- Galveston, TX Weather :: 71F Fog/Mist February 24, 201871F Fog/Mist
- Galveston, TX Weather :: 71F Fog/Mist February 24, 2018
- Love in the air at Minute Maid Park: Couple left with more than just love for Astros baseball February 23, 2018Many Astros share a love for the team, but last season, Cupid showed up to Minute Maid Park, leaving fans with more than just a love for baseball. "Our first date was an Astros game," said newlywed Lori Tolopka, laughing. PHOTOS: Astros super fans prepare for spring trainingShe and her now-husband, Wes, are preparing for […]
- Simone Biles to hold international invitational at family's World Champions Centre in Spring February 22, 2018America's most decorated gymnast, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles will have her very first international invitational at her family's World Champions Centre in Spring.Biles sat down with KPRC where she discussed her invitational, preparations and plans for Tokyo 2020 and her message of encouragement to current Olympians in Korea.She watched the historic win in Pyeongchang […]
- Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa form special bond with Astros February 22, 2018One stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and the other a mere 5 feet 6 inches.Carlos Correa and Josel Altuve make up the best middle infield in baseball, and they have a mutual respect that goes far beyond the field."Just his work ethic, he works hard and smart. He knows what it takes to be […]
- Carlos Correa's dog getting into trouble at spring training February 22, 2018When one of your owners is a World Series champion and the other is a former Miss Texas USA, you get to cause a little trouble.Groot Correa is a dog, who is doing just that, but, he is super adorable, so it's okay.Astros star Carlos Correa and his fiancee Daniella Rodriguez took their dog with […]
- For Elana Meyers Taylor, bobsled silver is sweeter this time February 22, 2018Silver is sweeter this time for U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.Her perspective has changed so much, and in so many ways, over the last four years. The silver medal she got at the Sochi Games in 2014 represented failure. It was nothing more than a shiny reminder of a loss, a bauble that she wanted […]
- This silver may be the most important medal Mikaela Shiffrin ever wins February 22, 2018Both Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn raced the Alpine super-combined on Friday, the first time the two American skiers competed against each other at the Olympics, and almost surely the last. The experts made Shiffrin the pre-race favorite for gold. For Vonn, medal prospects were akin to -- in her words -- Russian roulette.Shiffrin didn't […]
- USA defeats Canada to win gold in women's hockey February 22, 2018In perhaps the ultimate Olympic grudge match, Team USA earned a 3-2 shootout victory over Canada in the women's hockey gold medal game.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados on a deke after the shootout remained tied 2-2 after the first five shooters.WATCH: Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scores the shootout winnerWhen U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney turned away […]
- A plethora of pitchers: Astros' Hinch must make decision February 21, 2018With virtually every position already a lock for the Houston Astros at the beginning of spring training, the toughest decision manager A.J. Hinch might have to make this spring is which of his talented pitchers won't make the rotation.On a championship team with Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, newcomer Gerrit Cole and […]
- Dallas Mavericks launch probe after allegations of workplace misconduct February 21, 2018The Dallas Mavericks have hired outside counsel to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by former team president Terdema Ussery in a Sports Illustrated report that described a hostile workplace for women.Ussery was accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to several women. He spent 18 years with the team before going to the sports apparel company […]
- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for tanking comments February 21, 2018The NBA has fined outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for comments about tanking during a podcast with Hall of Famer Julius Erving.Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the fine was for "public statements detrimental to the NBA." The podcast with Erving was posted Sunday, the day the All-Star game was played in Los Angeles.Cuban […]
- Love in the air at Minute Maid Park: Couple left with more than just love for Astros baseball February 23, 2018
- 18-wheeler strikes Hitchcock church during crash February 24, 2018HITCHCOCK, Texas - First responders and power crews were in place to help remove an 18-wheeler that ran into a church on Highway 6 in Hitchcock in Galveston Countyon Friday. Police said that, just after 4 p.m., the truck driver swerved to avoid a car that had pulled out in front of the big rig.
- Tractor-trailer crashes into church in Hitchcock February 24, 2018The tractor-trailer's male driver swerved to try and avoid a car on the 15000 block of Highway 6 near Avenue A and hit the side of the small church. The driver had a passenger and at least one of the truck's occupants was injured and taken to the United Texas Medical Branch Trauma Center in […]
- Galveston police officer arrested on drug charges February 24, 2018Galveston police officer John Rutherford is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official information and evidence tampering. Police Chief Vernon Hale said Friday that the 40-year-old Rutherford provided 32-year-old Salvador Rivera with information on officers' locations, ...
- Galveston police officer arrested on drug charges - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and ... February 24, 2018GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - A Southeast Texas police officer faces felony drug charges alleging that he supplied a suspected drug dealer with information that helped him avoid other police officers. Galveston police officer John Rutherford is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of ...
- Moody Foundation Launches Generation Moody Education Initiative With $8613679 Investment February 24, 2018GALVESTON, Texas, Feb. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Moody Foundation has launched its Generation Moody Education Initiative, a signature project benefitting Galveston Island by providing a catalyst for exceptional education opportunities for infants through high school and into post-secondary ...
- TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast February 23, 2018022 FPUS54 KHGX 232142. ZFPHGX. Zone Forecast Product for Southeast Texas. National Weather Service Houston/Galveston TX. 341 PM CST Fri Feb 23 2018. TXZ211-241000-. Austin-. Including the cities of Bellville and Sealy. 341 PM CST Fri Feb 23 2018 .TONIGHT...Partly cloudy early in the ...
- The Ultimate Galveston Spring Break Guide February 23, 2018Galveston Island, dubbed the Playground of the Southwest, is one of the top spring break destinations for travelers looking for anything from exciting beach parties to relaxing attractions for all ages. Every year, Galveston turns in to a road trip destination in the month of March, as the island begins ...
- Galveston Cop Arrested On Felony Organized Crime Charges February 23, 2018GALVESTON, TX — The Galveston Police Department arrested one of their own officers on several felony charges related to organized crime and evidence tampering, officials said Friday. The officer, who has not yet been named, is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official ...
- Galveston police officer arrested on felony organized criminal activity charges February 23, 2018The Galveston Police Department has arrested one of their police officers on three felony charges Friday morning. According to a brief statement released by Galveston PD, a Galveston police officer was arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misuse of official information and ...
- Galveston police officer arrested, charged with organized criminal activity February 23, 2018The Galveston Police Department arrested one of its own officers, who faces three felony charges including engaging in organized criminal activity, the department announced Friday. No other information was readily available, but the department will hold a new conference at 1 p.m. today to release ...
- 18-wheeler strikes Hitchcock church during crash February 24, 2018
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- Electronic Plan Review Coming to Galveston’s Development Services Department February 22, 2018Galveston's Department of Development Services will take its first step toward offering electronic plan review to those doing business with the city beginning the week of February 26th.
- Galveston City Council Workshop February 22, 2018Galveston City Council, during its workshop today, received an update on city pension funds.
- Kemah City Council February 22, 2018Kemah City Council voted unanimously to approve the implementation of a K9 patrol unit with the Kemah Police Department.
- Galveston ISD Board of Trustees February 22, 2018The Galveston Independent School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted 5-0-1, with Anthony Brown abstaining, to nominate Tom Farmer for appointment to the Galveston Central Appraisal District Board of Directors.
- Friendswood Police recover stolen guns, a stolen car, drugs and cash during search warrant February 22, 2018The Friendswood Police Department today reported that Jeremy Dwayne Clemons has been arrested on drug and weapons charges in connection with Wednesday's search warrant executed at 2802 West Bay Area Boulevard.
- Friendswood offering Skywarn training February 22, 2018The City of Friendswood will host Skywarn training on March 20.
- Texas City City Commission February 22, 2018The Texas City City Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to create a marketing/tourism coordinator position and appropriate funding for the position.
- Friendswood ranks high on Safest Cities list February 22, 2018The City of Friendswood on Wednesday announced that the city has been ranked the eighth safest in Texas by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.
- Galveston College Board of Regents February 22, 2018The Galveston College Board of Regents on Wednesday voted unanimously to nominate Tom Farmer for appointment to the Galveston Central Appraisal District Board of Directors.
