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Reposted from Stephen Benavides by nomandates

Texas’ House Joint Resolution 26, which would have allowed for a state-wide referendum on increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10, was defeated by Republicans in the Texas House on May 14, 2015.

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Sat May 23, 2015 at 12:44 PM PDT

Not Everything is Bigger in Texas

by LeftOfYou

Reposted from LeftOfYou by nomandates
Example: Itty Bitty Crowd Attending Commencement Speech by Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX)

Last Saturday, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott rose to give the commencement address to the Spring, 2015 graduating class at the University of North Texas in Denton, he found himself gazing out across a tiny puddle of graduates edging a vast field of empty chairs, with not a few backs turned on him. The Governor's antipathy to the advancement of civil rights, unbounded love for the "awl bidness" and preference for fracking over democratic self-rule had produced a backlash among the graduates, causing most of them to either boycott or protest the Governor's speech.

According to the Washington Post:

the governor of the state — addressed just a tiny fraction of the graduating class. And part of that small audience was actively protesting him — turning away from him, holding anti-Gov. Greg Abbott signs.
Spokespersons controlled by the Governor's office tried to laugh off the pathetic spectacle of Governor Abbott shouting into an almost empty hall, putting the blame on bad weather and a change of venue. But the Post also reported that the snub to the Governor was actively promoted and organized on campus by “Turn Your Back on Bigotry” which issued a declaration quoted by the Post:
“1. The selection of Governor Greg Abbott clarified the necessity for graduating students to participate in selecting their commencement speaker. By inviting a polarizing political figure such as Governor Greg Abbott as the keynote speaker, UNT administration has politicized an event meant to celebrate the accomplishments of a diverse community of students.
2. Governor Abbott supports policies that impede the attainment of rights pursued by marginalized communities, including, but not limited to: the LGBT+ population, women, people of color, and lower/working class people, e.g. Abbott’s attempts to block access to in-state tuition for undocumented migrants is antithetical to this university’s purported commitment to higher education and opportunity.
3. Governor Abbott’s intent to override local control poses a direct threat to Denton’s democratic decision to secure the health and safety of its residents via the November 2014 ban on hydraulic-fracturing.”
Local chafing causing people to act out publicly against rough shod, sell-out, extremist, Republican governance can only be a good thing in a place like Texas. Always remember that there are liberals and progressives and other right thinking people everywhere, in abundance, even in places like Texas. Good things can come from getting them riled up.
Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn't need hindsight to know that invading Iraq was a tragically stupid decision as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleasantly surprised to hear that the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and US Rep. John Culberson have reached an accord in their longstanding feud over funding for light rail in Houston.

Letters from Texas provides a step-by-step guide to using your hypocrisy to justify your bigotry.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos calls it as she sees it when the U.S. Congress cut Amtrak's budget within hours of the train wreck outside of Philadelphia last week.  Republican Austerity Kills. Literally.

Nonsequiteuse asks you to consider the long game for progressives in Texas, and explains why she's building progressive infrastructure and working the next generation of leaders through New Leaders Council.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The GOP's end of session plan for tax cuts is getting near completion, Give It All To Business - The GOP Tax Compromise.

In a roundup of events, Socratic Gadfly says this week in Texas politics was probably even nuttier than normal ó a high bar to clear.

Julian Castro is Hllary Clinton's pick for running mate, according to Henry Cisneros.  That suggests a Latino will also be the vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that might be the most interesting thing that could liven up an otherwise completely predictable 2016 presidential season.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is surprised that a Republican was so honest about tax cuts being just for the business cronies.  Who needs roads, schools, or safety inspections.  The rich can buy their own.  But, the shrinking middle class and the poor must pay for what's left.

Neil at All People Have Value posted about 11 pictures he keeps in his phone that involve death. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

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Reposted from weinenkel by nomandates
Empty school desks
It is so much quieter in school when no one's there.
Texas appleseed released a report on Texas's truancy policy and practices. The findings are alarming:
Texas currently prosecutes more than twice the number of truancy cases prosecuted in all other states combined. These students are sent to adult criminal courts, unlike almost all other states, which send them to civil juvenile courts.

