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From Releasing Prisoners to Bad State Rankings

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Day 37 of the 82nd Texas Legislature

The weather is warming up and so is the Texas Legislature. With the winter storms behind us (for now), Senate lawmakers are probing into the rolling blackouts that left Texans in the dark on Feb. 2. But, the budget is what most legislators are worried about, and you know things are bad when Republican lawmakers are talking about releasing convicts to save money and creating a statewide property tax. In case anyone believed the rosy picture Perry laid out in his State of the State, Texas Democrats issued the fifth edition of “Texas on the Brink,” which outlines just how badly Texas is doing in national rankings for education, health and environmental standards. If that wasn’t enough, in another report released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Texas received a failing grade for its history curriculum.

 

1. Shedding some Light on the Blackouts

Power company executives, utility representatives and natural gas operators spent yesterday in front of two separate Senate committees, trying to explain what caused the rolling blackouts during the Feb. 2 winter storm. The story that emerged from the darkness was that improper winterization of equipment and a breakdown in communication caused the blackout fiasco. [Austin American Statesman]

 

2. Indecent Proposal

During yesterday’s Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on education funding, Sen. Robert Duncan brought up the unthinkable—taxes. The Lubbock Republican proposed reforming the school funding formula by implementing a statewide property tax. Currently, local school districts have control of setting property taxes, which leads to inequity between districts. The policy may sound logical enough; but,as Abby Rapoport points out, nuanced discussions of taxation have been almost nonexistent this session. [Texas Observer] [Dallas Morning News]

 

3. Free bird

Convicts may be receiving a get out of jail free card, but don’t worry—just the nonviolent ones. Faced with making harsh cuts to education, and health and human services, lawmakers are considering a new cost-saving measure: releasing certain nonviolent convicts, particularly foreign citizens eligible for parole, the terminally ill and the elderly. [Austin American Statesman]

 

4. The Brink of Disaster

Texas is number one! Well, number one in uninsured children, carbon dioxide emissions and executions. The Democratic Texas Legislative Study Group released its 2011 edition of “Texas on the Brink” yesterday. The small booklet ranks Texas against the 50 states in key issues like education, health care, environment and public safety. The picture laid out by state Democrats was far uglier— though perhaps more realistic—than the rosy image Gov. Rick Perry presented in his state of the state. [Ft. Worth Star Telegram] [Texas Observer]

 

5. You Stupid or Something?

A study released today flunked Texas for its U.S. history curriculum. Texas was among 28 states to receive a failing grade. The news comes after the State Board of Education revised Texas’ history curriculum last spring to reflect a right-leaning version of the American story. [Austin American Statesman]