- Electronic Plan Review Coming to Galveston’s Development Services Department February 22, 2018
- Indian Americans question Trump’s armed teacher solution to campus violence 24 Feb 2018 11:00 The Times of India KOLKATA: Donald Trump’s insistence on backing a plan to arm teachers in US schools despite the lack of evidence showing this would end school shootings has come under criticism from Indian Americans. They have joined the protests registered by America’s …
- Trump says Jared Kushner's security clearance is up to chief of staff 24 Feb 2018 10:57 Japan Times WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump says he’ll leave it up to chief of staff John Kelly to decide whether Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will keep his interim security clearance. “I will let General Kelly make that decision and he’s going to do …
- Suit accusing Trump of taking foreign gifts is now personal as well as official 24 Feb 2018 10:57 Japan Times WASHINGTON – Attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia on Friday expanded their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting gifts from foreign and state governments, suing him not only as president but in his personal capacity as …
- Trump: Officer in Parkland didn't 'love the children' CNN 24 Feb 2018 10:54 Video Games UK & Ireland Yahoo Trump: Officer in Parkland didn't 'love the children'More (CNN)President Donald Trump continued to criticize the armed school resource officer in Parkland, Florida, who stayed outside of the school during the shooting, saying during a White …
- ‘This is why nepotism is a terrible idea’: Legal analyst puts a stake through the heart of Trump’s Kushner problem 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. (Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO) A CNN legal analyst on Friday pinpointed why President Donald Trump’s insistence on …
- Trump company settles lawsuit for $5.45 million over golf club members who demanded a refund and were refused 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story An image of Pres. Donald Trump playing golf (Twitter.com) A Florida golf club owned by U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to pay $5.45 million to settle claims by former members that it wrongfully refused to refund their deposits when they …
- ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and Trump fans are behind #FireSheriffIsrael hate after he shouted at NRA spokeswoman 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story On Friday night, hashtags calling for the firing or resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel began trending on Twitter — and they appear to be directed by both fans of President Donald Trump and, peculiarly, proponents of the so-called “Blue …
- The NRA just honored Trump’s FCC chair Ajit Pai with rifle for killing ‘net neutrality’ 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday …
- Former US Attorney explains how Mueller can build a case of conspiracy against the Trump campaign 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade (MSNBC screenshot) Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told MSNBC’s Joy Reid Friday that the plea deal from Rick Gates could be the beginning of the end for President Donald Trump. “I think it’s a significant …
- ‘They should be ashamed’: Don Lemon rips Trump and CPAC crowd for ‘low blow’ attacking John McCain while he’s ‘fighting for his life’ 24 Feb 2018 10:52 Raw Story President Donald Trump had promised Meghan McCain and Cindy McCain that he would refrain from attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) while he’s fighting glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that has a very low survival rate. Political contributor Chris Cilizza …
- Sweeny woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy involving minors
- Man extradited from Mexico to face charges in 2015 deaths of 2 Baytown teens
- 2 Galveston Ball HS students charged after stolen gun found in vehicle on campus
- After four weeks, state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud case heads to the jury
- TRUMP SLAPS RUSSIA WITH SANCTIONS OVER ELECTION MEDDLING:
- Mechanic stabbed in neck during argument at Galveston tire shop
- Hitchcock HS student threatens school after being caught cheating on test, police say
- 2 dead in possible murder-suicide in Galveston, police say
- Houston Fire employee relieved of duty while facing felony charges in Colorado
- Speeds reach 130 mph in chase from Dickinson to South Houston
- Man accused of beating 4-year-old to death, injuring two other children facing charges
- SAISD police officer arrested, accused of causing wrong-way crash on Loop 1604
- 2 women charged in deadly shooting of Dollar General employee
- Woman offered sex acts to deputies for squatting rights, deputies say
- Officials: Deputy shoots roommate of handcuffed man who shot another deputy
- LIVE: 13 Russian nationals, 3 Russian entities charged with interfering in US political process
- Dog food withdrawn over concerns about euthanasia drug pentobarbital
- Indictment says Russians communicated with a person affiliated with a Texas grassroots group during 2016 election
- George P. Bush’s secret mansion is financed by an undisclosed loan from Texas donor’s bank
- AT&T project bringing faster internet leaving damage, headaches in its wake
- Local candidate’s campaign ad draws criticism
- DPS reverses decision to lay off more than 100 older officers
- Man accused of using counterfeit money trying to buy iPhone X through OfferUp
- 13 suspected in tire, wheel theft ring that operated in 7 counties, officials say
- Audit: Company behind Texas ‘clean coal’ project used federal funds for liquor, limousines and lobbying
- Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis on voting for Gov. Greg Abbott: “It’ll be hard to do that.”
- Family wants justice for woman struck by 3 vehicles, killed in north Harris County
- Massage parlor workers offering sex for money in Fort Bend County, sheriff says
- Appeals court mostly upholds ruling against Harris County bail practices
- ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ is a Pleasant Flashback to One of the Wildest Stories of the ’60s
- Harris County assistant district attorney fired after 2 days on job, authorities say
- Woman charged with retaliation after threatening Harris County judge
- Pregnant passenger injured in high-speed chase, crash in Conroe
- Coastal communities hit by Harvey will get $1 billion for hazard mitigation, Abbott announces
- At Border Patrol Checkpoints, an Impossible Choice Between Health Care and Deportation
- He’s been a Texas Supreme Court justice for a month. Now Jimmy Blacklock must become a candidate.
- Email hack targets Texas EquuSearch members, files
- Harold Farb’s family says report proves he was murdered
- $20K reward offered in 1986 Valentine’s Day murder cold case
- Houston-area officials approved a plan for handling a natural disaster — then ignored it
- A Prison By Any Other Name
- Land commissioner says ‘doctored’ audit critical of his agency’s management the Alamo is under investigation
- Texas community health centers fear layoffs, closures without federal funding
- ‘We don’t have a flu season,’ Texas televangelist Gloria Copeland says
- More than half of Texas public school students are in districts where teacher certification isn’t required
- At East Texas debate, embattled Texas agriculture chief Sid Miller in hot seat
- Medical cannabis dispensaries are opening in Texas, but the newly legal oils still aren’t easy to procure
- Fake Pasadena cop tries to pull over mother
- Man dies after shooting outside of Fish Place in Texas City
- After land office inks Harvey contract, Land Commissioner George P. Bush gets donations from contractor
- “They’re just setting those babies up for the penitentiary”: How minor offenses feed overcrowding at Houston youth jail
- How a federal proposal could affect millions of dollars in Texas workers’ tips
- Houston Forensic Science Center analyst fired for shredding homicide case notes
- Suspect in 3 killings found in Harris County after escaping Mississippi jail
- Report: U.S. Rep. Farenthold of Texas to retire amid sexual harassment scandal
- This Texas lawmaker could finish his term from jail
- Paul Pressler, former Texas judge and religious right leader, accused of sexually assaulting teen for years
- Amid sexual harassment controversy, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold faces tough re-election
- Houston bounty hunter accused of running international sex trafficking network
- Snow falls on Galveston County
- Baby killer pleads not guilty in 1980s deaths of 5 kids
- Texas district attorney who prosecuted Jeff Wood now wants him off death row
- Texas-Bred Anti-Environmentalists Find New Power in Trump Administration
- Requiem for an Alt-Weekly
- Democrat Andrew White, son of late Gov. Mark White, announces gubernatorial bid
- Former Oilers QB Warren Moon sued for sexual harassment
- Texas prisons ban over 10,000 books. An Israeli diplomat wants to know why Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is allowed.
- Who are the 5 jailers indicted in Harris County inmate’s beating?
- Breast cancer survivor faces bullying after Melania Trump-inspired plastic surgery
- Bond concerns: Career criminal allowed to return to streets after 32 arrests
- Texas senators discuss closing youth lockups amid sexual abuse scandal
- Arrests along border dipped sharply under Trump, according to federal data
- Woman with criminal history accused of setting Galveston man on fire turns herself in
- Man’s body found near Seabrook highway
- Officer kills burglary suspect in shootout in La Marque
- Deputy shoots teenage driver after driver attempts to run deputies over
- Gorilla escapes barrier into hog exhibit at Houston Zoo, officials say
- Meet the man who took his daughter out of school early for deer season
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: Texas churches need to know they can have guns
- In Texas, you probably won’t get welfare benefits; even if you qualify
- Texas reform advocates want to close all state-run youth lockups
- Man exposes himself at tanning salon, League City police search for his identity
- Free Press Summer Festival is changing its name to this
- Assault charge against Johnny Manziel dismissed
- How Texas curtailed traditional welfare without ending poverty
- Texas parents wait in limbo as policymakers struggle to save Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Harris County man wanted for 2006 murder arrested in Mexico
- Members of street gang linked to series of burglaries of Apple products, police say
- Arrest expected soon after Galveston man set on fire, police say
- How Breitbart, Trump and Texas Politicians Spun a Tale out of a Border Patrol Agent’s Death
- Man accused of killing teen with whom he had inappropriate relationship appears in court
- Here’s what’s happening in Harris County now that the sheriff issues bail bonds
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts state’s last execution of 2017
- Houston church threatened by gunman at Sunday’s service
- As Bayer and Monsanto push for merger, Texas farmers fear rising prices
- Civil Offenses: Those Calling for Political Civility Often Have the Least to Lose
- Without recovery funds, more than 50 Texas day cares close after Harvey
- 13-year-old robbery suspect shot in the head by apartment tenant, police say
- Man Mistaken for Burglar, Shot by Police then Shackled to Hospital Bed and Barred from Seeing Family
- Coyote attacks increasing: What you should know
- Postal worker accused of kidnapping, choking and fatally shooting co-worker girlfriend
- Medical marijuana in Texas: What you need to know
- Harris County deputy suspended after striking handcuffed man after chase
- Woman with F-Trump sticker adds Sheriff Troy Nehls to display on truck
- Abbott calls White House’s latest disaster aid request “completely inadequate”
- Former United Airlines pilot pleads guilty to running prostitution ring
- Abbott, Patrick push back on TxDOT’s plans for financing new toll projects
- Trial dates set for ex-deputy, husband charged in John Hernandez’s death
- Cities race to annex land before new Texas law goes into effect Dec. 1
- A “glitch” on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s website asked for visitors’ Social Security numbers
- Greg Abbott Declares War on Moderate Republicans
- He thought he had a free court-appointed lawyer. Then he got a bill for $10,000
- Man fights to prove he’s alive after bank reports him as deceased
- Scam costs Friendswood man thousands of dollars
- At the Texas Capitol, victims of sexual harassment must fend for themselves
- Human Rights Lawyer on How Government is Complicit in Mexico’s Drug War
- ‘Sean Hannity Show’ fans smash Keurig brewers over pulled ads
- Another woman accuses former President George H.W. Bush of groping
- Student sent home from school bruised, claims PE teacher slammed him onto concrete
- Gov. Greg Abbott endorses primary challenger to state Rep. Sarah Davis
- Analysis: A media exec in Texas politics, not quite ready for prime time
- Police dogs trained to ignore marijuana
- Former HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence makes first court appearance
- Rent-to-own complaints spur investigation by federal agency
- HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence
- Joel Osteen impersonator breaches security at Los Angeles event
- Former ‘All My Children’ star arrested in Galveston
- Cornyn and Cruz under pressure over allegations in Alabama Senate race
- Family’s beloved pony shot to death in Liberty County
- Coastal officials say feds failing Harvey victims on short-term housing
- 22 Houston gang members indicted for multiple violent crimes, officials say
- The Faith-Tinged Fatalism of Greg Abbott’s Response to Texas’ Deadliest Mass Shooting
- Execution date set for Sugar Land man on death row
- Trump in Japan…
- Free of criminal charges, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes says she was victimized
- With no state-approved textbooks, Texas ethnic studies teachers make do
- Texas back in federal court over anti-“sanctuary cities” law
- Clara Harris granted parole for husband’s murder
- Coast Guard searching area near Freeport after boat catches fire, sinks
- Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez emerges as potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott
- With Trump Cuts, Obamacare Enrollment is a Volunteer Affair in Rural Texas
- Explosion at vodka distillery burns 3 in north Harris County
- Documents: Texas National Guard Installed Cellphone Spying Devices on Surveillance Planes
- Police increase reward for information in case of child’s body found on Galveston beach
- Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’
- Leon Jacob, man accused in murder-for-hire plot, faces new charge
- The Brief: The deadliest mass shooting in Texas history
- Counterprotesters say white supremacists, not Russian Facebook ads, drew them to rally
- What we know about Texas church shooter
- Harris County Precinct 4 deputy constable shot several times, officials say
- $500 million in Ike relief is still unspent. Will Texas do better after Harvey?
