To put it mildly, the redistricting process in Texas is never smooth. But this time around it seems exceptionally bumpy. In particular Texas has four new Congressional districts, and how those districts are drawn could determine whether the GOP keeps control of the House after the 2012 election. Important stuff.
One reason that things are different this time around is that this is the first time since 1960 – before the enactment of the Voting Right Act – that there’s been a Democrat in the White House and therefore a Democratic Justice Department. Which means that for the first time, in a long time, Republicans have to deal with an unfriendly, (to their partisan interests), Justice Department. If they assumed that their current plans would be treated like those in years before, that was a miscalculation. And likely a reason for the exceptional bumpy-ness.
But redistricting is the height of politics. This is about power, partisanship, and survival. Why would a sitting President just sit by and let the opposition party get away with a redistricting plan that looks to have serious legal issues, and puts his party at a disadvantage? And conversely, why wouldn’t the other party try and enact a redistricting plan that is most beneficial to their side? Both sides have much at stake and what’s going on now is how our current system works.
The extremely condensed version of what’s happened is that the Congressional, state Senate and House plans passed by the legislature have not held-up under legal scrutiny. This caused a Federal Court in San Antonio to draw interim maps for each, which the State of Texas challenged, and is now before the US Supreme Court, (Oral argument scheduled for January 9th). There is also going to be a trial, starting January 17th, on whether or not these plans pass preclearance, (Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), Preclearance: How Texas compares with other states. And because of the way this process has played-out, Texas currently has no legal Congressional, state Senate or House districts.
All of this has caused the 2012 primary in Texas to be moved from March to April, and has reset the entire election year calendar. (There will be one more candidate filing period, starting in late January and ending on February 1st). This is also causing problems at the county level. Counties may need time to redraw their precinct lines, issue voter registration certificates, etc.., once the other lines are set for the 2012 election, County associations ask for a handful of changes to election schedule. There is, literally, a domino effect to the redistricting process.
But underlying all of this is a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, aka preclearance. It’s possible that the Texas legislature passed such extreme redistricting plans, and a Voter ID bill, just to bring about judicial challenges to the law. Here’s a short synopsis of Section 5:
Section 5 of the Act requires that the United States Department of Justice, through an administrative procedure, or a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, through a declaratory judgment action “preclear” any attempt to change “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting…” in any “covered jurisdiction.”
There was a recent challenge to Section 5 and the law came out mostly unscathed, SCOTUS decision on NAMUDNO, Section 5 – everybody wins. Another challenge to Section 5 is likely come when Texas’ Voter ID law, like that of South Carolina’s law, is not allowed to proceed. With Section 5 out of the way it would be much harder to keep voting laws that restrict voting rights and fairness from being enacted.
Redistricting in Texas will certainly keep the next few months interesting for those who like this kind of political wrangling. Be sure and keep an eye on the Texas Redistricting site for all the latest news.
DOJ files amicus brief in favor of interim maps.
Interesting discussion in the comments regarding Section 5 here, Will the Texas Voter I.D. law survive?
Yesterday GOP Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released his Interim Charges for the 82nd Legislature. Generally speaking these constitute the list of issues – with suggestions from House members – the Speaker deems important enough to study, and will likely be major issues, in the next legislative session.
Robert T. Garrett at the DMN has a good analysis of the charges, The mind of Straus: Manufactured efficiency.
Reading his “interim charges” to House panels…it’s hard not to get the impression that Straus is looking for a path through the state’s continuing fiscal thicket that acknowledges the serious political limitations the tea party has imposed on raising revenues. So while he’s put on the table revamping the business “margins” tax and reconsidering tax exemptions, Straus has asked every committee to think of ways to promote manufacturing — which obviously helps generate margins tax and sales tax receipts, as well as local property taxes — and “to increase transparency, accountability and efficiency in state government.”
True, the latter is an old chestnut on such occasions, especially for Republicans.
In his assignments, Straus takes note of Texas’ record drought and the scary prospect of water shortages. And he makes several nods at other longstanding problems, such as mental illness, hunger, homelessness, foster care and shortages of primary health care providers in many areas. But what stands out are his emphasis on pragmatic tinkering with state services that touch middle class voters — two year colleges, driver’s licenses — and his willingness to bring sunshine to what some have criticized as the capital’s “pay to play” atmosphere under Perry. On manufacturing, Straus even has a study assignment about the auto industry, perhaps reflecting San Antonio’s luring of a Toyota pickup truck plant in recent years. [Emphasis added]
What stood out to wasn’t so much what was in the charges but what wasn’t. There is no mention of how to deal with state’s structural budget deficit. There’s is no serious attempt at dealing with the neglect of our transportation infrastructure. There’s no mention of dealing with our broken school finance system, an obvious punt to letting the courts handle it. There was no mention of studying how to ease skyrocketing homeowners insurance rates. Nothing about the uninsured. And nothing about addressing the plight of labor and wage/income inequality in Texas.
