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May 2nd, 2009:

Saturday video break

Because even mad scientists need love:

Happy Saturday!

Saturday video break

Because even mad scientists need love:

Happy Saturday!

Patrick forced to moderate his ultrasound bill

Somewhat surprisingly, there haven’t been too many egregious attempts to assault reproductive choice this session; that may be partly because there’s only so much farther the Lege can go short of an outright ban, and it may be partly because of the effort put into the “Choose Life” license plates, which was the big rallying point. One of the substantive efforts to meddle in women’s health issues was Sen. Dan Patrick’s ultrasound bill, which thanks to the larger Democratic caucus he was forced to amend.

Women seeking an abortion would be offered — but not required to have — an ultrasound under a scaled-back measure the Texas Senate tentatively approved Thursday.

The original bill by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would have mandated the ultrasound. Patrick presented an amendment Thursday to his own bill, changing the proposal to say that the woman has to be offered the ultrasound but could say no.

He said the change helped move the measure more quickly through the Senate.

“I didn’t see it weakening our bill. … I saw it as maybe bringing more people to support it, and I think it did,” Patrick said.

[…]

In many cases, women seeking abortions are already offered ultrasounds. For example, Dr. Scott Spear, medical director for Planned Parenthood in Austin, has said that all women who have an abortion there get an ultrasound and are offered the chance to see the image.

The bill is SB182, and Patrick did get enough support for his amended version to pass out of the Senate. Hopefully, the clock will run out before it can pass the House.

The original proposal — touted by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — would have required doctors to perform the ultrasound, make the fetal heartbeat audible and talk to the woman about the picture and the sound. The women would not have been required to look at the image.

“My goal has always been to be sure that a woman going in for an abortion has all the information that she needs to make the right decision, and I think this bill accomplishes that,” Patrick said of the new version.

But Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told Patrick during the debate on the Senate floor, “I believe it’s about shaming a woman.”

That’s exactly what it’s about. If the Dan Patricks of the world really cared about reducing the number of abortions in Texas, they’d support greater access to contraception for those who most need it. But of course they don’t. Kudos to Sen. Davis, who I’ll say again is nice to have around, for calling it like it is. Patricia Kilday Hart and Stace have more.

UPDATE: A statement from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte about the contraception bill Sen. Patrick should have supported if he were remotely sincere about his “concern” for women is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Patrick forced to moderate his ultrasound bill

Somewhat surprisingly, there haven’t been too many egregious attempts to assault reproductive choice this session; that may be partly because there’s only so much farther the Lege can go short of an outright ban, and it may be partly because of the effort put into the “Choose Life” license plates, which was the big rallying point. One of the substantive efforts to meddle in women’s health issues was Sen. Dan Patrick’s ultrasound bill, which thanks to the larger Democratic caucus he was forced to amend.

Women seeking an abortion would be offered — but not required to have — an ultrasound under a scaled-back measure the Texas Senate tentatively approved Thursday.

The original bill by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would have mandated the ultrasound. Patrick presented an amendment Thursday to his own bill, changing the proposal to say that the woman has to be offered the ultrasound but could say no.

He said the change helped move the measure more quickly through the Senate.

“I didn’t see it weakening our bill. … I saw it as maybe bringing more people to support it, and I think it did,” Patrick said.

[…]

In many cases, women seeking abortions are already offered ultrasounds. For example, Dr. Scott Spear, medical director for Planned Parenthood in Austin, has said that all women who have an abortion there get an ultrasound and are offered the chance to see the image.

The bill is SB182, and Patrick did get enough support for his amended version to pass out of the Senate. Hopefully, the clock will run out before it can pass the House.

The original proposal — touted by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — would have required doctors to perform the ultrasound, make the fetal heartbeat audible and talk to the woman about the picture and the sound. The women would not have been required to look at the image.

“My goal has always been to be sure that a woman going in for an abortion has all the information that she needs to make the right decision, and I think this bill accomplishes that,” Patrick said of the new version.

But Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told Patrick during the debate on the Senate floor, “I believe it’s about shaming a woman.”

