Conroe Lawmaker Wants to Kill Houston-Dallas Bullet Train, Even if It Doesn't Touch His District or Public Money

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Photo of the N700 bullet train, courtesy of JR Central
Imagine a train that could whisk you from here to Dallas in 90 minutes flat. Texas Central Railway, a private company working with a Japanese train manufacturer, wants to make that possible by 2021. A ticket to ride, the company says, would be "very competitive with those of airlines." And, on top of that, the company promises the whole multi-billion dollar endeavor will be privately funded and ultimately operate as a private for-profit business without taxpayer subsidy.

So of course leaders in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth love the idea. "If successful, Houstonians will have a reliable, private alternative that will help alleviate traffic congestion and drastically reduce travel times," Mayor Annise Parker said at a press conference touting the project last year.

And as you'd expect, the main opposition to the estimated $10 billion project has come from rural landowners along the proposed route. Well, landowners and Conroe state Rep. Will Metcalf, a Republican who wants to kill the thing, regardless of whether the train takes any public money or crosses his district, which spans the northern half of Montgomery County.

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Donna Campbell Struggles to Defend Pointless Alamo Bill

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Photo illustration by Monica Fuentes
State Sen. Donna Campbell is still protecting the Alamo from foreign invaders
Most people think it's a good thing the Alamo, the site of the 13 Days of Glory, has been nominated to become a World Heritage Site through the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Considering the deal is expected to bring in lots of money (more than $100 million) and jobs (more than 1,000) by 2025, officials down in Bexar County and with the state's General Land Office, which manages the historic site and surrounding properties, love the idea.

But GOP State Sen. Donna Campbell still thinks the Alamo is still under attack by foreign invaders. "I can tell you, anything that starts with 'the UN' gives me cause for concern," Campbell said during an utterly absurd discussion about her proposed "Protect the Alamo Act" in a Senate committee hearing yesterday.

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As Promised, Obama Vetoes Bill to Force Keystone XL Pipeline

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In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, President Obama today followed through on his promise to veto a Republican-led bill that would have forced approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. It was the first major veto of his presidency.

The proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which would ship some 830,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude down to Port Arthur, has been debated ad nauseam throughout much the Obama presidency. While industry has trotted out suspect jobs figures and insisted that the pipeline could ween us off big, bad, scary Middle-East oil, environmentalists have called Keystone a defining moment for action against climate change.

In a letter announcing the veto, Obama chided Congress for attempting to override the State Department review and approval process. He even threw a bone to the loud environmentalist movement that's clamored against the pipeline (notice his passing reference to the "environmental" issue):

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Will Texas Finally Ban Shark Fin Trade?

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Photo by Nicholas Wang/Flickr
We hear the soup tastes great with an extra dash of douche.
Texas state Rep. Eddie Lucio III has introduced a bill that would ban the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in the state, and we're hoping that his fellow lawmakers will bite.

This nasty practice -- already banned federally, but full of fun loopholes -- could've been dealt with last session, when Senator Larry Taylor introduced a similar bill, but Taylor inexplicably backtracked, and his bill died in committee. (His fellow Republican Senator, Troy Fraser, also came out against the proposed ban.)

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Debbie Riddle's Pee-Pee Obsession

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Marcin Wichary/Flickr
Debbie Riddle's dystopian nightmare.
We can always count on Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle to introduce common-sense and much-needed legislation. Her latest bill would make it a misdemeanor for someone to use a public restroom of the opposite gender, and a state jail felony for a building manager to allow such tomfoolery.

As Gritsforbreakfast points out, the bill's weird treatise on chromosomes makes it clear that it's aimed at transgender folks.

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Rep. Coleman: Stand Your Ground Law "Sanctions the Targeting of Young Black Men"

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mr.smashy via flickr creative commons
In a session that's been heavily punctuated by the antics of the die-hard, open-carrying Second Amendment crowd, Houston State Rep. Garnet Coleman wants to tighten the law governing when Texans can legally shoot to kill in self-defense.

Needless to say, it will be an uphill battle.