As Garrett’s analysis points out, it looks like Straus has decided to keep these charges very “vanilla” and non-confrontational so as to placate the tea party and keep any serious challenge to his rule at bay. What this should tell every Texan is that unless there is a change in leadership in our state all we can expect is more of the same. A government that is more concerned with placating their wealthy campaign donors and the far right of the GOP primary electorate, then they are with trying to find solutions to Texas’ most pressing problems.
This is not a surprise, those who paid attention during the budget debate this year knew it was going to happen, Budget expert: Texas will have $7 billion surplus in 2013.
Texas will have $7 billion in its main reserve fund by January 2013, the state’s chief revenue estimator told lawmakers Wednesday, a projection deemed overly pessimistic by a senior Republican legislator.
The so-called rainy-day fund, financed by taxes on oil and gas production, will reach $6.1 billion by December and should rise by about $1 billion next year, based on stable energy prices, John Heleman, the estimator for Comptroller Susan Combs, a Republican, told the House Ways and Means Committee. The reserve has exceeded $4 billion since 2008, he said.
“That $7 billion estimate sounds lower than I expected, given how robust oil and gas has been,” state Rep. Harvey Hildebran, R-Kerrville, said after the meeting. “I’ve been thinking that it will be $10 billion on the optimistic side and maybe $7 billion on the pessimistic side.”
Legislators closed a budget deficit for the two years that began this month by cutting expenses, shortchanging schools and pushing some Medicaid spending into fiscal 2013. The actions adhered to Gov. Rick Perry’s pledge to avoid raising taxes and limit using the reserve fund for the current spending plan. [Emphasis added]
More than $4 billion of reserves are likely to be used in 2013 to cover expenses for Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, Hildebran said. The Legislature, which isn’t scheduled to meet again until January 2013, didn’t provide for about $4.8 billion in Medicaid costs in the two-year budget passed in June.
What most Texans who don’t pay attention to the budget process need to know is that the Comptroller’s revenue estimate for the coming biennium is an educated guess, at best. But more likely is an exercise in putting forward a political, or ideological, agenda. Without a low estimate the GOP wouldn’t have been able to cut programs that are liked and needed by poor, working, and middle class Texans.
In the budget process for 2012-2013 the Comptroller, we are now finding out, made a low estimate. That low estimate allowed the GOP dominated legislature to put through some of their long held ideological dreams. Gutting public education, the social safety net, women’s health services, to name a few. During the session the Comptroller even revised the estimate higher.
Back during the 82nd regular session legislators were struggling to get through the budget process, the House and Senate were haggling over $8 billion. Now we find out we have a $7 billion surplus. Think about how much different the budget process would have been had there been $7 billion more in the revenue estimate back in May. Think about what wouldn’t have been cut. The elected leaders of the GOP in Texas saw the economic situation in Texas as an opportunity, and they used it to enact their ideological agenda.
Despite what retiring Sen. Steve Ogden says it was the wrong thing to do.
Will a lawsuit resolve revenue problem?
“Flattish”, that is the word used by a member of Texas Comptroller Susan Combs staff used at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday, State revenues through August will be ‘flattish,’ official says.
Some experts say Texas tax revenues must zoom far above forecasts, if we’re to escape another miserable budget session in 2013. But the state’s leading forecaster on Wednesday offered little hope that will happen.
“The year of ’12 is not going to be a great recovery year,” John Heleman, chief revenue estimator for the Texas comptroller’s office, testified at the House Ways and Means Committee. He was referring to the fiscal year that began this month and ends Aug. 31, while answering a question from Kerrville GOP Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, the panel’s chairman.
“It’s still going to be flattish [and] soft,” Heleman said.
That could mean, if you check out the bottom half of this post I had earlier this month, that we’re sailing into fiscal headwinds in trying to keep up with the education, health care and transportation needs of a growing state. True, as Hilderbran pointed out, recent revenue numbers have looked good. Final but unofficial figures for fiscal 2011 show sales tax receipts increased by 9.4 percent over the previous year, which was — in a word — ugly. Fiscal 2010 included December 2009, which “marked the low point in Texas employment” during the Great Recession, Heleman said in a written presentation. In the just-ended fiscal year, Texas consumers and diners spent about 5.5 percent more on retail and restaurant purchases, he testified. The reason overall sales tax receipts leapt by 9.4 percent was “supercharging” from a burst of oil and gas drilling activity, some decent manufacturing growth and a bit of an uptick in at least parts of the construction industry, said Heleman. [Emphasis added]
This fiscal year, though, he sees “probably a little bit less than” 5.5 percent growth in retail and restaurant sales. As for the energy exploration and production sector’s purchasing, “it’s actually just going to flatten out — at higher levels,” he said. But that won’t grow, in percentage terms, the way it did last year.
