More unconstitutional legislation

The Texas Tribune reports on yet another piece of flagrantly unconstitutional legislation that has been passed by our Legislature. However, this bill, HB869, passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed by the Governor completely under the radar.

The bill prohibits what is known as a proxy marriage, where one individual unable to make it to the ceremony signs and a files an affidavit wherein he or she designates a stand-in. These are typically used for two purposes: military and prison weddings, respectively. The new law, however, exempts military personnel. This means HB 869 specifically targets prison weddings.

Ostensibly, this bill is about preventing fraud. Unlike alleged voter fraud, there are some actually documented cases of this happening. As the Tribune reports:

“Scott Riling, chief of staff for the bill’s author, state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, cited the case of a Houston County woman who re-married an incarcerated ex-husband by proxy without his knowledge to rake in insurance benefits after he died. The inmate’s daughter discovered the re-marriage after her father’s death and sued; the woman is now in prison for the fraud, a third-degree felony.”

This would be understandable, except Texas has an extremely strict policy against weddings in jails & prisons. Further, when the Tribune contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, they remained stuck to their no-weddings policy. Thus, a huge hole in the law has emerged in which prenuptial inmates have been pushed into by the government.

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This all has to do with the Constitution (& Justice O’Connor) for the following reasons. In 1987, the Missouri Department of Corrections issued burdensome regulations upon the rights of prisoners. The Supreme Court specifically struck all those regulations pertaining to marriage.

Since 1967 (in Loving v. Virginia), the Court has held that marriage is among those rights protected by the constitution. In the Missouri case, Turner v. Safley, the court unanimously threw out a regulation requiring all Missouri inmates to secure the permission of the warden before marrying. Writing for the majority, Justice O’Connor wrote:

“Although prison officials may regulate the time and circumstances under which a marriage takes place, and may require prior approval by the warden, the almost complete ban on marriages here is not, on the record, reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives.”

HB 869, assuming no change in policy occurs at the TDCJ, constitutes a complete ban on marriagewhich, on its face, is unconstitutional. Like the omnibus anti-abortion bill, this act will be tied up in Federal Court where the foreseeable future until it is ultimately thrown out. I only wish that JUST ONE Democrat (or Republican, for that matter) could have stood up against it when it was debated.

Sine die, MoFos!

My general thoughts at the moment. The term “83rd Legislature Special Session” is such a taint upon this State, that I am ecstatic to delete it from my memory.

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The Texas Tribune reports that, just after 10PM last night and final passage of the Transportation funding legislation of HB1 and SJR1, the Dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, made the comment “Let’s adjourn this mutha [sic].” These bills passed by bipartisan margins, and earned praise from the Governor for not raising the gas tax. However, as has been pointed out to me, the gas tax hasn’t been raised in about 20 years, and any and all monetary tricks that do not involve raising it will not solve the problem. The Tribune lays out this problem:

“The latest version is estimated to raise $1.2 billion a year for TxDOT, a fraction of the more than $4 billion TxDOT has said it needs in additional annual funding to maintain current congestion levels as the state’s population grows.”

SJR1 ended up finally passing the House 106-21. Unlike last time, the vast majority of the dissenting votes were Democrats. In fact, most of the liberal Democrats (Burnam, Collier, Farrar, etc) voted against the measure. Additionally, the journals finally came out in the Senate and we can see their final roll call on the joint resolution: 22-3, with Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and Charles Schwertner voting nay. I understand, trying to appeal to a Tea Party base in a Statewide primary, why the cupcake cadets voted no, but Schwertner is a mystery.

On HB1, the House passed the bill with only David Simpson objecting and the Senate with only Kel Seliger against.

If you are curious what this bill does, I invite you to consult my prior work on the matter. HB1 is a bill, so Perry still must sign it, but SJR1 is not, and it simply goes directly to referendum. However, as you may recall, it will not go before voters in 2013, but rather in 2014.

