These Cannabis Bills Could Change Toking in Texas for Good

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Remember the first time you met that good old bill, who was just sitting on Capitol Hill? Yep, Schoolhouse Rock was the learning bomb, and it knew just how to explain complicated subjects with catchy little songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Mother Necessity."

Well, those Schoolhouse Rockers may want to add a new cannabis-themed ditty to their repertoire, given all of the recent marijuana bills inundating lawmakers across the nation.
But if we may, we would like to suggest that this time, rather than the little bill sitting on Capitol Hill, the tune should take place in Texas.

After all, three new marijuana reform bills are being drafted under Marijuana Policy Project's multi-year legislative campaign in Texas. The first bill is aimed at decriminalization of marijuana in Texas, but MPP is hardly stopping there.

Rather, the three bills are stepping stones to the full monty, covering not only decriminalization but medical and recreational marijuana as well, which leaves all facets of legalization on the table for lawmakers to decide in the next legislative session.


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Activists Planning to Broadcast Live Abortions Near the Alamo

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There is such thing as an "Abortion JumboTron TV," and it will be deployed for some extremely graphic anti-abortion protesting in San Antonio on Wednesday, as the fight over reproductive rights in the State of Texas rages on.

Parents are being warned to keep their children away from the Alamo in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon, as activists from two anti-choice groups, the Ohio-based group Created Equal and Love of Truth Ministries, will be broadcasting footage of abortions -- complete with what are supposedly fetal body parts -- on that "JumboTron TV" projection screen near the historic building.


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Houston, We Have Other Problems

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Photo by Ed Schipul

We all know the story by now: the City of Houston passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which would crack down on LGBT discrimination across the city, and then a group of Christians then sued the city. Last week, news broke that the city then subpoenaed pastors that, while vehemently critical of the ordinance, aren't parties to the current lawsuit against the city.

And then, Twitter exploded.

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Greg Abbott Held a Twitter Townhall, and It Was Hilarious

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In his continued quest to win hearts and minds and, you know, the governor's seat, state Attorney General Greg Abbott held a Twitter town hall on Friday. Yes, for one brief, shining moment, Abbott (or someone that does a pretty good Abbott-on-social-media impression) was on the Twitter and people could ask him stuff. There was even a hashtag, #AskAbbott.

The questions lobbed at Abbott ranged from the pointy to the pointless-but-oh-so-hilarious, so we rounded up some of our favorites.

On Abbott's a tort-reformer yet was awarded $10 million after he sued because of that tree that fell on him in River Oaks and left him wheelchair-bound (recently mentioned by opponent state Sen. Wendy Davis in that controversial ad):


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City Removes "Sermons" From Pastor Subpoenas, Blames "Media Circus" and Anti-HERO Lawyers for Stoking Outrage

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Natalie Harms
Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman at a press conference Friday.

Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman shifted more blame in the subpoenaing-anti-HERO-pastors debacle that's riled up Christians across the city -- and, thanks to Twitter and the #HoustonWeHaveAProblem campaign, the nation. Parker and Feldman blamed their pro bono lawyers, the media and the opposing lawyers, without shouldering much blame themselves during a press conference Friday.

Parker, visibly frustrated, said that her legal representation could've been more sensitive when it subpoenaed five local pastors last month in the city's legal fight against anti-HERO activists who want to repeal the city's equal rights ordinance. But Parker doesn't "read those kind of legal documents in detail," she said. Feldman, who also said he didn't read the subpoenas before they were sent last month, said the entire controversy could have been avoided had the other side's lawyers brought their issues to him, rather than the media.

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Updated: Dan Patrick Has Ebola Covered

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Know what this Ebola crisis needs? A little more Dan Patrick, of course.

Update: Gov. Rick Perry and his presidential hair have returned from their European jaunt and the two (Perry and his hair) held a press conference on Friday to reassure us all that while Patrick and Sen. Ted Cruz have opinions about what to do, Perry is the guy getting things done.

Perry stated that he had joined Patrick, Cruz and the rest of Republican chorus in calling for President Obama to enact an air travel ban from the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak (he actually asked Obama to do this during a phone call between the two on Thursday.)
"Air travel is how this disease crosses borders, and it's certainly how it got here to Texas," Perry says, though he went on to stipulate there should be exceptions for aid workers.