In other words the Texas economy is doing better then it did in 2010, but it’s still nowhere near where it was before our current economic woes started, or where it needs to be to keep from a replay on 2011 in 2013. Texas budget director to quit in April, before next flood of red ink.
In the 2013 session, the budget gap may very well turn out to be as large. The economy’s recovery is slow, and lawmakers this year exhausted many of the available, one-time-only fiscal remedies — such as delaying state payments and speeding up tax collections. They also punted a $4.8 billion Medicaid IOU to next session. Yes, this time they could do that because they left about $6 billion in the rainy day fund. But next time? Probably a non-starter.
If revenue doesn’t run well ahead of forecasts for the next two years, and keep growing strongly for the two years after that, then “2013 will pretty much be a re-run of the 2011 revenue shortfall – with a 24 percent gap, instead of 27 percent,” said Eva DeLuna Castro, budget expert at the center-left Austin think tank the Center for Public Policy Priorities. That’s “back of the envelope,” but still pretty alarming, she said. [Empahsis added]
The Texas economy also isn’t close to where it needs to be to keep up with the state’s population growth, and Texas still has a record high unemployment rate.
Jason Embry in his latest column gives the details of a recent report released by Comptroller Susan Combs which shows, Budget trickery worsens in shortfall year.
In a report released this week, Comptroller Susan Combs illustrates the trickery that legislators and Gov. Rick Perry used to get there. That’s because lawmakers assess fees under the guise that they will be used for a specific purpose — to help low-income residents pay electric bills, for instance — but then leave much of that money unspent to balance the state budget.
Combs’ report shows the problem is getting worse. The state will leave $4.9 billion unspent in its dedicated accounts over the next two years, up from about $4.1 billion in the previous budget.
The unspent balances include $851 million that comes from fees on electric customers and is supposed to help low-income Texans defray their utility costs, $654 million meant to improve air quality and $388 million in an account for improving trauma facilities and emergency medical services. Technically, these dollars don’t get spent on other programs. But by sitting there unspent, they allow the state to show on paper that it has enough money to pay for the amount it budgets for education, health care and other high-cost programs. [Emphasis added]
So at least for now, the Combs report reminds us of the game state leaders play when they write a budget. And this isn’t the only game. Lawmakers intentionally left the state Medicaid program underfunded by about $5 bil?lion over the next two years, severely weakening claims that the state has $7 billion sitting in its rainy day fund. Lawmakers will either have to spend most of the rainy day money to keep the Medicaid program operating in early 2013 or pray that the Texas economy performs considerably better than projected over the next two years so that revenue from current taxes will increase.
Our governor is running for president, and our lieutenant governor is running for the U.S. Senate — and both will count the state’s balanced, no-new-taxes budget among their successes. Just remember that they used a few multibillion-?dollar tricks to get there.
See the Comptrollers report here. Here’s the section of Texas Government Code that allows this, Sec. 403.095. USE OF DEDICATED REVENUE. It looks like this nearly $5 billion of taxes collected for specific uses – helping the elderly with their electic bills in the hot Summer months, clean air, and funding for trauma centers – has been set aside instead to keep the GOP from having to raise taxes on their wealthy donors, and allow them to mendaciously states that they “protected” the Rainy Day Fund.
In other words all the recent praising of retiring state legislators that have such awesome budget prowess was bunk. All The Lege did this year was move money from one account to another, and are hoping the economy recovers before the bills come due – which looks extremely unlikely. But they don’t really care because they’ll likely be gone and it will be someone else’s problem.
State Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) tries his hand at false equivalency with his lame attempt to blame “both parties” for his inability to meet his goals during the last legislative session. Via The Eagle, Sen. Ogden rails ‘politics of ambition’.
State Sen. Steve Ogden, a powerful Bryan Republican, blasted both parties Wednesday and what he called “the politics of ambition” to explain failures of the last Texas Legislature.
Ogden told a group of some 350 at a luncheon in College Station that he had four goals for the session: To balance the budget and to fix school finance, the state’s business tax and Medicaid.
Only the first of the goals was accomplished, he said.
“Politics, more than I’ve ever seen it, dominated the last session,” said Ogden, a longtime legislator who served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Those are some very ambitious and elitist remarks from such a wealthy state Senator. As has been noted before Ogden, (and much of the Texas media) likes to portray him, incorrect though it may be, as a fair arbiter of all things budget related in Texas. Ogden goes on to say this about why he failed to get three of his four goals accomplished.
Republicans carried a 19-to-12 majority in the Senate, but because bills needed 21 votes to get to the floor, Ogden said, Democrats often blocked the process.
Democrats “decided their best political strategy was not to play,” Ogden said. “They thought, ‘The budget was so tight and the decisions were so tough that maybe we ought to just blame the Republicans, and … always vote no.’” [Emphasis added]
A dynamic in play for incumbents from both parties was the fear of primary opponents. Compromise and moving to the center is increasingly dangerous when your mind is on fending off primary challenges, which tend to attract the party’s most liberal and conservative voters, Ogden said.
