Could Legal Marijuana Soon Come to Texas?

After years of misguided state drug policies, it appears that some lawmakers at the Capitol have finally begun to “see the light” on Marijuana.  Here’s more from Kevin Reece of KHOU News Houston …

Calling it “a gift from God”, a Republican state lawmaker has introduced a bill to completely legalize marijuana possession and marijuana use in the state of Texas.

“I don’t advocate the irresponsible use of anything,” said State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview). “But it’s a plant God made, he didn’t make a mistake when he made it, and government doesn’t need to fix it.”

Monday, Simpson introduced HB 2165, which he calls “a comprehensive repeal of all marijuana or cannabis offenses.”


“First of all I said thank God that somebody is speaking out as a true Republican,” said Ann Lee the founder and executive director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.

“It’s freedom. Freedom to do what you think is best. The government shouldn’t stand in the way,” said Lee a Republican who became a convert to medical marijuana use after her son suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the 1990’s and said that marijuana was the only solution to his constant pain.


HB 2165 was also applauded by more liberal groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws, who agree with Simpson that pot shouldn’t be a government’s concern.

While there have been previous efforts, HB 2165 is unique in that Simpson is finally asking for full legalization of marijuana, and that it has garnered unprecedented support.  Of course this still doesn’t mean that Simpson’s bill, essentially swinging the marijuana door wide open, is likely to pass. But it may create the space needed for other bills to make some progress.

And that’s just progress at the state level.  Less than a week after Rep. Simpson’s state bill, 3 Senators have also filed a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the national level.  Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Rand Paul unveiled the legislation on March 10th, that would end the confusing patchwork of state laws surrounding the criminal punishment, distribution and sale of cannabis in its various forms.

With such impressive momentum at both the state and federal level, Texans shouldn’t be surprised to see some changes in the laws which govern marijuana soon.

Off the Kuff has more.

Pot Texas

Texas Wins: Business Leaders Push Back Against Discrimination Efforts

With historic progress now being made toward the goal of marriage equality in the state of Texas, new initiatives are ready to take on a much larger, more complex fight.

The new campaign, called Texas Wins, is focused on stemming the tide of Anti-Equality populism that has taken over many state legislatures across the country.  Here’s more from their inaugural press release

AUSTIN, TX – A new multi-million dollar campaign, Texas Wins, kicked off today amid alarming efforts to openly promote – and expand – discrimination in the Lone Star State. Through business outreach, strategic communications, advertising, opposition research, and grassroots mobilization, the campaign will amplify the values of opportunity and fairness shared by a majority of Texans. Former George W. Bush media advisor Mark McKinnon will serve as chair of Texas Wins.

“All hardworking Texans should be able to put food on the table and a roof over their heads,” said Christina Canales Gorczynski, Texas Wins campaign director. “So it’s shocking that gay and transgender Texans can still be fired from their jobs or denied housing simply because of who they are. And, just as bad, such discriminatory policies are potentially expanding beyond the LGBT community to include veterans, single moms, people of faith, and many others. This is a can of worms we don’t want to open. Discrimination of any kind is not in line with Texas values.”

At the Capitol, aggressive efforts from Republican legislators are seeking to roll back municipal protections passed in many Texas major cities, like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which seek to ban discrimination of all citizens including the LGBT population.

But within weeks of the launch of Texas Wins, the state received possibly its biggest win on the issue.  Here’s more on that from John Wright of the Texas Observer

The Texas Association of Business has come out against two religious freedom resolutions that critics say would enshrine a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people in the Texas Constitution.

TAB, which is the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, unanimously adopted a resolution last month opposing House Joint Resolution 55 and Senate Joint Resolution 10, by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) and Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), respectively.

Chris Wallace, president of TAB, said more than 100 members of the board voted to add opposition to the resolutions to the group’s legislative agenda at a statewide meeting Feb. 17.

“We feel that this will certainly make our state look very much unwelcoming when it comes to business recruitment,” Wallace said of the resolutions. “We also have several businesses within the state, our large corporations for instance, that have diversity policies already in place, and what we’re hearing from them is they want their state to look the same way.”


In addition to LGBT issues, the chamber is concerned the resolutions would allow people to claim religious exemptions to criminal, tax, health and safety, environmental quality and zoning laws. Wallace said the resolutions would also lead to a spike in litigation, costing businesses and taxpayers.

No matter how severely Rep. Villalba and Sen. Campbell want their bills to pass, most wager it will be hard to do so without the support of the state’s most powerful business organization.  In all likelihood, TAB’s resolution moves HJR 55, SJR 10 and any legislation like it in the “no-go” category for this session.

One can’t be sure that the resolution by the Texas Association of Business and the launch of Texas Wins are directly related, but timing does seem to matter in these events.  As people hear of TAB’s decision not to support the bills, they also encounter the voices of prominent Texans like Billionaire Mark Cuban come out against discrimination.

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure… Texas definitely scored some wins this week.

Visit Texas Wins and the Texas Association of Business for more on those organizations, and Off the Kuff has more on the story.

