Newly signed law is one of several across the U.S. to curtail municipal governments’ power
Wall Street Journal, By Russell Gold, May 18
Austin, TX—Last year, a city in North Texas banned fracking. State lawmakers want to make sure that never happens again.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that prohibits bans of hydraulic fracturing altogether and makes it much harder for municipal and county governments to control where oil and gas wells can be drilled. Similar efforts are cropping up in states including New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado and Oklahoma, where both chambers of the legislature have passed a bill that limits local governments to “reasonable” restrictions on oil and gas activities.
This is all part of a broader legislative and judicial effort, backed by the oil industry, to limit local governments’ ability to regulate drilling. Backers say that both the Oklahoma and Texas bills were proposed in response to a voter-approved ban on fracking in Denton, Texas, in November.
New York Times, By Liam Stack, May 3
Two gunmen were killed after they opened fire Sunday evening outside an event hosted by an anti-Muslim group in Garland, Tex., featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, local officials said. According to the authorities, the two assailants shot a private security guard and were, in turn, shot and killed by police officers. Officials did not give the identities of the gunmen or the security officer and did not assign a motive for the attack. The F.B.I. referred reporters’ questions to local officials.
The shooting began shortly before 7 p.m. outside the Curtis Culwell Center, where organizers were hosting the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, an event run by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Muslim organization based in New York (photograph of Pamela Geller, head of AFDI, above).
AP, December 21
San Antonio — Gas flaring in the most profitable shale field in the U.S. is on pace to surpass to 2013 levels of waste and pollution in South Texas, according to a newspaper analysis of state records published Sunday.
The Eagle Ford Shale burned off more than 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the first seven months of this year, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the oil and gas industry. The tons of pollutants released into the air already exceed levels for 2012.
Experts say plummeting oil prices likely won’t stifle Eagle Ford production anytime soon.
The San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1ATJFNW ) also found some of the top sources of flaring in 2014 lacked state-mandated permits to flare natural gas. The goal of flaring is to incinerate impurities, but it generates air pollution and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to climate change.
Railroad Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said Friday that the agency sent violation notices to three energy companies after the newspaper asked about their permitting status.
Al Jazeera, By Lauren Carasik, December 4
On Wednesday, hours before his scheduled execution, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay for Scott Panetti, 56, amid a national outcry about the legality and morality of killing an inmate with a 35-year history of severe mental illness. Panetti’s guilt is not in doubt. In 1992, he shaved his head, donned military fatigues, grabbed a hunting rifle and shot his wife’s parents in their home as she and their daughter watched in horror.
Panetti’s long history of mental illness is well documented: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than a decade before the murders, and he was hospitalized, often involuntarily, more than a dozen times. Panetti’s lawyers maintain he did not have a “rational understanding” of the reasons for his impending execution, as required by a 2007 Supreme Court decision (PDF) on his case. Panetti claimed that the state of Texas wants to execute him for preaching the Gospel to other inmates, not in retribution for the murders he committed. But the state insists Panetti is malingering and clearly understands that the state intended to kill him and why. The planned execution has engendered a divisive debate about the United States’ evolving aversion to the death penalty, especially for those whose are severely impaired by mental illness.
Panetti was sentenced to death in 1995 after a circuslike trial that hardly represented a fair adjudication of his competence and culpability. Beset by paranoia, he dismissed his court-appointed counsel and represented himself. He proceeded to dress in purple cowboy attire and subpoenaed more than 200 witnesses, including Jesus Christ, the Pope and John F. Kennedy. At times, he testified as his alter ego “Sarge” to whom he attributed the murders, recounting the day in disjointed third-person ramblings. His standby counsel at the time characterized the trial as a “judicial farce and a mockery of self-representation.” It is incomprehensible how a judge intimately familiar with Panetti’s mental health history and bizarre conduct would allow him to represent himself in a proceeding to determine his fate.
Since then, Panetti and his attorneys waged a lengthy and circuitous legal battle to reverse the ruling. In August 2013 the conservative 5th Circuit appeared to reason that because he was sane enough to argue that he was mentally unfit for execution, he was not ill enough to be spared lethal injection.
Meet Dan Patrick, the next lieutenant governor of Texas.
