Civil Affairs: Abbott


Prevailing wisdom on political campaigns dictates that candidates should run to the fringes of their political party in order to appease their base in the primary election. Then, candidates should sway back toward the middle of the road for the general election in an attempt to court independents and undecided voters.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for President, most notably used this strategy, admittedly to an absurd extreme.

However, most candidates vying in a competitive election, be it a presidential or state contest, employ this method.

One notable exception is Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and Republican candidate for governor this November. Abbott does not look to be realigning toward the center in preparation for the general election, in a high-stakes gamble that could either prove disastrous for him or devastating for Democrats.

On March 4, Abbott won the Republican primary for Governor with more than 90 percent of the vote. During the eight-month lead-up to his primary victory, Abbott took increasingly extreme political positions in an effort to both woo Tea Party voters and drive Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken — a prospective candidate — out of the primary.


TPA Roundup (March 31, 2014)

Note: The opinions of the Texas Progressive Alliance or other blogs are not necessarily those of Texpatriate or its contributors.

The Texas Progressive Alliance is glad that so many people will be getting health insurance even if that number should have been much higher as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff pushes back on some happy talk about the voter ID law.

Dos Centavos reviews the biopic of Cesar Chavez and reminds us that the radical fringe in Texas would like to keep his name and others like him out of our kids’ classrooms.

Horwitz at Texpatriate made the case for anyone but Hogan, including Kinky Friedman, in the Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner.

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Horwitz on Dog Laws

Via the Houston Chronicle. This op-ed contains many of the same quotes from Councilmember C.O. Bradford as my article last Wednesday, but with a very different theme. Simply put, it is about the exceptionalism of Houston’s governance, as compared to both Washington D.C. and Austin. As always, I hope you enjoy:

Regarding “Dog law” (Wednesday, Page B6), all sides agree that there is a great deal of good in the new ordinance. Among other things, it lowers the bar for authorities to deem a dog aggressive and cleans up some byzantine old regulations involving kennels. More impressive, though, is how City Council deliberated the contentious provisions of the ordinance. The debate last week best exemplifies what is right with Houston, specifically, how the council governs.

Under the ordinance approved 15-1 yesterday, BARC now may assume full ownership of your pet after six days if tagged, and after three if not. Previously, the limit was 30 days, though dogs could still be adopted out in the interim with the understanding that the previous owner could reclaim her or his pet. That shorter timeline drew ire in some quarters. Ultimately, it prompted Councilman C.O. Bradford to vote against the ordinance.


Judge Pratt resigns

The Houston Chronicle reports that Denise Pratt, the Family District Judge in Harris County who brewed up no shortage of controversy over the past year, has resigned effective immediately and is suspending her campaign. Astute readers of this publication will remember that Pratt has undergone much scrutiny from myself and others for both allegedly backdating time-stamps in orders and unilaterally dismissing hundreds upon hundreds of ongoing cases. All of these have drew the ire of Greg Enos, a Galveston area attorney, who has lodged three complaints against Pratt that have been investigated by the District Attorney’s office (Editorial note: The last time we mentioned Enos, this publication was prominently featured in his newsletter, THE MONGOOSE, wherein it was described as a “Republican blog.” For the record, Texpatriate is a non-partisan publication, and the author of both the original post and this post, Noah M. Horwitz, is a registered Democrat).

Pratt’s website has now been reduced to simply a statement. In it, she wrote: “The relentless attacks by my political opponents have become a distraction to the work of the Court, and to the Republican Party in Harris County.  I cannot, in good conscience, allow it to continue. My goal has always been to serve the children and families of Harris County, but I won’t sacrifice my family’s well-being any longer to continue to serve as Judge.”

Click here to read more!

…Nevermind! Drugs stay secret

Two days ago, I noted that a Civil District Judge in Austin ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to disclose the source of composition of the new execution drugs they planned to use starting next week. As a pertinent Texas Tribune article at the time had noted, the State quickly appealed the case to the Third Court of Appeals and asked them to intervene. Early yesterday, the State Appeals Court simply rejected the request for the Writ of Mandamus in a one-page order. Without flinching, the State then asked the Texas Supreme Corut to intervene in the matter. For the record, this case revolved around a civil –not a criminal– dispute, so the Supreme Court and not the Court of Criminal Appeals ended up hearing the final appeal.

The Texas Supreme Court then, near end of business yesterday, issued yet another one-page order that simply stayed the original Trial Court’s ruling. As best as I could figure out, the Associated Press compiled the best summary of the issues therein.

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In re eliminating Property Taxes

The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), the Republican nominee for Comptroller, is openly advocating for both abolishing the property tax and replacing it solely with a consumption tax. As the stats come out, assuming that Hegar would want the increase in sales tax to completely offset the abolition of the property tax, the new sales tax would end up being between 20 and 25%, compared to a current Statewide rate of 6.25% that often comes out to 8.25% because of municipal surcharges.

The tactics have caused Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, to gain some traction among the politically observant. Collier has been making the obvious point that a sales tax upwards of 25% is simply unsustainable, and the major cuts in our already no-frills government that would inevitably occur without a major tax hike elsewhere would be simply too devastating for the State to handle. Still, even after going through this bad press, Hegar is not backing down on his inane position. Admittedly, he now has chosen to take the point of view that the tax should be phased out instead of being ripped off like a bandaid, but the position is still misguided nonetheless.

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Fifth Circuit upholds HB2

The Texas Tribune reports that HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill passed last year and famously filibustered by Wendy Davis, has been upheld as constitutional by the Fifth Circuit, a Federal Appeals Court with jurisdiction over Texas. A three-judge panel, consisting of two appointees of George W. Bush and one of Ronald Reagan, unanimously endorsed the constitutionality of the bill. Among the provisions challenged in this case were one requiring the abortion doctors to receive admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring inducing drugs to be taken in person the day before. Both requirements have been deemed as excessive by pertinent doctoral societies and otherwise repudiated by medical professionals as simply opaque ways of closing abortion clinic. Since the passage of this law, a plethora of clinics west and south of San Antonio  have shut their doors.

Not challenged in this ongoing lawsuit is the 20 week ban on abortion. A fourth provision, arguably the most controversial, that requires clinics to adhere to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers does not go into effect until later this year and thus was not challenged. Back in October, a Federal Judge (another Bush appointee) in Austin ruled components of the law unconstitutional. However, a few days later, the Fifth Circuit stayed this ruling.

Click here to read more, including what to do next!

Secret execution drugs

The Texas Tribune reports that a Civil District Judge in Austin (Suzanne Covington) has ruled that the State’s secret supply of execution drugs is illegal. Judge Covington ordered the State to disclose the source of their execution drugs, which was promptly appealed, in turn, by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The Attorney General’s office, for what it is worth, was also confused as to why the TDCJ refused to disclose the source and composition of the death drugs to the condemned’s attorneys.

This underlying controversy, of course, revolves around a nationwide shortage of the drugs needed to implement a constitutionally sound death penalty mechanism. Historically, a three-drug cocktail of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride was used to put down the prisoners, though most of these drugs were created nearly exclusively in Europe, which firmly rebuffs the death penalty (even Russia). Accordingly, Texas, alongside many other States, have shifted to a one-drug injection of solely pentobarbital. Still further shortages of these drugs have caused Texas (among others) to seek new supplies from compounding pharmacies. As even these are facing action from the American Pharmacy Association, prompting Texas to try and shield their identities.

Click here to read more, including my take on this issue!