• While some Texas school districts have implemented effective school- and community-based programs to address truancy, these approaches are not the norm. Children rarely get the individualized attention that research suggests is most effective in intervening with truant youth.

• Four in five children sent to court for truancy are economically disadvantaged, according
to TEA—yet fines are the most common sanction for children charged with truancy.

• Due process protections are often ignored in the courts where these cases are prosecuted, with children (who are rarely represented by counsel) pleading guilty or no contest to charges they often do not understand, even when they may have a valid defense.

• In some jurisdictions, judges order children charged with truancy to withdraw from school
and take the GED; this resulted in 6,423 court-ordered dropouts who failed the test over a three-year period—a number likely to grow significantly in the face of plunging passage rates for the GED.

African-American and Hispanic students are overrepresented in truancy cases statewide, as are special education students. Finding more effective ways to intervene with these youth is critical, since these students are among those most vulnerable to poor educational outcomes.

In that last finding the word "overrepresented" equals 83.6% of Texas truancy cases last school year. Al-Jazeera America has put together a multi-part series on Texas's truancy problem. In 2014 Texas "assessed fines and court costs of $16.1 million for truancy convictions". This has resulted in the truancy policy performing as a criminalization of children policy. It's so bad that a month ago, Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) proposed and passed a bill to decriminalize the truancy system.
“No school should make a criminal charge out of a hardship of somebody that’s going through a divorce, or a 14-year-old that has no maternity clothes so she can’t go to school,” Whitmire said.

Under his legislation, Whitmire said school administrators and judges would have all the same tools they have now to try to ensure kids are not skipping school. The difference, he argued, is there would be no criminal charge to follow a young person around for the rest of their life.

The only other state to apply criminal justice to truancy is Wyoming. If you're running your state with policies championed by the legislators of Wyoming you're basically living in a prison state. Here's an example of how this super brilliant system works:
Raquel was 14 when she had her first hearing in truancy court. She says she knew what “truancy” meant but was confused when the judge asked her to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. “I was looking at my mom for all the answers, and she couldn’t talk,” Raquel remembers. Children charged with truancy, unlike those facing more serious crimes, have no right to court-appointed counsel if they can’t afford it, and many judges will not allow parents to speak for their children. A frustrated but helpless Yolanda says: “You’re standing there in silence. You want to say something, but you’re not allowed.”
Yolanda and Raquel are poor. This was followed by three more court cases, a conviction, and a $180 fine and court cost decision. They didn't have that money.
In September, with $107 still unpaid and two more unexcused absences, she was summoned to court again. This time, the judge ordered her to do community service in lieu of paying the fine and threatened to hold her in contempt of court if she missed any more days of school. On Feb. 19, 2014, he followed through on that threat, and sent Raquel to Dallas County’s Truancy Enforcement Center.
The best part of all of this is that all of these kids (upwards of 100,000) have adult criminal records before they even get to be an adult!
Reposted from AllenM by nomandates

Good news from Texas for a change.

For those not aware of this story it actually started in December 2013 when Kari Rene Hunt's estranged husband asked her to meet him in a hotel with their children and leave the children with him for a short visitation while he was in town.

When Kari got there Kari's estranged husband ambushed her and trapped her in the bathroom.