- Prosecutor asks for current medical standards in death penalty evaluations
- How to earn quick cash by flipping items
- Rick Perry ties fossil fuel use to sexual assault prevention
- Abbott Supports Removing Inaccurate Capitol Displays. Do Slavery-Denying Plaques Count?
- A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.
- 24 Texas Dairy Queens closing after franchise company files for bankruptcy
- USDA Rolls Back ‘Fair Practice’ Rule That Would’ve Protected Texas Chicken Farmers
- Trump nominating Ryan Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to be U.S. attorney
- Fired in 2009, football coach Mike Leach still rages at Texas Tech and Texas law
- Texas Toxicologist Who Rejects Basic Science Appointed to EPA Science Board
- Abbott presses Congress for an extra $61 billion to rebuild after Harvey
- The ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Ban Has Already Reshaped Some Police Department Policies
- Hurricane Harvey flood looters exposed
- U.S. Supreme Court examines investigatory funding in Texas death penalty case
- Who’s Defending Texas’ Confederate Monuments?
- Kicking in doors and crushing credit: How a Texas-based retailer torments customers
- Harris County jailer accused of letting prisoner attack fellow inmate
- House Democrat: Abbott supports removing Confederate plaque from Texas Capitol
- Legislators mull changing Texas law allowing criminal charges against rent-to-own customers
- Houston woman’s daughter stranded at sea with another woman for 5 months
- ‘Fail State’ Delves into the Shadowy World of For-Profit Colleges
- Grambling State student charged in double homicide
- How renting furniture in Texas can land you in jail
- ‘Wedding crasher’ says she never attacked guest, apologizes to bride and groom
- Something Yuuuge was Missing From Franklin Graham’s Waco Revival
- Family: Florida deputy caught on camera breaking into dying man’s home
- Federal government rolls out eight border wall prototypes
- In ‘The Second Coming of the KKK,’ a Timely Lesson in the History of American Hate
- US launches ‘most advanced’ stealth sub amid undersea rivalry
- Houston man identified as victim of barge explosion near Port Aransas, officials say
- Controversial Halloween decoration in Katy leads to threats against homeowner
- What does boycotting Israel have to do with Hurricane Harvey relief?
- Rep. Dawnna Dukes cleared of criminal charges, attorneys say
- $5,000 reward being offered in shooting that caused man to lose his legs
- Tornado leaves trail of damage in two Dickinson neighborhoods, NWS says
- Former HPD officer indicted in 2016 shooting of unarmed neighbor
- State Rep. Victoria Neave pleads no contest to June DWI charge
- Texas attorney general opens investigation Into Harvey debris removal companies
- Police: 3 Texas men arrested after shot fired at Richard Spencer protesters
- Perry pursuing policy on coal, nuclear power at odds with Texas record
- Cornyn: Trump assured me more Harvey aid for Texas coming in November
- Dallas Fed CEO: Technology, not trade or immigration, is main reason for job loss
- Immigrant Workers in Texas Could Fill Farm Vacancies, but They’re Trapped in the Valley
- Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall
- This man robbed woman who was 9 months pregnant, shot her husband, authorities say
- Ex-KIPP Explore Academy staffer arrested after accusations of child indecency
- U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson walks back comments on sexual assault
- Who is this mystery man? Galveston woman begins search to find apparent veteran’s identity
- U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate
- A look back at Colt Stadium, the home of the Colt 45s
- After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwide
- Potential new murder confession delays Texas serial killer’s execution
- Texas court halts execution to review claims that co-defendant lied at trial
- How much are property taxes in Houston going down next year?
- Cruz presses Sessions on Trump administration’s “catch-and-release” policy
- Federal Prisons Don’t Even Try to Rehabilitate the Undocumented
- Three teens charged with murder after missing teen’s body found
- Houston serial killer faces execution this week
- Insurance company accused of delayed response to storm claims
- Some Texas Republicans in Congress again outraised by challengers
- To fund bid against Ted Cruz, former mayor puts up building as prize in “essay and rib contest”
- U.S. House passes hurricane relief bill after tense day for Texas delegation, Abbott
- It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say
- Prosecutors drop 1 of 13 felony charges against Rep. Dawwna Dukes
- League City mayor hospitalized after heart attack
- ICE Detained a Pregnant Rape Survivor for Six Months, Records Show
- Husband, wife each lose leg after hit-and-run crash in Waller County
- Temporary bans placed on fishing near site of busted cap
- Texas man travels to Orlando to sexually assault 9-year-old girl, police say
- Mom, older brother charged after 11-year-old found smoking meth
- Days from execution, man convicted in prison guard’s murder insists on innocence
- Truck involved in multiple accidents leaves 1 dead, 1 injured in Texas City, police say
- $1M worth of iPads mostly unused after being purchased for local elections
- Woman caught on camera stomping small dog inside elevator
- How much has been raised for Harvey relief — and how’s it being spent?
- The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County
- Mother, son charged in murder-for-hire plot
- How scammers are using homeowners to defraud FEMA
- Police find man’s body stuffed in closet after victim ‘tortured’ to death
- In historic win, charters getting state funding for facilities for the first time
- Dreamers greet DACA renewal deadline with anxiety and unanswered questions
- Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial is delayed for a third time
- Judge blocks Texas secretary of state from giving voter information to Trump commission
- East Texas county sues drug companies, alleges role in opioid crisis
- North Korean workers prepare seafood for U.S. stores, restaurants
- 3 Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees indicted in assault cases
- Reward raised for man on Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list
- Texas business mogul Mark Cuban offers details for hypothetical 2020 presidential run
- Woman accused of killing taxi driver appears in court
- Texas death row inmate Duane Buck has sentence reduced to life after Supreme Court orders retrial
- Hearing in Paxton case to consider delaying trial for third time
- Appellate judges show concern over Harris County bail practices, court ruling
- 28 organizations that got money from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
- Pasadena drops appeal, will remain under federal oversight of election laws
- Almost 400,000 Texans’ insurance at risk after Congress fails to renew CHIP
- How Harris County’s federal bail lawsuit spreads beyond Houston
- HHS Secretary Tom Price resigns amid criticism of his travel on private planes
- Houston mayor calls off property tax hike after Abbott delivers $50 million
- ‘I’m just gonna shoot him if things go sideways,’ cop tells college student during traffic stop
- Hearing set for Friday in wrongful death suit in John Hernandez case
- Aide found half-naked after sexual contact with student, deputies say
- Thousands of Poor Texans Could Lose Health Care With Congress Distracted by ACA Repeal
- Slideshow: For southeast Texas, recovery after Harvey is slow
- Even Hurricane Harvey Can’t Temper GOP Hostility Toward Texas’ Big Cities
- Murder suspect arrested in 27-year-old ‘killer clown’ shooting married to victim’s husband
- Texas attorney general now accepting complaints on “sanctuary” jurisdictions
- Abbott: Houston has enough funding for Harvey recovery
- U.S. House passes tax breaks for victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria
- New state law seeks to reduce the number of child brides in Texas
- Texas can enforce more of ‘sanctuary cities’ law
- Florida trooper accused of showing porn to child
- Town mayor facing assault charges
- 13-year-old accused in kidnapping and rape plot
- Hensarling to flood victims: ‘God’s telling you to move’
- Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say
- Army vet shown walking after claiming he couldn’t owes government $434K
- Analysis: X-factor in 2018’s Texas elections might be Harvey, not Donald
- Federal appeals court to hear arguments on Texas “sanctuary cities” law Friday
- Texas teens to be trained next year on police interactions
- Newlyweds say DJ robbed wedding cash
- How Galveston is offering a free beach weekend
- Lyft ride leads to hate crime charge for Houston man
- Florida woman makes ‘sexy’ plea to get power back after Hurricane Irma
- Report: Indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes spent $51k on online psychic
- Report: Trump’s judicial nominee from Texas called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan”
- Hospital workers in hot water over Snapchat video, picture calling newborns ‘mini Satans’
- How some see Texas as the “gold standard” against wrongful convictions
- New leak discovered on Battleship Texas
- Texas House Speaker Joe Straus calls for removal of “inaccurate” Confederate plaque
- Hey, Texplainer: How is FEMA distributing money to areas hit by Harvey?
