Gun Day

The Texas House passed some major legislation yesterday. Among these are the good, the fair, the bad, the horrible and the blatantly unconstitutional and possibly treasonous. Okay, maybe not treasonous, at least not yet, but all the other superfluous adjectives. All of these passed by voice vote, so I am not sure what the crossover was on any of these bills, but let me go down the line on them real quick.

First up, the infamous “Campus Carry,” or as I call it, “Guns on Campus.” It sounds meaner. Anyways, it was among the bills that passed, and you can read what it does here. The only differences from the Committee version was that this bill has incorporated a substantial amendment that essentially adds Hegar’s bill from the Senate as a rider (Guns in Cars), as well as changes private schools from “opt-out” to “opt-in.” The “opt-out” that applies to both Public and Private would have to occur every year. Finally, “bio-harzard” zones would be exempt, so Medical Schools (Craig Eiland [D-Galveston] offered up this amendment with regard to UTMB).

Next, the “School Marshall” program. HB 1009, proposed by Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). The bill would essentially create anonymous, well-trained individuals with handguns whose responsibility it would be to protect some school districts, much like the current Air Marshall Program. Officers would require 80 hours of training (in comparison, the CHL is 8). I really like this bill, as I have no problem with letting trained, competent individuals posses deadly weapons.

Next, HB864, proposed by Donna Campbell (R-Bexar). The bill reduces the training time for a CHL from 8 to 6 hours. The problem with this bill is that it keeps loosening our already ultra-soft laws in regard to gun licensing. The point of these tests is that it keeps the psychos away from the deadly force. If you keep reducing requirements, you make that failsafe less and less likely.

HB 485, by Sarah Davis (R-Harris), my Rep, was also passed. The bill would sharply reduce the fee for a CHL to $25, for honorably discharged members of the armed forces or reserve peace officers. Again, I have no problem with this, because honorable discharges and peace officers are usually the type of levelheaded people who can handle a gun. The only drawback is it would decreased the amount of revenue the State raises.

Then, there is the Toth bill. Steve Toth (R-Montgomery)’s bill passed, which “nullifies” federal gun regulations, and a bill by Brandon Creighton (R-Montgomery) that punishes federal officials who try to enforce federal laws. Here’s the problem, the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected “nullification” multiple times (most recently in 1958, Cooper v. Aaron). And arrested a federal official for enforcing federal law might just be a tad bit illegal. As Gene Wu said, it’s called the Supremacy Clause. For a faction of politicians who claim to be such mighty “constitutionalists,” this seems to run pretty counter to their big message

The Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle have more.

Davis on gay marriage

The Dallas Voice has a big article about my State Representative, Sarah Davis. Evidently, this past weekend, as the huge Equality Forward summit was going on in Austin, the Log Cabin Republicans were holding a meeting next door. Their keynote speaker was Representative Davis.

Davis said “It’s not the job of the government to socially engineer society,” as she sharply critiqued her contemporaries in the legislature. She talked about how she believes in limited government, and why this led her to go to odds with her party over social issues, including gay rights and contraception/abortion.

The article stated that Davis “pledged support for gay rights” in the headline, though I could never actually find something that says she explicitly endorses gay marriage. Still, just being okay with being featured prominently in the Dallas Voice is really something for a self-proclaimed Tea Party Republican.

District 134 had always been relatively liberal on these social issues. Ellen Cohen supported gay marriage back when elected Democrats supporting the issue were limited to “Gavin Newsom, Dennis Kucinich and that Governor of New Jersey who went all Brokeback Mountain with his bodyguard,” and Davis’ opponent last year, Ann Johnson, is openly gay herself. Accordingly, Davis is in good company to not be so small-minded on these social issues.

Still, Davis needs to be a little bit more specific about her views, though. She could be the Rob Portman of the State Legislature by announcing her support for gay marriage. It would be a great victory for the gay rights movement, as well as all those who strive for equality and liberty. In a very rare occurrence, I could truly state that I am very proud of my State Representative.

What I think will happen

Keeping in touch with my self-imposed moratorium upon Presidential election coverage, I will not even mention that race (You can see what I had said previous in my post “Cynic“). However, I think this will be a good way for progressives to brace ourselves for what may come next.

Every statewide seat (except Keller’s): SAFE Republican
I think this is a no-brainier here, considering that the Democrats did not even bother to field candidates in some of these races. I really do like Michele Petty and Paul Salder, but this is not going to be a repeat of 2008, and even in 2008 we got our butts kicked.

Court of Criminal Appeals, Position 1: TOSSUP
Keith Hampton, especially in the (unlikely) event of a major Obama victory, could build enough of a coalition between Democrats, Independents, and pragmatic Republicans to victory. Keller is relying on people to simply vote straight Republican, which they probably will.

14th Court of Appeals, 1st Court of Appeals: SAFE Republican
Same logic as the statewide seats.

