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Posts under ‘National news’

More rules against polluting your neighbors proposed

Good. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher new limits on Tuesday on smokestack emissions from Texas and 22 other states that burden downwind areas with air pollution from power plants they can’t control. At the same time, the EPA moved to remove two states — South Carolina and Florida — from the “good neighbor” rules, […]

Regulating methane emissions

Get all your gas and fart jokes ready, because they’re just going to be inevitable. The Obama administration’s plan to slash methane emissions will raise costs for the oil and gas industry, forcing energy companies to invest in new pumps, compressors and equipment to prevent leaks of the potent greenhouse gas. Although the draft regulations […]

No, we shouldn’t have any kind of elections for SCOTUS justices

Your junior Senator, ladies and gentlemen. Dismayed by a pair of Supreme Court decisions upholding Obamacare and gay marriage, Republican Ted Cruz presided over a packed Senate hearing Wednesday calling for judicial elections and term limits to rein in what he called “judicial tyranny” and “the abuse of judicial power.” While term limits or recall […]

What’s next for Wendy Davis

Back to issues advocacy, which in this case is a fine thing. Wendy Davis, whose fight against tighter abortion restrictions catapulted her into the national spotlight and an ill-fated race for governor, said Monday she is planning a national initiative on gender equality. “My hope is to supplement the work of organizations that are striving […]

The Memphis pension cutting experience

In discussions about Houston’s pension liabilities, the city of Detroit is often trotted out as an analogy and cautionary tale. There’s another city that may be a more accurate comparison, and it’s offering an illustration right now of what might happen if things proceed as many candidates for local office and the Houston Chronicle would […]

The cost of unplanned pregnancies

From Wonkblog: Unintended pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year, according to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute. That averages out to a cost of about $366 per every woman of childbearing age in the U.S. Overall, more than half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and roughly 1-in-20 American women of reproductive […]

Here come those CFPB payday lending regulations

An update from the AP. Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says state laws governing the $46 billion payday lending industry often fall […]

The national fight against equality

Once again, Texas leads the way in an undesirable category. In Georgia, where lawmakers are considering a bill that critics fear could allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers, the former head of the country’s largest Protestant denomination recently urged lawmakers to reign in “erotic liberty.” The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April […]

SCOTUS will take up same sex marriage

This is it. The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will take up four cases challenging state bans on same-sex couples’ marriages — a long anticipated move that could lead to nationwide marriage equality. The cases ask the justices whether Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee bans on same-sex couples’ marriages and bans on recognition […]

Louie, Louie

Great news, everyone. Christmas isn’t over yet. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, announced Sunday morning that he will challenge House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio to be the leader of the House Republicans. Gohmert is, for now, likely a long-shot threat to Boehner. But two years ago, Boehner won re-election as speaker by one […]

Et tu, nickels?

I’ve blogged a few times before about pennies and the effort some people have made to eliminate them. Now it looks like we may need to add the nickel to the endangered coin list. The U.S. Mint has some good news and bad news in its latest biennial report to Congress. The good news is […]

I’ll see you in C-U-B-A

Among the many likely winners of the new US policy towards Cuba will be the city of Houston. As an established travel gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, Houston is positioned to benefit from any potential easing of tourism restrictions in Cuba. “There’s a lot of fascination with Cuba,” said Michelle Weller, a travel […]

Here come the new ozone standards

I have three things to say about this. Over the objections of Texas officials, the Obama administration on Wednesday proposed a long-delayed rule to slash levels of ozone – a smog-forming pollutant known to worsen asthma, lung disease and heart conditions. The regulation is the latest example of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s use of […]

Louisiana breaks the streak

One in every crowd, I guess. A federal judge [in New Orleans] upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, going against what had been a unanimous trend of federal court decisions striking down such bans since the Supreme Court ruled on the matter last year. In his ruling, Judge Martin L. C. Feldman […]

Ninety years later, we could still use an Equal Rights Amendment

I have three things to say about this. Drafted by a suffragette in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has been stirring up controversy ever since. Many opponents considered it dead when a 10-year ratification push failed in 1982, yet its backers on Capitol Hill, in the Illinois statehouse and elsewhere are making clear this summer […]

Just a reminder: Medicaid expansion is still a great deal

But only if you do it. We learned late last week that the decision by 24 states to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion comes as a startling cost — $423.6 billion in lost federal funds from 2013 to 2022, according to researchers at the Urban Institute. So how are states justifying their decisions to leave that […]

