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February 4th, 2017:

Saturday video break: Once In A Lifetime

One of the more iconic songs by the Talking Heads:

Who hasn’t asked himself these questions? Nobody does musical paranoia like David Byrne. This song was also used to great effect in the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

And nobody does mashed-up covers of popular songs like Big Daddy:

Because of course this song blends well with Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O”. Isn’t it obvious?

Date set for HCDP Chair election

From the Inbox:

Lane Lewis

Two months ago, I announced my intention to resign in February 2017. This will result in a vacancy, therefore we must move forward with a special election. The Precinct Chairs of Harris County will elect a replacement Chair at the next County Executive Committee Meeting.

I am confident that our Precinct Chairs will select the best candidate to serve as Party Chair. Keep an eye out for further emails with meeting location information in the next coming days. The CEC Meeting will be open to the public.

February 26, 2017 from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM: Public Forum to meet the individuals interested in consideration for the Harris County Democratic Party Chair position. The Forum will be hosted by the HCDP (All are welcome and public comment will be encouraged).

March 05, 2017 from 3:00 PM-6:00 PM: CEC Meeting to select the replacement Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (All are welcome, but only Precinct Chairs currently listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s website are eligible to vote).

I will definitely be there for both. In the meantime, Lillie Schechter made her formal announcement for Chair, while Tomaro Bell dropped out and endorsed Schechter. Assuming that Art Pronin is still either on the fence or not going to get in, we have: Robert Collier, Eartha Jean Johnson, Lillie Schechter, Chris Spellmon, Dominique Davis, Keryl Douglass, Johnathan Miller, and Rony Escobar. I hope to have Q&A responses from all of them before the 26th.

Senate “sanctuary cities” bill hearing

Lots of people came out to testify against it, which is a good thing.

After a 16-hour hearing that included tears, heckling, bursts of anger and warnings from lawmakers to witnesses to respect the rules of the Capitol’s upper chamber, the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines early Friday morning to advance a controversial state-based immigration bill to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 4, commonly known as the anti-sanctuary cities bill, would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws.

The bill, if passed, would allow local police to enforce immigration laws if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.

Testimony closely mirrored what witnesses have said since 2011. Proponents of the measure argued it was about the rule of law and guaranteeing the safety of Texans, while opponents, who turned out to the Capitol in vastly greater numbers than supporters, said the bill would codify racial profiling and erode the public’s trust in local police.

There was an added emphasis this year, however, on the debate over whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers are set-in-stone orders by the federal government that local sheriffs must follow or just requests to hold inmates that aren’t enforceable except under limited circumstances.

Thursday’s hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee kicked off at 8:30 a.m. on the Senate floor. Before 11 a.m., state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican and the committee’s chairwoman, said more than 450 people had signed up to speak on the measure. As of 1:40 p.m., the large majority of those that had testified spoke against the bill. They included interim Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley, who said he had concerns about his department being held liable for the actions of other officials. His department’s jurisdiction includes multiple counties.

“I am a little concerned [about] the strict liability it places on law enforcement that don’t manage the booking process,” he said.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, testified that the measure flies in the face of what Republicans in Austin allegedly champion – local control.

She also touted that El Paso is consistently ranked the safest city of its size and that beefed up immigration enforcement isn’t needed.

“When we become less safe because of the decisions made here in Austin, who will my voters throw out of office?” she said “We will end up being sued for a number of reasons. Who pays for that? The local taxpayer, and that is taxation without representation.”

Let’s not kid ourselves, this bill is going to pass. It’s certainly going to make it out of the Senate, some time next week. The House won’t take it up for a few weeks – they have not set committee memberships yet, there won’t be any bills coming to a vote till after that – but it’s hard to imagine that the will of the House is not in favor of this bill, and that’s what usually guides Speaker Straus. I could be wrong – a Patrick-pushed “sanctuary cities” bill made it out of the Senate in 2015 but never got a vote in the House – but between the Presidential election and the escalating warfare between Greg Abbott and the mostly urban areas that are defying him on this, I expect it to pass. By all means, keep up the pressure, but don’t be too optimistic.

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: The only thing that will change the course of the state is for people to lose elections over bills like this. People are highly engaged over this bill, but there were some impressive crowds for the Wendy Davis filibuster against HB2 back in 2013 as well, and we know what happened after that. I firmly believe the political climate will be different in 2018 than it was in 2014 and 2010, and the energy on our side really does seem like it will be prolonged and sustained. Which is good, because we’re going to need it. Democrats are going to need to win some elections that they are not expected to win, which is something that hasn’t happened in this state since 2008. This won’t get us anywhere near a majority – even with the shifts we saw in 2016, there are very few easy targets, and just winning one Senate seat and getting above 60 House members would be a terrific feat – but it would be progress, and it might shake a few people up a little. That’s the bottom line, and that’s what today’s activism needs to be about for tomorrow. The Observer, the Chron, the Press, Stace, Texas Monthly, the Current, and the Caller have more.

Boy Scouts to accept transgender members

Good for them.

In a landmark decision, Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it will now allow transgender Scouts in its boys-only program.

Although it’s not clear how that move will play in the Lone Star State, the news signals the reversal of a century-old position that restricted membership to children listed as males on their birth certificates.

“It’s about time,” said Houston Municipal Court Associate Judge Phyllis Frye, the state’s first openly transgender judge.

The historic change is effective immediately and comes less than two years after the Boy Scouts lifted its ban on openly gay troop leaders and employees.

“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” the organization said in a statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

“The BSA is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”

The Scouts had previously allowed gay members and gay Scoutmasters, and the earth continued to spin on its axis. I’m generally not much for making predictions, but I feel confident saying that that will be the case this time as well, no matter how much of a fuss some people make out of this. ThinkProgress has more.