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August 23rd, 2013:

Friday random ten: Just a coincidence, I swear

No theme this week, just the first ten songs that came up on shuffle. You know, old school random ten-ness.

1. Funny Cigarette – Asylum Street Spankers
2. You Can If You Think You Can – Ball, Barton & Strehli
3. Pressure Drop – Toots and the Maytalls
4. Amish Paradise – Weird Al Yankovic
5. ¿(Mamacita) Donde Esta Santa Claus? – Charo
6. War Pigs – CAKE
7. Take Me (I’m Yours) – etgillies
8. Possum – Phish
9. In A Cave – Tokyo Police Club
10. Luanne – Tufts Beelzebubs

Like I said, this was a basic “hit Shuffle and write down the first ten songs” list. The fact that the first song that came up was “Funny Cigarette” in a week when President Obama is talking about medical marijuana is just one of those crazy things. And yes, that’s the Charo on song #5. I like unconventional Christmas songs, OK? Have a good weekend, y’all.

DOJ files suit against Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps


Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that it will again seek to dismantle Texas’ voter ID law, this time with a lawsuit alleging the measure violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The department also said on Thursday that it will seek to have Texas’ redistricting maps declared unconstitutional.

Section 2 of the 1965 act prohibits voting laws that discriminate based on race, color or membership in a minority group. Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Department of Justice comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed implementation of the state law that requires voters to furnish a valid photo ID before casting a ballot. Prior to that ruling, the department and, separately, a three-judge panel of federal judges in Washington, had struck down the 2011 state law after denying Texas’ request for preclearance. The high court’s ruling eliminated the preclearance requirement.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement about the voter ID provision. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

The DOJ also said that it will seek “declaration that Texas’s 2011 redistricting plans for the U.S. Congress and the Texas State House of Representatives were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” That, too, is in violation of Section 2 and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the department alleges.


The DOJ said it would file suit against the state of Texas, the Texas secretary of state and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas DPS is the agency charged with issuing state-issued IDs or driver’s licenses.

The secretary of state’s office has not received a copy of the lawsuit and will review it when it is received, said Alicia Pierce, the agency’s spokeswoman.


In its statement, the DOJ added that it would ask the court to subject the state to new preclearance requirements under Section 3 of the act.

A copy of the statement is here, a copy of the lawsuit is here, and a roundup of reactions, which go about as you’d expect them to, is here and here. The NAACP is also seeking to join in the DOJ suit over voter ID. Given the recent brouhaha in Edinburg, where city council elections are about to be held, it would be nice if the DOJ could secure an injunction against the voter ID law, to keep things as they were before. We’ll see about that. In the meantime, buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to get bumpy from here. SCOTUSBlog, which has a typically detailed description of the two lawsuits, Daily Kos, Texas Politics, Ari Berman, Molly Redden, Rick Hasen, who wonders about preliminary injunctive relief, BOR, and Trail Blazers have more, while TPM wonders if North Carolina will be next.

UPDATE: Some background information on the case from Texas Redistricting, which summarizes what the DOJ is pursuing. The original lawsuit against the voter ID law has now been amended with extra complaints.

What would Ben Hall do for schools?

Ben Hall made his official filing for Mayor on Wednesday, and had a campaign rally after ward. This story is about that and about a new video his campaign released, and it contains three ways in which Hall says he is different than Mayor Parker. One of them is worth highlighting here:

2. Education: “We need to educate and train our kids with the best possible education that any school district or human history can provide. The present mayor believes that’s not her responsibility because she ‘has no statutory authority.’ It’s not about statute, it’s about leadership.” During this comment, the words “Mayor Parker will ignore education. Mayor Hall will expand education” show on the screen.

[Parker campaign spokesperson Sue] Davis responded: ”While Mr. Hall wants to run the schools, Mayor Parker has made sure that city resources are working to strengthen schools and help schoolchildren. She just distributed 25,000 backpacks full of school supplies to children in need. She’s worked to coordinate infrastructure projects near schools and keep our kids safe when they go to school. She’s building new libraries and funding after-school programs. And she’s working with partner organizations to help children stay in school and gain the necessary skills to find good jobs when they graduate.”

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

As with the other two points Hall noted, having to do with economic opportunity and crime prevention, this is what I find so frustrating about Hall’s candidacy. There’s absolutely no detail in this suggestion – I can hardly call it an “idea” with so little substance to it. There’s nothing to indicate what Hall would do as Mayor to this goal of providing the “best possible education that any school district or human history can provide”. Hall brushes aside the Mayor’s point about lacking any statutory authority, but the fact remains that unlike some cities, the Mayor of Houston doesn’t appoint a school chancellor or superintendent, and we have multiple independent school districts with independently elected school boards that have taxing authority and set their own budgets. Some of these school districts are quite large – HISD, Alief, Spring Branch, Kingwood, Cy-Fair – some are small, they cover turf that includes Houston and not-Houston, and they all have their own identity and governing philosophy. While I’m sure that most of them would be willing to work with the city on certain items, I’m equally sure none of them will cede any of their legal rights and responsibilities without a fight that the city would lose because it has no grounds to assert any authority over them. I truly have no clue what Hall has in mind when he says stuff like this. While it’s possible that he’s such a visionary that I can’t even see the box he thinking outside of, it’s also possible that he’s completely unclear about what office it is he’s running for and what that job entails. In the absence of further information, I have to lean towards the latter interpretation.

