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July 9th, 2013:

PPP polling miscellany

Public Policy Polling has some additional results from its latest venture into Texas.

-By a 54/21 margin Texas voters say that they support the Voting Rights Act, including 45/23 even with Republicans. Only 29% of voters say that they favor the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn parts of the VRA last week, with 45% opposed.

-It’s going to be a while before Texas voters get on board with gay marriage – we find that only 34% of voters in the state support it to 57% who are opposed. As we find in most of the South though the hang up for Texans is more the term ‘marriage’ than opposing equal legal rights for same sex couples- we find that 63% of voters support at least civil unions to only 31% who are opposed to any sort of legal equality. 72% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and even a 51% majority of Republicans support either gay marriage or civil unions in Texas.

When it comes to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, only 14% of Texans think that should be an allowable practice compared to 75% who believe it should not. Even among Republicans just 21% believe that’s acceptable to 62% who think it is unacceptable.

I don’t quite know what to make of that VRA result. While it mirrors national polling numbers in the wake of the SCOTUS decision, there was evidence prior to that decision that support for the VRA – in particular, for preclearance – was splintering along partisan lines. That’s not terribly surprising, given the ferocious opposition from Republican officials and the hamstringing of the voter ID law. I’d like to see what happens to these numbers in a few months’ time.

As for the gay marriage numbers, I believe they will continue to shift in the positive direction. The important thing is that most people don’t oppose any kind of legal equality. It’s probably safe to assume that much of this opposition comes from GOP primary voters, and that means another place where Republican statewide officials are going to be out of step with prevailing public opinion. Democratic candidates cannot and must not shy away from this.

One more result of interest:

When it comes to general election match ups for President in the state Hillary Clinton leads Perry 48/44, but trails the other Republicans we tested by 3-9 points. She’s down 46/43 to Jeb Bush, 49/44 to Ted Cruz, and 47/38 to Chris Christie.

Hillary Clinton continues to poll as a candidate that could make Texas competitive in 2016, but it must be noted that her numbers have slipped a bit here since the last results in January. This is to be expected – as I said at that time, partisan affiliation is going to exert itself. I do believe she has a higher ceiling than President Obama has shown, but it’s not clear yet how much higher. Needless to say, 2016 is still a long way off. Texpatriate and BOR have more.

Perry will not run for re-election

There’s your big announcement.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Wants to spend more time with corndogs

Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday that he will not run for re-election next year, creating the first open race for Texas governor since 1990 and making Attorney General Greg Abbott the instant favorite to replace him.

“I remain excited about the future and the challenges ahead, but the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” Perry said. “Today I am announcing I will not seek re-election as governor of Texas. I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation. I will actively lead this great state.”

Abbott hasn’t formally said what job he wants, but with the biggest war chest in Texas politics and a growing staff to match, his ambition for the top job in state government is not a secret. And Perry’s exit from the statewide stage after nearly a quarter century doesn’t necessarily end his political ambition. He has said previously he will make his decision about a White House bid before the end of this year; Perry said on Monday that he’d continue to pray on it.


No matter how much Perry involves himself in the matter of state government during his remaining months in office, Monday marks the start of a new era — with new personalities — in Texas politics.

Below him, in races for lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and other offices, years of pent-up ambition have been unleashed. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is trying to hang on, but his defeat in the U.S. Senate race last year, and a long list of opponents who want his job, will make for a tough re-election race. Comptroller Susan Combs is bowing out after two terms, and a host of other statewide officials are trying to move up the food chain.

Abbott stands to gain the most from Perry’s departure from the race. Because they are both staunch fiscal and social conservatives and share many of the same donors, they would have faced a high-stakes battle for the nomination had they faced off against each other. Republican Tom Pauken, a former Perry appointee to the Texas Workforce Commission, is in the governor’s race but faces an uphill climb.

Another candidate could yet emerge, but with nine months to go before the March primaries, Abbott is sitting pretty.

For such big news, I have very little to say. Perry has been a disaster as Governor, but as things stand now we’re hardly likely to do any better going forward. Policy hasn’t been a priority in this state since at least the first Bush term, and boy howdy, making Dubya look like a wonk is a hell of a thing. I suppose he could run for President again, but frankly I expect him to hop on the wingnut welfare wagon and cash in as soon as he reasonably can. We finally have a closing date for the Rick Perry Era, and I’m glad for that, but barring anything unexpected at this time his style of governance will still be around for the foreseeable future. Robert Miller, the Observer, Jason Stanford, Socratic Gadfly, PDiddie, Texpatriate, BOR, Political Animal, Erica Greider and EoW have more.

Senate begins omnibus abortion bill hearings

Remember, it’s all about women’s health.

Senate Bill 1, and its companion, House Bill 2, would ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization and recognize that the state has a compelling interest to protect fetuses from pain; require doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the facility; require doctors to administer the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 in person, rather than allow the woman to take it at home; and require abortions — including drug-induced ones — to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers.


The House will consider HB 2 on Tuesday. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, indicated that the committee would wait to vote on that version of the legislation, which means, it’s likely that the legislation would reach the Senate floor for debate on Thursday. If the House and Senate approve the same version of the legislation, it could reach Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for final approval by the end of this week.

