A few initial thoughts

Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.

In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.

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Sine die, MoFos!

My general thoughts at the moment. The term “83rd Legislature Special Session” is such a taint upon this State, that I am ecstatic to delete it from my memory.

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The Texas Tribune reports that, just after 10PM last night and final passage of the Transportation funding legislation of HB1 and SJR1, the Dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, made the comment “Let’s adjourn this mutha [sic].” These bills passed by bipartisan margins, and earned praise from the Governor for not raising the gas tax. However, as has been pointed out to me, the gas tax hasn’t been raised in about 20 years, and any and all monetary tricks that do not involve raising it will not solve the problem. The Tribune lays out this problem:

“The latest version is estimated to raise $1.2 billion a year for TxDOT, a fraction of the more than $4 billion TxDOT has said it needs in additional annual funding to maintain current congestion levels as the state’s population grows.”

SJR1 ended up finally passing the House 106-21. Unlike last time, the vast majority of the dissenting votes were Democrats. In fact, most of the liberal Democrats (Burnam, Collier, Farrar, etc) voted against the measure. Additionally, the journals finally came out in the Senate and we can see their final roll call on the joint resolution: 22-3, with Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and Charles Schwertner voting nay. I understand, trying to appeal to a Tea Party base in a Statewide primary, why the cupcake cadets voted no, but Schwertner is a mystery.

On HB1, the House passed the bill with only David Simpson objecting and the Senate with only Kel Seliger against.

If you are curious what this bill does, I invite you to consult my prior work on the matter. HB1 is a bill, so Perry still must sign it, but SJR1 is not, and it simply goes directly to referendum. However, as you may recall, it will not go before voters in 2013, but rather in 2014.

As for the 83rd Legislature, it is dunzo. After passing both bills, they adjourned sine die. No more. That’s it. Sayonara. What this means, however, is that all the other issues possibly to be added to the call must wait until the 84th Legislature, due to convene in January of 2015.

What this means for me is that I can now focus, nearly exclusively, on Municipal elections. Of course, there will still be some issues pertaining to the 2014 Primaries, but the Mayoral election will now be sure to heat up. I have been asked multiple times to start making predictions, but I had been holding off until the Legislature adjourned. Well, now that they have adjourned, I guess I have run out of excuses…

Off the Kuff has more.

Lege Update 7/1

At roughly 2PM today, the 83rd Legislature convened for their second Special Session. However, what happened at that time was not the biggest news of the day. Instead, the biggest news was what happened at High Noon at the Capitol. The Stand With Texas Women rally occurred, and saw an astronomical amount of people show up to oppose the draconian measures. I just heard Sen. Leticia Van de Putte on MSNBC say that “Eight thousand” protesters showed up.

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Wow. The Texas Tribune has an entire slideshow full of the festivities that occurred today. The rally included a local Austin band, Bright Light Social Hour, as well as Natalie Maines, a former member of the Dixie Chicks. An actress, Lisa Edelstein, also made an appearance.

Those politicians you would expect to speak also made statements, one by one. Senfronia Thompson, Jessica Farrar, Lon Burnam, Kirk Watson, Leticia Van de Putte and Wendy Davis, to be exact. Cecile Richards also made another appearance, and gave another speech. The rally was a big deal, to say the least.

Then, the House and the Senate gaveled into session. Shortly thereafter, they gaveled out. Until July 9th. This drains the clock on about 25% of the Second Special Session. However, the notion that the legislature adjourned for a week is slightly misleading. This is because, while the full House or the full Senate will be out of session, Committees will be free to operate as needed.

In a little bit of review, let me note that the omnibus abortion regulation bill will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee and the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, respectively. Tomorrow, the House will hear its omnibus abortion regulation bill, HB2, in committee.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that this hearing will take place at 3:30 on Tuesday. However, flying straight in the face of House tradition, Committee Chairman Byron Cook will be cutting off testimony promptly at midnight. As many may remember, Cook has done this once before. Expect the hearing to be messy. Very, very messy.

In other news, broadly related to this ugly legislation, Texas Leftist has an awesome piece on how the Democrats were able to expose the Republicans’ extremism and hypocrisy on the subject.

