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Texas governor pleads not guilty to abuse of power charges

[JURIST] Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] on Wednesday pleaded not guilty [waiver of arraignment, PDF] to two felony charges for abuse of power [indictment, PDF]. The jury charged Perry with abusing his power [JURIST report] to intimidate former District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to step down from her position in response to her pleading guilty to a drinking and driving charge. Perry threatened to veto $7.4 million in state funding to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, an initiative that investigates state and federal officials for acts of corruption, unless Lehmberg resigned [Austin American-Statesman report]. When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry vetoed the unit's funding.

Perry's decisions have often been scrutinized and deemed controversial in today's political arena. In July 2013, Perry signed into law [JURIST report] House Bill 2 [text] which enacted three new restrictions on the practice of abortion. These changes require physicians performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and the facility to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements, and reduces the allowable gestational period from 24 to 20 weeks, among more than one dozen smaller changes to regulations. Also in 2013, Perry vetoed [JURIST report] a bill [HB 950 text] intended to prevent payment discrimination and make it easier for women to obtain equal pay.

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