As for the 83rd Legislature, it is dunzo. After passing both bills, they adjourned sine die. No more. That’s it. Sayonara. What this means, however, is that all the other issues possibly to be added to the call must wait until the 84th Legislature, due to convene in January of 2015.

What this means for me is that I can now focus, nearly exclusively, on Municipal elections. Of course, there will still be some issues pertaining to the 2014 Primaries, but the Mayoral election will now be sure to heat up. I have been asked multiple times to start making predictions, but I had been holding off until the Legislature adjourned. Well, now that they have adjourned, I guess I have run out of excuses…

Off the Kuff has more.

Lege update 8/1

There are three words I would have never thought I’d be piecing together. But here we are, three Special Sessions into the summer. Thus far, Transportation funding is the only issue on the call, though Campus Construction & Guns on Campus could still appear. As one may recall from my previous post on the issue, the Senate has already approved SJR1. At press time, the journal has still not been uploaded, so I have absolutely no idea how the vote went down.

Anyways, the Texas Tribune now reports that the House Select Committee on Transportation has taken up SJR1, and purposefully chosen not to move forward with the legislation. The Committee then took up HJR1, which is Joe Pickett’s plan, and passed the measure 6-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris County). Sergio Munoz (D-Hidalgo County), the only other Democrat on the committee, voted yes, as did all four Republicans.

There are a few different circumstances, however. First, Comptroller Susan Combs announced that Oil & Gas taxes would come into the coffers at levels $900 Million higher than previously expected. Second, there were some changes to Pickett’s proposals. From the Tribune:

Pickett added a provision to the plan that would require the Texas Department of Transportation to find $100 million in “efficiencies” over the 2014-15 biennium and put that money toward paying the agency’s multibillion-dollar debt. Paying off that much debt early would save the agency $47 million in debt service payments, Pickett said.

[…]

The other key difference in Pickett’s new proposal would be in the way the Legislature could ensure that the plan wouldn’t drain the Rainy Day Fund’s balance beyond a level with which state leaders are comfortable. A previous version required the Legislative Budget Board to periodically set a minimum balance, or floor, for the Rainy Day Fund below which tax revenue could not be diverted to transportation. Pickett switched out the LBB with a select joint committee of five House members and five senators.

Also, at the start of each legislative session, lawmakers would have the opportunity to file bills proposing that the floor selected by the committee be adjusted, Pickett said. Such a bill would need to pass both chambers within the first 60 days of the session to be enacted. 

This bill, most likely, will be approved by the full House. At that point, HJR1 and SJR1 would have to be battled-out in Conference Committee, just like last time. It is unclear what the end game here is.

In other news, the Texas Tribune reported that Sen. Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) officially announced his candidacy for Attorney General. Paxton will be facing off against Rep. Dan Branch and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman in the GOP primary. It will be quite the contest. Paxton, by the way, has a two-year term, so if he loses the primary, he will be unemployed.

Triple overtime

In the afternoon today, both the House and the Senate gaveled in for 83(3), the Third Special Session. It will run for thirty days, until August 28th. The House quickly created a Select Committee on Transportation, consisting of seven members including Senfronia Thompson, then adjourned until next Monday, August 5th. The Senate, meanwhile, passed an identical measure, SJR1, in the Finance Committee 10-1. The lone dissenting vote was that of Dan Patrick, who still opposed the Conference Committee’s solution of replacing a hard-floor with a LBB recommendation. The Senate also finally passed the bill, then gaveled out.

Now, at this point, only Transportation funding is on the call of the session. But we all know that a single-issue Special Session can fall apart within a couple of days. Among the issues some want Perry to add to 83(3)’s call are TRBs for Campus Construction, as well as “Guns on Campus.”

First, the Texas Tribune reports that members of both houses of the Legislature, from both parties, are pushing for tuition revenue bonds for campus –specifically the campus of UT-Austin– construction. Among those in favor of such a measure are Rep. Donna Howard (D-Travis County), Sen. Judith Zaffrini (D-Bexar County), Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Potter County), Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Travis County) and Rep, John Raney (R-Brazos County). Among those opposed to such action are the usually cupcake cadets, lead by Van Taylor.