“Primary politics is beginning to divide your Legislature into the most liberal and the most conservative,” Ogden said, “and there’s not a lot of room, at least in the last session, for mediation.”
Ogden called the debate regarding the state’s Rainy Day Fund, a pool of around
$9 billion set aside for tough times, “pretty maddening.” The state spent $3.2 billion, and used accounting tricks to avoid using more of it, Ogden said.
“It became just sort of an article of faith that you can’t spend the Rainy Day Fund,” Ogden said. “We ended up spending [part of] it without admitting it. And I was telling one of my fellow senators, ‘This is all BS. This is just politics.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Well, that’s what we do.’”
Of course Ogden left quite a bit out of his speech. The highlighted part is completely false, and Ogden knows it. In particular the fact that he had two Democrats voting with him (and GOP state Sen. Dan Patrick against) on the budget in committee, and they would have stayed with him on the floor. Then the extreme right-wing GOP outside groups got to his party, Dewhurst flip-flopped on the rainy day money, Ogden “folded like a pair of deuces”, and the bipartisan agreement disintegrated. But in Ogden’s mind, the Democrats forced all of this because of the 2/3rds rule in the Senate?!
The fact that the GOP controls every branch of government in Texas and never seriously tried to compromise with Democrats on anything, beyond him in the Senate Finance Committee, means blame for what was or wasn’t accomplished last session lies solely with Ogden’s party – the GOP-led legislature in Texas.
Since the creation of the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, that money was used in tough economic times. In fact that’s exactly why it was created to stabilize and unstable budget situation. The extremists on the right decided not this time, and caused the problems that Ogden is trying to falsely blame on both sides. The GOP holds all the power, the Democrats none, the GOP deserves all the blame, and nothing Ogden says will change that.
A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
Mark Twain, (attributed)
US humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit (1835 – 1910)
Members of the Texas GOP are trying to say that they didn’t cut education spending, that is a lie. Here are the details via the Legislative Study Group.
Two of our LSG Members, Rep. Sylvester Turner and Rep. Donna Howard, published op-eds this week that continue our collective efforts to tell the truth about public education funding in Texas.
For over a month, there have been some who have falsely claimed that Texas increased funding for public education during the recently completed legislative sessions. That could not be further from the truth. As you will recall, at the end of the Regular Session, we released a policy primer about how the budget cut education funding for Texas children. You can read our primer at the link below:
LSG Analysis on Education Funding in the Budget
Rep. Sylvester Turner – in his op-ed titled “Claim of a state increase in school spending is false” – makes the case again. Rep. Turner is well-placed, as Vice-Chair of Appropriations, to know what is truth and what is myth. Our concerns are that if the state continues to use Enron-style accounting to fund our public schools, it will one day all fall apart. As Rep. Turner wrote:
How can state leaders make such claims if the statements aren’t true? Simple. They use the propagandists’ technique of cherry-picking a true bit of information and putting it into a context where the result proves a false statement.
Rep. Donna Howard – in her op-ed titled “How wet do you have to get before you realize it’s raining?” – emphasizes how important her Rainy Day Fund amendment was for our state. Rep. Howard’s amendment, which was ultimately stripped from Senate Bill 2 in the Special Session, would have ensured any new money that came into the Rainy Day Fund went to fund enrollment growth for our public schools. As Rep. Howard wrote:
We have a severe budget shortfall, a growing student population and a fund that remains “unspent” though it’s been accounted for o balance our budget. And rather than seize the opportunity to come together in a rational approach using surplus funds to minimize cuts to our schools, the Conference Committee chose to strip my amendment from SB 2. Regardless of Perry’s spin of the “facts,” without sufficiently investing in an educated workforce pipeline, we stand to lose our pro-business reputation, not to mention risk our future economic prosperity. And when teachers are let go, programs are cut, and class sizes increase, the public will know the consequences of the whole truth.
We have included their op-eds, in full, below. The LSG and its Members will continue to tell the truth about cuts to public education funding in the months to come. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
Click here to read both Op-Eds in full.
The House adjourned “Sine Die” today which ends “the worst legislature that the Capitol has seen in forty years“. All of today’s pseudo righteous indignation and talk of injustice over a bull shit issue like TSA pat-downs was enough to make any Texan sick! This GOP led state government of ours has done some serious long-term damage to Texas. Here’s the text of a press release from Chair of the Texas Democratic Party Boyd Richie.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie issued the following statement on the conclusion of the Texas legislative special session:
“After meeting for 170 days, the Republican-led 82nd Texas legislature adjourned without solving the most critical problems facing Texans. Instead of adequately funding our children’s schools or correcting a revenue system that will lead to future deficits and shortfalls, the regular and special sessions were dominated by ‘red meat’ partisan wedge issues that divide Texans at a time when we should be working together to secure our future.
