Crucial Deadline Passes on In-State Tuition Ban, Racial Profiling Law

Our friends at KeepHB1403.com remind us that the Texas Senate missed a deadline on Saturday to pass SB1819, a bill to ban in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who meet local residency and other requirements.

According to the group, if the Senate had passed the bill by the deadline, it also needed to have gone to a Texas House committee for consideration prior to a vote by the full House. Since none of these occurred, it becomes a lot more difficult to pass a ban, but not necessarily impossible if it is attached as an amendment.

Also, SB185, which would allow immigrant status checks by local law enforcement (a racial profiling law) seems to have experienced the same situation after it was “not placed again on intent calendar” on Saturday. Could it be added as and amendment? Well, you never know. With a few days left in the Texas Lege, all eyes are on a lot of legislative battles over amendments and bills that made the deadline.

Obviously, Abbott could call a special session for any of these things, and if he doesn’t, they’ll come up again in a couple of years.

We’ll keep an eye and ear open.

Find Your Towed Car…

Originally posted on :

Ever had your car towed and you just don’t know where it went? After smacking your head for not paying your parking fines, you can now go to a website which may point you in the right direction.

The city of Houston has just added a convenient little tool to help you deal with the tremendous inconvenience of having your car towed.

A Houston Police Department bulletin to the media announces a new Web site, www.findmytowedcar.com, which provides access to information about towed vehicles.

By entering your license plate or vehicle identification number, you can find out where your car is.

Here’s a link to Police Chief Charles McClelland explaining the site, which launched last week.

This hasn’t happened to me (knock on wood), but one time in college I came close. Considering that the City or any impound yard could make a killing during the time you seek your…

View original 17 more words

More Border Surge Realities

ef6ca-shrp2Lisa Falkenberg at the Chron offered up even more strong evidence regarding the lack of a need for Rick Perry’s Border Surge. Long story short:  The image provided by Rick Perry and other politicians about violence on the border doesn’t match up to crime stats.

The statistics also inject hard numbers into a debate that has been raging since a spike in unaccompanied children crossing the border captivated public attention last spring. The spike started subsiding before the surge and continued to trend downward, leading Republicans and Democrats to argue about the role the extra troops played.

Republicans also have said the surge was needed to combat crime brought by foreign gangs and drugs, while Democrats have questioned the value of the more than $100 million price tag for a region they described as safe.

State officials have largely used anecdotes to illustrate how the surge has succeeded in combating organized crime. A classified report to lawmakers obtained by the Chronicle in February listed examples of encounters with cartel members, immigrant “stash houses” and more, but it lacked detailed data.

The numbers DPS has released have mixed state efforts with federal and local law enforcement and concerned illegal immigrant apprehensions, drug seizures and interactions with gang members, which do not speak to overall crime rates.

Surely, the waste of tax dollars at the hands of Republicans should speak volumes as to future political implications, whether they affect Rick Perry’s presidential bid, or the future of Abbott, Patrick, and the rest of these alarmist Republicans who will blame immigrants for just about any problem caused by Republicans. Unfortunately, when top-of-the-ballot Democrats attempt (miserably) to co-opt the issue for their own political gain, it’s hard to participate in the usual point-and-blame game Dems usually play against Republicans.

Of course, there are those Dems who seem to do it correctly.

“DPS has been unwilling to release this information, and now we know why,” said state Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston. “These numbers show that what our Republican leaders have been telling us has not been true.”

Of course, we need solutions; in this case, to stop the waste of our tax dollars on political war games that make for great campaign photo ops. Unfortunately, that takes ejecting the current people in positions of power. It is said that voting matters, but it takes strong, progressive-minded politicians who are willing to fight for what is right to earn those votes.

There’s Some Buzz Going Around about 2016

donkey-fightOne of the best sources for local political news, especially if you’re not an insider, is the Facebook. Whether it’s an actual announcement or someone putting out feelers with the hope of getting some attention, you find out what’s going on. Here are some of my observations, thus far.

President:  Looks like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will be joining Sanders and Clinton in the race for the Dem nomination on May 30. I’m a fan of O’Malley’s, actually. He would be the only one of the three to have made a strong statement in support of the Central American kids–or, at least nothing hateful that called for jailing and deporting them; at least not without legal representation and due process. I haven’t seen any policy pronouncements about Latin America, but at least Maryland wasn’t involved in the Honduran coup. All this said, I’m leaning O’Malley at this point.

