Wed March 18, 2015 8:53 pm By Erica Grieder

Open Carry passes Texas senate. While the House was busy debating Dennis Bonnen’s border security bill, which ultimately passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 131-12 vote, the Senate was tackling Texas’s top priority: guns. Craig Estes’ SB 17, which would allow licensed open carry, passed on third reading, despite vigorous and occasionally inventive but ultimately futile opposition from Democrats when it came to the floor on Monday. Brian Birdwell’s SB 11, which would allow campus carry, still needs a third reading but is as good as passed despite vigorous and occasionally inventive but ultimately futile opposition from Democrats on the floor today. 

I have a long story on the 84th Legislature’s great open carry debate in the April issue. It will be available online pretty soon and on newsstands next week. So for today, I’ll just give away the plot twist: this entire saga has effectively been the result of a Freaky Friday-type confusion, in which “open carry” has been used interchangeably to mean “licensed open carry”, as in the Estes bill, and “constitutional carry”, as in the arguably radical belief that insofar as the Second Amendment is a license to carry, no further such license should be required. The Republican Party of Texas’s platform, however, helpfully refers to both “constitutional carry” and “open carry”; the logical implication is that licensed open carry is the real open carry, or real enough. In other words, Dan Patrick has now fought for open carry, and won. Congratulations, Governor Patrick.

I don’t have much to say about campus carry, either, other than this: gun laws are like abortion laws. Both are emotive, divisive, and don’t have many effects in practice.

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Wed March 18, 2015 5:43 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Probably the most interesting thing I heard during the entire House debate on HB 11 for border security was that the $12 million-a-month DPS and National Guard surge last year primarily secured the border in ony two counties: Hidalgo and Starr. Together, they contain 121 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, less than 10 percent of the entire length of the state’s 1,254-mile boundary with Mexico.

These two counties may well serve as the international spigot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, but that hardly seems to match the rhetoric of securing the border. In fact, several border area lawmakers took to the back microphone in the House to make certain the legislation was not going to taint the public view of where they live.

“A few of the concerns we have is the branding of the (Rio Grande) Valley. People are branding it as an area where there’s bloodshed and there’s fighting going along on the street. How does this bill help us not brand it in this manner?” asked Representative Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco.

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Wed March 18, 2015 10:20 am By By R.G. Ratcliffe

abortion identification texasIf identification is needed for voting, then it also should be needed for obtaining an abortion—at least that’s the implication of HB 3994 by Representative Geanie Morrison of Victoria.

Under Morrison’s bill, “a physician shall presume that a pregnant woman is a minor unless the woman presents a valid government record of identification showing that she has reached the age of majority.” The age of majority is defined as 18, but the bill doesn’t give a doctor the leeway to say a 30-year-old woman looks like a 30-year-old woman. The doctor has to presume the woman is an under-age minor.

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Tue March 17, 2015 2:04 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Campus carry legislation hit a hiccup in the Senate on Tuesday, but Florida is moving ahead with its version of handguns on campus. The Miami Herald reports:

Despite vehement opposition from university presidents, campus police chiefs and student government associations, the Senate Higher Education Committee on Monday approved a proposal that would allow guns on college campuses.

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Tue March 17, 2015 11:00 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Rideshare drivers, you are already obsolete.

Even as the cities and the state fight over regulating ridesharing services, you might as well get those legs ready for a future on the pedicabs. I’ll explain more on that in a moment. For now, though, you might see gold in your pocket as the hip hoards descended on Austin for South by Southwest, the city cratered this week to give Uber and Lyft a sweetheart deal to work Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for 45 days for a mere $2,500 fee. A couple of drunk-ride, surge-pricing fares ought to take care of that.

Last week, it appeared Lyft would be the only ride-booking company working at the airport during South by Southwest this year after the company signed an agreement that would have given the city 10 percent of all fares, with a minimum of $25,000 for the year. Uber had declined to sign a similar agreement.

For the drivers with dreams of filling your pockets with the expendable income of the South-bys, keep in mind that your long-term future as a part-time cabbie is as much in doubt as the traditional cabbies endangered by ridesharing apps. Driverless cars are on the horizon, according to a new report from McKinsey Global Institute, as recapped by the Detroit Free Press.

The first places we will see smaller autonomous vehicles likely will be in the growing networks of ride-sharing and car-sharing ventures such as Uber, Lyft and ZipCar. McKinsey’s research shows that the number of people who are members of such services has quadrupled worldwide to 4 million over the past four years.


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