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Does Texas Still Have Straight-Ticket Voting?

Most states have ended straight-ticket, or “one-punch,” voting, but Texas kept it going — as long as it helped the majority party. The state is getting rid of it starting in 2020.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The short answer: Not for long. Straight-ticket voting allows a voter to cast a ballot for every candidate in a particular political party without having to vote in each race. The 2018 general election was the last time it will be on Texas ballots.

The Texas Tribune partnered with the education publisher Pearson to answer that and other questions for Texas students. Watch the video to learn more — or read our related coverage below:

  • The Legislature voted last year to end straight-party voting for the 2020 elections. After a tough election for some down-ballot Republicans, some are wishing they’d done it sooner.
  • After years of Texas voters having the option to vote for an entire party’s slate in one fell swoop, the straight-ticket option will no longer be available beginning in 2020 under a bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
  • Straight-ticket ballots — where voters choose parties instead of individual candidates — accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 biggest counties in 2016.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, where he writes regular columns on politics, government and public policy. Before joining the Tribune, Ross was editor and co-owner of Texas Weekly. He did a 28-month stint in government as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Before that, he reported for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as its Austin bureau chief, and worked as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

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Austin

More Algae Tests Positive for Neurotoxins

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Barton Creek (center) flowing in to Lady Bird Lake. Photo credit: Chase Martin / therepubliq

Additional testing has revealed increasing levels of neurotoxins in algae at a greater number of locations. Samples were taken on Monday, August 12, 2019, at Auditorium Shores, at Red Bud Isle and at Barton Creek. Samples at Barton Creek were taken just below the pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. All the samples contained greater amounts of neurotoxins than found the previous week.

Red Bud Isle remains closed. The public should not allow their dogs to swim anywhere in Lady Bird Lake. In addition, they should keep their dogs out of Barton Creek where algae is present.

In addition to swimming, dogs should not be allowed to drink the water in these locations. People should avoid handling the algae and minimize their exposure to the water. Boating and paddle-boarding is still allowed at your own risk. Pets and people who come into contact with the water should rinse off. If symptoms develop, they should seek immediate medical attention.

“Barking Springs” at the spillway of Barton Springs Pool is upstream of this area. Water at Barking Springs is cold and flows from Barton Springs and Barton Creek. At this time, we believe people and pets can continue to swim in this area at their own risk. They should avoid going downstream to areas with floating algae. They should be aware that bacteria is always a concern in smaller waterways where there is a high concentration of dogs.

Previously, algae in Barton Creek downstream of Barton Springs appeared to be a mix of harmless green algae. However, the most recent samples showed a low presence of blue green algae in the Barton Creek area of Lady Bird Lake. These samples did test positive for neurotoxins. This is a reminder that the situation is evolving and can change rapidly. Watershed Protection will be taking more samples for testing tomorrow.

The algae will naturally die off when cooler weather returns in the fall. At this time, the City of Austin has not identified a safe and effective way to treat or remove the algae, and it is likely that Red Bud Isle will remain closed for the next several weeks.

On Sunday, August 4, the City of Austin warned residents not to allow their pets to swim in or drink from Lady Bird Lake after being told that a dog had died from possible exposure to harmful algae. Since then, the City has been told about three other dogs who have died after swimming in the lake.

On Monday, August 5, the City was able to confirm the presence of algae that could produce a neurotoxin.

Drinking water remains unaffected by this situation. Austin Water regularly looks at algae levels on Lake Austin and Lake Travis and has not seen levels of concern for drinking water. Austin Water does not currently use Lady Bird Lake as a source for drinking water.

Dogs who ingest water contaminated with this toxin could have a number of symptoms. On the severe end, it could result in respiratory paralysis and death. Look for these signs in your pet within minutes to hours of exposure:

  • Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Jaundice, hepatomegaly
  • Blood in urine or dark urine
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Photosensitization in recovering animals
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Progression of muscle twitches
  • Respiratory paralysis

The amount of toxins the dog ingests and licking of the fur are factors.

In people, possible health effects include:

  • Dermatologic signs or symptoms such as rash, irritation, swelling, or sores
  • Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms
  • Respiratory signs or symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Neurologic signs or symptoms
  • Ear symptoms
  • Eye irritation

Austin Public Health routinely tracks emergency department visits. We have not seen any increases in unusual conditions that may be related to exposure to the water. APH will continue to monitor.

If members of the public have questions or concerns, please have them call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000.

Source: City of Austin website

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86th TX Lege

New Texas Law Will Outlaw Unsolicited Nudes

The law will make the electronic transmission of unwanted sexually explicit material a class C misdemeanor. But legal experts worry it could be written too broadly under the First Amendment to be effective.

