The kickback scheme was allegedly hashed out over weeknight drinks at a steakhouse in a border county in south Texas. Amid surf and turf and expensive scotch, a Hidalgo County official said he would meet with contractors in the clubby confines of the restaurant in a strip mall in McAllen.
There, Godfrey Garza Jr., director of the county’s drainage district, cajoled company executives to hire a firm owned by his family in exchange for a cut of lucrative construction contracts, according to new documents filed in state district court in Hidalgo County. The target of the plan: a $232 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the county to build a border fence and rehabilitate aging dirt levees along the Rio Grande. Continue reading →
Thanks to the new decision, said the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, “The new maps could result in a delegation that more closely resembles the will of Pennsylvania’s voters.” (Photo: Penn State/Flickr/cc)
Pennsylvania’s high court on Monday ruled that the state’s gerrymandered congressional map “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state constitution and ordered the state to draw up a new map to be used in the primary.
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today ruled in favor of voters choosing politicians rather than politicians choosing voters, and that is major victory for all Pennsylvanians,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The court order will result in new maps in time for the 2018 election so that voters will not be forced to face a fourth congressional election under these unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts.” Continue reading →
“The court’s decision once again makes clear that politicians cannot force their way into private medical decisions that should stay between patients and physicians. Access to vital reproductive health services should not depend on a woman’s zip code.”
In 2013, protesters gathered outside the Senate Gallery at the Texas State Capitol minutes before midnight to stall a bill that would put strict regulations on abortion facilities from going to a vote. (Photo: Lauren Gerson/Blackbird Film Co./Flickr/cc)
After temporarily halting a Texas abortion law that was slated to take effect earlier this year, and which critics warned would endanger women who seek to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester, a federal judge issued a blow to the state’s notorious anti-choice Republicans on Wednesday and permanently blocked the legislation.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a permanent injunction on Senate Bill 8, which sought to ban dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedures after 15 weeks, despite that it’s among the most common types of abortion procedures for women in their second trimester of pregnancy and amid warnings that it would force pregnant women and providers to turn to more costly and risky options. Texas, a hotbed for anti-choice measures, already bars women from having an abortion after 20 weeks. Continue reading →
“Rosa Maria is finally free. We are thrilled that she can now recover, surrounded by her family’s love and support,” said the ACLU on Twitter. (Photo: The Independent/courtesty of family)
Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old undocumented immigrant with cerebral palsy who was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents last week, was finally released from federal custody on Friday after 11 days of separation from her family.
“We’re just thrilled—it’s such a relief,” Michael Tan, a staff attorney at the ACLU, told the New York Times. “It’s actually quite overwhelming. This was the first time in her life she was separated from her family.” Continue reading →
Dickinson, TX — Government suppression of free speech can take many forms. It’s not always censorship in the media or storm troopers in the streets bashing in the heads of protesters. For proof of this, one need look no further than Dickinson, Texas.
The small coastal town southeast of Houston took some of the worst Hurricane Harvey had to offer, with almost 7,400 homes damaged — many of them beyond repair. In response, the city council decided to set up a relief fund. People can donate to the city, and then a committee distributes the money to residents on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading →
Texas lawmakers’ attacks on reproductive rights have closed more than 80 of the states family planning clinics, including 11 Planned Parenthood clinics. Photo: The Trott Line
Illustrating the potential consequences if Republicans fulfill their threat to defund Planned Parenthood nationwide, a new study shows that when Texas slashed state funding for family planning clinics in 2011, the abortion rate among teenagers in the state actually increased.
The Texas state legislature launched a series of attacks on reproductive rights, beginning in 2011, when it cut funding for family planning services by 67 percent and restructured the way it allocates the remaining funds. These measures closed more than 80 clinics, including 11 Planned Parenthood clinics. One of the purported goals, said Republican backers, was to decrease abortion rates. As then-governor Rick Perry said: “We will continue to pass laws to ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law.” Continue reading →
Houston, TX — Local activists attempting to hand out food and gifts were shocked on Thursday afternoon when Houston police forced the homeless to throw away the donations. Around 1 pm on Thursday, several individuals met in downtown Houston to distribute plates of hot food, blankets, and other supplies to the city’s growing homeless population. Soon after, Houston police arrived on the scene of two different intersections where the homeless advocates were giving out gifts and food.
According to witness testimony posted on Facebook, the police instructed the homeless to throw away everything they had been given. “Not only were the police called, but they brought a large waste management truck and are forcing the homeless to throw away their food, pillows and other items,” reads one post. Continue reading →
“The state agency has once again ignored the concerns of the medical community and thousands of Texans by playing politics with people’s private healthcare decisions,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. (Photo: Do512/flickr/cc)
As of December 19, Texas healthcare providers will be required to bury or cremate embryonic and fetal tissue that results from abortions or miscarriages at their facilities.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) finalized the new regulation on Monday, inviting a legal challenge from reproductive rights advocates, who strongly oppose the rule on the grounds that it has no medical or safety benefits, would be costly to implement, and could exacerbate what for some women is already a difficult experience. Continue reading →
Report documents “massive closures” of polling places since Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. (Photo: Sharon M Leon/flickr/cc)
Voters in U.S. counties previously covered by the Voting Rights Act (VRA) will have at least 868 fewer places to cast ballots in the 2016 election than they did previously, according to a new analysis released Friday.
In fact, the report (pdf) from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights finds that in the wake of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision gutting the VRA, “[c]ounties and states with known records of voting discrimination are closing polling places on a massive scale.” This is among other negative outcomes of the ruling, which Common Dreams has covered extensively. Continue reading →
For the nation’s poor, things are not getting better. They are getting worse. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)
Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut “Meals on Wheels” for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.
But six of Illinois’ largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit. Continue reading →