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February 3rd, 2017:

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 31

I don’t know exactly how many more of these there are to go, but we are getting into the home stretch.

1. Last Dance – The Raveonettes (Sharin Foo)
2. Dream On – Rebecca Turner
3. We Belong Together – Rickie Lee Jones
4. Umbrella – Rihanna
5. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack
6. Lord Is It Mine – Robyn Madden
7. Diablo Rojo – Rodrigo y Gabriela (Gabriela Quintero)
8. Myself To Myself – Romeo Void (Debora Iyall)
9. Be My Baby – The Ronettes (Veronica Bennett, Estelle Bennett, Nedra Talley)
10. Seven Year Ache – Rosanne Cash

I also don’t know if it’s this particular list of songs or just general Trump-induced fatigue, but I can’t think of anything interesting to say. Talk amongst yourselves.

There is no “acceptable” bathroom bill

Please don’t try to create one.

A Republican in the Texas House is pitching an alternative to the “bathroom bill,” saying he wants to focus more on local control than on bathrooms.

State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, filed legislation Monday that would prohibit local governments from setting restroom policies for private businesses. The measure, House Bill 1362, also says public schools cannot adopt policies that allow “more than one sex or gender” to use use the same “multi-occupancy private spaces.”

The bill is similar to Senate Bill 6, a measure deemed a priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, which would require people to use restrooms in Texas public schools and government buildings based on their biological sex. SB 6 also pre-empts local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

[…]

“There’s not a good version of the bathroom bill,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, which advocates for LGBT Texans.

Smith pointed to Fort Worth and Dallas, two cities near Shaheen’s North Texas district in that have had ordinances protecting against gender discrimination on the books for more than a decade. In 2016, 12 Texas cities with populations of more than 100,000 offered some degree of protection to residents or city employees.

Shaheen said his bill seeks to “stop the politicization” by school boards and superintendents who set blanket bathroom policies for their districts. HB 1362 would allow public school districts to handle bathroom and locker room scenarios with students on a case-by-case basis, working with teachers, principals and parents to determine what accommodations, if any, are necessary.

“There’s no way a serious person could call this bill discriminatory,” Shaheen said. “It tells people on the left side of the political spectrum they can’t tell people where to go to the restroom, and it also tells people on the right side of the spectrum they can’t, either. Whether you’re on the right or left side, the bill is neutral.”

But the Texas Association of Business, a group opposed to SB 6, also has concerns with Shaheen’s proposal.

“We caution against any type of legislation that limits businesses’ ability to recruit talent, and doing away with local discrimination ordinances with that preemption would really tarnish the Texas brand,” said Chris Wallace, TAB’s president.

The bottom line continues to be that there is no problem in need of solving here. What does exist is the potential for great harm, to all of us economically and to the transgender people who are targeted by these bills specifically. The transgender community is already marginalized and under attack, and the effect of that is clearly felt. Take a look at the results of this survey of nearly 1500 transgender Texans for an idea of what that means. All we need to do is not make things worse, which is what SB6, HB1362, and all the other bills listed in this story will do. The overriding governmental philosophy in this state is to do less. Now is the time to take that to heart.

Fifth Circuit hears Pasadena redistricting appeal

This is to decide whether to lift or leave in place Judge Lee Rosenthal’s ruling that the pre-2013 all-single-member-district Council map will be in place for the May elections in Pasadena.

Pasadena City Council

The City of Pasadena asked for the expedited hearing before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a narrow issue – the structure of Pasadena’s City Council districts for the upcoming election.

Hearing the case for the circuit court were judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, Priscilla Owen and Gregg Costa.

At a later date, the court will address the city’s appeal of a sweeping order from a lower court judge who threw out Pasadena’s city council election format, saying it was discriminatory against Hispanic voters.

The judge ordered the city to revert to a 2011 system for electing the council, with eight single-member-district seats, instead of the 2014 system that used six single-member and two at-large districts.

Attorney C. Robert Heath, who represents longtime Mayor Johnny Isbell, asked the appellate judges to grant a stay of the judge’s order because he said he was likely to win the overall appeal on the merits. His client did not intend to discriminate against Hispanic voters, and the election results did not reflect a diluted Latino vote, he said.

[…]

Costa pressed Heath about the harm that might be caused if the appellate panel switched the election to 6-2 and then the appellate court upheld the appeal.