The Local Judges:  When I emceed the Kingwood Area Dems brunch the other day, 151st District Judge Mike Engelhart was hard at work collecting signatures for his re-election campaign. I noticed thru FB that 127th District Judge Ravi Sandill was back on the trail for his re-election campaign. Former 165th District Judge Josefina Rendon FB-announced a run for her former seat. Immediately after Judge Al Bennett was confirmed as a Federal Judge, former District Judge Dion Ramos announced he would be running for Bennett’s old 61st District bench. Kristen Hawkins announced for the 11th District Court. Out in Precinct 3, Galena Park ISD trustee Joe Stephens, whom I met at the Kingwood shindig, seems to be running hard to replace retiring Judge Mike Parrott as Justice of the Peace.

There are also some exploratory campaigns that I’ve noticed, including Ursula Hall for the 165th District; Shawn Thierry for the 333rd District. Joe Montemayor has been putting out feelers for a possible JP3 run, too.

And given that there has been some stepped up activity by others who have run for something in the past (patriotic and partisan meme sharing and attending all sorts of events), there may be others. No doubt, we may see some Democratic Primary battles, and that’s probably good thing, even though some of the candidates may not want to be in these battles.

Sheriff:  It is becoming more and more obvious that a Democrat needs to announce for Sheriff–and soon. Given the Republican new guy’s hiring practices, it seems we need a Democrat. Anyone? Anyone?

If you’re actually running in 2016, let me know at my contact page.

Former Trustee Debra Kerner Responds to Chron Editorial on HCDE

Some of you may have seen a scathing editorial in Sunday’s Chron in which various complaints were listed against the Harris County Department of Education. HCDE has been under attack by Republicans for a long time and there is a current movement by Paul Bettencourt of the Texas Senate to get rid of it.

According to former HCDE Trustee Debra Kerner, the editorial contains a lot of misinformation that she wanted to clear up. Here is her own letter-to-the-editor which, hopefully, the Chronicle will also run.

Dear Houston Chronicle Editorial Page Editor,

Regarding “HCDE draws sharp look” (Sunday, May 24, 2015, pg.1), I served as a countywide elected Trustee for the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) from January 2009 to January 2015. During that time, I held various Board positions including Vice President. I read the article, “HCDE Draws Sharp Look” from Sunday, May 24, 2015 with intense interest and felt that as a private citizen and former board member, I had to respond.  I would ask that the public consider these clarifying facts.

1) HCDE serves students, educators and school districts.  Their services are provided at the request of Harris County school districts.  They seek to enhance and innovate and provide services to the school districts and the residents of Harris County.  All 25 of the school districts in Harris County choose to use at least some of the services from HCDE.  HCDE provides even more services than are listed in the article, including Safe and Secure Schools.  As told to me by the head of Region 4, all of these services cannot be duplicated by the Education Service Center (Region 4).  Who would provide these services, if HCDE had to close?

2) During my tenure, HCDE underwent several audits and a Texas legislative study.  These studies determined that HCDE’s education services saved taxpayer dollars and that it would cost school districts significantly more to replicate. While areas for improvement were identified, none of the studies recommended closure.  The Board had always taken steps to improve the department and continues to do so.

3) One example that was noted in the article was the policy on hiring political consultants.  The Board did not have the chance to vote on the Eversole contract.  Once the board learned about these hirings, the policy was changed to bring more transparency to the process of hiring political consultants. While I understand, the concern about using tax dollars for this purpose, I believe it would be unfair to the students and educators served by HCDE to not give them a voice regarding the educational resources that are so valuable to them. Many school districts also hire lobbyists and political consultants to help educate legislators and others about their needs.  In addition, HCDE has a group consistently seeking its abolishment.  Three year olds and other students with severe disabilities cannot go to Austin to indicate the true value of HCDE, so HCDE does it for them.  HCDE is a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

4) Ms. Vera and the Houston Chronicle have initiated countless open records request.  HCDE has been compliant and constantly sought to increase transparency.  Responding to these requests has been costly; however, none of these requests have yielded information that rises to the level of criminal activity. Any issues that were found, the Board had already initiated steps to improve the situation. At the same time, HCDE has continued to educate students, train teachers and provide valuable wraparound services.

