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Capitol Spirits: The Headless Horseman

Dark and stormy nights at the Capitol might be the perfect time to become acquainted with some Capitol spirits. Will you see Comptroller Love walking the hallways near the office where he was shot and killed in 1903? Or, will Governor Edmund Davis (1870-1874) tip his hat to you as you walk by him? Stroll across the street to the Governor's Mansion and you might find Sam Houston, standing by his famous four-poster mahogany bed in the bedroom bearing his name. 

 

Have you ever heard of the Headless Horseman? Most people are familiar with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," an 1820 short story written by Washington Irving. Did you know that Texas has its own Headless Horseman legend?

 

For the past several years around Halloween, we've shared ghostly stories related to Texas. (See our previous posts from 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.) Below, you'll find more information about Texas' Headless Horseman.

 

Texas' Headless Horseman

 

Have you driven the roads south and west of San Antonio late at night? Did you see El Muerto, the Headless One?

  • "The big mustang drank . . . Gaunt in the thin moon, his rider waited, leaning on his saddlehorn with all the patience of death . . . Even the faint light showed the stump above his shoulders; his head — its sombrero still secured — was a restless pendulum, swinging gently . . . El Muerto was gone at a gallop, his head bouncing against his thigh" (William Edwards Syers, Ghost Stories of Texas [Waco, TX: Texian Press, 1981]).

 

William A. A. "Bigfoot" Wallace. Courtesy of the Texas State Cemetery.

 

William A. A. "Bigfoot" Wallace was at the heart of many an interesting Texas tale, so it's no surprise that he's an integral part of the headless horseman story. Bigfoot and friends caught up with the horse thief, Vidal, in the land below Uvalde. According to legend, as a warning to other thieves, Wallace decapitated Vidal, mounted him on a mustang, and strapped his sombreroed head to the saddle horn. In the words of J. Frank Dobie, the mustang "broke away into a run that, as we have seen, scared up a legend not yet dead" (J. Frank Dobie, "The Headless Horseman of the Mustangs," in Tales of Old-Time Texas [Austin: University of Texas Press, [1984]]).

 

Chapman and Hall, The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas by Captain Mayne Reid, advertisement. In Part 11 of Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens. London: Chapman and Hall, March 1865. https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/ourmutualfriend/11/.

 

 

 

 

Many authors have given their take on this story. One of the earliest was by Mayne Reid in his 1865 novel, The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas. And what role did Creed Taylor play in spreading the tale? He was a larger-than-life character, participating in many pivotal events in Texas history. Was he along on the chase for the horse thief Vidal with Bigfoot Wallace? If not, he was perhaps the first to relate the story of the thief's decapitation and the origin of the big mustang with the headless rider that terrified South Texas. Did he "stretch the blanket" when telling his stories? Find more details in Lou Ann Herda's article, "The Evolution of a Legend: The Headless Horseman of Texas, or It May Not Be True, but It Makes a Good Story," in Both Sides of the Border: A Scattering of Texas Folklore.

 

Check out more stories on our Capitol Spirits Pinterest board.

 

From the Legislative Reference Library, we hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!!

 

Cover image by Daniel Mingus

 

Current Articles & Research Resources, October 29

In this weekly post, we feature helpful research tools and recent articles of interest to the legislative community.

  • See upcoming dates and deadlines related to the general election. (Texas Secretary of State, accessed October 28, 2020)
  • Consider how the drop in tourism due the COVID-19 pandemic has affected state revenues. (Pew Charitable Trusts, October 14, 2020)
  • Review hunting regulations and hunting seasons by category, animal, and county. (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, accessed October 28, 2020)
  • Explore the role of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in online discourse and how it could be amended. (The Heritage Foundation, October 27, 2020)

 

Librarians review and select articles from more than 1,000 print and online sources to compile a weekly annotated list of Current Articles of interest to the legislative community. View this week's Current Articles.

 

Members of the Texas legislative community may request articles by using our online form or by calling 512-463-1252.

Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month – October 2020

 

Helen Keller at a Joint Session of the Legislature, April 8, 1941. Left to right: Speaker of the House Homer Leonard, Governor W. Lee O'Daniel, Helen Keller, and Keller's assistant Polly Thompson. Neal Douglass Photography Collection, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Portal to Texas History (University of North Texas Libraries).
October is Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month. Since 2011, Texas has recognized Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month with the passage of HB 3616, 82nd Regular Session (Government Code, Section 662.109). Governor Greg Abbott also signed a proclamation specifically recognizing October 2020 and highlighting how this year coincides with the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

 

The most famous disability rights advocate to address the Texas Legislature may have been Helen Keller when she appeared before a Joint Session of the Texas Legislature on April 8, 1941, during the 47th Regular Session. Keller had been invited to speak after planning a trip to Texas to lecture on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. Her invitation became official when Senate Concurrent Resolution 17 was adopted and filed on February 26, 1941.

