The past few days have brought several bits of bad news for Greg Abbott. Two are court rulings that put him in a slightly awkward position. One is his own decision and ratchets up the potential fallout from the court rulings. First, the court rulings. On Thursday State District Judge John Dietz ruled that Texas's current system of school finance is unconstitutional any which way you look at it: that it imposes a de facto statewide property tax, that it doesn't provide adequate funding to accomplish the general diffusion of knowledge, and that it doesn't provide equitable access to the funding that is available. (The Tribune has links to Dietz' final judgment and findings of fact, as PDFs.) Then on Friday, US District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that a key provision of last year's omnibus abortion bill--the requirement that facilities providing abortions must meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center--amounts to an unconstitutional (and "brutally effective") restriction on access to legal abortion for women across Texas.
These rulings are awkward for Abbott for obvious reasons. Although he isn't the most ardent defender of Texas's luridly complicated school finance system or its lurch to the right on social issues, he is, as the attorney general, the person constitutionally deputized to defend state laws in court, a point that he tacitly conceded over the weekend by issuing a statement saying that the state would appeal Dietz's ruling, and filing a motion asking the 5th Circuit for permission to enforce the abortion law despite Yeakel's ruling. On the school finance front, especially, a certain lack of enthusiasm could be discerned. The state would, per the statement, defend the school finance law "just as it defends all laws enacted by the Legislature"--a comment that, in addition to conveying no particular animation on the attorney general's part, clearly points to the Lege as the culprit in the whole scenario.