Top 10 State Stories
Budget cuts and wildfires left us a bit parched
1) Water Water Nowhere It wasn't just the record high temperatures. It was the half-billion dead trees, the shrinking lakes, the 3.5 million acres lost to wildfires, and the collapsing wildlife and farm animal populations. As climate change accelerates and Texas' multiyear drought worsens, the state's water policy experts are left wondering how to deal with the new normal.
2) We Only Count Backward Knowing it was $27 billion short for current expenses, Texas legislators had three options: Find new revenue, slash spending, or balance the two. Guess which they picked? The results were school closures, service cuts, staff layoffs, and GOP chest-beating about balanced budgets.
3) War on Women Despite 1.5 million women needing services, lawmakers gutted funding for preventative health care and family planning. Only 15% of women in need were being served before, and with just $38 million left for the biennium – after a two-thirds cut – hundreds of thousands more will lose their only source of health care.
4) Spread Those Legs If that weren't enough, Gov. Rick Perry declared anti-abortion, mandatory ultrasound legislation an "emergency," and the Lege eagerly complied, officially introducing physical pecksniffery between a woman and her doctor. Federal Judge Sam Sparks has temporarily enjoined the law, pending the outcome of litigation brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
5) Map White Only One lesson of the 2011 legislative session: Gerrymander with haste; repent at leisure. The GOP's egregious attempts to write Democratic and minority voters off the map brought court cases, a delayed primary season, and no confirmed maps for the 2012 election season.
6) Vote White Only The GOP shoved through its most extreme voter ID – that is, voter-suppression – law, while dismissing Dem proposals for easier registration. They also drew the wrath of the U.S. Attorney General and Department of Justice, assuring a string of brutal court fights – but meanwhile they'll be happy to diminish turnout anyway.
7) War on Women, Too The Women's Health Program had been a bright spot in a dark landscape, in 2010 serving more than 180,000 women with basic care. Now it's a target in the GOP's determination to defund Planned Parenthood, the only provider of health care for thousands of Texas women. Only the feds and honest Dems stand in the way – think you'll find time to vote this year?
8) Tea Falls, Occupy Rises The fringe right dominated the 2010 elections, but this year tea party candidates are either standing down or facing strong challenges; it's awkward to govern by anti-governance. The new Occupy populism changed the national debate to inequality in wealth and power – can it sustain a long haul?
9) Bradley Booted After a nasty session at the Senate Nominations Committee, featuring Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley shamelessly sneering at Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, the senators declined to confirm Bradley as chair of the Forensic Science Commission that he had aggressively undermined. Neither his winning personality nor his naked loyalty to Gov. Perry was enough to save his seat.
10) Adios, Mofo Oh, yeah, Gov. Goodhair ran for prez. Neither his macho posturing, shameless gay-bashing, anti-abortion extremism, nor empty sanctimony was enough to save the Perry campaign from his arrogant ignorance and sheer incompetence. Oops! He's coming back home ... please just shoot us now. (See also: "Top 10 Rick Perry Campaign Misfires." )