Capital Highlights by Ed Sterling

UT president says Davis statue to be moved

AUSTIN — A bronze statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, will be moved from the Main Mall of the University of Texas at Austin campus to UT’s Center for American History for interior display, in accordance with a decision made last week by UT President Gregory Fenves.

Fenves said he appointed a task force in June, shortly after he became president, “to identify options for the statues along the Main Mall that have long been a source of discussion, debate and more recently, controversy.” The task force reported its findings to Fenves on Aug. 10.  

“While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall. Davis had few ties to Texas; he played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit,” Fenves said in a news release.

“The Briscoe Center is the logical location for the Davis statue and can provide a well-curated, scholarly context for its permanent display. As the home of one of the nation’s largest collections of Southern history, and as the keeper of UT Austin’s own history — including the papers of George W. Littlefield, a former regent and major benefactor responsible for the statues and fountain, and sculptor Pompeo Coppini — the Briscoe Center will bring a scholarly depth that enhances the educational value of the Davis statue. 

The Briscoe Center has long planned a renovation of its facility, including new exhibit space, and my office will help raise the remaining funds needed for its completion,” Fenves added.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a request for a restraining order ahead of the statue’s Aug. 15 move date. A Travis County state district court is expected to review the matter this week.
Suspect arrested in Iowa
Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 13 published a bulletin announcing the arrest of a suspect in Iowa who was being sought in connection with arson of a vehicle in the Texas Capitol parking lot on Aug. 7.

The suspect, Michael Patrick Wagner, 38, is being held in the Linn County (Iowa) jail and extradition proceedings have begun and are pending. 

“Thanks to great police and investigative work by local, state and federal law enforcement in Texas as well as our partners in Iowa, we are pleased to announce that the suspect in this case has been arrested,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.

The arrest warrant is for second-degree felony arson, an offense that carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in state prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

Records forms to change
Texas Department of State Health Services on Aug. 13 announced its review of vital events forms and all vital event areas and records that may be affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision and a U.S. district court decision reached earlier this summer that require state and local governments to recognize same-sex marriage.
“As a result, DSHS is implementing revised policies and procedures and also will amend certain vital events forms and records related to vital-events records to recognize married, same-sex couples,” the agency stated in a news release.

Those records include birth certificates, death certificates, supplementary birth certificates (for adoptions) and birth certificates resulting from gestational agreements (surrogacy).

Local registrars or other entities that may file vital information such as hospitals and funeral homes will receive revised forms and instructions when they become available.

Sales tax revenue increases
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 13 announced his agency’s monthly distribution of sales tax revenue to local governments would be an estimated $760 million.
Local sales tax allocations for the month of August represent an increase of 7.6 percent compared to August 2014.

Hegar also said state sales tax revenue in July was $2.4 billion, up 2.7 percent compared to July 2014. “July’s modest growth in sales tax revenue is in line with the biennial revenue estimate issued in January,” Hegar said. “Stronger growth in receipts from consumer driven sectors, including retail trade, restaurants and services offset declining receipts from oil and gas-related sectors.”


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