TIME 2016 Election

Rick Perry Disavows Tweet Calling Democratic D.A. a Drunk

Rick Perry Discusses Immigration And Border Crisis In Washington DC
Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks about immigration at The Heritage Foundation August 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

'I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down'

Texas Governor Rick Perry deleted an “unauthorized” tweet sent out from his official account on Sunday evening, that included a mocking image of a district attorney who is involved in a criminal indictment against the governor.

“I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down,” Perry tweeted from his official account. The removed tweet included an image of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg surrounded by beer bottles with a derisive comment about her drunk driving conviction in 2013.

Lehmberg refused to resign after the conviction, prompting Perry to withhold funding from her office until she stepped down. An indictment last month held that Perry’s maneuver might constitute a possible “abuse of power,” a charge the governor contests is based on a vague and outdated law.

TIME 2016 Election

Perry Stops in Washington in Wake of Indictment

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

Texas Gov. Rick Perry called his Aug. 15 indictment on charges that he abused power an “attack on our system of government” during a speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Thursday.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry called his Aug. 15 indictment on charges that he abused power an “attack on our system of government” during a speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Thursday.

Gov.Perry stopped in Washington on his way to New Hampshire less than a week after being indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of abuse of power. He said Thursday he was confident in his case and that he aims to “defend our constitution and defend our rule of law in the state of Texas.”

The charges against Perry stem from his veto of $7.5 million worth of funding to the state entity that investigates political corruption, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, after Travis County’s embattled District Attorney refused to resign in the wake of a drunk driving arrest.

Democrats in Texas have alleged Perry wanted funding cut to the public integrity unit to delay an investigation into mismanagement at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry’s signature programs. In an affidavit released by Perry’s lawyers on Thursday, a former criminal investigator at the Travis County Public Integrity Unit said neither Governor Perry nor anyone from his officer were ever a target in the investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

“Any suggestion that Governor Rick Perry or anyone associated with him was being investigated is untrue; and, based on my investigation, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that suggests wrongdoing on the part of any individual other than the individual ultimately indicted by a grand jury,” the affidavit reads.

Perry has come across as calm, and at times cheeky, in the face of the charges. The governor presented a slight smile in his mugshot, released Tuesday. After being booked, Perry went out for ice cream. And now, Perry is hitting the road, with scheduled appearances in states that would be crucial if the governor were to run for President in 2016 as expected, including New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina.

Even during his brief remarks in Washington, Perry seemed to be focused mainly on the idea of one day serving as commander-in-chief: following a brief mention of the case against him in his home state, the Governor focused his attention on the crisis at the border, calling it a threat to national security. Perry said there should be no conversation about immigration reform, “until the border is secure.”

TIME justice

Rick Perry Booked in Politically Charged Abuse of Power Case

Rick Perry Mugshot
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets booked on abuse of power charges at the Travis County Sheriff's Department in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2014. Travis County Sheriff's Department

The Texas governor faces two felony charges

Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned himself in at the Travis County Courthouse Tuesday on two felony charges of abuse of power.

Perry, who has vowed to contest the charges stemming from a threat and ultimate veto of funding to the state’s public integrity unit, surrendered himself to Sheriff’s deputies to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Outside the courthouse, Perry allies protested the indictment handed down by a grand jury Friday evening. “I am here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry told a crowd of cheering supporters before entering the courthouse. “And I am here today because I did the right thing.”

Perry was indicted for threatening and then ultimately vetoing funding for the unit after its head, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. Perry demanded that Lehmberg resign and, when she refused, vetoed the funding.

“I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, but also right,” he added.

The governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate has hired a high-priced legal team and deployed his political machine in his defense, which has become a rallying point for Republicans across the country. Democrats, including former Obama strategist David Axelrod, have also expressed doubts about the merits of the prosecution.

Perry cast the criminal complaint as “an attack on our system of government,” arguing it was well within his rights to veto the funding. “If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” he said.

“I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being,” Perry said before turning to enter the courthouse. “And we will prevail.”

Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, released a new video defending the veto Tuesday.

After he left the courthouse, Perry tweeted that he went to purchase an ice cream cone.

