Last night the Texas Senate passed SB 5, an omnibus anti-abortion bill, on a 20-10 vote. To Republicans it’s a bill to improve the quality of care, and to Democrats it is a bill that will restrict access to abortion. From the Texas Tribune, After Hours of Debate, Senate OKs Abortion Regulations.
“My objective first and foremost, second and third, is to raise the standard of care,” said state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the author of Senate Bill 5, which passed 20-10 and now heads to the House for approval.
SB 5 includes three abortion regulation measures that failed to reach the floor of either chamber during the regular legislative session: a requirement that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, which state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, has filed as SB 24 in the special session; a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility; and a requirement that if doctors administer the abortion inducing drug, RU-486, they do so in person, which state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has proposed separately in SB 18 in the special session.
The Republican-led Senate tabled all of the amendments to SB 5 offered by Democrats, including a measure to exempt drug-induced abortions from the requirement that abortions be performed at surgical facilities, a proposal to push the effective date of the surgical facility requirements from 2014 to 2015 to allow existing clinics more time to comply with the regulations, and a provision to exempt abortion facilities located more than 50 miles from another facility that primarily serve rural communities. The Senate also rejected proposals by Democrats to increase financing for women’s health services, expand Medicaid coverage to poor adults and reduce unwanted pregnancies by offering evidence-based sexual education in public schools.
“Truly, this isn’t about making women safe,” said state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. She highlighted legislative testimony by medical experts, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who argued the abortion regulations in SB 5 would endanger women by requiring the use of outdated medical protocols and decreasing access to legal abortion services. “It’s about political primaries and making sure you’re feeding the red meat [to] the people who will be voting in those primaries,” she said.
According to the Department of State Health Services, the most recent death in Texas related to an abortion procedure occurred in 2001 from a drug-induced abortion. The most recent death from a surgical abortion occurred in 2000.
Deuell, a family physician, denied Davis’ assertions that the abortion legislation was “red meat” for GOP primaries and defended the provisions in SB 5.
“Medicine has found out that when you adhere to certain standards for certain surgical procedures that the outcomes are better — there’s less infection, there’s less bleeding, there’s less complications,” he said. Deuell also argued that abortion providers have the money to improve their facilities to meet the regulatory standards in SB 5 and SB 24, and he said the legislation would result in more than 30 clinics becoming ambulatory surgical centers.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, a pharmacist, offered an amendment, which was rejected, that would have removed a requirement in SB 5 that physicians follow the FDA regimen for drug-induced abortions. She argued that the regimen the FDA developed 13 years ago is outdated and that most doctors currently follow an evidence-based protocol backed by medical associations to induce abortion with lower doses of the medication.
“Why would we endanger a women with three times the dose of that drug when that’s not the way it’s currently used?” Van de Putte asked Hegar. “It’s more toxic. It’s got more side effects, and if this is really about women’s health, why would you do that?”
Hegar defended the drug regimen required by the bill, saying that the “FDA has not signed off on these additional evidence-based methods that you mentioned.” Later, he accepted an amendment offered by Deuell to allow evidence-based protocol for the administration of drug-induced abortions.
Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) hit the nail on the head last night when he said that the best way to reduce abortions is to limit the number of unintended pregnancies. A major factor regarding why a woman terminates a pregnancy is her financial circumstance, which is one result of income inequality. According to XXXX:
As the economic downturn continues, abortion rates – especially among poor women – are rising. Birth rates are falling, and demand for contraceptive services, including vasectomies, is increasing. Currently available research and data support the explanation that lower incomes and rising unemployment are affecting Americans’ choices about pregnancies. This is consistent with research showing that financial circumstances have always been a major determinant of women’s choices regarding unintended pregnancy. Poor women are more likely to terminate unintended pregnancies than their more well-to-do counterparts. As more women and families fall below the poverty line and are otherwise constrained by financial circumstances, abortion rates can be expected to rise.
Texas, of course, is known to have a high rate of income inequality, which likely contributes significantly to the incidence of unintended pregnancies being terminated in Texas. Also note that poor women, as opposed to wealthier women, are more likely to terminate a pregnancy and those poorer women are exactly the ones who will be affected the most by these new regulations. Fixing economic inequality and the neglect of social issues in Texas would do more to prevent the number of abortions than shutting down accessibility to abortion.
Sen. Watson also tried to pass an amendment to reduce unwanted pregnancies by offering evidence-based sexual education in public schools, which is much needed. Sen. Eddie Lucio’s (D-McAllen) pro-life comments have gotten much play, but what’s missing are the comments he made about the GOP, and I’m paraphrasing, caring only about the unborn and not wanting to provide for children once they’re born.
Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has again shown herself as a champion for women’s issues and the issues of hard working Texans. She is definitely one of the brightest stars on the Democratic side not named Castro.
The bill now moves to the House where Speaker Joe Straus will have to decide if he’s going to allow this bill to move to the floor for debate and likely passage. Will Straus allow a vote and force his lieutenants and fellow “moderates” to choose between voting anti-abortion or pro-choice, where they would have to choose between giving red meat to either a primary opponent or general election opponent?
The last thing on this is that if SB 5 becomes law, will this change anything in Texas, politically speaking? Will this issue, the GOP’s attack on women, which infuriates a lot of women in Texas, be a driving force in the 2014 election cycle in Texas? The GOP has done some really infuriating things in the recent past–defunding public education, children’s health care, Medicaid–and it’s hasn’t changed how Texans vote. But until there is a movement of the poeple to get rid of the current elected representatives and replace them with some new ones, nothing is going to change.
Democrats reaction via First Reading, Change of venue: Senate sends abortion and roads bills to the House.
“Democrats focused much of their ire on the surgical center provision, charging that it is intended to close the state’s 37 clinics by making it too expensive to meet certification standards, including large operating rooms with specialized medical equipment, sterile-environment ventilation systems, backup generators, difficult-to-retrofit standards such as minimum widths for hallways and other rules found in 117 pages of government regulations.”
“Tonight, a majority of my colleagues advanced a bill that they claim would protect women’s health and safety. In fact, it will deny them their constitutional rights,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, “It is obvious that the real goal of this bill is to make it harder, even impossible, for women to elect a procedure that is perfectly legal — especially women who live hundreds of miles from major urban areas, the only places in the state that will still have abortion facilities if this bill becomes law.”
There’s a lot of ink and bytes being spilled over Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of the funding for the Public Integrity Unit (PIU). Some are shocked and others thinks it’s unfair. But it’s neither. It’s what the Texas GOP and Perry have been doing since they took complete control of our state government. They exploit any and every opportunity, no matter how shocking and unfair the Texas village may think it is.
In this case Perry is trying to get around having his cancer agency (CPRIT) being scrutinized for allegations on cronyism and lack of oversight. And maybe giving Tom DeLay as little help as well.
The Public Integrity Unit has work to do only because it’s in Austin, the seat of state government. Legal tangles involving state officials, many of them ethics cases, are filed there.
The unit is investigating millions of dollars in grants given by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas without proper vetting to entities run by closely connected individuals.
In 2010, the unit’s work led to the conviction of former House Speaker Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, on money-laundering charges. DeLay is appealing the case.
And the 30 people whose jobs Gov. Perry has vetoed and the important work they are doing.
The PIU is currently investigating more than 400 cases, including one involving the alleged misuse of $56 million intended for cancer research that is suspected of going into companies with investors who support Gov. Perry.
The unit employs 35 people, including 10 assistant district attorneys, seven investigators, and six forensic accountants.
Kuff has a breakdown of what will be tried to keep the PIU up and running. And Perry still looks like a shoo-in to win his parties nomination for another term. None of this is to excuse what Rosemary Lehmberg did. But it’s certainly a convenient excuse to wipe our an agency our elected officials, of both parties, have never liked.
[UPDATE]: Lehmberg’s response via QR:
“The Governor’s veto removed the funding for the Public Integrity Unit, but the responsibility for these cases remains with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.”
The Texas Progressive Alliance dismayed but not surprised by the hard right turn of the special session as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff wants to know where are all the jobs that Rick Perry is supposedly poaching from other states.
The cruel conditions that are allowed to persist in Texas, while it’s proclaimed to be a miracle economy, is deplorable. That’s why WCNews at Eye on Williamson says The Texas Budget comes up short.
There were some fireworks at last week’s redistricting hearing in Houston, but a few of them turned out to be just sparklers. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs provides the details.
Judge Edith Jones is a piece of work. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chimse hopes that the judges reviewing the complaints against her force an impeachment.
Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker explores The Invisible Abomination – Texas and the indigent mentally ill.. Give it a read, its time more people knew about this!
Swamplot and Glasstire eulogize Houston “pop-up” sculptor Lee Littlefield.
Scott Braddock tells the tragic tale of the bill that would have helped prevent worker misclassification, a/k/a payroll fraud, had it not suffered the usual fate of well-intentioned reform bills in the Legislature.
Nonsequiteuse marvels at a recent example of trivializing violence in the media.
