Three-Point Shots, Vol. 1, No. 3: Legislature Week 5
Keeping illegal weather balloons out of Texas, and other uses of your tax dollars.
Welcome to another edition of Three-Point Shots, an occasional series briefly surveying three interrelated stories of passing importance. Three-Point Shots is a part of my Life Its Ownself Substack page. If you enjoy reading it, please 1) hit the Like button at the bottom, 2) subscribe to the Life Its Ownself newsletter, and 3) recommend it to others. Also, comments welcome and encouraged.
Friday, February 10, 2023
Well, the Legislature is getting down to business. House commitees were named this week. Speaker Dade Phelan bowed to pressure from his fellow Republicans and reduced the number of Democratic committee chairs from 13 down to nine (out of 36). In the last few sessions, Democrats had chaired about 40% of the committees; now they will chair 25%. Fine. Whatever. Now the serious work of the session will begin.
1. Uvalde: At Long Last, Some … Accountability?
You may recall that after the horrific shooting of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde last May. In the wake of the massacre, an after action report by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University and a Texas House committee reportfound that law enforcement had failed those children. DPS Director Steve McCraw, who’d up until then done a competent job of blaming the failures on local law enforcement, was particularly embarrassed by the revelation that 91 DPS officers were among the 376 law enforcement officers standing by during 73 minutes of agonizing bloodshed.
McCraw said he’d get to the bottom of it, and he has. Today DPS announced that it was closing its investigation. It looked into the conduct of seven officers, and cleared four of them (and, presumably, the other 84 DPS officers on site) of any wrongdoing. Two have been fired, and another has resigned. And of course, no one seriously considered for a moment that McCraw himself ought to be fired or disciplined for the agency’s dereliction of duty.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rolando Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, filed a package of bills to improve training and response times for law enforcement and other emergency services.
“Everybody in Texas needs to examine the complete and utter failure that happened on this day,” he said. “It must not ever happen again.”
As part of the investigation, ProPublica, the Tribune and the Post detailed medical responses for multiple victims who emerged from the school with a pulse but later died.
Gutierrez said those victims and others “might have lived” had the response been more in line with the average length of a mass shooting, which he said was about 12 to 14 minutes, compared to the 77 minutes children waited in Uvalde before the shooter was killed.
2. Speaking of ineffective law enforcement on the border …
The Texas Military Department – yes, there is one – has requested an additional $460 million from state budget writers to pay for the state’s vaunted Operation Lone Star borer security operation until the end of August. That’s on top of the $1.687 billion the
re-election stunt totally necessary border security initiative has cost the state since September 2021. For the two-year budget cycle beginning this September, they are pleading for another $1.8 billion.
On top of that, the DPS will ask for a big chunk of money for its role in
militarizing protecting the border.
3. Them Chinese Better Not Mess With Texas
Last weekend, the good people of America lost their ever-loving minds over a Chinese balloon that may or may not have been equipped with high-tech spy stuff, nuclear weapons, and/or enough wasabi to destroy the tastebuds of Middle America. The military eventually shot it down off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon, about 200 feet tall with a payload the size of a regional passenger jet fuselage, was too big to be a weather balloon, notwithstanding Chinese protestations of innocence.
Depending on your political tribal affiliation, the balloon imbroglio was either a restrained but effective foreign policy victory or a sign that Uncle Joe has lost it and put America at risk from the ChiComs.
And if you’re in the latter category, you’ll be happy to know that State Rep. Cody Harris has filed HCR 40, “affirm[ing] the governor’s authority to order the Texas Military Department to shoot down an aircraft illegally operating inside Texas airspace if that aircraft’s purpose is to collect information in behalf of a foreign nation.” And that includes Oklahoma during football season.
Speaking of football season, it will finally end this weekend with the Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs. This will be the 423rd year that no Texas team made the championship, although both quarterbacks and a raft of other players have Texas connections. And halftime entertainer Rihanna has her own Texas connections. May the best team win!
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