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January 16th, 2014:

Mayor Parker gets married

Awesome.

Mayor Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and longtime partner Kathy Hubbard are now married – at least in the eyes of 18 states, including California, where the couple formally exchanged vows Thursday in a sunset ceremony in Palm Springs.

“This is a very happy day for us,” Parker said in a news release issued from her office. “We have had to wait a very long time to formalize our commitment to each other. Kathy has been by my side for more than two decades, helping to raise a family, nurture my political career and all of the other ups and down and life events that come with a committed relationship. She is the love of my life and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life married to her.”

The wedding included family and friends, including the mayor’s mother and Hubbard’s sister, according the mayor’s press office. The Rev. Paul Fromberg, a family friend from San Francisco, presided. Two other close friends from Houston, Judge Steve Kirkland and Mark Parthie, were attendants and formal witnesses. Parker and Hubbard chose Jan. 16 for their wedding because it marks the 23rd anniversary of the start of their lives together, her office said.

[…]

The mayor had vowed not to marry until it was legal in Texas, then softened her stance. By state law, her marriage is not recognized as valid in Texas.

You can see the press release, which is the source of that adorable photo, here. As the Chron story notes, we first got wind of this just after Christmas. I’m delighted for them both and wish them all the very best. And in case you’re wondering, the press release notes that Hubbard has “other insurance options available to her”, so she will not enroll in health insurance via the city’s updated policy on employee benefits. Congratulations and mazel tov, you two.

UPDATE: PDiddie reminds me that Texas Leftist heard about this before the rest of us did. The updated Chron story reminds us that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is a nasty, bitter, small-minded person, who if the experience in Utah is any indication is likely to be out of touch with most Texans in short order. Hair Balls has more.

Judicial Q&A: Allecia Pottinger

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.)

Allecia Pottinger

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

I am a wife and mother who has practiced law as an attorney in Harris County and its surrounding counties for over 18 years. After becoming the staff attorney for the NAACP in 1997, I was later elected the legal program director for the organization. In 1997, I started working for the NAACP as the staff attorney and later became their legal program director. Currently, I am a hearing examiner for the Texas Education Agency and an independent practitioner who founded the Lindsey Pottinger Law Firm, PLLC, which specializes in Family Law.

I’m running for judge for the 280th District Court of Harris County, which hears all of the domestic violence cases in the county, and issues protective orders.

The desire I have is simply to be an honest and fair judge, and to work for the people of the community in which I serve. I am vehemently against any form of domestic violence, and seek to issue protection to families in need, offer opportunities for those cemented in the cycle of violence, and fair solutions for the parties involved in these circumstances.

I believe that every judge should care about the people they serve, be fair, and listen to their concerns!

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 280th Judicial District Court of Harris County is solely responsible for all of the civil domestic violence cases in Harris County and only those types of cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have a passion for those who are abused, downtrodden and disenfranchised. I can’t think of any other court where my service as a judge would impact people whom I have a passion for. Further, I have been dishearten by a consistent decrease in numbers of domestic violence cases brought before the court since the current presiding judge has been on the bench.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been practicing law for a little over 18 years and 60% of my practice has been in the area of family law. Equally, I have had experience of hearing cases as an administrative law judge for the Texas Education Agency and issuing decisions on the cases I have heard. This experience has prepared me for this opportunity.

5. Why is this race important?

In 2012, there were 38,490 incidents of domestic violence reported in Harris County.

  • 26% of all Texas female intimate homicides occurred in Harris County in 2012.
  • 30 women were killed in 2012 in Harris County due to domestic violence.
  • In 2009, the Houston Police Department alone tallied 27,214 reported incidents of domestic violence.
  • The most recent year for which complete area- and state-wide data is available is 2009. Law-enforcement agencies in Harris County received 41,506 reports of domestic violence.

However, these numbers are not reflected in the amount of cases that flow through the 280th District Court at this time. The numbers are so low that this court doesn’t warrant having an associate judge which is what most family law courts have in this county. This means that more needs to be done to ensure that this court is sensitive to the needs of those who will come before this court seeking help. It also means that the court needs to create an atmosphere that is conducive to more attorneys desiring to practice before this court on a pro bono basis so that more victims can be served.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I am the candidate who has integrity, cares about the people she serves and will be fair. I am not swayed by public opinion, but only what is right. I strive for justice, and am not afraid to administer it as swiftly as possible. My desire is for the victims who will potentially come before me; not for political gain. I want those who step into my courtroom to know a decision will be reached based on the facts; not conjecture or presupposition, or biased opinion.