“The misguided GOP agenda was dictated by the political ambitions of Rick Perry and David Dewhurst. Their insistence on appealing to the most extreme Republican Primary voters as they run for President and U.S. Senate caused the real issues facing our state to be kicked down the road to fester for another two years.
“The consequences of this session will impact Texans for the next two years – but hopefully not for generations. Texas Democrats will force the Republican politicians who failed to stand up for our values to be accountable for the harm they inflicted on our state.”
As a result of GOP partisanship, the lowlights this legislative session include:
- The two year “deficit budget” will result in at least $17-18 billion in debt and deferrals being passed on to next legislature.
- For the first time in 62 years, state education funding was cut below the level needed to provide for projected school enrollment, with cuts totaling $5.3 billion.
- Teacher salaries, already below the national average, were cut further, making it more difficult to keep the best teachers in the classroom.
- Almost $5 billion in Medicaid funding was deferred to the next legislature, part of a dangerous health care agenda which could also threaten Medicare, nursing home care for seniors and basic health care for children.
- An anti-Hispanic agenda persisted through the regular session and into the special session, including so-called “sanctuary cities” legislation, voter ID and eliminating grants for pre-K and college grants for incoming freshmen.
- Drastic health care cuts will reduce access to prenatal care and basic health care for millions of Texas women, while the GOP legislature placed a higher priority on requiring sonograms of women who make a difficult personal choice.
- An anti-consumer agenda made it more difficult for Texans to seek justice in the court system.
Of course many in the GOP are trying to spin this as a productive session. But state Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) is having none of it, Claim of a state increase in school spending is false.
Some of the leaders in our Texas Legislature are making the claim that the state budget expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Perry will give $1.6 billion to $3 billion more to our public schools than the previous budget.
It’s simply not true.
In fact, the Legislature’s own “fiscal note,” which analyzes the financial impact of legislation, says that there is a “savings to the state” — meaning a reduction in aid to school districts – of $4 billion over the next two years. And some are proposing that those cuts be extended for three years after that – a total cut of $10 billion from our public schools.
So how can state leaders make such claims if the statements aren’t true? Simple. They use the propagandists’ technique of cherry-picking a true bit of information and putting it into a context where the result proves a false statement.
Here is how they did it.
Click here to read how they did it. Also anyone willing to continue the hard work of turning this around be sure and check out the “Save Texas Schools” Statewide Conference in July.
While there’s likely to be many things in the coming weeks and months meant to distract us from what we need to focus on, we can’t be distracted. That is exactly what the GOP legislators that voted for this budget and the many companion pieces of legislation are counting on. They’ve made life harder for ever poor, working and middle class Texans and families. They’re counting on the fact that we will have to work harder to stay afloat, that we will not have the time to concentrate on working to defeat them in 2012. We must use the next 16 plus months to prove them wrong. If not it will be much worse next time.
As the Lege descended into chaos yesterday it was impossible not to be notice the absence of leadership that exists in our state. As the special session Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry called drew to a close, where the Governor (California dreamin’)? Again he’s off galavanting around the country. And it’s as if Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus don’t even talk anymore, as the Senate adjourned “Sine Die” without waiting for the House to get all it’s ducks-in-a-row, as is customary. The reason that custom exists is to protect against something like this, which causes “feelings” to get hurt.
The Senate has adjourned Sine Die, leaving the burden of the TSA “anti-groping” bill in the House’s lap. That leaves the House with one very unlikely option: Putting the wheels in motion to fast-track the Senate’s version of the bill.
The Senate has put the House in a “take it or leave it” position, said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. Branch said both the governor and House Speaker Joe Straus asked the Senate not to adjourn, and also to pass the House’s non-binding resolution in the event a full bill couldn’t get passed.
The Senate’s move was “not very respectful,” Branch said. “This is a bicameral system of government that takes two chambers to pass law… We’ve had time tonight and tomorrow to finish the peoples’ business. Apparently they were in a hurry to get out of town.”
What that did was force the hand of the GOP Texas House on one of the biggest non-issues of the special session. The issue Speaker Straus called a stunt on Friday, Texas bill on TSA pat-downs facing final showdown today.
After surviving a progression of near-death experiences, a controversial bill to ban intrusive searches by federal airport security officers faces a final showdown today, the last day of the special session.
House members will consider the bill in what is make-or-break time for Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. The two conservative Republicans have waged a vigorous effort to push the measure into law and concede that today’s vote is their last opportunity.
Simpson can pass the bill with a simple majority of the 150-member House but he needs a four-fifths vote — 120 members — to suspend the rules and bring the measure up for consideration on the final day. He cleared one hurdle Tuesday when the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted 7-1 to advance the bill to the House floor.
House Speaker Joe Straus earlier denounced the bill as a “publicity stunt” but dropped his resistance to the measure after the House gave preliminary approval to a bill substantially retooled by Simpson. The measure that will be up for a vote today is Patrick’s Senate-passed measure, which he described as “significantly stronger” than the House bill.