Since it is a new session, the exact nature of the bill of this issue will most likely differ from previous versions. That being said, the measure is somewhat common sense, backed by at least 69 members of the House. In the past, Perry has been open about this issue, telling the Tribune, “Once we get the transportation issue addressed and finalized, then we can have a conversation about whether or not there are any other issues that we have the time and inclination to put on the call.”

Next, the Houston Chronicle reports that Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Hood County) is leading the charge to get Governor Perry to add “Guns on Campus,” already known as “Campus Carry” to the call. As loyal readers will recall, I was jumping for joy when this horrible bill died during the regular session. And the Editorial Board member who attends the University of Texas was really, really happy.

Like Perry said, these issues are things that will be dealt with at the conclusion of the transportation issue. I’m still trying to figure out the roll call on SJR1 in the Senate. The true test will now be in the House, which now stands idle until Monday.

Transportation bill death & 83(3)

The Texas Tribune reports that HJR2, the new compromise transportation funding measure the Conference Committee just came up with, was dead on arrival in the House of Representatives late Monday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), would have done some interesting things. From the Tribune:

If the compromise plan before lawmakers on Monday had passed, Texas voters in 2014 would have been asked to approve a constitutional amendment to divert half of the oil and gas production tax revenue currently earmarked for the state’s Rainy Day Fund toward road construction and maintenance.

But both Democrats and Republicans found fault with the compromise language hashed out by House and Senate negotiators over the weekend regarding a so-called floor on the Rainy Day Fund. Some Republicans had pushed for a provision that would have blocked the diversion of tax revenue to the state highway fund if the Rainy Day Fund’s balance fell below a certain level. Many Democrats argued that would put a new, tighter restraint on tapping the fund to address the state’s needs.

Under the plan presented to both chambers Monday, the 10-member Legislative Budget Board would periodically set the minimum balance after which the diversions would be blocked.

I tend to recall something about Pickett’s plan funding more of the transportation & infrastructure directly from taxes, revenue normally earmarked for education. In return, the rainy day fund would be drained to pay for education. This might have been thrown out in the Conference Committee.

Anyways, the House only voted 84-40 in favor oft he bill, sixteen short of the supermajority required for passage. Among the 40 dissenting votes, only 13 were Democrats. This means that even if every Democrat in the room had supported the bill, it would have failed. Make no mistake, the Tea Party killed HJR2.

Off the Kuff has more about the Transportation bill unfortunate demise.

At about 2:50 today, the House adjourned sine die. The Senate is expected to do the same somewhat soon. The Dallas Morning News also reports that Perry will be calling a third special session immediately to deal with this issue. Like today immediately, that is.

My grandfather used to tell a joke with all of his old war buddies that ended with the punchline “that’s beautiful, just f—–g beautiful.” I take it, for all of the Legislators who now must extend their leases until the end of August in Austin, a city where the half the population moves in during August, that would pretty much sum up everything right about now.

Lege update 7/18

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Shortly after 9:30 this morning, Governor Perry signed HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, into law. The law is a death warrant for thousands of poor, rural women who will now be denied access to abortion clinics. Democrats had promised a same-day lawsuit to be filed the date of signature, but it looks like they did not follow through on the threat.

At his signing statement, Perry surrounded himself with fellow Conservatives. The Texas Tribune reports that Perry doubled down on the lie that HB2 is about the 20 week ban. ““This is a bill that protects unborn babies after the fifth month of a pregnancy,” Perry said. Once again, that is not the point of the bill. In addition to the 20 week ban, it requires abortion doctors to administer all drugs in person, have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and –& this is the big one– require the clinics convert into ambulatory surgical centers.

Per the above photographs, there were protesters at the capital today. They donned black clothing, carried wire coathangers and chanted “SHAME!” over and over again.

In other news, the House voted to advance HJR2, a transportation funding measure not identical to the one the Senate passed last week. The Senate bill had originally drawn Transportation funding from the Rainy Day Fund. This bill siphons the 25% of the Gas Tax earmarked for education to TXDOT. In order to make up for this, the Rainy Day Fund would be withdrawn for education funding.

