Vol 29, Issue 36 Print Issue

Democratic U.S Senate candidate Paul Sadler, visits Austin Central Labor Council Labor Day fish fry at Texas AFL-CIO office parking lot in Austin, Texas on August, 31st, 2012
Democratic U.S Senate candidate Paul Sadler, visits Austin Central Labor Council Labor Day fish fry at Texas AFL-CIO office parking lot in Austin, Texas on August, 31st, 2012

Long Shots

Democrat Paul Sadler is trying to persuade Texans that it's possible for a long shot to win a general election in Texas. Long shots win sometimes — just look at who Sadler is running against.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A business tax created in 2006 to address the last school funding challenge is facing its own challenge at the state Supreme Court. Nestle USA has sued the state over the franchise tax, claiming that it violates the Constitution’s prohibition on taxes that are not equal and uniform. The company alleges that it is charged a higher rate than its wholesale role warrants, paying the full 1 percent that manufacturers pay. Texas officials defend the rate charged Nestle and other national companies that don’t have manufacturing operations in Texas but are nevertheless considered to be companies operating as manufacturers. The franchise tax has underperformed since its creation, but because it is expected to bring in over $5 billion this year, it could cause a major problem come budget-writing time.

The group asking for interim redistricting maps to be tossed out got turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a one-sentence denial, the justices rejected the request by the League for United Latin American Citizens to throw out the maps drawn when the Legislature’s maps were rejected by the Justice Department and federal courts. The interim maps will be used in the upcoming general election.

Observers are closely watching the outcome of a vote to unionize a corporate-owned Coca-Cola plant in Fort Worth. It’s the second attempt in 15 months after the Teamsters called off an election in June of 2011. Coca-Cola spent more than $200,000 on consultants to combat the unionizing of the plant, promising to fix workers’ problems. But organizers came back and found employees whose interest in better pay, lower health-care costs, job security and fairness in the workplace led them to schedule another election. If the vote succeeds, the plant will be the first Coca-Cola owned plant in the South to be unionized.

The University of Texas at Austin came to a standstill last week after receiving a bomb threat and calling for an evacuation. An investigation into the threat, which was deemed a hoax, continues to broaden as other universities across the nation received similar threats. UT police are working with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Austin Police Department and the FBI to try to discover the connection between threats called in to North Dakota State University, Louisiana State University and Arkansas State University.

Halliburton has called on the National Guard to help it retrieve a radioactive rod it lost somewhere on the road between Pecos and Odessa. The seven-inch rods are used in the drilling of natural gas wells and contain americium-241 beryllium, which doesn’t produce radiation in its most dangerous form. Still, a spokesman for the state health department warned people to keep a healthy 20-25 foot distance from the rod. 

In addition to listing the state as the 10th fattest in the country with an obesity rate of 30.4 percent, a study of obesity in America predicts the rate will increase to 57.2 percent by 2030. That spells trouble for the state’s health care costs. Both the public and private sectors could see their costs rise by billions of dollars as they contend with an increase in obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. The study offers suggestions for reducing the burden but cautions that there is no simple solution to the obesity epidemic. 

Lubbock’s Fiestas Patrias parade saw some unexpected fireworks. Carl Tepper, head of the Lubbock County Republican Party, reportedly yelled at the Tejano Democrats float, provoking a response that attracted the attention of the parade chairman, Frank Gutierrez. The Tejano Democrats accused Tepper of pointing at the Democrats’ float and yelling that people could get their welfare checks there. Tepper denies saying anything about welfare and characterized all of the comments as jokes. Gutierrez intervened and the parade went on without incident.

Political People and their Moves

Dale Wainwright is leaving the Texas Supreme Court at the end of the month. He ranks third in seniority on the court and is resigning too close to the November elections for the governor to get an appointee on the ballot. That means Gov. Rick Perry will name someone who — subject to Senate approval — will serve until after the 2014 election. Wainwright, a former district judge in Houston, joined the court in January 2003. He'll go to work in the Austin office of Bracewell & Giuliani next, and has already talked quietly with political folks about a possible future run for attorney general. 

Don Baylor, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, has been appointed to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Pat Ekiss of Taylor to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. Ekiss is the city of Taylor's fire chief. Perry also appointed Nyria Melchor of Plano to the Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Melchor is a community volunteer and member of the State Bar of Texas.