Texas Wins

(photo credit:  Texas Wins twitter feed



Texoblogosphere: Week of March 9th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is all about springing forward as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff sadly reminds a fifth-generation Republican who doesn’t want to lose her Obamacare insurance subsidies that Greg Abbott doesn’t care about her at all.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos heard the President give one of the most memorable and moving speeches of our lifetimes.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to bust the spending cap, without having to pay, politically, for busting the spending cap, GOP Wants To Change The Rules In The Middle Of The Game.

“What the BLEEP happened to hip-hop?” asked PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Texas ranks 43 in the US as a place to live for children. That’s what happens when Republicans run the place. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says pro-life is just another way to say ‘I’ve got mine, who gives a rats behind about you!”


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast applauds Ted Cruz’s flop-flop on marijuana.

The Rivard Report documents the crowded ballot that awaits San Antonio voters this May.

Randy Bear does the same for the charter amendments, and worries about trying to make changes in a low-turnout context.

The Lunch Tray would be happy to have celebrities market vegetables to kids.

Paradise In Hell declares that the real threat to marriage in Texas is serial heterosexuals.

BOR highlights the 2014 Texas League of Conservation Voters National Environmental Scorecard.

Better Texas Blog puts Texas’ Medicaid spending in context.

Texas Clean Air Matters echoes the US military’s call to diversify our energy options and shift more toward a clean energy economy.

Nonsequiteuse calls on Free Press Summerfest acts to speak up about R Kelly being in the lineup.

Texas Vox reports on lobbying efforts to preserve local control.


(Today’s feature photo is an aerial shot over Dallas, Texas.  Taken by L. Wayne Ashley)

Running: Stephen Costello Declares For Mayor

With three successful citywide elections under his belt and a prominent position on Houston City Council, Stephen Costello is already a major force in Texas politics.  But today the At-Large Council Member has taken a step towards even greater prominence, formally announcing his candidacy for Mayor of Houston.

Here’s more information via campaign press release

Small businessman, engineer and Houston City Council Member Steve Costello will formally launch his campaign for mayor today.


“I’m running for mayor because Houston is the greatest city in America, but I recognize we have real problems that need to be fixed. We simply can, and must, do better,” said Costello. “You can’t drive down our pot-hole ridden streets, waste hours stuck in traffic, or examine the city’s financial health without thinking ‘we can do better.’ I may not be the flashiest candidate in the race, but as an engineer and experienced City Council Member, I am the most qualified to look at our problems and roll up my sleeves to find logical solutions. That’s exactly how I’ll lead as Houston’s next mayor.”

The field of candidates is already quite plentiful, with State Representative Sylvester Turner, former Congressman Chris Bell, latest runner-up Ben Hall and former Kemah Mayor Bill King already declared while Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Council Member Oliver Pennington are likely to also assumed to enter the race.

Touting his experience as a Civil Engineer and major political accomplishments like the Rebuild Houston initiative, Costello promised to put infrastructure improvement as a central focus of his campaign.

In a recent interview with Craig Cohen on Houston Matters, Costello shared many of his viewpoints on the city’s greatest transportation and infrastructural challenges.  While he supports Rebuild Houston, the program’s deployment may be substantially different.  He also shares plans for Complete Streets, and revealed why he “doesn’t ride a bike within the city”

Much of Costello’s work on Council has been led by the current Mayor, Annise Parker.  Though he has worked closely with Parker and has often been a key player on important legislation, the Council Member is also quick to show where he and Parker do not see eye to eye on every issue.

On the city’s recently announced détente with the firefighter’s pension… a 3-yr. deal which would allow both parties to change their contribution levels in the short term, but leave the city owing more down the road, Costello was forthright, calling the plan a bad bad deal.  Instead he pledges to work for greater local control from the state legislature.  Again from the campaign press release…

“As the state’s largest city and the one with the most pressing pension problem, Houstonians should have the authority to craft our own solution rather than leave our fate in the hands of politicians in Austin.”

Way back in 2009, Costello won his first election to Council with a campaign focused not on politics, but on fixing the city’s issues.  In his political life, Costello has offered much of that same focus.  Though he never seems to shy away from a disagreement, Costello has managed to avoid much of the sensationalism that other Council Members seem to catalyze.

With a solid record built on seeking solutions, Stephen Costello is sure to be a front-runner in the race for Mayor.  This November, we’ll see who crosses the tape first.


If you liked this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.

Could Texas Legislature End Daylight Saving Time??

It’s the first Monday after people across the state lost an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time.  And although most have general discontent over the situation, one small and prominent group of Texans seem to have had enough.  Movement is building rapidly within the state Legislature to end the practice of Daylight Saving Time once and for all.

Here’s the story from Ashley Sutton of Fox 29 News San Antonio

We have the Germans to thank for the WWI-era time theory, and depending on your daylight saving opinion; thanks may also be due to Texas lawmakers wanting to take the spring out of “springing forward.”

Under HB 150, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, proposes Texas join Hawaii and Arizona and let the sun forever set on the energy-saving practice. The bill is scheduled of a public hearing this Wednesday.

In another proposal, Rep. James White, R-Woodville, calls for a studious approach. HB 363 would create the Texas Task Force on Daylight Saving Time to “conduct a study and develop recommendations on the efficacy of the continuation of daylight saving time in this state.”