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Only 36% of adolescent boys in Texas were up to date on HPV immunization in 2016, according to federal data. Photo credit: Cooper Neill / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

A few years ago, Dallas resident and mother Brandy Davis was reentering the online dating scene. After matching with a “seemingly nice” man, the two exchanged phone numbers. Then, one afternoon while Davis was at work, the man sent her an unrequested nude photo of himself.

“I remember thinking, ‘If this is going to come unexpected like this, it could come at a time when my son has my phone,'” Davis testified during a May Senate hearing. “I was appalled … because nobody should be subjected to that.”

House Bill 2789, signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, aims to put an end to experiences like Davis’. The law goes into effect Sept. 1 and makes the electronic transmission of sexually explicit material a Class C misdemeanor, with a maximum $500 fine, when the recipient hasn’t provided consent. The law will make Texas one of the first states to take a stand against sending sexually explicit images, which about 40% of women report receiving without consent.

The law won’t apply just to texts, but also to what’s sent over other platforms like email, dating apps and social media.

Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, who authored the legislation, said as a father of three, he wanted to prevent a form of sexual harassment that previously went unchecked. The bill, he said, aims to close a gap in state law — indecent exposure is a crime in person, but not online.

“Quite frankly, the thought of someone doing that to one of my children scared me,” Meyer said. “There had to be some sort of deterrent to stop this from happening — and now there is.”

Meyer said representatives from Bumble, the mobile dating app headquartered in Austin, initially brought the idea of crafting legislation to him. During a May 13 Senate committee hearing, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd testified in support of the legislation.

“Lately, it feels like men and women are being told that this increasingly common problem is really no big deal. Women in particular are expected to laugh this sort of thing off,” Herd testified. “But there’s nothing funny about it.”

But with a “staggering volume” of people affected, Dallas employment law attorney Michelle MacLeod, whose firm represents clients in sexual harassment cases, said enforcement could be challenging with limited resources.

J.T. Morris, an Austin-based attorney whose firm specializes in First Amendment rights, said difficulties may also arise if an accused sender claims he or she wasn’t the one who sent a lewd message.

That situation played out in the Texas Senate last year when state Sen. Charles Schwertner was accused of texting sexually explicit messages to a University of Texas at Austin graduate student. Schwertner denied the allegations, saying he hadn’t sent the texts, and a UT investigation found it was “plausible” a third party had sent them.

Morris said even emailing a doctor an image for medical purposes or posting a photo taken while breastfeeding could be considered criminal acts under the law, which he said is overly broad and vague.

That’s why David Anderson, a former UT Austin law professor who focuses on free speech, expects legal challenges to the law.

Four years ago, the Texas Legislature passed a similar law criminalizing revenge porn. The law was declared unconstitutional in April 2018 after a state appeals court said its broad restrictions infringed on free speech. It’s awaiting a final decision in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and Anderson believes a similar constitutional challenge could mark the end for HB 2789.

“I don’t think it could survive,” Anderson said, “and even if it could, it probably won’t ever get to that stage. Who are they going to prosecute?”

Still, Meyer said the law isn’t aimed solely at punishing offenders.

“We understand that enforcement will be a challenge,” Meyer said, “but this bill is intended to serve as a deterrent as well. It’s keeping people aware that sending unsolicited lewd photos will not be tolerated … and stopping them from doing it in the first place.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: Bumble and the University of Texas at Austin have been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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Elections 2020

Pegasus Owner Running For Congress as Republican

The gay, Trump-supporting Republican owner of the San Antonio Pegasus nightclub announced that he is running to represent Texas’ 20th congressional district.

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Mauro Garza announced he's running for Texas' 20th Congressional District during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. Photo credit: Mauro Garza campaign website

Mauro Garza, owner of the Pegasus nightclub in San Antonio and Trump supporter, is running for Congress as a Republican. He is running for Texas’ 20th congressional district which includes western San Antonio. He made the announcement on Friday, August 9, 2019 during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. If Garza wins the primary, he would face the Democratic incumbent and LGBT ally Rep. Joaquin Castro in the general election.

This isn’t his first attempt at running for office, though. In 2010, he ran for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 in Bexar County as a Democrat, losing in the primary by just 122 votes. The now self-proclaimed conservative Log Cabin Republican then ran again in 2018 in neighboring District 21, which includes parts of northern San Antonio along with a large portion of Austin and the Hill Country. In that crowded Republican primary to replace the retiring Lamar Smith, Garza self-funded his entire campaign with a personal loan of over $145K, only to net less than 1 percent of the votes.

