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June 1st, 2013:

Saturday video break: I Fought The Law

Song #17 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “I Fought The Law”, originally by Bobby Fuller Four and covered by The Clash. Here’s the original:

I always pair this song in my mind with John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” – same basic concept, both set to a bouncy beat. Now here’s The Clash:

I’ve heard this version before, but I’m more familiar with the original. They’re both good, but I have a slight preference for Bobby Fuller’s. What do you think?

Still no call to expand the call

Rick Perry may yet expand the call of the special session, but so far he’s sticking to his script about dealing with redistricting first.

snl-church-lady-special

Gov. Rick Perry is leaving the door open for more items on the agenda of the newly called special legislative session, but he said Friday he wants lawmakers to bring him specific proposals that have a chance of passage before putting more on their plate.

“We’re not going to be adding things to the call just for the sake of adding things to the call,” Perry said. “We want to be relatively assured that we’re going to be successful.”

The governor, speaking to reporters at an event highlighting the state’s emergency response capabilities, was asked if he would consider adding to the agenda a fix for the troubled Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or TWIA, the state’s insurer of last resort for coastal residents.

Perry said that was “certainly possible,” but added that he wanted lawmakers to “get a little closer to what I would consider to be an agreement” before he’ll add the item to the agenda.

While the governor signaled it was “still a little premature” to speculate about expanding the session beyond redistricting — the only issue eligible for action right now — he said other priorities may soon emerge.

“There may be something, whether it’s on the budget, or whether it’s another piece of legislation that ends up being vetoed, or line-item vetoed, that we want to put back on the call and say, hey, you know we didn’t agree with this, let’s see if we can find a way to fix it,” Perry said.

To me at least, that doesn’t suggest that he’s considering the addition of all those wingnut wish list items that David Dewhurst and others are begging for, but then he could just be playing it close to the vest. Texas Politics expands on this, and also provides a peek at Perry’s thoughts on the one item that is on the agenda at this time.

Perry said he wants to drill down to the needs and “TWIA is one of those needs, frankly, that we have in this state.”

He added that “we’re not going to bring it forward until we get a little closer to what I would consider to be an agreement between the disparate groups that are out there.”

Perry responded to reporters’ questions at a news conference after a state emergency readiness activation exercise at Austin Bergstrom International Airport as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Regarding TWIA, the insurer of last resort for windstorms, Perry said that “it’s one that we have spent a lot of time working on and trying to find a solution to. It’s a complex issue, as diverse as this state is, with the huge exposure that we have along the Gulf Coast.

“Let me just leave it — it is a possibility as a special session item, but still a little premature in the session to be naming any additional issues that we have,” he said.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said previously that Perry had told him TWIA would be part of a special-session agenda if one were called. Only Perry has the authority to call lawmakers into special session, as he did on redistricting, and to set the agenda, which he hasn’t yet expanded.

Perry also was asked about discussion among lawmakers that while he could call a special session on a particular subject such as redistricting, that he couldn’t restrict its scope to only ratifying the interim court-drawn maps.

His call for the session specified ratification of those maps, a move advised by GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott. Democrats and minority interests have protested the idea.

“The intent of the call was very clear,” said Perry, who has the power to veto legislation that doesn’t suit him.

That sounds like a contradiction of the Senate’s opinion that while Perry can set the agenda, he can’t dictate what the actual legislation looks like. If the Lege sends him a redistricting bill that alters either the House or Congressional districts, especially with Democratic amendments, it’ll be interesting to see if he vetoes it. Definitely worth keeping an eye on this.

Meanwhile, the House had its redistricting hearing yesterday, and once again Greg brought the liveblogging. Here’s the House committee’s tentative schedule, which suggests a bill could be voted out as soon as June 7, after which it would be debated by the full House. Committee Chair Rep. Drew Darby was interviewed about the process afterwards, and you can listen to the audio of that here. We’re all still in the positioning phase, but things will start to get real once amendments and possibly alternative maps get formally proposed. Texas Redistricting has more.

UPDATE: Here’s Greg’s Liveblog Part II, covering today’s House committee hearing.

TEA insists North Forest closure moving ahead

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams says don’t listen to the noise, North Forest ISD will be assimilated into HISD as planned on July 1.

Williams said the Texas Education Agency, which he oversees, has followed state law and has the necessary approval to proceed with shutting down North Forest ISD, which has a long history of academic and financial problems. His order calls for neighboring HISD to assume control of the 7,000-student North Forest district on July 1.

“This is going to happen,” Williams said.

The top lawyers for the TEA and HISD had a conference call with Justice Department staff on Wednesday.

According to a memo from HISD general counsel Elneita Hutchins-Taylor, she is proposing that the HISD board approve a redistricting item at its June 13 meeting.

