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The Brief: Orlando Mass Shooting Reverberates Through Texas

Texas politicians react to the worst mass shooting in U.S history with prayers, acts of solidarity and political messages, with the biggest reaction owing to a pre-scheduled tweet of a Bible verse.

The Texas Capitol, May 15, 2015.

The Big Conversation

News of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 killed overnight Sunday in an Orlando gay nightclub by a gunman who had called authorities beforehand to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, reverberated nationwide — including Texas.

In cities throughout the state, crowds including LGBT activists and public officials gathered at vigils and services to honor the shooting's victims and condemned the violence.

The Austin American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell wrote that the state’s leaders “offered prayers, perspective and the occasional politically charged comment.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, for example, flew the Florida flag from the Governor’s Mansion in an act of solidarity with the victims and also posted a tweet “calling for prayers for the victims, following with another that listed attacks blamed on Muslim radicals — Fort Hood, Garland, Chattanooga, San Bernardino and Orlando — adding: ‘America must wake up to terrorism on our soil.’”

He certainly wasn’t the only Texas politico mixing a political message into the commentary on social media:

Perhaps the biggest reaction, though, occurred over a pre-scheduled tweet of a Bible verse that nonetheless drew outrage.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Sunday morning tweet of a Bible verse that read, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows," was designed and scheduled several days prior, according to a Patrick spokesman. The lieutenant governor routinely posts Bible verses on Sundays.

The posts were taken down by late Sunday morning, but as the Tribune’s Patrick Svitek wrote, “The social media posts were widely condemned online as insensitive. The Texas Democratic Party called on Patrick to ‘apologize immediately.’"

Patrick later followed up with a Facebook post to explain the circumstances around the post. He also offered his takeaway that the incident speaks to the divisions in the body politic in the country.

He wrote, “Whether it’s political parties, Presidential politics, or one of the many policy issues being debated today, our country is becoming more divided every day.

“The hateful comments today on my post of a simple scripture verse, totally unrelated to the terrible killings last night, that were directed at me and God’s word, is another example of that hate. I pray these divisions will end.”

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: An Accidental Libertarian Power Outage in Texas, by Ross Ramsey — The most reliable source of third-party candidates — the Libertarian Party of Texas — didn't field contestants in most of the state’s few remaining swing districts. It looks like that’s one problem GOP candidates in the most competitive races won’t have to deal with.

Dan Patrick Takes Heat for Posts After Orlando Shooting, by Patrick Svitek — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick drew outrage Sunday morning for pre-scheduled social media posts that said "man reaps what he sows" hours after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The posts had both been removed as of 11 a.m. Sunday.   

Texas Colleges Staying Out of Bathroom Battles for Now, by Matthew Watkins — The state's colleges and universities have been largely been left out of the debate over transgender bathroom policies. Over the past decade, most have adopted policies friendlier to transgender students and staff. 

Border Lawmakers Pressure Bank Over CEO's Trump Support, by Patrick Svitek — A group of Democratic state lawmakers from along the Texas-Mexico border is applying pressure to a bank whose CEO is helping raise money for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

Amid STAAR Upheaval, Panel Working on Fixes, by Kiah Collier — As displeasure with Texas’ standardized testing regime mounts, all eyes are on a special panel the Legislature created to figure out whether to scrap the widely reviled STAAR exam.

Texas Lawmaker's Startup Sells Help Shaping Local Policy, by Jim Malewitz — Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican, is helping launch LightSwitch Solutions, an Austin-based public relations and consulting firm with plans to shape opinion about local policy.  

Foul Ups Prompt State to Scrap School Test Scores, by Kiah Collier — Fifth and eighth graders who failed STAAR exams won’t be held back a grade or required to retest later this month, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced late Friday, citing “ongoing reporting issues” with the state’s new testing vendor.

Baylor Announces Sexual Assault Task Force, by Isabelle Taft — Baylor University announced Friday that it has appointed a sexual assault task force to implement 105 recommendations made by an independent investigator last month.

Major NAFTA Proponent Among Trump's Texas Fundraisers, by Patrick Svitek — As Donald Trump's presidential campaign assembles a fundraising network in Texas, it is turning to a longtime proponent of a historic trade deal with Mexico against which the candidate regularly rails.

UT System Institutes "Soft" Hiring Freeze, Considers Layoffs, by Matthew Watkins — As part of what Chancellor Bill McRaven is calling an "organizational assessment," the University of Texas System has implemented a "soft" hiring freeze and is considering layoffs, according to a memo obtained by The Texas Tribune.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Committee on Pensions meets at 9 a.m. at the Houston City Council Chamber to hear testimony on the impacts of structural reforms to state public pension plans and the logistics of one-time funding increases. 

Elsewhere

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Houston grieves after massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, Houston Chronicle

Trump, Cruz blister Obama for failing to pin Orlando massacre on ‘radical Islam,’ The Dallas Morning News

In Orlando, as in Fort Hood, FBI might have missed signs, Austin American-Statesman

Dreamers take their case to the streetsHouston Chronicle

Big political donors dine at Governor’s Mansion, San Antonio Express-News

Austin district's claim to highest graduation rate among major Texas cities Mostly FalsePolitiFact Texas

Federal disaster declaration granted for Travis, other Texas counties, Austin Community Newspapers

Landowners weigh proposed $52.5 million settlement of Chesapeake Energy lawsuits, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Roadblocks to right-to-know law, Houston Chronicle

Oil field water spills a gray area for regulation, San Antonio Express-News

The case against Big Oil, Houston Chronicle

Court: Illegally obtained evidence doesn’t bar asset seizures, Austin American-Statesman

Texas Democrats prepare for state convention in San Antonio, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

“We need a dose of Jesus in the world today. It is true that you reap what you sow. I pray we will reap what we sow: goodness, compassion, grace.”

 — Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, senior pastor at the historically LGBT Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, to a crowd gathered Sunday after the mass shooting in Orlando

Today in TribTalk

Climate science ignorance is not leadership, by Gunnar W. Schade — The politicization of climate science can be clearly traced to a very public misinformation campaign — one that has been so successful that it convinced the leadership of a major political party to come out against the overwhelming evidence of man-made climate change.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

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