This week, we published Undrinkable, our five-part series looking into the reasons why tens of thousands along the Texas border don’t have ready access to safe, clean drinking water. Reporters Neena Satija and Alexa Ura and photographers Jennifer Whitney and Spencer Selvidge logged thousands of miles to tell the story of people who must go to extraordinary lengths to obtain the most basic and precious resource of all, so we start our playlist of the week’s news with “Something in the Water” by Prince.
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, Jay Root wrote that a recurring effort to eliminate the practice of collecting a state pension while earning a state salary is gaining traction in the Texas Legislature. Former Gov. Rick Perry is the best-known recipient of this unusual perk, but a few others from both parties have taken advantage of it over the years. We remembered an old session featuring saxophonist Sonny Stitt and trombonist Bennie Green had a tune on it called “Double Dip.”
The next day, Ross Ramsey described another unusual problem, at least for most of us: too much money. Lawmakers are awash in cash this session, but the state constitution imposes limits on how much they can spend, leaving them with the option of either voting to go above the cap, which could come back to haunt them politically, or asking the voters’ permission by way of a constitutional amendment, which reminded us of Lynn Anderson singing “Mother, May I.”
There was a kerfuffle at the Capitol on Wednesday when state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, removed a sign at the Capitol identifying Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, as a “former fetus” — all ahead of an abortion rights rally and visit with lawmakers. In Geren’s version of events, he took the sign down because it was in violation of State Preservation Board rules. In Stickland’s version, initially put forth on social media, Geren tore down the sign and threw it at a staffer. The whole thing seemed to subside fairly quickly, but that dustup could be a signal of contentious times ahead, so we looked up Bobby “Blue” Bland singing “I Smell Trouble.”
The Alamo was back in the news this week. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced Thursday he’s pulling the plug on the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who have managed operations at the iconic landmark for over a hundred years. Bush cited 10 contractual violations as the reason for the seemingly abrupt action; at reporter Julián Aguilar's suggestion, we turned to The Black Crowes' “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution.”
The only thing state legislators actually have to do is pass a budget, but that’s no small matter for a state with a nation-sized economy and a two year cycle to project. To help explain the complicated process, Aman Batheja and Ross Ramsey this week launched a new podcast called Budgetline. We dug up The Kinks belting out “Low Budget.” You can learn a lot more about the budget and many other subjects before state lawmakers at our Texas Legislative Guide, which got a nifty redesign last week, so here’s “Do It All Over” by Austin’s own Greezy Wheels. (Disclosure: That’s yours truly on bass. [Editor's note: Ahem.])
This weekend, our Washington, D.C., bureau chief, Abby Livingston, is on the road in New Hampshire with Rick Perry, who’s been practicing his particular brand of retail politics there and in Iowa lately, ahead of his widely expected 2016 run for president. While fellow likely contenders former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have been taking up all the oxygen in the more populous southern part of the state, Perry has been up in the “North Country,” connecting with voters in small, intimate gatherings. “I’ve got New Hampshire figured out,” Perry said. We think Sonic Youth does, too, with "New Hampshire."
On Saturday, Alexa Ura wrote about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has made just three trips to the Texas border since becoming senator. In comparison, fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn has made 13 visits in that same period. Critics say Cruz should spend more time there, since immigration and border security are such major parts of his rhetoric as he gears up for his presumed run at the Oval Office. Cruz, through a spokesperson, says he’s hard at work in Congress and maintains close contact with border-area leaders and constituents through his district office in the Rio Grande Valley. We listened to several versions of “Across the Borderline” before settling on Willie Nelson’s.
Also on Saturday, reporter Terri Langford took a look at the office responsible for investigating Medicaid fraud. Three years ago, top officials there sat out an ambitious goal for investigators: find $1 billion in overpayments. Despite training, highly touted software and shiny new badges, they came up short — about $995 million short, so we close with James McMurtry singing “We Can’t Make It Here.” Enjoy!