Mother Jones, By Tim Murphy, October 21
As a Texas state senator, Dan Patrick has conducted himself in a manner consistent with the shock jock he once was. Patrick—who is now the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor—has railed against everything from separation of church and state to Mexican coyotes who supposedly speak Urdu. He’s even advised his followers that God is speaking to them through Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.
A former sportscaster who once defended a football player who’d thrown a reporter through a door (Patrick believed it wasn’t the journalist’s job to do “negative reporting”), Patrick became a conservative talk radio host in the early 1990s—Houston’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. In 2006, he parlayed his radio fame into a state Senate seat—and kept the talk show going. In office, he proposed paying women $500 to turn over newborn babies to the state (to reduce abortions), led the charge against creeping liberalism in state textbooks, and pushed wave after wave of new abortion restrictions. For his efforts, Texas Monthly named Patrick one of the worst legislators of 2013.
With a victory on November 4, Patrick, who is leading Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the polls, would find himself next in line for the governor’s mansion of the nation’s second-largest state. (Rick Perry, the current Republican governor, was previously lieutenant governor.) But even if Patrick advances no further, he’d be in a position to shape public policy—Texas’ lieutenant governor is sometimes called the “most powerful office in Texas” because of the influence it has on both the legislative and executive branches.
Analysis of proposed 6th grade texts show they falsely claim scientific disagreement about global warming.
The Guardian, By Suzanne Goldenberg, September 16
Texas has proposed re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change and promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank.
The proposed text books – which come up for public hearing at the Texas state board of education on Tuesday – were already attracting criticism when it emerged that the science section had been altered to reflect the doctrine of the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires.
A report from the Texas Freedom Network and the National Centre for Science Education on Monday found a number of instances where the proposed texts rejected recognised science.
In the proposed 6th grade texts, students were introduced to global warming amid false claims that there was scientific disagreement about its causes.
New York Times, By Manny Fernandez, August 15
Austin, TX – A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts on Friday, charging that he abused his power last year when he tried to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to her office.
The indictment left Mr. Perry, a Republican, the first Texas governor in nearly 100 years to face criminal charges and presented a major roadblock to his presidential ambitions at the very time that he had been showing signs of making a comeback.
Reuters, By Jon Herskovitz, July 21
Austin, TX – Texas Governor Rick Perry said on Monday he planned to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border to boost security during an influx of illegal immigration by children, a move that could increase pressure on President Barack Obama.
Perry, seen as a possible Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, said the guard troops were needed because the flood of children crossing from Mexico had pushed federal border protection to its limits.
“The price of inaction is too high for Texas to pay,” Perry told a news conference.
The governor’s announcement came just days before Obama plans to meet with the leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on Friday to discuss cooperation dealing with the flow of child migrants from Central America.
A pill that revolutionized reproductive rights in Latin America is now gaining ground on the black market in South Texas.
The Atlantic, By Erica Hellerstein, June 27
The Alamo flea market sits right off South Texas’s lengthy Highway 83; a sprawling, dusty, labyrinth of a place. Under canopies in the converted parking lot, vendors in dark sunglasses stand behind tables heaped with piles of clothing, barking in Spanish and hawking their wares. The air is hot and muggy, thick with the scent of grilled corn and chili.
Customers browse simple items—miracle-diet teas, Barbie dolls or turquoise jeans stretched over curvy mannequins—but there are also shoppers scanning the market for goods that aren’t displayed in the stalls. Tables lined with bottles of medicine like Tylenol and NyQuil have double-meanings to those in the know: The over-the-counter drugs on top provide cover for the prescription drugs smuggled over the border from nearby cities in Mexico. Those, the dealer keeps out of sight.
I’m here to look for a small, white, hexagonal pill called misoprostol. Also known as miso or Cytotec, the drug induces an abortion that appears like a miscarriage during the early stages of a woman’s pregnancy. For women living in Latin America and other countries that have traditionally outlawed abortion, miso has been a lifeline—it’s been called “a noble medication,” “world-shaking” and “revolutionary.” But now, it’s not just an asset of the developing world.
AP, February 27
Austin, TX — A federal judge declared Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional yesterday, but left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case.
Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a long-standing law. He said the couples are likely to win their case and the ban should be lifted, but he said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”
The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for gay-rights activists following similar decisions in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.
But this is the first time a court in the conservative 5th Circuit has reached such a decision.