Better Texas reminds us that the fight to expand health care access to all of Texas will continue after the Legislature finally leaves.
BOR notes how far out of touch with public opinion on immigration reform Texas’ Senator are.
Colin Strother and Texas Leftist are firmly on board the Sebastien De La Cruz bandwagon.
Texpatriate publishes its own Best and Worst Legislators list.
Texas Vox bemoans the veto of the omnibus ethics bill.
Juanita is spitting mad at the veto of the Lilly Ledbetter bill.
Egberto Willies talks to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the author of the Ledbetter bill, about Perry’s veto. She vows to bring the bill back next session.
Ever since taking over complete control of our state’s government the GOP has had it out for the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) that resides inside the Travis County District Attorney’s office. The Democrats, when they were in power, didn’t like it much either. Which means it probably does a good job. The PIU is known for taking on political corruption in our state – see Tom DeLay. But as Nate Blakeslee points out, Sneak Attack on Public Integrity Unit?, the PIU does much more.
The Public Integrity Unit doesn’t just do public corruption investigations—it also prosecutes insurance fraud and tax fraud, including on sales of gasoline and tobacco. In the last 4 years, the unit has recovered over $8 million in restitution. With no funding, those investigations would cease, too. In other words, Zedler wouldn’t just be screwing the men and women of the Public Integrity Unit, he’d be screwing the taxpayers of Texas–which is something that Tom Delay would not have appreciated.
They’re also looking into Gov. Perry’s cancer agency, CPRIT. Which is likely why Perry is making threats.
A number of Republican efforts have failed to dislodge her from the office, which she steadfastly has maintained that she intends to keep. As the Travis County DA, Lehmberg’s office also oversees the public integrity unit that investigates malfeasance by public officials.
The problem with Perry’s insistence that she step down or see all funding cut for the public integrity unit is that the office currently is investigating Perry appointees and their roles in awarding millions in public money to cancer research outfits — some that had ties to Perry backers — that failed to undergo the normal vetting process.
Glenn Smith, director of the Democratic group Progress Texas political action committee, filed a criminal complaint last year with the district attorney’s office over the dealings in the Cancer Prevention and Reseach Institute of Texas.
Smith said he is alarmed the the governor would veto money for the public integrity unit, seeing such a move as a gross conflict of interest.
“Killing funding for the public integrity unit obviously would end the investigation into CPRIT, which is looking at at diversions of public money to Perry cronies,” Smith said.
Rich Parsons, spokesman for the governor, said Perry is concerned at the integrity of the district attorney’s office under Lehmberg. Perry would appoint her replacement should she step down.
And Texans for Public Justice is alleging those threats may be illegal, Governor’s Threats to Travis County DA Likely Violate the Law Says TPJ Complaint.
In a complaint sent to prosecutors today, Texans for Public Justice alleges that Governor Rick Perry potentially committed several criminal offenses related to his recent threatto use his discretionary power to withhold money from the Travis County District Attorney’soffice unless DA Rosemary Lehmberg resigns. TPJ believes the governor’s actions violate the Texas Penal Code, Title 8, Offenses Against Public Administration.
“Governor Perry has no legal authority to remove the Travis Country District Attorney from her job. Threatening to take an official action against her office unless she voluntarily resigns is likely illegal,” said Craig McDonald, TPJ Director.
“The governor overstepped his authority by sticking his nose in Travis County’s business. Alegal process is currently underway. That process is alone should determine the fate of the District Attorney.
“Governor Perry’s official threats attempt to obtain two things that he can’t achieve through legal democratic means. First, to remove an elected Democrat and replace her with an appointedRepublican DA. Second, to wipe out the state’s public corruption watchdog, which is currently investigating corruption in at least one of the governor’s signature corporate subsidy programs.
Of course all of this was only made possible because of the horrible decisioin that Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg made in driving drunk and her actions while under arrest. But it’s clear that Perry and the wing nuts see this as a great excuse to take power from the PIU which is one of the best checks the people of Texas have on power. And of course Perry sees it as a way to deal with a possible political problem, by appointing a loyalist to a position to make a possible problem go away. It wouldn’t be the first time, see John Bradley and the Forensic Sciences Commission.
There are petitions pending to remove Lehmberg and a recent Statesman editorial asked Perry’s move unseemly.
Lawsuits citing intoxication and official misconduct have been filed to remove Lehmberg from office. They are winding their way toward a trial date.
