Texas Senate Republicans Kill Two-Thirds Rule, Maim Democracy

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"Majority rule, minority rights." It's one of the first axioms you learn in civics, social studies or whatever your elementary school called it. It's part of the American social contract, that those out of power in a legislative body have at least some means to check the actions of those in power.

In the Texas Senate, for more than half a century, the so-called "two-thirds rule" has been that means. At the beginning of each legislative session a blocker bill was passed. To debate any other bill, two-thirds of the Senate, 21 of 31 members, was required to agree to the suspension of regular rules, bypassing the blocker bill. Until Wednesday.

That's when state senators voted 20 to 10 to change the two-thirds rule to the three-fifths rule. Now, only 19 votes are required to suspend regular Senate rules. Republicans hold 20 seats in the chamber.

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Plano Lawmakers Aim to Kill Equal Rights Ordinances for LGBTQ People

City of Plano
Proponent of small government Matt Shaheen.
Not content after losing a local battle against Plano's LGBTQ equal rights ordinance, a group of four local state representatives plan to introduce legislation that would nullify any municipal equal rights ordinances passed anywhere in the state, including Dallas' March 2014 ordinance.

See also: Plano Ignores Cries of Hometown Liberty Institute, Passes LGBT Equal Rights Ordinance

"There is legislation that's being worked on. Jeff Leach who's also a state representative, he actually, he and I represent the majority of Plano, he's actually leading an effort to nullify these types of ordinances statewide. There's actually four state representatives that represent Plano, all of us will be joint authors of that legislation, but Representative Leach will actually lead that effort," state Representative Matt Shaheen told a group of pastors gathered at Prestonwood Baptist Church in mid-December in a recording obtained by the Texas Observer.

(At this point we want to take an aside to congratulate Toyota North America on its upcoming ceremonial groundbreaking for its new corporate headquarters in Plano. The event is Tuesday, and let's hope that North Texans of all stripes can let Toyota know just what sort of welcoming place their new home is.)

Now, back to the bigots.

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Colleyville State Senator Replaces Wendy Davis in "Stand for Life" Cowboy Boots

Ted Cruz via Twitter
7/10 for Trolling
Tuesday, as she was sworn into the Texas Senate seat formerly occupied by erstwhile gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, Colleyville Republican Konni Burton left no doubt that she'd be a vast departure from Davis' moderation.

Seemingly mocking the pink Mizunos Davis made famous during her filibuster of House Bill 2, Texas' draconian new abortion regulations, Burton chose to sport the black boots seen above, to "Stand for Life," as it were.

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Abbott Announces Intent to Target Big Cities, Keep Texas from Becoming "California-ized"

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Gage Skidmore
City government is as local as it gets, right?
Big cities are threatening to turn the state's economic miracle into a nightmare, according to Texas Governor-elect, Greg Abbott. Regulations drafted by cities with regard to fracking, plastic bags and cutting down old trees are a grave threat to the state's well-being. If cities like Dallas lead the way, we could become, horror of horrors, California.

"We're forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model," he said in a speech to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. Five cents at a time, of course.

See also: The Most Harrowing News Stories About Dallas Residents Affected by the Bag Law

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Some of the Stupidest Bills the Texas Legislature Will Take Up in 2015

God save us all.
As the start of 2015 approaches, so does our state's biennial circus, the regular session of the Texas Legislature. This session, the 84th, will feature the usual bickering over just how far social services can be slashed without turning Texas into an anarcho-libertarian hellscape and the inevitable crushing of any Democratic dissent. It will also feature discussion of a number of bills so stupid that they deserve a special shout out.

HB 413: the Second Amendment Preservation Act
Tarrant County Republican Craig Goldman is intent on protecting the Second Amendment from federal infringement. Mr. Goldman, please listen closely: Second Amendment protections are more robust in 2014 than they have ever been. Gun rights groups have ensured that no gun control proposal, no matter how modest, is met with anything less than vitriolic opposition. No one is coming for the assault rifles and the constituents you're kowtowing too hold so dear. Stop wasting everybody's time, please.