According to recent studies, most Americans consider the century old practice of moving the clock forward and back to be antiquated, and possibly even doing more harm than good.

Of course given the huge list of needs that Texans have from their state legislature, like adequate funding for infrastructure repairs, healthcare expansion to our poorest residents and education for Texas kids, the bi-annual annoyance of Daylight Saving Time wouldn’t seem to be too high on the priorities list.  But apparently, this is how the Lege prefers to spend its incredibly valuable time.

It’s good that leaders in Austin have “seen the light” on this issue.  Let’s hope that they do so with other, more pressing concerns.

Texas DST


GOP Leaders File Amicus Brief Supporting Marriage Equality

In what can only be interpreted as a visible sign of progress, several prominent Republicans have filed an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court stating that they support marriage equality for the whole United States.

Here’s the story from Time magazine

More than 300 veteran Republican lawmakers, operatives and consultants have filed a friend of the court brief at the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage late Thursday.

The amicus brief, organized by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, was filed for the four same-sex marriage cases the Court will hear on April 28 that could legalize the unions nationwide. In 2013, Mehlman marshaled a similar effort for the case that overturned California’s Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Among the signatories are 23 current and former Republicans members of the House of Representatives and Senate and seven current and former Governors. Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk have signed onto the brief, as has Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Other notables include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and billionaire GOP mega-donor David Koch.

The 2013 brief included 131 signatures, featured many former top aides to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, including his general counsel and two senior advisors. The list has now grown to 303 signatories.

Next Gen party voices like MSNBC host Abby Huntsman, columnist Meghan McCain and political commentator S.E. Cupp, along with many top-level staffers from Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign also join the brief.

Noticeably absent from the signers are any members of the Texas Congressional delegation, or even any former elected officials from the state.  Republicans vying for the Presidency in 2016 like Rand Paul or Chris Christie are also nowhere to be found.

Yet still, this is a welcomed show of strength and bravery for those that were willing to sign on.  They clearly get the message that the Republican Party must move past marriage equality if they expect to be a competitive national force in the future.

But in the end, the fate of marriage equality still rests at the foot of the Supreme Court to decide.  Let’s hope they settle this issue in the United States once and for all this summer.

LGBTQ Nation has a copy of the Amicus Brief.

State Senate: ‘We’re Holding Texas Medicaid For Ransom’

Despite overwhelming cries from across the state, the Texas Senate has once again ignored all common-sense on Medicaid.  Instead of taking critical dollars that Texans are already paying for under the ACA, Austin lawmakers would rather make threats to cut the existing program, unless the Obama Administration meets a plethora of demands.  Here’s the story from Edgar Walters of the Texas Tribune

Leading Texas Republicans on Monday asked the Obama administration for greater flexibility to administer Medicaid — a move that has gotten little traction in the past — while reiterating that they would not participate in an expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act.

“Any expansion of Medicaid in Texas is simply not worth discussing,” state Sen.Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, said at a press conference.

It’s worth noting that the opposition to ACA Medicaid expansion is coming solely from Republicans in the Senate.  But outside of Austin, the chorus of leaders that support Medicaid Expansion is decidedly bi-partisan.  None of this, however, matters to our “fair” legislature.

The letter Dan Patrick sent to Washington is nothing more than sensational demands that weren’t even granted under a Republican President.  Yet still, this is the conversation that Austin wants to have.  The Houston Chronicle‘s Lisa Falkenberg has more thoughts on that “conversation”…

Far from suggesting ways Texas could expand access to health care, the letter penned by Patrick and Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, suggested only ways to cut services for those currently eligible, 96 percent of whom are children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled.

The letter lamented Texas’ rising Medicaid case loads, without mentioning the state’s soaring population or the fact that children benefit most from the program.

“This trajectory is clearly unsustainable,” the letter says, and then accuses the Medicaid program of continuing to “crowd out” funding for other needs such as education, transportation and water. Last time I checked, it wasn’t poor people or the federal government proposing billions in tax cuts over the adequate funding of education, transportation and water.

In the letter, senators suggest doing away with provisions aimed at covering more babies and children and preventing their coverage from lapsing. It also proposes placing work requirements on able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid, making it seem like there are a large number of layabouts leaching off a government program.

In truth, those able bodies are parents who qualify for Medicaid only because their children do. They make up about 155,000 recipients in a program serving 4 million, according to Anne Dunkelberg, a policy analyst with the nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities. Such coverage is temporary and the income requirements are strict. A mother with two children can earn only $4,000 a year – yes, a year – to qualify for Medicaid.

“These aren’t deadbeats. These are moms,” says state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

As Falkenberg outlines, this letter is far from a request to the Obama Administration.  It’s a ransom note.  Anyone who is hopeful that the Texas legislature is looking to do the right thing by our state would be wrong.  Instead, this week makes clear that Republican lawmakers wish nothing more than to endanger not only our poorest citizens, but state hospitals, and our whole healthcare system.

Let’s hope someone in Austin gets a dose of reality soon, because Texans cannot afford their ignorance much longer.

But don’t hold your breath.