 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 37, filed April 7, 1941, provided for a Joint Session of the Legislature and for appointing a committee of ten members (five members of the House and five members of the Senate) to escort Keller to the House of Representatives at the time of her address. According to the Galveston Daily News ("Blind Solons Named Committee Heads to Meet Helen Keller," April 6, 1941, page 17), two blind members of the Texas Legislature, Senator Olan R. Van Zandt and Representative Lon E. Alsup, served as cochairmen of the committee to meet Keller. (Van Zandt and Alsup were also author and coauthor of HB 844, 42nd Regular Session (1931), which created the State Commission for the Blind.)

 

The proceedings of the Joint Session were described in both the House Journal and the Senate Journal of the 47th Regular Session. 

 

A signed copy of Senate Concurrent Resolution 17, 47th Regular Session (1941), a letter from Senator Olan R. Van Zandt to Helen Keller regarding her visit, and a signed copy of Senate Concurrent Resolution 37, 47th Regular Session (1941), are now found within the holdings of the Helen Keller Archive at the American Foundation for the Blind.

 

House Committee Resources: Criminal Jurisprudence

House Committee Resources: Criminal Jurisprudence

The committee has requested written submissions on the following topics. Below are resources related to those topics.

 

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

Charge 1: Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee's jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

 

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

Charge 2: Study current practices and enforcement of criminal laws for non-violent Class C Misdemeanors. Examine the benefits of citations in lieu of arrests and fine-only offenses, the nexus between recidivism and "debtors' prisons," and all programs within the criminal justice system that levy fines, fees, and related penalties.

 

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

Charge 3: Review the overall state of indigent defense and delivery of services to indigent defendants in Texas under the Fair Defense Act and other applicable laws. Examine the procedures for the appointment of counsel, including public defender options for rural communities, the monitoring of workloads and performance of attorneys, and the funding of those services. Examine counsel options for indigent defendants during magistrate proceedings and the administration and funding of county indigent defense systems. (Joint charge with the House Committee on County Affairs)

 

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

Charge 4: Review trial court procedures in capital sentencing, and implementation applicable law in direct appeal and writ proceedings in capital cases, for compliance with constitutional protections and conflict of interest rules.

 

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

Charge 5: Monitor the State Auditor's review of agencies and programs under the Committee's jurisdiction. The Chair shall seek input and periodic briefings on completed audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years and bring forth pertinent issues for full committee consideration.

 

Current Articles & Research Resources, October 22

In this weekly post, we feature helpful research tools and recent articles of interest to the legislative community.

  • Find early voting, absentee voting, and vote-by-mail facts and statistics by state. (Associated Press, ©2020)
  • View tax-related disaster relief for those affected by the recent hurricanes and tropical storm. (Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, accessed October 21, 2020)
  • Read policy recommendations related to COVID-19 vaccine distribution. (Texas Medical Association, October 21, 2020)
  • Consider tips about pedestrian safety for pedestrians and drivers. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 2020)

 

Librarians review and select articles from more than 1,000 print and online sources to compile a weekly annotated list of Current Articles of interest to the legislative community. View this week's Current Articles.

 

Members of the Texas legislative community may request articles by using our online form or by calling 512-463-1252.

Interim Reports

We've received interim reports to the 87th Legislature from the following committees:

Our Legislative Reports database will be updated as we receive additional reports. The database can be accessed on our website under Committees | Legislative reports.

 

Please note, reports within our database are listed by the Legislature that ordered a study rather than the Legislature that received the report. To search for reports ordered by the 86th Legislature and received by the 87th Legislature, select "86th - 2019" from the Legislature drop down menu in the Search for reports section of the page and click on Search.

 

 

Looking for a report from an earlier session? The LRL's Legislative Reports database also contains interim committee charges, interim committee reports, and other substantive legislative studies published in the House and Senate Journals back to 1846.

 

You can search for reports by Legislature, subject, and/or the name of the committee. You may also do a key word search within the report title and the charge text.

 

Senate Committee Resources: Redistricting

 

The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting is gathering information under Section 301.014 of the Texas Government Code. The committee has established a public input portal on its website: https://senate.Texas.gov/redistrictingcomment/.

 

This tool allows the public to submit written comments and attachments for the committee to review and consider regarding the upcoming redistricting process. Submissions received will be transmitted to members of the committee and any other senator who requests to review them.

