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September 1st, 2017:

Friday random ten: Bad, and also drawn that way

Anyone else up for a little distraction from the news?

1. Bad – U2
2. Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas – Beach Slang
3. Bad Blood – Taylor Swift
4. Bad Businessman – Squirrel Nut Zippers
5. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
6. Bad Reputation – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
7. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
8. Bad Sneakers – Steely Dan
9. Bad Thing – Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton
10. Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood & The Destroyers

I don’t have any commentary this week. Pick your favorites and hum along with them. Have a good weekend.

State House map paused as well

Not a surprise, given the previous order.

A lower court ruling that invalidated parts of the Texas House state map has been temporarily blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Responding swiftly to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Justice Samuel Alito on Thursday signed an order to put on hold a three-judge panel’s unanimous ruling that nine Texas legislative districts needed to be redrawn because lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in crafting them. Alito directed the minority rights groups suing the state to file a response to the state’s appeal by Sept. 7.

The lower court’s ruling could affect nine House districts across Dallas, Nueces, Bell and Tarrant counties. But adjusting those boundaries could have a ripple effect on neighboring districts.

The move comes days after Alito also temporarily put on hold a lower court ruling that invalidated two of Texas’ 36 congressional districts and instructed the minority rights group suing the state to file a response to the state’s appeal of that ruling. Responses from the state’s legal foes on that map are due Tuesday.

See here for the background. We are in wait-and-see mode right now. The same variables – which maps do we use, and when will the primaries be – remain in question. If we don’t have a definitive answer to #1 by the end of October, the answer to #2 will not be “March”. Stay tuned.

Second trimester abortion procedure ban halted

For now, at least.

A federal judge has temporarily stopped Texas officials from enforcing a ban on the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, just one day before the ban was set to go into effect.

Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted a temporary restraining order Thursday, delaying enforcement of the ban until Sept. 14. It was originally set to go into effect Sept. 1.

Senate Bill 8, which passed during the 2017 regular legislative session, banned dilation and evacuation abortions — where doctors use surgical instruments to grasp and remove pieces of fetal tissue — unless the fetus is deceased.

[…]

“The provisions of SB 8 that we’re challenging criminalize a safe and common method of abortion,” said Molly Duane, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Politicians in Texas are trying to punish doctors who are using their best medical judgment.”

In court Tuesday, [Darren McCarty, an attorney for the state] questioned the timing of the lawsuit’s filing, and argued it was a strategy to force the court to “rubber stamp” emergency relief days before the ban was slated to go into effect. Yeakel, agreeing, said he could see no reason why the suit couldn’t have been filed as soon as the governor signed the bill into law, and said its timing was a “real imposition” and put “maximum pressure” on the court to act at the last minute.

Yeakel also asked repeatedly what evidence legislators had considered before passing the law, and how Texas’ provision differs from similar bans that have been contested in other states. Laws like SB 8’s dilation and evacuation ban have been opposed or halted in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, according to a press release from the center. In court Tuesday, neither side pointed to substantive differences between Texas’ law and these others.

Duane said the new law is part of a “coordinated strategy by the state of Texas and by states around the country to ban abortion method by method, one restriction at a time, until it’s practically unavailable for women.”

See here and here for the background. No question, that is the strategy, and it has been a successful one. There will be another hearing on September 14 to either extend the ban, make it permanent pending appeal, or lift it. But as Judge Yeakel acknowledged, this is all just the first aria in a Wagner-length opera:

But this is the first battle in what is likely to be a long legal war. Yeakel wearily acknowledged as much on Tuesday, during a hearing on the temporary halt to the law. He called his court a “whistle stop on the train on the way to New Orleans, then on to Washington” for anti-abortion lawsuits, referring to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is a “constant never-ending stream of these cases and I think it will continue,” said a frustrated Yeakel about the new law, which would have gone into effect Friday. “It seems like the Legislature just jumps out and produces statutes, they’re signed by the governor, and then we start over here.”

Say it with me now: Nothing will change until the people we elect change. What are you doing to make 2018 different? The Current has more.

Look for the lawyers

They’ll be helping a lot of people who are going to need Harvey-related legal advice.

While rescue workers, including recreational boaters, pull frightened Houstonians out of flooded homes, lawyers are preparing the establishment of a network to give advice to people with legal issues stemming from the storm that’s dumped dozens of inches of water throughout the nation’s fourth-largest city.

“The goal is to get a bank of volunteers,” said Andrew VanSingel, director of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program.

Teams of volunteer lawyers will hold clinics at shelters in Texas and throughout South Texas as soon as it is safe to do so, said Saundra Brown, manager of the Disaster Response Unit at Lone Star Legal Aid.

Lawyers will not be able to meet with clients at Lone Star’s main office in downtown Houston because the legal aid agency’s building caught on fire on Aug. 28 following an explosion. Brown said the explosion is still under investigation, but the agency has 14 offices, and others are open.

She said flood victims will want advice on dealing with insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. They will also need help dealing with other kinds of legal issues, such as tenant/landlord disputes arising when, for example, a landlord wants to evict a tenant because he needs an apartment for a relative who has been displaced by the floodwaters.

“The need is going to be huge,” said Brown, who had to flee her own house in Southwest Houston, which took on more than five feet of water.

According to information provided by VanSingel, FEMA had received 22,000 registrations as of the morning of Aug. 28 and projections anticipate the number will rise to as many as 400,000. VanSingel said there are more than 2.4 households in the disaster area, which spans 29,408 miles.

Brown said initial intake will go through a hotline operated by the State Bar of Texas, then income-qualified people will be referred to legal aid organizations, and others will be referred to other volunteer lawyer groups, such as the Houston Volunteer Lawyers in Houston. The legal aid organizations are Lone Star, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.

The State Bar of Texas legal hotline is (800) 504-7030, and you can find more information about disaster relief legal aid here. You can apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency here. Lone Star Legal Aid has already set up at the shelter at the George R. Brown shelter, and they will have more clinics around the state. If you know someone who has legal questions or needs legal assistance due to Harvey, refer them to the hotline, (800) 504-7030. They’ll get the help they need.

HISD will begin classes on September 11

Another week off for students.

As Houston ISD continues to sort out which of its schools were damaged in Tropical Storm Harvey, school officials are postponing the start of the school year until Sept. 11, two weeks after school was supposed to start.

In an email to campus leaders, Houston ISD said school administrators in Texas’ largest school district will report for duty on Sept. 5, while teachers will report to their schools Sept. 8. Students will return Sept. 11.

Superintendent Richard Carranza told the Chronicle more than 35 campuses have been damaged in the storm, though its unclear how many of those sustained extensive damage and how many received minor damage.

“We are eager to get our students back into the classroom and learning. We want to provide the stability of a routine, as well as the three nutritious meals a day that so many of our families depend on,” said HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza. “But we also need to be sure that our campuses are safe and that Houston’s infrastructure and roads are ready to handle transporting our students safely to school. Our team is currently assessing any damages to our more than 280 schools from Hurricane Harvey, and I want to thank them for their efforts.”

In the email to principals, Carranza wrote that at least seven campuses would be re-routing students or would start a bit later. The email did not specify which schools were among the seven.

See here for the official announcement. I’m sure everyone, including most of the students, are ready to get back to school, as doing so will help restore a sense of normalcy. It’s hard to fault the district for wanting to ensure that all their facilities are safe first. Good luck to everyone figuring out what to do with their kids for another week.