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Texas Lege

Disenfranchisement, A Little Bit Bigger in Texas

by: nicholasnchan

Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 05:22 PM CDT

The saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, including our bigots at the capitol. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about Southern comfort and hospitality, but Texas' new voting law isn't so comforting. The voting ID law passed simply asks for identification before being allowed to vote. Besides of course excluding immigrants who lack these documents and senior citizens who can't always find the means to have updated identification-the ramifications of this bill now targets Texas women and trans folks.

You may have seen the sexist "End Women's Suffrage" video prank where a guy asks passing women to sign a petition to end women's suffrage. Well, the joke is no laughing matter when it has real world implications. The new bill creates a barrier for women to vote because there presents an issue where newly married or divorced women, don't have matching identification if they decided to change their name. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of women lack accurate identification with their legal names.  For the transgender community, 27% in Texas lack the accurate form of identification.  Now, trans folks face even more difficulty in having a voice in Texas politics.

The arduous process of getting the right form of identification is complicated in itself. The process is explained: "ordering a new copy of your birth certificate or marriage verification means travelling in person to the state capital, something largely impossible for senior citizens or people with day jobs...you can also wait 6-8 weeks to have it mailed to you and pay $22 plus up to $19.95 in mailing costs."

This law could make Texas politics heavily bogged down by male politicians and male voices to benefit the male population. Senator Van De Putte put it best, "at what point does a female senator have to raise her voice or her hand to be heard over her male colleagues in the room?"

A huge population has to jump through hoops and barriers just to exercise their constitutional right and have their voice  heard on issues that directly affect them. It's no wonder Wendy Davis had to take a stand on abortion access. I feel like the longer I live in the Texas, the further back I go in history. The November 5th elections are approaching and Texas residents should vote early to avoid any possible problems with the new voting law in place. When it comes to disfranchising populations, Texas does it just a little big bigger. Yee-haw.

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Republican Legislators Fall Victim to Ponzi Scheme Run by Man who Claimed to Have Found Noah's Ark

by: Katie Singh

Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT

Attorney General Candidate and Ted Cruz-BFF State Sen. Ken Paxton, one of four legislators who fell victim to a Ponzi scheme targeted at Christian Conservatives
Four Texas legislators have filed suit against a McKinney man named Archer Bonnema, claiming that he scammed them into investing in a fraudulent energy trading company.

Bonnema, "a chiseler who once claimed to have found Noah's Ark," targeted his scheme toward Christian conservatives.

Now, Wayne Christian, Phil King, Ken Paxton and Bill Zedler are suing Bonnema. Two are currently running for statewide office--State Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) is the favorite in the runoff for Attorney General, while former State Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) is ahead going into the runoff for Railroad Commissioner.

The scheme began in 2008 when Bonnema and Beaumont businessman Danny Bannister bought an energy trading company called Pirin Electric. Bonnema took control of the company and began to seek out investors, specifically targeting Christian conservatives.

See how a man who claimed to have found Noah's Ark fooled four Texas lawmakers after the jump.

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Abortion Funds: Bridging the Gap in Reproductive Health Care Where Texas and Hyde Won't

by: Amanda Williams

Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 00:35 PM CDT

(Thanks to Amanda for cross-posting this important piece about how low-income women suffer the most from barriers to reproductive healthcare.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

This op-ed was first published at thefeministwire.com.

As open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act finally kicks off, Americans are beginning to celebrate a healthier future for our country.  We rejoice over the millions of people who will receive coverage, no co-pays for preventive care, an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, out-of-pocket expense caps, and much more.

But one thing seems to be missing from this incredible list of health benefits: abortion coverage for poor Texans.  

As a board member of the Lilith Fund, a Texas abortion fund, I help raise money for low-income Texans to access safe and legal abortion care.  When I tell people what I do, they might ask something like, "Abortion funds exist?" "How much do abortions cost?" or "Do people actually call you?"

The answers to these questions are simple. We exist! We're one of over 100 abortion funds in the country as part of a national network. We receive close to 3,000 hotline calls a year from Texans who can't afford their abortions, which may cost anywhere from $400 to over $2000. The majority of our callers are low-income, women of color, two-thirds of whom are mothers.