 

 

Current Articles & Research Resources, October 15

In this weekly post, we feature helpful research tools and recent articles of interest to the legislative community.

  • Find out what heavy metals and "forever" chemicals might be in bottled water, by brand. (Consumer Reports, September 24, 2020)
  • Review a report card of governors' fiscal policies. (Cato Institute, October 5, 2020)
  • Explore a new online collection of ratified Indian Treaties from the National Archives. (National Archives and Records Administration, October 13, 2020)
  • Read about why the U.S. Supreme Court has nine justices. (History.com, September 24, 2020)

 

Librarians review and select articles from more than 1,000 print and online sources to compile a weekly annotated list of Current Articles of interest to the legislative community. View this week's Current Articles.

 

Members of the Texas legislative community may request articles by using our online form or by calling 512-463-1252.

 

How a Bill Becomes a Law

The Texas Constitution and the Rules of the House and Senate set the procedure that a bill must follow in order to be passed into law. Here are the basic steps in the legislative process:

  • Bill filing/introduction
  • First reading and referral to committee
  • Committee consideration
  • Floor consideration on second and third reading
  • Engrossment
  • Consideration in opposite chamber
  • Concurrence in opposite chamber's amendments, or conference committee report
  • Sent to Governor
  • Governor signs bill or takes no action
  • Bill becomes law on effective date

Bills that do not pass or are vetoed by the Governor must be reintroduced the next session; the bill number does not carry over.

 

Several key publications describing the Texas legislative process are available on the Legislative Reference Library website under General Information | Texas legislative agencies & process, including:

 

Bill process flowcharts for the House and Senate. Online versions are available through the Texas Legislative Council.

 

 

 

 

 

The Legislative Process in Texas, by the Texas Legislative Council (November 2018), details each step in the legislative process, from how a bill originates to the filing and publication of laws.

Citizen Handbook: How the Texas Legislature Works, published by the Secretary of the Senate (February 2019), includes a short history of the Texas Capitol, an overview of the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, legislative advocacy tips, and basic steps in the legislative process.

The Legislative Lexicon, by the Senate Research Center (January 2019), explains the vocabulary of the legislature from A-Z, such as the difference between an engrossed and enrolled bill.

How a Bill Becomes Law: 86th Legislature, by the House Research Organization (February 28, 2019), provides an overview of the legislative process with a focus on House rules.

 

 

 

 

House Committee Resources: Mass Violence & Community Safety, Public Health

House Committee Resources: Mass Violence & Community Safety, Public Health

The committees have requested written submissions on the following topics. Below are resources related to those topics.

 

 

Duties:

Duty (1): examine options for strengthening enforcement measures for current laws that prevent the transfer of firearms to felons and other persons prohibited by current law from possessing firearms; 

 

Duty (2): examine impediments and challenges to the timely reporting of relevant criminal history information and other threat indicators to state and federal databases;

 

Duty (3): examine the role of digital media and technology in threat detection, assessment, reporting, and prevention, including the collaboration between digital media and law enforcement;

 

Duty (3) Designated Party:

  • Ron Barnes, Head of State Legislative Affairs, Google

 

Duty (4): evaluate the ongoing and long-term workforce needs of the state related to cybersecurity, mental health, law enforcement, and related professionals; and

 

Duty (5): evaluate current protocols and extreme risk indicators used to identify potential threats and consider options for improving the dissemination of information between federal, state, and local entities and timely and appropriate intervention of mental health professionals.

 

 

House Committee on Public Health 

Charge 1: Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee's jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

 

Related to Women/Maternal/Infant Health

  • HB 253, which requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to develop and implement a five-year strategic plan to address postpartum depression. Monitor the development of the strategic plan to ensure it provides strategies to improve access to postpartum depression screening, referral, treatment, and support services.

  • SB 436, which requires the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), in conjunction with the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, to develop and implement statewide initiatives to improve maternal and newborn health for women with opioid use disorder. Examine the process by which DSHS and the Task Force develop and implement the initiatives, and, if applicable, monitor the development of the optional pilot program authorized by the legislation.
  • SB 748, which creates a newborn screening preservation account and requires the development of a program to provide prenatal and postpartum care through telehealth or telemedicine in certain counties, a high risk maternal care coordination services pilot program, and a pregnancy medical home pilot program. Monitor the rulemaking process at HHSC and conduct oversight of the creation of the newborn screening preservation account and the maternal health programs. Identify any challenges that arise in funding the account or implementing the programs. Ensure the required agencies are providing adequate data collection on maternal mortality rates, maternity care, and postpartum depression in the state.
  • SB 749, which relates to designating levels of neonatal and maternal care for hospitals and establishes an appeal process, waiver agreement, and telemedicine exceptions. Monitor HHSC's rulemaking process.
  • SB 750, which directs HHSC to evaluate and develop a limited postpartum care package for new mothers enrolled in the Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program and to develop strategies to ensure continuity of care for new mothers who transition from Medicaid for Pregnant Women into HTW. Monitor HHSC's rulemaking process and the evaluation and development of the postpartum care package in HTW.
  • SB 2132, which requires additional information to be provided to new mothers enrolled in HTW. Monitor HHSC's rulemaking process.

