texas Tribune. In other Texas Medicaid news, the cuts to therapy funding for disabled children is back in the news, as state officials would very much like to proceed with that plan. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office filed a motion with the Third District Court of Appeals “to override a judge’s order that prevented the Health and Human Services Commission from immediately implementing $150 million in cuts,” according to the Houston Chronicle. As the story notes, the motion “had been expected” and “kicks off a new chapter in what could be a long legal battle over the controversial cuts ordered by the state Legislature earlier this year.”