The governor would clearly be acting within his authority if he were to line out the integrity unit’s budget. But just because he can doesn’t mean he should. Instead, Perry should let the petitions take their legal course. Instead, the governor is threatening to neuter the Public Integrity Unit to force Lehmberg to resign, and by getting involved in this way Perry is complicating matters he should let Lehmberg and others deal with.
In a senatorial understatement to Ward, Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin said it would be “very unfortunate if the governor is going to do this.” Indeed.
We’ll be more direct than Watson: It’s unseemly politics.
While Lehmberg’s mistake was bad she plead guilty, did her time in jail, and is now in treatment. It doesn’t make up for what she did but it looks like she is trying to atone. But Perry sticking his nose into this, in a big way, might be enough to make those who saw this as a non-political issue to think twice. Clearly those in power see this as a golden opportunity to move against the PIU, which they’ve been after for a long time.
Perry will veto Integrity Unit funds unless Lehmberg resigns.
With the opportunities our state has the budget this session could have have been so much more. But instead it comes up short of what is needed. The cruel conditions that are allowed to persist in Texas, while it’s proclaimed to be a miracle economy, is deplorable. Via CBPP, Texas Model Isn’t All That It Seems.
- Texas has the second-highest share of minimum-wage workers of any state. In 2012, 7.5 percent of Texas hourly workers were paid at or below the minimum wage, more than any other state except Idaho and well above the 4.7 percent national average.
- In part because wages are low, a large share of Texans are poor. Some 17.9 percent of Texas families live in poverty according to the most recent Census data (2010-2011 average), the seventh-highest rate in the nation and well above the national average of 15.1 percent (see graph).
- Twenty-four percent of Texans lack health insurance, well above the national average of 16.0 percent. Many Texas employers don’t providehealth insurance for their workers. Just over half of the state’s non-elderly residents have employer-provided health insurance — the fifth-worst rate among the states. And Texas’ Medicaid program fails to cover many who can’t afford health insurance, yet Governor Perry has rejected health reform’s Medicaid expansion.
- Texas invests less than most states in education, healthcare, infrastructure and other public services important to quality of life. Those services have suffered as a result. For example, the state ranks 43th among states in education spending per pupil and is tied for last in the share of its population with a high school diploma.
Texas also spends less on health care, per person, than all but four states and has fewer doctors per resident than all but eight states. In addition, Texas ranks 46th in the nation on highway spending.
Regarding this lets look at what a couple of local state representatives had to say about what went on during the legislative session.
Via Capital Tonight at YNN state Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) gave some of his thoughts on the session that was and the special session. The most interesting part was when he responded to why nothing was done on transportation. He said there is a lot of money involved with three issues – education, water, and transportation – and that, “It’s a big ask to do all three in one legislative session”.
He knows that his party doesn’t want to spend money on these kinds of things. They’d rather not do what’s needed, raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations in Texas, and instead neglect the needs of our state. As has been stated before here many times we can’t expect people who think government is the problem to use government to help people.
One of Williamson County’s other members of The Lege, Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), recently published an Op-Ed in the Statesman, Balancing the Texas Budget.
Over the last two years the Texas economy was the best performing in the nation. The leading sector, then and now, is oil and gas, which not only created tens of thousands of new jobs, but also contributed substantially to state tax collections. The robust Texas economy assisted by low taxes, low regulation and civil lawsuit reform filled state coffers. However, this year — when more than 40 new members like myself arrived at the Capitol — we found that last session’s bills were immediately due.
He then went on to explain all the money the “robust economy” had to use to pay for what it shorted the the previous budget (last sessions bad budget estimate). Much of those “collections” he refers to went to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), aka the Rainy Day Fund (RDF), and none was allowed to be spent on transportation. Of course poverty is never mentioned.
Texas can’t succeed unless it takes care of all of it’s issues, which are more then three. Obviously there’s a better way to do things then our current system that continues to allow so many to struggle and suffer while billions of dollars just sit there. Of course putting a fourth, Medicaid expansion, on the agenda would be way too much. So they shrug that off with and ideological dodge.
It’s much less expensive and much more compassionate to provide health care to those that need it. Especially since the federal government will foot most of the bill and it’s money Texas taxpayers have already paid. Our state cannot succeed in the future without a well educated and healthy populace that can travel around efficiently. Those things can’t be done on the cheap. And it’s easy to see that the Texas budget comes up short.
[UPDATE]: Here’s state Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) on a local radio show this week. He appears to be on board with using the ESF to pay for transportation, like SJR 2. He calls it “diverting future tax revenue” that would go to the RDF, but that’s using the money that would have gone into the RDF. But of course when the oil boom ends, which is inevitably will, so will that money for transportation.
