The Back MicThe Back Mic: Abbott Hints at Austin Police Takeover, Democrats Call for STAAR Test Suspension, Crenshaw Tops Favorability Ratings

This week — here's a look at the latest news from this week in Texas politics.
February 5, 2021
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Governor Walks Back to Partial APD Takeover

Governor Greg Abbott shed new light on his previously proposed annexation of the Austin Police Department. Under the current plan, the state would oversee a squared-off zone encompassing downtown and adjacent areas.

The zone of state control would extend as far west as the Mopac, north to 32nd Street past the University of Texas campus, east to I-35, and south just across the river.

Preliminary state patrol zone. (Photo courtesy of KXAN)

“These are areas where visitors come in and they must be kept safe. And because Austin is not providing that level of safety, and as governor … it is my responsibility to make sure [visitors] are safe when they come here,” Abbott told KVUE on Tuesday.

The public safety fight against City of Austin officials has been fertile ground for conflict with Abbott after the city cut and redirected $150 million from its police department budget and continues to allow homeless camping on much of Austin’s public grounds. Yesterday, the petition effort to reinstate the city’s public grounds camping ban officially met the threshold to be placed on the May ballot.

The Texan Mug

The governor remains intent on the legislature addressing these issues this session.

Texas House Democrats Want to Cancel STAAR Testing This Year

In a virtual press conference Wednesday, a bevy of state House Democrats called for the state to cancel STAAR testing for students this school year.

Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) said, “We cannot ask our schools to take the burden of scheduling in person STAARs for all 5 million children and thousands of employees while in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic….for an unnecessary test.”

Pointing to the state’s vaccine distribution, Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) stated, “The CDC has actually added teachers to phase 1B. Texas hasn’t yet made that determination … but I feel like with the increase in vaccines that we’re getting now [teachers will get them soon].”

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversees public schooling in the state. During the pandemic, many standard metrics for Texas’ schools have been suspended including district A-F ratings and last year’s STAAR tests.

Back in December with the announcement of the district rating suspension, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath remained bullish on preserving the STAAR tests to chart some semblance of student performance. Back in November, he said, “We can’t go almost 3 years with no idea of student progress.”

Schools remain a mixed bag of operations as some are open for in-person instruction while others continue to operate virtually. Late last year, Rep. Diego Bernal (R-San Antonio) submitted a bipartisan letter requesting the cancelation for the 2020-2021 school year.

Pressure for STAAR’s postponement is heating up within the legislature as the session matures.

Dan Crenshaw, Castro Brothers Among Most Broadly Favorable Officials in New Poll

The University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs released a poll showing favorability ratings of top Texas elected officials.

Favorability ratings are used to determine the appeal of an official to the electorate. Due to how partisan today’s politics is, generally any positive net favorability rating calculated by subtracting the unfavorable percentage from the favorable percentage illustrates significant appeal to voters.

Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), along with Castro’s twin brother, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, each polled at 2 percent in their net favorability ratings.

Governor Greg Abbott and President Joe Biden follow closely behind with a -1 percent and -2 two percent net favorability rating, respectively. Those with the lowest net favorability ratings are Texas’ two U.S. senators and former President Donald Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has the lowest at -21 percent.

Among Republicans, Trump tops the list with a 71 percent net favorability followed closely behind by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris bringing up the rear at -76 and -72 percent, respectively.

Among Democrats, the highest and lowest rated officials are essentially flipped from their GOP counterparts.

Among independents, Abbott has the highest rating at +2 percent and Cornyn the lowest at -28 percent.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.