House Speaker Joe Straus Seconds Call to Remove Confederate Plaque

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelSeptember 20, 2017 3:02 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has called for the removal of a plaque in the state Capitol that says slavery wasn’t an underlying cause of the Civil War.

In a letter to fellow members of the State Preservation Board, Straus said the Confederate plaque is “blatantly inaccurate.”

His request echoes a call from State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas, who praised Straus for taking a stand against the factually untrue marker.

“This would be the same as if we had the birth year of George W. Bush wrong underneath his picture in the Capitol – you’d say take it down and get it right,” Johnson says.

Johnson first asked that the plaque bearing the “Children of the Confederacy Creed,” be removed last month. He also called on state leaders, including Straus, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to review whether other Confederate markers and monuments on the Capitol grounds are appropriate.

But Johnson says first things first – it’s time to take down this particular plaque because its words just aren’t true.

And he thinks even people who don’t want to see other Confederate monuments come down will understand.

“People who actually embrace the Confederacy, I would argue, should want to embrace a true history of their ancestors and their cause and not a fantastical one,” Johnson says.

Johnson says when it comes to considering removing other Confederate iconography from the Capitol grounds, he doesn’t think it’s an issue the state legislature should tackle as a whole because it will get too political.

“And so that discussion would be most productive in my humble opinion if it took place outside of a political context and more in an academic, intellectual context and amongst the state leaders who have the actual authority to make the call on whether they should come down or not – and that’s the State Preservation Board,” he says.

Johnson will also be meeting with Abbott to discuss Confederate monuments at the state Capitol.

A new analysis from an environmental advocacy group finds that drinking water at hundreds of Texas schools is contaminated with lead.

Environment Texas says fewer than 1,100 of Texas’ 8,000 or so public schools have tested for lead.  But out of those schools that did test, 71 percent detected unsafe levels of the neurotoxin.

Luke Metzger, the head of Environment Texas. says because the source of lead in drinking water is typically older pipes, it can be a challenging problem for schools to solve.

“What they can do short term, for example, Baltimore when they found lead several years ago, they just started serving bottled water and they’ve done that for years now. That’s not a very good long term solution but they did decide okay, they’re going to supply an alternative supply of water,” Metzger says.

Metzger adds that there is no state law requiring schools to test their drinking water for lead.