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Rigby: New fetal remains rule is a Trojan Horse

Lawsuit ‘likely’ amid new Texas rules over fetal remains

By Paul J. Weber

The new regulations, which the state plans to implement starting Dec. 19, are the latest battleground in Texas over abortion and would prohibit facilities from continuing to dispose of fetal remains as biological medical waste.

AUSTIN — New Texas rules requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains are likely to face a court challenge before taking effect, an abortion-rights attorney said Friday, months after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down sweeping abortion restrictions in the state.

The new regulations, which the state plans to implement starting Dec. 19, are the latest battleground in Texas over abortion and would prohibit facilities from continuing to dispose of fetal remains as biological medical waste. Lawsuits this year blocked similar measures in Louisiana and Indiana, where the law was signed in March by governor and now Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

About 35,000 public comments poured into the Texas Health and Human Services Commission about the rule change, and funeral home operators worry about interment and cremation costs. The revisions came at the behest of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and were first proposed in July — just four days after the Supreme Court struck down anti-abortion measures that would have left Texas with 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40 in 2012.

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Texas now requires fetal remains to be buried after abortions

Jeremy Baker

In a matter of weeks, rules covering how fetal remains can be disposed of will get an overhaul in Texas.

Aborted fetuses will now have to be either buried or cremated.

It’s a blow to abortion rights groups who are concerned with women not being able to cover the cost of the procedures.

The new rules say that health care facilities, including hospitals and abortion clinics, will no longer be allowed to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, leaving cremation or burial the only options.

“When the little one is conceived, they deserve a proper way of saying goodbye and it doesn’t need to be in a landfill that’s for sure,” said Dick Tips, owner of Mission Park Funeral Homes.

Even though the rules change later this month, they only apply to procedures at healthcare facilities, not to miscarriages or abortions that happen outside of those facilities, like at home.

Despite the new regulations, Dick Tips of Mission Park Funeral Homes says that it won’t change what they do, burying or cremating fetal remains at no cost to the family.

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Texas Fetal Burial Rule Violates Religious Freedom, Says Satanic Temple


Satanic Temple claims fetal burial rule violates religious freedom laws.

Texas will implement in the coming days a complete overhaul of existing rules regarding the treatment of abortion remains. The upcoming rules will require that the woman who undertake an abortion no matter at what stage of pregnancy, will be required to bury the remains of the operation. However, Satanic Temple representative claims that the rule violates their religious freedom.

Texas has seen a number of attempts from pro-life groups to classify fetal tissues to the status of a human being, as well as various ways to limit women’s access to abortions in safe environments with unnecessary regulations.

The new regulation is at this point only a rule, as the proposed measure has not gone through the legislative process yet, only through a bureaucratic one. However, it will have the same effects for abortions happening in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers. The fetal remains after an abortion will be required to be buried or cremated by the institution which is paid by the abortion patient.

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Guns at zoos? Texas says no while struggling to tame rules

By Paul J. Weber – Associated Press

More than a year after Texas made firearms, including openly holstered weapons, legal in more places in the state, disputes remain over where guns are allowed — much to the frustration of advocates on both sides of the debate.

Firearms are banned in zoos but not wildlife preserves. Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has warned community and junior colleges not to impose blanket bans, even though children sometimes attend classes on campus. And a judge has upheld a ban on guns at the Waller County Courthouse near Houston.

“We can see a mess getting created here,” said Terry Holcomb, who runs the gun rights group Texas Carry. “Because of the opposition, particularly in the liberal cities, it’s starting to become a big mess.”

Texas surpassed 1 million concealed carry license holders this year, and those who were worried about the possibility of tighter federal restrictions are probably breathing easier with the presidential election victory of Donald Trump. But an unintended consequence of looser gun restrictions in the state has been lingering disputes and bouts of confusion.

More than 120 complaints of firearms being unlawfully banned have been filed with the state since last year, according to the attorney general’s office. Paxton has issued formal responses to 20 of them, including one in November that upheld the outlawing of guns at the Fort Worth Zoo.