Chron calls for end of pot prohibition

By which they mean that the federal government should repeal its anti-marijuana laws and leave it to the states to regulate. While there are still questions about long-term health effects of marijuana use or the policy implications of decriminalization or legalization, the United States knows all too well the consequences of continuing the war on […]

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds marriage equality

That’s two federal appeals courts, to go along with however many federal district courts and state courts. Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not […]

Castro confirmed for HUD

Congratulations, Secretary Castro! The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The nomination was approved 71-26 on a roll call vote. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted for the nomination; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, voted against it. Republicans […]

Utah will take same sex marriage fight to SCOTUS

This could be the ballgame. The Utah attorney general’s office announced Wednesday that it will appeal the 10th Circuit Court’s decision last month upholding same-sex marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court. Wednesday was the deadline for the state to seek a full-court review by all 12 judges of the 10th Circuit Court, but, according to […]

Students against voter ID

A new front is opened in the fight against voter ID. Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. […]

What do the Mayors want?

Action on climate change. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan group that represents the leaders of 1,400 cities, each of which is home to at least 30,000 people, has called on the Obama administration and Congress to “enact an Emergency Climate Protection law that provides a framework and funding for the implementation … of […]

Tenth Circuit upholds same-sex marriage

A huge step forward. A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states outlawing same-sex marriage are in violation of the U.S. Constitution. By upholding a Utah judge’s decision, the a three-member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver became the first appeals court to rule on the issue, setting a historic precedent […]

If Louisiana can do it…

By “it” I mean expand Medicaid. What’s Texas’ excuse if that happens? Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter on Monday left open the possibility of expanding Louisiana’s Medicaid program to cover more of the working poor. Vitter, a candidate for governor and ardent critic of the health overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, said he’s not […]

Medicaid expansion: Still a great deal, especially for cities

So many uninsured people could get covered if Medicaid expansion were universal instead of just here and there. Expanding Medicaid under the new health care law would do a lot to slash the number of uninsured people, at least in some of the nation’s largest cities, according to a new report. A review of 14 […]

Texas will do just fine under the new EPA clean air regulations

Unless it wants to fail, of course, which is always an option under the likes of Rick Perry and Greg Abbott. Texas could lead the way into a less carbon-intensive future under the Obama administration’s plans to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Or the state could have trouble keeping the lights […]

Castro gets the nod

As anticipated. Before a packed crowd in the White House’s state dining room, President Obama on Friday nominated San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to become the newest — and youngest — member of his cabinet, as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “I am nominating another all-star who’s done a fantastic job in San […]

Castro to DC?

The hot rumor going around is that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is being vetted for a Cabinet position in the Obama administration. For the second time in two years, President Barack Obama has offered Julián Castro a chance to serve in his Cabinet, and the mayor has signaled his willingness to begin a swift […]

Don’t kill the penny, revalue it

Ryan Cooper proposes a big idea to make coins more useful so that people start spending them again instead of hoarding them in jars for months at a time. Here’s my solution: multiply the face value of every U.S. coin by 10. A penny will be worth 10 cents, a nickel 50 cents, a dime […]

FEC approves Bitcoin for campaign contributions

It’s the right call. The Federal Election Commission on Thursday voted to allow political committees to accept Bitcoin donations and outlined the ways that the virtual currency can be used by federally regulated campaigns. Responding to a request from a political action committee, the commissioners unanimously approved an advisory opinion that defined Bitcoins, which allows […]

Legalize moonshining

You can brew your own beer at home, and you can ferment your own wine at home, but if you try to distill your own spirits at home, you’re asking for trouble from the rev’nooers. The movement to legalize marijuana dominates headlines these days, but another group is laboring in relative obscurity to legalize its […]

And the first open enrollment period comes to an end

Lots of people signed up in the last few days of enrollment. Some tried but came away empty. Some of the hundreds of Houstonians who sought last-minute help enrolling for the Affordable Care Act on Sunday left thrilled to have health insurance for the first time in their lives, while others walked away frustrated by […]

The CFPB is almost ready to roll out payday lending regulations

I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Whenever governments start thinking about cracking down on small-dollar, high-interest financial products like payday loans and check cashing services, a shrill cry goes up from the businesses that offer them: You’re just going to hurt the poor folks who need the money! What do you want […]

Michigan, come on down

You are the next state to have your anti-same sex marriage law thrown out by a federal judge. In a historic ruling that provided a huge morale boost to the gay-rights movement, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman today struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it the 18th state in the nation to allow […]