“According to the lawsuit, two plaintiffs experienced severe complications from miscarriages that went untreated due to the ban. The three other plaintiffs had fetuses with severe abnormalities that carried high risks of medical complications for the mother, like hemorrhaging.
Texas law currently bans almost all abortions, providing an exception only in the case of a “medical emergency,” defined as a “life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”
In their lawsuit, plaintiffs argue the law is too vague, leading doctors to deny them abortions—placing the women at risk—due to concerns that the women were not in sufficiently imminent danger of death for doctors to risk possible prosecution if they performed an abortion. Under the law, doctors who perform illegal abortions face life in prison.
“With the threat of losing their medical licenses, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and up to 99 years in prison lingering over their heads,” the suit states, “it is no wonder that doctors and hospitals are turning patients away—even patients in medical emergencies.””
“For more than two years, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has pursued an increasingly aggressive approach to the border, sending thousands of National Guard troops and police officers to patrol the Rio Grande and testing the legal limits of state action on immigration.
But in recent weeks, Texas law enforcement officials have taken those tactics much further, embarking on what the state has called a “hold-the-line” operation, according to interviews with state officials and documents reviewed by The New York Times. They have fortified the riverbanks with additional concertina wire, denied water to some migrants, shouted at others to return to Mexico and, in some cases, deliberately failed to alert federal Border Patrol agents who might assist arriving groups in coming ashore and making asylum claims, the review found.
The increasingly brutal, go-it-alone approach has alarmed people inside the U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety, the agency chiefly responsible for pursuing the governor’s border policies. Several Texas officers have lodged internal complaints and voiced opposition.”
“Texas has a well-earned reputation as a place that builds.
The state built 16 percent of the country’s new housing last year despite being home to 8 percent of its population, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders. The Lone Star State managed to build over twice as much housing as the more populous, more expensive California.
Two decades of robust population growth and COVID-era price hikes have nevertheless pushed up Texas home prices and rents. The Legislature is considering a series of reforms intended to keep housing costs down and the growth machine running.
This past week, the Texas Senate approved a bill that allows homes to be built on smaller lots. In the past month, it’s also passed bills that legalize accessory dwelling units (ADUs) statewide and allow private parties to issue building permits.
“The goal is to get government out of the way and allow the private sector to increase the supply of housing so that we can meet demand and bring down the cost,” says James Quintero of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free market think tank.
Local minimum lot size rules can require homes to sit on lots of 5,000 square feet, 10,000 square feet, a whole acre, or even more. Satisfying these requirements means builders have to consume more land than they otherwise would. They end up building larger, more expensive homes to compensate for those higher land costs.
“The larger the lot size, the larger the price tag,” says Quintero.
There’s a growing body of evidence that Texas builders would make use of smaller lots if they were allowed.
One 2019 study of minimum lot sizes in several Texas suburbs found that typical lot sizes are concentrated at the legal minimum size. Builders also make frequent use of flexible “planned unit developments” to build housing on lots smaller than the legal minimum.
In famously unzoned Houston, several rounds of reform beginning in the late 1990s shrank minimum lot sizes to just 1,400 square feet. The result was a building boom that produced 80,000 new homes in the already growth-friendly city, according to a recent study published by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.”
“a Texas jury found Army Sgt. Daniel Perry guilty of murdering Garrett Foster, a protester he encountered at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in July 2020. Less than 24 hours after that verdict, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he would pardon Perry if asked.
Abbott’s hasty announcement, which seemed to be driven by conservative complaints that Perry had been unjustly prosecuted for shooting Foster in self-defense, illustrates how political prejudices convert empirical questions into tests of team loyalty. That bipartisan tendency is the antithesis of what jurors are supposed to do when they are confronted by the clashing narratives of a criminal trial.
Abbott took it for granted that Perry’s account of what happened the night he killed Foster was accurate. Texas has “one of the strongest” self-defense laws in the country, the governor wrote on Twitter, and that law “cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.”
Contrary to the implication, the jurors who convicted Perry did not ignore the state’s self-defense law, which allows someone to use deadly force when he “reasonably believes” it is “immediately necessary” to protect himself against the “use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force.” The jurors simply did not believe the circumstances of Foster’s death met those requirements.”
“Clean energy is rapidly rising on the Texas power grid, but regulators in the Lone Star State are now considering a plan that could give fossil fuels a boost.