 

TIME

Rick Perry Indicted in Politically-Charged Texas Battle

Rick Perry
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Tony Gutierrez—AP

Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on two counts of abuse of power Friday by a Texas grand jury, in the latest chapter of a long-running politically-charged dispute between the Republican and his Democratic opponents.

The indictment revolves around Perry’s veto of $7.5 million in funding to state’s public integrity unit., based in the Travis County district attorney’s office. District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who ran the unit, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2012. Perry publicly demanded that she step aside. When she didn’t, he vetoed the unit’s funding.

At the same time, the unit, long a weather vane to Texas politics, was investigating one of Perry’s signature achievements, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, for alleged mismanagement. Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint over Perry’s public veto threat.

At the request of Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum, a Travis County grand jury returned felony indictments against Perry on two counts, abuse of official capacity, which carries a penalty of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, which carries a penalty of two to 10 years.

Central to the case will be whether Perry’s threat to veto, an act authorized by the state’s constitution, constituted a misuse of state property, and whether his calls for Lehmberg to resign rose to a level of coercion. Both counts are likely to prove difficult for prosecutors to make.

In a statement, Perry’s general counsel Mary Anne Wiley defended the legality of the veto and pledged to fight the charges. “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution,” she said. “We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

“I am outraged and appalled that the Grand Jury has taken this action, given the governor’s constitutional right and duty to veto funding as he deems appropriate,” added David L. Botsford, Perry’s personal attorney. “This clearly represents political abuse of the court system and there is no legal basis in this decision. The facts of this case conclude that the governor’s veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor. Today’s action, which violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution, is nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional authority granted to the office of Texas governor, and sets a dangerous precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawful and constitutional authority afforded to the Texas governor.”

Perry did not testify before the grand jury and he was not subpoenaed to appear, though members of his staff did.

McCrum told reporters he will be working with Perry’s attorney to set up a time for Perry to be arraigned and booked. “I feel confident with the charges that have been filed,” he told reporters.

A noted San Antonio criminal defense attorney, McCrum was appointed as an assistant US Attorney by President George H.W. Bush. In 2010 he was nominated in President Barack Obama to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, but he withdrew his name after his nomination stalled.

Texas Democrats quickly released a statement calling on Perry to resign. “Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas,” the party said. “Texans deserve to have leaders that stand up for what is right and work to help families across Texas.”

The indictment comes as Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, is set to step down in January after 14 years in office. The failed 2012 Republican presidential hopeful has been traveling the country in recent months in preparation for a second run at the White House, most recently returning to Texas from a four-day trip to Iowa on Tuesday.

TIME Texas

First National Guard Troops at Texas-Mexico Border

Governor Rick Perry pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering on August 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering on August 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Tony Gutierrez—AP

(HIDALGO, Texas) — The first wave of National Guard troops has taken up observation posts along the Texas-Mexico border.

Several dozen soldiers deployed in the Rio Grande Valley are part of the up to 1,000 troops called up by Gov. Rick Perry last month, Texas National Guard Master Sgt. Ken Walker of the Joint Counterdrug Task Force said Thursday.

Several guardsmen were seen Thursday afternoon manning an observation tower along the busy road leading to the Hidalgo International Bridge.

This first batch of soldiers was specifically trained to man such observation towers in the area belonging to local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Walker said. They will serve as extra eyes on the border and report suspicious activity to authorities.

State officials have estimated the deployment will cost $12 million per month. Perry said the soldiers were necessary to help secure the border while the Border Patrol was busy with a surge in illegal immigration.

From October to July, 63,000 unaccompanied children were arrested after entering the U.S. illegally, double the number from the same period a year earlier. Another 63,000 families — mothers or fathers with young children — were arrested during that period.

“They’re just there for support,” Walker said of the soldiers. “We’re just trying to give some relief to the guys at Customs and Border Protection” and other law enforcement agencies.

The guardsmen seen Thursday were manning a tower owned by the Hidalgo Police Department.

Hidalgo Police Chief Rodolfo Espinoza said he would normally not have his department’s two towers manned. They have cameras that can pan the area and record activity, but having a person that can recognize something suspicious and report it is more valuable, he said.