Waller County sued Holcomb after he complained that the county was wrongfully prohibiting guns — a lawsuit designed to have a judge settle the question of whether the county could keep guns out of the building. Paxton later sued Waller County, saying a ban on firearms in its courthouse was a violation of the law.

But state District Judge Albert McCaig ruled last week that the county may prohibit guns in its courthouse, which doubles as the home to the county’s administrative offices.

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Like Pence, Texas won’t release report on Abbott lawsuit strategy

By Jonathan Tilove – American-Statesman Staff

When the Texas attorney general asks other states’ governors to join a lawsuit against the Obama administration, does that solicitation create an attorney-client relationship?

The answer to that question will determine whether Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now vice president-elect, can keep secret a Texas report that discussed legal strategy for a planned — and ultimately successful — attack on President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

An Indiana appeals court is considering whether the Texas white paper can be withheld under attorney-client privilege.

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office echoed the same line of reasoning, weighing in on the side of secrecy last week when it denied the Austin American-Statesman’s request for a copy of the white paper under state public information laws.

The situation began two days before Thanksgiving 2014, when then-Attorney General and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s chief of staff sent an email to the chiefs of staff of 28 Republican governors. He was following up on a private meeting Abbott had held with their bosses at the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Florida to discuss his plans to sue the Obama administration.

“During last week’s meeting, Governor-elect Abbott promised that we would circulate a white paper outlining the legal theories supporting the state’s legal challenge to the other governors,” chief of staff Daniel Hodge wrote. “A copy of that white paper is attached to this email.”

Given the lengthy legal briefs included in the lawsuit, there is probably nothing surprising in the white paper, but that is only a surmise because, two years later, lawyers for Pence — who was one of those 28 governors — are in court fighting to prevent public release of the document.

In Texas, Lauren Downey, assistant attorney general and public information coordinator in Paxton’s office, initially denied the Statesman’s request for the white paper because it is involved in pending litigation and therefore exempt from disclosure.

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Cities ‘disingenuous’ on taxes, senator says

By Kenric Ward

A battle between Texas cities and the state Legislature broke out Tuesday, with property taxpayers in the crossfire.

“I side with the payers, not the spenders,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt said in unveiling Senate Bill 2 to reform Texas’ increasingly burdensome property tax system.

Sixth highest in the nation, local property taxes have exploded. City and county tax levies rose more than 70 percent since 2005 while Texas’ median household income grew just 32 percent.

“The taxpayers’ ability to pay must be considered,” said Bettencourt, a Houston Republican who chaired the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief.

Applauded by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — signaling a positive reception in the GOP-controlled Senate — the committee’s legislation was immediately blasted by four cities.

“It’s risky and not real tax relief,” declared Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Adler was joined by leaders of San Antonio, New Braunfels and San Marcos in warning that local government would be crippled by SB 2.

“We should not risk police, firefighting, EMS, parks, safety nets and transportation projects – all to save Austin homeowners only $2.69 a month,” Adler said.

Bettencourt called the cities’ arguments “disingenuous.”

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Texas Oil And Gas Output Continues To Fall

Ron Patterson

The railroad commission of Texas released September output data a few weeks ago and Dean Fantazzini made an estimate of the “corrected” data for crude plus condensate (C+C) and natural gas. Last month he found there had been a structural change in the data in March and provided a new estimate using only the most recent 3 months of data, I chose to use the most recent 6 months of data instead.

This month I will present the old estimate (labelled “all”) using all vintage data (dating back to April 2014) as well as the 6 month and 3 month estimate, which use the most recent 6 months and 3 months of data respectively.

To clarify, the data reported in November, October, and September for the most recent 48 months in each case (144 data points in all) are used to determine the correction factors for the most recent 24 months for the “3 month” estimate. Likewise 6 sets of data are used for the “6 month” estimate, and 30 sets of data are used for the “all” estimate. In each case the correction factor is the average of the 3, 6, or 30 sets of correction factors for each of the most recent 24 months (Oct 2014 to Sept 2016).

Dr. Fantazzini prefers the 3 month estimate, so in the future I will use this rather than the 6 month estimate, last month the 3 and 6 month estimates were very similar and that remains the case this month.