- Friendswood man accused of raking in nearly $2 million in decadelong pay-phone scheme
- Mayor Sylvester Turner has strong words for Red Cross after problems surface
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- Fukushima nuclear disaster dumping 300 tons of waste a day into Pacific Ocean for years now. This is an ongoing problem for the world with no end in sight. A major cover-up of this disaster is a crime against us all. February 23, 2018submitted by /u/trickymason [link] [comments]/u/trickymason
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- Youtubes largest page's about las vegas shooting deleted day before protest. February 23, 2018MANY channels on YT have just been terminated with appeals denied within a hour some minutes. There's a planned vegas protest tomorrow and there WAS a TON of good data about the false flag corruption coverup (not hoax). The contridictions in autopsied bodys,pictures in the crime scene and just tons of credible info from vegas […]/u/AmishAtomicPhysicist
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Editor’s note: The Texas Tribune and The Guardian, which provides international news for an online, global audience, partnered to examine income inequality and the impact welfare reform in the 1990s has had on state welfare services and benefits today.
Vakesa Townson didn’t plan to fall into poverty.
Married and the mother of two kids, she had lived a comfortable life in North Texas. But after her 17-year marriage ended and she became her family’s main provider, she struggled to make ends meet.
“I needed support,” Townson said. “I felt like I was starting over with nothing.”
A support group and the folks at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth encouraged her to apply for government assistance, including food stamps for groceries and Medicaid for her kids. But she didn’t check the box in her application that would’ve allowed her to apply for cash assistance. Working a part-time job that brought home $200 to $230 a month, she might not have qualified anyway.
Townson’s predicament is not unusual for Texans in need. Poor Texans will often find jobs and work to advance out of poverty but are then disqualified from receiving public benefits well before leaving poverty behind, said Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.
“I don’t think that’s what anybody intends to do,” said Reynolds, whose clients are mostly classified as working poor. “It’s just the reality of what we face sometimes.”
Though Texas’ poverty rates have remained mostly consistent, the state has significantly curtailed the amount of traditional welfare it provides to poor Texans through cash assistance over the last two decades, instead putting more of its federal anti-poverty dollars toward funding core state services, plugging budget holes or funding other programs that provide services to residents with higher incomes than those who qualify for cash welfare.
Federal law allows such disbursements, and state officials say those spending choices are spurred in part by a drop in the number of Texans qualifying for cash assistance. But social workers and service providers who help poor Texas families say those decisions result in a porous safety net that complicates the struggles of residents like Townson, who are too poor to make ends meet but make too much to qualify for temporary cash aid from the government.
“There’s this myth that welfare exists,” said Rachel Cooper, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. “In Texas, it doesn’t.”
To qualify for $290 a month, you can’t make more than $188
Texas’ reduction of its traditional welfare rolls dates to 1996, when Congress reformed welfare and created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which gives Texas hundreds of millions of dollars a year to combat poverty.
At the program’s inception, hundreds of thousands of poor single-parent families and children — a monthly average of 479,000 individuals in 1998 — received cash aid through TANF. But the number of poor residents who receive this help has plummeted. As of July 2017, the latest available count, fewer than 60,000 Texans — most of them children — remained on the welfare rolls, usually receiving a few hundred dollars a month at most.
Welfare reform was designed to reduce the number of people on welfare by emphasizing temporary assistance and getting people into work. But the drop in the state’s welfare enrollment isn’t necessarily the result of a concerted effort to pull Texans out of poverty. The state’s poverty rate has hovered between 16 and 18 percent for the last decade, and it wasn’t until recent years that Texas saw a larger drop in its poverty rate — currently at 15.6 percent — that was mostly due to rising incomes and not because of more welfare recipients moving out of poverty.
Instead, the number of low-income Texans who can get help has been reduced by caps on how long a family can obtain benefits, which are based on a person’s education or recent work experience, and strict income eligibility rules that make qualifying for cash aid a tall order for even the poorest families, advocates say.
To qualify for a maximum of $290 in monthly cash aid today, a family of three — with one parent and two children — cannot make more than $188 a month, barring a few exceptions. That income eligibility, which is several hundred dollars less than what a family of three can make and still be considered to be living in poverty, has hardly been adjusted since welfare reform.
“It’s been frozen, and 20 years of inflation has meant fewer and fewer people can qualify because it’s so low you really have to be destitute,” Cooper said.
By 2015, only four out every 100 poor families with children in Texas received cash assistance — down from 47 in 1996, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning research institute.
Texas has a long history of regarding welfare as a last resort for needy Texans. Even before federal welfare reform, state lawmakers were working to tighten limits for assistance in Texas. And modest increases to benefits enacted soon after welfare reform were passed because they were approved with little fanfare, appropriations officials said at the time.
Texas’ approach to welfare benefits has pushed it toward the bottom of state rankings for the percentage of households receiving public cash assistance, according to U.S. Census Bureau data dating back a decade. In 2016, Texas ranked last.
That’s despite Texas being home to almost one out of every 10 poor Americans.
“We spend our dollars on anything but poor families”
While the drop in cash assistance has left Texans in need with a less secure safety net, it has freed up hundreds of millions of federal dollars for legislative budget writers.
Welfare reform set Texas up to receive federal anti-poverty funds in the form of block grants, meant to give state governments more flexibility in how they spent those dollars. That spending had to fit within four broad categories: to assist needy families so children can be cared for in their homes or the homes of their relatives; to reduce dependency on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; to prevent or reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and to encourage two-parent families.
With declining welfare rolls, lawmakers have used federal TANF dollars to cover a range of expenses, including core state functions like Child Protective Services.
Of the more than $520 million in federal TANF funds that state legislators appropriated for each of the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, more than $358 million was earmarked for the Department of Family and Protective Services, which includes CPS. TANF dollars will make up approximately 17.5 percent of the agency’s entire budget for the 2018-19 budget years.
The current state budget also uses TANF funding to prop up the budgets for early childhood intervention services and mental health state hospitals. Another $3 million a year will go toward the Alternatives to Abortion program. The Texas Education Agency will also receive almost $4 million a year in TANF dollars for “school improvement and support programs.”
“We spend our TANF dollars on anything but poor families,” said Will Francis, government relations director for the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
Those spending decisions will likely perpetuate a negative trend in the share of total TANF dollars Texas spends on basic assistance to poor families, which dropped from 59 percent in 1997 to about 7 percent in 2014, according to spending data collected by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
State budget writers push back against the notion that the Legislature chooses to spend less on cash assistance for poor Texans.
Texas’ spending on cash aid depends completely on the number of people who qualify and sign up for benefits, they argue. And that drop has freed up more money to spend on other state needs, said state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and the Senate’s chief budget writer.
“The good thing about block grants is that we are able to provide benefits to everyone who qualifies and allocate the remaining funds to address important needs such as Child Protective Services,” Nelson said in a statement. “These are appropriate uses of TANF funds, and they are an essential part of our effort to better protect endangered children.”
Advocates for low-income Texans don’t argue that these aren’t worthy causes. But they say they’re just not the best use for dollars meant to combat poverty in the state.
“It’s this $500 million-a-year piggy bank,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, a nonprofit that oversees a statewide network of food banks. “It’s totally taken away from meaningful services… It leaves very little to cash assistance or employment and training that could help people get out of poverty.”
Where should the money go?
Once TANF dollars are used to fund critical services like CPS, it’s tough to advocate for a change that will create a hole in the budget and put the delivery of other human services in a bind, Cole said.
In 2016, TANF ranked as the state’s ninth-biggest federal funding source.
Others have gone farther in their characterizations of the state’s TANF spending priorities. During a 2013 U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, referred to TANF as a “slush fund” that states use to fund services they were or should have been funding themselves and questioned whether states have been given “too much flexibility” under welfare reform.
Not all those who are helping low-income Texans make ends meet oppose the state’s TANF spending priorities. Some nonprofit providers underlined the importance of flexibility and allowing states to be nimble with federal resources in ways that can best serve local communities. Others pointed out that some of the services funded through TANF dollars back up a “holistic approach” to addressing the needs of poor Texans.
“I do think that there are some great strategies that are funded with TANF dollars that impact vulnerable populations,” said Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, which helps low-income Texans sign up for public benefits.
But Cooper added he sees the “temptation” the state’s spending flexibility presents at a time when poor Texans “could use more dollars to gap-fill” their needs. He echoed other providers who expressed reservations about the state’s wide discretion with disbursements.
“What we need to make sure is that that money actually gets to nonprofit and government providers who will actually use it to improve outcomes for those living in poverty,” said Reynolds of Catholic Charities of Fort Worth. “And I do think there has been the temptation to use it to help with other budget crunches and we need to make sure to stay away from that.”
Jim Malewitz contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities and Feeding Texas have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
In a crucial victory for Hispanic voters in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, the city will remain under federal oversight for any changes to its voting laws until 2023 — the only setup of its kind in Texas.
The Pasadena City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Mayor Jeff Wagner’s proposal to settle a voting rights lawsuit over how it redrew its council districts in 2013, agreeing to pay out about $1 million in legal fees. Approval of that settlement will also dissolve the city’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that Pasadena ran afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminated against Hispanic voters in reconfiguring how council members are elected.
The local voting rights squabble had caught the attention of voting rights advocates and legal observers nationwide as some looked to it as a possible test case of whether the Voting Rights Act still serves as a safeguard for voters of color.
As things stand now, the dispute won’t set broader precedent across Texas or beyond state lines. But in a state embroiled in court-determined voting rights violations on several fronts, the federal guardianship of Pasadena’s elections is meaningful, particularly following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 finding that conditions for voters of color had “dramatically improved.”
“I think it’s significant that in 2017 we have a trial court finding of intentional racial discrimination by a city in Texas and that the drastic remedy of preclearance has been successfully imposed,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine’s law school who specializes in election law. “The Pasadena ruling indicates that in some places racial discrimination in voting is very much a thing of the present.”
