The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan 22, 2010

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

With praise for the quick response came concerns over current policy.

Thursday’s lunchtime scare at the Capitol, when 24-year-old Fausto Cardenas allegedly fired several shots from the state house’s south lawn, prompted immediate praise from Gov. Rick Perry for the Capitol-based Department of Public Safety troopers who quickly apprehended Cardenas.

No one was hurt, but that wasn’t enough to stop some leaders to openly question whether the Capitol, its visitors, and the elected officials inside should feel safe.

State Sen. Dan Patrick wants officials to look into security measures at the Capitol after Cardenas reportedly acted strangely in the senator’s office and demanded to speak to a “girl in a white shirt” just moments before the alleged shooting.

“Several of us in the past have called for added security measures at the Capitol," Patrick told the Tribune. "Today’s event recalls the fact that we need to reevaluate people's access freely into our building.  Currently, anyone can walk in at anytime.  That’s not a safe situation.”

Armed troopers are a common site at the Capitol. They stand guard at every entrance, keeping watch and answering questions from visitors and staff. They are at every Capitol rally and their presence, as learned Thursday, obviously pays off. That said, access to the inside of the building is fairly unhindered. Entrance to the third floor galleries above the House and Senate floors does require passing through a metal detector during legislative sessions, but the machines are absent at the main entrances used by the general public. Access to the House and Senate floors is generally restricted to lawmakers, staff and, unlike some states, the media.  But as we learn more about Cardenas and his motives, there is little doubt those open policies will undergo severe scrutiny.

CULLED: 

  • Former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush come out against the incumbent Republican governor today, endorsing Rick Perry's chief Republican rival, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The Tribune’s Elise Hu delves into what’s going on with the Bush family (41 and 43)  and their respective crews’ support for Hutchison's bid to unseat Perry. “Of all the prominent Bushies, Perry can claim only one outlier,” she explains. It’s an interesting take on how speculative the situation is — and how nervous it’s making those in the know.
  • Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse limitations on campaign spending by unions and corporations should mean big changes to Texas politics. The Tribune’s Ross Ramsey and Ben Philpott provide a rundown on how Texas’ political landscape will be affected and NPR does a nice job with the national perspective.

MUST READ:

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.