Filing bills for the 84th

The Texas Tribune reports that bill filings have begun for next year’s session of the State Legislature. When all was said and done, about 350 proposed laws and constitutional amendments were proposed today. Oddly enough, all this commotion conspicuously occurred amid the silence of Governor-elect Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus (R-Bexar County). Most of the loudest initiatives came from Democrats and Tea Party Republicans, with both leadership and centrists mostly ducking away from the limelight.

For whatever reason, the Tribune as well as the Associated Press have been harping about a new proposed ban on texting-while-driving. The usual suspects, including former Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland County), have been pushing the measure once again, cautiously optimistic that the new Governor would consider the idea; a far cry from Governor Rick Perry, who infamously vetoed the bipartisan measure in 2011. However, Abbott noted in the course of the campaign that he too would likely veto a measure. Accordingly, it’s a dumb point to focus upon.

Most notable were three major Tea Party aspirations, all of which very well may get a vote in this upcoming session. First, three concurrent pieces of legislation (HB 106 by State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van Zandt County); HB 164 by State Representative James White (R-Tyler County) and; HB 195 by State Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Tarrant County)) were all introduced that would have the effect of ushering in “open carry” in Texas, meaning that all CHL holders could openly show off their deadly weapons in any location its hidden counterpart would be welcome. Abbott has implied he would sign such a law.

Second, Stickland also introduced HB 209, which would do away with the Texas Dream Act, the bipartisan policy nearly unanimously passed at the start of Perry’s tenure that allows undocumented students brought into this country in their infancy to attend UT and other public universities at the “in-state” rate. Abbott would also sign this proposal.

Third, State Representative Jim Murphy (R-Harris County) introduced HB 193 while State Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita County) introduced SB 105. The bills would repeal Texas’ unpopular franchise tax, the closest thing to taxes on corporate profits in the state.

That’s more or less what’s important, but I included a list below of the other assorted bills that piqued my interest one way or another:

