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Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas announced her retirement Saturday afternoon after serving nearly 30 years in Congress, according to a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi said in a statement Saturday that Johnson is “a dedicated and highly effective leader on behalf of Dallas area families and the entire nation for her thirty years in the Congress and nearly 50 years in public service.”

Johnson was the first Black woman elected to state public office from Dallas, according to Pelosi, as well as the first African American and woman to be the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“On behalf of her many friends in Congress, we thank the Chairwoman for her leadership for the people of Texas and all Americans, and wish her and her family, including her beloved son Kirk and grandchildren Kirk Jr, David and James, the best in their next steps,” Pelosi said.

A week after the 2020 election, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he was offering up to $1 million — paid from his campaign account — “to incentivize, encourage and reward people to come forward and report voter fraud.”

Nearly a year later, Patrick, a Republican, has paid out his first reward: $25,000 to a Democrat in Pennsylvania, who reported a man for voting twice.

Eric Frank, a poll worker, received the money earlier this month for his part in reporting Ralph Holloway Thurman, a Republican who after voting once, attempted to vote a second time as his son, as first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

“Of course, I never do anything for money, that’s just how I was raised. I do things because it’s just the right thing to do. And I would have reported Thurman if he was a Republican or a Democrat,” Frank told CNN by phone on Friday.

The Justice Department formally asked the Supreme Court Monday to step in and block a controversial Texas law that bars most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy while legal challenges play out.

The law is “clearly unconstitutional” and allowing it to remain in effect would “perpetuate the ongoing irreparable injury to thousands of Texas women who are being denied their constitutional rights,” the Justice Department argues.

The emergency application places the justices back in the center of a firestorm created by the law that bars abortions before most women even know they are pregnant.
The court asked for a response from Texas by noon on Thursday.

In addition to asking the justices to halt the law now, the government also wants the court to agree to hear oral arguments this term and decide for itself whether the law passes constitutional muster. If the justices were to agree to that request, it would raise the stakes in the dispute and bring final resolution to the case by the end of June.

It would also allow the justices to consider the issue with full briefing and oral arguments, instead of having to weigh in on an emergency basis. In September, the first time the Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect as a part of another challenge, it did so on its emergency docket — often referred to as the “Shadow docket” — drawing criticism from those who felt like the justices acted hastily without the benefit of full briefing on the matter.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged a powerful federal appeals court on Thursday to allow a state law that bars abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat to remain in effect while legal challenges play out.

The new briefs are the latest salvo from Texas that is defending against a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice. The federal appeals court could act at any time, although it may make a few days to write an opinion that will likely be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Paxton argues that the Biden administration does not have the legal right to bring suit in the case, even if the law were crafted in a way to avoid review in federal court.

“The federal government’s position boils down to a simple — but erroneous — claim: A law that avoids pre-enforcement review in federal district court is an open threat to our constitutional order,” the Republican state attorney general wrote. “That is ahistorical nonsense.”

Challenges to the law that bans abortion after six weeks — often before most women know they are pregnant — have ricocheted through the courts. A divided Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect on September 1 as a part of a different challenge. But a trial court agreed to block it on October 6. During a two-day window, some clinics began performing abortions again, but were stopped from doing so when the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in to temporarily freeze the trial judge’s order. Now the appeals panel will decide whether to issue a more formal injunction in the coming days.

No matter how the court rules, the losing party is likely to race back to the Supreme Court.

An organization that operates several clinics in Texas said Thursday that its staff has provided abortions for patients who are more than six weeks into their pregnancies, after a federal judge Wednesday blocked a Texas law banning the procedure roughly after that point.

The organization, Whole Woman’s Health, announced in tweets and in a call with reporters that it had resumed the procedure after six weeks.
“Last night, we reached out to some of the patients that we had on the waiting list, to come in to have abortions today — folks whose pregnancies did have cardiac activity earlier in September,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and founder of the organization, said on the call. “We were able to see a few people at 8, 9 this morning right away when we opened the clinic.
Under the Texas law, the clinics and their staff could potentially still be held liable in private state court litigation for those abortions if the judge’s order blocking the law is ultimately reversed by a higher court.

In briefs filed Wednesday in the Justice Department’s challenge to Texas’ abortion ban, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton touted the trips Texas women are making out of state to obtain abortions as a point in his favor in defending the law.

Paxton was addressing an argument that the Biden administration had made for why it should be allowed to challenge the six-week abortion ban in federal court. The Justice Department said that the way the ban affects interstate commerce gives the United States the authority to bring a lawsuit challenging it.

Paxton shot back on Wednesday in his brief by arguing that the Justice Department did not cite any “actual evidence that the Texas Heartbeat Act burdens interstate commerce.”

Furthermore, the abortion ban is encouraging people to cross state lines, he suggested.

“What evidence that does exist in the record suggests that, if anything, the Act is stimulating rather than obstructing interstate travel,” Paxton said, pointing to an increase in Texas women seeking to travel to Kansas and Oklahoma to obtain the procedure.

In an earlier court filing, the leader of the clinic organization Trust Women told a court that call volume for appointments at its clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma had doubled, and a significant portion of those patients were from Texas.

(CNN)A day after a press release obliquely announced that a “full forensic audit” was already underway in a handful of Texas counties, officials in many of those counties told CNN they’re still in the dark about the audit plans.