Colin Strother has a very interesting read, Texas Senate In Play…No, Seriously. The no nonsense attitude and strategy, some of which reminds me of the old “run everywhere” days, is easy to like.
There is one absolute certainty in life and in politics: things change. The Texas Senate was not always 19-12 for the dark side…er…Republican side. In the 59th Legislature, Democrats held the Senate chamber 31-0. As recently as the 74th Democrats were 17-14. Like I said, things change.
There is great potential–bordering on inevitability–to pick up Senate seats. We don’t need a miracle, we need money and muscle to change the makeup of the Senate and, ultimately, turn it solidly Blue…not in 10 cycles, but possibly 2-3.
Now, if you follow Texas politics at all, you just decided that I am suffering from severe head trauma. I have gotten the same reaction from everyone…I’ve been accused of worse.
Granted, if you do it right, there is nothing easy about any campaign. There is certainly nothing easy about taking on an incumbent in a gerrymandered district. But, who in the hell said politics was meant to be easy? Personally, I’ve heard enough whining about what cannot be done and what races cannot be won to last me a lifetime. This sitting around waiting for demographics to get right or some other gimmick or miracle is precisely how Democrats could be relegated to the minority for another 20 years.
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need a miracle to pick up any single seat, much less turn the chamber Blue. The numbers show, this reaction is based more on assumptions rather than any empirical evidence.
It is hard not to think he suffered some kind of head trauma. But most of what he’s saying, about running in these districts, is what Battleground Texas has in mind- money, voter registration, voter contact and GOTV.
These 3 districts have good bones, a good bench, and access to existing infrastructure. For a party that desperately needs to grow its market share, these look like a good place to start. (I can assure you that when the Republicans swiped SD 3 in 1994 and SD 5 in a 1997 special, their numbers didn’t look this good.) With a dash of candidate recruitment, a splash of smart staffers, and a chunk of cash, Texas Democrats can be knocking on the door of a 16-15 minority status…not in 10 cycles, but in 2-3.
The closer the margin in the Texas Senate, the more clout we have as a caucus. The more clout we have as a caucus, the greater our ability to kill bad policies, raise money, and force more seats into play. The more seats we force into play, the more seats we win. It ain’t rocket science.
Hell, if we don’t have the sand to take shots at districts with good bones, a good bench, and existing infrastructure, we need to pack it in. Period.
Winning challenge campaigns (and I have won my fair share) is about picking out a good district and fighting like all hell–not waiting for a perfect scenario or sure thing. If the Senate Caucus members put 10% of the more than $14.5 million they individually held in cash reserves on the January 2013 semiannual report towards organizing and turning out Ds in 9, 16 & 17 it might well be the largest Democratic commitment on the ground for state senate races in Texas history…and it would almost certainly yield positive results in the Senate, as well as up and down the ballot.
Yes, things change. As with most things in life, things don’t change because of a miracle. Things change because folks get their mind right, roll up their sleeves, and make change happen.
Kuff’s adds quite a bit to this conversation regarding types of candidates and issues to run on, Taking back the Texas Senate.
So what lessons can we take from this? Well, first and foremost, the best candidate is no help if he or she is unavailable or unwilling to make the race. We all agree that the future of the Texas Democratic Party is largely in the House, but we can’t expect tomorrow’s stars to risk that status on races where they’d be big underdogs. That means we need to be thinking outside the box for potential Senate candidates, and as a corollary to that it means getting involved in city, county, and school board races, where new talent can be incubated and other offices can at least some of the time be explored because there’s no filing conflict.
Two, it means seek out candidates that can best exploit the weaknesses of the incumbents. In the case of SD09, Sen. Kelly Hancock is a slash-and-burn teabagger, and I’m sure his House record will show plenty of anti-education votes, and surely more than a few anti-women votes. A female candidate with an education background, perhaps a school board member, would be high on my list. Sen. Joan Huffman is coming off a session where she carried a lot of water for the prosecution lobby, and got was responsible for an emotional outburst by the brother of Tim Cole, the man who died in prison after being convicted of a crime for which he was later exonerated. Here, a person of color with a background in criminal justice reform and/or innocence advocacy would be ideal. Do such people exist? Very likely. Is anyone talking to them about their future in politics? Very likely not.