The zero greenhouse gas emissions trio — wind, solar, and nuclear energy — provided more than 40 percent of electricity in the state in 2022. It was a year when several Texas cities experienced their hottest summers on record, driving electricity demand to its highest levels ever as fans and air conditioners switched on. Winter proved stressful too, with freezing temperatures last month pushing winter electricity peaks to record-high levels, narrowly avoiding outages.”
“Texas leads the US in oil and natural gas production, but it’s also number one in wind power. Solar production in the state has almost tripled in the past three years. Part of the reason is that Texas is particularly suited to renewable energy on its grid. Wind turbines and solar panels in Texas have a high degree of “complementarity,” so shortfalls in one source are often matched by increases in another, smoothing out power production and reducing the need for other generators to step in. That has eased the integration of intermittent energy sources on the grid.
Coal, meanwhile, has lost more than half of its share in Texas since 2006. For a long time and across much of the country, the story was that cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing was eating coal’s lunch on the power grid. Coal was also facing tougher environmental regulations like stricter limits on mercury, requiring coal power plants to upgrade their equipment, and raising electricity production costs.”
“in Texas, natural gas’s share of the electricity mix has been holding around 40 percent for more than a decade. On the other hand, renewable energy has surged as coal withered. Wind alone started beating out coal in 2019 and is now the second-largest source of electricity behind natural gas in the state.
An important factor is that the state has its own internal power grid, serving 26 million customers and meeting 90 percent of its electricity demand. It’s managed by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. In the freewheeling Texas energy market, the cheapest sources of electricity become dominant, and wind and solar — with low construction costs, rapid build times, and zero fuel expenses — have emerged as winners.”
“Some lawmakers are now working to tilt the balance toward fossil fuels. “There are different political figures who are trying to incentivize gas power plants or deny, prohibit, or inhibit renewables,” Webber said.
Last year, the Texas legislature passed a law that would prevent the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that “boycott” fossil fuels.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said one of his legislative priorities for this year is to secure more support for natural gas-fired generation. “We have to level the playing field so that we attract investment in natural gas plants,” Patrick said during a press conference last November. “We can’t leave here next spring unless we have a plan for more natural gas power.””
“While wind and solar power are ascendant, they are intermittent, and regulators want to make sure there is enough dispatchable power like natural gas to ramp up on still, cloudy days. The new proposal would create a credit scheme that would encourage more of these dispatchable plants to come online and extend a lifeline to some existing generators that are struggling to compete. But it would also raise the costs of electricity production.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club noted that the proposal leaves the door open for other tactics for balancing electricity supply and demand, like energy storage, increasing energy efficiency, and demand response.”
“The city spent $366 million on services for asylum seekers last year, and Adams expects that sum to rise to $2 billion through June. Thus far, New York City has received just $8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $2 million from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“This is a national crisis. FEMA deals with national crises. FEMA must step up, and there should be one coordinator to coordinate everything that is happening dealing with migrants and asylum seekers in our country,” Adams said.”
“At the core of Villarreal’s misfortune is a Texas law that allows the state to prosecute someone who obtains nonpublic information from a government official if he or she does so “with intent to obtain a benefit.” Villarreal operates her popular news-sharing operation on Facebook, where her page, Lagordiloca News, has amassed 200,000 followers as of this writing.
So to jail Villarreal, police alleged that she ran afoul of that law when she retrieved information from Laredo Police Department Officer Barbara Goodman and proceeded to publish those two aforementioned stories, because she potentially benefited by gaining more Facebook followers. Missing from that analysis is that every journalist, reporter, or media pundit has an “intent to benefit” when she or he publishes a story, whether it is to attract viewers, readers, or subscribers. Soliciting information from government officials—who, as Villarreal’s case exemplifies, sometimes feed reporters information—is called a “scoop,” and it’s not new.
Yet it was an argument that, in some sense, resonated with Judge Priscilla Richman, the chief jurist on the 5th Circuit, who almost certainly voted in favor of reconsidering the court’s ruling. “In fact, Villareal’s [sic] Complaint says that she ‘sometimes enjoys a free meal from appreciative readers, . . . occasionally receives fees for promoting a local business [and] has used her Facebook page [where all of her reporting is published] to ask for donations for new equipment necessary to continue her citizen journalism efforts,” she wrote in August, rebuking Ho’s conclusion. “With great respect, the majority opinion is off base in holding that no reasonably competent officer could objectively have thought that Villareal [sic] obtained information from her back-door source within the Laredo Police Department with an ‘intent to benefit.'”