“That’s significant harm, isn’t it?” Costa asked.

“It is if it has a discriminatory effect,” Heath said.

Nina Perales, with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed the suit on behalf of Latino voters, stressed to the judges that the 8-0 system the lower court put in place would sufficiently eliminate questions of discrimination in Pasadena’s council race.

However, a decision by the appellate judges to temporarily lift the lower court’s 8-0 format would confuse voters and candidates who have already filed to get their names on the ballot and begun canvassing neighborhoods, she said.

“There is no reason to grant the stay based on (the city’s) likelihood of success because there is no single case supporting their contentions,” Perales said. “The case law is unified – if there is lower Hispanic registration and turnout rates it is tied to a history of past discrimination.”

See here for the background. Judges Elrod and Owen are both Dubya appointees, and are two of the more conservative members of the Fifth Circuit, so this is about as friendly a panel as Pasadena could have wanted. The city has the burden of proof here – they need to show that Judge Rosenthal erred in her ruling. We’ll see if the Fifth Circuit grades them on a curve for that. Given the time frame – the filing deadline is in two weeks, and multiple candidates have already filed for each of the eight Council seats – we should get a ruling shortly.

Paxton prosecutor pay suspended

Whiplash!

Best mugshot ever

Collin County must immediately stop paying the three lawyers prosecuting Ken Paxton’s criminal fraud case, a Dallas court has said.

The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas on Monday temporarily halted the payments — the result of a lawsuit filed against the county and prosecutors by a local taxpayer — and will consider a more permanent block probably within the next few weeks. The court’s decision could determine the immediate future of the case against Paxton, the first-term attorney general who faces three felony charges of violating state securities laws.

The Collin County Commissioners Court handles the local budget. Its five Republican members were scheduled to vote Monday on the prosecutors’ latest bill, which tops $205,000 for a year’s worth of work.

Instead, they delayed the vote and any future payments to the prosecutors until the court weighs in. The prosecutors will not stop working in the meantime, their lawyer David Feldman said.

“My clients are going to rely on the fact that they’re going to get paid,” said Feldman, who said he was surprised by the court’s decision Monday.

See here and here for the background. And yes, another lawsuit by the same plaintiff had just been thrown out on procedural grounds, but with the prosecutors submitting another bill, the frequent filer got another shot at it. Attorney Feldman had more to say about this to the Statesman.

Dave Feldman, the lawyer representing the three prosecutors, said Blackard is trying to hamstring the prosecution of Paxton, who has been accused of securities fraud linked to private business deals in 2011.

“He’s just a rich stalking horse for Ken Paxton. They’re trying to starve the beast,” Feldman said.

An adverse ruling could hinder Paxton’s prosecution, Feldman said. “Nobody does work for nothing,” he said.

Eddie Greim, a lawyer for Blackard, said his client is not trying to sandbag the case against Paxton.

“The (prosecutors) have tried to make this about a political issue, and they have tried to attack the person that they are criminally prosecuting. But in fact this case is about following the rule of law and making sure that when the Texas Legislature passes a rule that it is in fact applied equally to everyone,” Greim said.

Blackard has argued that state law and Collin County rules limit appointed lawyers, including prosecutors, to $1,000 each for pretrial work and $1,000 per day of trial.

District Judge George Gallagher has ordered Collin County to pay the prosecutors $300 an hour, saying county rules allow for higher rates for “unusual circumstances.” Gallagher last year also rejected an effort by Paxton’s defense lawyers to limit the prosecutors’ pretrial pay to $1,000 each.

The pay that Collin County would offer is ridiculous. I understand why Collin County is reluctant to pay the amount they will be billed, but 1) if their DA hadn’t been a crony of Paxton’s this wouldn’t be a problem, and 2) suck it up, buttercup. If you want to make a case to the Lege that the state should pick up part or all of the cost of a special prosecutor in cases like this, go for it. I think there’s merit to that argument. Or, you know, you could just hand it all off to a specialized team that handles government corruption cases, like the Public Integrity Unit at the Travis County DA’s office. But until such a law is passed, this is how it is. Attacking the pay that the special prosecutors earn for putting aside their regular jobs is just a way to subvert the system. The Fifth Court needs to stop it. The Chron and the Current have more.