Booking Agent Files Amazingly Insipid Letter About Matthew McConaughey's UH Speech

Categories: Texas

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Is there a Dallas Buyers' Club discount for McConaughey speeches? We may never know...
A talent booker for Matthew McConaughey doesn't want anyone knowing how much the University of Houston is paying his client to deliver UH's commencement speech in May, and has outlined his arguments in one of the most idiotic letters to the Texas Attorney General we've ever seen. It's awesome.

Instead of doing something silly like having an actual attorney file an objection with the AG's Office, Celebrity Talent International President Glenn Richardson apparently hammered out the letter himself -- misspelling McConaughey's last name -- suggesting that disclosing the actor's fee might somehow put him in danger.

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Judge Alicia Franklin's and Attorney Doug York's Tone-Deaf Honeymoon Registry

Categories: Texas

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Screenshot, honeymoonpixie.com.
You can help a judge's dream honeymoon come true.
Lawyers in Houston are scratching their heads over a lavish honeymoon gift registry posted online by Harris County Family Court Judge Alicia Franklin and her fiancé, attorney Doug York.

We're joining in on the head-scratching, especially since the exposure of the site -- which describes the couple's plans to stay in Paris and the Maldives ("for a little r&r") -- comes on the heels of a report finding that Franklin collected $806,005 from the county for her work as a judge-appointed attorney between 2010 and 2014.

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How Scared Should Houston Be About Low Oil Prices?

Categories: Texas

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Spindletop, back in the day when a gusher was simply a good thing.

It's hard to believe that once upon a time, the wise sages of energy were saying that Texas would never see another oil boom and the United States as a whole would run out of oil sooner rather than later. Well, those sages were wrong because not only has there been a boom, we now might just be in the midst of a pretty epic bust. Maybe.

Things seem relatively quiet within the oil industry right now, but the odds are good that with prices still hovering in the $40s, the calm won't last long. Low oil prices have been hitting Houston since January with announced layoffs paired up with a general unease in the air. Home sales have fallen for the first time in years, and some are saying that there won't be enough people coming in to rent the apartments that have been sprouting up across the city.

"There's a lot of whistling past the graveyard in Houston real estate right now, but by the third quarter this year, everyone is going to be convinced the end of the world has come," Bill Gilmer, Director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting in the University of Houston Bauer College of Business, says. "Right about then, we'll be stunned by how far the price has fallen and asking why we haven't diversified like we thought we had. About that time when we feel absolutely the worst, the turn will come."

The low oil prices have already been translating into tough times for people who work in the white-collar side of the oil industry. Layoffs started with the service companies, but almost every energy company will be cutting people from its payroll as the low oil prices continue. "It's a complicated story right now. First of all, we are going to get hit and we're going to get hit hard by the declining oil prices. If that was all that was going on, we'd have a mild recession on our hands and lose maybe 65,000 to 70,000 jobs. But that's not all that's going on, so it's not that simple," Gilmer says.

It's hard to say as of right now how many job losses that will ultimately amount to, but Gilmer points out that the loss of white-collar jobs translates to at least four other jobs connected to that one paycheck. People with these jobs are making $140,000 a year, about double what the average person is making, so these jobs are indirectly supporting about four other jobs outside of the industry entirely -- the people that these people hire. Once that job is gone, it will have a ripple effect on the other people indirectly connected, he says.


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Should Texas Have Confederate Flag License Plates? U.S. Supreme Court Hears the Case Today

Categories: Texas

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The proposed plate in question.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear the case looking at whether Texas officials violated First Amendment rights over a proposed Confederate flag specialty license plate. The case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., is a fascinating one because, despite what you'd expect from Texas, the poster child state of all things conservative, the state government has taken a firm stance against allowing the Confederate flag on Texas license plates.