This bill, HJR2, was approved 108-25, with only Tea Party Republicans voting against the measure. Debbie Riddle, Jodie Laudenberg, David Simpson, Bryan Hughes: all those people.

The House also approved a companion bill, HB16, by a 124-11 vote. The entire Transportation funding plan will only come into effect if the Senate approves HJR2 with at least 21 votes and the constitutional amendment is approved by a majority of voters.

The Legislature then adjourned until next Thursday, July 25th. At that point, the Legislature will have about one week left.

Where do we go from here?

Awful. Tonight, after a variety of speeches, good and bad, by nearly all of the members of the Senate, the body approved HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, 19-11. The bill is identical to the House version, and, as such, is now sent to Governor Perry’s desk for his signature.

One of the biggest highlights of the evening was that the DPS informed female gallery guests that tampons, among other items, would be confiscated upon entrance. I also saw unconfirmed tweets that DPS troopers were told to instigate the orange shirted individuals, whilst backing off from those wearing blue. But that’s just a rumor.

The speeches were what one expected. Wendy Davis delivered what would probably be the most repeated line of the evening, stating “Some may believe that that this fight has been waged and won with this final vote today, but they are wrong in so many ways. The fight for the future of Texas is just beginning.” This is what I’ve been saying, Remember the Alamo!

In addition to Davis, Sen. John Whitmire delivered quite an emotionally stirring speech that deserves positive recognition. Jose Rodriguez, Kirk Watson and Royce West also had great things to say. But at a certain point, we had to assent to the inevitable. Around midnight, after religious antics that had no place in a Government proceeding , Dewhurst called the roll and the Senate approved the measure. Sen. Tommy Williams (R-Montgomery County) was absent while Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Cameron County) voted affirmatively. I will give credit where credit is due to Sen. Lucio, however. The Senate considered 20 amendments by Democrats that did everything from provide rape exceptions to inserting equal pay wording into the statute. Lucio joined with the other Democrats on all of these amendments.

It will probably be about 10 days before Governor Perry signs this legislation. At that point, it would be November 1st before the law would take effect. The ambulatory surgical center requirement would not take hold until some point in 2014.

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This all presents the unfortunate question of, “Where do we go from here?” Simply put, there are three places to go from here.

1. The Courthouse
The day that this bill is signed by the Governor, expect there to be a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court. Given that the plaintiffs will most likely seek a temporary restraining order, it will be filed in the Western District, based in San Antonio, because that court has jurisdiction over Austin.

If you are confused about what I just said, here is the basic gist of it. Constitutional court cases must arise out of a current controversy, meaning someone must have an active injury or complaint in the case. For example, an abortion provider who had no choice but to close after the regulations went into effect. Such a lawsuit could arise out of any of the four Federal Districts in Texas (the Northern, based in Dallas, the Western, based in San Antonio, the Southern, based in Houston, and the Eastern, based in Tyler). However, if the lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, to enjoin enforcement of the legislation before it takes effect, it will be much more academic. Thus, centered around Austin.

As I have discussed at length previously, this bill, once becoming law, should go down in flames in Federal Court. If it doesn’t, the Supreme Court must take an action tantamount to overturning Roe.

2. The Ballot Box
Since the first filibuster, I have seen a lot of my contemporaries, who couldn’t have cared less about politics just a few weeks ago, become involved and outspoken on the process. If this motivation and anger will translate to mobilized and dedicated voters on this issue, it will be a wonder for the Democratic Party. That is still an open-ended question at this point, however.

2014 will see all Statewide positions, roughly half of the State Senate and all 150 State Representatives seek re-election. If the Democrats do their jobs (a big if), we could have a meaningful impact.

3. Activist Lane
Remember, don’t get mad, get even. Or at least get involved. This whole controversy has propelled Wendy Davis into the national spotlight. As I have been arguing somewhat perpetually now since the filibuster, she truly needs to run for Governor, regardless of her feasibility as a winning candidate. Be the Democrats’ Barry Goldwater.

