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.
Advertisements

Civil Affairs: Refugees

CIVIL AFFAIRS

Thousands of children, fleeing violence and deplorable conditions in their home countries, escape their own countries and arrive at the periphery of this one. They freely turn themselves in to the proper authorities, not seeking to evade the law but rather face the direct consequences of their own action. These children are convinced that even perpetual detention is preferable to the egregious state of affairs from which they came, in Central America.

Under normal circumstances, this humanitarian crisis would be treated exactly for what it is. Resources would be spent trying to assuage the suffering of these migrants, and ensuring that they are cared for, with all their needs met. Instead, partisan squabbles have bled over into this issue, with Democrats using the opportunity to score points with pro-Immigration Reform. More seriously, the Republicans have attempted to placate Tea Party concerns by adopting a hardline stance on this topic, threatening deportations for unaccompanied refugee children and eviscerating any semblance of humanity on the matter.

This cruelty came to a head today when Governor Rick Perry announced he was deploying approximately 1000 members of the Texas National Guard to the border region. The Washington Post has the full story on this topic, including the revelation that Perry wants his State Guard to patrol the border personally, a serious dereliction of duty and usurpation of the Federal Border Patrol’s responsibility. This much did not surprise me, what surprised me was the muted reaction from many of the serious rank-and-file in the Texas Democratic establishment.

“If the federal government won’t act, Texas must and will,” Wendy Davis, a State Senator and the Democratic nominee for Governor, said. “However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for.”

Notice that Davis did not necessarily criticize the rapid buildup at the border, a stark departure from most of her contemporaries and colleagues on the slate. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, took a different approach.

“To strictly militarize the border won’t help us meet this unique humanitarian challenge,” Van de Putte said. Similar points of view were also echoed by State Senators Sylvia Garica (D-Harris County) and Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County), as well as a few prominent State Representatives.

They are children. Say that again….out loud. Jockeying these poor kids around like some sort of partisan political football is not constructive, nor does it assist us in solving the obvious humanitarian crisis. Van de Putte and others get that, but evidently, Davis does not. This issue should specifically transcend whatever our simplistic policy disagreements on immigration reform and the like may be. I, for example, believe in largely open borders for all those willing to wait in line at a designated crossing and provide identification. I assume that most in politics would not take such an audacious stand on the topic, but I should share their opinion on this issue nonetheless.

It does not truly matter if you think these refugee’s adult parents, for example, should be allowed expeditious entry into this country with ease. The refugees are still figuratively knocking at our doors without shelter or the means to obtain it. It is our moral duty to absorb all such migrants.

But even humoring some of Perry or Davis’ points, what should this increased presence along the border do to assuage the humanitarian crisis in the Valley? Stand on one side of the Rio Grande with semiautomatic guns? I fail to see how one can adequately intimidate away these children, who are already freely turning themselves into the authorities.

This issue, perhaps more than any other domestic issue this summer, deserves a brave response from our political leaders, not muted and impotent replies. This is not mundane policy, these are people’s lives.

Brains & Eggs and Dos Centavos have more.

 

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.

photo (6)

 

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.

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.

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.

“Guns in Cars” passes Senate

From the Tribune:

The bill that I talked about not too long ago is back in the news, unfortunately. It has passed the Senate. Essentially, this bill, sponsored by Glen Hegar and known as the “Guns in Cars” alternative to the “Guns on Campus” bill, would force public universities to allow guns and ammunition to be carried in students’ cars. I don’t want to delineate the reasons why that is an awful idea again, so just click the link.

The measure passed 27-4, with Sylvia Garcia, Eddie Lucio, Joe Rodriguez and Judith Zaffrini being the sole nay votes. Why Kirk Watson, Rodney Ellis or Royce West sold out and voted for this abhorrent legislation, I do not know.

This looks like a classic deal by Whitmire. I expect that it was him, as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee (who heard the Guns-on-campus bill), who pushed for this compromise legislation. I wouldn’t care if this one also included the opt-out provision as well, but it imposes the conservative agenda on UT-Austin and UH. Hopefully this may be resolved in the House.

Big Jolly has more, on a much different angle. Evidently I am now the stand-bearer of the Houston liberals, being referred to as simply “the left.” I like it–though, after residing in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts for a year, I now know what that word really means, and I am a few stones away from it.