Follow below the fold for the rest.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by nomandates
The DuPont chemical plant is seen in LaPorte, Texas, 26 miles (42 km) from downtown Houston, November 17, 2014.   Medical personnel had to wait hours to retrieve four dead bodies after a hazardous chemical leak at a unit of a DuPont and Co plant in LaPorte because they were not trained to use the proper safety equipment, the company said on Monday.   REUTERS/Erwin Seba  (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS DISASTER INDUSTRIAL) - RTR4EHJI
Last fall, four workers were killed by a gas leak in a Texas DuPont plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has investigated and concluded that:
Those workers “would be alive today had their employer, DuPont, taken steps to protect them,” according to the release announcing the end of the investigation. “Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.”
What's the penalty for four lives lost and 11 safety violations, nine of them serious? A whopping $99,000—plus the "scores of safety upgrades the company must undertake to prevent future accidents." But with penalties like that and a plant that had last been inspected in 2007 before these deaths, DuPont doesn't have enormous incentives to follow through. Why would we expect companies to invest in safety when they know the penalties for killing workers will be so low?
Reposted from Meteor Blades by nomandates
Two women await the results of a referendum banning fracking in Denton, Texas,  last November. The city's aye votes won, but the state legislature and governor said nay.
Two women await the results of a referendum banning fracking in Denton, Texas,
last November. The city's aye votes won, but the state legislature and governor said nay.
When the residents of Denton, Texas, voted 59-41 percent to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing in their community, the howls of industry and their legislator marionettes could be heard statewide.

The industry's lawyers got busy and sued Denton, population 113,000. There are 270 nearby wells where hydraulic fracturing—"fracking"—is used to pry natural gas from a tight shale formation. The state legislature, which usually makes a big deal oratorically about local control, got busy and crafted HB 40, a bill that would stop Denton and any other Texas municipality from passing fracking bans, by referendum or other means, against a "prudent operator."  

Or rather, former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff got busy and drafted the bill's language.

The argument of the backers is that HB 40 goes for a balanced approach and that allowing municipalities to ban fracking would create a patchwork of rules across Texas that would be harmful to the oil and gas drilling business that put $12 billion into state coffers last year. The Barnett formation in the Denton area is one of two highly productive shale deposits in the state. Without fracking, industry says, the formation would be commercially undrillable.

HB 40 cleared the legislature and, on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law. Now, no community can prohibit fracking unless it can prove its ban is "commercially reasonable." Naturally, activists aren't happy:

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.” [...]

“By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, President of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring’, no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.“

There is more below the fold.
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Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

When I heard about the Amtrak train wreck outside of Philadelphia on Tuesday night my heart stopped for a few seconds. My son lives in Washington D.C. His girlfriend's family lives in NYC. I have family and friends in NYC and friends in Delaware.  My husband has colleagues in Philadelphia and NYC. Most of all of those whom we know will take the train when traveling up and down the east coast.

Two months ago we visited our son in Washington, D.C. We took Amtrak to Wilmington, DE to visit friends near the University of Delaware. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride as well as our warm and interesting conversations with the conductors and the passengers. We live in Houston, a city in which our U.S. Rep (R-natch) has been fighting rail here tooth and nail. If he's not fighting rail some other Republican is on some level. My husband and I love rail travel because we've ridden high speed trains all over France, where his family lives. We are beyond frustrated that Texas and the U.S., for that matter, is so far behind our European and Asian counterparts.  

So, the other night while I was tweeting about Jeb's gaffe on Iraq suddenly, not even twenty four hours after the train wreck, I saw the tweet House Cuts Budget for Amtrak.  At first I thought it was a sick snark.  So, I clicked on the link and saw to my amazement that this was no snark.  A Twitter frenzy soon erupted about the cuts.  Many tweeters were as incredulous as I.  All of us had seen the carnage on TV or online.  How could Congress be so awfully awful?

Just Hours After Deadly Train Crash Congress set to Debate Proposed Cuts to Amtrak Budget.

The deadly crash of an Amtrak train outside Philadelphia on Tuesday night was expected to put pressure on Congress to reexamine proposed cuts to Amtrak's federal subsidy.

But on Wednesday, just hours after the crash, the House Appropriations Committee backed a measure that would slash Amtrak's budget by $251 million, giving the rail operator $1.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

In his February budget, President Barack Obama had asked for $2.5 billion for Amtrak, citing the need for investments in infrastructure and improvements along the Northeast Corridor.

