Vol 29, Issue 30 Print Issue

General and primary election turnout in Texas since 1970 as a percentage of the voting age population
General and primary election turnout in Texas since 1970 as a percentage of the voting age population

Elections Behind and Ahead

The story through the primaries and runoffs? It's over for most of the races — only a few remain competitive. Turnover, as you would expect in the election after a redistricting, is high.

Survey: Local Juvenile Programs Underfunded

Instead of continuing to spend millions on problem-plagued secure facilities operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, juvenile justice reform advocates say legislators should invest more in local probation departments.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

New rules proposed for the Women’s Health Program drew protests from doctors groups. Five statewide groups objected to the provisions barring doctors from discussing abortion as an option with their patients. The state proposed new rules as part of their plan to take over the Women’s Health Program from the federal government and opened them up for public comment. 

The affirmative action case that will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in October prompted the defendant, the University of Texas, to file a brief defending its admissions policies. UT was sued by a white applicant, who claimed that race was the reason she didn’t get into the school in 2008. Lower courts sided with the university, but Abigail Noel Fisher continued her appeal to the highest court, which agreed to hear the case. UT justified its admissions procedures by outlining how many factors it takes into consideration in the admission process. President Bill Powers released a video statement in support of the policy, calling it a tool to make the student body more diverse.

A new study by a University of Texas geophysicist blames the increase in North Texas earthquakes on fracking. The seismic activity is linked to the disposal of water used in the drilling process. Deep wells used for disposal can be as far underground as 13,000 feet and can cause the ground to shift along fault lines. Earthquakes in the Barnett Shale area, where fracking has become a prevalent form of oil and gas production, have increased in frequency, although their magnitude is relatively small. The study’s author, Cliff Frohlich, pointed out that the benefits of fracking may outweigh the increased earthquakes, and urged cooperation on finding a potential solution to the problem.

In spite of a test showing his IQ to be only 61, Texas executed Marvin Wilson for the murder of a police informant in 1992. Competency is usually considered to be 70. State attorneys argued that the test was one of many and shouldn’t be the defining word in an assessment of whether Wilson would be eligible for the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed in spite of its 2002 ruling that outlawed the death penalty for mentally impaired prisoners.

Political People and their Moves

George P. Bush has signed on to serve as the deputy finance chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

Patsy Spaw, the secretary of the Texas Senate, was named staff chairwoman of the National Conference of State Legislatures at the 2012 Legislative Summit.

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Benjamin N. Smith of McKinney as judge of the 380th Judicial District Court in Collin County for a term to expire at the next general election. 

Perry also appointed Elizabeth Leonard of Midland as judge of the 238th Judicial District Court in Midland County for a term to expire at the next general election.

Brig. Gen. Manuel "Tony" Rodriguez will take command of the Texas State Guard upon the retirement of Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters, who has commanded since July 2009.

ROSS Communications Inc., a strategic communications and public affairs firm, promoted Mona Taylor to vice president. Taylor previously served as one of the company’s senior account associates.

The Texas Governor’s Commission for Women will induct five Texas women into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame: Barbara Smith Conrad of Center Point, Nina Godiwalla of Houston, Mary Saunders of Denton, Anne Lesley Corn of Austin and Harriet O’Neill of Austin.

James "Jimmy" Simmons is retiring from the presidency of Lamar University in January after 14 years in that post. The Texas State University System is starting a national search for his replacement.

Gene McCarty, the deputy executive director at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, is retiring after 34 years at the agency. He's been in his current job since 2005. 

Bob Jackson, general counsel at the Texas Department of Transportation, is also retiring at the end of the month. He's been there for almost 30 years.