“It is good to have them,” Espinoza said of the soldiers. “It is a positive benefit for everybody.”

TIME Family

Mom Says She Was Booted For Changing Diaper at Restaurant Table

Baby in nappy on changing mat.
Baby in nappy on changing mat. Lisa Stirling—Getty Images

A debate over parenting manners breaks out in a Texas pizzeria

A Texas mom told a local news station that her dinner out came to an abrupt end when she changed her baby’s diaper on a chair in the dining area of a restaurant.

Miranda Sowers says she was alone at Brother’s Pizza Express in Spring, Texas with her three children, ages 8, 4, and 4 months, when she realized her youngest needed a diaper change. But, Sowers says, the restroom didn’t have a changing table and she didn’t want to herd all of her kids out to the car, so she did what she had to do.

“I thought you know what I’ve got my own changing pad, she’s tiny, she fits right here on the chair.” she told KHOU, a Houston TV station. “So I laid her down quickly and quietly changed her diaper.”

While Sowers saw this is an inoffensive act of convenience, claiming that no one saw her do it, restaurant employees and patrons had a different take.

“As soon as you start opening the diaper, people start complaining about the smell of the diaper,” manager Donny Lala told KHOU. “Last thing I want is a customer throwing up.”

Comments on the story from KHOU readers were mainly against table-side diaper changing. Many self-described parents deemed Sowers inconsiderate: “Gross! I would have used the changing pad on the bathroom floor or gone to my car. Why do people feel so entitled?” wrote one reader.” Others urged the restaurant to install changing tables.

According to KHOU, the incident prompted the restaurant to bring the Sowers’ their food in t0-go containers and they were asked to leave. Sowers has since filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Brother’s Pizza Express hasn’t backed down, but it might consider installing changing tables in the bathrooms. Brother’s Pizza Express did not respond immediately to calls for comment about the incident or the reported lack of changing tables in their restroom.

TIME justice

Students Challenge Texas Voter ID Law in Court

A voter completes her ballot on November 6, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas.
A voter completes her ballot on November 6, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. Tom Pennington—Getty Images

Trial set for September

Students in Texas have a question for their state lawmakers: Why us? In September, they’ll get to pose that question in court.

Over the last year, laws that advocates say place unnecessary burdens on voters have advanced across the country. But a law in Texas is causing a particular stir due to its potential to place the harshest burdens on the youngest voters. A lawsuit challenging it that was filed last year goes to trial Sept. 2.

“We work to engage people—young people—in this process,” said Christina Sanders, state director of the Texas League of Young Voters, which is among the plaintiffs in an upcoming voter identification case in the state. “The hurdles these laws create makes it more difficult for us to engage.”

“More than cases of apathy, it becomes a case of disenfranchisement,” she added.

For Sanders and the Texas League of Young Voters, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision—which nullified key portions of the landmark Voting Rights Act—has given them a case of judicial déjà vu. The group’s first action after its founding in 2010 was joining in the initial challenge to the law that restricts the type of identification voters can use at Texas polls, a lawsuit that prevented the measure from taking effect in 2012. But because of the Supreme Court’s decision that invalidated the portion of the Voting Rights Act used to block the law, it was able to take hold almost immediately after the high court’s ruling. The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of the League, joined the Department of Justice lawsuit last year in an effort to once again seek refuge from the law in the courts.

The state has said the ID requirement is an effort to prevent in-person voter fraud. In a 2013 editorial, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said requiring voters to present government issued IDs is “the first step in the process is to ensure that only those that are legally allowed to vote actually vote.” He called the efforts to block the law misguided, noting that some 83% of adults and 84% of registered voters support voter ID laws, according to a 2013 McClatchy-Marist poll.

“To those that oppose voter ID laws, how about instead of trying to incite racial violence and protests, you walk the walk and help those you believe to be poor or disenfranchised without photo ID to acquire a photo ID,” Abbott said.

Under the law, seven forms of identification are accepted at Texas polling stations, among them state drivers’ licenses and identification cards, election identification certificates, military IDs, passports, citizenship documents with photos, and concealed handgun licenses. And noticeably absent from that list: student identification cards.

