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.

3/14 tidbits

It’s times like these that I’m happy I didn’t follow my friends to UT. The Texas Tribune is reporting that a myriad of bills that, in one way or another, ease the restrictions put upon carrying a loaded firearm on a college campus. The bills will most likely pass the legislature if Senate Democrats don’t put up some special types of obstruction to kill the legislation. I think everyone knows where I stand on such a stupid idea.

In other news, Naomi Gonzalez, an El Paso State Rep, was arrested on DWI charges. For those of y’all who remember, Rep. Gonzalez was the one who got expelled from a County Party meeting for being cordial to a Republican, in an action that I strongly condemned.

In re Marquez

The El Paso Times reported last night that the EPCDP had taken the action to banish State Reps Marisa Marquez and Naomi Gonzalez from the county party after supporting a Republican candidate for the State House of Representatives.

The incident involved State Representative Dee Margo, a Republican fighting a tough fight this November against  Democrat Joe Moody. Margo distributed fliers about a week ago that touted kind words from the women, though the statements stopped short of an explicit endorsement.

Last night, the El Paso County Democratic Party took the unusual action to expel Marquez and Gonzalez from the organization. This will technically not affect their standing as State Democrats. Additionally, Chairman Giberto Hinojosa had some very strong words for the lawmakers. “An absolute aberration”, keeping in tune with the County’s words upon putting the integrity of the State Party in jeopardy.

For my part, I would like to defend these State Representatives. This is not Israel, this is not the United Kingdom, this is the United States of America. Our elections are about people, not parties. This is why we have Primary elections, so people, not party bosses, select the candidates. For pete’s sake, they did not even endorse the candidate, just complimented another member of their delegation!!!

This reminds me of the Republican congressman defeated in primaries by the Tea Party after not identifying President Obama with socialism or terrorism. There is something called common decency. Now, were the actions of Marquez and Gonzalez dumb? Absolutely. But should they warrant expulsion from the party? Absolutely not. That is not, nor should it ever, be what the Democratic Party should stand for.