And three, keep focus on the stuff we’re already working on, or at least that we say we’re working on. Register those unregistered folks, and engage them in a manner that will get them to the polls. Remind our Presidential year voters that we need them in other years, too. Figure out why Texas Democrats aren’t doing as well with female voters – specifically, Anglo female voters – as Democrats elsewhere. I’m thinking Wendy Davis and her campaign team might have some insights of value there. As Colin says, this isn’t rocket science. I’ve given Battleground Texas plenty of goals already, but taking back at least one Senate seat this decade needs to be on that list. The targets may not be easy, but they are there. We just have to make sure we take our best shots at them.
It’s a great conversation to have. And it’s not “pie in the sky” to be looking at something like this. If Battleground Texas is going to make a dent, this would be a great place to start. And it could pay dividends all over the ballot, in state house and Congressional races in particular.
With the likelihood of nothing being resolved regarding redistricting, whether a bill passes or not, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has decided to open the special session up to other issues. He started yesterday with transportation, Perry adds transportation funding to special session.
In his directive, Perry asked the Legislature to consider the “funding of transportation infrastructure projects” during the 30-day session, which began late last month.
“Texas’ growing economy and population demand that we take action to address the growing pressure on the transportation network across the state,” Perry said in a statement. “As we enjoy the benefits of a booming economy, we have to build and maintain the roads to ensure we sustain both our economic success and our quality of life.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity that’s before us on this,” Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said in a statement. “Transportation funding was the one bit of unfinished business coming out of the regular session that we really need to take care of.”
The plan appears to be putting another constitutional amendment on the November ballot, like they did with water. SJR 2 which will:
S.J.R. 2 proposes a constitutional amendment which will dedicate 50 percent of all oil and gas severance taxes currently transferred to the Economic Stabilization Fund to the state highway fund. S.J.R. 2 also allows the state highway fund to repay principal and interest on bonds issued under Section 49-p of the Texas Constitution.
Approval of this constitutional amendment will give TxDOT a predictable revenue stream which they can use to implement the state’s long-range transportation plan.
As proposed, S.J.R. 2 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide for the transfer of certain general revenue to the state highway fund and the economic stabilization fund and to authorize the payment from the state highway fund of the principal and interest on certain highway improvement bonds.
Today he opened it up to more issues.
- Legislation relating to the regualtion of abortion procedures, providers, and facilities.
- Legislation relating to establishing a mandatory sentence of life with parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender.
An SJR will need two-thirds votes in both chambers to pass. Adding abortion to the call may be enough to blow up the entire session, unless Straus finally relents on the House side. Either way it isn’t just redistricting anymore. And it will give members of The Lege, not on either redistricting committee, something to do.
Follow up on NSA spying, The NSA Black Hole: 5 Basic Things We Still Don’t Know About the Agency’s Snooping. And meet the whistleblower, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’ – video.
Special Interests Paid Lobbyists Up to $328 Million in 2013 Session.
By late May 2013, 1,663 Texas lobbyists reported that 2,820 clients took out 8,172 paid lobby contracts worth a grand total of from $155 million to $328 million. The precise value of these contracts is unknown because Texas lobbyists report values in ranges (e.g. $100,000 to $149,999). 2013 lobby spending fell short of the $359 million maximum spent at the same point in the 2011 session.
Democratic organization opens Bexar County office.
A group that aims to turn the Lone Star State into a stronghold for the Democratic Party opened a headquarters in Bexar County on Sunday.
Battleground Texas, an organization founded earlier this year to make Democrats within the state more competitive for statewide and national office, hosted an open house in its new location at 3000 West Interstate 10, which it will share with the Bexar County Democratic Party.
Oscar Silva, senior organizer for Battleground Texas, told a group of about 30 volunteers that the organization will focus on registering voters, calling potential voters and gathering data.
“Why are we emphasizing this so much? Because we know that when the electorate is expanded, Democrats win,” he said.
Pauken on Perry: Sound bites, not sound policy.
Pauken said Perry’s office “wanted me to essentially repudiate my own position,” and that he refused, having made up his mind when he left a stint as a military intelligence officer in Vietnam in 1969 that he would salute only the folks he felt like saluting.
He said the difference in opinion was one of the things that led him to believe the current administration practices “government by sound bite, not sound policies.”
Perry showcased his decision as one of the ways he has stood up against Washington meddling as he faced a GOP primary challenge from then U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whom he handily defeated.
With his idea, Pauken said, the state either could have received the money without strings or had a beauty of a 10th Amendment lawsuit against the Obama Administration.
“That’s when I came to the conclusion that these folks weren’t serious about advancing our conservative principles in an effective way,” said Pauken, who continued to serve as Workforce Commission chairman until 2012.
In tea party era, it’s tough to maintain party discipline.
