The Cross-Examination

By Comments

Earlier today R.G. and I sat down with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune for a live conversation about our picks for Best & Worst Legislators. The discussion covered some of the questions that commenters have raised since we announced the picks, so if anyone else is wondering about Jane Nelson, you might want to take a look. 

The video is available here. I enjoyed the discussion overall, but a particular highlight from me was the question, around the 43-minute mark, from an audience member who asked about the untimely demise of HB 984, which would give adult adoptees the option of tracking down their original birth certificates. Really, it was an assassination: the measure, by Joe Deshotel, received unanimous support in committee, and passed the House on a 138-1 vote. It then received unanimous support in the Senate State Affairs Committee, and would almost certainly have passed on the floor– the Senate sponsor, Brandon Creighton, had lined up 14 co-sponsors, ranging across the ideological spectrum from Jose Menendez to Brian Birdwell—if it hadn’t been taken off the intent calendar for reasons that were never specified.

At the time, I had heard the reason: Donna Campbell is against the idea, and this year scuttled the effort by asking the lieutenant governor to remove it from the intent calendar. She succeeded, apparently, and no one really noticed: the bill hadn’t attracted much attention in the first place, and it was removed from the intent calendar in the final days of session. Still, taking a bill off the intent calendar as a favor to a pal is a total breach of process values, and it was obviously unfair to the bill’s many supporters and the advocates who had worked to build support for the issue. And, as it happens, I had heard about the episode from my sources; it helps explain why Campbell appears on the worst list. But as you’ll see in the July issue, it’s not mentioned in her write-up–all of the write-ups are too short to be comprehensive–and it hadn’t come up during our discussion with Evan. The questioner, however, turned out to be an advocate for adoptees, and therefore one of the people who had been trampled by Campbell. If she hadn’t been there, this probably would have been one of the many episodes of any legislative session that are lost to the shifting sands of time.

All this by way of saying that we really do appreciate those of you leaving thoughtful comments, and all the sources we talked to over the course of the session. The list can’t cover everything that happened, or address every legislator’s involvement, or corroborate and relay every good observation. We are paying attention, though—so thanks, and thanks for reading.  

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  • WUSRPH

    Thanks for compiling it…As to Campbell and the adoption bill…She did not hide it.

    2438 84th Legislature — Regular Session 59th Day (Cont.)
    BILLS REMOVED FROM
    LOCAL AND UNCONTESTED CALENDAR
    Senator Campbell and Senator Hancock requested in writing that HB 984 be
    removed from the Local and Uncontested Calendar.

    Hancock, as chair of Administration–the committee that develops the Local & Uncontested Calendar—signs with all members who ask when an additional signature is needed.

    • txasslm

      >> “Hancock, as chair of Administration–the committee that develops the
      Local & Uncontested Calendar—signs with all members who ask when
      an additional signature is needed.”

      Can you educate me on this? Does / did Hancock sign as a courtesy to another senator or from conviction?

      • WUSRPH

        As a courtesy….He signed several that same day. It is traditional. The idea is that the Local & Uncontested Calendar should be just what it says it is: a list of local & UNCONTESTED bills. This does not mean a list of local and “mostly” uncontested. He signed knock off slips for three other bills on the same calendar as HB 984. Creighton could have possibly saved the bill had he thought to also place it on the Intent Calendar for the same day it was on the L&UC. That might have allowed him to take it to the Floor by the regular process after Campbell bumped it off the L&UC. However, he gambled that it would clear objection on the L&UC and lost. However, that would not have worked had Patrick agreed to Campbell’s request that the bill be killed. Patrick would have had to recognize Creighton to bring it up…and, if he had an agreement with Campbell, he was not likely to do that.

        The difference in the way the two chambers consider these special calendars is even expressed in their titles. It is the Local & Consent Calendar in the House, but the Local & UNCONTESTED in the Senate.

        • txcg

          Check the record, HB984 was on the intent calendar for that day.

