The Brief: Botched Oklahoma Execution Raises Questions About Texas

This gurney is used to perform executions at Terre Haute by lethal injection.
This gurney is used to perform executions at Terre Haute by lethal injection.

The Big Conversation

As the horrifying details of a botched execution in Oklahoma dominated the headlines on Wednesday, the focus in Texas quickly turned to whether a review of procedures could be in the offing here.

The initial word from officials is no. The reason given is that Texas uses a single dose of pentobarbital in its executions, a method very different from the three-drug cocktail used in Oklahoma. But as the Tribune's Terri Langford reports, Texas does have 30 doses of the drug that played the central role in the Oklahoma execution. And Texas could change procedures to use midazolam at any point in the future.

The Houston Chronicle's Mike Ward and Peggy Fikac reported that Texas has in recent months actively kept secret the suppliers of its execution drugs in the face of drug manufacturers' increasing reluctance to allow their drugs to be used for executions.

For the most part, state leaders on Wednesday voiced continued support for executions with the two rivals for governor — Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis — finding themselves in a rare point of agreement. The outlier on this issue is Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte, who is a pharmacist by profession.

She was quoted in the Chronicle story as saying, "Given the shortages on the pharmaceuticals used in lethal injections, what we need more pressingly is a review of the process to ensure we have the appropriate supervisions, safeguards, and protocols at each point."

The Day Ahead

•    The House State Affairs Committee holds a 10 a.m. hearing in the John H. Reagan Building on the topic of dark money in politics. (agenda) Prior to the hearing, a collection of conservative activist groups including Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, the Texas Home School Coalition and the Texas Eagle Forum will hold a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the nearby DoubleTree Hotel to protest the hearing, which they say will consider unconstitutional actions.

•    The House Economic and Small Business Development Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. at Houston Community College to take testimony on economic development in the Houston area. (agenda)

•    Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Leticia Van de Putte is the featured guest along with El Paso Rep. Mary González at the Annie's List Spring Reception in San Antonio at 6:30 p.m.

Today in the Trib

As Student Debt Grows, Board Tries to Relieve Pressure: "Conscious of mounting student debt in Texas, the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board announced a change this week that it hopes could alleviate some of the financial pressure on students borrowing to finance their education."

Company That OK'd Unnecessary Braces Kept Its Contract: "While dental providers accused of overbilling Texas' Medicaid program by hundreds of millions of dollars remain in legal limbo, the contractor that approved the procedures is still being paid more than $100 million annually by the state."

Where Prairie Chicken Roams, Businesses Brace for Effects of Ruling: "This week, the lesser prairie chicken will officially be listed as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act — a designation likely to affect economic development, including oil and gas drilling, in the Panhandle and West Texas."

Must-Read

Davis calls for more reductions in high-stakes testing, San Antonio Express-News

Dewhurst spends $600K to launch second wave of Patrick attack ads, Houston Chronicle

Ringleader of Panama Unit gets longest sentence, San Antonio Express-News

Marvin Nichols reservoir opponents shift focus, The Dallas Morning News

Opponents of voter ID laws see time to fight running out, The Hill

LBJ School at UT plans D.C. outpost, Politico

Ted Cruz and Mike Lee Launch Joint Fundraising Effort, National Journal

Quote to Note

“Our problem here in Texas is that we’ve had too much water. We’ve had so much water that we’ve learned to waste it.”

— Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape on the growing conflict among counties for water resources

News From Home

•    The first round of speakers for the Sept. 19-21 Texas Tribune Festival has been announced, with Ted Cruz, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Julián and Joaquín Castro, Jon Huntsman, Bill Bradley, Kasim ReedLeticia Van de Putte and Chris Hayes among the more than 75 speakers lined up so far.

Registration is now open. As an added incentive, we offer for a short time an early-bird rate of $150, which works out to a 50 percent discount off the walk-up rate. Tribune members, meanwhile, can register for the discounted rate of $125 before July 10. In addition, students and educators can attend for just $50.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival On the Road presents a one-day symposium on STEM Education at UT-Dallas, 5/5

•    A Conversation With Rep. Dan Branch, Candidate for Attorney General, at the Austin Club, 5/8

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    A Conversation With Steve Patterson, UT Men's Athletic Director, at the Austin Club, 5/15

•    A Conversation With Sen. Glenn Hegar, Candidate for State Comptroller, at the Austin Club, 5/29

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21