Nelson said that every person who registered to give oral testimony before 11 a.m. would get to speak for two minutes. But if there were any outbursts from the public, one warning would be given before she would ask public safety officers to clear the committee room and end the hearing. Senators debated the bill among one another for roughly an hour before they began listening to public input.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, pressed SB 1 author Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, on amending the bill to include an exemption from the 20-week ban for women with pre-existing psychological conditions and redefining the “substantial medical evidence” the bill cites to “some medical evidence” or just “medical evidence.” Hegar rejected all of those changes.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, asked about including an exception for cases of rape and incest. Hegar responded that there is no exception after 24 weeks, so he did not see the need to have one at 20 weeks.

Zaffirini also asked Hegar what the bill did to reduce levels of unwanted pregnancy and inquired why it did not specifically address sex education. Hegar said the bill is not “a funding mechanism for women’s health” and that sex education is not on the call for this special session.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, debated with Hegar over whether it is realistic to require that abortion providers have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic.


Ellen Cooper, an expert witness from the Department of State Health Services, said that abortion clinics are inspected at least once a year, while ambulatory surgical centers are inspected every three to six years.

“Generally speaking, compared with the other facility types, I have not been aware of any particular concerns” associated with abortion clinics, she said, and later added, “there’s no reason for me to believe that one is safer than the other.”

Researchers with the Texas Public Policy Evaluation Project — a three-year study at the University of Texas at Austin evaluating the impact of the 2011 cuts to family planning financing in Texas — issued a policy brief detailing the impact of the legislation on five areas of the state that do not have an abortion clinic that meets the ambulatory surgical facility standards.

In the Rio Grande Valley, more than 2,634 women received an abortion in 2011 at one of two medical clinics, according to the policy brief, but if the law were to pass, those women would have to travel to San Antonio at least two times, adding 16 hours of travel to obtain the procedure.

Because only six of the state’s 42 existing abortion facilities meet the existing ambulatory surgical center standards, the policy brief states that women in the metropolitan areas near Beaumont-Port Arthur, Corpus Christi-Kingsville, El Paso, Midland-Odessa, and the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel on average more than 16 hours for two round-trip visits to obtain an abortion. That would increase the costs of obtaining an abortion, and require women to take more time off from work or school, according to the researchers. If there are fewer facilities, women will also be forced to wait longer for an appointment, the researchers add, and later-term abortions are associated with a higher risk of complications.

“Faced with these obstacles, some women may instead choose to try to self-induce their abortion, a phenomenon that we are already observing in the state,” states the policy brief. “We do not doubt that the proposed restrictions would reduce the number of legal abortions carried out in these regions, but we are deeply concerned about the increase in self-induced abortions and increase in later abortion that will almost certainly follow in the wake of these restrictions.”

Yes, the concern for women’s health just warms your heart, doesn’t it? As with the House committee hearing last week, testimony will go well into the night, or until the Chair gets tired of it all and arbitrarily cuts it off. I don’t know if the committee plans to vote on SB1 after the hearing or if it will wait till later, but as the story notes the whole thing could be wrapped up by the end of the week, since neither author is likely to accept any amendments. They have a political mission to accomplish, and they are focused on that. See BOR’s liveblogging for more.

On a side note, for those of you in Houston, the Stand With Texas Women bus tour is coming to Discovery Green tonight, July 9, at 6 PM. I have it on good authority that Sen. Wendy Davis will be one of the speakers. You can also buy one of those orange “Stand with Texas women” T-shirts for $15. I can’t be there, but if you can you should be. Stace, dKos, Texas Politics, and Trail Blazers.

If you want your trash to be collected

It’s best to put your trash can where the automated pickup arm can get it.

Three feet between bins, please

Last year, at least 9,000 trash cans in the city were left uncollected at some point, according to records kept by the city, a small percentage of the total number of bins emptied in a year, but enough to slow down an otherwise efficient operation.

On a recent morning, for example, one trash can was left too close to a mailbox, another was blocked by a parked car. [Garbage truck driver Derrick] Colomb had no choice but to slap orange tags on the offending bins.

Other times, what makes sense to residents becomes a huge inconveniences for the trash collector: a box full of paper sitting on top of a bin that fell off and spilled when Colomb tried to pick it up; smaller items of garbage thrown into the bin without being bagged, such as dirty paper towels, spill all over the front yard; bins that are filled over capacity.


The ZIP codes with most uncollected trash calls are 77004, 77026 and 77087, according to city records.

City officials say those neighborhoods are plagued with unauthorized trash cans and illegal dumping.

“They in general put out more trash and trash cans,” said Jeffery Williams, deputy assistant director of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department.

I seem to recall my bin not being emptied once or twice, but I don’t recall receiving a tag on it, which would presumably have explained why. If I’m remembering accurately, I’d say the most likely reason was a parked car too close to the bin. If you’ve ever seen the way this works, you’d understand why this is an issue. Basically, there’s a swinging arm that protrudes from the truck, with a pincer end that grabs the bin, then the arm lifts the bin and swings it over the truck, turning it upside down to empty it. This is true for both trash and single stream recycling bins. I definitely do see loose bits of trash or recycling on the ground occasionally after pickup, probably on days that are a little windy. Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered about this, now you know. Watch where you put your bins, and don’t overfill them or stack anything on top of them. Your garbage collector will thank you for it.