When a reporter asked about the budget cuts to Amtrak given the gravity of the wreck, U.S. House Speaker barked back that the question was stupid and blamed speed for the accident. The train had taken a sharp curve at 106 MPH, 56 miles over the speed limit for that curve.  So far no one knows why the train's engineer failed to slow down before reaching the sharp curve. But we do know that Republicans in Congress have been hamstringing Amtrak with its much needed upgrades and safety systems for decades.  For example, why hasn't Amtrak straightened a 73 year old sharp curve or at least rerouted the tracks to make the path more safe?  The answer to the question is very likely b/c of lack of funding and complicated bureaucratic processes.

Amtrak says it was just months away from installing safety system  According to the New York Time's print edition headline "Hurdles Held Up Safety System, Railroad Says. Amtrak Cites Budgets."

Please follow me below the orange gerrymander (h/t to Meteor Blades) to learn how cuts by Congress, shortfalls and rules hampered the installation of a safety system that would have prevented Tuesday night's accident.

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Reposted from Scout Finch by DRo
Austin city council members addressing the media after bizarre training session
Female city council members asking too many questions, as females do.
Residents of Austin, Texas recently elected several women to the city council. For the first time in the history of Austin, the city council now has a female majority–seven women and four men. Huzzah! Progress! But, not so fast. The change was apparently so overwhelming, the city manager decided to bring in a trainer to teach city employees how to deal with emotionally-driven women in the workplace. A sampling of the topics:
Women ask lots of questions. He learned a valuable lesson on communicating with women from his 11-year-old daughter, who peppered him with questions while they were on the way to volleyball. “In a matter of 15 seconds, I got 10 questions that I had to patiently respond to,” Allen said. Allen says female City Council members are less likely to read agenda information and instead ask questions. He says it’s tempting to just tell them to read the packet, but “my daughter taught me the importance of being patient” even when they may already know the answer to the question.

Women don’t want to deal with numbers. Allen said in his city they used to have background information and financial analysis on the front pages of agenda forms. Allen says he normally would have presented the financial argument, but that his female commissioners would balk and say “Mr. Manager, I don’t want to hear about the financial argument, I want to hear about how this impacts the whole community.” He said that it may make good financial sense, but if he wants to get the votes, he has to present his arguments “in a totally different way.”

Women are taking over, Hillary Clinton will only encourage this. Allen talked about the general trend of more women getting involved in government, citing stats of more female mayors, for instance. “You see women in leadership positions…you will have to interact with them in a different way,” Allen said. “I submit to you if Hillary Clinton just runs, just runs for the office, you are going to see even greater numbers in leadership position, if she wins, you will see even greater numbers starting at the bottom on top.” He warns the staff to play nice with people on advisory boards or commissions because you never know when they become the elected official.

Needless to say, the women on the city council were not amused. Watch their reaction:
The video of the training session has been removed from the website for the city of Austin, replaced with a letter of apology and clarification from City Manager Marc Ott.

Read more about the training session at the Austin Statesman.

Reposted from Chrislove by Chrislove

If you've been following the record-breaking flurry of anti-LGBT bills being filed by Republicans in the Texas legislature, you probably know about HB 4105, introduced by Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr. (R-Magnolia). Bell is the author not one, not two, not three, but four such bills, possibly making him the most actively anti-gay legislator in Texas. HB 4105, however, may take the cake as a frighteningly asinine attempt to preempt a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the right to marry that most seem to expect. I'll let you read the bill text:

SECTION 1.  This Act may be cited as the Preservation of
     Sovereignty and Marriage Act.
            SECTION 2.  Section 2.001, Family Code, is amended to read as
            (c)  State or local funds may not be used for an activity that
     includes the licensing or support of a same-sex marriage.
            (d)  A state or local governmental employee may not
     recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license.
            (e)  State or local funds may not be used to enforce an order
     requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage
In other words, in the very likely event of a SCOTUS ruling striking down marriage bans across the country, clerks in Texas will be faced with a choice: Follow federal law and risk repercussions from the state or follow this mean-spirited, unconstitutional piece of legislation. It would essentially create chaos, which is exactly what Bell and his ilk want--much like the chaos we saw in Alabama following their own marriage equality ruling. More from the Texas Observer:
The bill would bar state and local employees from issuing, enforcing or recognizing same-sex marriage licenses—and prohibit public monies from being used to do so—regardless of any court order.

