Tue June 2, 2015 9:55 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

The national Investigative Reporters and Editors committee has nominated the Texas Department of Public Safety as a finalist for its 2015 Golden Padlock Award Golden Padlock Award “celebrating the most secretive government agency or individual in the United States.”

Drumroll, please, the official nomination:

The Texas Department of Public Safety for attacking the media rather than releasing information on the costs and effects of border security. The Texas Observer was unable to obtain records about the company behind the state’s border security plan. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t get answers on how many state officers had been deployed to the border. The Dallas Morning News was unable to learn key facts about a now defunct policy requiring that Texans give all 10 fingerprints, rather than just one, when applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses. Documents recently made public by the Austin American-Statesman show how the agency also sent memos to lawmakers attacking reporters’ stories before they ran. After the state Attorney General’s office intervened, the Houston Chronicle got data from the agency about crimes in border-area counties before and after National Guard troops were deployed. The newspaper concluded: “Much of the narrative that Texas officials have used to justify their surge of state police and National Guard troops to the southern border has been wrong.”

Other nominees include the Colorado Judicial Brach, the Massachusetts State Police, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Incidentally, I learned yesterday that DPS Director Steve McCraw was so intensively watching the Texas border for undocumented immigrants, drug smugglers and terrorists that he was surprised to learn that American Phoenix Foundation operatives were intensively confronting members of the Legislature in the Capitol. Only after confronted by the legislative leadership did McCraw assign plainclothes officers to follow the foundation operatives wherever they went in the Capitol, including when they were eating lunch in the Capitol cafeteria. 

Tue June 2, 2015 8:56 am By Paul Burka

To the extent that there was competition among the state’s top leadership this session, the clear winner was Governor Abbott. He achieved most of his objectives: tax cuts, pre-kindergarten, an expansion of gun rights. And he avoided a direct confrontation with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He appears to intend to wield a targeted veto pen (SB 359 and HB 225, for example), which will further remind legislators that he’s in charge. His only shortcoming was his comments on Jade Helm and an ill-chosen confrontation with cities over local control. Why he took umbrance at municipal ordinances concerning bag bans is hard to fathom, but it no doubt has something to do with his pre-session blast about Texas becoming “California-ized” which, as far as I’m concerned, is a silly concept.

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Sun May 31, 2015 6:07 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Representative Sylvester Turner fought back tears today as the House gave him a bipartisan farewell as he concluded a 26-year legislative career to run for Houston mayor. “My time is up. My season is about here. And Mr. Speaker, in 24 hours, my desk will be clear,” Turner told the House, his eyes filled with tears.

Turner, who sometimes is called the “conscience of the House,” had once contemplated a career in the ministry before turning to law and politics. “God made me a very passionate person,” Turner said. “For twenty-six years, I have made this my ministry. And I’ve tried to hold true to it.”

Win or lose, Turner said he always tried to make a difference.

“I have given it my best. I have fought hard for the things I believe. I have done my best to keep them at the front. I have not won every battle. Every vote has not come my way, but I have given it all that I could,” Turner said.

At one point, he choked up and could not speak. Taking a white handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped his eyes.

“I love each and every one of you,” he told his colleagues. “Whether we have voted together or not is not important to me. Whether you are a D or an R is not important to me. The reality is we are Texans, but proud Texans.”

Lawmakers from both parties paid homage to Turner. Former Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican, teased him for his passionate speeches. Representative John Smithee, R-Amarillo, said those speeches could make a difference, “He could turn the House with logic and good argument.” Democratic Caucus Chair Yvonne Davis summed him up by saying:

“Whether it is Representative Turner, Chairman Turner, pastor Turner, mayor Turner, one thing that encompasses every one of those titles is you are a true leader.”

Sun May 31, 2015 8:49 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

State Representative Jonathan Stickland may have been thwarted time and again on his efforts to obtain the open carrying of handguns without a permit, but he won the video war.

Sat May 30, 2015 10:08 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Evidently, not convinced that voters will approve the proposed constitutional amendment to increase residential homestead exemptions, the Legislature included in Senate Bill 1 a bribe – uh, correct that – financial inducement to homeowners to get out and vote. It is a statement of what they will save if the amendment passes in November, an inducement to vote that will not be received by any renters or owners of commercial property. On top of that, it appears to be contrary to the Oath of Office prescribed in the Texas Constitution that every member of the Legislature must sign on taking office.

Let’s start with the inducement language in Senate Bill 1.

 

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