In September 2016 Texas C+C output fell by 38 kb/d to 3236 kb/d, based on the 3 month estimate, the EIA estimates that output rose by 6 kb/d to 3163 kb/d.

The chart below looks at the natural log of TX C+C output to estimate the annual decline rate since the peak in March 2015, the average annual percent decline rate is the slope of the trend line times 100.

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The State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) is holding its final 2016 quarterly meeting this weekend, December 2 and 3 in Austin.

The SREC is the board of directors for the state party.  Each of the 31 Texas senatorial districts elects two committee members every two years at the state GOP convention by the delegates of each senatorial district.  Party bylaws require that there must be a committee member of each gender per senatorial district and that the executive committee meets quarterly.

Heavy turnover was the end result of the 2016 SREC convention elections back in May and the new composition of committee members appear to stand further to the right on the political spectrum than the office of the party chairman, Tom Mechler.

The first meeting of the SREC following the convention was highlighted by a contentious showdown between the chairman and mostly the new SREC members over Mechler’s committees and committee assignments.  Mechler’s blueprint for SREC committees was rebuffed, he was forced to reconstruct the committees, and votes on the composition and forming of committees was held over until this weekend’s meeting.

One of the freshman SREC members is Pastor Terry Holcomb of Senatorial District 3.  Giving a preview of this weekend’s meeting on, Holcomb outlined three critical votes that will take place at the outset.

To preface, Mechler has shown an elitist and exclusionary streak when it comes to media.  Prior to the 2016 state convention, was apparently the only media outlet that was denied media credentials to cover the convention with all indications pointing to Mechler’s disapproval of RER coverage of his term as interim chair following the resignation of former Chairman Steve Munisteri and his campaign to be elected to a full term by the convention delegation.  SREC Member J.T. Edwards of SD11, apologized on behalf of the SREC and the TxGOP to RER, live on RER the week following the convention, for the behavior of the Chairman’s office and the hostile environment Mechler created toward the media with his exclusion of RER from media privileges.

Transparency of committee meetings via corporate media and citizen journalists, and the images produced, sets up the first contentious vote on the weekend’s agenda. Holcomb said, “One of the one’s (votes) that I’m right in the middle of fighting for is the ability to live (video) stream the meetings to our constituents in our SDs. They’re trying to stop that.  We believe we have the votes to go ahead and prevail on that.”  Currently the office of the party chairman controls all video images produced from SREC meetings.

“From the last SREC, they voted to stop all recordings except by the RPT staff themselves”, Holcomb explained. “In the convention, this time, the convention said ‘we want SREC members to be able to record’ and that’s where it stands today.  But there appears to be a faction that wants to stop that. They want to undue the will of the body.  Not only on that issue, but on a second issue.” Holcomb remains confident that transparency will win and feels that the SREC should be leading the efforts on public meeting transparency.

The vote on streaming and recording is expected to be the first vote to come to floor because it will have a direct impact on how the remainder of the meeting will be conducted.  For at least the debate and vote on the streaming issue, Texans will be able to pick the video stream from various sources.  However, once the votes are casts and tallied, that could all change.

The delegation to the 2016 RPT convention also addressed how the SREC is to amend bylaws.  Yet, Holcomb reports that some members are looking to shape the procedure to their liking going to his point that the faction in favor of this action is once again defying the will of the convention that concretely set the procedure in place for bylaw changes.

Critical vote number three has to do with the SREC’s Legislative Committee. “We want to make the Legislative Committee a standing committee and not an ad hoc committee.  The convention spoke very loud and clear, that they expect the SREC to work very hard on the legislative priorities that came out of the convention. Currently the Legislative Committee is an ad hoc committee which means it could go away tomorrow by the will of the Chair.  And that’s not what the body intended,” stated Holcomb.

Holcomb said that SREC member Jeremy Blosser from SD10 has constructed a bylaws amendment to make the Legislative Committee a standing committee which Holcomb says it must become.

“I expect the (recording) rule vote to come up first.  Because they definitely don’t want those other votes to be streamed and recorded. I can tell you that, right now.”

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