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Texas Executed 10 People in 2014, the Lowest Number Since 1996

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
California's lethal injection room.
The number of executions and new death sentences continued to drop in the U.S. in 2014, even in Texas, which killed 10 prisoners this year, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

That's the lowest number since 1996, when three men received lethal injections. (The 1996 figure comes with an asterisk. The state was in the midst of a legal battle regarding changes made to the capital case appeals process by the Legislature. As a result, there ended up being a de facto death penalty moratorium from March 1996 to January 1997. After the changes were upheld, the state killed 37 people during the remainder of 1997.)

The 10 executions still matched Missouri for the most in the country but represented a significant drop from 2013, when 16 convicted murderers were killed. Texas juries only handed out 11 death sentences this year -- the latest being given Eric Williams in Kaufman County on Wednesday. That's down from a 1998 high of 48.

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El Paso State Rep Calls for Full Decriminalization of Marijuana

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Flickr user Blind Nomad
A bill filed Monday in advance of the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature would make the maximum penalty for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a $100 fine. The fine would not count as a criminal conviction and could not considered as such by anyone performing a background check.

Current Texas law classifies the possession of any amount of marijuana less than 2 ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000. In 2007, the state passed a law allowing for marijuana users to cited for the misdemeanor and released. Harris, Dallas and Tarrant, the three biggest counties in the state, have not adopted cite-and-release, but Dallas has signaled its intention to do so as part of a January 2015 pilot program.

See also: Dallas County Will Experiment with Not Arresting People Caught with Marijuana

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Greg Abbott Leads Texas into Immigration Lawsuit Fight With Feds

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Gage Skidmore
Just over a week ago, on November 24, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the "odds were in favor" of the state suing the federal government to stop President Obama's executive action on immigration. Wednesday afternoon, the governor-elect cashed that bet, announcing that he'd been joined by 16 other states in filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

"The president's job is to enforce the law, not to make them," Abbott said.

Allowing certain undocumented persons who've been in the United States for more than five years to work and live in the country without the threat of deportation would cause irreparable damage to Texas, Abbott says. The state has already incurred tremendous costs from DACA, President Obama's program that allows individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country, so it has unique standing to challenge the executive action.

See also: Texas Likely to Sue Obama Over Immigration

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Texas Likely to Sue Obama Over Immigration

Gage Skidmore
Plotting his final act as attorney general.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, soon to make his home in the governor's mansion, says the "odds are in favor" of Texas suing the federal government to prevent the implementation of President Obama's proposed executive or to stop the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant who have been in the country for more than five years.

"The president has crossed the line from politics to endangering the constitutional structure," Abbott said Monday afternoon.

The United States' immigration system is broken, Abbott acknowledged, but an "executive fiat" is not the way to fix i. The president is not exercising prosecutorial discretion, the attorney general argued, because the number of people affected is so large. If Obama's action is allowed, Abbott suggested that a future Republican president could similarly act on things like taxes and environmental regulations.

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Rafael Anchia Just Wants to Confirm That No One Wants a Trinity Toll Road

Mark Graham
Rep. Rafael Anchia and Mike Rawlings
Last week, we told you about an internet survey pushed out by Dallas state representative Rafael Anchia asking residents their opinion about the Trinity Toll Road. We speculated that Anchia's sudden interest might signal forthcoming action in Austin, likely an attempt by supporters to fund the currently unfunded (and unneeded) project. After speaking with Anchia, that seems even more likely.

See also: Rep. Rafael Anchia Just Released a Trinity Toll Road Survey. Why?

"It's pretty simple: We're just gathering information from the community to get a sense of where they are on this thing," he told Unfair Park. "If it turns out that it becomes a funding request in the legislature, I need to know what the sentiment is of the constituents I represent."

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