The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The University of Texas at Austin has shrunk its automatic admissions policy even further. Texas law provides for automatic admission for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, but this week the Texas Education Agency notified school administrators that UT would restrict 2014 applicants to the top 7 percent of their graduating classes. 

A tall ship destined to be a winter tourist attraction in Galveston fell victim to Hurricane Sandy. The HMS Bounty was traveling down the East Coast from Connecticut to Florida when it was overcome by 18-foot seas off the coast of North Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members, but one body was recovered, and the captain of the ship, Robin Walbridge, remains missing. The ship’s ultimate destination was Pier 21 in Galveston, where it was to be docked next to another tall ship, the Elissa, and intended to attract more tourists to the city’s historic Strand district.

County commissioners in Dallas County have voted to give a stipend next year to unmarried and gay employees whose partners are forced to purchase individual health insurance because they aren’t eligible to be covered under the county’s benefit program. The program, which is expected to cost the county $100,000 per year, drew criticism from Republicans, while Democrats called the deal a good way to attract and retain the best employees.

Four years after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is still inundated with claims and has only paid out about 10 percent of the claims filed. Meanwhile, the fund for anticipated payments is almost 50 percent tapped, and the agency’s reserve fund is only at about 25 percent strength. 

The number of murders in El Paso increased this year to the highest level since 1997, but officials claim that none of the deaths were related to drug-cartel violence. The city has already seen 22 murders in 2012, putting it on track to be the deadliest year since 1997, when there were 25. Violent crime had been falling in El Paso, from an average of 36 murders per year in the 1980s and ’90s to 16 in the 2000s. Police officials said that of the 22 murders, all but one has already been solved.

As state agencies faced cuts to their budgets and layoffs last year, three offices led by elected officials added workers to their staffs. The state auditor’s office reports that Texas agencies cut staff by about 2.1 percent. At the same time, the office of the governor, attorney general and land office added employees.