Find people riled up by this, and register them to vote. Get people involved with the local Democratic Party. And, my gosh, find some candidates for Statewide office next year. Wendy Davis is obvious, but there are so many others. Rodney Ellis, Jose Rodriguez, Leticia Van de Putte and Judith Zaffrini are among the talented Democratic Senators who are not up for re-election next year. Cecile Richards is a great possible candidate as well.

There was a huge rally at the end of the evening tonight, where Cecile Richards and Jessica Farrar led thousands of protesters from the Capitol down Congress Street. Stuff like that needs to continue happening.

So, I guess Wendy Davis really was prophetic when she said this is only the beginning, and not the end. Don’t pout, don’t cry, don’t complain. What we need to do right now is to get to work. I will part with a line from an old Bob Dylan song that I find quite fitting for this evening.

“The loser now will be later to win, oh the times they are a-changin'”

Good night and good luck.

Lege Update 7/11

The Legislature had quite a busy day today, in both chambers. The House has adjourned until Monday, and the Senate gavels back into play at 2PM tomorrow. Obviously, the most controversial and newsworthy item is still HB2/SB1, the omnibus anti-abortion bill. However, a number of actions were taken today dealing with the other two topics on the call, as well as a third not on the call. Let us digest the matter.

For starters, both the House and Senate concurred in a final Miller compliance bill for sentencing 17 year olds convicted of Capital Murder. The Texas Tribune reports that SB2 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Harris County) was passed 30-1 in the Senate and then 113-23 in the House. As the Austin American-Statesman noted, this is the Senate’s original bill, which places a mandatory life with parole sentence, typically meaning parole after 40 years. The House’s bill originally allowed the jury to consider aggravating circumstances and evidence that would lead them to specifically sentence the minors to life-without-parole.

Some Democrats, led by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Hidalgo County), objected to the bill because it prevented juries from considering any mitigating circumstances and evidence that would lead them to impose a lighter sentence, such as 25 years. The only Senate objector was Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County). Rodriguez objected because of his belief the bill is unconstitutional. For what it’s worth, I wrote an entire Law Review article on this exact topic last semester, so I beg to disagree. But that’s a discussion for a different day. Anyways, both Houses passed the identical SB2, which now heads to Governor Perry’s desk.

The Senate also passed SJR1, the Transportation funding bill, which you may recall is having some trouble in the House. All eyes go there at this point. The SJR1 approved in the Senate is identical to the Committee’s bill, which simply diverts a portion of the rainy day fund into highway maintenance funding.

In other news, the Tribune also reports that the House Appropriations Committee has passed HB5, known as the “Campus Construction Bill.” The bill would issue, according to the Tribune article, “bonds for 62 campus construction projects.” The bill passed unanimously, 18-0, and now heads to Calendar. All looks good. The only problem is that the Governor has not added the issue to the call of the Special Session, though this is a bipartisan inkling to Perry that he should do so immediately. Most locally, the bonds would include $95 Million in bonds for UT-Austin.

Finally, there was significant action on the omnibus anti-abortion bill. Most pressing, the Tribune reports that the Senate Health & Human Services Committee has passed HB2 along party lines, 6-3. Further, the Tribune article states that Dewhurst has promised to bring the bill up on Friday at 2PM. This is it, folks. Please see my inspirational charge “Remember the Alamo,” about where to go from here. The twitters and facebooks of Democratic Senators are lighting up about the final protest being held tomorrow. It will be interesting, to be sure.

In other news, Rick “frothy mixture” Santorum made an appearance at the Capitol today, further proving the bill is not about women’s health. Speaking of women’s health, the Statesman proves that abortions in Texas are notoriously safe. Last but not least, Greg Abbott will be giving his own “new and exciting plans” speech in San Antonio on Monday. He will be announcing his gubernatorial intentions, obviously.