134th State Representative: LEAN Republican
2012 will not be as good of a year as 2006, which is the last time an incumbent in this district was unseated. Also, Davis is a much more civil campaigner than Martha Wong.

215th District Court: LIKELY Republican
Ken Shortreed is depending upon enough angry Democrats (like me) to vote for him. It will probably push him over the top.

Remaining local judicial races: LEAN Republican
Harris County will probably go red, especially in downballot races.

Sheriff: LEAN Democratic
I think Garcia can put together enough of a coalition with moderate Republicans to avoid defeat. The endorsement of the “C club” didn’t hurt either.

District Attorney: SAFE Republican
Self-explanatory.

Tax Collector: LIKELY Republican
Even in 2008, tax czar and DA went Republican. Additionally, CM Sullivan is a popular incumbent who has attracted quite a few Democrats (even endorsed by the JHV).

County Attorney: TOSSUP
Vince Ryan has some cross-party support, but again the Republican tilt on the election does not help.

City Council, E: LIKELY Martin
Martin has the establishment support from Sullivan, who is still quite popular.

 

Again, Democrats need to donate to Garcia, Ryan, and Hampton–NOT Obama. Obama has enough money, he is out-raising the Koch brothers!

10 most important elections (besides the Presidency)

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. He sets the foreign policy, has tremendous influence over Congress, and can nominate Justices to the Supreme Court. Obviously, the race between President Obama and Governor Romney is much more important than anything else. However, the media already devotes all of its energy to cover this election, so I would like to focus on the 10 most important other elections.

10. Houston City Council, District E
Dave Martin is the widely assumed favorite, but Elizabeth Perez could very well pull an upset. What we have here is not an election between Democrat and Republican, it is an election between an old-guard Republican and the recalcitrant Tea Party. Martin will surely follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, and perhaps also be like Councilmember Pennington. However, Perez would most like imitate the habits of Councilmember Brown. It will be interesting to watch, but I’m not throwing any of my money at it.

9. Washington gay marriage referendum
There are actually four referendums, but Washington’s has the best chance of approval. Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota also have referendums, but I am less optimistic. Especially Minnesota, I think the traditional midwestern social conservative state has been given up on. Maine is a tossup, and Maryland similar. Maryland has a large African-American population which has ranged from tepid to hostile on the issue. However, Washington has a fairly good chance leading into the home stretch. Most importantly, this could finally break the curse of states approving gay marriage bans.

8. United States House of Representatives, Texas’ 14th district
Control of the House is not especially up for grabs this year, but this election will essentially make-or-break Nick Lampson’s career. A second loss in a row would be disastrous and most likely put an end to the former Congressman’s political aspirations, which could be quite valuable for Texas Democrats.

7. Texas House, 134th district
Sarah Davis seems to represent an average Tea Partier, completely inexcusable for my home district. Texas Democrats NEED a solid number over 50 in the delegations, and Ann Johnson will be the way towards that goal.

6. United States Senate, Indiana
The control of the Senate is up for grabs, and every election counts. This seat, held by longtime Senator Dick Lugar, is now open after Lugar was defeated in the GOP primary by an extremist. The Republican, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is now trailing in polls against the Democrat, Congressman Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is a strong candidate who I may even donate some money towards.

5. United States Senate, Massachusetts
I believe this election (Scott Brown vs Elizabeth Warren) is important in more ways than one. Massachusetts, arguably one of the most liberal states in the union, is faced between a very liberal Democrat and a very moderate Republican.

4. United States House of Representatives, Texas’ 23rd district
Again, the House is not up for grabs, but this election is important for another reason. Congressman Canseco and Representative Gallego are competing in the heavily Latino district. A loss by Gallego would be truly embarrassing for a Texas Democratic Party attempting to court Latinos.

3. Harris County Sheriff
Sheriff Adrian Garcia is perhaps Harris County’s best chance of retaining a countywide Democrat. His opponent is a crook, and Garcia has done a fantastic job while in office. This election will answer that question he had on November 3rd, 2010 in Houston. Can it get any worse?

2. United States Senate, North Dakota
The funny thing about the Senate is that no matter how small the state, the Senators hold equal power, so this election is just as important as the one in California or Texas. Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat, is running against Congressman Rick Berg, the Republican. The seat has long been held by Democrat Kent Conrad. Heitkamp CAN WIN, and she will if she can raise enough money to compete against the outside money being funneled in by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. I will surely be donating some money to Ms. Heitkamp and I suggest y’all do the same.

1. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Presiding Justice
Keith Hampton’s campaign against Sharon Keller is almost as important as the Presidential election. Keith Hampton’s campaign against Sharon Keller is almost as important the Presidential election–it is important enough to say twice. Sharon Keller is a travesty to justice and our state. Mr Hampton has been endorsed by quite conservative papers and individuals for a very simple reason: he will restore honour to our highest court.

Also, RIP Arlen Specter. You were a good man in a profession full of wrong-doers.