In the shadow of the Tower

I have five classes on Tuesdays. Combined with some shuffling back and forward to my office at The Daily Texan (speaking of which, I recently received a new title there), this meant a full day of walking around campus. By my estimations, I walked past the Main Mall, just in front of the Tower, about a half dozen times. One such time was a little past 11:45 in the morning, as I was leaving Astronomy and (unsuccessfully) attempting to not be late to Japanese Politics. About 48 1/2 years ago, at that exact time, I would have been in the crosshairs of a psychopathic sniper named Charles Whitman, who had barricaded himself at the top of the observation deck and started shooting at random, murdering 17 people in all that day.

Now, as the Houston Chronicle reports, legislators are determined to liberalize gun laws on college campuses all around the states, including at UT-Austin. Specifically, 19 of the 20 Republicans in the state senate co-sponsored SB11, which would do exactly that (the one exception was State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Harris County)). It would mainly allow concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to bring the weapons to campuses.

I wrote somewhat extensively about this topic throughout the 83rd Legislature. In a wonderful example of how much things can change in just two years, I was opining back then all the way from Boston, instead of actually on the 40 acres. At the time, the bill passed the House but got lost in the Senate. Since that does not look to happen again this time, I would say get ready for this horrendous proposal to get enacted into law.

The reason I reference the Tower sniper attack in my introduction is not to suggest that this will open the floodgates to more mass shootings. Rather, it is to demonstrate the futility of such a proposal. Say, for example, one of the students had a legally concealed handgun. The likelihood of him or her effectively firing at the top of the tower and subduing Whitman would have been quite low.

The Daily Texan has an editorial, coming to print tomorrow morning, that addresses most of the other points on “Guns on Campus” one way or another, but the main argument remains the same: this is a spectacularly bad idea. As time goes on, I will continue to closely follow these bills.

In other news, the Texas Tribune reports that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has announced that the “Open Carry” proposals currently do not have the votes to move the legislation. He also implied to the Tribune that other priorities would likely come first. This has drawn the ire of right-wing grassroots.

Texpatriate endorses in HD134

State Representative Sarah Davis (R-Harris County) has now concluded her second session in the Texas Legislature, representing one of the strangest house districts in Texas. It combines the affluent neighborhoods of Bellaire, West University and River Oaks, among others, with the cosmopolitan and LGBT-friendly Montrose area. It also includes most of the heavily Jewish middle class neighborhood of Meyerland. The result is a district that favors Republicans on economic issues, ever so slightly, but is extraordinarily socially liberal. Thus, a Representative such as Sarah Davis is chosen by its voters.

Davis, a Republican, is pro-choice and broadly in favor of gay rights. Last summer, she was the only Republican to stand against the onerous restrictions placed on a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. The only one, of about 100. She caught a great deal of flak for the brave position, including being publicly derided by Jared Woodfill, the then-Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. She even drew a socially conservative primary challenger who incessantly lambasted her for her pro-choice viewpoints. As it turned out, Davis handily defeated her primary challenger, Bonnie Parker, amid tremendous support for her convictions from her constituents.

This board has no doubt that Davis will, in the upcoming legislative session, continue to be a tireless advocate for women’s rights and healthcare. Be it standing against HB2 or fighting against devastating cuts to Planned Parenthood and other healthcare sources, Davis has never backed down from a fight. We also expect her to continue “evolving” on the issue of LGBT rights, leading a small but growing caucus of pro-gay marriage Republicans in the next few years.

Still, there are some serious issues we take with Davis’ platform. She voted for an ill-designed bill that would have allowed for university students to bring their concealed weapons onto college campuses, obvious hotbeds of tempers and bad decisions. And, all too often, she followed in lock-step with a Republican budget philosophy still intent on minimizing invaluable services.

Of course, Davis’ only opponent, Democratic candidate Alison Ruff, has been a functionally worthless challenger. She has no online or public presence. Nobody has ever seen her, nobody has ever heard of her. Without anything to say or do, a candidate might as well not exist.

But Davis, on the other hand, has more than plenty to say, even if he disagree with some of it. Still, no one can deny that Davis is an absolutely perfect representative for her unique, economically centrist and socially liberal, district. We look forward to her being one of the venerated voices of reason in her party.