The local skirmish over Pasadena Hispanics’ right to choose their city council members in many ways began at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a landmark case known as Shelby County v. Holder, the high court in 2013 gutted the portion of the Voting Rights Act that prevented dozens of jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against voters of color — including Texas and its municipalities — from changing their election laws without federal approval. Freed from needing to obtain federal “preclearance,” Pasadena’s former mayor, Johnny Isbell, quickly moved to nix the city’s eight single-member districts and instead proposed a “6-2 map” in which two council seats were chosen at-large.
After Pasadena voters approved the new map by a thin margin, civil rights attorneys representing Hispanic voters sued the city, arguing that the new council districts unlawfully diluted the voting strength of Hispanic residents.
Because turnout among Pasadena’s Hispanic residents has been historically lower than white residents, the civil rights attorneys argued that Pasadena Hispanics under the new map would probably be outvoted by whites when it came to electing the new at-large council members because voting blocs are often aligned along racial lines.
The voters who sued the city also alleged that the map change was made just as Hispanic voters — and the increasing political clout that came with their growing population — were about to shift the balance of power on the council to give their preferred representatives control of city matters on which they long felt neglected.
Following a seven-day federal trial in Houston, Judge Lee H. Rosenthal agreed there was evidence that Pasadena changed its map “precisely because Pasadena Latinos were successfully mobilizing and recently electing more of their candidates of choice.”
In a scathing opinion issued this year, she ruled that the city had violated the Voting Rights Act and reinstated the city’s eight single-member districts. “In Pasadena, Texas, Latino voters under the current 6-2 map and plan do not have the same right to vote as their Anglo neighbors,” Rosenthal wrote.
She noted the state’s discriminatory past when it comes to suppressing voters of color — poll taxes, all-white primaries, eliminating interpreters at the polls — and outlined how it has endured through modern day-elections in a town where voters told a Hispanic candidate campaigning for a council seat that they “weren’t going to vote for a wetback.”
Perhaps more notably for those outside of Pasadena, Rosenthal also ordered the city back under federal supervision under a different section of the Voting Rights Act — the first ruling of its kind since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision.
Rosenthal’s ruling was decisive for voting rights litigation playing out after that ruling, and the city’s move to drop its appeal and let the ruling stand sets up the possibility that Pasadena’s voting rights fight could play an outsized role in other court battles.
In 2013, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that political jurisdictions could be placed back under preclearance — through the Voting Rights Act’s “bail-in” provision — if they committed new discriminatory actions. Rosenthal set a possible standard that other courts can look to in deciding whether to bail in other jurisdictions, legal experts observed.
“It’s one more black mark against Texas” that could help in other voting rights litigation, said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston who has studied voting rights cases for decades.
Pasadena’s vote to settle the case is likely to disappoint state leaders who had already filed an amicus brief in support of the city’s appeal that warned of “unwarranted federal intrusion.” State attorneys had deemed Rosenthal’s preclearance ruling improper because it was imposed for a single incident of discrimination instead of pervasive and rampant discrimination.
But amid a changing administration in Pasadena — where two out of every three residents is Hispanic — local leaders instead looked to resolve the litigation so the city could move on from a voting rights fracas that painted the city as one willing to suppress Hispanic voters.
“While I strongly believe that the city did not violate the Voting Rights Act or adopt a discriminatory election system, I think it’s in the best interest of the city to get this suit behind us,” Wagner, the mayor, said in a Friday statement announcing the proposed settlement. “It has been extremely divisive and focused our attentions on issues of the past.”
The settlement was celebrated by Pasadena’s Hispanic leaders, who were nervous that the city’s appeal could lead a higher court to wipe out their victory that overturned the 6-2 map — and, more significantly, the city’s return to federal oversight.
Rosenthal’s ruling will still serve as a warning for other cities looking to disenfranchise voters of color, said Cody Ray Wheeler, one of Pasadena’s three Hispanic council members and a vocal opponent of the 6-2 map. Sure, the case could have set a wider precedent if higher courts ruled against the city’s actions, Wheeler said, but extending that fight “doesn’t help people’s streets get fixed.”
“It’s been a black eye on the city,” Wheeler said. “I think the important thing for Pasadena is that we get back to normal and work for our citizens.”
Disclosure: The University of Houston has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Despite it serving, in part, as the reason lawmakers are back in Austin for legislative overtime, the Texas Legislature could very well gavel out next week without passing a “bathroom bill.”
With just days left in the 30-day special legislative session, controversial proposals to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans appear to have no clear path to the governor’s desk. As was the case during the regular legislative session that concluded in May, efforts to pass any sort of bathroom bill — a divisive issue pitting Republicans against business leaders, LGBT advocates, law enforcement and even fellow Republicans — have stalled in the Texas House.
And it’s unlikely that will change in the coming days.
“I’d say the chances are definitely getting smaller,” Republican state Rep. Ron Simmons of Carrollton, who filed two bathroom bills during the special session, said earlier this week.
The push to keep transgender Texans out of bathrooms that match their gender identity — a move opponents said was discriminatory and could endanger transgender individuals — largely dominated the regular legislative session between protests, lobbying days, two overnight hearings, legislative bickering among Republican leaders over proposed bathroom bills and, eventually, a forced special session.
Restricting bathroom use in public facilities was deemed a legislative priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But House Speaker Joe Straus, with the increased backing of the business community, emerged as his most prominent foil on the issue.
Gov. Greg Abbott — who for months during the regular session was reticent to voice his support for a bathroom bill — eventually took the lieutenant governor’s side and added the issue to his 20-item agenda for a special session that Patrick forced him to call by holding hostage legislation needed to keep open the doors at a handful of state agencies.
But amid concerns for the safety of an already vulnerable population and statewide economic fallout, those efforts did little to sway the speaker.
When lawmakers returned to Austin in July, the Senate quickly passed its latest version of the bill to regulate bathroom use in public schools and local government buildings based on the gender listed on a birth certificate or Texas ID. It would also nix parts of local nondiscrimination ordinances meant to ensure transgender Texans can use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Just like during the regular session, Straus has refused to refer that bill to a House committee — the first step in the legislative process.
With the passage of a bathroom bill seeming improbable, Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst — the author of the Senate legislation — on Friday suggested lawmakers could be left to address the issue in the future.
“Men do not belong in female locker rooms, showers and restrooms and no amount of monetary threats, corporate logos, New Yorker articles or Hollywood hypocrisy will ever change that,” Kolkhorst said in a prepared statement. “Many Texans are alarmed at the effort by some to erode all gender barriers in our schools and public spaces and at the end of the day, there will be future legislative sessions and elections to continue the conversation.”
Simmons’ proposals in the House, which are focused on prohibiting municipalities and school districts from enacting trans-inclusive bathroom policies, were referred to the House State Affairs Committee. But that committee’s chairman, state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, has indicated it’s not likely the committee will hold a hearing to consider the legislation.
And with the clock running out on the special session – both chambers must adjourn by Wednesday – the demise of those proposals is looking more and more certain.
“I mean realistically, if the chairman says he’s not going to give a hearing then I can’t force him to,” Simmons said.
It’s unclear whether bathroom bill proponents will orchestrate an 11th-hour attempt to attach the restrictions to another piece of legislation. Similar efforts were unsuccessful during the regular session.
Simmons — who earlier this week hadn’t completely given up on his bills — speculated whether they could be rewritten to add to one of the pending education bills. But he was unsure whether he could craft an amendment in such a way that it would survive a likely parliamentary challenge by opponents who could argue that Simmons’ amendment was not germane to the bill under debate.
Asked whether she was considering ways to amend the language to other legislation, Kolkhorst’s office did not address the issue.
Even the head of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of the chamber’s most conservative members who previously tried to attach bathroom restrictions to other pieces of legislation — appeared resigned to not getting a vote on a bathroom bill.
“The speaker is very clearly involved in blocking this issue,” state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, said on Thursday. “He’s made many public comments on it and the buck stops with Joe Straus on this.”
Despite the governor’s insistence that the Legislature should go “20 for 20” on his special session agenda, it’s clear that won’t be the case come next week. But it remains unclear where a loss on the bathroom bill will fall on Abbott’s list of grievances.
Since the start of the special session, Abbott in interviews and fundraising emails has emphasized other priorities on his agenda over the bathroom bill. Last week, he told the Austin American-Statesman that it was “way premature” to assume Simmons’ proposals wouldn’t get a vote in the House.
His office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
As state lawmakers return to Austin for legislative overtime, tech giant IBM is stepping up its fight to defeat legislation it says would discriminate against children and harm its Texas recruiting efforts.
In an internal memo sent Monday to thousands of employees around the world, IBM’s human resources chief outlined the New York-based company’s opposition to what the letter described as discriminatory proposals to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans. IBM sent the letter to employees the same day it dispatched nearly 20 top executives to the Lone Star State to lobby lawmakers at the state Capitol. A day earlier, it took out full-page ads in major Texas newspapers underlining its opposition to legislation that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a cadre of far-right lawmakers have deemed a top priority.
“Why Texas? And why now? On July 18th, the Texas legislature will start a thirty-day special session, where it is likely some will try to advance a discriminatory ‘bathroom bill’ similar to the one that passed in North Carolina last year,” wrote Diane Gherson, IBM’s senior vice president for human resources. “It is our goal to convince Texas elected officials to abandon these efforts.”
State lawmakers are set to reconvene in Austin on Tuesday as part of a special session forced by Patrick after legislation he deemed as must-pass — including various proposals to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans — failed during the regular session that concluded in late May.
Despite a fervent push by social conservatives, religious groups and some Republicans, the controversial proposals fizzled out in the Texas House where House Speaker Joe Straus made clear he opposed the legislation.
But similar proposals that would nix trans-inclusive bathroom policies enacted in recent years by Texas cities and school boards have already been filed for consideration during the special session that will end in mid-August.
