Top 10 State Stories
Not even an expensive trial lawyer could save Tom DeLay
By Michael King, Lee Nichols, Jordan Smith, and Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 7, 2011
1) JUSTICE DELAYED! Just before Thanksgiving – yet another reason to celebrate – a Travis County jury convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy, in connection with his Texans for a Republican Majority PAC. The verdict was a long time coming and will be appealed, but jurors didn't buy DeLay's version of the Bart Simpson defense: Everybody does it, he didn't do it, and it wasn't a crime anyway. Sentencing is scheduled for January.
2) BUDGET DISASTER So much for the Texas economic miracle: The state faces a biennial deficit estimated anywhere from $20 billion to $28 billion and has already directed state agencies to slash 7.5% of their general revenue spending. As Speaker Joe Straus said, whatever happens now, the ruling Texas GOP has no one to blame but itself.
3) TIMOTHY COLE PARDONED Cole was posthumously exonerated in 2009 by District Judge Charlie Baird (the state's first posthumous exoneration), but it took more than a year for Gov. Rick Perry to finally issue a pardon.
4) TCEQ VS. EPA See "Top 10 Environmental Stories."
5) TEXAS DROPS OUT OF RACE TO THE TOP Oh, states' rights, has Gov. Rick Perry exhausted your usefulness? In January, the governor used the "federal interference" argument to justify not filing Texas' request for Race to the Top funds, throwing an application – that took Texas Education Agency staff 800 hours to complete – out the window, flushing with it $700 million for Texas schools.
6) STATE BOARD OF MISEDUCATION The SBOE further embarrassed Texas this spring with battles over the social studies curriculum; the far-right members inserted even more archconservative ideology into the standards. Even conservatives couldn't stomach the shenanigans, as November elections tilted at least one and possibly more seats back to the reality-based community.
7) OVER OUR DEAD BODIES Hustling easy votes against "Obamacare," Attorney General Greg Abbott added Texas to a suit against the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor, arguing that provisions in the federal health care reform legislation requiring people to buy insurance are unconstitutional. Texas continues to lead the nation in uninsured and underinsured citizens.
8) 'CORPUS CHRISTI' VS. RICK PERRY A group of Tarleton State University theatre majors' plans to perform a one-act student workshop production of Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi should never have been headline news. Then Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst joined the chorus of homophobic threats and protests, forcing university administrators to cancel the March performance. Dewhurst had the gall to call himself "a strong defender of free speech" – except speech he doesn't like.
9) KILLER KELLER UNWARNED See "Top 10 Criminal Justice Stories."
10) SUPREMES CONSIDER STRIPPER SURCHARGE Two lower courts found the infamous $5-per-customer fee on live nude entertainment in venues serving alcohol – aka the "titty tax" – unconstitutional, but that's not stopping the state from collecting it or defending it in court. On March 25, the Texas Supreme Court heard the latest appeal from the Attorney General's Office. Expect a decision sometime in the next decade.
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