Watching the debate it was Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman [Updated w/Coleman's statement] that pointed out Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s mistake of making this a political issue, which it wasn’t previously, by making this statement.
With the passage of SB 29, the Texas Legislature is not only telling the TSA to change their policies ? we’re telling the Obama Administration we will not be intimidated and we will vigorously defend our Constitutional rights.”
Dewhurst’s attempt at placating the tea party, by making that partisan political statement, will likely make it impossible to get the needed Democratic support to pass the bill. Which is a non-issue because if it was passed it would not change a thing.
Now on to the legislation that had to pass yesterday to keep Gov. Perry from calling another special session. No, not TWIA, which everyone thought would be the problem, it wound up sailing through both chambers without issue. Turns out the problem was with the bill that really had to pass to balance the budget, SB 1, the bill that cuts $4 billion plus from public education.
We may never know why this actually happened, it could be the House wing-nuts were sending a message to Straus, but the initial vote on SB 1 made it look as those Straus, and his team, just assumed it would pass and didn’t even count votes before the vote was taken. Which is taught on the first day of Legislative Leadership 101 – never take a vote unless you already know the outcome. House votes down school finance and revenue raising bill.
The Texas House, in a surprise turn of events late Tuesday afternoon, tentatively voted down a must-pass bill that distributes the pain of school-funding cuts and uses accounting tricks to help balance the two-year state budget.
The 79-64 vote against the bill saw 32 House Republicans, including a few key members of Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team, defect. They cast a “nay” vote that, unless reconsidered and reversed, could force the Legislature into another special session. The Senate adjourned for good earlier in the afternoon.
House Republicans immediately went into a caucus to try to sort out the mess.
Among the “nays” were State Affairs Committee chief Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who complained bitterly in a floor speech that the bill cravenly caved to Gov. Rick Perry’s desire to protect the Department of Information Resources and also placed on financially strapped rural counties an unfunded mandate that they audit court fee collections. [Emphasis added]
Other Straus allies who opposed the bill were Redistricting Committee head Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton ; Ways and Means leader Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville; and Sunset Advisory Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.
The excuse given was that a right wing think tank had concerns about the bill, and then those concerns were allayed during a GOP caucus meeting, after which a re-vote of the bill was taken and it passed, GOP caucus enacts school cuts.
The special legislative session nearly collapsed into disarray Tuesday when the Senate went home early and the House initially killed a must-pass school finance bill.
But after first rejecting legislation imposing a $4 billion cut on public schools, House Republican leaders immediately called a caucus meeting and persuaded 16 colleagues to change their votes, salvaging the final hours of the special session, which ends today.
After voting against the bill, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, asked for another vote, explaining to his colleagues that misunderstandings over the bill had been cleared up.
“Our understanding of the bill has changed,” King explained.
House Democratic leader Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, joked that a few of her GOP colleagues suffered broken kneecaps after a 79-64 vote against the must-pass Senate Bill 1 miraculously turned into an 80-57 vote for it.
Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, said he initially voted against SB 1 because “we did not fix the school formula funding.
“I have been hearing from my school districts and decided I wanted to call attention to that fact,” he said. “I asked the Speaker if he would appoint an interim committee to study school formula funding and he said yes. So I said I’ll change my vote. If we get to draw attention to the problem and elevate awareness, I think I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Other members said they also took into account concerns raised by the conservative Eagle Forum, which urged a “no” vote on SB 1 because they feared it included language that would broaden charter schools’ access to public school construction dollars.
In particular, they voiced concern about Harmony charter schools because they were founded by a Turkish-Muslim group. They changed their vote after the Texas House General Investigating Committee agreed to look into the issue, lawmakers said.
Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said she voted against the bill because it failed to fix inequities in school funding.
“Cy-Fair is one of my larger school districts and I’ve been telling them for the last three sessions that I’ve been here that we were going to address the inequities in school funding,” she said. “This bill doesn’t do it.”
The Texas Eagle Forum is an off-shoot of the wing-nut ’60′s movement conservative Phyllis Schlafly, that apparently holds more power over GOP members of the Texas House then Speaker Straus does.
It’s clear from these decisions that whether it’s Perry, Dewhurst, of Straus their biggest concern is a fringe vocal minority that show up to vote on a regular basis in the GOP primaries – protection for their next election. They care more about them then they do about the majority of Texans and their families. This is what happens when fools rule.
Kuff posts on yesterday’s action at the Lege, Fiscal and health care bills pass. The worst part being that again the Texas GOP showed their willingness to defund public education.
One provision that didn’t make in the final version of SB 2 was an amendment from Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, that called for $2 billion from the rainy day fund for schools if the fund brings in more than expected.“A choice was made when we had money in the bank to say: ‘No, we’re not going to appropriate any more here to our schools’,” Howard said. “We’re going to leave billions in the bank when we’re asking our schools to cut.”
