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July 9th, 2014:

Davis takes her attack on Abbott’s chemical info obstruction on the road

Keeping it going.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis on Tuesday recalled the deadly explosion just up the road in West as she lambasted her GOP opponent for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, over his decision restricting disclosure of information about chemical facilities’ hazardous caches.

“Texans deserve to know where these chemicals are located,” Davis told supporters at the Waco building that houses the Democratic Party, her campaign and Battleground Texas, a group working to make the state competitive for Democrats.

“A candidate for governor should have more concern for the people of the state that she wants to run than to let them sleep next door to explosives and not only not say a word about it, but actively seek to hide that information from them,” said Davis, who has seized on the issue as part of her effort to paint Abbott as an insider who is not working for everyday Texans.

She launched a “Texans Deserve to Know” tour across Texas Tuesday to pound on the issue, starting in Fort Worth and traveling to Waco. The tour also will include San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Austin and El Paso. Davis has said if elected, she will make disclosure of the information a priority.

There’s a lame explanation from one of Abbott’s spokespeople claiming that he’s just interpreting a law from 2003, which even if one is inclined to believe that still leaves one wondering why this information continued to be routinely disclosed in the 11 years since. What there still isn’t, as I noted yesterday, is anything resembling a counterattack from Abbott on this. It’s duck and cover all the way. That right there says more than anything Davis could say. Trail Blazers, which embeds a long video segment that Rachel Maddow did on this, has more.

UPDATE: I take it back. Abbott is now responding, and he’s playing the terrorist card. Perhaps someone should ask him 1) why didn’t he take this threat seriously before now, and 2) if homeowners can find out about dangerous chemicals by “just driving around” and asking, can’t the terrorists do that, too?

The real reason we need border security

To protect us from these guys.

Several anti-government groups – many of which participated in the standoff at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch – are recruiting armed volunteers to travel to the Texas-Mexico border as a citizen militia to participate in “Operation Secure Our Border,” which aims to stop the surge of immigrants into the country.

The groups, who identify themselves as “Patriots,” “Oathkeepers” and “Three Percenters,” are using social media, blogs and a 24-hour hot line to recruit and mobilize volunteers to travel to Laredo, carry firearms and attempt to assist law enforcement agencies on the border.

However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it does not “endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences.”

What could possibly go wrong with an effort like that? I kid, but there’s really nothing funny about this. The potential for violence and tragedy is far too great. Stace has more.

On a related note, we know this is happening as President Obama comes to Texas to do what he usually does here (fundraising) while Rick Perry is doing what he usually does (make a fool out of himself), while in the meantime everyone acknowledges that immigration reform is dead for this year, and likely till at least 2017, because the Republican-controlled House will not take up the (highly imperfect but still better than nothing) bill that passed the Senate even though it almost surely would pass the House if it came to a vote. There’s no bigger obstacle to comprehensive immigration reform than Texas Republicans. If you need evidence of that, have a look through this massive collection of quotes from our GOP Congressional delegation on the matter. We all know about the crazies – Louie Gohmert, Steve Stockman, Ted Cruz, etc – but certainly on this issue it’s really all of them. Go read and see for yourself. If you want to do something constructive and helpful, Stace has you covered there, too.

Students against voter ID

A new front is opened in the fight against voter ID.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students.

Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”

There has never been a case like it, and if the students succeed, it will open another front in what has become a highly partisan battle over voting rights.

Over the past decade, Republicans have campaigned to tighten rules for voters, including requirements for photo ID, in the name of preventing fraud. Democrats have countered that the real purpose of those laws is to make voting more difficult for people who are likely to vote Democratic.

“There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic election lawyer bringing the age-discrimination claim. “Young voting in particular is a part of that effort.”

Proposals to change voting rules have frequently affected younger voters, particularly college students.

[…]

Multiple lawsuits against North Carolina, including the age-discrimination case, have been combined into one. A hearing on Monday is over whether to delay the law until a judge decides whether it is constitutional.

