QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’ll pay the $1,000. I’ll pay $2,000. I’m not paying $26,000.”
—Army serviceman Thomas Peterson, of Austin, to KVUE. Peterson said he returned home from a fifteen-month tour of duty in Afghanistan to find a $27,637.30 bill from the Texas Department of Transportation in unpaid highway toll fees.
On Thursday, the U.S. House gutted reforms on big banks and Wall Street that had been implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration, passing a bill authored by Dallas Representative Jeb Hensarling. The Financial Choice Act passed by a vote of 233 to 186, defanging much of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was one of the hallmarks of Obama’s presidency. Critics of Hensarling’s bill say it reopens big banks to the same risky practices that led to the financial crisis, while Hensarling and Republicans claim that loosening the regulations will remove a chokehold on smaller institutions and create jobs. “Of all the regulations that were imposed on our economy in the Obama era, Dodd-Frank was the worst,” Hensarling told Bloomberg. “In the House, we just threw it off. The animal spirits of free enterprise can roam yet again.” The bill revokes the Volcker Rule, which restricted big banks from making certain kinds of speculative market bets that wouldn’t benefit their customers, and would kill the Fiduciary Rule, a protection on retirement funds that requires brokers to put their customers’s interests ahead of their own. Hensarling’s bill would also reduce the frequency of tough exams meant to test whether banks can endure another crisis. According to the Texas Tribune, the Financial Choice Act would repeal “too big to fail” procedures aimed at preventing another financial meltdown triggered by sudden big bank closures, and it would also cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency that protects consumers from predatory lenders. “This bill instates a business model that allows consumers to be taken advantage of without their knowledge,” Representative Al Green, a Houston Democrat who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, told the Dallas Morning News. “And that was the business model that created the climate for the downturn in 2008.” Hensarling has argued that the Dodd-Frank regulations were ineffective at reforming big banks and Wall Street, and instead mostly harmed smaller businesses on “Main Street.” The Financial Choice Act isn’t expected to pass the Senate. One financial expert told the New York Times “there is zero chance that the Choice Act survives” the next round.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Rallying The Troops
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he plans to ask Houston leaders this month to vote on whether the Bayou City should join the legal battle against the state’s sanctuary cities law, Senate Bill 4, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I will ask this month City Council to consider and vote to join the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of SB4,” Turner wrote in a tweet Thursday morning. It’s unclear at the moment which way the city council would vote, but if it decides in favor of jumping into the lawsuit against SB 4, it would mean Texas’s four largest cities would be fighting against the sanctuary cities law. Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas have already joined the lawsuit filed last month by the little border town of El Cenizo, along with Webb County, Maverick County, and El Paso County. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has been one of the most outspoken critics of the law, saying it would make things harder on police officers. Turner has danced around using the term “sanctuary city” to describe Houston, and as recently as Wednesday he advised Houstonians worried about SB 4 to take their concerns to the Capitol, according to the Chronicle.
But Her Emails
Fired FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, and Senator John Cornyn took the opportunity to grill him about Hillary Clinton’s emails. At first, Cornyn’s line of questioning reflected his defense of President Donald Trump when Comey was fired back in May, when the senator downplayed the controversy by arguing it wouldn’t make sense for the president to fire the FBI director to obstruct his investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian election hacking. “If you’re trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen?” Cornyn asked Comey at the hearing, according to the Texas Tribune. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Comey replied. “But I’m obviously, hopelessly biased, given that I’m the one who was fired.” But according to the Dallas Morning News, most of Cornyn’s other questions focused on the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails, asking Comey why he didn’t appoint a special counsel in that case and about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s conduct throughout the scandal. After the hearing, Cornyn said that nothing in Comey’s testimony suggested that there was a case to be made that Trump obstructed justice, according to the Washington Post.
A white Harris County sheriff’s deputy and her husband were indicted by a grand jury and charged with murder on Thursday, after choking a Hispanic man to death during an altercation outside a Denny’s restaurant last week. Deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband, Terry Thompson, face life in prison for allegedly intentionally choking 24-year-old John Hernandez. A cell phone video of the incident released on Monday shows Terry Thompson choking Hernandez as he kicks and gasps for air. “The man was turning purple,” a witness told reporters through tears after testifying before the grand jury, according to the Chronicle. “We begged him to get off the man and he wouldn’t.” The grand jury returned a murder indictment on the same day Hernandez’s family held his wake. His death has prompted protests and rallies in Houston against police brutality. “This is exactly what we wanted,” Jose Morales, a close friend of the family, told the Chronicle. “Thanks to all the attention, justice is going to be served.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
After a rare disease made him blind, a Dallas boy and his family kept moving forward Dallas Morning News
A Texas City woman granted clemency by Barack Obama is back in jail Houston Chronicle
The Nueces County District Attorney has reopened an old investigation into San Diego’s police chief Corpus Christi Caller-Times
An inmate escaped during a trip to the dentist in Brownsville and killed a 56-year-old man before he was shot dead by police Brownsville Herald
A memorial is being constructed to honor the people who died in the West fertilizer plant explosion Associated Press