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City Hall, Synthetic Drugs & Lacrosse: Thursday’s Show (June 18, 2015)

Late Wednesday night (6/17/15), the Houston City Council approved a $5.1 billion budget for FY ’16. It came after hours of wide-ranging discussions about ongoing union talks, deed restrictions, and a number of amendments. It was a long night for City Hall reporters too — the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Morris among them. Nevertheless, he joins us […]

Late Wednesday night (6/17/15), the Houston City Council approved a $5.1 billion budget for FY ’16. It came after hours of wide-ranging discussions about ongoing union talks, deed restrictions, and a number of amendments. It was a long night for City Hall reporters too — the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Morris among them. Nevertheless, he joins us on this edition of Houston Matters.

We talk a bit about the budget and then turn to a discussion on the influence lobbyists can have at City Hall. Morris reported recently how in the four years since Mayor Annise Parker set up new rules to improve accountability among elected officials, not much has been done to enforce these ethics regulations.

Then: Tomorrow (6/19/15), a district court hearing will address a temporary restraining order obtained late last week by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, to stop four Houston-area stores from distributing products containing synthetic marijuana.

The category of “synthetic drugs” can cover a wide range of chemical compounds that have varying effects. Some such compounds are called seemingly innocuous things like “spice,” “kush” or “bath salts,” but some can have hallucinogenic effects and bring with them many of the same substance abuse problems as other traditional drugs. Law enforcement characterize them as products specifically designed to circumvent existing laws — something a number of bills passed in the Texas Legislature this year sought to address. And on July 31, the Council on Alcohol and Drugs-Houston’s Prevention Resource Center will host a summit on synthetic marijuana, where law enforcement and clinical practice and substance abuse prevention professionals will discuss synthetic drugs and how you can help curb their use. We learn more from Emily Breeding from the Prevention Resource Center and Dr. Iram Kazimi, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UT Health Medical Center.

Also this hour: During the legislative session, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill allowing for the creation of needle exchange pilot programs in the state’s urban areas, including Harris County. However, the bill ultimately died in the Senate. It’s the fourth time in six years backers of the initiative hoped it would pass both houses. One of those backers is Dr. William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice’s Baker Institute. He tells Houston Matters’ Paige Phelps why he believes Texas has once again failed to provide one of the most successful public health programs in the world.

And: Last Saturday (06/13/15), Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium played host to the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game. The professional lacrosse league has eight teams, mostly along the East Coast. Of course, there’s no team in Houston at the moment — but that could change. Houston Matters’ Michael Hagerty spoke with MLL Commissioner David Gross while he was in Houston about the chances we could see a Major League Lacrosse team here in the future.

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