In the House, 29 of the chamber’s 150 members voted against the final conference committee report on the budget. Only one was a Democrat, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Abel Herrero of Robstown. He was among four Straus-appointed committee chairmen who voted nay.
The others were GOP Reps. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville, head of tax-writing Ways and Means; Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who leads Public Health; and John Smithee of Amarillo, the Insurance Committee’s long-time chief. Hilderbran wants to run for comptroller. Most people believe Kolkhorst, who this year courted both tea party-backed House freshmen and Gov. Rick Perry, is ambitious and hatching some big career move.
Who wielded the most influence in Austin? Not who you’d expect.
This year, neither Gov. Rick Perry nor Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst left the biggest mark on the Legislature’s regular session. The most important figure was House Speaker Joe Straus. His influence was both positive and negative — you couldn’t miss it.
County pushes stronger election-judge training.
Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis on Tuesday called for the formation of a committee – consisting of five Republicans, five Democrats and election administration officials – that will draft standards and procedures regarding mandatory training for election judges.
Training is currently available, but who takes what level of course and other issues have been sources of contention. What the problem is depends upon whom one asks.
The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks that we should have tried to get redistricting done right the first time instead of waiting till now to involve the public as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff gave an updated look at the state of the 2013 elections in Houston.
Over at TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains that Texas Ranks 51 in Voter Turnout. Another dubious achievement for Governor Oops…Check it out.
Which news item was false but with a ring of truth, and which was true but everyone wishes was false? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reports… you decide.
Stace at Dos Centavos is a proponent of using Mexican American culture as a means of capturing that demographic’s vote. He provides a follow-up to a recent KHOU report by Vicente Arenas on the resurgence of Tejano music. It’s a good opportunity for non-Tejano fans to learn a little cultural history about the music genre whose live concerts still attract thousands of eligible voters.
WCNews at Eye on Williamson tells why The Lege Putting some money back into public education is unlikely to end school finance case.
Judge Edith Jones has the racist, Republican vibe down pat. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why she hasn’t been impeached yet.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Texas Clean Air Matters advocates for stronger ozone standards, for a healthier Texas.
Greg Wythe liveblogs the Senate redistricting hearing from Houston.
Texas Redistricting explains what “candidate of choice” means.
The Texas Green Report gives Austin the advantage over San Antonio on green building codes…for now.
Texas Vox preps us for the way climate change will affect our summers.
Colin Strother points out that campus carry is a conundrum for cops.
BOR cannot believe that a Texas jury acquitted a man for killing an escort that wouldn’t have sex with him.
Texpatriate offers its list of Best and Worst legislators.
Texas Leftist makes the connection between the war on drugs and racial profiling.
A hearty “Welcome Back” to blogging to John Coby, who tells us about the trouble (sorry, “twouble”) with TWIA.
And finally, Lemon Sweetie asked Sir Patrick Stewart a question about his work fighting against domestic violence while at Comicpalooza in Houston, and got an amazing answer. Be sure to watch the video as well.
Abby Rapoport in the American Prospect wrote an article on where things stand with Democrats and Battleground Texas right now, Can Obama’s Organizing Army Take Texas?
While Governor Rick Perry laughed off the effort to turn Texas blue as “the biggest pipe dream I have ever heard,” other Republican leaders are giving Battleground Texas free publicity by decrying it as a coven of dangerous outside agitators—“masters of the slimy dark arts of campaigning,” state Republican Party Chair Steve Munisteri wrote in a fundraising letter. Speaking at a lunch in Waco, Attorney General Greg Abbott called the arrival of Team Obama members “a new ?assault, an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons. The threat that we’re getting is the threat from the Obama administration and his political machine.”
For a fledgling effort, Battleground Texas has already become a national media darling, prominently featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Bloomberg News. In February, Bird even had a guest turn on The Colbert Report, where the host described him as “the man behind Obama’s minority outreach-around.” It’s easy to see why there’s so much interest. If Texas were to become a competitive state, the impact on national politics would be enormous. Without the state’s 38 electoral votes, Republicans would find it virtually impossible to win presidential elections with the current national map. Even the threat of losing Texas would influence a presidential contest. If the GOP has to start fighting for votes in such an enormous state—with 20 media markets—it will drain resources the party could devote to other battlegrounds.
