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The State of Texas: Texas Judge Temporarily Blocks Federal Transgender Protections

Plus: A State Representative gets struck by a stray celebratory bullet on New Year’s Eve, the Twin Peaks shootout bikers finally have a trial date, and Houston has a sewer overflow problem.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“People have to *expletive* work!”

—Shawn Smith to New Year’s Eve revelers in Austin, according to KXAN. Smith was apparently upset that his slumber was disturbed by the sound of people setting off firecrackers, so he allegedly grabbed his shotgun and fired it into the air to scare them off. He was arrested shortly after. According to the affidavit, witnesses said Smith was easy to identify because he came up to them in his robe, with his (again, this is according to the affidavit) “fat belly” hanging out. Happy 2017!


BIG NEWS


A rainbow LGBT flag on November 5, 2008 in San Diego, California.
     

Sandy Huffaker/Getty

Texas Blockage
A Texas district judge ruled on Saturday to temporarily halt a set of federal rules aimed at protecting transgender people a day before the rules were set to go into place, according to the Associated Press. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Texas and a handful of other states challenging the U.S. Health and Human Services’ new regulations, which say doctors, hospitals, and insurers can’t discriminate against transgender people without violating the Affordable Care Act. The regulations put some conservatives in a tizzy when they were finalized in May. As is typical for court battles led by the Lone Star State, Texas alleged in the lawsuit that the feds overstepped their authority with these rules, and also claimed that the regulations could force doctors to go against their religious beliefs. On Saturday, U.S District Judge Reed O’Connor seemed to agree with Texas, issuing an injunction to stop the regulations. “Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies which seem to be in direct conflict with the Rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement,” O’Connor wrote in the decision. According to the Texas Tribune, O’Connor also said the new rule “imposes a substantial burden” on private healthcare providers because it failed to include an exemption for religious-affiliated organizations. O’Connor issued a similar injunction in August, when he halted a federal directive that would have allowed the feds to enforce rules expanding restroom access to transgender students in schools across the country.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Shots Fired
State Representative Armando Martinez was celebrating New Year’s Eve with his family near Welasco when he was struck in the head by a stray bullet, likely from celebratory gunfire nearby. According to the McAllen Monitor, Martinez is doing just fine now, but it was a scary moment for the lawmaker. Apparently Martinez and his family heard gunshots just before midnight and took shelter in a garage. When the gunfire subsided, they came back out of the garage to watch a fireworks display. “At the stroke of midnight, my wife comes over and gives me a hug and a kiss, and right after that I felt like a sledgehammer hitting the back of my head,” Martinez told the Monitor. “I grabbed it and she said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said I was hit by something.” Turns out he had a bullet hole in the back of his noggin. Martinez underwent surgery to remove the bullet and, again, he should be OK, but his ordeal is indicative of a bigger problem in Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News, two North Texans were hit by celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, while Dallas police responded to over 700 calls about random gunshots. According to the Texas Tribune, Martinez plans to file legislation aimed at curbing celebratory shooting.

Save The Date
The first trial dates have finally been set for some of the defendants in the Twin Peaks biker gang shootout case that happened back in May 2015. According to the Waco Tribune, the first trial for one of the 155 indicted bikers is tentatively scheduled for April 17, meaning that by the time most of these guys have their day in court, it’ll have been at least two years since the shootout. So much for a speedy trial. But, as the Tribune notes, this is a complicated case with a ton of defendants, so perhaps that particular constitutional right was a somewhat “unrealistic” expectation here, anyway. “It’s not like we had a shortage of cases before Twin Peaks came along,” Waco District Judge Ralph Strother told the Tribune. “It’s just the vagaries of the system, the complexity of the cases and the sheer volume that is present in the criminal justice system.”

Drain-No
You know the rules. If it’s brown, flush it down. If it’s yellow, let it mellow (but actually flush it down also, please). And if it’s bacon grease, a Barbie doll, a G.I. Joe, a rock, an orange, a tennis ball, or literally anything else that common sense dictates should never be swirling down a drain, then please, Houstonians, just don’t flush it at all. According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston is experiencing a bit of a sewer overflow crisis at the moment. The main culprit is grease—apparently you’re supposed to freeze that stuff and then toss it in the trash rather than pour it down the drain in liquid form. City workers are constantly working to fix blockages, and the problem is so bad that the city is currently negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency and could face a multibillion-dollar enforcement action from the feds requiring Houston curtail its raw sewage spills by replacing pipes, increasing maintenance and bolstering public education programs. Everything and the kitchen sink has been flushed down Houston’s toilets and, uh, kitchen sinks. Among the odds-and-ends found to be blocking Houston’s sewers: microwaves, bowling balls, Beanie Babies, and “body parts.” Of course, most of the bigger junk isn’t “flushed,” per se, but rather ends up in larger pipes due to “vandals or careless work crews,” according to the Chronicle.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Texas lawmakers are filing bills to fix the state’s weakened open records law Dallas Morning News

Meet Jurassic James, Houston’s favorite museum tour guide Houston Chronicle

A South Texas bailiff got freed from jail thanks to a phone call from his judge friend KGBT

Baylor’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are both ranked number two in the nation Waco Tribune

These North Texas twins were born in different years NBCDFW

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