In Texas, voter turnout for youth was among the lowest in 2012 at 29.6%, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. But voting rights advocates worry these laws will only further discourage young people from voting in the state. Between 600,000 and 800,000 voters may be ineligible to vote under the Texas law, many of whom may be students given the fact that nationally only about 65% of 18 year-olds have licenses, according to a 2011 University of Michigan study.

Ryan Haygood, director for the Legal Defense Fund’s political participation group, said student IDs were specifically left off the list because they fail to prove whether a student is a citizen or a resident, though he said there have been no instances of student non-citizens attempting to vote in person.

“There are two ways you can win an election, get more people to participate or get less of your opponents potential voters to participate,” Haygood said. “These laws prey on groups that have been historically marginalized.”

About 45% of eligible 18 to 29 year-olds voted during the 2012 presidential election, casting over 20 million votes, according to CIRCLE. That rate was a bit below the 51% mark from from 2008 but an overall boost compared to the 15 million cast in 2000.

Sanders said preventing students from using their state college IDs to vote causes “an extra hurdle,” and one many advocates don’t understand.

“We haven’t heard really good rationale for it,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. While states have argued that because student IDs often do not have addresses they can’t verify residence, voter ID laws, Ho said, are justified not as a means of confirming residence, but a way to confirm identity.

“It doesn’t make any sense to exclude student IDs on the basis of an address,” he says. “It leads us to think the only reason why they’re excluding student IDs is that they don’t want students to vote.” Younger voters tend to vote disproportionately Democratic, and laws passed in Texas and elsewhere increasing restrictions on student IDs have been pushed by Republicans.

And the Lone Star state isn’t the only state where the student vote may be at risk. As the New York Times reported in July, students in North Carolina have filed a lawsuit saying the state’s restrictive voting measures, which also prohibit the use of state university IDs at the polls, violate the 26th Amendment—the one that says the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any sate on account of age.”

MONEY home prices

These Places Have the Best Housing Bargains in the Country

Scioto River and Columbus, Ohio skyline at dusk.
Columbus, Ohio, skyline at dusk. VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm—Getty Images

As the market tries to adjust to a post-recession world, there are plenty of deals to be had. But there are also plenty of markets where housing is more unaffordable than ever.

With housing price growth slowing down nationwide, and a gradually improving economy, many Americans who’ve been waiting to make a decision on a home are wondering if it’s time to buy or sell.

Here’s some data that might help with those decisions: A new study by RealtyTrac determined which housing markets are more and less affordable relative to their historical averages. The real estate data firm computed the numbers by determining what percentage of an area’s median income would be needed to make payments on a median-priced home in over 1,000 counties, and then compared that to the county’s historical price-to-income ratio over the past 14 years.

So which areas are looking like a bargain? RealtyTrac identified 66 counties with a combined population of 16 million (about 5% of the total survey area’s population) where home prices are lower than historical averages and the unemployment rate was 5% or lower—well below the national unemployment rate of about 6.2%.

This, according to RealtyTrac, is the best way to measure affordability because many markets with cheap housing don’t have quality jobs to offer to new residents. Some undiscovered markets are “undiscovered for good reason because their economies are struggling,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “A good example of that is Detroit. Affordability alone isn’t an indication that a market is a good one to buy in or invest in.”

The study found Columbus, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Akron, Ohio; Omaha; Greenville, S.C.; and Des Moines, Iowa, are among the markets with an advantageous combination of employment and affordable housing.

Courtesy of RealtyTrac

Why is housing in these areas undervalued? Basically, the overall real estate market is still recovering from the recession, and prices have yet to adjust in certain markets as investors are slow to discover lesser-known areas with strong economic growth. This pro-buyer environment might not last much longer, though. Blomquist says there’s been an uptick of institutional investor purchasing in Columbus, which means prices are set to rise in the near future.

There’s good news for prospective sellers as well. Prices in over one-third of the counties surveyed are less affordable than their historical averages, suggesting homes there may be over-valued. These cities include San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Austin; San Antonio; Houston; and Atlanta.

Courtesy of RealtyTrac

Should sellers jump at the high prices? If you’re a homeowner in one of these markets, a lot of things are going your way. As prices rise, institutional investors are rushing to invest in these markets, inflating values even further. But there’s also a lack of supply because builders are still reluctant to start new construction.