Legislative update 5/3

I’d like to apologize for my lacking activity in the last few days, it’s finals week. I’ll be done on Monday evening, and will be heading back to Houston on Wednesday morning for nearly four months. My day job this summer will be at the Federal Courthouse downtown, but I can’t go into any more detail than that. I will probably visit Austin 2-3 times in the next couple weeks, though.

Texas Energy Resources Commission
I talked at length a few days ago about a House bill that would, among other things, rename the Railroad Commission to something more relevant to what they actually do. That bill being highlighted was, from what I understand, a House bill, but it has recently passed the Senate **UPDATE: House Committee passed the original legislation as well**. The Trib reports that SB 212, proposed by Senator Robert Nichols, has passed unanimously. The Tribune says it was a “21-0” vote, but it was actually 31-0, hence the unanimity. The new name will be the “Texas Energy Resources Commission.”

Protecting Good Samaritans and victims
The Trib reports that Lon Burnam’s HB  3738 has passed committee. The bill would prohibit police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of either victims of crimes, or witnesses thereto. The online thing-a-ma-bobber doesn’t do roll calls for committee votes, but the number was 8-4-1. The Committee consists of 8 Republicans and Five Democrats. Rene Oliveira has made MIA from the House recently, and he is a member of the committee. Therefore, it looks like four of the Republicans voted for this measure. Good for them.

Hit and run
I discussed a few weeks ago that Senator Watson’s hit-and-run punishment bill had passed the Senate. Now, according to the Statesman, it has done so in the House of Representatives. HB 72 by Allen Fletcher was unanimous and increases the penalty of a hit-and-run to the same level as intoxication manslaughter. The bill is now sent to Perry, and, if he signs it, it would become law immediately.

Statewide texting ban passes House

I got the news first hand on this one (from Rep. Gene Wu), but the Tribune has a full story on it, so I suppose you check that out too.

The State House has passed a statewide texting-while-driving ban by insufficient margins. 98-47, to be clear; a few votes shy of the supermajority required to overcome Governor Perry’s promised veto. HB63, Tom Craddick’s bill, was split along rather unorthodox lines.

Lots of Democrats voted against the measure (there is some discussion on this in greater detail below). The chief Democratic opponent was Harold Dutton. Dutton feared the law would allow for widespread racial profiling by the police under the guise of pulling someone over for violating this rule. His amendments would make the violation a secondary offense, and it was defeated.

The Tribune mentions two successful amendments. The first prohibits police officers from confiscating one’s mobile phone and the second prevents the seizure of cell-records without a warrant. No word on who proposed these or what the roll call was. I could figure it out, but I just don’t find it very important.

Finally, this bill would overrule and pre-empt local measures, including those stronger than the statewide proposal. Joe Pickett successfully got an amendment in that would exempt El Paso, which has a total cell-use ban, from the statewide proposal, which provides exceptions for “looking up numbers” and using a GPS or other map system. The bill now heads to the Senate, which, to my knowledge, still hasn’t passed this out of committee.

Part II
The roll call vote was 98-47. Of the 98 in support, 43 were Democrats and 55 were Republicans. Of the 47 in opposition, 10 were Democrats and 37 were Republicans. 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans were absent (one of them, Ryan Guillen [D-Rio Grande City], was a big proponent but his wife went into labor), and, of course, the Speaker does not vote.

The 10 Democrats voting against the bill were Lon Burnam (Fort Worth), Terry Canales (Brownsville), Joe Deshotel (Port Arthur), Harold Dutton (Houston), Naomi Gonzalez (El Paso), Roland Gutierrez (San Antonio), Eric Johnson (Dallas), Borris Miles (Houston), Senfronia Thompson (Houston) and Hubert Vo (Houston). I will most definitely remember them next year.

This actually means that the Texting ban isn’t quite as dead as we figured it to be. If Guillen is present at the next vote, the number is at 99. The other Democrat missing was Rene Oliveira (Brownsville), who is recovering from an automobile accident. The options for getting the one more vote is to get Oliveira there (assuming he is a supporter), or trying to peel off at least one Democratic holdout. My money is on Burnam, for what it’s worth.

It is worth nothing that just because all but one of the 10 Democratic holdouts is a racial minority, doesn’t mean that African-Americans or Hispanics are any less supportive of this measure. That is just the typical makeup of the House Democratic Caucus nowadays.