  • HB41 by State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-Bexar County) would raise the minimum wage to about $10, while HB 174 would do the same for state contractors.
  • HB 53 by State Representative Ruth McClendon (D-Bexar County) would raise the age at which offenders are tried as an adult from 17 to 18, all other things being equal.
  • HB 68 by State Representative Robert Alonzo (D-Dallas County) would allow for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
  • HB 70 by State Representative Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso County) would provide for penalties for bullying on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in school districts.
  • HB 71 by Gonzalez would create a “Romeo & Juliet exception” for same-sex partners.
  • HB 76 by State Representative Ceila Israel (D-Travis County) would allow for online voter registration.
  • HB 78 by Gonzalez would provide for comprehensive sexual education in schools.
  • HB 81 by State Representative Ryan Guillen (D-Starr County) as well as HB 170 by State Representative Carol Alvarado (D-Harris County) would regulate e-cigarettes throughout the state, as well as prohibit their sale to minors.
  • HB 89 by Gonzalez would regulate tuition at public universities.
  • HB 91 by Flynn would create a legal marketplace for the sale of raw milk.
  • HB 92 by White would legalize possession of the “Bowie knife,” among other changes to the state’s knife laws.
  • HB 93, HB 107 and HB 110 by White would greatly reform and generally liberalize laws pertaining to truancy. Specifically, the fine would be reduced from $500 to $20, among other provisions.
  • HB 97 by Guillen as well as HB 189 by State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris County) would end the statute of limitations on sexual assault.
  • HB 108 by Guillen would retain the right of lottery winners to be anonymous.
  • HB 111 by Fischer would allow for voters to register to vote on election day.
  • HB 113 by State Representative Allen Fletcher (R-Harris County) would criminalize aborting a fetus based on its gender.
  • HB 116 by Fischer would expand Medicaid in Texas.
  • HB 124 by Fischer would expand free, universal Pre-Kindergarten throughout the state.
  • HB 130 by State Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas County), as well as other pertinent joint resolutions, would legalize gay marriage in Texas.
  • HB 135 by Flynn would require High School students to take a civics class on the US Constitution.
  • HB 138 by Flynn would require the 10 Commandments be posted in schools, in clear defiance of the Supreme Court.
  • HB 142 by Stickland would prohibit the use of red light cameras for traffic citations.
  • HB 147 by State Representative Jose Menendez (D-Bexar County) would require merchants to receive photo identification for major purchases involving credit cards.
  • HB 150 by Flynn would nix day light saving’s time in Texas.
  • HB 161 by State Representative Lyle Larson (R-Bexar County) would allow prisons to house inmates in tents.
  • HB 176 by State Representative Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lee County) would somehow “allow” the state to not follow Federal laws involving guns that they did not fancy. The ignorance here is astounding.
  • HB 204 by State Representative Jeff Leach (R-Collin County) would shorten summer break for public schools by about two weeks.
  • HB 213 by State Representative Angie Button (R-Dallas County) would require ex-legislators to wait four years before lobbying under the dome.
  • HB 215 by State Representative Patricia Harless (R-Harris County) would do away with the fees for fishing licenses when it came to fishermen 65 years and older.
  • HB 216 by White would lower the minimum wage for a concealed handgun license from 21 to 18.
  • HJR 31 by Gonzalez would require the Attorney General to be an attorney.
  • HJR 37 by Larson would require legislators to resign from office before running for something else.
  • HJR 38 by Larson would impose term limits on state offices.
  • SB 54 by State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Denton County) would drug test welfare recipients.
  • SB 76 by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Harris County) would prohibit insurance discrimination on the part of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • SB 81 by Ellis would create a commission to further research wrongful convictions, particularly for capital offenses.
  • SB 82 by Ellis would greatly expand the availability of probation for drug-related offenses.
  • SB 86 by Ellis would allow for no-excuse absentee voting.
  • SB 135 by State Senator John Whitmire (D-Harris County) would reform grand jury systems by transitioning from “pick-a-pal” systems in which the grand jurors are chosen by an intermediary to one in which the District Judge directly selects the participants.
  • SB 139 by State Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock County) would end diversions from the State Highway Fund to the Department of Public Safety, among other recipients.
  • SB 141 by State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Harris County) would increase voter education for high school seniors.
  • SB 148 by State Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County) would repeal the unconstitutional ban on “homosexual conduct.”
  • SB 150 by State Senator Kel Seliger (R-Potter County) would appropriate about $3 Billion for university construction around the state.
  • SB 158 by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas County) would grant funds for local police departments to purchase body cameras, then require officers wear them throughout their interactions with the public.
  • SB 173 by State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Harris County) would deem synthetic marijuana a “controlled substance.”
  • SJR 10 by State Senator Donna Campbell (R-Comal County) would invalidate municipality’s non-discrimination ordinances.

OH MY GOD

It’s just after 1 o’clock in the morning at press time, and we still do not know if SB5 passed or not. Yes, it was that close. Let me run through the timeline, and then I will discuss the current implications as well as the future ones.

At roughly 4:30, I posted my last update about the filibuster. At that time, Senator Wendy Davis (D-Forth Worth) was still going strong in her dilatory measure. This continued until 10:07PM, when Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) made a Point of Order against Davis for an alleged violation of the rules of filibuster following two sustained points (three strikes and you’re out). For what it is worth, the 1st point was for allegedly not being germane to SB5 when she discussed Planned Parenthood funding. The second strike was for allegedly receiving undue comfort when Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) helped her to adjust a back brace. The third strike was for allegedly not being germane to SB5 when making a comparison to last session’s Sonogram Law. At 10:39PM, the Lieutenant Governor sustained the third point of order. This caused a massive eruption of booing from the gallery.

Shortly after this, Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) was able to gain control of the floor on an Appeal of the Chair’s ruling, which is debatable, and thus, filibusterable. After a series of lengthy parliamentary inquiries eat up time, Watson is given the floor at about 11PM. For what it is worth, the Senate rule on ending filibusters only applies if there are 3 violations pertaining to undue comfort OR 3 violations pertaining to non germane material, but not a mixture. Thus, Dewhurst completely ignored the rules.

Watson began his own mini-filibuster. Finally, at about 11:30, the presiding officer (Dewhurst had since left the floor), Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) allowed a motion on the previous question while Watson was still talking. For all intent and purposes, this was an egregious and open defiance of the Senate’s rules on filibusters.