LGBT advocates say if the high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, HB 4105 would set up a showdown between state and federal law, costing Texas millions of dollars in litigation and potentially delaying the effectiveness of the decision by years. They say the bill would unleash chaos similar to what’s been seen in Alabama over same-sex marriage, and generate the type of business backlash associated with passage of an anti-LGBT religious freedom law in Indiana.


In addition to Bell, HB 4105 is co-authored by 88 other House Republicans. Only nine Republicans hadn’t signed on as co-authors as of Monday morning: Rodney Anderson (Grand Prairie), Sarah Davis (Houston), Craig Goldman (Fort Worth), Todd Hunter (Corpus Christi), Linda Koop (Dallas), Morgan Meyer (Dallas), John Smithee (Amarillo), Speaker Joe Straus (San Antonio) and Jason Villalba (Dallas).

None of the chamber’s 52 Democrats were listed as co-authors.

While HB 4105 was slated for the floor yesterday, it was delayed. It will have to be passed by the end of the legislative session, which is rapidly approaching, barring a special session. If it passes the House, it is expected to sail through Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Senate, of course. And while Greg Abbott hasn't publicly taken a position, I think we all know where he is going to come down on this.
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Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy designing its own TexMoji as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff is busy popping popcorn so as to fully enjoy the Jonathan Stickland soap opera.

Letters from Texas guest blogger Russ Tidwell explains what the SCOTUS ruling that invalidated Alabama's Congressional redistricting means for Texas.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos examines the Texas founders'  vision for public education.  As a teacher and scholar Lightseeker laments how far we have strayed from this noble goal.  Why Texas Puts the Stupid into Educational Reform.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. It impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business.  That is The Texas GOP's Tax Trap.

There's a message from the last socialist mayor of a major American city to the various Republican and Democratic socialists running (in a so-called non-partisan race for) mayor of Houston.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants everybody to understand that we are all socialists of a form or fashion.  And that's not a bad thing.

Socratic Gadfly talks about how the New Democratic Party win in Alberta might have lessons for American Democrats, even in Texas.

Texas Leftist attended the first ever Houston Artist Town Hall-- a meeting of nearly 200 artists from across the region. As Council prepare a new Cultural Plan for the Bayou City, artists themselves met to make sure they contribute to those plans.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Texas Republicans are using our taxpayer dollars to publicly bash gay people.

Neil at All People Have Value observed Jade Helm operations in Houston. All People Have Value is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

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Reposted from Libby Shaw by Libby Shaw

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a Happy Star Wars Day as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff rounded up coverage of the voter ID appellate hearing at the Fifth circuit last week.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos weighs in on the overall disgust for the TX Governor's cowardice. The C.T Freaks Win: TX GOV Panders to Paranoia.

Socratic Gadfly wonders if, given this was not the first outbreak, having other information about the Food and Drug Administration from whistleblower Ken Kendrick and more, if we can really trust the FDA that much when it claims Blue Bell and other ice creams are safe.

Nonsequiteuse calls on Rep. Todd Smith and any other reasonable Republicans left in Texas to come collect their party.

Bernie Sanders declared for the Democratic nomination for president, and not even the events of Baltimore could keep him from extending his news cycle through the weekend.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reports on the money part of the equation in the opening days of his campaign, and wonders if the stark differences between he and Hillary Clinton might actually produce a meaningful primary contest.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why so many Texas Republicans act to enable rapists.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Hooray, Obamacare is working, The Good News About Healthcare In Texas For Everyone But Republicans.

Neil at All People Have Value said as shameful as Governor Abbott is to pander to the Jade Helm paranoia, there are in fact serious reasons people believe crazy things. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

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