          • WUSRPH

            I went by what the LIO showed: That record shows:

            Placed on local & uncontested calendar

            05/27/2015

            S
            Placed on intent calendar

            05/26/2015
            S

            And not placed for the 27th….But it appears that is in error for, when I went back now and looked up the actual calendar itself, it does show up. So it is likely that Campbell did have a deal with Patrick not to let it come up. As such, even thou Creighton had covered his bets, it made no difference. No recognition. No bill.

          • Connie Gray

            Here is a screen shot of placed on intent on 21st and removed and placed again

          • WUSRPH

            Placing a bill on the Intent Calendar does not carry over from day to day. A bill has to be specifically placed on each day’s Intent Calendar. This list, which is the one originally looked at, does NOT show that the bill was placed on Intent for the 27th…However, as noted above, when you actually look at the copy of the Intent Calendar itself, the bill is listed. It is probable that in the haste and confusion of the closing days that someone just overlooked making the correct entry on this status report list. In any case, the combination of Campbell knocking it off the Local & Uncontested Calendar and the alleged arrangement she had made with the Lt. Gov. insured that the bill was DEAD.

      • Ears1foru

        Senatorial courtesy.

  • Unwound

    just finished. great stuff guys

  • r.g. ratcliffe

    Had fun doing the panel — and the story — with you, Erica.

  • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

    So I can understand, Sen Hancock removed a bill from the calendar?

    Let’s look at what the democrat chair of the Local and Consent Calendars did……

    “The chairman of the Local and Consent Calendars Committee is Senfronia Thompson (Democrat) of Houston. She’s been a representative for more than 40 years and is one of the most powerful members of the House. On Tuesday she made a motion to suspend the House rules so that her committee could meet and place certain legislation before the body the following day. Her motion carried, and her committee placed 131 bills on the Wednesday agenda that had supposedly died in the Local and Consent Calendars Committee the previous morning.”

    https://www.thsc.org/2013/08/the-miraculous-death-of-sb-768/

    Doncha hate it when republicans play by the same rules as dems do?

    Democrats under the guidance of LBJ have corrupted DC/ Austin and the way sausage is made. We need to face facts DC and Austin are broken. Thank a democrat.

    • txasslm

      WUSRPH explained it sufficiently to the point that even I got it. Let it go. You’re tiresome.

      • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

        You mean you don’t like quid quo pro, tit for tat? How funny.

  • Aaron Smith

    As a adoptee who found both of his birth parents, I opposed this bill and support current law. I for one thank Senator Campbell for her actions. Birth parents are entitled to some level of privacy and anonymity and to risk that could ultimate lead to fewer children being available for adoption and more abortions. Leave this alone.

    • txcg

      i am sorry you are operating under misinformation. The privacy issue was battled in court, the 6th circuit court of appeals states that parents ARE entitled to privacy, they are NOT entitled to anonymity.

      Since two states never closed records, kansas and alaska, and now 16 states have restored some level of access, there is data available which show that with equal access to original birth certificates, abortion rates drop and less than 1 % of birth parents do not want contact.

      Couple that with the fact that HB984 had a contact preference form for birth parents to choose 1) contact 2) no contact or 3) contact thru a confidential intermediary and you have a great bill. Additionally, DNA now results in people being reconnected after climbing thru entire family trees and people are putting their personal information in public posts on social media. not very private.

      This was a good bill, as evidenced by the support across party lines. please check out texasadopteerights.org for the facts.

      • txcg

        Oh, and with 254 county courts, there are 254 interpretations of “good cause” which is the standard to grant access. IF a judge does give access, there is NO warning to the birth parents… just like there is no warning thru the social media or DNA route. here are some videos with information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8fLDsMOQDw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC1i1MsxEso

      • Aaron Smith

        This is a crock. You are using the words privacy and anonymity as if they are exclusive and they are not and you are misrepresenting the findings of the 6th circuit case (which I doubt would be affirmed by SCOTUS). And your ‘less than 1% of birth parents do not want contact’ statement is absurd and unprovable. Too many people go seeking answers to problems in their lives by contacting birth parents – and the birth parents are usually the not the cause of those problems nor are they the solution. This should never become Texas law, Thank you Senator Campbell and we’l be ready to help her kill this bill again in 2017.

        • pwt7925

          Why do you oppose this bill? As I understand it the birth parents can control whether they are contacted or not. You’ve explained that you oppose it but don’t explain why. Just asking. I don’t have a dog in this hunt.

