City Council returns to action this week in earnest, with the presentation this morning (July 30) of the City Manager's proposed FY 2016 budget, another work session Tuesday, and the resumption of regular meetings next Thursday, Aug. 6. See "Council: Budget Curtain Rises," July 31.
Council may need to budget additional legal funds, as District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman sued the City of Austin Monday in federal court, challenging the City Charter's campaign finance restrictions on base contributions, contributions from nonresidents, the "blackout" period for officeholders, and other limits – all of which he claims are violations of his rights under the First Amendment. See "Zimmerman Sues City," July 28.
The heat returns: Travis County Commissioners Court has imposed a burn ban in unincorporated areas, the first since September of 2014. In a statement asking for citizen vigilance about cigarettes and sparks, the county said the ban will remain in force until Aug. 26, unless extended by the court.
In the aftermath of the death of Sandra Bland in the Waller County jail, an independent committee was appointed to review the incident and advise on jail procedures; it includes JoAnne Musick (president of Harris County Criminal Lawyers), criminal defense lawyer Juan L. Guerra Jr., civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen, former Court of Criminal Appeals judge Morris L. Overstreet, and former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington. Legislators including Houston Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Garnet Coleman have also said they'll be reviewing the case and considering legislative action.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing Wednesday morning seeking to investigate Planned Parenthood business practices after an anti-choice group released dubious and highly edited undercover videos claiming to show the sale of fetal issue. PP's Cecile Richards has denied the claims, while local affiliate Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas says they do not participate in fetal tissue donation programs. See "Hearing or Anti-Abortion Attack?" July 29.
The Obama administration will unveil a plan tomorrow, July 31, to restore federal funding for Pell grants for prison inmates. In 1994, Congress prohibited inmates from being eligible for the grants, which provide financial aid to low-income college students.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it's enforcing a ban on the importation of cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, after streams of human feces and toilet paper were found in the area's crop of the green, leafy produce. That, the FDA believes, is what caused so many Texans to succumb to cyclospora earlier this summer. See "Something You Ate?" July 3.