Lawyers for the students believe they can make the case that the law is intentionally discriminatory. As proof of this intent, they note that the state prohibited the Division of Motor Vehicles from registering 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by Election Day this fall. All other eligible voters could register there. In court documents filed in late June, the state said it had reversed that policy but did not say why.

The lawyers also point to the state’s decision to allow military and veteran identification cards, but not student IDs, as “strong evidence that the legislature wanted to make it difficult for young citizens to vote.”

Lawyers for North Carolina argue that the state’s voting law is neither discriminatory nor an impediment to voting. They note that most of the law’s provisions have taken effect, and state election data showed no decline in minority turnout in the recent primary.

“One way of maintaining confidence in elections is to ensure that only those who are qualified to vote are actually registered to vote,” the state’s lawyers wrote in court documents. They did not address the 26th Amendment claim, and a phone call seeking comment on it was not returned.

While courts have held that refusing to register students is as unlawful as refusing to register African-Americans, they have never been asked to address allegations of more subtle age discrimination, like those charged in North Carolina.

“If that’s a winning claim, that’s a big deal,” said Edward B. Foley, an Ohio State University law professor who runs the school’s election law center. But, he said, “there is a big ‘if’ here.”

See the Charlotte Observer and the Washington Post for more. North Carolina’s law, like the one in Texas, does not consider student IDs or out-of-state drivers licenses to be valid for voter ID purposes. You can see how that might have a disproportionate effect against college students. The arguments this week are about whether to grant an injunction blocking the law for now, with the full trial to take place in 2015. Definitely worth keeping an eye on this one. Via the Texas Election Law blog, and read Ari Berman for more.

White return flight

Some interesting demographic trends going on.

Between 2000 and 2010, [Harris] county, like much of the U.S., saw a sharp decline of its white population, losing about 12 percent of Anglos or about 83,000 people.

The drop mirrors demographic shifts across the nation as white birthrates have slowed. But in the past three years, Harris County added about 25,000 white residents, about 11 percent of its approximately 227,800 new residents, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

While the greatest drivers of the county’s growth are still Hispanics, it’s the reversal of the decadelong white decline that grabs demographers.

“It’s a surprising pattern given what we saw in the last decade, and indicative of the overall pervasiveness of population growth in Texas and especially in Houston,” said Steve Murdock, a onetime state demographer and former Census Bureau director who now leads the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.

“The amount of growth, percentage-wise, is almost the same as the decline … that’s a fairly substantial change,” Murdock said.

Though Anglos remain the nation’s largest racial group, it’s the only demographic group which is shrinking rather than growing. Last year, it was the sole group to count more deaths than births.

Texas, on the other hand, saw the largest numeric increase of white residents in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, gaining about 51,000 Anglos

Within Harris County, where Anglos make up about 32 percent of the population or about 1.3 million, some 9,000 white residents were added last year.

“There’s a significant amount of Anglos moving into the region from outside of Houston,” said Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization.

“They’re coming here because of the jobs. … If you look at all the growth in the Energy Corridor and the Medical Center, and the new Exxon campus in The Woodlands, we’re attracting workers who are more skilled, and many of them are white.”

But he suggested there might be a more subtle shift as well. Because Houston is attracting more single or young workers seeking to cash in on the energy and medical booms, an increasing number, like Carey and Bowen, are choosing to live in Houston rather than more suburban, neighboring counties.

“There’s no white flight anymore,” Jankowski said. “People are more and more accepting of different races and different ethnicities. They don’t care about their next-door neighbor as long as the lawn is mowed.”

As we know, some parts of town were getting whiter long before this. There are lots of questions one could ask about this, but for me I always come to the political implications. While it’s true that the increase in Harris County’s Anglo population is a reversal of earlier trends, the overall trend of Harris County getting less white hasn’t changed, it’s just decelerated a bit. I doubt there will be much change at a macro level, but there could be some effects here and there, especially in lower-turnout environments. It would be nice to know more about where these folks are coming from and what their existing proclivities are, but without that information we’ll just have to hypothesize.

