This week, the 84th Texas Legislature convened, lawmakers were sworn in, the speaker of the House and the Senate pro tempore were selected and Texas’ longest-serving governor gave a farewell speech that felt more like a curtain-raiser to some. We’re launching this week’s playlist of the news with "Them Changes," played here by the Band of Gypsys.
The easiest way to enjoy the playlist is to download Spotify, a free program. But even without it, you can still follow along. Here are the other selections for the week:
On Monday, ahead of the gaveling in of the 84th Legislature, Ross Ramsey wrote about the considerable uncertainty attending this political season. For the first time in a long time, Texas will have a new governor and lieutenant governor. Add to that a Senate with a lot of new faces and the prospects get hazy, so we selected “A Foggy Day,” sung by actor George Clooney’s aunt, Rosemary Clooney.
“Cupcake” and “amnesty” are two words rarely heard together — until this week, when newly sworn in Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller granted a pardon to cupcakes. For Miller, it was about reassuring parents they could send their kids to school with cupcakes. But our Eva Hershaw interviewed former ag commissioner (and more recently state comptroller) Susan Combs, who said her successor got it wrong: Cupcakes are legal in Texas. The whole affair left us thinking of The Average White Band’s “Cut the Cake.”
Part of D.C. Bureau Chief Abby Livingston’s beat is covering Texas’ Congressional delegation, so when U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, seemed to compare President Obama to Hitler in a tweet, there was considerable backlash — enough to cause the congressman to backtrack and apologize. We went with “Springtime For Hitler (Part One)” from Mel Brooks’ film and Broadway hit, “The Producers,” a sort of standard-bearer for inappropriateness.
On Tuesday, amid the excitement of day one of the Legislature, open carry advocates set up shop in front of the capitol with a machine called the “Ghost Gunner” which makes parts that can be assembled into weapons. Morgan Smith reported that some of these activists later filmed themselves in the office of state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, where an uncomfortable exchange ensued — which reminded us of Steely Dan’s “With A Gun.”
The massive Health and Human Services Commission has for weeks been reeling from an expanding scandal, with fresh revelations unfolding almost daily. The cast of characters keeps growing, and the various relationships between principals can get confusing, so we looked up “I’m My Own Grandpa” by Lightnin’ Wells.
Speaking of a large cast of characters — with the Legislature starting up, we’ve got a lot of new lawmakers, and many of the old ones have moved into new digs in the Capitol. To keep track of them all, and to help you find them, our tech team’s Chris Chang pulled all that information into an interactive map, bringing to mind Aimee Mann’s “Lost In Space.” Chris’ colleague Kathryn Beaty redesigned our popular and much-visited Directory, offering you a much friendlier and easier-to-use interface to help you find your elected officials, which led us to “Call Me” by Me'Shell Ndegéocello. And to keep up throughout the session, our NewsApps team’s Becca Aaronson and Ryan Murphy rolled out a great new homepage for following the lege as it takes up the important issues of the day, so we decided to return to Steely Dan, this time for their Homerian “Home At Last.”
Even next to all the other big changes in Texas government, Gov. Rick Perry’s departure from state politics feels epochal. One of his many memorable moments came 10 years ago, when after a session of fielding questions about funding for public education was long over (but the camera was still running), Perry famously said to the reporter, “Adios, mofo.” That reminded us of another bad mother-(shut your mouth!) so we close with Isaac Hayes singing “Shaft.”