The State of Texas: Feb. 27, 2014
Headline of the Day
— via Editor Captain Obvious at NPR
Gay Marriage — If you haven’t been reading the homepages of just about every single Texas news site, perhaps you missed it: On Wednesday, a San Antonio district court juge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. As Texas Monthly‘s Christopher Kelly explained right here, “[t]he decision strikes down Texas’s voter-approved 2005 state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The preliminary injunction means the state can’t enforce the ban, but [the judge] also stayed the order pending an expected appeal from Attorney General Greg Abbott.” Expected is an understatement. Abbott’s response was almost immediate. In a press release, the AG promised to appeal, writing that “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” according to Politico.
Out Of The Hole — The state is looking to put a little bit of fine back into solitary confinement. “Texas prison administrators are considering policy changes that could result in fewer inmates serving long periods of time in solitary confinement.” It’s part of a three-year trend in decreasing practice as “prison officials moved to reduce the number of prisoners in isolation from 9,600 in 2006 to 7,000 now.” The effort is part of a national trend to reduce the number of inmates in solitary confinement. If only the Texas were following the crowd when it came to zapping the prisoners, as well.
Can You Not Hear Me Now? — At least one part of our privacy is safe: it’s been decided cops can’t go searching the your phone. As with most technolgy, society wins some/loses some. Yesterday, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that “police improperly searched a Huntsville student’s cell phone without a warrant, even though the device had been sitting in a jail property room.” Basically, having detained a young suspect, police later went through his phone, and they found some incriminating evidence of another crime. In an absurd bit of legalese, the prosecution said during arguments that “a cell phone is no different from other containers, such as a pair of pants or bag of groceries, that lack privacy protections and can be searched in jail.” The court disagreed. It’s a pretty big decision in the frontier of basic digital privacy, essentially updating the Fourth Amendment rights. Lord knows the Founding Father’s would’ve included “smartphones” in the “right of the people to be secure in their papers and effects” had Ben Franklin been Instagramming his French girls.
Errant County — Well, something went wrong in Tarrant County in the past year. “Chronic homelessness … increased by 60 percent since last year,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The official definition of “chronic homelessness” is “someone who has a disabling condition and has been continuously homeless for at least a year, or homeless at least four times in the past three years.” Regardless of how it’s defined, the ultimate question is how in the homeless it jumped sixty percent in a single year. It’s the ultimate question, because the Star-Telegram doesn’t even attempt to answer it. What it does have are the basic homelessness numbers and the basic band-aids to the problem that “leading community leaders to say more attention must be paid to that population in the future.”
DNCan’t — Looks like Austin is too weird for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and that’s according to the city’s own mayor. And by weird, it’s really just ill-equipped. Basically, if you thought traffic in the state’s capitol was bad now, it’d be a real donkey show if the convention came to town. The mayor said that “the city does not have a sufficient transportation network or a big enough event venue to meet the requirements set out by the party,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. There’s also the issue of the convention itself. “Austin would have to have a bowl-shaped event venue that can accommodate 25,000-plus people … closest thing in Austin would be the Erwin Center, but that only seats about 17,000.” Fittingly, in keeping with the political stereotypes of Texas cities, Dallas is still in the running for the 2016 RNC convention. And like Republicans, it appears they are on track to actually making things happen.