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Gov. Greg Abbott's Perfectly Adequate First State of the State

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Gov. Greg Abbott's first State of the State on Tuesday was pretty much the dog and pony show everyone expected it to be, but we couldn't help thinking that something was missing. He sat up there in his first address to the Texas Legislature and we couldn't help pondering how his hair was a little less than perfect and how his rhetoric simply wasn't the inflammatory swaggering we'd grown accustomed to during the past decade.

Abbott kicked things off by painting an aggressively sunny picture of the state of the Lone Star State. "As the sun arises on 2015 the state of Texas is strong and together we are about to make it even stronger," Abbott said, mentioning all of the job creation and the January sales tax numbers without ever acknowledging the potential mess that is the current low oil prices.

He followed that up with a little gloating about the federal judge in Brownsville that halted President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration just hours before Abbott's big speech. "In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the President ignores the law and fails to secure the border," Abbott said. He went on to outline his plans for Texas in the next two years.Specifically, Abbott had five emergency items that he highlighted during the speech - early education, higher education research initiatives, transportation, border security and ethics.

While a lot of this is the same sort of stuff Abbott campaigned on last year, his support of improvements to education was encouraging. Abbott told a joint session of the Lege that he wants to both bolster the state's pre-kindergarten program and to start pulling Nobel laureate-types into Texas universities. (We were hoping he'd cackle and rub his hands together in an evil looking manner when he mentioned this plan, but alas, no such luck). "Our journey begins with striving to create the best education system in America," he said. From his tone of voice -- and the proposed budget that accompanied the speech -- it's just possible that he meant it.


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Rick Perry Sends New Hampshire a Belated Valentine

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"Live free or die. Amen."

Either Rick Perry has taken to making short travel films for each state he visits, or he definitely plans to make another slog around the GOP presidential primary circuit.

On Sunday, fresh off a trip to the oh-so-important primary state of New Hampshire, the former governor's political action committee RickPAC posted a minute-long video of Perry praising the Granite State, shaking hands with supporters, preaching about freedom to an adoring crowd, and awkwardly touching a baby's face.

"Granite's tough, it's durable, just like the people who live in this fiercely independent state," Perry says in the video before rattling off a list of New Hampshire cities and towns (just in case you thought Perry forgot what state he was in again).


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Guns: Coming Soon to a Government Building Near You

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jonathanstickland.com
Rep. Stickland's "constitutional carry" baby is likely dead.

Here's the good news and bad news on proposed gun bills at the Capitol: The good news is that metal detectors at the front door of government buildings may go away. The bad news is that it would be because some lawmakers think people have a right to carry guns and weapons into those government buildings.

Yesterday was the day for the campus carry and open carry gun bills at the Capitol. And if you didn't think it was a big deal, consider this: The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday and beat it the heck out of Dodge. And Moms Demand Action, an opponent of both campus carry and open carry, had an unarmed police escort to yesterday's hearing, for fear of a run-in with the open carry lobby.

Business associations were on hand to support Senate Bill 17, the open carry bill. That doesn't exactly mean they were cheering open carry. What they like is the language in the bill that still allows them to prohibit guns on their property.

"We have read all the bills on gun legislation," Cathy DeWitt, vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of Business, told the Senate State Affairs Committee. "This is the bill that keeps business and the rights of private property owners in mind."


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Dan Patrick's Lonely Border Surge

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Photo from Gov. Greg Abbott's office

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is still intent on fighting the good fight to keep the borders secure with expensive National Guard troops, it looks like Patrick might have to wage this particular battle alone.

Patrick held a press conference on Tuesday declaring his unwavering determination to keep National Guard troops camped out at motels along the Texas border in perpetuity (or at least until 2017). However, Patrick seems to be lacking in support on this one from pretty much everyone, including, at least for now, the guy holding the top office, Gov. Greg Abbott.

For those with short memories, last year then-Gov. Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to secure the border as a way of dealing with waves of minors from Central America that were arriving in Texas. At the height of the border surge about 1,000 troops were camped out along our admittedly porous border. They were armed and everything, despite the fact that they were basically only there to watch the border and that was it.


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