One related tidbit from a different story.

Demand for high-density living grew across the state, according to the report. San Antonio saw the biggest increase in sales at 18 percent, followed by Austin at 14 percent. In Dallas, sales were up 4 percent.

“There is little available land for housing development in Texas’ major metro areas, particularly in its urban centers where housing demand is strongest,” [Jim Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University] said in the report. “Developers are now looking upward for opportunities to build and invest in multifamily developments both in these centers and even in some suburban areas. Condo sales will likely be a strong driver in the Texas housing market for the rest of the year.”

Developer Randall Davis said rising single-family housing prices are driving expansion in the condominium market. Builders can put multiple units on one site, he said, and “deliver a product that’s almost equivalent but at a lesser price.”

More of Houston’s big builders, too, are interested in developing in the central city, said Gary Latz of Bohlke Consulting Group, a consulting firm for the housing industry.

Over the last 12 months, residential permits within Beltway 8 were up 22.8 percent over the same period last year. That’s compared with the overall Houston area, which was up 9.3 percent.

“People love the idea of living in closer and being close to all the amenities Houston has to offer,” Latz said.

Again, that’s a trend that’s been happening for some time now. Maybe if it keeps up we can get some more infrastructure spending inside the Beltway, too? Because that would be nice.

The story from Dallas is similar but not quite the same.

“Let’s look at Dallas County,” said Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “There was growth in the Asian population, no doubt about it. But we also see a turnaround in growth in the non-Hispanic white population.”

While Dallas County showed a loss of 1,436 non-Hispanic whites from the 2010 census through July 1, 2013, that’s minuscule compared with losses in the previous decade, Murdock said.

“If you had the same pattern going on as you had in the last decade, you would have lost a good number more,” he said. “At this rate, you might lose 5,000 over this decade, compared with the loss of 198,000 over the last decade. We’re seeing the same thing in Harris County, where it changed from a negative to a positive.”

While non-Hispanic whites continue to move to suburbs, it could be that some younger folks and empty-nesters are finding urban centers more attractive for lifestyle reasons. And, demographers say, those leaving are being replaced by others looking for jobs, either from other parts of Texas or out of state.

“When you look at the state level,” said Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, “we’re seeing positive immigration of non-Hispanic whites.”

The splashy numbers, though, came from growth rates in the Asian population — up 20 percent in Denton County, 18.5 percent in Rockwall, 18.1 percent in Collin, 14.9 percent in Dallas and 10.8 percent in Tarrant — over the last three years. In many ways that’s a continuation of the trends from 2000 to 2010, when Asians and Hispanics were the two fastest-growing groups in the state.

Hispanic growth rates were still double-digit in Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties at 11.2, 13.7 and 14 percent, respectively, for the three-year period, “but the rate of growth is down in Collin” compared with the previous decade, Murdock said.

[…]

The non-Hispanic black population is growing rapidly as well — up 19.6 percent in Denton, 18.1 percent in Collin, 12.5 percent in Rockwall, 10 percent in Tarrant and 5.8 percent in Dallas.

Much of the growth across the region and the state comes from migration, Potter and Murdock agreed, and that migration is driven largely by jobs.

“Overall, I think we’re seeing that Hispanic growth rates are down, but the non-Hispanic white losses have been significantly reversed,” said Murdock, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

He used Travis County as an example.

“From 2000 to 2010, Travis County added about 59,000 non-Hispanic whites,” Murdock said. “This time, it has added 41,000 non-Hispanic whites in the first three years,” an annual rate that roughly doubles that of the previous decade.

I don’t really have anything to add to that, I just find stories like these to be fascinating. Whatever else you can say about Texas, it’s not static.