Read more below the jump.

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Thanks to Wendy Davis, Over 20,000 Old Rape Kits Will Finally be Tested

by: Katie Singh

Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:00 AM CDT

The New York Times reported this week that the Texas Department of Public Safety will receive $11 million to implement SB 1636, Wendy Davis's bill addressing the enormous backlog of untested rape kits in the state. Davis introduced SB 1636 during the previous legislative session in 2011 in response to the news that there were tens of thousands of rape kits sitting untested in police stations across Texas, some dating back as far as 1980. Now that the bill is funded, it will institute several important changes to the way that sexual assaults are investigated in Texas. Police departments will be required to submit rape kits for testing within 30 days of determining that a sexual assault occurred, and they must run DNA analysis within 90 days of a sexual assault being reported.  As long as funding is available, police will also have to test untested rape kits from active cases dating back to 1996.

When the bill was passed in 2011, the first step of its implementation called for Texas law enforcement agencies to report the number of rape kits that still required testing by October 2011. Delays and inaction on the part of some law enforcement agencies caused this simple first step to instead take close to 2 years, further delaying the testing of rape kits across the state. It was eventually found that there was a backlog of over 20,000 rape kits statewide from cases since 1996 that qualify for testing. Thus, this year the Legislature allocated $11 million to DPS in its line-item budget in order to implement SB 1636's more stringent sexual assault forensics provisions.

Read about why thousands of rape kits have remained untested, and how the new law will help after the jump.

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Houston Senator John Whitmire Gets National Attention for Juvenile Justice Reforms in Texas

by: Nick Hudson

Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 00:00 PM CDT

Houston Democratic Senator John Whitmire was in the national spotlight last Tuesday doing something Democratic Lawmakers in Texas don't get to do very often. He was bragging about work done in the Texas Legislature.

In a room packed with more than 150 juvenile justice leaders and congressional staff at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C., Senator Whitmire spoke about the innovative programs Texas has adopted to reduce recidivism and keep children in their communities and schools. Whitmire was selected by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, as one of four panelists to speak about improving outcomes for youth involved in the justice system.

In his presentation (which you can watch below the jump) Senator Whitmire, who is the head of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, confessed that challenges in the adult criminal justice system had absorbed most of the attention of Texas Lawmakers until discovery of sexual abuse at a youth lockup six years ago elevated the relatively small juvenile justice system to a top-of-the agenda priority. "The bottom line is that we were overwhelmed with an adult problem," explained Whitmire "Since that scandal which brought it to our attention, we have spent around the clock trying to reform the system."

Read more below the jump.

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ALEC, Abortion, & Stand Your Ground

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 01:00 PM CDT

If you want to learn more about ALEC and how you can get involved in exposing their corporate influence in Texas politics, join up with Progress Texas!

The American Legislative Exchance Council (ALEC) has spent the last forty years bringing corporations, their lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers together to put the corporate interest ahead of what's best for people. Functioning as a 501(c)3, ALEC allows corporations to give large amounts of tax-deductible donations to become part of ALEC's corporate councils. These councils then vote and approve ALEC model bills, which are then presented by the corporation's lobbyists to conservative lawmakers at retreats that are often paid for by taxpayers. These model bills are shopped around the country and enacted - with limited trace of money influence - in legislatures across the country, though lawmakers rarely admit that the law started as an ALEC mode bill.

ALEC became a nationwide name last year, when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was able to use the "Stand Your Ground" defense to his advantage in court.

ALEC also has a sister organization - Americans United for Life (AUL) - that focuses exclusively on pro-life bills, using the same model/format as ALEC. House Bill 2, the controversial legislation that limited access to women's health care, came from AUL.

The legislation has been shopped across the country, with laws enacted in dozens of states that mirror the Texas law.

It is important to understand how these bills are shopped by ALEC & AUL because we need to know where lawmakers get their information, who is influencing their decision-making, and what role money plays in politics.

Click below to learn more specifics about the Stand Your Ground and HB 2 case studies here in Texas.