          • PicklesS

            There’s nothing wrong with current law.

          • Connie Gray

            254 county courts and 254 interpretations of the standard which is “good cause” some county courts grant access and others dont. Disparity in the application and therefore access is dependent on geography of birth. Also by using social media and DNA testing, birth parents are being outed in very public ways. Far more private to give the adoptee their own birth certificate and give the birth parent the choice of 1 contact 2 no contact or 3 contact thru an intermediary

        • Connie Gray

          Wait, you said you located your birth parents but others should not have the same right? Could you explain that?

  • WUSRPH

    Courtesy of the QR:

    “Gov. Abbott appoints home school champion Donna Bahorich as chair of SBOE

    The decision has caused SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff to reconsider his decision to retire from the board.”

    Two of Gov. Oops’ choices for this job were “busted” (not confirmed) by the Senate. Is Abbott trying to follow that example? An opponent of public schools as chair of the agency that oversees public schools. Any one have any questions about her objectivity?

    • Indiana Pearl

      I do! What’s Abbott’s agenda with that appointment? I thought Patrick was the Voucher King.

      • WUSRPH

        Abbott is also on record for “greater choice”….Neither has gone so far as to advocate state aid or rebates to home schoolers, They have to get vouchers before they will push that far. However, Rep. Miller of Ft. Bend did introduce a proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 141, that would have allowed it.

  • Tucker

    Erica acted arrogant and disrespectful today. Does not bode well for her under the Pink Dome.

    • Vik Verma

      She spoke truth. That can hurt.

      • don76550

        Erica has great difficulty telling the truth about anything

  • txcg

    HB984 was not placed on locals at first as everyone knew that Senator Campbell would pull the bill. It was placed on Intent and remained there for several days. Creighton removed it briefly to get some other bills passed (understandable!) and then it went back on intent. That same day Senator Campbell pulled it from locals and Senator Hancock, as the chair, gave senatorial courtesy as is customary. That was given with the understanding that HB984 was still on the intent calendar and would be heard. It wasn’t.

    HB984 was a great bill and had the unwavering support of both parties. The bill was for Texas born adults, adopted as minors to access their OWN original birth certificates, their very first medical record, without getting a court order. This would have lightened the load on the county courts, and equalized the process. There are no valid reasons to continue to treat adults as children. As an adoptive mother of ONE minor child, Senator Campbell has the right to make parental decisions. Adoptees, like all children, grow up. As adults, we are all entitled to make our own choices.

    While Senator Campbell has stated she would have amended the bill if it was brought to the floor, she has numerous opportunities to discuss the bill with the representative and senator who sponsored the bill and took no actions. That action speaks volumes over her words.

    Watching the 2013 senate hearing is an education and gives more background on how Senator Campbell feels about adoptees. http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=9&clip_id=810 That session, SB714 was also killed by her. Her first words about the issue can be read in the press release on texasadopteerights.org.“Why the need would a child want to go back and find, for financial reasons? That they should be allowed something…?”

    Please go there and sign up to receive our emails and updates.

    There are standard myths which were refuted at each legislators office this session:

    Privacy:

    The privacy issue was battled in court, the 6th circuit court of appeals states that parents ARE entitled to privacy, they are NOT entitled to anonymity.

    Since two states never closed records, kansas and alaska, and now 16 states have restored some level of access, there is data available which show that less than 1 % of birth parents do not want contact. Ohio restored access March 20, 2015 to 400,000 adoptees. Out of the 800,000 birth parents there were 115 who did not want contact… less than 0.002%.

    Couple that with the fact that HB984 had a contact preference form for birth parents to choose 1) contact 2) no contact or 3) contact thru a confidential intermediary and you have a great bill. Additionally, DNA now results in people being reconnected after climbing thru entire family trees and people are putting their personal information in public posts on social media. not very private.

    Oh, and with 254 county courts, there are 254 interpretations of “good cause” which is the standard to grant access. IF a judge does give access, there is NO warning to the birth parents… just like there is no warning thru the social media or DNA route. here are some videos with information:

    Abortion:

    Since Kansas and Alaska never restricted access and now 16 states have some kind of access, we have data on abortions as well. Abortion rates do NOT go up. In fact, they drop at a higher rate than states without access to original birth certificates.