That’s exactly what it’s about. If the Dan Patricks of the world really cared about reducing the number of abortions in Texas, they’d support greater access to contraception for those who most need it. But of course they don’t. Kudos to Sen. Davis, who I’ll say again is nice to have around, for calling it like it is. Patricia Kilday Hart and Stace have more.

UPDATE: A statement from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte about the contraception bill Sen. Patrick should have supported if he were remotely sincere about his “concern” for women is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Endorsement watch: Ed for H

The Chronicle makes its endorsement in District H.

An unusually well-qualified field of candidates is vying to replace former incumbent Adrian Garcia, who was elected Harris County Sheriff in November. The Chronicle believes Garcia’s former council community liaison, 18-year Houston police veteran and sergeant Ed Gonzalez, is the best choice to represent District H.

Gonzalez is a native Houstonian and lives in Lindale Park with his family. He boasts a strong history of civic involvement in the district and currently chairs the crime and public safety committee of the Houston Heights Association.

“District H needs effective representation from day one,” Gonzalez told the Chronicle editorial board during a candidate screening. “I’ve been there. I’ve worked with the different community leaders and civic organizations.” Gonzalez, whose police experience includes gang murder investigations and hostage negotiation, organized a community town hall to deal with a rash of home burglaries in the district. As council liaison he also has worked with neighborhood leaders on health, transportation and other issues.

Gonzalez has been endorsed by an impressive group of elected officials and organizations. He has the support of Sheriff Garcia, Constable Victor Trevino, Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, Congressman Gene Green and state Reps. Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle.

His experience and dedication to improving Houston’s quality of life make Gonzalez an excellent choice to serve as District H councilmember. The Chronicle urges voters to go to the polls next Saturday and cast ballots in what is expected to be a very low-turnout election.

I’m sure the choice was as tough for them as it’s been for me. As for the turnout, we don’t have Friday’s numbers yet, but through Thursday there have been 830 ballots cast in early and absentee voting (PDF). Early voting locations are open till 7 PM today, from 7 to 7 Monday and Tuesday, and from 1 to 6 PM tomorrow. Get out there and vote – it’s not like you’ll have to wait on line.

Endorsement watch: Ed for H

The Chronicle makes its endorsement in District H.

An unusually well-qualified field of candidates is vying to replace former incumbent Adrian Garcia, who was elected Harris County Sheriff in November. The Chronicle believes Garcia’s former council community liaison, 18-year Houston police veteran and sergeant Ed Gonzalez, is the best choice to represent District H.

Gonzalez is a native Houstonian and lives in Lindale Park with his family. He boasts a strong history of civic involvement in the district and currently chairs the crime and public safety committee of the Houston Heights Association.

“District H needs effective representation from day one,” Gonzalez told the Chronicle editorial board during a candidate screening. “I’ve been there. I’ve worked with the different community leaders and civic organizations.” Gonzalez, whose police experience includes gang murder investigations and hostage negotiation, organized a community town hall to deal with a rash of home burglaries in the district. As council liaison he also has worked with neighborhood leaders on health, transportation and other issues.

Gonzalez has been endorsed by an impressive group of elected officials and organizations. He has the support of Sheriff Garcia, Constable Victor Trevino, Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, Congressman Gene Green and state Reps. Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle.

His experience and dedication to improving Houston’s quality of life make Gonzalez an excellent choice to serve as District H councilmember. The Chronicle urges voters to go to the polls next Saturday and cast ballots in what is expected to be a very low-turnout election.

I’m sure the choice was as tough for them as it’s been for me. As for the turnout, we don’t have Friday’s numbers yet, but through Thursday there have been 830 ballots cast in early and absentee voting (PDF). Early voting locations are open till 7 PM today, from 7 to 7 Monday and Tuesday, and from 1 to 6 PM tomorrow. Get out there and vote – it’s not like you’ll have to wait on line.

Is there still hope for the microbreweries?

I said previously that I thought the prospects for HB2094, the bill to allow microbreweries to sell some of their product on site, were dim. I don’t want to give any false hope, but it’s possible I was too pessimistic.

With just a month remaining before lawmakers adjourn, the bill remains bottled up in the same House committee where a similar measure died in 2007. The chairman of that committee on Thursday gave the bill a “50-50” chance of making it out in time to get scheduled for a vote by the end of the session.

