Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

October 5th, 2021:

SCOTx denies Planned Parenthood emergency request

Not a surprise, I suppose.

Right there with them

The Texas Supreme Court denied a request Monday from Planned Parenthood to resume its lawsuit, filed in a state district court, that challenges the state’s near-total abortion ban.

Planned Parenthood asked the all-Republican court last week to overturn the Texas Multidistrict Litigation Panel’s decision to indefinitely pause its suit alongside 13 other lawsuits filed in Travis County district court. The panel of five judges stopped the cases from continuing at the request of Texas Right to Life, a prominent anti-abortion organization that helped draft Texas’ abortion restrictions.

The suit filed by Planned Parenthood asked the court to declare the abortion law, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, unconstitutional. A hearing was scheduled for this month, the organization said, before the panel of judges paused proceedings. In that case, the court temporarily blocked Texas Right to Life from being able to sue Planned Parenthood for potential violations of the abortion law.

“The Texas Supreme Court’s decision to allow the stay to remain in effect is extremely disappointing and will likely deprive Planned Parenthood of its day in court, once again,” Helene Krasnoff, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for public policy litigation and law, said in a statement.

Elizabeth Myers, a Dallas-based attorney who represents plaintiffs for the other 13 lawsuits blocked, said Monday’s ruling was disappointing, but she called the stay a temporary setback.

“We’ll present our arguments and the defendants will ultimately have to attempt to defend SB8 on the merits,” Myers said. “That is something the defendants are obviously scared and unwilling to do, so it’s not surprising that they continue to try to delay it. At some point, their delay tactics will no longer work and our clients look forward to that day.”

See here for the background. I still don’t understand what the norms are for the Texas Multidistrict Litigation Panel, so I don’t know if outrage, annoyance, or a shrug of the shoulders is the appropriate reaction. I’m going to go with “annoyance” anyway, because this whole situation is some kind of bullshit. Let’s please get a favorable ruling in the federal case ASAP, shall we?

Justice Department gets involved in federal lawsuit over mask mandate ban

Missed this over the weekend.

The Justice Department signaled its support on Wednesday for the families of children with disabilities in Texas who are suing to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in the state’s schools.

The department filed a formal statement on Wednesday with the federal district court in Austin that is hearing one of the lawsuits, saying that the ban violates the rights of students with disabilities if it prevents the students from safely attending public schools in person, “even if their local school districts offered them the option of virtual learning.”

The move signals a willingness by the federal government to intervene in states where governors and other policymakers have opposed mask mandates, using federal anti-discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Justice Department has often used similar statements of interest to step in to cases involving civil rights.

“Frankly I’m thrilled,” said Juliana Longoria, 38, of San Antonio. Her daughter, Juliana Ramirez, 8, is one of the plaintiffs in a suit against the ban filed in August by the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas. “It gives me a lot more hope that the federal government is serious about protecting our children,” Ms. Longoria said.

[…]

Dustin Rynders, a lawyer for Disability Rights Texas, said the department’s position put schools in Texas and beyond on notice that they had an obligation to accommodate people with disabilities, including through the wearing of masks.

“It would be discrimination for a state to prohibit ramps to enter in the school,” Mr. Rynders said. “And for many of our clients, people wearing masks to protect our clients’ health is what is required for our clients to be able to safely enter the school.”

Because masks are not required at her school, Juliana Graves, 7, has not been back to school in Sugar Land this year, according to her mother, Ricki Graves. The Lamar Consolidated Independent School District did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Juliana has had a heart transplant, and the medication she takes to prevent rejection suppresses her immune system, her mother said. As a result, respiratory infections as simple as the common cold have landed Juliana in the hospital more than a dozen times, Ms. Graves said, adding that she worries that Covid-19 could kill her daughter.

Instead of going to school, Juliana has been receiving four hours a week of instruction from a teacher through homebound school services, Ms. Graves said. Her daughter is repeating first grade, she said, and might now be falling even further behind.

“She’s missing all her social interaction, she’s not able to go to school in person and be with her teachers and have recess and go to lunch,” Ms. Graves said. “It’s hard for her.”

See here, here, and here for the background. The story says that a hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for this week, but I couldn’t find what the date of that hearing is, so I guess I’ll know when I see a story about that. I would like to think that an injunction barring Abbott from banning mask mandates would be in the offing, but I think a narrower ruling that would require schools that have a student that meets some definition of “disabled” to have a mandate is more likely. But I Am Not A Lawyer, so what do I know? ABC News and the Trib have more.

