Dewhurst adds to Ethics committee

The Houston Chronicle reports that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has appointed a new Democrat to the Texas Ethics Commission. As I noted back in December, Dewhurst had previously been considering former Congressman Craig Washington for the post. However, on Friday, it was determined that former State Representative Wilhemina Delco would be appointed to the position.

Delco was first nominated by State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Travis County), the de facto Senate Minority Leader. Likewise, Delco served in office from the capital area and continues to reside there to this day. Delco, 84, has a long and illustrious career in public service. She was first elected to public office in 1968, to the AISD School Board, being the first African-American person (much less, a woman) elected to office in Austin. In 1976, she was elected to the Texas House, where she served for ten terms.

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Prop 6 is popular

The Texas Tribune reports that a recent poll taken on Prop 6, the water funding measure, finds the measure is very supportive among Texans. The poll also reported some other odds and ends, let me reprint the results and then delineate the implications below:

1. Do you support Prop 6?
55% YES
20% NO

2. Should the Legislature over Voters have the final say on this issue?
75% VOTERS
16% LEGISLATURE

The poll also offered a glimpse into some personal questions about the average polled Texan, including a few I felt really stood out.

3. What are your feelings about the bible?
38% Word of God, but not literal
35% Word of God, word-for-word literal
22% Word of Man

4. How important is religion in your life?
49% EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
29% SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT
10% NOT VERY IMPORTANT
13% NOT AT ALL IMPORTANT

5. How often do you go to church?
16% MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK
21% ONCE A WEEK
12% A FEW TIMES A MONTH
24% ONE OR TWO TIMES A YEAR
27% NEVER

Read analysis below the jump

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.

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.

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.

Meet the New Boss

Same as the old boss.

Perry

Adios mofo.

The Texas Tribune, along with the entire Twitterverse, reported the news shortly after 2PM that Rick Perry would not be running for an unprecedented fourth full term in 2014. The news leaves the field wide open, and essentially gifts the post to Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Unfortunately, I did not get to livestream the speech. But from what I understand, Perry bragged about both his record as Governor and the so-called “Texas miracle.” He then said something along the lines of “the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership.”

Perry made no comments on his intentions for the 2016 Presidential election. It is worth stating that what finally convinced me that Perry would not run was a tweet by Dan Patrick. I get the feeling that he wasn’t supposed to leak that information this morning.

The gubernatorial election is made much more clear by this announcement. When it comes to the Republican primary, there are three candidates: Greg Abbott, Larry SECEDE Kilgore and Tom Pauken. Kilgore, as you may recall, is the Klansman Theocratic secessionist. Pauken, a former Texas GOP Chairman and Texas Workforce Commission Chairman, is a little too reasonable to win a Republican primary.

Attorney General Abbott is the natural selection. This much is somewhat clear. Accordingly, the question shifts to who the Democratic candidates (and eventual nominee) will be.

First and foremost is Wendy Davis. The good Senator, as many may recall, recently reversed her longstanding pledge to not run. She is “open” to the idea, to be exact. Now that Perry is out, we may hear more in the next couple of weeks. Davis only trails Abbott by 8 points in recent polling, which is by far the smallest deficit of any of the possible Democrats mentioned.

The problem with those polls, of course, is who they mention as candidates. Julian Castro and Annise Parker are definitely not running. Bill White is another issue, as many (especially in Austin circles) believe he will run if no other candidate is found.

The other candidates that have been mentioned are State Rep. Mike Villarreal, State Rep. Rafael Anchia and State Sen. Kirk Watson. The former two have already specifically taken themselves out of contention. Watson must run for re-election next year, and BOR was really wrong about this exact thing in 2010, so I do not think he is a viable candidate.

That leaves Kinky Friedman. Color me excited. While at one point he might have been the best known Texas Democrat, times have changed. As I stated a few days ago, Wendy Davis, win or lose, needs to run in order to be the “the Texas Democrats’ Barry Goldwater.”

Eye on Williamson and Burnt Orange Report have more.

Lege Update 7/2

As much as the omnibus anti-abortion bill seems to be all the rage these days, there is other stuff going on at the Legislature. Specifically, in addition to abortion, Gov. Perry added two more issues to the call: Transportation and Juvenile Criminal Justice. The same other two issues that were dealt with in the last special session.

The houses came very close to passing comprehensive legislation on Transportation funding and Capital Murder penalties for juveniles last special session. However, these bills were caught as collateral damage in the ultimate day’s filibuster. Like the abortion bill, these issues’ bills have been given new names to reflect the new session. SJR1 is the new Transportation Bill and SB2 is the new Criminal Justice bill. The Texas Tribune reports that both passed unanimously through committee today.

I have talked at length about the bills debated by the Legislature to create suitable (constitutional) penalties for juveniles convicted of capital murder. I have colloquially styled these the bills about “Miller compliance.” Last session, the Senate passed a bill which replaced the mandatory life-without-parole penalty (that was deemed unconstitutional) with a life-with-parole penalty. The House amended the bill to include the option of life-without-parole for the more heinous offenses. The bill that the Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed today, SB2, does not include that amendment. The vote was unanimous.

The Transportation measure, SJR1, which must pass with a 2/3 majority and then be approved by referendum this November, passed the Senate Finance Committee unanimously as well. That bill, which diverts over $1B from the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund, is identical to the measure nearly passed last Special Session.

Both of these bills are somewhat non-controversial, and should be passed by the Legislature ASAP. Contrary to public belief, these bills were not taken hostage by the Democrats. In fact, the Republicans made the strategic choice to kill them. Any honest follower of last week’s proceedings will remember that Kirk Watson stood up and said that the Democrats did not object to taking a final vote on the two bills before the SB5 filibuster occurred. Oh well.

locked

Then, of course, this happened. Starting at 3:30 today, the House State Affairs Committee held their obligatory public hearing on HB2, one of the successors to SB5. As I stated yesterday, Committee Chairman Byron Cook made clear that public comment would only run from 3:30PM to Midnight.

With 3,543 people signed up to testify, after getting started a little behind schedule (what a surprise), the Committee barely made it through 100 people before Cook took the unilateral, though not unexpected, step of cutting off public comment. Shortly after Midnight, without much warning, Cook abruptly ended the debate and took a vote. 8-3, along party lines in favor. However, the vote was taken so quickly that two Democrats could not return to the desk. Accordingly, the real vote should have been 8-5.

Shortly thereafter, the Capitol got cleared and locked down. The result, in the above photograph, was roughly 1000-1700 angry protesters banging on the doors to their place of government while 7 White Men and 1 White Woman, in the dead of night, passed punitively burdensome restrictions on the right to abortion.

The Texas Observer has the full story. This isn’t pretty, not in the slightest. I’ll sign off this evening by reprinting the words of the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Jessica Farrar, shortly after the panel approved the measure:

 “Once again, far-right House members in the State Affairs Committee blocked Texans from speaking against a bill that will harm woman across the state.  At midnight, the committee chairman cut off testimony, denying more than a thousand Texans the opportunity to speak out against dangerous legislation that would virtually ban safe and legal abortion statewide.”

“This isn’t the fair democratic process that we value in Texas.  This is politics at its worst”

“The Texas constitution says that the Governor may call a special session “on extraordinary occasions.  If this is such an ‘extraordinary occasion,’ Texans from across the state deserve the opportunity to voice their opinion.”

“On behalf of the women and men in the communities I serve — and those that were silenced tonight — I call on leadership to hold public hearings across the state so Texans can have their voice heard.”