    Adoptions will drop:

    No evidence from states which have restored access. In fact, women are more likely to place for adoption if they know there will be some mechanism of contact.

    Changes in adoption practice:

    In the 1970s approximately 80% of infants born to single mothers were placed for adoption. By the 1990s that amount was less than 1%. Today it is standard practice for adoptions to have some component of contact between birth and adoptive families. Some even act as a extended families with the child having visitation between the familys. That is because every single expert on adoption realizes that there is no place in adoption for lies and secrecy.

    Health Issues:

    There are no DNA tests for the majority of illnesses which run in families. The US Surgeon General states that people need to know the illnesses which are passed down. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports adoptees obtaining their original birth certificates at age 18. The National Association of Social Workers. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops supported this bill.

    There was no opposition to this bill. It was a solid bill which is following the social standards of today (not 1950), and would have preserved the privacy of everyone involved.

    Here are two videos about the bill. We look forward to seeing this bill pass in 2017. Please sign up for our email list at texasadopteerights.org

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8fLDsMOQDw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC1i1MsxEso

    • WUSRPH

      That is what happens when you give power to unreasonable people. I thought it was significant that you quote her as bringing up trying to squeeze money out of the parents as the first thought she had as why someone would want to know. It could well show her viewpoint on life…..

      • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

        “That is what happens when you give power to unreasonable people.”
        speaks volumes about the arrogance of the pedantic.
        Keep posting you’re doing a great job gasbag.

        • don76550

          Do have to agree with that one.

    • Aaron Smith

      One answer for txcg: counseling, electroshock and heavy medication. Perhaps a constructive hobby like tiddly winks.

      • Connie Gray

        Let’s evaluate the exchange: facts were presented and you responded with insults. Aaron, when would you like to schedule a public forum on this issue?

  • Blue Dogs

    Big question is whether HB984 will be brought back up again in 2017 when the 85th Session of the TX Legislature begins ?
    A.) YES
    B.) NO
    C.) TBD

    • WUSRPH

      With the degree of support it had it certainly will be back and will probably pass next time unless Patrick goes beyond acceptable behavior to help Campbell.

    • PicklesS

      Should be killed again.

      • Connie Gray

        Please explain the fact based reasoning behind your response and if you are 1. Adoptive parent 2. Birth parent 3. Adoptee 4. Non adopted person.

    • Connie Gray

      Absolutely. This bill was the result of Senator Campbell killing SB714 in 2013. That bill would have allowed adoptees who did not know the names on the original birth certificates to obtain their obcs if the state could determine the birth parents were dead.

      Watch the March 5, 2013 senate jurisprudence committee video start at 51:00. First words out of her mouth are “I don’t understand the need…. is it for financial reasons” the bill made it out of committee and then she questionable blocked it on the floor. That session was completely off the radar and no one was monitoring her behavior. Then texasadopteerights.org got organized and this session everyone at the capitol understood the issue and people outside the Capitol was watching.

      All major organizations support this type of legialation. Catholic charities, prolife groups, educated adoptive parents, birth parents, medical organizations, social wprkers, therapists, adoption agencies. Especially with social media and DNA testing revealing birth parents identity in very public ways.

      Only those people with personal agendas oppose this group. If birth parents oppose this bill because they think it will prevent their past from being discovered, they are clinging to the belief that they will be judged on 1950s or 1977s standards. The past will be revealed in very public ways if they do not allow this bill to pass.

      Senator Campbell continues to cite her concerns that this would “be detrimental ” to adoptive families. As the parent of four adoptive daughters…. oh wait…. actually one adoptive daughter who is a minor… the older daughters from her current husband (I dont think they are divorced yet) are his from a previous marriage. Interesting that she first kept claiming FOUR and when faced with the facts then changed the number to the truth.

      Only those who choose to push their own personal bias and ignore the shift in adoption practices to truth over lies and the entitlement that everyone has to their medical health history continue to oppose what the educated will pass.