Such an interpretation would render the media industry an illegal operation, and everyone who participates—whether they be conservative, liberal, far-left, far-right, or anything in-between—criminals. “Other journalists are paid full salaries by their media outlets,” writes Ho. Can confirm. Is that somehow less consequential than receiving free lunch or getting a new spike of followers on a social media platform (which is something that many journalists employed full time also set out to do)? “In sum, it is a crime to be a journalist in Texas, thanks to the dissent’s reading of § 39.06(c),” Ho adds.”
“One of the biggest impediments to President Joe Biden’s ability to govern is a small crew of Republican-appointed federal trial judges, all of whom sit in Texas.
In August of 2021, for example, a Trump-appointed judge named Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forced many migrants to live in awful conditions on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border. Although the Supreme Court eventually determined that Kacsmaryk egregiously misread federal immigration law, it left his order in place for nearly a year — and the Court’s most recent decision concerning Remain in Mexico makes it very easy for Kacsmaryk to seize control of federal border policy once again.”
” This one Trump judge’s ability to override an elected president’s policies and assume the powers of a Cabinet secretary is just one aspect of a much larger problem. With the Supreme Court’s tacit blessing, Texas officials and other right-wing litigants can handpick the trial judge who will hear their challenges to Biden administration policies. And when those handpicked judges overreach in ways that even this Supreme Court deems unacceptable, decisions by men like Kacsmaryk can remain in place for as much as a year — effectively replacing governance by an elected presidential administration with rule by unelected Republican judges.
In another, similar case, the Supreme Court allowed a Trump judge named Drew Tipton to temporarily strip Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of much of his authority over Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This is the same Drew Tipton who issued a legally dubious order six days after Biden took office, which blocked the Biden administration’s call for a 100-day pause on deportations while the new administration was figuring out its immigration policies.
And then there’s Judge Reed O’Connor, the Fort Worth, Texas, judge known for rubber stamping nearly any legal outcome requested by Republicans. O’Connor is best known for his order in Texas v. United States, holding that Obamacare must be repealed in its entirety. That decision was so poorly reasoned that seven justices — including four Republican appointees — eventually ruled that no federal judge had any business hearing Texas’s anti-Obamacare lawsuit in the first place.
But that experience did nothing to humble the Rubber Stamp of Fort Worth. In January, O’Connor forced the US Navy to deploy personnel that it deemed unfit for deployment because they are not vaccinated for Covid-19. The Supreme Court blocked most of O’Connor’s ruling in March, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing that the highly partisan judge “in effect inserted [himself] into the Navy’s chain of command, overriding military commanders’ professional military judgments.””
“The fact that all these cases — and this is just a sample of the many policy-setting lawsuits being shunted to a handful of the most conservative judges in Texas — are winding up before a few GOP-appointed judges is not a coincidence. It is a deliberate strategy, made possible by procedural rules that effectively allow litigants to select which judge will hear their lawsuits, and by all appearances, intentionally pursued by the Texas attorney general’s office.”
“the Biden administration’s policies are routinely blocked, not because an impartial judge gives those policies a fair hearing and determines them to be illegal, but because Republican litigants can ensure that lawsuits seeking to undermine President Biden are heard by some of the most partisan judges in the country.”
“the Texas AG’s office has not filed a single case in Austin — the city where that office is actually located — a choice that most likely can be explained by the fact that half of all federal cases filed in Austin are heard by Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee.”
“Although the Supreme Court has, at times, disagreed with the judges Texas’s Republican leaders selected to hear their lawsuits, it’s done nothing to discourage the Texas AG’s judge-shopping. Indeed, if anything, it’s encouraged it.”
“If the courts want to solve the problem of judge-shopping, it would not be hard for them to do so. One solution is to apply the same rule to Texas’s anti-Biden litigation as the Western District of Texas now applies to patent litigation — if a party seeks an order blocking a federal policy, that case will be randomly assigned to any judge within the entire district court where it is filed, not just one in the smaller division.
Alternatively, a court could assign lawsuits seeking a nationwide injunction against a federal policy to a panel of three judges. That’s the solution Fifth Circuit Judge Gregg Costa proposed in a 2018 piece published by the Harvard Law Review’s blog.
In any event, the details of such a solution don’t matter all that much. The important thing is that litigants who are actively trying to sabotage the United States government should not be allowed to handpick judges who share their agenda. For the moment, however, the courts seem to lack the will to address this problem. Texas Republicans can shop around for the judges they want, and that seems to suit a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees just fine.”