May 17, 2022
Happy Tuesday! Smile and wave to a neighbor today.
☀️ Today's weather: Hot. High of 96.
🎵 Sounds like: "Step by Step"
🍼 Situational awareness: Abbott Nutrition reached an agreement yesterday with the FDA to reopen its infant formula plant linked to the shortage.
Today's newsletter is a political 889 words — a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Texas' environmental justice effort sputters
One year after announcing an environmental justice initiative, the state agency leading the charge has no apparent budget for the effort and has suppressed virtually any mention of the term on its website, per an Axios investigation.
Why it matters: The Texas environmental agency has long regulated polluters with a light touch — and members of low-income communities bordering the state's industrial sites have had little political sway with the agency, Axios' Asher Price reports.
Flashback: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced in April 2021 that it launched an initiative "to help ensure that everyone enjoys the same protection from environmental and public health hazards."
Yes, but: Axios asked how many personnel had been assigned to the initiative and what funds had been budgeted for it — as well as the program's goals, accomplishments and an interview with the agency clerk.
What they're saying: Not much.
- The agency turned down the interview request.
The only action taken as part of the initiative:
- Pollution permit applicants will now be required to include a plain-language summary as well as translate public notices into one other language.
Of note: Those initiatives are in place after the state agency pledged to improve its outreach to stave off a federal investigation of alleged civil rights violations.
The bottom line: The environmental justice initiative appears to be "a kind of fluff," Neil Carman, clean air director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, tells Axios. "They've tried to show they're doing something, but they're not doing much."
2. 💰 Supreme Court sides with Cruz on capped political donations
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a $250,000 cap on how much candidates can repay themselves for personal loans to their campaigns, siding with Sen. Ted Cruz in his challenge to the federal rule.
Driving the news: The legal battle stems from Cruz's $260,000 loan to his campaign before the 2018 election as a direct challenge to a 2002 bipartisan campaign finance law and Federal Election Commission rules, reports Axios' Erin Doherty.
- Cruz sued the FEC in 2019 saying the rule limits free speech.
What happened: Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed, saying the cap is a violation of a political candidate's free expression under the First Amendment.
- "This provision burdens core political speech without proper justification," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, siding with the 6-3 majority.
The big picture: The rule was meant to limit the possibility of corruption because candidates can raise money after Election Day that would go directly into their pockets in the form of loan repayment.
- But Roberts wrote that the "government is unable to identify a single case of quid pro quo corruption in this context."
The other side: In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the "money comes too late" to help the campaign.
- "All the money does is enrich the candidate personally at a time when he can return the favor — by a vote, a contract, an appointment," Kagan wrote.
Details: Cruz loaned his campaign $10,000 over the cap the day before he won the 2018 Senate race against Beto O'Rourke, who is now challenging Gov. Greg Abbott.
- It was the costliest Senate race at the time, and Cruz had already raised $46 million, per the DMN's Todd Gillman.
Fresh openings from the Job Board
3. 💉 Texas had almost 30k vaccine-preventable deaths
About half of the nearly 60,000 COVID deaths in Texas between January 2021 and April were preventable, according to an analysis of public health data by the Brown School of Public Health.
Driving the news: The newly released state-by-state dashboard breaks down which states had the most preventable deaths from the coronavirus.
- Texas falls in the middle of the pack.
Zoom out: Neighboring Oklahoma is among the states where the most deaths could have been prevented with vaccinations.
- Massachusetts and Hawaii were among the states with the fewest vaccine-preventable deaths.
The big picture: Nearly 319,000 Americans who died from COVID might have been saved if they'd been vaccinated.
- "At a time when many in the U.S. have given up on vaccinations, these numbers are a stark reminder of the effectiveness of vaccines in fighting this pandemic," analysis co-author Stefanie Friedhoff said.
4. 🗞 Burnt ends: Bite-sized news bits
🚨 A Black couple in Forney shared a doorbell video showing a white boy knocking on their door and cracking a whip. They posted the footage to show “racism is real.” (NBC5)
🛏 Airbnb is blocking Dallas residents and out-of-town visitors with negative reviews from booking one-night stays on Memorial Day weekend and July 4 weekend in a move to prevent parties. (KERA)
🎶 The New Kids on the Block concert at the American Airlines Center will be delayed one day to free the arena for a Mavericks playoff game. Some fans aren't happy with the change. (DMN)
💻 The personal data of nearly 2 million Texans was leaked for three years after a security breach at the Texas Department of Insurance. (Texas Tribune)
⛲️ Kendrick Lamar's latest music video features the Fort Worth Water Gardens. (Star-Telegram)
5. 🌮 One taco to go: Rafa's
This week's taco adventure takes us to a Dallas classic open since 1975.
- It's the perfect stop after shopping at Interabang Books across the street, where Axios Dallas writers sometimes hang out.
What to order: Puffy chicken tacos.
Where: Rafa's, 5617 W. Lovers Lane in Dallas
Cost: $11.75 for three tacos, rice and beans.
Pro-tip: Get the Benito's margarita.
Six-word review: Greasy goodness pairs perfectly with margs.
🤔 Know a great taco we should try? Hit reply, and tell us.
🎧 Mike is reliving his youth and listening to the New Kids on the Block.
🎵 Tasha was more of a Boyz II Men fan, anyway.
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