TRO against Wilson lifted

He gets to take his seat. After that, I don’t know what happens.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

A judge Wednesday declined to prohibit small businessman and anti-gay activist Dave Wilson from taking his seat at the first meeting of the board of the Houston Community College Thursday.

State District Judge Brent Gamble turned back efforts by the Harris County Attorney’s Office to get a new temporary restraining order to keep Wilson from taking the dais as questions about his residency are litigated.

Another civil court judge had previously granted a restraining order prohibiting Wilson from taking the oath of office and declined to issue another one, saying the issues raised around Wilson will be heard in the court where the case landed when it was filed in December.

Wilson’s position is that he was not properly served with the restraining order before taking the oath at the beginning of the year after being elected in November.

This is the early story – it wasn’t on the houstonchronicle.com site by the time I went to bed – so I don’t know what Judge Gamble’s reasoning was. From this, it seems he can be seated but not take the oath of office, and I have no idea what that means. Nor do I know what happens if Judge Engelhart eventually rules that Wilson was ineligible for the ballot. So for at least one meeting, Wilson gets to be a trustee, and sometime after next week we find out if there’s an asterisk next to his name or not.

UPDATE: The paywall story is the same is the chron.com version, so that’s all we’ve got for now.

ACA enrollments in Texas

As was the case with the rest of the country, there was a big surge in December.

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

Texas enrollments in the online insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act rose nearly eightfold in December, according to 2013 figures that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Monday.

Texas ranks third in the number of 2013 enrollments following the troubled launch of healthcare.gov on Oct. 1. As of Dec. 28, nearly 120,000 Texans had purchased coverage in the federal marketplace, up from 14,000 one month before.

The number represents a tiny fraction of the uninsured in Texas, which has a higher percentage of people without health coverage than any other state. In 2012, more than 6 million Texans, about 24 percent of the population, lacked health insurance, according to U.S. census data.

Florida led the nation in the number of 2013 enrollments, with 158,000. In a media call from Tampa, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised Florida’s high enrollment numbers. Like Texas, Florida has a largely unfavorable political climate toward the Affordable Care Act, and a high rate of the uninsured, at 21 percent. HHS officials offered no explanation for why more people enrolled in some states compared with others.

“The numbers show that there is a very strong national demand for affordable health care made possible by the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius said in the call announcing the enrollment data, adding that nationwide enrollment had reached nearly 2.2 million.

The Better Texas Blog breaks the numbers down further.

  • 457,382 individual Texans applied for coverage with completed applications, revealing a high level of interest in Marketplace coverage;
  • 390,658 Texans were determined eligible to enroll in a Marketplace plan, and 180,349 Texans were found eligible for financial assistance in the Marketplace. Many of the 210,000 Texans who are eligible to buy in the Marketplace, but ineligible for subsidies likely fall into the “coverage gap” created when Texas leaders refused federal funds to expand health care coverage through Medicaid to Texas adults below the poverty line;
  • 47,177 Texans were assessed eligible Medicaid/CHIP by the Marketplace (a number that would be much higher with Medicaid expansion);
  • 55 percent of Texans who chose a health plan are women; and
  • 26 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34. Young adults are enrolling in the Marketplace, and previous experience from Massachusetts indicates that enrollment by this age group will increase as we near the March 31 enrollment deadline.

These numbers prove that the law and its website are working–more Texans are able to apply for and select health plans that fit their budgets. (Read about our intern’s experience enrolling in a Marketplace plan). People can enroll in the Marketplace through March 31, 2014.

There’s still a lot more growth to come, in other words. Progress Texas adds on.

Ed Espinoza, Executive Director of Progress Texas, released the following statement:

Twelve weeks of ACA has done more to help Texans without health care than Rick Perry has done in twelve years as Governor.

…Texas Still Has a Significant Coverage Gap

In addition to the top-line numbers, a little digging shows how Rick Perry and Greg Abbott’s refusal to expand Medicaid has created a significant coverage gap in Texas:

  • 210,309 Texans who applied for coverage could have received financial assistance for the Marketplace plans.

Many, if not most, of those 210,000+ Texans who couldn’t get financial assistance would have been covered if Texas had expanded Medicaid. We know that one million low-income Texans are left out of health coverage because elected leaders in Texas chose politics over what was right for our people.

Just imagine how many more people could be getting coverage if Rick Perry wasn’t doing everything in his power to stand in the way. Several Texas Congressional Democrats have now sent a letter to AG Eric Holder asking him to step in and do something about Texas’ ridiculous navigator rules, but I don’t really expect anything to come of that. For more on the national numbers, see Jonathan Cohn, TPM, Sarah Kliff, and Ezra Klein.

Texas blog roundup for the week of January 13

The Texas Progressive Alliance has no knowledge of any bridge lane closures as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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