Remember the Alamo (& Wendy)

In 1836, the Mexican army had surrounded a large regiment of Texans, in their fight for liberty and independence. Outgunned and outnumbered, there were no victorious conclusions that the Texans could reach. They were going down, one way or another.

The Texans holed up in a little mission in San Antonio, named the Alamo. In one of the final days of the battle, as the Mexicans were preparing to make their final assault, Colonel William Travis drew a line in the sand and offered his men an ultimatum: either run away and flee Texas, or stay and fight for her to the end. This, simply put, is the question now put before the Texas Senate Democrats.

The Texas Tribune reports that the House has granted final passage to HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, by a vote of 96-49. No word if this means two of the five Democratic men who voted for the measure gained a small amount of humility. By Legislative rules, the Senate now must wait 24 hours to bring up the bill.

The means that Dewhurst will bring up the bill on Thursday morning. In the interim, a Senate committee still needs to vote on the issue. As you may remember, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee did not vote on the bill. Such an action will probably occur in the next 24 hours.

What all of this means, simply put, is that SB1/HB2 could be sent to Rick Perry’s desk as early as Thursday night or Friday. As Dewhurst recently told the Tribune, we are out of filibuster range. True, no person could filibuster for twenty days. This leaves one option left for the Democrats to kill this legislation, the Nuclear Option. That is, a quorum bust.

While I have, at one point, been a proponent of this option, three things have changed my mind. First, my friend Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff, who was already established and blogging back when Ardmore occurred in 2003 (as opposed to myself, who was still in Grade School), wrote a convincing article about the differences that would make such an action improbable. He mentioned “punitive measures” put in place to prevent future quorum busts, but could not remember the details. The detail is that the Representatives and Senators would lose all of their Seniority.

Second, while the conventional wisdom once was that if the Democrats successfully busted quorum until July 30th, Governor Perry would not call a third session, as the Republicans would get weary of the seemingly insurmountable task, this is probably not going to be the case. Because both Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus have made the decision to go ahead with the omnibus anti-abortion legislation first and foremost, the Transportation funding legislation would be held hostage. This would make a third session all the more likely.

Last but least, and this is what really changed my mind, is the public relations of it all. The Texas Democrats are now seen heroically, standing up for their rights and making big speeches and statements every step of the way. If they skedaddle to Oklahoma or New Mexico, they forfeit all of that good PR. They would be those who flee with their tails between their legs. That should not be what the Texas Democrats of the future should be about.

Chairman Kirk Watson should draw his own line in the sand. If any Senators want to leave, they can, but I have an inkling they will not be a sizable minority. Everyone else will stay and fight to the bitter end. The Democrats need to do a filibuster anyways. Shave off another 12 to 18 hours off the clock, in one last seemingly hopeless way to protect their constituents.

Brave Texans sacrificed themselves at the Battle of the Alamo, because while they would lose the battle, they knew they could win the war. This war may be won by two means: at the ballot box and at the courthouse. Both of which are helped by these dilatory measures conducted by Democrats.

While Wendy Davis’ –or any Democrat, for that matter– candidacy in 2014 is a long shot towards victory, to say the least, no one can doubt that the filibuster and successive events have given fuel to Texas Democrats. While Davis most likely would not beat Greg Abbott, she could easily come closer than all before her. This, in turn, will produce coattails for Democrats downballot in the competitive races of Bexar, Harris and Nueces counties, respectively. Some seats might even sway blue in Fort Bend and Galveston.

Second, and more importantly, all of the amendment offered up by the Democrats, which were summarily rejected one after another by the GOP, are going to be used as evidence in a later court case.  Ostensibly, this bill is about women’s health, but we all know that is a bunch of poppycock (to use a nice word). If it can be shown that this bill is about making it harder to get an abortion, it will be struck down by a Federal Court faster than you could say “Roe.”

On May 21st of this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (one level below the US Supreme Court), in the case of Isaacson v. Horne, struck down the State of Arizona’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a key point in Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion legislation. Similarly, just yesterday, a Federal Judge in Wisconsin, the Hon. William M. Conley, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Van Hollen, enjoined enforcement of a Wisconsin law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. As you may recall, this also is a cornerstone of HB2/SB1.