This all started about five years ago when the Sons of Confederate Veterans applied for a specialty license plate showing the Confederate flag along with the name of the group and the year it was established, 1896. Now, you can get a specialty license plate for just about anything, including wild turkeys and Dr Pepper, so it's possible that the Sons of Confederate Veterans (an ardent group that tends to show up at various vaguely Civil War-associated events dressed in thick and fairly historically accurate gray wool Confederate uniforms) never considered that anyone would have a problem with this particular plate.


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5 More Good Bills Filed in the Texas Legislature

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thinkstock, monica fuentes

We've already talked plenty these past few weeks about the many alarming bills filed by the members of the 84th Texas Legislature. So far this biennial legislative session has been a good show for those who savor watching one of the most conservative legislative bodies in the country try and shove a well known conservative state even further toward the right. It's an entertaining political circus to watch, right up until you realize that there's a good chance some of that stuff might actually become actual law. And that's when it is time to start looking on the bright side and sussing out the more positive pieces of legislation that are being run through the glorified political sausage machine known as the Lege.

Legislators had from November 10 to March 13 to file their bills for the general session. The filing deadline was last Friday. We've sifted through some of the bills filed and found some bills that are downright encouraging. Despite the fact that there's a ton of legislation focused on making sure all the guns can be openly carried everywhere and an alarming number of anti-LGBT laws of all sorts, there are actual good ideas being worked on. Here are five of our favorites:

5. The one that will protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. HB 3495, filed by state Rep. Celia Israel, an Austin Democrat, has introduced a bill that will protect young people and their families from conversion therapy, a tactic that -- although it has become a part of the GOP platform -- has been condemned by the pretty much everyone, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Israel's bill will make it so that any mental health provider who "engages in unprofessional conduct" by trying to change a child or minor's gender identity or sexual or romantic feelings toward the same sex will be in trouble with the state. Specifically, they'll be subject to disciplinary action "by any state regulatory entity with the power to take disciplinary action against the mental health provider." Pretty nifty, right?


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Four Texas "Reparative Therapy" Options to Help You Get Lone Star Straight

Categories: Texas

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Instead of the YMCA, these guys should have tried CHAT (Christian Heterosexual Affirmation Therapy).
Just because Texas Representative Celia Israel filed a bill to outlaw "reparative therapy" (the kind of therapy that "cures" homosexuality) for minors doesn't mean that the gay baby ought to be thrown out with the bathwater. There are still places in Texas where those afflicted with same-sex-sensations can be "cured." Here are a few shameful witch-doctor bastions of bigotry totally reputable reparative therapy locations to help you get Lone Star Straight.

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Beaumont State Rep Files Oyster Reef "Land Grab" Bill

Categories: Environment, Texas

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Photo by Daniel Salazar
A bill filed by state Rep. Joe Deshotel may change how water land rights are handled.

Last week, just before the filing deadline, state Rep. Joe Deshotel filed House Bill 3335, a bill innocously described as "relating to the regulation of oyster resources." However, there's a lot more to HB 3335 than that. With this bill, the lease for a controversial project, viewed by supporters as an attempt to save the Texas oyster reefs and by opponents as a bid to control the bulk of the Texas oyster reefs, could become legal.

We're talking about Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management, commonly known as STORM.

STORM is the brainchild of Tracy Woody and his father-in-law Ben Nelson, the owners of Jeri's Seafood, a company that oysters from Smith Point, as we wrote in a feature story earlier this year. Back in early 2014, Woody and Nelson set up a separate company, Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management (aka STORM). Then they obtained a 30-year lease through the Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District for more than 23,000 acres of submerged land in Trinity and Galveston bays. And then, after they had secured the lease, Woody and Nelson started informing the other oystermen who held oyster reef leases in those waters that STORM now held the rights to that submerged land and the oyster reefs on it.


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5 More Crazy Bills Filed in the Texas Legislature

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Photo from the Texas Legislature

We always look forward to the biennial Texas legislative session with a mix of gut-gnawing fear and giddy anticipation. This year was no exception and so far, based on the bills filed by the 84th Texas Legislature, the stars of the best political reality TV show this side of D.C. have not failed us..