With all that said, there are some things that a Mayor can do to abet public education in Houston. Mayor Parker herself discussed some of those things, as well as some of the limitations, back in 2009. If you follow those links, you’ll see a number of those themes echoed in Sue Davis’ comments. It would make for a genuinely interesting conversation if Ben Hall had taken Parker’s words from back then and offered an in depth critique of how she’s done on them. Maybe he can bring it up at one of the candidate-forums-that-aren’t-debates that the two of them will be attending.

Or Hall could take a different path and propose something along the lines of Peter Brown’s “urban school district” idea, which would involve putting statutory authority for education under the Mayor. Needless to say, that conversation would have to begin with the Legislature, and I’d bet a considerable fraction of Hall’s bank account that it would go absolutely nowhere, since every school district, superintendent, and school board trustee in the state would line up to oppose it. But it is an idea that’s consistent with what Hall is saying here, and whatever else it is, it would be bold and visionary. But we’d need for him to say that he has something like this in mind first. And that gets back to my complaint about details.

Special prosecutor appointed in Perry/Lehmberg veto threat case

Meet Mike McCrum.

Mike McCrum

District Judge Robert Richardson named Mike McCrum to look into a complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice against the governor. The watchdog group alleges that Perry abused his power by threatening to cut funding to the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign. The Democrat pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, served time in jail but pledged to remain in office for the rest of her term, which ends in 2016.

Perry subsequently used his line-item veto power to cut off state funding to the part of her office responsible for investigating state elected officials. Perry said he’d lost faith in Lehmberg’s ability to perform her duties. If Lehmberg had resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor. Perry has denied any wrongdoing

“As he has done following every session he’s been governor, Gov. Perry has exercised his constitutional veto authority through line item vetoes in the budget,” said Josh Havens, a spokesman for Perry.


McCrum is a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, who said in that role he has investigated public officials in the past. His role is to act as the acting district attorney in the case, determining if there is evidence of wrongdoing and prosecuting the case if necessary.

“I think the first steps are for me are to go and get a preliminary analysis as to what is really necessary (to complete an investigation),” McCrum said. “This matter requires that no rash judgment be made, that there be some careful consideration of all options.”

As noted before, the legal issue is not the veto itself but the “resign or else” demand that preceded it. Had Perry not shot his mouth off before issuing the veto, there would be no complaint. I look forward to seeing how McCrum proceeds. Trail Blazers and the Trib have more.

There will be an app for your auto insurance

Do you frequently forget to put your proof of insurance in your car and/or your wallet? The Lege has provided a solution for you.

Thanks to a law passed during the 83rd legislative session, motorists will be able to pull up proof of insurance on their phones to show officers.

Lawmakers and insurance industry professionals say that Senate Bill 181 helps Texas keep up with the times.

“This bill just seemed like the common-sense thing to do,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who co-authored the legislation. “It came to us through a recommendation and provided an opportunity to make use of technology to make life a little simpler for many Texas motorists.”

Traffic stops will occur the same as before, but instead of the driver handing the officer a paper copy of the insurance card, the officer can note the pertinent data off of the mobile device.


The impact of the new law on Texas drivers and law enforcement is convenience and efficiency, said Beaman Floyd, executive director of the Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions.

“If you are involved in a traffic stop, then you are going to be able to demonstrate what you are going to need to demonstrate faster,” Floyd said. “And that means that for law enforcement officers, it’s less time standing out there by the side of the road while you are searching through your glove box.”

Concerns were raised about the ease of counterfeiting an electronic insurance card, but it is just as easy to forge a paper copy, Floyd said.

Whether the insurance is presented on paper or electronically, the officer takes the information and runs it through a verification database.

“If somebody actually tried to counterfeit an electronic proof of insurance, they will be subject to that verification and they will still be caught,” Floyd said.

I wrote about this during the session when there were a couple of House bills to accomplish this working their way through the system. I lost track of it from there, thanks in part I’m sure to some of the more distracting issues that came up, so I’m glad to hear that a version of this passed. Speaking as someone who is one of those people that loses track of his proof of insurance card, I’ll be downloading an app for my smartphone as soon as I hear one is available from my insurance company.