The fate of such policies could once again come down to Straus who has long rooted his opposition to them in economic concerns like those expressed by IBM. But more recently he has framed them as concerning because of the detrimental effect they could have on transgender children who he has acknowledged as especially vulnerable.
Last week, IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty spoke with Straus directly over the phone about the issue.
IBM’s renewed efforts are part of a months-long campaign by the business community against Texas’ so-called bathroom bill. At the tail-end of the regular legislative session, the company was among several prominent corporations, including Apple and Facebook, that penned a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott expressing staunch opposition to legislation they described as discriminatory and bad for business.
Abbott has said a statewide rule “protecting the privacy of women and children” is necessary to avoid “a patch-work quilt of conflicting local regulations.”
“At a minimum, we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools,” the Republican said in June.
Large corporations waged a similar defensive campaign in North Carolina when that state passed its own controversial bathroom bill. Lawmakers there retooled the law earlier this year after it sparked cancellations of business expansions and high-profile sporting events.
The memo IBM sent to employees on Monday echoed concerns businesses voiced in their letter to Abbott earlier this year, saying the company — which has more than 10,000 employees in Texas — is focused on defeating the bathroom proposals because they’re detrimental to inclusive business practices and fly in the face of “deep-rooted” values against discrimination targeting LGBT people.
“A bathroom bill like the one in Texas sends a message that it is okay to discriminate against someone just for being who they are,” Gherson, the company’s HR chief, wrote.
IBM executives are expected to join several other business leaders on the steps of the Capitol Monday morning to protest the bathroom proposals.
PASADENA — Cody Ray Wheeler has a cowboy’s name.
It’s a product, he says, of being born the son of a North Texas refinery worker. In some ways it’s emblematic of a changing Texas: Wheeler, who is Hispanic, represents a city council district with a majority-white voting constituency in this Houston suburb.
It’s also a name that has put him at the center of a voting rights battle over whether city leaders here pushed changes to the council map to undercut the electoral power of a booming Hispanic majority.
“A Hispanic wasn’t supposed to win that seat,” Wheeler said over barbecue on a recent steamy afternoon. He’s convinced his non-Hispanic last name made the difference in his narrow 33-vote margin of victory in 2013.
“I could not run as a Hispanic candidate,” he said. “I would’ve lost.”
His victory marked a milestone for a city with a racially acrimonious past. Though most Pasadenans are Hispanic, it was the first time two Hispanics served together on the eight-member council.
Wheeler’s election also brought longtime Mayor Johnny Isbell’s majority on the council down to one vote. Joined by two white city council members who represented majority-Hispanic districts on the north side of town, the two Hispanic members fell into a voting bloc that often pitted them against Isbell and the four council members who represented the southern, mostly white side of Pasadena.
After the 2013 elections, many Pasadenans believed the balance of power was about to shift, with hopes hinging on one of the districts represented by an Isbell ally that was predominantly made up of Hispanic voters. But that summer, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the portion of the federal Voting Rights Act that had prevented dozens of jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against voters of color — including Texas and its municipalities — from changing their election laws without federal approval.
Texas had been subject to those federal controls for decades. About a month after the state was freed from that electoral guardianship, Isbell introduced a proposal to redraw the city council map — and replace two of the districts with at-large seats elected by the entire city.
A group of Hispanic voters challenged the new map in court, setting into motion a case that could have implications across Texas — and could even become a test of whether the federal Voting Rights Act can still serve as a safeguard for minority voters nationwide.
But that’s only if parties on both side of the case keep it alive in court.
Pasadena’s voting rights fight is largely a result of changing demographic winds and the political tide that comes with them.
Lined by refineries to its north, the city of nearly 154,000 residents is a sprawling stretch of suburbia southeast of Houston in Harris County. Decades ago, the city charter imposed segregation and banned Spanish-language instruction. In the 1980s, it was home to the Ku Klux Klan’s Texas headquarters.
But by the time the 2010 census rolled around, white residents were in the minority and almost two out of every three residents were Hispanic. Carnicerias, panaderias and quinceañera party stores followed; in one pocket of town, two dozen businesses catering mostly to Hispanics filled an entire shopping center.
This population boom among Hispanics was largely confined to the older north end of town where many residents have long pointed to deteriorating streets and shoddy drainage systems as evidence that the city neglects their neighborhoods in favor of the newer neighborhoods south of Spencer Highway where wealthier, white residents predominantly reside. “Seventy percent of the (city’s) money is spent south of Spencer,” Wheeler says.
As older, white voters die off and young Hispanics reach voting age, Pasadena’s electorate has been changing even faster than Harris County as a whole, said Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist who monitors elections in Harris County.
Hispanics’ growth was translating to political clout on the city council, and their representatives saw the 2015 city election as their best chance to achieve a majority on the council that could help push for improved conditions on the north side.
Then came the Supreme Court decision that wiped clean the list of states and localities needing federal “preclearance” to change election laws and Isbell’s “6-2 map” proposal. In addition to turning two council seats into at-large seats, it merged two council districts with Hispanic majorities into one.
Isbell, who did not respond to the Tribune’s request for comment, told voters at the time that the proposal was meant to make the council more representative and responsive to the concerns of all residents. In late 2013, Isbell told SCOTUSblog he pushed for the change “because the Justice Department can no longer tell us what to do.”
Wheeler and the other Hispanic-backed council members fiercely opposed Isbell’s proposal, which required voter approval. Historically, turnout among Pasadena’s Hispanic residents has been lower than white residents, particularly in local elections. Because voting blocs are often aligned along racial lines, Pasadena Hispanics would likely be outvoted by whites when it came to electing the new at-large council members.
When the map proposal went before the council, Isbell cast the deciding vote to break a 4-4 tie, and the issue was placed on the November ballot. Pasadena voters approved the new map by a 79-vote margin out of 6,500 votes cast.
Then came the lawsuit. Civil rights attorneys representing Hispanic voters sued the city, claiming the new council districts unlawfully diluted the voting strength of Hispanics and intentionally discriminated against them.
After a seven-day trial in Houston, a federal judge earlier this year found that Pasadena had violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered the city back under federal supervision under a different section of the law — the first ruling of its kind since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision.
“In Pasadena, Texas, Latino voters under the current 6-2 map and plan do not have the same right to vote as their Anglo neighbors,” Judge Lee H. Rosenthal wrote in a scathing opinion, which reinstated the city’s eight single-member districts.
Rosenthal invoked Texas’ dark, discriminatory legacy against voters of color — poll taxes, all-white primaries, eliminating interpreters at the polls — and outlined how it has endured through modern day-elections in a town where voters told a Hispanic candidate campaigning for a council seat that they “weren’t going to vote for a wetback.”
The judge also wrote there was credible evidence that Pasadena changed its map “precisely because Pasadena Latinos were successfully mobilizing and recently electing more of their candidates of choice.”
The city has since appealed the case to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that the city had no intent to dilute Hispanic votes and that the 6-2 map had no discriminatory effect.
Bob Heath, the city’s lead lawyer in the case, contends that Rosenthal’s consideration of the number of majority-minority districts in Pasadena and whether that’s proportional to the city’s voting age Hispanic population runs contrary to two recent opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And that’s where the case comes back to Wheeler’s name.
Heath points out that four candidates preferred by Hispanic voters prevailed in the 2015 elections — the only contests held under the 6-2 map. Among them was Wheeler, who was re-elected in a district that’s not majority-minority but is still “effective for Hispanics,” Heath said.
“That’s 50 percent (of the council seats) and Hispanics made up about 50 percent of the citizen voting-age population, so that was proportional representation,” Heath added.
But Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund — the attorney representing the Hispanic plaintiffs against the city — has repeatedly pointed out in court that Wheeler was assisted in his 2015 victory by “special circumstances” — his incumbency and his last name. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic-majority districts was reduced to three under the 6-2 map.
The case could reverberate beyond Pasadena’s city limits. Legal experts contend that a decision by the 5th Circuit could guide other courts around the country that are considering similar voting rights cases.
The Pasadena ruling also has the potential to help build a case against the state, which faces its own voting rights challenges in court, said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston who has studied voting rights cases for decades.
In lifting federal electoral oversight for Texas and other jurisdictions in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that conditions for minority voters had “dramatically improved,” but the justices left open the possibility that political jurisdictions could be placed back under preclearance if they committed new discriminatory actions.
Earlier this year, Texas faced a barrage of federal court rulings that found the 2011 Legislature intentionally discriminated against voters of colors by passing a stringent voter ID law and re-drawing the state’s political maps. Those cases are still making their way through federal courts in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
The Pasadena ruling — “particularly because it was so thoroughly stated and so strong and by a judge that has no history of favoring blacks or Latinos in redistricting cases” — could serve as “another brick in building this case that Texas has a recent history of discriminatory action,” Murray said.
In a sign that Texas leaders also see Pasadena as a potential problem for its own cases, state attorneys filed an amicus brief in support of the city’s appeal, arguing that preclearance “must be sparingly and cautiously applied” to avoid reimposing “unwarranted federal intrusion.”
Judge Rosenthal’s preclearance ruling in the Pasadena case was improper, the state contends, because it was imposed for a single incident of discrimination instead of pervasive and rampant discrimination.
If the results of the May election are any proof, the city’s voters seem unwilling to upend the status quo in Pasadena.
Even with court-ordered single-member districts back in place, Pasadena voters elected a city council that’s expected to generally break the same way it did before the redistricting fight.
The Hispanic-voter backed voting bloc lost their coveted fifth city council seat by just seven votes. With Isbell stepping down because of term limits, voters elected council member Jeff Wagner — considered an Isbell ally on the council — as the new mayor.
With the city’s new slate of leaders sworn in last week, the future of the city’s appeal of Rosenthal’s order remains unclear.
Wagner was the only mayoral candidate who would not vow to drop the city’s appeal, Wheeler pointed out over lunch.
