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October 11th, 2012:

DeLay argues his case before the appeals court panel

It’s an old, familiar argument.

Who are YOU to say that checks aren't cash?

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay should not go to prison on money-laundering charges because the 2002 campaign transaction involved a $190,000 check and not cash, his lawyer argued before the Third Court of Appeals Wednesday.

Houston lawyer Brian Wice said the Legislature later changed the money-laundering statute to include checks, proving that DeLay’s transaction was not covered by the law. But Travis County prosecutor Holly Taylor said lawmakers in 2005 were only clarifying what was already the law.

She said Wice’s argument is ludicrous because a drug dealer would have been guilty of money laundering if he used a money order but not a cashier’s check.

Taylor pointed out that criminals using checks were being successfully prosecuted before the 2005 change in the law, while Wice countered that their lawyers “didn’t have the sense” to raise the no-cash defense.

Yes, it’s our old friend the checks aren’t cash argument. Perhaps it’s just that previous lawyers didn’t have the brass to raise that defense. I’ll be honest, I thought the Court of Criminal Appeals settled this matter in 2010 when they unanimously ruled that the state’s money-laundering statute did apply to checks. That was an appeal from the Ellis/Colyandro trial, so I guess DeLay gets to make the same arguments himself. There’s also an issue being raised about whether or not the corporate donors knew what their money was going to, but this to me is the signature question. All we know for sure is that the CCA will get to rule on it again. The Trib has more.

One bin to rule them all

This would be an innovative approach to deal with Houston’s unacceptably low recycling rate.

Under what is being called “Total Reuse: One Bin for All,” residents would wheel everything to the curb in one barrel and let the city sort it out.

If Houston can find a private-sector partner to help it build what could be a $100 million plant that would separate bottles from cans from paper from food from e-waste from yard clippings, the city would vault from one of the nation’s laggards in municipal recycling to one of the paragons.

[…]

City solid waste officials traveled to Germany last year to look at a facility there. Laura Spanjian, the city’s sustainability director, toured a plant this year in the city of Roseville, in northern California, that she said is, perhaps, the closest thing in the country to what Houston envisions. The Clinton Climate Initiative has lent Houston a full-time expert for free to help review the technology.

The plant would have conveyor belts, ballistic shredders, optical scanners, density separators and other technologies to sift from the contents of your trash can everything that can be recycled. At peak performance, the city could resell some of the dry materials and compost the food, or even put it into a digester that produces methane gas to power the facility. While all of these technologies have been put to widespread use, they have not been integrated into the kind of catch-all operation Houston envisions, Spanjian said.

“It relies on technology to look at every single material and decide whether that can be reused,” she said.

This is all very much in the conceptual phase right now. There’s no proposal and no funding mechanism for anything. I like the idea, and one reason why is because people are often very bad about separating trash from recyclables on their own, at least in public venues. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an outdoor event in Houston that had “garbage” bins and “recycling” bins whose contents weren’t indistinguishable. People either don’t notice, can’t tell the difference, or just don’t care. I recognize that’s not the problem this is designed to solve, but it is part of it. I hope this pans out, it would be a big step forward and could only enhance our coolness factor, too. Swamplot has more.

No time for trial in Guinn election lawsuit

I think this really is the end of the line for any actions that could affect the November 2012 ballot.

Zerick Guinn

The question of whether Chris Diaz’s 17-vote run-off victory for the Democratic Precinct 2 Constable nomination was legitimate will fade into Harris County history unresolved after a state district judge Tuesday ruled insufficient time remains before the November election to settle the issue at trial.

Precinct 2 Constable Sgt. Zerick Guinn had sought a trial in 269th state District Court to prove irregularities in a runoff that handed the primary victory to his opponent. A recount of election results still showed Diaz had won.

After hearing testimony from Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart and other election officials, visiting state District Judge Suzanne Stovall ruled that not enough time for a trial and possible appeals remained. “I hate it,” she said of her ruling, “but that’s what the law requires.”

“I feel that we could have proved the case,” Guinn’s attorney, J.W. Beverly, said after the judge’s ruling. Beverly conceded that preparation for filing the law suit had “taken longer than we had hoped.”

The suit was filed four weeks after the recount was completed. Obviously, the abnormally deferred primary and runoff schedule had an effect as well. I still don’t think anything would have come of this, but it’s a shame to have the clock run out before all the questions could be answered.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 8

The Texas Progressive Alliance has Big Bird’s back as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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