Over the past week, this board has seen the most convincing evidence yet that Rick Perry will run for a fourth full term next year. From what we have seen, we will not be looking forward to it.
On Tuesday, after presiding over a somewhat diplomatic Special Session devoted to the legitimately emergency issues of redistricting and transportation infrastructure projects, Governor Perry made the fateful decision to expand the call of the Special Session to petty, partisan issues. Further, on Friday, the Governor decided to veto 28 pieces of legislation passed by the Legislature, including many high profile, bipartisan bills. Lastly but certainly not least, Governor Perry attempted to coerce a public servant, the Travis County District Attorney, into resignation, and deliberately removed State funding for her office when she failed to acquiesce to his threats.
Special Sessions are about attempting to solve emergencies that simply cannot wait until the next regular session of the Legislature. The issue with approving new Congressional maps and other redistricting controversies are perfect examples of said emergencies, because their presence is absolutely imperative for an on-time 2014 Election. The issues of late the Governor has added to the call, abortion regulation and penalties for 17-year old capital murderers, are not emergencies. These are regular legislative policies that simply did not pass during the regular session.
Then, to finish off the week, the Governor went on a vetoing rampage. This board was disappointed by the action taken by the Governor in rejecting over two dozens pieces of legislation. These included valuable reforms needed for the Regents system at the University of Texas, as well as other Ethics bills.
HB950, which has been a magnum opus of Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s many years in the House, would have mirrored State regulations involving sex discrimination lawsuits to Federal Laws. For this reason, it was sometimes colloquially styled as the “Lily Ledbetter Act,” taking the same title as the famous federal law. A Texas Tribune article on the matter notes that “Nearly every other state has passed similar measures.” The Governor’s veto of this legislation allowed Texas to become a national laughingstock for another day.
While all of these actions by the Governor are, in the opinion of this board, wrong, they are not violations of the law. That distinction is only possibly afforded to a single, troubling act committed by the Governor last Friday. After attempting to coerce, through threats, the Travis County District Attorney out of office, Governor Perry used a line-item veto to deny funding for the Public Integrity Unit within her office. Such action has already spurred multiple lawsuits against Governor for abuse of his office.
If this a preview of what Rick Perry would like to accomplish in another term, this board is not amused. We find the Governor’s troubling lurch to the right to be a thinly-veiled effort to satiate the right-wing demands of a Tea Party growing more and more extreme by the day.
All legislation in the 83rd Legislature’s Regular Session, whether it had the privilege of passing or it did not, did so in two Republican-dominated House of the Legislature. All of the bills which reached Perry’s desk, only to be vetoed, did so with bipartisan support. Anti-abortion and juvenile justice legislation which did not survive the Regular Session only did so because the Republican Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House, respectively, chose not to bring the bills for votes in their respective chambers.
The issues raised by the Governor this week are not about the left versus the right, they are about common sense versus dangerous extremism. The Regents Reform bill was sponsored and predominantly pushed through by Senator Kel Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo who is in no circles deemed a moderate of any sorts. Perry’s rejection of such common sense legislation is not evidence of a conservative position, but of an illogical position.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz of Boston, Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew S. Romo of New Orleans.