Lieutenant Governor debate

Patti Hart at the Houston Chronicle reports on the first official debate in the Lieutenant Governor campaign. The debate, held at the Houston Doubletree Hotel, featured all four candidates: incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and, last but not least, State Senator Dan Patrick.

Many of the questions hinged on Dewhurst’s handling of the Wendy Davis filibuster, which Patrick was especially critical thereof. Dewhurst touted his conservative credentials when responding to these sorts of questions, including the fact that he passed the unfortunate bill eventually and that the pro-life anti-choice groups endorsed his actions.

However, the much more entertaining portion of the debate hinged upon two ideas brought up by two different challengers, alleging that the Lieutenant Governor is not conservative enough. First, Patterson uttered that laws protecting endangered animals are unwise, pontificating that the “critters ought to die anyways.” He then doubled down on the statement, as the Chronicle, reprinting his quote, noted: “I mean – the blind salamander? How long are we gonna let that little bugger last?”

Patterson’s comments, though, while asinine, were insignificant compared to Dewhurst’s response to one of Patrick’s inquiries (yes, I know, all the names are getting confusing). Patrick defiantly castigated Dewhurst’s record of bipartisanship and cooperation with Democrats, stating that he would reward partisan affiliation much more than seniority in appointing committee heads. His full quote that the Chronicle printed was: “I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees.”

Dewhurst responded to the comments, at first, with arithmetic. Democrats control 7 of the 17 committees, or roughly 29% of them. However, Patrick’s comments involved an allegation about “half of the Democrats,” not half of the Committees. There are only 12 Democrats in the Senate, while mean 42% of the caucus is a Committee chair, and if one more was added to the mix it would be exactly 50%. Dewhurst’s response to this was that the committees controlled by Democrats were not important.

The five committees chaired by Democrats are Criminal Justice (Whitmire), Government Organization (Zaffrini), Intergovernmental Relations (Hinojosa), Jurisprudence (West), Open Government (Ellis) & Veterans Affairs (Van de Putte). I will concede that Government Organization & Interovernmental Relaitons are not the most glamorous (or important) subjects, but the other three most definitely are.

The integrity of Criminal Justice, Open Government & Veterans’ Affairs are absolutely among the most important functions of the State. I find it somewhat fitting, therefore, that they are also some of the most neglected by the right wing. Even at the local level, Republicans hate these things.

Hart resurrected the story again today, where she wrote in the Houston Chronicle about the backlash Dewhurst has received, specifically from Leticia Van de Putte of the Veterans’ committee. Van de Putte published an extended open letter critiquing Dewhurst’s insult of her committee:

“You can imagine my great shock when I read the newspaper this morning and learned that you dismissed the work of the VAMI committee…I can only hope that your comments were taken out of context because, Governor Dewhurst, I can assure you that the work of the VAMI committee is important– as a veteran, you should know this. The VAMI committee serves over 1.7 million veterans living in our state and more than 131,000 active-duty military service members. The committee I chair has worked hard to make Texas the number one state for military service members, veterans and their families by passing legislation that eases the transition of service members and their families to civilian life; strengthens Hazelwood higher education benefits for veterans and their families; and addresses the high number of suicides by veterans and serve members.”

As a Democrat in the state of Texas, I would understand if you attacked me personally at a Republican political debate. However, I take great exception with dismissing the work of the committee which I chair, particularly because the VAMI committee works hard to protect the men and women that defend your right to freely debate.”

Van de Putte, for her part, is seen as a possible candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Accordingly, such harshly worded comments give me a slight inkling that she is fanning the fire for a Statewide run.

Texas Leftist & Burnt Orange Report have more.

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.

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.

“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.

Texting ban advances

The Texting while driving ban has passed Committee in both one houses of the legislature.

First, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that the House Transportation Committee has voted on Craddick’s bill, advancing it 6-1 (not sure what the roll call is). Second, the Chron, fresh off the press, is reporting that the Senate Communications Committee voted to advance a similar bill 9-0. The Senate Bill, SB28, which was introduced by Laredo Democrat Judith Zaffrini, seems to be just about identical to Craddick’s bill. If I’m not mistaken, both hold that the texting violation is a secondary violation.

I’m not quite an expert on the State legislature, so I would like to know what would have to happen for the Legislature to be able to override Perry’s veto? Last year, they had the votes, but they passed it so late that the Governor could pocket veto. I know that, until a certain point, you need a supermajority to move legislation, meaning it might not pass either House of the Legislature any time soon.

UPDATE: The Chronicle was being stupid. It insinuated that the Texas Senate had passed the bill, but evidently, they recently updated the page to clarify it was the Florida Senate. Why this has in the local section of the paper, I do not know. Sorry for the confusion.