5) We should focus on what HCDE is doing now. HCDE has hired a new superintendent, James Colbert, who is moving forward. The Board has made changes to address policies and procedures to ensure that things are done correctly and transparently.   HCDE continues to respond to the needs of partner districts. I participated in the hiring of Mr. James Colbert and from what I’ve seen thus far, he is a true leader who is very responsive to the educational needs in Harris County.  The reason HCDE has fought against additional studies regarding abolishment is that it is hard to plan for the future when the threat of closure hangs over their heads.

I was honored to serve with Trustees who truly cared about enhancing education in our county in a fiscally responsible way.  It is a shame that the voices of a few are taken as fact when thousands of students and the 25 Harris County school districts find value in HCDE every single day.

Thank-you,

Debra Kerner

Former Trustee, Harris County Department of Education

NPR: Ballooning Importance of Latino Vote

donkey-fightNPR had an interesting article based on recent Pew Hispanic Center polling about the increasing importance of the Latino vote in 2016.

Much is being said about how Bush and Rubio on the Republican side have been courting Latinos; of course, there’s not much description as to how it is being done or how effective it has been.

Bush has used references to his support for what he calls immigration reform, which basically turns out to be a push for a second class of citizen based on work permits. Hillary Clinton pointed that out recently in a challenge to all of the Republicans on the immigration issue.

Today, the Clinton campaign released info on some new hires, including a Latino outreach director, Lorella Praeli.

Born in Peru, Praeli was brought to the U.S. by her family at age 10 to provide her with better opportunities; Praeli lost a leg in an accident when she was 2. The family moved to Connecticut and her mother, who was a psychiatrist in Peru, worked as a housekeeper. Praeli attended Quinnipiac University, where she graduated summa cum laude and where she also came out as undocumented and became active as a young DREAMer.

So, it looks like Clinton has someone who can speak to the realities of immigration and has organized on the issue, which is a good thing. Something else that caught my eye was this:

Praeli’s mother is currently undocumented, while her younger sister Maria obtained deferred action status through DACA and made headlines after confronting President and Mrs. Obama on immigration, also stating DREAMers were looking at the positions of potential candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

Always the cynic, I hope that this is about standing strong on the side of deportation reform and immigration reform. Again, Clinton’s experience with Latin American relations and her call for immediate deportation of Central American child victims of violence is not something most Latinos see as a positive.

All of this said, there is a lot more to Latinos than immigration. Latinos support the health care law, an increase in the minimum wage, public schools, and want some real job growth. Latinos are increasingly pro-choice and pro same-sex marriage. So, it would seem that Latinos would still be on the Democratic side of things which should make increasing turn-out the goal of campaigns.

Certainly, the Republican outreach playbook is all about culture wars, as Ted Cruz proved yesterday. So, Democrats from the top to the bottom of the ballot need to excite Latinos, rather than just use the same old songbook. That Clinton is loved by Latinos isn’t news. But if the goal is to attract newer, younger voters to the “D” side from no-side, then energy and excitement are necessary; not to mention a strong stance on issues of importance.

Of course, let’s not leave out Bernie Sanders who has excited young voters. And I’m not sure what’s up Martin O’Malley’s sleeve, but the fact that we could have a little longer-than-short-term Democratic Primary could pump some energy into voters.

 

June 4: David Lee Garza -vs- Telemundo’s Mayoral Candidate Forum

You heard correctly. Telemundo is hosting a Mayoral candidate forum on June 4 at the University of Houston on the same evening as thousands of Mexican Americans and others will be attending a free concert  at Discovery Green featuring Tejano great David Lee Garza y Los Musicales.

#politicsfail ?

Anyway, this blogger will be at Discovery Green because it’s also my birthday week. The week culminates with another huge concert on June 6–my actual birthday:  Accordion Kings and Queens at Miller Outdoor Theater featuring DC faves, Max Baca y Los Texmaniacs.

Both events are great opportunities to press the flesh–just throwin’ that out there.