No, despite some surprisingly smart proposed legislation filed over the course of the legislative filing period -- from November 10 through March 13 -- state lawmakers also cooked up some bills that have given us armchair Lege watchers plenty to cackle over (we laugh because it's so much easier on the mascara than crying). There was a last flurry of activity before the filing deadline Friday and lawmakers came up with some incredibly, shall we say, entertaining bills as a result. We've rounded up five that really caught our attention:

5. The one where business owners will be able to refuse service on religious grounds. HB 2553 filed by state Rep. Molly White, a Republican from Benton, is a real winner. This bill would change the state business and commerce code so that private business owners would have the right not to provide goods or services if doing so would be "in violation of that business owner's sincerely held religious or personal beliefs." The bill would also clear business owners of any liability for refusing goods and services as long as they were refusing on those same "sincere" religious grounds.

There's a lot wrong with this one. First, it comes from White, a regular model of religious tolerance and tact. For those who've already blocked it out, White is the freshman representative who dealt with Texas Muslim Capitol Day by leaving an Israeli flag prominently displayed in her office and informing her constituents via social media that she had instructed her staff to require any Muslim visitors "to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws" if they walked into her office. And now she's pitching a "religious tolerance" law that would basically allow businesses to discriminate against whomever they feel like as long as they can "sincerely" prove that they were doing so because their particular religious teachings demanded it. With language that vague just imagine the possibilities for legal discrimination! They're practically limitless!


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Jockey Indicted for Shocking Horse at Sam Houston Race Park

Categories: Sports, Texas

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Via the Paulick Report
Roman Chapa aboard Quiet Acceleration during the $50,000 Richard King Stakes on January 17, 2015.

A jockey was indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury on Wednesday for allegedly shocking a horse to fix a race at Sam Houston Race Park on January 17.

When Quiet Acceleration galloped across the finish line with 43-year-old jockey Roman Chapa aboard to win the $50,000 Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park on January 17, the photos of the moment captured the victory, but they also showed that Chapa was clutching a small nude-colored object in his left palm. The object, a buzzer, is an electric shocking device that can be used to shock a horse and get it to move faster. Buzzers are banned from racing.


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Daughter of Man Killed at Texas City Refinery Watches USW Strike

Categories: Texas

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Photo by Max Burkhalter
Katherine Rodriguez has been following the USW strike, .
Since the start of the United Steelworkers strike at the oil refineries, Katherine Rodriguez has been watching the developments and thinking of her father, Ray Gonzalez. "He would have loved this. He would have been out there on the picket line with them if he was still here," she says.

USW members have been on strike since February 1. Union reps have rejected at least seven contract offers from Shell and pulled more than 6,500 workers at 15 plants -- with about 5,000 coming from 12 oil refineries -- since the strike started. Locally, the strike began when the union pulled union workers out of LyondellBasell, Shell Deer Park and the Texas City refinery where Rodriguez's father was fatally injured more than a decade ago. While the two sides are reportedly butting heads over a variety of things -- including contractors and rules that make sure fatigued workers aren't stuck on the job -- it's the safety issues that hit closest to home for Rodriguez.

Her father was killed by burns sustained in an accident at the then-British Petroleum Texas City refinery in September 2004. Gonzalez lived in the hospital for weeks after the accident and for a long time, Rodriguez and her two sisters and their mother hoped that Gonzalez would pull through. But eventually his body began to fail and his organs started shutting down. The family was together with him at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston when they turned off all the machines.

After that, Rodriguez couldn't even stand to talk about what had happened to her father, but she started researching the industry that employed him for most of his adult life. Only then did she begin to understand what it was really like behind the refinery fence. While he never said a word in front of his daughters about the dangers and the near-misses that were a part of life at the Texas City refinery, Gonzalez would tell his wife about the burns and how careful workers had to be at the refinery, her mother later told her. "He kept that from us because he didn't want us to worry. If we had known we would have worried all the time," Rodriguez says now.

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