TPA Roundup (May 19, 2014)

Note: The opinions of the Texas Progressive Alliance or other blogs are not necessarily those of Texpatriate or its contributors.

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the ten-year anniversary of same sex marriages in America – which, at last report, was still standing – as it bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff highlights another report on how commercial property owners get to pay a lot less in property taxes than the rest of us do.

Horwitz at Texpatriate is concerned over Mayor Julian Castro’s nomination to a Cabinet position, worrying it may spell doom for a later run for Governor.

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Secretary Castro?

The New York Times reports that Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, one of the Democrats’ biggest rising hopes for the future of the State, is President Barack Obama’s pick as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The incumbent Secretary, Shaun Donovan, looks to be the next Budget director (the incumbent budget director, meanwhile, has been tapped as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services). The reshuffling is important because Castro is not term limited out of office, as Mayor of San Antonio for another three years. Additionally, he reportedly declined an offer to become Secretary of Transportation.

Castro received the obsequious adulation one would expect from liberal lemmings upon hearing this news. I, of course, wish the best for Castro and honestly believe that he would make a very good HUD Secretary, but I lament the long term implications of such a change. However, first things first, San Antonio will have to choose a new Mayor. The Rivard Report notes that the San Antonio City Council must choose themselves who Castro’s successor will be. Likely a member of the City Council her or himself, but plausibly someone else as well. This successor will serve out of the remainder of Castro’s term, about a year.

Click here to read my take on this move by Castro!

A note on the NDO

Because of ongoing conflicts of interest at City Hall over the next few weeks, I’ve determined that it would be best to recuse myself from ongoing coverage of the non-discrimination ordinance pending before the Houston City Council.

The Houston Chronicle has been leading the way on reporting the commentary-free news on this matter, and I would highly suggest following their coverage anyways. Otherwise, my usual crop of fellow blogs are sure to pick up the slack in infusing their always unique opinions on the matter. Perry Dorrell’s “Brains & Eggs,” Charles Kuffner’s “Off the Kuff” and Wayne Ashley’s “Texas Leftist” have provided invaluable left-of-center analysis where as David Jennings’ “Big Jolly Politics” and Greg Aydt’s “Rhymes with Right” have done the same on the other side of the aisle.

On Net Neutrality

POLITICO reports that the FCC commissioners have approved a controversial new plan that eviscerates the principle of net neutrality for websites and internet service providers. Net neutrality is the long-honored belief that the internet should not have a “fast lane,” that is to say that service providers should not be able to slow down service for a specific person or website. To premise is actually quite simple, as a completely deregulated internet would surely cause fasting internet for those who could pay more. This would obviously stifle innovation and hamper one of the best things of the internet: its inherent equality.

Like so many other items, when President Obama was first running for office, he was a vociferous supporter of net neutrality. Now that he is in office, of course, this sentiment has been defenestrated, so to speak. The FCC is guided by five commissioners, all of which were nominated by Obama. Of those, three are partisan Democrats and two are Republicans. The final vote in favor of the new rules gutting net neutrality was 3-2, you guessed it, along partisan lines. However, Republican opposition was due far more to a proposal to classifying broadband services as a utility, which has great implications for the overarching regulations.

Click here to see who supports Net Neutrality!

Fifth Circuit stays Campbell execution

The New York Times reports that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Robert Campbell, which was scheduled for this evening. As I wrote extensively over the weekend, Campbell’s case represents two distinct quandaries. First, the execution would be the first to occur following the horrendous butchery that occurred a couple of weeks ago in Oklahoma. Second, Campbell’s IQ is 69, below the line commonly designated for mental retardation. This is significant because the US Supreme Court ruled in 2002 (Atkins v. Virginia) that those will severe intellectual deficiencies may not legally be put to death.

The Federal Appeals Court declined to issue any sort of stay as a result of what I have called the “secret execution drugs.” This issue hails from the fact that the State of Texas recently started obtaining its death drug, pentobarbital, from secret compounding pharmacies, details of which have not even been disclosed to the attorneys of the condemned. Texas has, in all fairness, undergone two of these executions without a hitch. That being said, the issue over the condemned man’s mental faculties struck a chord with the Court.

Click here to read the full analysis!

TPA Roundup

Note: The opinions of the Texas Progressive Alliance or other blogs are not necessarily those of Texpatriate or its contributors.

The Texas Progressive Alliance says Bring Back Our Girls for this post-Mother’s Day roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a closer look at the competitive legislative races on the ballot this fall.

Horwitz at Texpatriate notes that, while there may be a Democrat now on the Court of Criminal Appeals, he is not doing anything of use to stop cruel and unusual punishment.

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In re Campbell

There is man named Robert Campbell on Texas’ death row, who is scheduled for execution this upcoming Monday. He was convicted of an especially heinous 1991 robbery-rape-murder, for which he was given Texas’ ultimate penalty: death. Campbell has argued a number of objections since that time, explaining in part why he was languished on death row nearly in a state of limbo for so long. Namely, he has contended that he received inadequate counsel at trial. Anecdotally, his new attorneys point to the fact that his original defender was from Conroe, not Houston (where his trial took place), and only provided rudimentary petitions and appeals, stuff that could basically just be copied off the internet.

However, while litigating this issue, another can of worms, so to speak, arose. Campbell’s IQ, according to a recent test, is 69, far below the threshold for mental retardation. In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court ruled that those who have been explicitly defined by their state of mentally retarded. The intellectual handicaps are to be treated like youth or any other mitigating factor, in that it does not serve as evidence of being unable to comprehend the difference between right and wrong, but serve as a rationale to not levy the full punishment. The problem with this is that States can define mental retardation any way they so choose. Enter Campbell: with an IQ of 69. The problem is that the State contends this is not tantamount to the needed intellectual handicap for clemency.

Click here to see what the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on this matter!