The Queque - December 8, 2010


San Antonio’s no-texting law hasn’t racked up much police response after two months on the books. So far, only seven warnings have been issued during a 90-day “grace period” phasing in the law. Austin got a head start on us with a February ordinance, but even they’re still having problems raising revenue nabbing texters.

As you would imagine, making a case is tricky business. Who’s to say you’re not checking your email, cueing up a favorite song, or playing DoodleJump? San Antonio’s finest refused to discuss the difficulties of our new law with us, but Lt. Craig Cannon of the Austin Police Department’s Highway Enforcement was pretty candid: “Say you’re driving down the road, and you’re scrolling through your contacts, you’re not breaking the law. To see you texting while driving down the road is what we need to stop you. It’s very tough. … Our numbers have not been that many at all because we have to be able to prove that you are texting.”

El Paso, in a more severe response, banned in March all cell phone use while driving that is not hands-free. To San Antonio’s three warnings per month, El Paso is averaging about 550 citations.

But SAPD’s struggle may be over soon enough. Already 10 bills have been pre-filed on the topic, and San Antonio is well represented. State Senator Carlos Uresti filed a bill banning texting while driving,* Representative Trey Martinez Fischer chose to hone in on drivers of passenger buses exclusively, while Senator Jeff Wentworth filed a bill apparently as restrictive as El Paso’s “hands-free only” law.

Would Texas be safer with the El Paso model? Could be. Accidents there are down about 100 per month, “but it is too early to tell if that is part of the cell phone ordinance,” said Mike Baranyay, an El Paso public information officer.

Nuke Texas (for real this time)

Trash-happy Texans like Dallas billionaire and Waste Control Specialists dump owner Harold Simmons are about to have a very merry one, at your expense. After decades of nuclear skirmishes, Texas is finally on the cusp of becoming the nation’s official dumping ground for (nearly) all things radioactive. An as-yet unopened West Texas dump, originally planned to receive the low-level radwaste from aged nukes in Texas, Maine, and Vermont, is about to get the legal icing on the cake from the Texas Low-Level Radioactive commissioners in the form of new rules to allow WCS to secure national dump dominance. Though delayed by political resistance over the site’s questionable geology, the still-unfunded commissioners released their plan on November 26 to open the dump to the rest of the country. The rule could be formally adopted as soon as December 26 — too late for Christmas, but just in time for a Simmons-sational New Year’s celebration.

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DREAM Act economies

Following the arrest of 16 DREAM Act protestors at her San Antonio office last week, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison penned her column this week warning of “misplaced priorities” during the rapidly expiring lame duck session of Congress. She didn’t mention the DREAM specifically, instead promising to focus on “job-creating policies that will bring certainty and confidence to families and businesses during an economic downturn.”

Sadly, the positive economics of a DREAM Act got no space, even after the Congressional Budget Office reported just last week that the returns of Senate Bill 3992 — the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010 — that would grant conditional nonimmigrant status to many would outweigh the expenses by more than two to one. The CBO found the DREAM Act would bring in $2.3 billion by 2020 and decrease the federal deficit by $1.4 billion in the short-term.

After meeting with the hunger strikers Monday, SA Mayor Julián Castro, moved by the din of all those growling stomachs, declined to start up his own fast for justice. However, he did promise to reach out to U.S. senators seemingly on the fence on the issue. His staff has been busily rounding up a list of those “on the bubble” of decision for a mayoral letter/phone campaign. “My hope is that Congress will pass the DREAM Act and do economic good for the United States,” Castro said after the meetup with the students.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the DREAM is a popular proposition at UTSA, from which sprung the San Antonio DREAM Act hunger strikers: UTSA poli-sci professors surveyed students there and found 8-to-1 in favor, regardless of race, color, creed, or degree of shared Hutchison DNA.

* Due to an editing error, this sentence originally stated Uresti's bill would ban texting while driving in inside school zones, which is already illegal if a warning is posted.

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