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THE STATE OF TEXAS Reported Hate Crimes 2001 430 2003 295 2005 267 2007 243 2009 164 Source: Texas Department of Public Safety “Since that is the issue in my campaignthe key issueI didn’t see how [attending] would benefit the campaign or advance getting this Democrat elected.” Republican elected officials turned out for a different Austin event later in the daythe Hands Off Texas rally at the Capitol. The crowd of roughly 400 people was enthusiastic, but ornery. “We are not racists. We don’t like the white half either!” read one sign. The rally focused on national politics. David Porter, the GOP candidate for Railroad Commission, made the mistake of trying to discuss policy in his speech. “I am a proponent of common sense regulations,” he said, emphasizing drilling safety. The applause was lackluster. So Porter retreated to the rhetorical red meat. He said Obama’s moratorium on offshore drilling is a “tyrannical attempt to destroy the free market …. Tell Obama and his goons, keep your hands off Texas!” he shouted. The crowd went wild. ABBY RAPOPORT AND DAVE MANN DEPT. OF WATER DEPARTMENTS A Ruling for Capture SOON THE STATE SUPREME COURT WILL HEAR EDWARDS Aquifer Authority v. Day, a landmark case that could upend the state’s rickety system of groundwater regulation. At issue is whether landowners have an absolute, vested right to the groundwater beneath their property, as the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found. “If this theory were to prevail in this Court, groundwater conservation in Texas would be finished,” warns an amicus brief filed by the Texas Association of Groundwater Conservation Districts. A foreshadow of that scenario can be found in a little-noticed court decision in another case, Bragg v. Edwards Aquifer Authority. In May, now-retired District Judge Thomas Lee awarded compensation to landowners for the “taking” of the water beneath their property. The litigants in that case have been squared off since 1996, when the newly created Edwards Aquifer Authority prohibited Glenn and JoLynn Bragg, a Medina County couple, from pumping as much water as they wanted to irrigate two pecan orchards. “The Braggs invested their lives, labor and money in a good family farm that could be passed on to their heirs,” wrote Judge Lee. “That life plan has been undermined, and their investment severely devalued.” Lee calculated the Braggs’ loss at $867,000. The authority says it had to follow its own rules, which are designed to conserve the aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for San Antonio. Opening the door to such “takings” claims could lay waste to the agency, said Darcy Frownfelter, general counsel for the authority. Thousands of people own land over the aquifer, and each could sue for more water. There’s no reason to think “takings” suits would be limited to the Edwards Aquifer Authority. There are 98 groundwater conservation districts in the state, and many are moving toward pumping caps. “Basically you’re hog-tying them,” said Amy Hardberger, a water expert and attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund of Texas. In Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, South Texas farmers Burrell Day and Joel McDaniel are suing for the right to pump as much water as they say they need for irrigation. If the State Supreme Court decides the two unequivocally own the portion of the aquifer beneath their land, then the Bragg case can move forward. If not, Bragg is probably moot. The fate of Texas water hangs in the balance. FORREST WILDER DEPT. OF POPULAR OPINION A Polling Paradox WHEN GALLUP RELEASED ITS “STATE OF THE STATES” POLL numbers, we can only imagine the jubilation that might have poured from Texas Democrats. The state’s long-suffering political losers surely found something to smile about when they saw that Texans are not “above average” in their identification with the GOP. Gallup says we have the “average” number of voters calling themselves Republican or “Lean Republican.” While Texas is “above average” in the number who say they’re conservative, that percentage is nowhere near that of states like Wyoming, Idaho and Oklahoma. Does this mean Texas is poised to go blue in November? That’s still a long shot. Among the big statesCalifornia, New York, FloridaTexas is the most Republican and most conservative. The Republicans will fight like hell to keep it red. “Sure, it’s not as solidly Republican as Wyoming, but Wyoming has three electoral votes,” says Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University who specializes in polling and voting behavior. “Texas is absolutely one of the toughest states for Democrats,” says Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia whose website, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, caters to political junkies and soothsayers. Sabato says the Gallup numbers don’t give the full picture. “It’s a Republican year,” he says, “and Texas is fundamentally conservative and Republican.” Sabato doesn’t dismiss the Democrats’ chances. He has listed the Texas gubernatorial race under “leans R”a much better prospect for Democratic candidate Bill White than, say, “likely R” or, worst of 9 READ the filings in Bragg vs. EAA at tx1o.comtbragg READ more from Gallup’s State of the States report at AUGUST 20, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3