“I will look at it and see what the will of the committee is,” said state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, who chairs the nine-member Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee. He explained that if four other members agree to support the bill, he would vote to move it along as well.

“I would not hold it in committee,” Kuempel said.

However, no vote on the bill was scheduled by late Thursday, and time is running short. The bill would have to be out and cleared by the Calendars Committee by May 14 if it is to have any chance before the session ends June 1.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who sponsored the legislation in 2007 and again this year, said she has the necessary four votes and late in the day got a commitment from Kuempel. She said he was scheduling the vote.

She said the bill appears to have encountered stiff opposition “behind the scenes.”

Earlier Thursday, Licensing committee member Charles Geren, R-Fort Worth, recalled there was opposition when the bill was introduced for discussion, but he said he did not remember where it came from. He said he would “probably vote for” Farrar’s bill but referred questions about its status to Kuempel.

If HB2094 can get passed out of committee, then it has a chance, even this late in the session. It’ll still be a close call in the Senate, but at least their calendar is not quite as jammed. So take a moment and contact a committee member about HB2094. Beer, TX has more.

Is there still hope for the microbreweries?

I said previously that I thought the prospects for HB2094, the bill to allow microbreweries to sell some of their product on site, were dim. I don’t want to give any false hope, but it’s possible I was too pessimistic.

With just a month remaining before lawmakers adjourn, the bill remains bottled up in the same House committee where a similar measure died in 2007. The chairman of that committee on Thursday gave the bill a “50-50” chance of making it out in time to get scheduled for a vote by the end of the session.

“I will look at it and see what the will of the committee is,” said state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, who chairs the nine-member Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee. He explained that if four other members agree to support the bill, he would vote to move it along as well.

“I would not hold it in committee,” Kuempel said.

However, no vote on the bill was scheduled by late Thursday, and time is running short. The bill would have to be out and cleared by the Calendars Committee by May 14 if it is to have any chance before the session ends June 1.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who sponsored the legislation in 2007 and again this year, said she has the necessary four votes and late in the day got a commitment from Kuempel. She said he was scheduling the vote.

She said the bill appears to have encountered stiff opposition “behind the scenes.”

Earlier Thursday, Licensing committee member Charles Geren, R-Fort Worth, recalled there was opposition when the bill was introduced for discussion, but he said he did not remember where it came from. He said he would “probably vote for” Farrar’s bill but referred questions about its status to Kuempel.

If HB2094 can get passed out of committee, then it has a chance, even this late in the session. It’ll still be a close call in the Senate, but at least their calendar is not quite as jammed. So take a moment and contact a committee member about HB2094. Beer, TX has more.

Wendy Davis

I’ve been a fan of freshman State Sen. Wendy Davis since I interviewed her last year at the state Democratic convention. You could tell she was smart and ambitious, and if given the chance could really go places. I’ve been happy with her actions so far in her first session – as this nice profile note, she has not been timid about making noise and getting stuff done. She’s also duly impressed her colleagues:

Senators in both parties, as well as outside analysts, describe the Harvard-educated lawyer as an energetic hard worker who meticulously researches the issues and displays an independent streak. Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on which Davis serves, is a big admirer, saying she is on track to become “one of the Senate’s very top leaders in a very short period of time.”

“I’ve been here 20 years,” he said. “She appears to me to be one of the brightest and most capable freshmen I’ve seen to date.”

Davis, 45, works closely with Republicans Sens. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound and Chris Harris of Arlington, the two other senators who represent parts of Tarrant County, although she and Nelson split on a major transportation funding bill backed by North Texas political leaders. Davis, who was heavily involved in transportation on the Fort Worth council, has been a leading advocate of the funding bill while Nelson has opposed it.

In addition to Carona, Davis says her other mentors in the Senate are Democrats Kirk Watson of Austin, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso and Rodney Ellis of Houston.

“If you look at the agenda that they pursue, they’re very much in keeping with what I believe is important,” she said in taking stock of her record with five weeks left in the session. “If I could put a label on the agenda I brought here, I’d call it a populist agenda. . . . I feel good that we’ve advanced the discussion on some important issues, and we’ve had some success already.”