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"Pro-Forced-Birth" Democrats and the "Pro-Women's Health" Republican

by: Joseph Vogas

Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 00:21 PM CDT

"Vote your districts, members."


For a decade, this phrase was heard over and over as Speaker Pete Laney (D-Plainview) would call for votes on numerous bills as he presided as Speaker of the Texas House. During Speaker Laney’s tenure, the House Democratic caucus was heavily influenced by rural, white men, WD40s as they were nicknamed, members who would provide Democrats with a majority, but in exchange they would not be expected to march lock-step with the urban members that today overwhelmingly make up the Democratic caucus.


Before most votes, Speaker Laney reminded the Representatives to vote their districts, both as a precaution for their re-election and a reminder that they were there only to represent only the people who could vote for them. After Tuesday evening’s final vote on HB2 we saw five Democrats and one Republican split from their party's stance and vote their conscience. These six defectors leave us with a question: Were these members voting their districts or taking matters into their own hands?


We may criticize these members for breaking form and not falling in line, but for those of us in Austin, Houston, or the Metroplex: We are not their constituents. It is up to the voters they represent back home to determine if this vote was correct or not. This diary exists only to highlight who they are and to provide some background on these representatives.


It is worth noting, all the Democrats listed below, except for Rep. Herrero, are in what could be considered safe seats for the Democratic nominee in the next general election.


Read more about the 5 Democrats and 1 Republican including information on how President Obama's re-election campaign and Bill White's gubernatorial campaign performed in each member's district below the jump.

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How Senate Republicans Destroyed the State Senate Through Bullying

by: John Woods

Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM CDT

(A thoughtful post on Senate traditions.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

As Americans, we have a profound respect for the rules. The rule of law is part of what makes our democracy great. There have been around forty-three transitions of power in the course of presidential elections, for example, and every single one has been peaceful -- even when it seems the stakes couldn't be higher. Americans recognize that elections have consequences, and that we will nearly always have another opportunity to put good leaders in office.

Tuesday night's travesty on the floor of the Texas Senate went beyond normal electoral consequences, and does enormous damage to the spirit of respectful, measured (albeit rarely entirely reasonable) deliberation that governs the second-most populous state in the Union.

Some have argued that the Lieutenant Governor can be forgiven for distorting the Senate's rules Tuesday because it was such an emotional topic. I could not disagree more.

Read why below the jump.

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Texas' Discriminatory Voter ID Law to Take Effect "Immediately"

by: Nick Hudson

Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 09:25 AM CDT

The stringent Texas voter ID law Rick Perry  signed into law in 2011 is "immediately" in effect in light of Tuesday's decision by the US Supreme Court that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is Unconstitutional, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State, John Steen.

 photo ScreenShot2013-06-26at90244AM.png

The voter ID law, which would have required display of photo identification before a voter was permitted to cast a vote, failed to gain "preclearance" last year. Judges had ruled that it was discriminatory and would impose "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor." The State of Texas' own data showed that the law would have a disporportionate impact on hispanic voters.

Read the Secretary of State's Announcement, which includes a list of the identification required to vote, below the fold.

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Campus Carry: Conundrum For Cops

by: colin

Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 09:08 PM CDT

(Thanks to Colin Strother for cross-posting this piece from his blog! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Republicans in the Texas Legislature and legislative bodies throughout the country are aggressively pursuing so-called "campus carry". Even vaunted institutions of reasonable gun policy like "Ammoland"  are calling for campus carry to be added to the call for special session of the Texas Legislature.

Some backers of campus carry see it from an egocentric perspective: "If there was a shooter I would get my Jason Bourne on, whip out my 9 with laser sights and hollow points, and save the day". (Yeah, right.)  Some see it as some homage to the 2nd Amendment (which has absolutely zero to do with this issue). And, others seem to think it makes them more of a man or more of a patriot to back all things that equal more guns, also known as 'Merica.

The arguments against campus carry center on the alcohol-fueled culture of college, the volatility of relationships and emotions among young people, the general irresponsibility of college kids, and what it says about our values if we think the best way to secure college campuses is a bunch of 20 year-old kids with zero law enforcement training.

Read more below the jump.

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