• Hard questions and emotional testimony at Texas House abortion hearing

    Hundreds of advocates are packing a Thursday evening hearing on an omnibus Texas House bill that would place additional restrictions on obtaining an abortion if passed.

    HB 60, authored by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require doctors performing abortions at hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic to obtain permission to admit patients and add other language regulating how doctors administer medication and meet practice standards.

    The bill is similar to a Senate bill that passed last week, SB 5, although the authors of the bill dropped the 20-week clause in the interests of ensuring a passing vote.

    During prolonged questioning directed to Laubenberg, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, questioned the veracity of the bill’s claim that fetuses experienced pain at 20 weeks and thus were a compelling interest for increasing regulation.

    Laubenberg said it was not her attempt to close abortion facilities in Texas by excessively adding regulation, to which Farrar responded by mentioning a recent tweet by Gov. David Dewhurst indicating such an outcome would be a victory for Texans.

    State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D- Brownsville, complained there was no language in the bill exempting late abortions in the case of rape or incest.

    “If my daughter gets raped, she will have to have that baby, under your big brother statutes?” Oliveira said.

    Public testimony from students, doctors, religious leaders and civil rights activists is ongoing and expected to continue late through the night. As of press time, more than 500 persons had signed up to be called for testimony.

  • How to get a lifetime swim pass to Austin's Barton Springs

    At Thursday's City Council Meeting, the council approved a request from the Austin Parks and Recreation department to issue a Barton Springs lifetime swim pass to Austinite Nancy McMeans Richey. 

    Yes — it turns out there is a way to get a lifetime pass to the pool and avoid the $3 entry fee. But it won't be so easy for college students to get this pass. In order to apply for a pass, an Austinite must be at least 80 years old.

    Tom Nelson, a division manager in the Austin Parks and Recreations department, said the application process for this pass is pretty simple. Interested swimmers need only submit a drivers license and some history about their use of the Barton Springs. 

    Nelson said the Austin City Council has been issuing these lifetime passes since at least the 1980s. Counting the pass that was givent to Richet, 32 passes have been granted in the past 42 years. 

  • Pitts aiming to impeach UT System regent

    Multiple news outlets have reported that House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is currently working to get the necessary signatures to impeach a UT regent.

    The Texas Tribune and the Dallas Morning News both reported that Regent Wallace Hall is the target of Pitts' impeachment proposal. Lawmakers have been frustrated by Hall and the UT System for repeated Open Records Request filings targeted at UT President William Powers Jr. Most recently, Hall requested many documents from Powers' office, including "post-it" notes.

    In order to begin the impeachment process, Pitts will have to aquire 76 signatures from the House's representatives. Following that, the Senate must convene and get two-thirds of a vote to impeach the regent.  

  • University of Missouri extends domestic partner benefits to employees

    While the question of how far to extend rights to the LGBTQ community is at the forefront of the national news, the University of Missouri System approved domestic partner benefits Thursday, expanding insurance to the LGBT community.

    Extending health insurance coverage to domestic partnership has been an initiative supported by UT faculty, but is not available on campus.

    The University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators, similar to UT System’s Board of Regents, voted unanimously to include “sponsored adult dependents,” which would cover same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples living together.

    Work to expand domestic partner benefits to the UT faculty has been an on-going fight on campus resulting in a unanimously passed resolution encouraging the UT System Board of Regents to work with the Texas Legislature to provide benefits to domestic partners of system employees.

    Current state law only allows the UT and Texas A&M Systems to offer uniform benefits to dependents, including spouses and unmarried children under the age of 25, under the Texas Family Code.

    The code states definitions of husband, being a man and wife and being a woman, although civil unions between people of the same sex do not qualify as spouses.

    A bill to extend benefits to system employees was filed in the legislature in March, but did not even make it to a committee hearing.

    This comes at time when rights for the LGBTQ community are in flux, as many await the United States Supreme Court decision on the cases involving the rights of LGBTQ couples.

    The Supreme Court could rule as soon as Monday on the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act, which limits federal benefits to married unions between a man and a woman, and California’s Proposition 8, aimed to ban same-sex marriage.

    Follow Christine Ayala on Twitter @Christine_Ayala. 

  • Speculation: Fisher v. Texas decision could be held until next year

    While previous articles from The Daily Texan have indicated the Supreme Court has until the end of the month to rule on the Fisher v. Texas case, a possibility remains that the court could choose to hold their ruling on the case until next year.

    Fisher, which will decide whether the University’s use of race as a factor in admissions violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, is not the only case related to affirmative action currently before the court. This spring the justices also picked up a challenge to Michigan’s 2006 voter initiative banning the state’s use of race in admissions at public universities.

    When the Michigan case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, is heard in the fall there will be additional questions before the court related to the use of race in admissions. If a plurality of Supreme Court justices chooses to do so, the court could hold their ruling on Fisher until hearing Schuette.

    The justices could then potentially issue both opinions concurrently at an opinion date they set down, according the SCOTUSblog, an online news site that covers the Supreme Court.

    Follow Andrew Messamore on Twitter @AndrewMessamore

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