Accordingly, this board endorses Sarah Davis for the Texas House, District 134.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board of comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.

Wendy for Open Carry

The Associated Press reports that State Senator Wendy Davis, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, has announced her support for “Open Carry,” the idea of carrying an uncovered handgun on your hip, in full public view. As the Press notes, this recent lurch to the right puts her on similar ground to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee for Governor, on the issue.

Davis did qualify her remarks by noting that training requirements, background checks and other restrictions upon gun ownership and use would still be both feasible and needed. She also reiterated a belief that private-property owners should decide what type of guns should be allowed on their properties. If this sounds familiar, it sure is. The idea of private-property rights running roughshod over Second Amendment rights has actually been found in the Republican primaries, notably with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

For this new revelation, Davis has received attacks from all sides. A local gun control organization roundly criticized her for being complicit in the rise of what they called a “strange” new trend. The NRA, as well as Greg Abbott’s campaign, also lambasted Davis’ change of heart as too little, too late.

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Guv update 10/8

Today saw two major stories about the Governor’s race, one looking at the typical dichotomy of the candidates, and another discussing a possible shake-up.

First, Peggy Fikac at the Houston Chronicle published an article this morning, wherein she noted that the two candidates, Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Wendy Davis, have already established themselves as different on many of the important issues. Among the many issues the two disagree on are licenses for illegal immigrants. Representing the typical interests of their respective parties, Davis supports such documents as a necessity in public safety, while Abbott opposes the measures. The Texas Republican Party is dominated by nativists who favor such positions as well as self-deportation.

Another major policy that Fikac notes a disagreement in is the American-US Air merger, which I have previously written upon extensively. Fikac then moves onto the more glamorous issues, specifically abortion and gun control.

Everyone and their uncle now is familiar with Wendy Davis’ pro-choice stance. Abbott, by comparison, is severely pro-life anti-choice. The omnibus anti-abortion bill will surely be a major flashpoint throughout the campaign. Additionally, gun control measures are mentioned. Davis is much more moderate on this issue. The astute will remember that Davis voted for the infamous “Guns on Cars” bill last session, which I strongly disagreed therewith.

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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.

That’s all, folks!



Because comparing Rick Perry to Porky the Pig is just too tempting not to do. The Texas Tribune reports this evening that the Governor has announced that no other legislation will be added to the call of the Special Session.

While the 83rd Special was limited, at first, to only redistricting, Perry later added transportation (highway) funding, abortion restrictions and a bill that would provide penalties for juvenile capital murderers. Among the issues that right-wingers like David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick were pushing for to still be added were Gun legislation and School vouchers. These issues appear to be dead. Guns on Campus is dead until at least 2015. Good.

This provides a mixed outlook for Perry’s future. He did not go full adding-nonessential-garbage-to-the-call, but he did a little bit with the abortion issue. What we have is the same situation we had before the Special Session. If he would not have added the abortion stuff, it would seem more like he isn’t running, whereas if he had added everything, it would look like he is definitely running. So it still looks like a tossup.

In other news, Perry signed the “Merry Christmas Bill” today. I went out of my way not to write about this stupid legislation, but I feel a little bit obligated to do so now. As a Tribune article reports, the article goes a little bit further than just being able to say “Happy Xmas” without being sued. The bill specifically condones the use of Christmas Trees, Menorahs or Nativity scenes in public schools. That is where I find there to be a serious problem. A smell a lawsuit, and I will be one of those cliched Jews that helps the ACLU do so.

It is just like the Republican Party to use an extreme example to fire people up, and then use it to attain an equally extreme goal. “Bait-and-switch,” as it is styled. The GOP gets people riled up about late-term abortions, and uses the anger to attempt to ban the morning-after pill. Similarly, the bill that is ostensibly all about the right to say “Merry Christmas” is used to put up super religious symbols in government-run buildings.

Guns-on-Campus dead, for now

John Whitmire today announced that Guns-on-Campus, HB972, is dead–for now. The Chron reports that the Senate Dean reported that the 2 Democrats needed to support the legislation in order to bring it to the floor were not there.

This is a sharp aboutface from what Whitmire was saying last week, when the measure passed his Committee. At that time, Whitmire warned that if the less-severe Senate version did not pass, the more Conservative House version would be brought up during special session. From what I understand, nothing has changed, so I do not quite understand why Whitmire is so recalcitrant again.