Collier announces

It’s officially official, we have a contested primary for Lite Guv.

Mike Collier

Mike Collier has been itching for a rematch with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for nearly three years, after coming within 4.9 points of unseating the Republican in 2018.

“I woke up the next morning thinking, ‘I’m pretty sure if I had more time or money, we could beat him,’” Collier said. “That was my first impulse. The dust settled, and we went and analyzed the performance county by county.”

“I quickly realized: If I stay on this, I can close that gap and I can win.”

Collier, an accountant and former chief financial officer of an oil company, said his campaign infrastructure has grown significantly in the intervening years. He worked to support other Democrats running for office during the 2020 general election and served as a senior adviser to President Joe Biden’s Texas campaign.

[…]

Collier formed an exploratory committee in April to consider running again for lieutenant governor, and his campaign officially began Monday morning.

He is the second Democrat to formally announce for the seat. Matthew Dowd, a former strategist for George W. Bush and political analyst for ABC News, launched his campaign for the post last week.

“We’re close to winning, and when you get close to winning, you begin to attract people who say, ‘I’d like to be lieutenant governor,’” Collier said. “I have been devoted to bringing real political competition to the state, which means winning statewide office for the Democrats. I’ve been focused for nearly a decade and went through the darkest of times with the party.”

This will be Collier’s third run for statewide office after unsuccessful campaigns in 2014 for comptroller and 2018 for Patrick’s seat.

But Collier contends that he is a different candidate today than he was three years ago, one with improved fundraising chops and a better grasp of the issues that are important for voters. For months his refrain has been a call to leaders at the statehouse to “fix the damn grid” after widespread power outages during winter storms this year resulted in hundreds of deaths.

In his mind, a surefire way to win over voters is to ask them, “Are you better off now than four years ago?”

“The answer on so many levels is clearly no,” Collier said, arguing that while he has improved as a candidate since the 2018 election, Patrick’s performance has only gotten worse. “This mad dash to pander to the primary voters of the Republican Party has taken us so far outside of where Texans want us to go.”

Collier said his campaign will run on the same message and strategy employed in 2018, which he says entails speaking with people in every corner of the state and working to earn their trust, without taking any one voter for granted.

See here and here for the background. Collier was a strong candidate in 2018, and though he hasn’t been much of a fundraiser the fact that this would be his third time on the ballot if he’s nominated does help. I do hope he can raise more money and that he’s built up his campaign infrastructure, because we all are going to need that. I think he’s got his finger on a winning message, it’s largely a matter of getting that message out. I’ll be very interested to see what his next finance report looks like.

As for Dowd, I’ll keep an open mind. Scott Braddock on the Texas Take podcast (the “It’s Never Enough For Trump” episode) kind of laid into Dowd as just a talking head whose biggest asset is being of interest to the media, and drew a clear roadmap for the Collier campaign for why Dowd bears a significant amount of blame for the state of the Republican Party today, which he now publicly decries. Braddock also speculated that a woman or person of color see an opportunity in this race; all I ask is that it’s someone who would be able to fundraise if that is so. I’m happy to have a contested primary, to draw some attention to this race and these candidates and why Dan Patrick is trash and needs to be removed. Let’s make sure that no matter what else happens, we’re all focused on that. Houston Public Media, Spectrum News, and Texas Monthly have more.

Don’t forget your flu shot

The flu is going to be back this year. Don’t fall for it.

After a historically light flu season in 2020, experts warn an influenza resurgence is looming this fall and winter.

“I would expect a more intense influenza season, simply because we did not have a flu season last year,” said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a virologist at Baylor College of Medicine.

Flu exposure breeds a level of natural immunity, creating a cellular memory of prior infections in those it infects. The absence of influenza last year, due to widespread masking and social distancing, has left many with a weakened immune defense — a development that could spell trouble as Texans venture out in droves this fall.

The return of the familiar body aching, fever-inducing wintertime scourge could not arrive at a worse time. Hospitals are still reeling from the fourth surge of COVID-19 spurred by the highly contagious delta variant and stagnating vaccination rates.

Experts predict flu season could hit Houston by early November.

“Now is the time to start making flu vaccine appointments,” Piedra said.

This past year was a historic anomaly due to COVID restrictions and precautions, and the lack of those plus a year out from anyone getting the flu we’re likely to see a resurgence. The flu shot may not be quite as effective this year, as it will be harder to model what it needs to be, but it will still be way better than nothing. Don’t miss out.