According to Garza’s campaign website he is now pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment. Under ‘key issues’ he lists ‘Equality’; “I believe in EQUALITY. America is the land of the Free. I do not believe in discriminating against Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Age, Disability, Sexual Orientation, or National Origin.” Further, under “LGBT+ Rights’ he adds “I advocate for Marriage Equality, because the government has no right to be in our bedrooms. I advocate for Tax Equality for Domestic Partner Benefits. I will advocate Conservative Reform for the LGBT+ Community.”

Members of San Antonio’s LGBTQ+ community are taking a stand against Garza, with activists from Direct Action Network San Antonio calling for “a nationwide boycott in an effort to defund his contributions to anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians/platforms” with their #ProtestThePeg campaign.

“We must stand together to ensure that political attacks on our communities are denounced. We must work in unison to curtail monetary support of anti-LGBTQIA+ movements. Every time we spend our hard earned dollars at Pegasus Nightclub, we are paying to support our oppression. For this reason, we are making a nationwide call to anyone in our communities that are planning to visit the city of San Antonio to boycott the Pegasus.”

“We understand there are many artists who rely on the entertainment industry as their source of income,” the group said. “We are fully aware of the limits systemic oppression can impose on us to secure employment and meet our needs. We recognize that our spaces are the safest for LGBTQIA+ talent to work.However, the LGBTQIA+ entertainment industry provides different platforms that reach large audiences. We ask that you use those platforms responsibly and refrain from contracting talent to attend or perform at Pegasus Nightclub. We will continue the boycott and protests as long as Mr Garza sustains his support for politics and rhetoric that incite discrimination and violence against us and other vulnerable communities.”

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august 2019

23augAll DayFeaturedaGLIFF 32(All Day: friday) Alamo Drafthouse South LamarCategories:FilmAges:18+

23aug7:00 PM9:00 PMFriday Social TennisHosted by Austin Tennis Club7:00 PM - 9:00 PM South Austin Tennis CenterCategories:TennisAges:All Ages

23aug7:00 PM10:30 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em7:00 PM - 10:30 PM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

23aug8:00 PM10:00 PMFeaturedGround Floor Theatre presents TRANSOM8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Ground Floor TheatreCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

23aug8:00 PM10:00 PMWaller Creek Pub House Drag Queen Bling-OHosted by Rhonda Jewels8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Waller Creek Pub HouseCategories:DragAges:All Ages

23aug(aug 23)10:00 PM24(aug 24)2:00 AMFriday Night ft. DJ Protégé10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (24) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:18+

23aug(aug 23)10:00 PM24(aug 24)3:30 AMTuckedHosted by Lady Grackle10:00 PM - 3:30 AM (24) Highland LoungeCategories:DragAges:21+

23aug(aug 23)10:00 PM24(aug 24)2:00 AMFriday Night ft. DJ KAHLU10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (24) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

23aug(aug 23)10:00 PM24(aug 24)1:00 AMCruise ControlFeaturing Roxy Brooks10:00 PM - 1:00 AM (24) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:DragAges:21+

23aug(aug 23)10:30 PM24(aug 24)1:30 AMHot Mess ExpressHosted by Jenna von Scrum10:30 PM - 1:30 AM (24) The HighballCategories:DragAges:21+

23aug(aug 23)11:00 PM24(aug 24)1:00 AMCRAVE: Friday Night Drag ShowHosted by Maeve Haven11:00 PM - 1:00 AM (24) Sellers UndergroundCategories:DragAges:21+

24augAll DayFeaturedaGLIFF 32(All Day: saturday) Alamo Drafthouse South LamarCategories:FilmAges:18+

24aug9:00 AM1:00 PMSFC Farmers’ Market Downtown9:00 AM - 1:00 PM Republic SquareCategories:ShoppingAges:All Ages

24aug10:30 AM11:45 AMAustin Naked YogaTaught by Daryn10:30 AM - 11:45 AM ToddPilates & Barre North AustinCategories:FitnessAges:18+

24aug8:00 PM10:00 PMFeaturedGround Floor Theatre presents TRANSOM8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Ground Floor TheatreCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

24aug(aug 24)10:00 PM25(aug 25)2:00 AMBody BeautifulHosted by Vegas Van Cartier & Rachel Mykels10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (25) Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

24aug(aug 24)10:00 PM25(aug 25)2:00 AMSaturday Night ft. DJ Dallas Downs10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (25) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

24aug(aug 24)10:00 PM25(aug 25)2:00 AMSaturday Night ft. DJ Eriq Stylez10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (25) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

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25aug11:00 AM3:00 PMFierce on 4th Street Drag Show & Sunday Brunch11:00 AM - 3:00 PM ChispasCategories:Drag,FoodAges:All Ages

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