UPDATE 9-9-2021: The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Texas on September 9, challenging the state's "clearly unconstitutional" abortion restrictions, which prohibit the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and allow private individuals to sue abortion providers and receivers. On September 7, Gov. Greg Abbott made comments regarding the six-week timeframe that seemed to indicate he lacked an understanding of a woman's monthly cycle.
In this roundup of Dallas news, there are perks for city workers who get vaccinated. There is trouble for citizens who haven't paid their water bills. There is a city IT worker who got fired. This is dissatisfaction with Gov. Greg Abbott. And for the millionth time, Judge Clay Jenkins rules.
Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
Judge Clay rules, one in a series
Extreme new restrictions on abortions took effect in Texas on September 1, which drew some protestors to Dallas City Hall who wanted to go on the record as being opposed. Some dressed up as characters from The Handmaid's Tale, the TV series about a country ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state.
The "heartbeat" law bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, even though women hardly know they're pregnant at that point. Medical groups have pointed out that embryos may not yet have hearts at six weeks. The law makes no exception for rape or incest, and it pits citizens against each other since the law will be enforced only through private civil action.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that "sadly, our State leaders have turned on Texas and are trying to turn Texans against each other."
"They knowingly approved an unconstitutional law that sets up a cynical scheme to sidestep the Constitution by rewarding a $10,000 bounty to citizens who invade the privacy of pregnant people and their doctors," he said.
"This year, Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans oversaw the collapse of the power grid then failed to make it right. They aided and abetted the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus by making it harder to ensure masking and vaccination. Now they have robbed women of the personal liberty to make their own health care choices."
He called it a direct assault on Texas women and the practice of medicine, and encouraged women to run for office.
"People of conscience who still believe in democracy must rise up and defend women’s constitutional rights and doctor’s right to practice medicine. I hope this serves as a rallying cry for women to run for office and for all of us to strengthen efforts to register people to vote and ensure that they vote in elections."
Texans disapprove of Abbott
A new poll by the University of Texas/Texas Politics Project finds that a majority of Texans – 52% – feel that the state is headed in the wrong direction. According to the authors, it's the worst assessment they've seen since they began polling in 2008. Texans are worried about COVID-19, the economy, and state politics that are "driven by increasingly entrenched and in many instances extreme partisanship," which is getting worsened by the Republican monopoly on state government. Abbott got the lowest job approval rating since he's been in office.
IT worker gets axed
The mysterious city employee in the IT department who deleted a massive amount of Dallas police files has been fired. In August, it was discovered that a large chunk of data was accidentally deleted from the Dallas Police Department's network which could have an impact on prosecutions by the District Attorney's office.
And now it comes out that it wasn't the first time this happened. Officials reviewing city data archive found 13 more terabytes of police files and 2 terabytes of city secretary office files which had been deleted by the same IT guy.
New city vaccination policies
A new policy in the city of Dallas will give extra vacation time to city workers who are vaccinated against COVID-19, and require all fire department employees be tested for the virus. Beginning November 2, unvaccinated staff who aren't police officers, firefighters, or detention officers will not get paid leave if they contract the virus.
Foundation 45, a nonprofit that arms Dallas' arts community with tools for mental health, is launching a new women of color focus group starting Wednesday, September 22. It'll be held for four weeks on Wednesdays at 7 pm exclusively to women of color. In addition to the new WOC groups, Foundation 45 offers other resources such as other group support services, such as Interlude 45, Remix Recovery and Art Therapy.
Water bill payment plans
When COVID-19 hit, Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) stopped disconnecting water and charging late fees. That's over now. The utility will resume water disconnections for accounts that are past due and begin applying late fees for past due balances starting October 1.
Residential customers will receive information in their August and September bills encouraging them to set up a payment plan if their account is past due. According to DWU's figures, 11 percent have past due balances of more than 60 days. DWU is also assisting customers with identifying non-profit agencies that may be able to provide financial assistance.
DWU Customer Service is at 214-651-1441.