Ogden said the Howard amendment had promise with some modifications, but the House members wanted it gone.
“They were for it and then they were against it,” Ogden said.
Yes, after they were reminded by the people who hate public education that they need to hate it, too. That’s the choice they made, and the voters need to be reminded about it every day between now and next November.
Regarding the health care bill there are significant issues, Texas health care bill with Medicare, abortion provisions goes to Rick Perry.
[Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound,] said the measures would help tackle “unsustainable growth in our health and human services budget.” The Senate approved the bill 22-8 and the House 96-48.
Democrats objected to GOP leaders’ decision to attach to the bill two separate measures sought by conservative activists wanting to curb federal power. Under a “health care compact” proposal and a “global waiver” plan for Medicaid, state officials could seek freedom to use federal health dollars under Medicaid to nudge the needy into private health insurance with taxpayer subsidies.
The proposed interstate compact, if approved by Congress, could let Texas also take over the management of elderly residents’ federal Medicare benefits, though Zerwas played down that possibility.
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said the state budget assumes Texas will be freed from Medicaid rules on eligibility and benefits and will save $700 million over the next two years. He called that folly, given state officials’ hostility toward President Barack Obama’s administration.
Zerwas did not argue, saying that “these are some tense times.”
The bill also would deny $34 million to Planned Parenthood from family planning grants, curb abortions at public hospitals and promote use of adult stem cells from the patient’s own body in new medical treatments. Abortion opponents were thrilled, while women’s health advocates warned that family planning cuts would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.
Kuff has more on the state of this legislation.
A lot of what was in this bill was in similar legislation from the regular session. As it happens, on the same day this happened, the state of Indiana got swatted down by a federal judge for trying to legislatively de-fund Planned Parenthood. I don’t know enough about what either state has done to know how comparable the two situations are, but earlier this month Texas got some pushback from the feds over this, so there’s clearly some parallel. I feel confident there will be litigation here as well. The Trib has more on the legislation, and Jason Stanford has a righteous rant on what it does.
As a reminder of how fruitless it is for any Democrat to attempt to work with the Texas GOP, here’s a cautionary tale from state Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, A senator needs a dicho.
“Just today, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst called on House Republicans to exercise their majority strength and push sanctuary cities through the process. But the House Republican leadership is looking to justify their futility, and one small piece of that would come via the removal of a Senate Hispanic’s amendment.
“I voted to increase funding for border security in S.B. 2. I represent a border district with more skin in border security than, say, a state representative from Tarrant County. For me and my constituents, border security is more than political theater and food for my political base. For us, border security is a daily reality, and the policy implications a necessity for continued investment in our economy, our communities, and our families.
“The brand of Republicanism promoted by the Texas House leadership has and will continue to alienate a Hispanic community that is pro-family, pro-education (and soon-to-be majority in the public education system), and proud Americans. We are veterans, teachers, soldiers, university system chancellors, star athletes, mayors, mothers and sons, deserving of equal protection under the law.
“The truth of an issue is best appreciated in the context of the response it provokes. Sanctuary cities profiles Hispanics based on appearance – skin color, dress, and other perceived ‘un-American qualities.’ The response from House Republican leaders? ‘Block the Hispanic Senator’s local amendment – that will show him.’
“Show us it does. Their true nature.”
The TexasTrib has the list of what’s done, and to do, in the next two days, The Final Push: A Special Session Update. It looks like most of the GOP’s energy will be spent trying to satisfy the base, by voting on non-issues like the s-called “sanctuary cities” legislation, without damaging their party too much in 2012 by actually passing the legislation. Even though the damage may already be done, Hispanics notice when they are being bashed.
Led by the legislative actions of Arizona state officials, Gov. Rick Perry has taken the lead in enacting similar imprudent laws here in Texas.
Specifically, he and the Texas legislature are pushing bills that are negatively aimed at Hispanic citizens. Three dubious bills are as follows: (l) Voter ID Bill, (the 21st Century equivalent to the Poll Tax); (2) Redistricting Bill, (an old trick to gerrymander voting districts to diminish the Hispanic vote); and (3) Sanctuary Cities Bill, (an offensive mandate to intimidate and question the citizenship of loyal Texas citizens that look Mexican and/or speak Spanish).
To be sure, laws are necessary in society and are meant to keep citizens safe and secure. However, oftentimes they have been used in U.S. history to terrorize citizens, not to protect them. For example, Jim Crow laws were officially enacted in the U.S. to deny equal rights to Black citizens. Those abhorrent laws remained on the books from the end of the Civil War to 1965.
Likewise, the three bills named above are reminiscent of similar anti-Hispanic laws in our state’s past. They echo the negative Jim Crow-type mindset of post-1836 that subjected Spanish Mexican Texans to despicable discriminatory practices imposed by the Anglo Saxon majority. Officially, that state-supported bigotry lasted for over 120 years.