No state has greater potential for Democrats. Texas is already “majority-minority,” with Latinos making up 38 percent of the population and African Americans 12 percent. According to the state demographer, the number of Latinos will surpass the number of whites in the next decade; by 2040, 52 percent of the state will be Latino, and 27 percent will be white. Between just 2012 and 2016, about a million additional Latinos in Texas will become eligible to vote. But that’s been the trouble for Democrats: Latinos aren’t voting. Forty-seven percent of eligible Latinos have not even registered. In 2010, when Perry won re-election, the Latino turnout rate was an anemic 16 percent, about half the typical Latino turnout in New Mexico. An analysis by the Houston Chronicle shows that if Latinos voted at the same rate as whites, the state would already be a toss-up.
National GOP resource diversion is one of the earliest goals and so far it’s working. Or course the main goal, making Democrats competitive again all over Texas and statewide is going to take a while and those running this effort are aware of that.
How will Battleground Texas mount a challenge to Republican hegemony in the ultimate red state? Slowly but surely, as Jenn Brown told the Austin Democrats. “We know this is a long-term effort,” she said. “We know it will take time.” The initial focus will be to create a massive network of Democratic organizers and volunteers across the state. Imagine, Brown said, what could happen with 250 paid field organizers in Texas, each with five teams of volunteers; they could reach 500,000 potential voters if everyone just knocked on 50 doors.
At this point, the details are hypothetical: A full-scale plan for “getting that started” won’t be rolled out until this summer. But Jeremy Bird offers a few more details. In the next couple of election cycles, Battleground Texas will target “battleground zones”—races that organizers believe could either be winnable or could help Democrats build infrastructure by training new candidates and registering voters. A battleground zone could be a city council race with a promising young Latino candidate in Waco or a state House race in a heavily minority district in Houston. The idea is to seize every viable opportunity to build new Democratic networks around the state, creating new voters along the way.
For the time being, that’ll be done without backing candidates for statewide offices. Texas has a few rising Democratic stars—most notably San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin, Congressman Joaquin Castro—but running them for major offices too soon and losing risks diminishing their appeal. Democratic strategist James Aldrete says the Battleground Texas approach—build the base rather than expecting miracle results right away—is refreshing. For too long, Aldrete says, Texas Democrats tried the opposite approach: “waiting for the amazing candidate that’s gonna inspire everyone and solve all our problems.” Finally, Texas Democrats are attempting to replicate what has worked elsewhere. “The way I look at it,” Bird says, “Texas is our candidate.”
Harris County Democrats and Battleground Texas volunteers will have to start making calls and venturing into minority neighborhoods for the first time in decades. The effort has, at least, belatedly begun. Houston elected a new Democratic chair in 2011, Lane Lewis, who is focusing the party for the first time on Dallas-style field organizing. Lewis estimates that if the party registers 120,000 new nonwhite voters, it will result in 80,000 more people going to the polls. “We’re already block-walking,” Lewis says. “We’ve already had phone banks this year.” But his field team is not just trying to woo new voters; Democratic staffers and volunteers are participating year-round in projects like building a community garden in the tough Independence Heights neighborhood, an effort to show that the party cares about more than winning votes.
If Democrats can galvanize Houston’s nonvoters, they will be well on their way to turning Texas blue. But all those years of ignoring minorities will make it a formidable task. “You’ve got to commit at least ten years,” Antonio Gonzalez says. “It takes at least ten years to undo twenty years of neglect.”
There’s still a bunch of “ifs” with Battleground Texas, as well there should be. But the one thing I’ve always liked about this effort is that they know this is going to take a while and they’re not setting unrealistic goals. Kos has more, Texas is going to get very, very interesting. And Blue.
[UPDATE]: Another take on all of this from the Socratic Gadfly, Texas Dems should be circumspect about “blue state” assumptions.
Let’s look at this issue per the various subheaders of this blog post.
First, why is Texas’ Hispanic voting rate 10 percentage points below the national average? Can that gap be closed, and how quickly? What do you think it will take?
Second, since, per Tom Edsall, that alone will be nowhere near enough, what does Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party need to do to recruit more white voters, whether native/semi-native, or recent moves from elsewhere in the country? Has either BG or TDP made specific statements to that end or indicated they have a strategy?
Third, name me some names for non-crappy candidates in future elections. Related to that, tell me more specifically why black Democrats, say black state senators like Royce West and Rodney Ellis, refuse to consider running for statewide offices?
Fourth, other than hype/hoopla, even though BG is brand new, are you satisfied so far, not just with what you hear, but, per Jenn Brown, being told to can the hoopla and dig in for a long-term, and incremental-step, grind? Hinojosa is semi-new but not brand new as TDP chair, and he’s nowhere near new as a politico. Are you satisfied with his work? With him being party chair?
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