Fri March 20, 2015 7:54 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Barack Obama this week proved presidents are unwise to muse in public. At an event in Cleveland on Wednesday, he thought out loud about how the neighborhood would be more beautiful if everyone voted. Perhaps we should make voting mandatory like Australia, said the Muser in Chief.

Fired upon by the right and the left, it was White House down. The Boss was disavowed faster than Secret Service agents ramming the gates. “The president was not making a specific policy prescription for the United States,” said press secretary Josh Earnest.

But the whole tempest – which teapots are wont to have – got me wondering what effect mandatory voting might have in Texas, a state with a woeful history of voter turnout.


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Wed March 18, 2015 8:53 pm By Erica Grieder

Open Carry passes Texas senate. While the House was busy debating Dennis Bonnen’s border security bill, which ultimately passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 131-12 vote, the Senate was tackling Texas’s top priority: guns. Craig Estes’ SB 17, which would allow licensed open carry, passed on third reading, despite vigorous and occasionally inventive but ultimately futile opposition from Democrats when it came to the floor on Monday. Brian Birdwell’s SB 11, which would allow campus carry, still needs a third reading but is as good as passed despite vigorous and occasionally inventive but ultimately futile opposition from Democrats on the floor today. 

I have a long story on the 84th Legislature’s great open carry debate in the April issue. It will be available online pretty soon and on newsstands next week. So for today, I’ll just give away the plot twist: this entire saga has effectively been the result of a Freaky Friday-type confusion, in which “open carry” has been used interchangeably to mean “licensed open carry”, as in the Estes bill, and “constitutional carry”, as in the arguably radical belief that insofar as the Second Amendment is a license to carry, no further such license should be required. The Republican Party of Texas’s platform, however, helpfully refers to both “constitutional carry” and “open carry”; the logical implication is that licensed open carry is the real open carry, or real enough. In other words, Dan Patrick has now fought for open carry, and won. Congratulations, Governor Patrick.

I don’t have much to say about campus carry, either, other than this: gun laws are like abortion laws. Both are emotive, divisive, and don’t have many effects in practice.

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Wed March 18, 2015 5:43 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Probably the most interesting thing I heard during the entire House debate on HB 11 for border security was that the $12 million-a-month DPS and National Guard surge last year primarily secured the border in ony two counties: Hidalgo and Starr. Together, they contain 121 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, less than 10 percent of the entire length of the state’s 1,254-mile boundary with Mexico.

These two counties may well serve as the international spigot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, but that hardly seems to match the rhetoric of securing the border. In fact, several border area lawmakers took to the back microphone in the House to make certain the legislation was not going to taint the public view of where they live.

“A few of the concerns we have is the branding of the (Rio Grande) Valley. People are branding it as an area where there’s bloodshed and there’s fighting going along on the street. How does this bill help us not brand it in this manner?” asked Representative Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco.

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Wed March 18, 2015 10:20 am By By R.G. Ratcliffe

abortion identification texasIf identification is needed for voting, then it also should be needed for obtaining an abortion—at least that’s the implication of HB 3994 by Representative Geanie Morrison of Victoria.

Under Morrison’s bill, “a physician shall presume that a pregnant woman is a minor unless the woman presents a valid government record of identification showing that she has reached the age of majority.” The age of majority is defined as 18, but the bill doesn’t give a doctor the leeway to say a 30-year-old woman looks like a 30-year-old woman. The doctor has to presume the woman is an under-age minor.

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Tue March 17, 2015 2:04 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Campus carry legislation hit a hiccup in the Senate on Tuesday, but Florida is moving ahead with its version of handguns on campus. The Miami Herald reports:

Despite vehement opposition from university presidents, campus police chiefs and student government associations, the Senate Higher Education Committee on Monday approved a proposal that would allow guns on college campuses.

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