If that’s how they feel and, as was alluded to in Sen. Hinojosa’s remarks above, that the attack on public education is being seen as an attack on Hispanics, as they head to a majority in the public school system, then there is certainly a civil rights and social justice message that Democrats must use in 2012 to win back legislative and Congressional seats. Because nothing is going to change until Texas elects different people.
There will only be 3 days left, as of Monday, in the first called special session of the 82nd Legislature. In the words of Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, “time is getting skinny”, Republican no-shows preventing Texas House from getting quorum.
When Republicans grabbed a supermajority in the Texas House, the joke was that Democrats wouldn’t even have to show up for the GOP to pass bills.
But now Republicans are skipping out on the special session called by Gov. Rick Perry.
The calendars for Monday are filling up with some of the bills that “need” to get passed. Conspicuously absent is the so-called sanctuary cities bill, that has suddenly sparked infighting inside the Texas GOP. It could turn into an all out battle before Wednesday. John Coby shows some of what it what’s going on, Wingnuts call for boycott and ICE raids of Bob Perry Homes.
Wingnuts are so full of hot air. They talk big, but do nothing. Case in point, Bob Perry’s meddling into their sanctuary bill, which most probably will kill it. Reading through the comments of the story by the Houston Chronicle, wingnuts across the globe, or across North Houston, are calling for a boycott of Perry Homes and a raid by the INS (Now called ICE).
Oh where oh where are the Minute Men when we need them? You have to wonder why they haven’t thought of setting up surveillance at the work site for new homes being constructed by Bob Perry Homes. If Perry is depending upon this illegal workforce, it would be easy to document and catch them.
Now that the GOP didn’t mind stirring-up all this anti-immigrant tea party fervor in 2010. But they’re going to find it extremely hard, if not impossible, to tamp it down. But all this fighting over non-issues does have an unfortunate side effect. The Texas media much prefers these kind of non-issues to serious polkcy, and like a moth to a flame, has had it’s focus taken off the real tragedy that is taking place – the defunding of public education in Texas. This is what we should be dicusssing, as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro showed earlier in the week, Castro shows ‘em how.
It’s almost old news by now, but I’m still thinking about what happened when Gov. Rick Perry deigned to make an appearance yesterday at the annual gathering of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in San Antonio.
Two things stood out, including how Perry was so easily rattled by the tepid response he got from the luncheon crowd of about 500 elected officials from around the country. The Alamo was only a block away from the Grand Hyatt ballroom, but unlike Travis and company, the governor wasn’t beseiged. His audience was polite — NALEO President Sylvia Garcia had reminded them earlier of the group’s nonpartisan tradition — but, still, the loudest sound during his boiler-plate remarks was the clink of silverware. Unlike his rabble-rousing remarks last Saturday in New Orleans before the Republican Leadership Conference — an animated, ebullient Perry riffing; the crowd chanting “Run, Rick, Run!” — he spoke barely 10 minutes in San Antonio before scurrying out the door.
As an old teacher, I began to get those uncomfortable feelings during the governor’s halting performance of those moments in the classroom when the lecture isn’t working and you start searching as you speak for some way, any way, to make a connection with your listeners. Perry couldn’t find it. Garcia, the former Harris County commissioner, said afterward she was surprised the governor even showed up.
The second lasting impression was the performance of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who preceded Perry onstage. I’ve heard the young mayor speak before, and he’s never all that scintillating, but yesterday, in his own low-key way, he was as forceful and effective as any Texas Democrat I’ve heard in years. Without mentioning the governor by name, he reminded his audience in his own 10-minute remarks that Perry had given his blessing to a legislative session whose priority was “easily the most anti-Latino agenda pursued in a generation, without shame.”
Scorning the massive cuts in public education, higher education and health care the legislature engineered this session, labeling them the antithesis of a state’s need to invest in its future, Castro showed his beleaguered fellow Democrats how they might begin to fight back in their long slog toward political relevance.
At 36 and in his second term as mayor, Castro has a future, I would venture to say. Meanwhile, the state’s longest-serving governor needs to sharpen his skills before less-than-friendly audiences if he truly has notions of striding onto the national stage. He wouldn’t want the subtext of “Run, Rick, Run” to be “back home to Texas.” [Emphasis added]
It’s crunch time this week and Joe Straus is so desperate that he sent out a memo on Friday imploring members of the Hosue to show up this week.
I intend for the House to complete all outstanding issues by Sine Die on Wednesday, June 29th. Therefore, I strongly encourage each of you to be here for the final days of this special session so that we can finish the important business of the House.
For all intents and purposes the Texas GOP could have wrapped this session up in much less than 30 days. The leadership has, instead, decided to pussyfoot around and allow Gov. Perry to add many less than special non-issues to the agenda that may, in the long run, come back to hurt him and his party. Now that would certainly make Wendy Davis’ filibuster worth it.
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