Hours after former President Donald Trump fired off a letter to GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanding an audit of the 2020 presidential election results, the Texas secretary of state’s office appeared to comply. A Thursday evening press release from the office stated that “the Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election and has already begun the process in Texas’ two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties — Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin for the 2020 election.”
Beyond that, statewide Texas officials offered little clarity. Abbott’s office referred questions about the audit to the secretary of state’s office. The secretary of state job is currently vacant in Texas and other officials in that office did not respond to requests for comment.
Officials in Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties said they had not yet received any requests from the secretary of state’s office for information or materials that would be relevant for a post-election audit. Collin County officials didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry.
Texas governor signs bill tightening restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs
CNN, Carma Hassan and Devan ColeSeptember 21, 2021

Abortion-inducing drugs in Texas will now be harder to obtain after the state’s Republican governor recently signed restrictive legislation into law, weeks after another strict abortion law went into effect in the state.

Senate Bill 4, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday, prohibits a person “from providing an abortion‑inducing drug to a pregnant woman without satisfying the applicable informed consent requirements for abortions.” The law requires physicians providing abortion drugs to comply with certain physician reporting requirements. Anyone who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly violates” the bill faces a state jail felony offense.
A state jail felony offense is punishable by 180 days to two years to jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000, according to the state’s penal code.
The law joins another new controversial abortion law in the state that has infuriated reproductive rights activists, whose efforts to stop it from taking effect were turned down by the Supreme Court earlier this month. That law bans abortions after six weeks and allows any person — as long as they’re not a government official — to bring a civil lawsuit in state court against a provider accused of violating the ban.

The US Education Department’s civil rights enforcement arm is opening an investigation to determine whether Texas’ ban on school mask mandates is preventing school districts from “considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.”

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday detailing how “OCR is concerned that Texas’s restriction on schools and school districts from putting masking requirements in place may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
Tuesday’s letter notes that opening this kind of investigation “in no way implies that OCR has decided whether there has been a violation of a law OCR enforces” and that “during the investigation, OCR is a neutral factfinder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from TEA and other sources as appropriate prior to reaching a determination in this matter.”
The investigation brings a new layer of scrutiny to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates, which a number of school districts are challenging. Abbott, a Republican, signed the order in May and has defended it despite guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending masks for everyone in schools regardless of vaccination status.
Justice Department Promises To Protect People Who Seek Abortions in Texas
TPR, Jerry Clayton, Fernando Ortiz Jr.September 6, 2021

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that the Justice Department will protect people trying to obtain or provide abortions in Texas, in the wake of the state’s new restrictive abortion law.

Senate Bill 8 — often called the “heartbeat bill” by supporters — effectively bans abortions after six weeks, well before many people even know they are pregnant. Physicians who specialize in reproductive health say the term “fetal heartbeat” used in the legislation is misleading because there is no cardiovascular system or a functional heart six weeks into pregnancy.

Garland said his department will urgently explore all options to challenge the law. In the meantime, he said it will continue to protect the rights of people seeking access to abortion under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994.

The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services.

With a Special Session on Voting Restrictions Looming, Texas Dems Push for Federal Protections
Texas Observer, Michael Barajas and Justin Miller June 2, 2021

Voting rights advocates say Texas Republicans’ underhanded effort to ram through new voter suppression measures highlights the need to restore federal voting rights legislation.

Nearly every legislative session, Texas Republicans cite the myth of widespread, election-swinging voter fraud to try to make voting harder, scarier, and more confusing. This session, they came very close to getting their way, prompting calls for federal intervention before lawmakers get a second chance to pass sweeping voting restrictions later this year.

Democrats in the Texas House staged a dramatic walkout late Sunday, the final night of the session, to thwart an attempt by Senate Republicans to swiftly pass significant new restrictions without transparency or debate. The move killed the omnibus elections bill, Senate Bill 7, but Governor Greg Abbott immediately vowed to revive it in a special session and threatened to defund the Legislature if they didn’t get it passed. While the walkout likely postpones a losing battle for Texas Dems, voting rights advocates say the attempt to ram through new voting restrictions at the last minute illustrates the urgent need for restoring the federal Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted several years ago.

The Lege This Week: Bitterness and Brinkmanship
Texas Observer, Texas Observer StaffMay 28, 2021

Amid the theatrics that consumed the final full week of session, lawmakers still haven’t finalized much of their already-lackluster winter storm response.

Welcome to the 87th Legislative Session. Since the last session came to a close in June 2019, Texas has been hit by an unrestrained pandemic and a crippling economic crisis—and now the fallout from deadly blackouts. Under unprecedented circumstances, lawmakers are faced with a number of urgent challenges. The Texas Observer is following along every step of the way.

The Final Days

Bitterness and political brinkmanship has flared up in the final days of the 2021 legislative session, as time runs out to pass bills.

In the final hours before a midnight deadline Tuesday to vote on Senate bills, House Democrats slowed floor debate to a crawl—a procedural delay tactic known as “chubbing”—in an attempt to block a slate of right-wing legislation. They ultimately succeeded in stopping bills that would have blocked transgender athletes from playing on school sports teams based on their gender identity, banned local governments from paying for lobbyists, and outlawed “censorship” by social media platforms. All of these were key priorities for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Democrats cheered and waved transgender pride flags on the floor as the clock struck midnight. “Ding dong the bill is dead,” tweeted Representative Erin Zwiener, a Hays County Democrat and member of the House LGBTQ Caucus, of the anti-trans sports bill.