 

Related to Controlled Substances/Opioids

 

Related to Rural Health

  • HB 3934, which provides rural hospitals with the authority to establish a health care collaborative.
  • SB 170, which relates to the reimbursement of rural hospitals under Medicaid. Monitor the reimbursement methodology developed by HHSC.
  • SB 633, which provides the authority to assemble local mental health authorities (LMHA) in rural areas into groups in order to ensure access to mental health services in those areas. Conduct oversight of the process of grouping individual LMHAs and the development of a plan for each group to increase capacity and access.
  • SB 1621, which creates a rural hospital strategic plan.

 

Related to General Monitoring

  • HB 871, which authorizes certain rural hospitals to satisfy trauma facility designation requirements through the use of telemedicine. Monitor HHSC's rulemaking process.

  • HB 1501, which creates the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council. Monitor the transfer of the regulation of psychologists, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, and social workers to the new council.
  • HB 1504, which continues the Texas Medical Board until September 1, 2031. Review and identify any challenges related to the processing of complaints, including due process concerns and the independence of the Board. Make recommendations for additional modifications to address these challenges.
    • Texas Medical Board (Sunset Review Documents for 2018-2019 Review Cycle, 86th Legislative Session). Texas Sunset Advisory Commission
  • HB 3148, which establishes provisions related to the administration and oversight of investigational adult stem cell treatments. Monitor the creation of the investigational stem cell registry.
  • HB 3703, which expands eligibility for low-THC cannabis prescriptions. Monitor HHSC's rulemaking process.
  • HB 4455, which authorizes a health professional to provide a mental health service via telemedicine or telehealth services to a patient located outside of Texas.
  • SB 21, which raises the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.
  • SB 670, which relates to ensuring reimbursement of telemedicine and telehealth services and expanding which facilities may receive reimbursement for those services.

 

Related to Behavioral Health

  • HB 18, which enhances school safety and mental health resources for students and school personnel and works to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions. Monitor the process by which state agencies coordinate to implement the legislation and their compliance with various requirements, including providing required guidelines and resources to schools.
  • HB 19, which places non-physician mental health professionals at education service centers to provide resources for educators and administrators in school districts and charter schools. 
  • HB 906, which creates the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services.
  • SB 11, which creates the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to facilitate access to mental health care services through telehealth and expands the mental health workforce through training and funding opportunities. Monitor the creation of the consortium and agencies' rulemaking processes. Review how school districts are spending their school safety allotment.

 

o   Senate Bill 11 Data Requirement and Safe and Supportive Schools Program (SSSP) (Correspondence to the Administrator Addressed), Texas Education Agency, September 17, 2020

o   Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) and Other School Safety-Related Legislation (Correspondence to the Administrator Addressed), Texas Education Agency, February 27, 2020

o   School Safety After Senate Bill 11, Texas Association of School Boards, updated October 2019

o   Implementation Plan for the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC), As Required by Rider 58 of the Appropriation to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (House Bill 1, 86th Legislature, Regular Session, 2019), The University of Texas System, November 2019

o   Improving School Safety in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott, August 27, 2019

o   Texas 86th Legislative Session: Summary of Mental Health and Substance Use-Related Legislation, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, The University of Texas at Austin, September 3, 2019

o   HB 906 Mental Health Task Force, Texas Education Agency

o   School Safety, Texas Education Agency

o   Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, The University of Texas System

 

House Committee on Public Health 

 

House Committee on Public Health 

Charge 3: Review behavioral health capacity in the state, with a focus on suicide prevention efforts and the provision of behavioral health care services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Review suicide prevention programs and initiatives across state agencies, evaluate their effectiveness, and identify opportunities for greater coordination. Identify gaps in the continuum of care for individuals with disabilities and challenges for those providing care to them. Additionally, identify any existing administrative and licensing barriers that negatively affect overall behavioral health capacity in the state.

 

House Committee on Public Health

Charge 4: Monitor the State Auditor's review of agencies and programs under the Committee's jurisdiction. The Chair shall seek input and periodic briefings on completed audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years and bring forth pertinent issues for full committee consideration. 

 

 

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