Wagner, who did not respond to a request for an interview, previously told the Tribune he would consult with council members about the appeal and make a decision based on whatever consensus emerged.
Dropping the appeal and letting the lower court ruling stand would prevent an appeals court ruling that could set a precedent for the state — and eliminate the chance that it could reach the Supreme Court and become a test of the strength of the Voting Rights Act.
Perales, the MALDEF lawyer, said the plaintiffs are focused on eliminating voting discrimination in Pasadena. “That’s what this case is about, and that’s what we care about,” she said.
Pasadena’s Hispanic leaders also know that higher courts could rule against them and wipe out their victory that overturned the 6-2 map and put the city back under federal preclearance. Wheeler also points out that the city has already spent more than $2 million defending the case.
He will have a few more years on the council before term limits require him to step aside, but he wonders what the power balance will look like when someone else represents his district.
Wheeler wants to make sure his time on city council helps ensure that the system won’t be rigged against Hispanic voters in the future — and pursuing the appeal puts that at risk.
“Why take the chance?” he says.
Disclosure: Rice University and the University of Houston have been a financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.
SAN ANTONIO — Embarking on the latest chapter to the years-long battle over the state’s political maps, Texas and its legal foes on Monday faced off in federal court over minorities’ voting rights and the district boundaries the state should use in the 2018 elections.
Focusing first on the state’s House map, minority rights groups suing the state began the trial by slogging through 10 hours of dense expert testimony, election analyses and state lawmakers’ methods of redrawing political boundaries in an effort to convince a panel of three federal judges that the state’s existing map is illegal and must be redrawn.
It was the first day of what’s expected to be a week-long trial before a court that earlier this year found that Texas Republicans intentionally discriminated against Texans of color in previous mapmaking.
With Texas becoming less white each day, lawyers for minority rights groups opened their push for new maps by parsing the state’s demographic growth, which shows that the population of eligible white voters has significantly declined since 2010.
When asked by federal district Judge Orlando Garcia how this relates to the 2013 maps, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus’ lawyer, Jose Garza, indicated it was proof that Texans of color don’t have proportional representation under the maps currently in place.
“Even today … minorities are underrepresented when measured against population data and population figures,” Garza said.
MALC also presented an alternative map to demonstrate that the state House boundaries could have been drawn in a way that minimized the slicing of municipalities and created additional “opportunity districts” where minority voters are able to select their preferred candidates.
Creating that type of district was not a legislative priority when the House took on redistricting in 2013; lawmakers only made “cosmetic changes” that didn’t “improve the overall map for minority opportunity,” former state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer testified before the court.
In 2011, state lawmakers drew legislative and congressional maps following the 2010 census, but they were immediately challenged in court on the basis that they diluted the voting strength of Hispanic and black voters. The court drew interim maps amid an election scramble, and the Legislature in 2013 moved to adopt them.
Martinez Fischer argued that efforts to improve those maps for minority representation were rebuffed by the Republican majority.
“It was almost all upon deaf ears,” Martinez Fischer said.
While they’re challenging the existing map as a whole, lawyers with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund specifically focused on House District 90 as a district that should be invalidated, making the case that the redrawing of the district unconstitutionally diluted the strength of Hispanic voters.
One long-time Fort Worth resident involved in local politics told the court that the new boundaries of HD 90 “made it harder for a Hispanic to win.”
Late in the day, a lawyer for the NAACP started making its case against the state House map, opening with testimony on coalition districts in Bell County — one of several claims they’ve raised against house districts across the state. The NAACP is expected to continue its arguments that the state only adopted the court’s interim maps to avoid additional scrutiny and never planned to fix the discrimination that’s “deeply steeped” in the maps.
The political stakes are high. A ruling from the court could result in legislative and congressional boundaries that are less ideal for Republican candidates. And the state’s opponents are also hoping the legal wrangling could lead to Texas being placed back under federal electoral oversight years after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling freed them from that guardianship.
The state is expected to make its case and present its own witnesses later in the week. In legal filings, state attorneys have argued that the court-drawn maps the Legislature adopted in 2013 adequately addressed their foes’ claims. They’ve also asserted that the state is not liable for any intentional discrimination in the 2013 maps because the courts were behind the mapmaking.
The panel of judges presiding over this week’s trial ruled in April that Texas lawmakers intentionally in 2011 undercut the political clout of voters of color with its 2011 maps and created House districts that resulted in “even less proportional representation” for minority voters.
They found that Texas lawmakers either violated the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act by intentionally diluting the strength of minority voters with those House districts — echoing their earlier ruling that many of the congressional districts did the same thing.
Some of those issues were addressed in the temporary, court-drawn maps the Legislature adopted. But some lines remained the same.
The trial is expected to conclude on Friday or Saturday. The court will also hear arguments over the state’s congressional map.
The Texas Supreme Court on Friday threw out a lower court ruling that favored of government-subsidized same-sex marriage benefits and sent the Houston case back to trial court for reconsideration.
The case was part of Texas Republicans’ ongoing fight against the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and led to the enactment of benefits policies for married same-sex couples.
At the center of the Houston case is whether that ruling — known as Obergefell v. Hodges — requires city and other governmental agencies to extend those taxpayer-subsidized benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees. Following that ruling, public employers in Texas, including state agencies and public universities — quickly extended such benefits.
But in an attempt to re-litigate the high court’s decision, two taxpayers — represented by same-sex marriage opponents — are suing Houston over its policy.
They’ve argued that the interpretation of Obergefell is too broad and that the right to marry does not “entail any particular package of tax benefits, employee fringe benefits or testimonial privileges.” (In a separate case against the state’s now-defunct ban on same-sex marriage, the Texas attorney general’s office actually argued that marriage is a right that comes with benefits the state is entitled to control.)
Lawyers for the city of Houston argued, in part, that opponents are without a legal avenue to even pursue their claims because the city’s policy is protected under Obergefell, which they pointed out explicitly addressed “marriage-related benefits.
During a March hearing, Douglas Alexander, the lawyer who defended Houston’s benefits policy, told the court that the case was moot under Obergefell’s guarantee that all marriages be equally regarded.
Jonathan Mitchell, the former solicitor general for the state and the lawyer representing opponents of the Houston policy, argued that marriage benefits are not a fundamental right and that Obergefell did not resolve questions surrounding such policies..
But throughout the hearing, the justices instead focused on jurisdiction and standing.
The decision by the Texas Supreme Court to take up the case was regarded as an unusual move because it had previously declined to take it up last year. That allowed a lower court decision, which upheld benefits for same-sex couples, to stand.
But the state’s highest civil court reversed course in January after receiving an outpouring of letters opposing the decision. They also faced pressure from Texas GOP leadership — spearheaded by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who asked the court to clarify that Obergefell does not include a “command” to public employers regarding employee benefits.
That request to the court came more than a year after state agencies moved to extend benefits to spouses of married gay and lesbian employees just days after the high court’s ruling. As of Aug. 31, 584 same-sex spouses had enrolled in insurance plans — including health, dental or life insurance — subsidized by the state, according to a spokeswoman for the Employees Retirement System, which oversees benefits for state employees.
The state’s population is still booming, and Hispanic Texans are driving a large portion of that growth.
New population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show that just over half of Texas’ population increase since 2010 can be attributed to a rapidly growing Hispanic community and its expanding presence in nearly every corner of the state.
As of July 2016, the Texas population nearly reached 27.9 million — up from 25.1 million in 2010. More than 1.4 million of that 2.7 million increase was among Hispanic Texans. Meanwhile, the white population only increased by about 444,000 people.
Put another way: Since 2010, Texas has gained more than three times as many Hispanic residents than whites.
White Texans remain the largest demographic group in the state, making up almost 43 percent of the population. But their growth rate since 2010 is easily trumped by growth among Texans of color.
Asians make up a small share of the state’s population — almost 5 percent — but the Asian community in Texas is growing rapidly. In recent years, demographers identified new immigration patterns to the state that are driven by an increase in the rate of immigrants moving here from Asia.
The black community continues to grow in Texas, but their share of the population has remained mostly unchanged, hovering just below 12 percent. Meanwhile, white Texans’ share of the state’s population has continued to drop since 2010 as Hispanics’ share has increased, reaching 39 percent in 2016.
This growth is also reflected at the county level where Hispanics’ share of the population has increased in all but 11 counties since 2010. Meanwhile, whites’ share of the population has dropped in all but a handful of Texas counties.
The estimated population growth among Texans of color, particularly Hispanics, sets up the state to face significant political and economic repercussions in the coming years.
The rapid growth among Hispanics and Asians comes as the state is inching toward its next redistricting cycle when, after the 2020 census, state lawmakers will be required to rejigger boundaries for congressional and legislative districts in response to population growth.
The growing diversity in the state, particularly among younger Texans, will also play into the development of the future workforce. A large majority of the youngest Texans are people of color who also make up most of the student population in the state’s public schools.
But the educational achievement gap between students of color and white students persists. Demographers have warned that the state’s failure to close those gaps could hurt the competitiveness of the state’s workforce as those students become of age.
Nationally, Texas is also leading in terms of Hispanic growth even among states with the biggest Hispanic communities.
While California still easily bests Texas for the largest Hispanic population in the country, Texas had the largest numeric increase among Hispanics since the last census. That trend also held from 2015 to 2016, when Texas gained the most Hispanics — 233,100 residents — compared to 176,198 in California.
Home to Houston, Harris County gained more Hispanic residents — 39,600 — than any other county in the country.
Unsurprisingly, Texas was also home to counties with some of the highest shares of Hispanic residents. Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley had the highest Hispanic share of the population — 96.3 percent — in the country.
Amid last-minute efforts to overhaul the state’s voter identification law in light of an ongoing legal fight, the Texas Legislature gaveled out without addressing another embattled election law that’s now moving forward in federal court.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday will take up a legal challenge to an obscure provision in the Texas Election Code that requires interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help.