Democrats continued to make dilatory motions until about 11:45, but it looked like passage would be achieved in the next few minutes. Then, a miracle happened. The thousands of people in the Capitol lost their tops. All hell broke loose. The noise drowned out the chamber for the next 15 minutes, until sine die.

However, in the last few seconds of the session, the Republicans made a desperate attempt to pass the legislation. Anyone watching the livestream could tell that this vote took place at 12:02 AM, after the end of the session. In fact, the TLO website said it took place on “June 26th” until it mysterious changed. No seriously, here’s the tweet from the Texas Tribune.

At press time, the Senate still hasn’t adjourned. Here are the facts: (1) there was a vote on SB5 and (2) it occurred after Midnight. However, seeing how many of the rules have been tossed out the window already, I see no reason to think it won’t again.

Obviously, SB23 and SJR2 (Youth Sentencing and Transportation) did not pass, so there is a very good chance that Rick Perry will call the Legislators back into a Second Special Session. As I have suggested before, if SB5 is deemed to have not passed, and if Abortion is once again added to the call, the Democrats shouldn’t even bother showing up to this one.

Also, and I need to say this a few times, but way to go Senator Davis! The eyes of the world were truly upon her tonight and she did fantastic. Also, a little shout out to Kirk Watson. Sen. Watson really helped to save the day at the end, and we all know that he isn’t good under pressure.

I’ll have more on the implications tomorrow morning. Until then, good night and good luck.

Abortion Restrictions Texas

 

UPDATE: And this is 2AM, y’all. Dos Centavos is reporting, via twitter, that SB5 is dead. That it did not pass in time.

Marriage ID passes Senate

The Chron reports on a bill that just passed the Senate last evening, which would require a photo identification in order to, wait for it, get married!

SB 1218, by Senator Donna Campbell (R-Comal), would require applicants for marriage licenses in the State of Texas to government-issued photo IDs like a driver’s license, passport or CHL. Essentially, the same requirements sought after for the infamous Voter ID acts. However, perhaps more stomach-churning than the act itself, is the complacency seen in the Democratic Senators, who lacked the will-power (or competency) to put up a fight over this. Wendy Davis and Jose Rodriguez were the only Senators to oppose this act, which prevailed in a 29-2 vote.

Is “Marriage fraud” a big issue in this state nowadays? I didn’t think so. A number of years ago, I was the Best Man at my brother’s wedding, which involved, legally speaking, witnessing the Marriage License. I completely understand what Senator Campbell means when she says the system is ripe for abuse or fraud. However, to even higher extend than with voting, there is simply no good reason for someone to falsely represent another when getting married.

The idea of how voter fraud could be possibly harmful is pretty clear to make. The main benefit and effect of voting takes place immediately, when you actually “pull the lever,” so to speak. John Smith pretending he is “John Doe” might end up casting two votes, or something like that. However, this is where the idea of “marriage fraud” falls apart. Any benefit that may be acquired through a fraudulent marriage would be predicated on the participant being an identity thief and part of a confidence scheme. The theoretical “con men” who would engage in Marriage Fraud could just as easily just create a fraudulent marriage certificate.

Then again, there is the true intention of this legislation: making everyone harder for the poor. Just like the Voter ID act, this is a thinly veiled attempt to impose burdensome regulations on the least unfortunate among us. Sadly, 9/12 Democrats ate up that garbage.

The Dallas Morning News has more.

Gun Day

The Texas House passed some major legislation yesterday. Among these are the good, the fair, the bad, the horrible and the blatantly unconstitutional and possibly treasonous. Okay, maybe not treasonous, at least not yet, but all the other superfluous adjectives. All of these passed by voice vote, so I am not sure what the crossover was on any of these bills, but let me go down the line on them real quick.

First up, the infamous “Campus Carry,” or as I call it, “Guns on Campus.” It sounds meaner. Anyways, it was among the bills that passed, and you can read what it does here. The only differences from the Committee version was that this bill has incorporated a substantial amendment that essentially adds Hegar’s bill from the Senate as a rider (Guns in Cars), as well as changes private schools from “opt-out” to “opt-in.” The “opt-out” that applies to both Public and Private would have to occur every year. Finally, “bio-harzard” zones would be exempt, so Medical Schools (Craig Eiland [D-Galveston] offered up this amendment with regard to UTMB).