“It’s a sellers market still [in these areas] because you have a combination of strong demand from this new breed of buyers and low supply because builders are very hesitant,” says Blomquist. “If you’re a seller, you’re not competing against too many others and you have a long liner of buyers.”

However, he cautions that for sellers looking to buy another home in the same market, less affordable home prices may be a double-edged sword. “The catch-22 is if you’re trying to buy too — if that’s the case, then it’s not a great market to buy in.”

TIME space

SpaceX Is Building a New Launch Site In Texas

The next launch site for billionaire Elon Musk's space company will be built in one of the poorest cities in America

+ READ ARTICLE

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced Monday that private space company SpaceX will build the first-ever exclusively commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas. SpaceX, owned and operated by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, received a $2.3 million investment from the state to build its site in Texas.

Brownsville has a median income of $30,000, and nearly 40% of Brownsville’s population lives below the poverty line — the highest percentage in the country. Perry said in his announcement that the SpaceX site will bring 300 new jobs and inject $85 million into the local economy.

TIME Religion

Texas Law: Thou Shalt Not Place 10 Commandments Signs Along Highways

The 10 Commandments sign near Hemphill, Texas, has been deemed illegal by the Texas Department of Transportation. Michael Berry—Liberty Institute

An illegal posting of the 10 Commandments has forced Texas transportation officials to rethink a law barring speech on private property

Along rural Highway 21 in East Texas, where cell phone service is patchy at best and the nearest major town is over an hour away, an unassuming 10 Commandments sign sits near an advertisement for a mattress store and a roadside stand hawking jams and jellies. The signs promoting commercial ventures are lawful. The 10 Commandments placard is not.

In August 2013, Jeanette Golden—who pastors a small community church in nearby Hemphill—erected the sign after a couple in her church wanted to do the same but had nowhere to put it. She didn’t think anything of it until earlier this year. That’s when the Texas Department of Transportation sent her a removal notice saying the religious poster was against the law.

“My reaction was told shock,” Golden says via email. “And I immediately felt like they were trying to invade my personal privacy and strip me of my freedom of speech and my freedom of religion. I wondered what law I had broken.”

The broken law was a Department of Transportation code prohibiting signs on personal property, part of state regulations written to comply with the federal Highway Beautification Act that dates back to the 1960s, designed to regulate advertising along Interstates and federally funded highways. But it was a little-known regulation, one that’s raised the ire of many in this deeply-red state that prides itself on individual freedom and religious liberty.

“It was a head-scratching moment,” says the Liberty Institute’s Michael Berry, when he first heard about the banned sign. “The state allows commercial speech but not private speech—even if it’s religiously motivated—on private property.”

The institute, which began representing Golden in April, sent a letter to the department demanding the rule be rescinded, arguing that the code violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment. Since then, the agency has put the removal notice on hold and hasn’t done anything to force Golden to remove it.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Veronica Beyer says officials are currently in the process of rewriting the codes “not for just this case, but for future cases,” and says officials are looking into creating a new classification that would exempt signs that are no bigger than 96 sq. ft. in size, sit on private property and do not promote a business. (Golden’s sign is 72 sq. ft.)

“It’s not a done deal, but this is definitely an exemption that would work in her favor and for a lot other private property owners,” Beyer says, adding that the department doesn’t “regulate content.”

“TxDOT is always concerned about honoring the constitutionally protected rights of its citizens, so property rights, free speech rights and religious rights are always considered important factors,” she says.

The transportation commission will vote on the new regulations at the end of August.

Meanwhile, along Highway 21, Golden’s sign remains in limbo near the legal commercial placards hawking gas and fruit. Residents near Hemphill have been vocal about supporting Golden. A local printing company has created 10 Commandments T-shirts in response. Others in the area are donating money to help support the sign and overturn the law. Golden believes officials will approve the changes, and her 10 Commandments sign will stay put.

“I believe in my heart there will be a change in the rules that will allow me to keep up my sign,” Golden says. “I’m a woman of faith and I believe what it says at the bottom of my sign: With God all things are possible.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,533 other followers