Axios Houston

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πŸ€— It's Wednesday. We appreciate your being here.

πŸŒ₯ Today's weather: Mostly cloudy with a high of 70.

🐰 Tastes like: Easter chocolate.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Houston member Melissa Stewart!

Today's newsletter is 930 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Ken Paxton reaches a deal

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals; Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has dodged criminal prosecution in a long-running felony securities fraud case, agreeing to community service to avoid a trial and conviction.

Why it matters: The agreement with prosecutors appears to be an anticlimactic end to the case β€” and allows Paxton to maintain an unblemished record, even as he has faced myriad accusations of corruption.

Catch up quick: Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges shortly after he took office as attorney general in 2015.

  • He faced allegations that he had convinced investors, including then-Republican state lawmaker Byron Cook, to purchase at least $100,000 worth of stock in tech startup Servergy without disclosing that he would be paid for it.

Driving the news: Prosecutors agreed Tuesday to drop the securities fraud charges if Paxton performs 100 hours of community service.

  • The agreement also requires him to take legal ethics courses and pay restitution to those he is accused of defrauding.
  • The total amount of restitution will be "somewhere a little bit south of $300,000," prosecutor Brian Wice said, per the Texas Tribune.

What they're saying: Speaking to reporters in Houston on Tuesday, Paxton attorney Dan Cogdell said Paxton was "more than happy to comply" with the terms of the dismissal.

The other side: "​​Something is wrong when the state's top lawyer is forced to take a class on how to be a good lawyer," John Bucy III, a Democratic state lawmaker representing Williamson County, wrote on X.

Read the rest

2. Supreme Court hears Texas abortion pill case

Demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court hears oral arguments Tuesday. Photo: Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed unlikely to broadly restrict access to medication abortion in the court's biggest abortion-related case since overturning Roe v. Wade two years ago.

The big picture: The justices heard oral arguments in a Texas case challenging mifepristone β€” one of the drugs used in medication-induced abortions, which account for about two-thirds of all abortions, writes Axios' Sam Baker.

  • It wasn't clear from those arguments exactly how the court is likely to rule, but multiple conservative justices took issue with parts of the case against mifepristone.
  • Two conservatives would need to join the court's three liberals to uphold the FDA's rules on mifepristone.

Catch up quick: The suit was filed by a group of doctors who object to abortion.

  • They're suing the FDA, challenging two sets of regulatory decisions that made the drug easier to access.

What they're saying: The federal government argued that these doctors didn't have the legal standing to bring this case.

  • They don't prescribe mifepristone, and they don't take it. So they haven't suffered any real injury from the FDA's regulatory decisions, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued.
  • The doctors say the injury is the time spent in the emergency room treating women who have taken mifepristone.
Legal status of medication abortion
Data: Guttmacher Institute; Map: Axios Visuals

Driving the news: Several conservative justices either picked up on standing concerns or expressed skepticism about overturning the FDA's decisions.

  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett suggested that re-enforcing the physicians' individual rights not to participate in providing an abortion might be enough to resolve this dispute.

What's next: A ruling is expected by June.

Dig deeper: How we got here.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ“š Montrose's new library still doesn't have an opening date as the University of St. Thomas eyes taking over the old Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library. (Houston Landing)

🏈 Cal McNair is now the Houston Texans' principal owner after a vote by NFL team owners. (Houston Chronicle)

The family of 8-year-old Aliyah Lynette Jaico, who was killed after apparently being sucked into a drainpipe at a hotel pool, is seeking more than $1 million in damages from the hotel in a wrongful death lawsuit. (KHOU)

4. πŸ“ Camera Roll: Buckets of strawberries

So glistening, you just want to take a bite. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

πŸ‘‹ Shafaq here! Over the weekend, I went strawberry picking at Froberg's Farm.

State of strawberries: At the Alvin farm, strawberry picking season starts in January and lasts through mid-May, and they host a strawberry festival throughout March.

  • The festival has attractions like a playground and a paintball area on the weekends β€” although it does close some days because of muddy grounds.

How it works: "Pick your own" dates vary, so check the farm's Facebook page or call in advance.

  • Once there, you'll venture out to the fields, where rows upon rows of strawberry plants await.
  • Entry is $3, the bucket is $2, and strawberries are $5 per pound.

πŸ’¬ My thought bubble: What's better than picking strawberries with friends in perfect March weather?

  • As our bucket filled, we became more selective, choosing only the finest berries.

The bottom line: Strawberries taste so much better when you pick them.

What's next: It'll soon be blackberry season at the farm.

5. 🐰 Houston's favorite Easter candies

Top-selling Easter candies, 2023
Data: Reproduced from Instacart; Note: "Top-selling" candies were ranked by total number of items sold in each state during the week ending Easter Sunday; Map: Axios Visuals

Houstonians love Hershey's milk chocolate for Easter, apparently.

Driving the news: The classic chocolate bar led Instacart's list of Houston's most-ordered candy during the week of Easter in 2023.

  • Reese's classic peanut butter cups came in second, with Reese's peanut butter eggs in third.
  • Lindt's hollow chocolate bunny was fourth, and Starburst's Easter jelly beans were fifth.

πŸ’­ Jay's thought bubble: I'm a devout Reese's apologist, particularly when the treat is of the egg, tree or football variety.

  • Something about the texture of the peanut butter glob surrounded by a thin, melty layer of chocolate found only in those kinds of Reese's gets me every time.

🍫 Shafaq's thought bubble: Don't get me wrong, I love a good Reese's chocolate. But they're available in some shape or form year-round. I use Easter time to stock up on limited-edition things, like Cadbury eggs (the obvious Easter chocolate winner, in my opinion).

πŸ—£οΈ Sound off: What's your go-to Easter candy?

  • Let us know by replying to this email!

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

πŸ“ Shafaq is making a grilled brie cheese and strawberry jam sandwich.

πŸ₯š Jay is waiting until Reese's Easter eggs are on sale.