My money is still on this thing passing, I generally do not trust what Senator Whitmire says, mostly because it changes by the week.

Lege udpate 5/14

Final Tallies
As I mentioned last night, both the Campaign Disclosure bill and the Michael Morton bill were one step away from being sent to Perry. Well, at end of business tonight, they have both passed roll call votes and been sent to Perry’s desk. The Governor will most likely veto the former and sign the later.

The Disclosure bill passed 95-52, just shy of overriding capability. The only opposition came from far-right Republicans. Debbie Riddle was the only Houstonian I could find opposing the measure. Meanwhile, the Michael Morton Act continued its support in unanimity, succeeding 147-0. If Perry signs it, it will take effect immediately.

TRC lives another day
The Texas Railroad Commission will not be reformed in any way, according to the Tribune. After the Senate passed an ambitious bill that did a lot of good, including stricter regulations for the Commissioners (as well as name change for the organization), the legislation was greeted as dead on arrival in the lower chamber by Energy Resources Committee Chairman Jim Keffer (R-Eastland).

Guns on Campus probably a reality
The so-called “Campus Carry” or “Guns-on-Campus” bill looks like it will be a reality after all. Facing the threat of an ambitious piece of legislation mandating the practice for all institutions of higher learning to be jammed through the Special Session, Senator Whitmire folded and allowed the less ambitious HB972 to be voted out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

The Committee voted 5-2, with all four Republicans joining Senator Juan Hinojosa (D-Hidalgo) in supporting the measure. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) and John Whitmire (D-Houston) were the only two opposed. This bill, unlike one the Senate previously shot down, allows public universities to opt-out if they want to. So, as I have said before, this would create Guns on Campus for A&M and Tech, but not UT, UH or TSU.

The Texas Tribune has the full story on this.

Lege update 5/10

I just got back from the Capital city, I won’t go into the details, but I accomplished a lot of great business. Anyways, I didn’t get the opportunity to discuss all the bills that the House has been passing recently, so let me go down the list.

First up, HB864, which cuts CHL training time, has been sent to the Governor.

The Chron reports that “Guns on Cars” has passed the House, 124-13, and has been sent to the Governor. Among those voting nay were Jessica Farrar and Carol Alvarado.

Using your cellphone as evidence for insurance was also sent to the Governor.

The expanded school breakfast program sent to Perry too.


The Chronicle reports that the “Space X Bill,” Rene Oliveira’s HB 2623, has unanimously passed the Senate. The bill would allow open beaches to be shut down during SpaceX launches in very limited circumstances. Whitmire previously had some reservations over the measure, but those must have been alleviated. It’s a good bill, and it heads to Perry now.

Speaking of Whitmire, the Statesman reports that he is dropping most of his opposition to the “Guns on Campus” bill. He feels that the new system, which allows opt-outs, is not especially controversial. “I think it will pass,” Whitmire said of the legislation.


Guns on Campus ‘officially’ passes the House

The Houston Chronicle mentions that the third reading has occurred on HB972, the “Guns on Campus” bill. For updated info about exactly what the bill does, see what I said yesterday. The bill has officially passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. The final vote for 102-41. I’m not going to delineate every cross-party voter, but I would like to mention a few of the notable Democrats who voted in favor.

Craig Eiland and Hubert Vo stuck out as the two high-profile Democrats to support this measure. Eiland makes sense, he represents an ostensibly conservative district and didn’t win by all that many votes last year, but Vo represents deep blue. He won with over 60% last year. Now, I am certainly not one for hanging every Democrat out to dry who disagrees with me, but on an issue of such importance, it would have been nice for enough Democrats to vote against this such that a supermajority would have been prevented. This is a pretty far-right position to take, judging by the fact that Texas hasn’t enacted this yet. In fact, only FIVE states allow this.

In other news, the Trib reports the House voting today, 85-53, to equalize regulations imposed on both big and small tobacco companies. However, in what thoroughly surprises me, the legislation increases regulations and fees paid by small companies, rather than decreasing those paid by large ones. I don’t hold much pity for excessive regulations being paid by cigarette companies, big or small, so I could really care less about this. I suppose that it raises extra revenue, which could hypothetically fund education.