Plus, Perry had news from his Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, created earlier this month. Despite Patrick's claims in a release issued this morning that the task force wouldn't have recommendations until December, Perry had a whole list of things his team is already recommending:

"Establishment of two Ebola treatment centers in Texas; Establishment of specialized patient transport teams; Expanded training of infectious disease protocols for health care workers;
More testing labs for infectious disease; and increased authority for Department of State Health Services chief to issue enforceable control orders."

Those who have been worrying about the dreaded Ebola can stop right now because the guy who will most likely be the next lieutenant governor of Texas has determined both the cause of the epically mishandled Ebola mess and the solution. Yep, you can turn those frowns upside down and put down the industrial-sized barrels of hand sanitizer because state Sen. Dan Patrick has got this one.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Patrick explained that while Texas has been at the center of the repeatedly mismanaged containment of the nation's first Ebola patient, the fault for the many, many missteps lies with the federal government. Specifically:

"It's no surprise the first case of the Ebola virus to present itself in the United States was in Texas. We are this nation's leading economy and a hub for international travel. This otherwise enviable position in the global economy comes with unwanted risks.

It's also no surprise that Washington has failed us once again; failure to properly screen all travelers at ports of entry, and a failure to provide meaningful support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."


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Why Didn't the City Think Subpoenaing a Bunch of Pastors Might Be a Big Deal?

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Paul Aningat
It's hard to understand how or why the City of Houston didn't anticipate a clamorous backlash before it sent sweeping subpoenas to five local pastors critical of the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

Maybe it's because Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman truly didn't understand the scope of those subpoenas, which asked for not just any internal records related to "equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity," but also the pastors' "speeches" and "sermons" that reference the city's fight to ban LGBT discrimination. The excuse floated Wednesday by Parker and Feldman that they aren't to blame, since an outside legal firm filed the broad request for documents, rings somewhat hollow, given Feldman's unwavering stance supporting the subpoenas earlier in the week and the less-than-apologetic tone coming out of Parker's office...

Beneath the outrage and the demagoguery, there's an underlying question: is there a legitimate legal basis for the city to subpoena this stuff? And, does the city's request (which Feldman says he'll amend to be a bit more narrow) violate the pastors' religious freedom protections?

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Christians Freak Out After City Subpoenas Sermons in Anti-HERO Lawsuit

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Aaron Reiss
In a tone-deaf moment of legal strategy, the City of Houston last month sent local pastors critical of the city's anti-discrimination ordinance sweeping subpoenas for notes and sermons.

The move comes in a lawsuit challenging the City of Houston for throwing out a petition from anti-HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) Christians that sought to repeal the law and put it to a ballot referendum. In their vociferous opposition to the ordinance, which bans anti-gay discrimination (with an exemption for religious organizations), religious-right groups were most riled up about the provision allowing transgender people barred from a restroom to file a complaint with the city. In circulating their petition, the group -- led, in part, by Jared Woodfill, former Harris County Republican Party chairman -- claimed that the ordinance threatens "the physical and emotional safety of our women and children!"

But last month's subpoenas by the City of Houston, which only came to light this past week when attorneys filed a motion to quash the request, weren't lobbed at any of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city. The subpoenas targeted pastors who have been vocal critics of the anti-discrimination ordinance, including Hernan Castano, Magda Hermida, Khan Huynh, Steve Riggle, and David Welch.

And the subpoenas were far reaching. Among other documents, the city asked the pastors to turn over records related to...

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District Attorney Candidate Kim Ogg on the "Human Toll" of Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Offenders

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Wiros
Last Friday, Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney, was the guest of honor at a gathering of the Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-pot legalization group.

Just let that sink in for a moment. A major party candidate vying for the largest prosecutor's office in Texas, and one of the largest in the country, took her campaign to a pro-marijuana gathering. There, Ogg spoke not only of the money Harris County taxpayers could save if the county shifted how it prosecutes misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, but of the war on drugs' human toll.

Here's part of what she told the NORML crowd Friday at Cafe Adobe:


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Why Is Dredging Oysters at Night a Felony, Anyway?

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Stay tuned for Law & Order STU: Steve Toth Unit.
You probably didn't know that, in Texas, lying in a fishing tournament is a punishable offense that can land you in jail for a year.

You probably didn't know that because you're a generally honest person, you don't fish competitively, or you aren't Texas Representative Steve Toth, who tried once and for all how to codify obscure offenses that lay outside the Texas Penal Code. Think of it as silly laws meeting a silly legislative bill in a perfect storm of utter silliness. The bill was DOA. Now a dude at the Texas Public Policy Foundation wants Toth to revive it.

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