The Houston New Post
Editorial note: We originally published this editorial on February 2nd, ahead of the March primary. We reiterate our support for Rep. Dan Branch in preparation for the May primary runoff by reprinting it today.
We would like to pose a question to our readership: What does the Texas Attorney General do? If you believe the incumbent, Greg Abbott, the job chiefly revolves around suing the President of the United States. If you believe one of the Republican contenders for this post, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, the job is simply a stepping stone to conservative, red-meat social issues. And if you believe one of the most recent Democrats to run for the post, David Van Os, the office is about providing liberals a soapbox to rant and rave against “Big Oil” and the energy sector.
Obviously, none of these are really correct answers. The Attorney General serves as the lawyer for the State of Texas, both representing the Governor and other agencies as official counsel and as the official defender of laws that are challenged in court. However, despite being the most flashy duties, this only represents a small fraction of the position’s responsibilities. In addition to those aforementioned duties, the Attorney General’s office also investigates a plethora of crimes that are especially heinous or damaging to public integrity. Finally, the office secures child support payments, which perhaps is its most time-consuming duty. When taking into account these responsibilities, this board is hard pressed to find a candidate in the Republican primary who will competently and capably fulfill these duties.
As I reported yesterday, the first real draft proposal of Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance has officially been introduced to the City Council and unveiled to the general public. Longtime followers of the saga could probably explain it as well as me at this point, but the ordinance does three basic things. First, it bans discrimination against LGBT people (among countless other demographics, all of which are already protected under Federal Law) in government sectors. Second, discrimination is banned in businesses, both in employment and public accommodation. The anecdote I keep using is that a restaurant would not be able to deny service to a gay patron, nor fire a lesbian waitress for coming out to her boss. That last part, extending the ordinance’s protections to private employment, was a hard-fought victory for the GLBT caucus in Houston, as well as all opponents of homophobia.
Mayor Annise Parker was originally tepid on this provision because there were ostensibly not enough Councilmembers supporting it. A few weeks ago, my sources counted eight supporters of private employment protections in the NDO (Mayor Annise Parker and CMs Stephen Costello, David Robinson, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Ed Gonzalez, Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster). This was exactly one vote shy of the needed majority for passage. However, a couple more Councilmembers have now gone out in the open supporting such legislation, giving it the green light to becoming law.
The first draft of Houston’s proposed Non-discrimination ordinance has officially been unveiled to the public and will be introduced to the City Council in the coming days (IT IS AVAILABLE HERE). In short, and to answer everyone’s question, the ordinance protects LGBT rights in private employment…sometimes. As I have previously elucidated, discrimination is typically legislated against in three ways. First, the government prohibits any internal discrimination of its own, be that in public employment, public services or in the private companies it contracts therewith. Second, discrimination in public accommodations is prohibited. This hails back to the days of the Civil Rights movement, when the original bills on these topics were aimed to combat bus lines, restaurants or bars that had segregated sections. Similarly, this proposed ordinance would ban, for example, a restaurant denying service to a gay patron.
But what if the restaurant had a lesbian employee who was fired upon coming out to her boss? That is what the third section of the ordinance, regarding private employment, deals therewith. I cannot say that I have heard of all too many cases of private employers firing people because of their sexual orientation, and given that Texas uses at-will employment it would be enormously silly to choose such a route for termination. However, the principle of protecting LGBT populations is important nonetheless, important enough to necessitate pertinent legislation on the subject. Just one person being fired for such an asinine reason is one too many.
If there is any consistency in Texas politics, it’s about taxation. The Republican Party sees it as pure evil — and no, that is not hyperbole. The Texas GOP’s platform advocates for the repeal of the 16th amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, and for the total abolition of capital gains and property taxes, among others. Accordingly, when a Democrat rants and raves about a Republican opponent wanting to raise taxes, it should raise more than a few eyebrows.
Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, which is the state’s chief treasury and financial official, recently accused his Republican opponent, State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Harris County, of wanting to engage in a massive tax hike. A recent television ad by Collier pledged to “hold the lines on taxes.” So, for a party so hell-bent on dismantling sources of government revenue, how on earth could one of its candidates be accused of raising them?
Hegar, like his party, is in favor of abolishing property taxes, although they are the largest single source of revenue for local governments in this state. Specifically, municipalities and school districts receive inordinate amounts of their revenue from such sources. Texas’ property taxes are high compared to the rest of the country, but they occur in the complete absence of a state income tax — something few other states boast.
PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AT THE DAILY TEXAN!
Note: The opinions expressed by the Texas Progressive Alliance or any other blog are not necessarily those of Texpatriate or its individual contributors.
The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy enjoying springtime as it brings you this week’s roundup.
The Associated Press reports (the Corpus Christi Caller-Times had it first, but it is paywalled) that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, would veto a proposed ban on texting-while-driving. As many will recall, Governor Rick Perry vetoed such a bill in 2011, and in 2013 the bill languished in the Legislature and never made it to his desk. Perry claimed that educational campaigns were preferable to changing the law and that it amounted to governmental micromanaging of one’s life. Indeed, Abbott has taken up the same point of view.
In 2011, both Houses of the Legislature passed the bill –which would have made it a moving violation citation (Class C misdemeanor) to send ANY type of communication from your cell phone while it is in motion, including not only texting, but email, messaging and any type of general internet usage– by supermajorities, veto-proof margins. However, because the Legislature adjourned before Perry could offer a final adjudication on the matter, his veto could not be overridden. The bill was heralded in the Legislature, of all people, by State Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland County), a firebrand Republican who once served as Speaker of the House. He introduced the bill in 2013, where it was passed by a supermajority, though no vote was ever taken in the Senate.