Top 10 State Stories
Rick Perry's embarrassments, education's funding battles, and more
1) Take Our Governor ... Please! The nation got to see Rick Perry up close on the GOP stump – and they sent him back to Texas, pronto. The guv still hasn't conceded – last week he was musing about putting a "God-fearing conservative patriot" in the White House (not referring to the current occupant). Meanwhile, some Texans filed secession petitions on WhiteHouse.gov after Obama's re-election, leading to a response by Austinites petitioning for our city to secede from the state, taking Lockhart's barbecue and Dublin's Dr Pepper with us.
2) Lawsuit Lines The Legislature's relentless gerrymandering landed in federal court again, generating a series of lawsuits, some still pending, and a moderated map that yet managed to slice Travis County into five districts, four anchored elsewhere. A couple of Dems (Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Sen. Wendy Davis) overcame the odds, but GOP dominance determines the political landscape. Even with court intervention, most Travis County residents now live in Senate and Congressional districts anchored as far away as Laredo and Horseshoe Bay.
3) Dang Feds It wasn't enough to be in federal court over redistricting; Texas got itself sued as well over a reactionary voter ID law, which didn't pass muster in U.S. District Court and couldn't affect the November election. However, the right may do better in the long campaign against affirmative action; five Supremes seem poised to reject UT-Austin's limited attempts to diversify its student body.
4) Back to School The Lege's slashing of the public education budget – $5.4 billion in cuts not even funding population growth – also landed it in court, as diminished school districts once again charged that the state's failure to "efficiently and equitably" fund the schools violates the state Constitution. Alas, that never stopped them before.
5) Perry Death Record In January, Gov. Perry presided over his 239th execution, surpassing all other modern governors, and marking the 478th Texas execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. Texas led the U.S. with 15 executions in 2012.
6) First, Do Major Harm In the wake of major 2011 budget cuts, the state amplified its assault on health care in 2012, most dramatically in undermining the Women's Health Program and excluding Planned Parenthood clinics from the program. The Health and Human Services Commission claims it will replicate the program with state funds – but without sufficient resources or doctors.
7) Spread 'em, Ladies Adding insult to injury, the state's "transvaginal ultrasound" law took effect, requiring any woman seeking an abortion to submit to an invasive, narrated procedure intended to intimidate a patient into changing her mind. Male legislators made it clear they value fetuses above their female constituents.
8) UltraLite Gov All of David Dewhurst's money and experience earned him also-ran status in the GOP primary race to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; former Solicitor General Ted Cruz ran so far to Dewhurst's right – and in a delayed, shrunken primary run-off caused by GOP overreaching – that the Lite Guv never knew what hit him.
9) Private Spies Last year ended with the Anonymous hack of local corporate "global intelligence" firm Stratfor; 2012 began with embarrassing revelations from Stratfor's emails (posted by WikiLeaks), including its dalliance with a Texas Department of Public Safety officer who "infiltrated" Occupy Austin and was feeding dubious "intel" to Stratfor about same. DPS and Stratfor huffily rejected all media inquiries, but lesson learned for the rest of us: Stupid is as stupid does.
10) Hotter and Drier The continuing drought and soaring temperatures leave Texas in a record drought. Daily water inflow into the Highland Lakes may be up from 2012, but are still a fraction of annual averages, and the Lower Colorado River Authority is already fighting with Valley rice farmers over water rights for next year.