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Governor says family of woman who died in custody deserves answers

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Opinion

By Ed Sterling

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 22 issued a statement regarding the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois resident who had driven to Hempstead in response to a job offer from Prairie View A&M University.

On July 10, Bland was pulled over by a state trooper, arrested and placed in the Waller County jail in Hempstead. Three days later Bland was found dead in her jail cell. Local authorities conducted an autopsy and reported suicide as the cause of death. Bland’s family ordered an independent autopsy.

“Our hearts and prayers remain with the Bland family for their tragic loss. The family deserves answers. The Texas Rangers, working in coordination with the FBI, will conduct a full and thorough investigation that will deliver those answers and work toward the ultimate goal of ensuring justice in this case,” Abbott wrote.

On July 21, Texas Department of Public Safety officials briefed state leaders on the investigation. “DPS has been working closely with the family of Ms. Bland during this investigation and the department extends our sincere condolences for their tragic loss,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “It is important that her family has confidence in the efficacy of this investigation, which is why the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney originally requested investigative assistance from the Texas Rangers; and it’s also why DPS requested the FBI assist in this investigation.”

The DPS posted on its website the state trooper’s dash camera video from the traffic stop. Also, video footage showing activity in the jail at the time of the discovery of the body was widely broadcast.

Count dismisses coercion charge

Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals on July 24 dismissed one count of a two-count felony indictment handed down in August 2014 by a Travis County grand jury against Rick Perry for actions he took as governor in 2013.

The court threw out the count of official coercion against Perry for demanding the resignation of the head of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, in the spring of 2013 after she was arrested and jailed for drunken driving. Lehmberg apologized for her actions but refused to resign. Perry then vetoed the unit’s $7.5 million in state funding.

Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based government watchdog organization, filed the original criminal complaints against Perry. The other count, alleging abuse of power, remains pending and could be set for a court date later this year.

Ag chief opposes rule change

A rule change made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in late June lifted a ban on the importation of beef from Northern Argentina and 14 of Brazil’s 27 states.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently spoke out against the federal agency’s action because, he said, those areas have a known history of foot-and-mouth disease.

“The U.S. has not suffered from a case of foot-and-mouth disease since 1929, in part because of our nation’s bans against animal and meat imports from countries dealing with the disease,” Miller stated in a July 21 news release.

Unemployment rate decreases

Texas Workforce Commission on July 17 announced Texas marked its third straight month of seasonally adjusted job growth with the addition of 16,700 nonagricultural jobs in June.

And, the state has added jobs in 56 of the last 57 months, including a total of 53,600 positions in the first half of 2015. Over the year, Texas has seen an increase of 269,900 jobs.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in June, down from 4.3 percent in May, the lowest rate of unemployment for the state since July 2007, according to the agency.

Growth trend continues

Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos on July 16 reported continued growth in new business formations for the first half of 2015.

Some 83,235 certificates of formation were filed between Jan. 1 and June 30 with the secretary of state’s office to form new Texas for-profit corporations, professional corporations, professional associations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships.

This is an almost 4 percent increase from the 80,039 certificates of formation filed Jan. 1 to June 30 of 2014, Cascos pointed out.

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