I foresee a bright future, too, maybe a spot on the statewide ticket some day. No surprise that the Tarrant County GOP wants to paint a target on her back for 2012. I say good luck trying. The county is trending the right way, and barring something hideous in the 2011 redistricting, which seems unlikely given the GOP’s need to protect Sen. Chris Harris in that go-round, it’s just hard to knock off an incumbent Senator. I wouldn’t underestimate Sen. Davis, that’s for sure.

My favorite bit in the story has to be this:

Since January, [Davis] has been a dependable Democratic vote on some of the chamber’s more divisive issues, prompting at least one ardent conservative to long for the days when a Republican held the seat.

“Obviously, we have subtracted one vote from the right, and now have one vote on the left on those key issues that separate our parties,” said Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. As a result, Patrick says, he has been unable to bring up his “informed consent” bill that would require women getting an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. “Not having a Brimer here has cost me an important vote,” Patrick said.

That couldn’t be sweeter if you dipped it in honey and rolled it in sugar. Patrick did ultimately pass his bill, but he had to water it down to do so, a direct consequence of the change in partisan makeup of the Senate. It’s a pleasure having you in Austin, Sen. Wendy Davis.

Comics criticism

Interesting article about the interplay between comic strip writers and the online community that blogs about/obsesses over/critiques them. One interesting bit:

“People tend to react more to complain than to compliment,” agreed Francesco Marciuliano, the writer for Sally Forth.

Marciuliano took over the reins of Sally Forth in 1999 when creator Greg Howard retired. At first, he concentrated on keeping true to the original tone of Howard’s strip, but soon found that readers were posting unhappy comments on Internet comics forums. Listening to online critics made Marciuliano realize that many of the elements that set the strip apart when it debuted in 1982 no longer spoke to a modern audience. Sally Forth had been created to show that a happy household could function with two working parents, but this once novel concept no longer impressed younger readers.

“I started contacting people on forums and I found a lot of people who were saying about Sally Forth, ‘This strip is a dinosaur,’ ” he said.

Marciuliano embarked on a campaign to reach out to the comic’s critics in online forums. Most were surprised to hear from the cartoonist himself — and even more surprised to find that many of their ideas about the strip’s writer were off-base. Most assumed that Marciuliano was a humorless retiree more concerned with playing golf than writing gags.

That’s probably because so many strips in the newspapers are written by golf-crazed retirees. What I remember about Marciuliano’s debut with the strip was that his rendition of the characters was quite a bit off from Greg Howard’s; true to form, outraged fans wrote letters to the editor to complain. He’s since adapted, and the masses were placated. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. Link via The Comics Curmudgeon.

Comics criticism

Interesting article about the interplay between comic strip writers and the online community that blogs about/obsesses over/critiques them. One interesting bit:

“People tend to react more to complain than to compliment,” agreed Francesco Marciuliano, the writer for Sally Forth.

Marciuliano took over the reins of Sally Forth in 1999 when creator Greg Howard retired. At first, he concentrated on keeping true to the original tone of Howard’s strip, but soon found that readers were posting unhappy comments on Internet comics forums. Listening to online critics made Marciuliano realize that many of the elements that set the strip apart when it debuted in 1982 no longer spoke to a modern audience. Sally Forth had been created to show that a happy household could function with two working parents, but this once novel concept no longer impressed younger readers.

“I started contacting people on forums and I found a lot of people who were saying about Sally Forth, ‘This strip is a dinosaur,’ ” he said.

Marciuliano embarked on a campaign to reach out to the comic’s critics in online forums. Most were surprised to hear from the cartoonist himself — and even more surprised to find that many of their ideas about the strip’s writer were off-base. Most assumed that Marciuliano was a humorless retiree more concerned with playing golf than writing gags.

That’s probably because so many strips in the newspapers are written by golf-crazed retirees. What I remember about Marciuliano’s debut with the strip was that his rendition of the characters was quite a bit off from Greg Howard’s; true to form, outraged fans wrote letters to the editor to complain. He’s since adapted, and the masses were placated. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. Link via The Comics Curmudgeon.