If I had to put money on it, I would say there is a better chance than not that HB2/SB1 will never take effect because of Court action. That being said, the Democrats need to go down swinging and pulling out all of the stops. Just as “remember the alamo” won the war of [Texas] independence, “Remember Wendy” may come in handy next election…or a few down the road.

Lege update 7/9

First and foremost, I want to discuss the events that took place today resulting in the possibility of productive, meaningful legislation. And by that, I mean, the stuff that will not almost certainly be struck by a Federal Court.

As the astute followers may recall, exactly one week ago the Senate unanimously approved SJR1, a Transportation funding  bill, and SB2, a “Miller compliance” bill. Both bills passed the committee somewhat under the radar.

Today,  both of those bills came up for consideration in the equivalent Senate committees. HB4, the Miller compliance bill, passed 4-1, with Rep. Terry Canales being the sole dissenter. The Houston Chronicle reported its passage, and insinuated it was somewhat different from SB2, the Senate equivalent. For the life of me, I read HB4, and cannot find any meaningful difference between it and the Senate’s bill. Both bills provide a mandatory sentence of life with parole, or forty years, for 17 year olds convicted of capital murder.

Then, the House Appropriations Committee took up the Transportation bill, and was less successful. A companion piece of legislation to SJR1,which would have diverted a significant amount of cash from the rainy day fund into highway maintenance, HJR1, was set for a vote. However, the Texas Tribune reports that Sylvester Turner, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Committee, raised a variety of concerns with the measure. These included the fact that SJR1/HJR1 sets a maximum amount to be withdrawn from the rainy day fund. Turner was concerned that this would raise too little money for transportation. A competing bill was also considered by the committee. That bill, HJR2, was the brainchild of Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso). That bill would have eliminated the diversion of fuel tax money into education. Instead, all of the money would go to transportation. The educational setbacks would presumably be offset by rainy day fund withdrawals.

Personally, I find SJR1/HJR1 to be the favorable bill. All Pickett’s bill does is pass the hot potato to students and teachers. That isn’t fair, they’ve been the ones messed with recently. I would rather see a problem down the road for highways than high schools, but that’s just me.

Now the big news. The Texas Tribune reports that HB2, the House’s omnibus anti-abortion bill, has passed on second reading 98-49. The day was a long one for the House, coming into session at 10AM and immediately bringing up the bill.

The Democrats –and one Republican, Rep. Sarah Davis of Harris County– brought up 22 amendments. One after another, every single one of them was tabled. They would have provided exemptions for rape and the health of the mother. Not important, in the GOP’s mind. They would have struck everything but the 20 week ban, since that seems to be all the Republicans keep bringing up. Lots of good amendments, including ones for sex ed, but to no avail. The Republicans are not interested in compromise, they are only interested in appeasing their primary voters.

Ryan Guillen (D-Starr County), Abel Herrero (D-Nueces County), Armando Martinez (D-Hidalgo County), Sergio Munoz (D-Hidalgo County) and Joe Pickett (D-El Paso County) were the five Democrats to brake ranks and vote yes on this obscenely unconstitutional legislation. None of them have been or ever will be pregnant. Funny how those things work. I will do everything in power, financially and politically, to make sure none of these men ever win another Democratic primary in my Texas. These men ought to be ashamed of themselves, for it is their constituents, the poor population in El Paso, Corpus Christi and the Valley, who will be hundreds of miles away from the nearest sage, legal abortion.

Kudos to Sarah Davis, however, for doing what is right. Also, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, whose father is the one Democratic Senator supporting the asinine bill, voted against it. Good for him.

The House adjourned slightly after the vote and will reconvene at about 10AM tomorrow for third reading. Once again, Senfronia Thompson stood at the front mike with a wire coathanger. The eyes of the world are still upon us, and I will have more on what to do from here tomorrow when I fly back to Houston.