The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With Texas suffering through the worst one-year drought in state history, a new warning from the state climatologist hits especially hard. The forecast for the upcoming winter and new year includes a 50 percent chance for the continuing influence of La Niña conditions. If that happens, drier-than-normal weather could persist, leading to continuing trouble with reservoirs across the state. Their levels have dropped from 81 percent at the beginning of the year to 68 percent.

The state’s power grid is still struggling to keep up with record-breaking demand. As Texas’ heat wave persists and temperatures stay above 100 degrees, the grid operator, ERCOT, again this week declared a level-two emergency, when the power supply fell short of grid operators' expectations. One hundred large industrial customers were asked to shut down for more than two hours on Wednesday to avoid forcing rolling blackouts.

School funding lawsuits may be on the horizon as district officials and administrators across the state grapple with $4 billion in funding cuts. Groups that expected the state to devise a more equitable school finance plan were frustrated with the lack of a system overhaul in a school funding bill. Since the 1989 Edgewood v. Kirby case, the state has faced a continuing string of school funding lawsuits.

A judge will allow Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley to remain in place as investigator in a 25-year-old murder case. New DNA evidence tested in the 1986 Michael Morton case revealed that a former California inmate’s blood was found on a bandana containing blood and DNA from the victim, Christine Morton. Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield declined to remove Bradley, the former head of the Forensic Science Commission, from the case, but warned investigators not to drag their feet and called for another hearing on Sept. 27 to review updated findings.

Two years ago, the Texas Department of Transportation spun off a new agency, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, to handle vehicle registrations and administrative tasks centering on sales and purchases of vehicles. After an unflattering consultant review of the organization was published at the end of July, its executive director, Edward Serna, submitted his resignation, effective Aug. 31. Serna faced criticism for not facilitating customer service.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul celebrated his 76th birthday by raising $1.6 million in a 24-hour campaign. In a press release, Paul’s campaign stressed the grassroots nature of his fundraising and pointed to what it called an impressive finish in the recent Iowa Straw Poll. So far, though, Paul is not polling anywhere near the top in the crowded primary field. A RealClearPolitics average of polls ranks him sixth in the list of hopefuls.

The state parole board is making preparations to comply with a law going into effect Sept. 1 that directs state officials to deport some of the foreign citizens incarcerated in Texas prisons. More than 11,000 Texas prisoners identify themselves as citizens of foreign origin, and legislators have viewed them as a drain on an already overburdened prison system. Releasing them to their home countries could save the state millions in tax dollars, though parole board members have expressed concern that convicts released might not be deported, leaving them on the streets of Texas.