Telemundo–for future reference, might I suggest a free concert-slash-candidate forum? ¡Querer es poder!

UPDATE:  The Meyerland Area Democrats will be hosting a candidate forum on June 15, so make sure to attend that one!

Breaking: SB1819 To Repeal In-State Tuition Is On The Calendar

Our friends at Keep HB1403 just sent out this action alert:

Moments ago, SB 1819, the legislation that would repeal in-state tuition for Texans regardless of status, was added to the Senate Intent Calendar. That means that the bill could come up for a vote before the full Senate as early as tomorrow.

In-state tuition repeal would be detrimental to our students and our families. We have an obligation to work to stop the legislature from repealing this smart public policy.

Please ask your Senator to “block” the bill from coming for a vote. If at least 13 Senators disagree with a piece of legislation, they can “block” a bill – or keep it from being voted on before the full Senate.

We will keep you posted as developments occur.

Find your senator here.

DC Post ~ TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy designing its own TexMoji as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is busy popping popcorn so as to fully enjoy the Jonathan Stickland soap opera.

Letters from Texas guest blogger Russ Tidwell explains what the SCOTUS ruling that invalidated Alabama’s Congressional redistricting means for Texas.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos examines the Texas founders’ vision for public education. As a teacher and scholar Lightseeker laments how far we have strayed from this noble goal. Why Texas Puts the Stupid into Educational Reform.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. It impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. That is The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap.

There’s a message from the last socialist mayor of a major American city to the various Republican and Democratic socialists running (in a so-called non-partisan race for) mayor of Houston. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants everybody to understand that we are all socialists of a form or fashion. And that’s not a bad thing.

Texas Leftist attended the first ever Houston Artist Town Hall— a meeting of nearly 200 artists from across the region. As Council prepare a new Cultural Plan for the Bayou City, artists themselves met to make sure they contribute to those plans.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Texas Republicans are using our taxpayer dollars to publicly bash gay people.

Neil at All People Have Value observed Jade Helm operations in Houston. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog reads a headline from the future about the short-sighted tax cuts of today.

Texas Vox mourns the passing of the anti-fracking ban bill.

Newsdesk puts on its tinfoil hat for a look at Jade Helm 15.

Paradise in Hell is amused by the effort to video stalk members of the Legislature.

The Current reports on Scouting for Equality and their crowdfunded work to get the Boy Scouts of America to repeal its ban on gay parents and adults.

David Ortez complains about Harris County’s role in killing the online voter registration bill.

Robert Rivard recalls the legacy of William Velasquez and wonders what he’d make of today’s turnout rates.

Is Splitting Jail From Sheriff A Prelude To Privatization?

That’s what came to mind when I read Commissioner Steve Radack had floated the idea of separating the management of Harris County Jail from the Sheriff–whomever it may be.

A revolutionary idea is being pitched that would reshape the law enforcement agency by removing the troubled jail from the sheriff’s responsibilities. One county commissioner is leading the charge to create a new jail administrator who would answer to Commissioners Court rather than the sheriff.

Privatization is not a new idea in Harris County as Radack floated that idea a few years ago.

One thing is for sure, running a jail is a challenging job, especially when one inherits a bad situation that includes a bad internal culture. If a hired county employee as jail administrator is the outcome, there must be a complete culture change at the jail–a culture that allowed employees up and down the jail management hierarchy to lock up a mentally ill man in his own excrement and trash. Frankly, as the debate over law enforcement treatment of people continues, there is obviously some push-back to any change from law enforcement and their fans.

Of course, if the hired hand turns out to be a jail management contract to a private corporation, then that would be a useful political tool for blame if there are ever any future problems. If one company messes up, there is always another to pick up where the other left off. There is enough campaign money in officeholder accounts to make this happen, this much is obvious.

When one other commissioner is talking about “saving money” with this notion, my alarms go off. What do they want to cut? Will mental health and health care be farmed off to some private company that is probably a subsidiary of a private prison corporation?

Obviously, State Law still has jails under the Sheriff and this will be hard to change in the near future. A hired jail administrator may be a good idea if it comes with work toward a culture change within the ranks. But I’m pretty sure this isn’t part of the plan.

Obviously, county citizens need to keep an eye on the Commissioners Court.