• Let's hope the football team can move on quickly from Sanders/Meander case

    Texas head coach Charlie Strong has dismissed nine players and suspended three more for violating team rules since taking over at the helm of the Longhorns in January.
    Texas head coach Charlie Strong has dismissed nine players and suspended three more for violating team rules since taking over at the helm of the Longhorns in January.

    Over the summer, two football players, Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, were arrested after allegedly assaulting a female student in a campus dorm. Following the arrests, Coach Strong suspended both players from the team for an indefinite amount of time. On Aug. 3, he announced that they had been dismissed from the team because of the charges brought against them.  

    Months later, the case has resurfaced. According to documents from the Travis County Court, the jury found enough evidence to indict the two players, which means the trial will proceed. The two players are set to appear in court Friday.  

    It doesn't take a sports expert or Longhorn football fanatic to know that sexually assaulting someone created a PR nightmare for the University, not to mention the slew of negative stereotypes about athletes that were affirmed after the news of the assault broke.  

    This scandal has, unfortunately, marred the clean record that Coach Strong has worked hard to attain since his arrival to Austin. While the Longhorns might not have had the best season, the team worked hard to improve its public image and reputation on campus and across the country — something which should be valued as highly as a winning score.  

    Hopefully, the trial will be quick and painless so the University of Texas, Coach Strong, the Longhorns and their fans can get on with next season, hopefully one devoid of assault or any other negative publicity.   

    Berkeley is an associate editor.

  • Senate's new three-fifths rule will make it more dysfunctional

    On Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick took his new position on the dais as President of the Texas Senate. Just one day into his new term, Patrick set his sights on rule changes within the upper house of the State Legislature. Chief among them was a long-standing promise to reform the "two-thirds rule." By a 20-10 vote, nearly among party lines, the Senate scrapped a 68-year-old tradition that had been unanimously reaffirmed just two years ago.  

    The rule, which was formulated back when every single member of the Senate was a Democrat, places a "blocker bill" ahead of all other legislation at the start of a session. Only by a supermajority may any other legislation surpass this blocker bill on the calendar. Under new rules adopted Wednesday, that threshold has been lowered from 21 votes (two-thirds) to 19 (three-fifths). This is conveniently one vote lower than the number of Republicans in the chamber. 

    A year ago, I wrote a column about this rule and the bipartisan backing it had until recently among political types at the Capitol. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the dean of the Democratic caucus, noted at the time that geographical minorities — as well as political ones — could be adversely affected by the rule change.  

    Even defenders of this rule from the recent past had apparent changes of heart before Wednesday. State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, was reported by the Houston Chronicle last March to "oppose any change to the two-thirds rule because it has allowed lawmakers representing rural areas to protect their interests." 

    But Eltife, like every fellow Republican (with the exception of state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls), voted in favor of the new rules. In fact, Eltife sponsored the pertinent resolution and said, "Today's action will make the Texas Senate even better." 

    The new reality in the Texas Senate is that it will become ever more dysfunctional, just like Congress in Washington. The Senate no longer must rely on any semblance of bipartisanship, a decision it will likely come to regret one day.   

    Horwitz is an associate editor.                                                    

  • Like him or not, Perry had firm principles

    Gov. Rick Perry in a press conference Friday recommended a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola.
    Gov. Rick Perry in a press conference Friday recommended a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola.

    At noon today, Greg Abbott will officially become the 48th Governor of Texas. Rick Perry, number 47, will find himself permanently out of the gubernatorial mansion for the first time in more than 14 years. When Perry first assumed office, Bill Clinton was the president and the average UT freshman was four years old. In the years that have followed — sure to be called the "Rick Perry era" — Perry has demolished all records pertaining to longevity for Texas governors. 

    Perry's economic record is somewhat mixed and will surely be muddied by the recent oil glut, which has the capacity to wreck the so-called "Texas miracle." But along political lines, all should be able to agree on at least one of Perry's strengths: his unwavering commitments to his core principles. 

    In 2001, just months into Perry's term, he vetoed a record 83 bills from the state legislature. He vetoed obscure bills, big bills and bipartisan bills alike. Compared with House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, and Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, a very moderate Republican who would be excommunicated from his party today, Perry was right wing. Paul Burka, writing for Texas Monthly, opined in 2002 that "Laney and Ratliff represent the old order in Texas politics, Perry the new." 

    Fast forward to today, and everything has changed. Compared with Abbott and Dan Patrick, the new Lieutenant Governor, Perry is on the centrist end of his state party. When he ran for president in 2012, the other candidates cannibalized him on his perceived moderation on issues such as undocumented immigration. Looking forward to a probable second campaign in 2016, some have labeled Perry the "anti-Cruz" because of his establishment ties.  

    Certainly, Perry has not moved leftward in the past dozen years. At a time when the opposite is typically true of prominent Republicans, Perry has stuck to his guns and transformed from a far-right zealot to a pragmatic establishment type without ever really changing his policies or positions. Like him or not, that's respectable.  

    Horwitz is an associate editor.

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