She said the initial recommendation is for North Forest to be assigned to District II, represented by Rhonda Skillern-Jones, with some residents possibly assigned to District VIII, represented by Juliet Stipeche. Neither seat is on the ballot in November, so the Justice Department doesn’t have to issue a ruling in the near future, Hutchins-Taylor wrote.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said North Forest officials are not fully cooperating, withholding basic information like test data and students’ addresses, needed to help plan bus routes.

See here for the background. Yesterday, North Forest’s proponents got a boost when a judge granted a temporary restraining order temporarily halting the takeover.

The order by Judge Jon Wisser means the Texas Education Agency cannot proceed with shutting down the long-troubled North Forest school district at least until a court hearing on June 13.

North Forest supporters saw the temporary restraining order as a victory in their fight against closure, but a TEA spokeswoman said the judge’s order was routine and agency officials were “absolutely confident” the takeover will take place.

“There have been illegal actions by the (TEA) Commissioner and his appointees throughout this process,” North Forest attorney Chris Tritico said in a statement. “The law does not permit the government to manipulate the law to accomplish its own ends. Today is a major step in ensuring the continuation of the North Forest school district.”

I think in the end North Forest is going to lose the fight and the closure will go ahead, but I’m not quite ready to believe it will happen on schedule. We’ll see how big a bump in the road this is.

Suburban poverty

Just as the Houston area has seen a population boom in recent years, so has it seen a large increase in poverty, to the point where there are more people in poverty in Houston’s suburbs than in the city.

The number of poor people in Houston’s suburbs doubled between 2000 and 2011, surpassing the number in its urban area, researchers reported Monday.

Suburban poverty in the 10-county Houston metro area grew at almost three times the rate of urban poverty between 2000 and 2011, mirroring a national trend, according to “Confronting Suburban Poverty,” a book by two Brookings Institution researchers.

By 2011, 540,000 poor people lived in Houston’s suburbs, compared to 504,000 in the city, according to the researchers, who applaud the Houston area’s strategies for dealing with the problem.

“Suburbs are home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, who authored the book with Alan Berube. “Poverty is touching more people and places than before, challenging outdated notions of where poverty is and who it affects.”

Nationwide the number of suburban poor surged by 3 million people – a 64 percent increase over the last decade, the researchers found. The trend clashes with the traditional idea that poverty is concentrated in urban and rural areas.

The rapid growth in suburban poverty is complicating efforts to fight the problem, partly because traditional anti-poverty programs are geared toward urban and rural areas, according to the book.

Suburbs often lack the assistance typically available in urban and many rural areas, researchers say. In addition, narrowly tailored assistance programs often target poverty concentrations rather than the dispersed poverty of the suburbs, making cooperation difficult among nonprofit agencies across regions.

Learn more about the book here. I don’t know if it’s covered in the book or not, but at least in Texas a lot of suburban counties don’t even acknowledge the issue in their localities. The Press had a cover story on homeless youth in Fort Bend a few years ago that made this clear, and we’ve known for a long time how places like Collin County deal with the indigent sick. Fighting the problem where it is now is going to take more than just rethinking traditional strategies and marshaling charitable resources in new places. At some level it’s a political problem as well, and if it isn’t approached as such it’s going to make mitigation a lot more difficult and less efficient than it should be. The Statesman has a similar story about Austin, and there’s a lot of national coverage, too.

Welcome to hurricane season

Today is the start of hurricane season for 2013, and we should expect a bumpy ride for the next few months.

NOAA predicts an above normal, and possibly a hyper-active hurricane season:

  • 13-20 named storms
  • 7-11 hurricanes
  • 3-6 major hurricanes

This is about 50 percent more activity than occurs during a normal season. The main reason is higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the region of the Atlantic where hurricanes typically form, and no external factors that might dampen tropical activity.

[…]

Since 1950 there have been an average of 12 tropical storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes during the Atlantic season.

So forecasters clearly expect a busier season.

However seasonal forecasting is far from a hard science. It’s difficult to predict meteorological conditions across the Atlantic, and their effect on a storm season, four months before the busiest time of a hurricane season begins.

Still, a recent analysis by a reader here found that the seasonal forecasts issued by NOAA — which will come out next month — is correct about twice as often as chance would predict. That’s not a perfect record, but it wouldn’t stop me from making reasonable preparations for hurricane season now.

Know whether you need to evacuate. Know what you will bring. Have a plan for where to go. Be prepared to protect your house. The simple steps you take now can make a big difference if a storm does indeed threaten Texas this year.

You can enter the annual Hurricane Prediction Contest here. And, of course, if you live in Katy, run for your lives.