That state law has been on hold since last year after a federal district judge ruled it violated the federal Voting Rights Act under which any voter who needs assistance because of visual impairments, disabilities or literacy skills can be helped in casting a ballot by the person of their choice, as long as it’s not their employer or a union leader.
“There’s nothing that’s being imposed. The state just needs to get out of the way,” said Jerry Vattamala, director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s democracy program.
AALDEF brought the lawsuit against the voting law on behalf of the Greater Houston chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans and the late Mallika Das, a Williamson County resident who was unable to get help from her son to cast her ballot in 2014.
A U.S. citizen born in India, Das had brought her son, Saurabh, to help her vote. She spoke Bengali, an Asian dialect, and her limited English proficiency had made it difficult in the past. But when Saurabh told poll workers he intended to interpret the ballot for his mother, an election official determined he didn’t meet the state’s voter registration requirements because he was registered to vote in neighboring Travis County.
Das’ voting dilemma, which jumpstarted the legal challenge, illustrates the complexities behind Texas’ election requirements that language-minority voters are left to navigate.
One provision of state election code allows voters to select an “interpreter” to help them communicate with an election officer and “accompany the voter to the voting station for the purpose of translating the ballot to the voter.” A separate provision governs “assistors” and says voters can receive help reading or marking a ballot and states that assistance “occurs while the person is in the presence of the voter’s ballot.”
The interpreter, unlike an assistor, must be registered to vote in the same county.
The state has argued the interpreter provision of state law is constitutional and “supplemental” to the minimum requirements set forth by the Voting Rights Act.
Attorneys for the state have also acknowledged that Williamson County erroneously “conflated the two provisions.” Had Saurabh said he was assisting his mother — not interpreting the English ballot for her — he would have been allowed to join her in the voting booth to help her cast a proper vote, state attorneys have conceded.
That distinction “arbitrarily” restricts voters with limited English proficiency and is “illustrative” of “why particular words matter,” U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said in an August ruling against the state. And the Texas interpreter restrictions “flatly contradict” the Voting Rights Act, he added.
After Pitman scolded the state, two Democratic lawmakers sought to simplify the issue earlier this year by nixing the interpreter section of state law altogether — a proposal that picked up endorsements from the Texas Association of Election Administrators, the League of Women Voters, MALDEF and the Texas Democratic Party.
But their peers showed little appetite to address the issue.
“I don’t see how we could in legislative action place a criteria that would limit it more than a constitutional standard,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who filed one of the measures during this year’s regular legislative session that would’ve only left in place the assistor provision. “I just don’t think the state is serious about the right to vote or access to the election box. We just seem to bend over backwards to place barriers instead of working to increase voter turnout.”
Her legislation to bring the state in line with federal law languished in the Senate State Affairs Committee after colleagues raised concerns that it would allow voters to obtain help at the polls from noncitizens, Garcia said. The voter registration requirement by default requires the interpreter to be a U.S. citizen and 18 years old.
But sometimes voters ask their minor children to help them cast their ballots, Democratic state Rep. Ramon Romero of Fort Worth told the House Elections Committee during an April hearing. His proposal was similar to Garcia’s and also did not advance out of committee.
Despite the intricacies between interpreters and assistors, the case could ultimately come down to a question of standing if the state has its way.
The Texas Attorney General’s office, which is representing the state in the lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation. But in a brief filed with the 5th Circuit, state attorneys argued that the lower court erred in its ruling by allowing the lawsuit to move forward despite Das’ death before there was a judgment in the lower court.
The remaining plaintiffs in the case — the Greater Houston chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans — “rode the coattails” of the former lead plaintiff, Das, “by arguing that her alleged injuries, accrued in Williamson County, may befall its members in Harris County,” the AG’s office wrote in its filing.
They also contend that the state shouldn’t be a party in the case because local authorities — and not the Secretary of State whose office oversees elections — implemented the interpreter provisions.
The New Orleans-based appellate court will take up the case in its morning session on Thursday.
Among the Elder family’s dinnertime conversations last year was nailing down which sports their son Ben wanted to try out over the summer.
This time around, with school out for the summer — but state lawmakers set to come back to Austin for an overtime round — they’ll be left to wonder whether their 11-year-old transgender son will lose the ability to use the boys’ bathroom.
“My fear is that if the special session happens and some law passes, that’s going to take the decision out of their hands,” said Ann Elder, who has spent the past year meeting with school administrators to make sure Ben’s accommodations are all set up when he starts middle school in the fall.
District officials and Ben’s elementary school teachers and counselors have worked with the Elder family throughout his transition by calling him by whatever name he wanted and treating him like “he wanted to be treated,” Ann says. They first allowed him to use a bathroom in the nurse’s office but then signed off on letting him use the boys’ bathroom when Ann Elder realized he had been holding it in for the entire school day.
With Ben moving on to the sixth grade, Ann Elder was relieved to find that his middle school was “beyond supportive,” and she got a temporary reprieve from concerns that the Legislature would get in the way of that when efforts to regulate which bathrooms transgender Texans can use fizzled out amid a legislative stalemate at the end of their regular session.
But Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced he was calling lawmakers back for legislative overtime in a special session beginning July 18 — and bathroom restrictions are on the agenda.
It’s unclear whether any bathroom regulations will make it out of a special session, where lawmakers have a much shorter window to send proposals to the governor’s desk. But the governor’s decision to extend a divisive, months-long debate on the issue and give lawmakers a second chance to pass a “bathroom bill” has pushed a dark cloud of uncertainty back over transgender Texans and their families.
“That’s going to put [school officials] in a really awkward situation because they’re going to have to enforce this even if they don’t want to,” Ann Elder said in a recent interview. “And then it’s going to force Ben and I to figure out how we’re going to handle it or do we just exit the public school system.”
Abbott’s special session announcement and the inclusion of bathroom restrictions comes after months of legislative bickering and an unprecedented show of force at the Capitol by transgender Texans and their allies.
The controversial bathroom proposals easily dominated the legislative session: Folks on both sides of the issue gathered at the Capitol for protests, lobbying days and rallies on the issue. Lawmakers held two overnight hearings during which transgender Texans and their families pleaded with them to not pull back established protections against discrimination and accommodations they’ve obtained. And the proposals even led to Republican infighting — including two sets of dueling press conferences — about legislative inaction.
All of that is likely to pick back up in July for round two.
Soon after Abbott’s announcement, Republican state Rep. Ron Simmons of Carrollton confirmed he would once again push his proposal from the regular session — House Bill 2899 — to outlaw municipal and school districts’ trans-inclusive bathroom policies.
“The main concern is our schools and making sure that privacy is protected in those arenas,” Simmons said.
A spokesman for state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who authored the Senate’s more restrictive measure, Senate Bill 6, did not respond to a request for comment on whether she would file a bill with similar language.
Both measures died in the House under Speaker Joe Straus, who has made clear he opposes bathroom restrictions and offered up a watered-down compromise that some groups said would’ve likely allowed school officials to continue allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. That put Straus in direct opposition to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who contends the measure is needed to improve privacy — and the Senate, which refused to accept anything less than a restrictive, broad measure that would eliminate trans-inclusive bathroom policies.
The impasse could carry over into the special session that Patrick forced Abbott into calling by holding hostage crucial legislation needed to continue some state agencies.
On Tuesday, Abbott said the sunset legislation was used for “political fodder” but still added bathroom restrictions to the list of things he expected lawmakers to address during the 30-day special session.
He also reiterated his support for HB 2899, endorsing it as a way to “establish a single statewide rule protecting the privacy of women and children,” but he indicated he’d settle for restrictions focused on public schools.
“At a minimum, we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools” Abbott said.
A united front of opposition
After largely staying out of the bathroom debate, Abbott echoed social conservatives who for months have used privacy as the main argument for why bathroom restrictions are necessary. Though they’ve provided virtually no evidence, they’ve claimed that trans-inclusive bathroom policies allow individuals to enter bathrooms of the opposite gender for nefarious reasons.
That’s been met by loud opposition from LGBT advocates, civil rights groups, school groups, business groups and major corporations who offered a mostly united front during the legislative session in labeling the proposals as discriminatory and hurtful to an already vulnerable population.
The debate has also helped galvanize a community of Texans that until recently largely stayed out of the political arena but are now showing no signs of retreating during the special session.
Two years ago, about 80 people traveled to Austin to visit with lawmakers as part of Texas Trans Lobby Day, according to organizers. This year, almost 400 people — including transgender adults and children — traversed the halls of the Capitol as part of their lobbying efforts against bathroom restrictions and other legislation they deemed harmful to transgender Texans.
“I never thought I’d see that many people show up in Texas on a topic specifically related to trans people,” Lou Weaver, transgender programs coordinator for Equality Texas, said of the hundreds of individuals who packed the Capitol for the first committee hearing on the Senate bathroom bill. “It continued to happen over and over again…These people are continuing to show up.”
Among them will be the parents of transgender children who expressed mixed feelings of relief, gratitude and frustration after the regular session ended without passage of a “bathroom bill.”
“To be very honest with you, this legislative session has been really hard for me,” Ann Elder said after the Legislature adjourned. “I just feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, and I don’t think anybody cares other than the other families. I’m feeling very bleak about the situation.”
Others are using the defeat of the proposals during the regular session to rejoice and regroup on their efforts to fight similar efforts by continuing to personalize the issue.
“We’re regular families. I drive a minivan and listen to country music. My husband is the president of our church. We’re just like you,” said Amber Briggle, the mother of transgender fourth grader named Max. “I think we’ve made it relatable, and more and more transgender Texans like my son are standing up and speaking up, and it shifts your understanding of what it means to be transgender when it’s someone you know, when it’s so personal … I think that made a difference.”