Texas By The Numbers
Minimum Pay, Maximum Effort — Texas minimum wage: $7.15 an hour. Number of months it takes to pay for tuition at UT-Austin working 40 hours per week at that rate: 8.4 months. Working 20 hours: 18 months. Working full-time at minimum wage in 1998: 4.8 months. Working part-time in 1998: 10.8 months.
DPS or DEA? — Amount of drug captures DPS claims it is responsible for during last year’s border surge aimed at illegal immigration: 30 percent. Estimated amount of marijuana: 70 tons. Amount of busts that were cocaine captures: 11 percent. Weight: 125 pounds. Meth: three percent. Weight: 33 pounds. Heroin: 61 percent. Weight: 67 pounds.
Troubling — More details concerning the latest officer-involved shooting, captured on camera by a neighbor, have emerged. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the Bexar County man who was shot by police while he appeared to have his hands raised, was also “upset and threatening ‘suicide by cop,'” which was revealed in a recorded conversation between radio dispatchers and EMT personnel. Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said the original video “causes concern, but it is also important to understand that was an end of a lengthy confrontation.” As reported by the Express-News and other outlets, the FBI has opened up a federal civil rights investigation into the incident. In addition, a second video of the incident has emerged, one that shows a “‘very clear view’ of the confrontation, Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood,” told USA Today. “LaHood said it was unclear what the suspect’s intent was in raising his hands and cautioned against a rush to judgment.” The Express-News also has in footnote look at officer-involved deaths in Bexar County, noting that law enforcement officials “have killed more than 30 people since 2010,” ranking “eighth in the nation for the number fatal police-involved shootings from 2010 to 2014.” In related news, Houston prepares to honor Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, who was brutally executed this past weekend and whose funeral will be held on Friday.
And, They’re Off On — All that news about horse and dog races being canceled in Texas? Just kidding! Following the back-and-forth standoff with the Texas Racing Commission concerning “historic betting,” the legislature agreed Tuesday to fund the TRC, temporarily that is. “The deal will free up $186,000 to allow the commission to continue overseeing horse and greyhound racing for three months as lawmakers debate how to respond to its approval of [historic racing],” writes the Houston Chronicle, which has done a pretty solid job of reporting out all the back-and-forth nonsense. The two sides have been in a year-long fight over historic betting, with the TRC pushing ahead with the randomized, slot-machine-like play and legislative leaders calling foul on an unapproved (by them) style of betting. It seems like only yesterday (because it was) that the TRC was forced to close because lawmakers refused funding. “The commission’s closure halted racing operations because state law requires commission executive staff to approve or be present at live racing and simulcast racing, in which players bet on races taking place elsewhere,” the San Antonio Express-News reported. One lobbyist told the Chronicle that this kind of legislative budget board fight “is kind of unprecedented.” So will the TRC still be operating in three months? At this point, all bets are off.
Education on Trial — Just in time for the start of school, the Texas Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the ongoing fight over school financing. And the Austin American-Statesman didn’t paint a rosy picture for the state. “Pivoting between attacks on several fronts, lawyers for Texas scrambled to defend the state’s public education finance system from challenges by school districts, charter schools and businesses during fast-paced argument.” The challengers’ gusto was pretty obvious, as they “argued that the entire school finance system is so inefficient that it should be declared unconstitutional and restructured.” Most reports suggest that the TxSC will come to a decision by either “later this year or early next year,” or, said less cheerfully, “many months.” Unfortunately, “Justices gave no indication of when they would rule on the state’s appeal of a lower court decision that overturned the current funding system and ordered lawmakers to boost state aid for schools and make the system more equitable. That decision was handed down by state District Judge John Dietz of Travis County one year ago.”
The Pas-Ohh — The Texas Tribune has an always interesting look at the border economy, specifically how the pesos’ downward spiral is causing problems for trans-national business, particularly in a place like El Paso. “On Tuesday, about 17 Mexican pesos equaled one U.S. dollar, up from about 13 in September 2014. For people like Norton, who estimates that 70 to 80 percent of his clientele is from Mexico, that means the fall and winter shopping seasons will be unpredictable at best,” according to the piece. “Just how hard local businesses might be hit varies. Since 1978, about 45 percent of the business for retailers in Laredo has come from Mexican shoppers, Coronado said, citing data from the federal reserve bank. In McAllen it’s about 35 percent and in Brownsville, about 25 percent. That’s compared to about 15 percent in El Paso.” What exactly is going on? No one is entirely sure, but there are some good guesses. Some cite the craziness of the foreign exchange market in general, while others “cite the strengthening U.S. economy as one factor in the peso’s fall.” The forecast is still cloudy, but “should the peso’s slide continue, Mexicans will continue to think twice about exchanging their money for dollars and shopping in Texas for everything from basic provisions to furniture and auto parts. It also means more Texans living just north of the Rio Grande will consider shopping in Mexico, where they can stretch their dollars.