Next, the “School Marshall” program. HB 1009, proposed by Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). The bill would essentially create anonymous, well-trained individuals with handguns whose responsibility it would be to protect some school districts, much like the current Air Marshall Program. Officers would require 80 hours of training (in comparison, the CHL is 8). I really like this bill, as I have no problem with letting trained, competent individuals posses deadly weapons.

Next, HB864, proposed by Donna Campbell (R-Bexar). The bill reduces the training time for a CHL from 8 to 6 hours. The problem with this bill is that it keeps loosening our already ultra-soft laws in regard to gun licensing. The point of these tests is that it keeps the psychos away from the deadly force. If you keep reducing requirements, you make that failsafe less and less likely.

HB 485, by Sarah Davis (R-Harris), my Rep, was also passed. The bill would sharply reduce the fee for a CHL to $25, for honorably discharged members of the armed forces or reserve peace officers. Again, I have no problem with this, because honorable discharges and peace officers are usually the type of levelheaded people who can handle a gun. The only drawback is it would decreased the amount of revenue the State raises.

Then, there is the Toth bill. Steve Toth (R-Montgomery)’s bill passed, which “nullifies” federal gun regulations, and a bill by Brandon Creighton (R-Montgomery) that punishes federal officials who try to enforce federal laws. Here’s the problem, the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected “nullification” multiple times (most recently in 1958, Cooper v. Aaron). And arrested a federal official for enforcing federal law might just be a tad bit illegal. As Gene Wu said, it’s called the Supremacy Clause. For a faction of politicians who claim to be such mighty “constitutionalists,” this seems to run pretty counter to their big message

The Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle have more.

One step closer to nixing Algebra II

Fresh off the press from the Tribune. The Senate Education Committee has voted 7-2 (Y: Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood); N: Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Royce West (D-Dallas)) to advance the Curriculum reforming bill. Now, the bill just needs to pass the whole Senate before it is sent to Perry’s desk (the Tribune article insinuated this is an identical bill to the House; If it is not, there will be a conference committee requirement).

The bill, which recently passed the house, essentially does two things. First, it lowers the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5 (Biology, U.S. History, Algebra I and a pair of English exams) that are required in order to graduate. That is probably a good thing, as those pesky little tests got a little overwhelming, when you are literally sacrificing valuable teaching time to prepare kids for the dreaded TAKS test. However, second, the bill lowers the standards needed in order to earn a diploma. Instead of four years of most core concepts, the requirements are lowered to three, and certain benchmark classes, most notably Algebra II, are nixed from the requirements. The new diploma would be from a much more remedial track, whereas the old track (the college preparatory one) would be considered “honors.”

In order to qualify for the coveted top 10% program at UT or A&M, one would need the honors diploma. I would imagine it would be a biggie for most colleges’ admissions, too. I have two big problems with this legislation: the whole idea of a remedial diploma plan in general, as well as, more specifically, the idea of nixing Algebra II.

First, I fear that, especially since this remedial track seems like it would be the default, many poorer students will be tricked into completing this track in order to more easily graduate from high school. Little will they probably know, however, that the “fast track” diploma is not the ticket to college the regular, vanilla diploma of the past was. Second, I actually do think that Algebra II is a valuable skill that our future workforce should be equipped with.

For the record, I loathed math class while I was in High School, and I sure as heck am not using any complex math currently in my life (it never really goes beyond calculating gratuity when going dutch), but I can see that Algebra II was a good investment of my time. Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry was probably lost on me, but Algebra II was good. And besides, it isn’t like it is that advanced of a subject for High School. Most public school students take it their Junior, and not their Senior, years. I went to a Private School, so I took it in the 10th grade (my brother went to St. John’s, so he took it int he 9th grade), as does anyone in the AP/IB programs in HISD.

Watering down our school’s graduation requirements has never been a good idea. I was happy to see from legitimate Democratic opposition to this measure in the upper chamber.