Reporting from the Texas Legislature, with investigation and analysis of the state's economy, public policy, education, and more. 

The Meh Primary

With his good hair and new horn-rimmed glasses, Rick Perry woke up this morning hoping Republicans will give him a second chance at making a first impression. Perry has an announcement scheduled at the Addison Airport north of Dallas. He is surrounding himself at the event with so many former Navy SEALs that if he’s not announcing for president, then he’s flying off immediately in a C-130 to stop a Bond villain a la You Only Live Twice — and “Twice is the only way to live.”

I’m betting on a run for president.

Perry told Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News that he is a different man than he was when he entered the last contest in 2011 and then stumbled in a series of debates.

Perry has healed from the back surgery that hampered him through 2012. He has spent two years studying with experts in foreign relations, military preparedness and economics. He has traveled dozens of times to early primary states to establish a beachhead. He has ditched the cowboy boots and added glasses.

“It’s real different from last time,” Perry said in a recent interview. “You know I’m a different candidate than I was 3 1/2 years ago.”

The question before him is whether it’s too late.

In a crowded field of candidates at a time when Americans are disgusted with both major political parties, Perry’s first challenge is to break through the noise just to make the case that he is smarter than the 2011 campaign seemed to proclaim.

Social Conservatives Want Special Session on Gay Marriage

With legislation to block county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses dying in the Legislature, it is not surprising that social conservatives are asking Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session on the issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected later this month to rule on whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional, and the conventional wisdom is the court is going to say the bans are unconstitutional. Social conservatives had hoped to block implementation in Texas by passing a law that banned the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, giving the state a means for continued litigation. The conservatives hope to use Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980) to argue that the federal government cannot force states to spend local money to enforce a federal policy; i.e., issuing licenses for same-sex marriage.

After a legislative session where Abbott can claim a level of success, I find it difficult to believe he would call a special session on such a divisive issue, especially while he is still signing and vetoing bills. But on a single-issue special session, the only thing to stop a bill such as this from passing quickly would be a quorum break by Democrats.  

The petition to Abbott is posted below.

 

The Leadership Race

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.

Sylvester Turner's Tearful Farewell

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.

The Homeowner, er, Financial Inducement

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.

 

The Legislature Is Hoarding $18 Billion of Your Money

When the Eighty-fourth Legislature ends on Monday, your Texas leaders will brag that they have balanced the state budget and put forth proposals to cut the state business tax and to reduce property tax burdens. What they won’t tell you is they are hoarding more than $18 billion that could have gone to deeper tax cuts, or to repairing the state’s infrastructure or improving roads, or to reducing state debt, or to eliminating a deficit in the pension fund for state employees, or even to public education.

Nope. They’re just going to hoard that money like the dragon Smaug sitting on his pile of gold and jewels and other treasurers in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Those Secret Videos of Texas Lawmakers Are Apparently Not So Newsworthy

When it was revealed earlier this month that the American Phoenix Foundation—a conservative media nonprofit—had used hidden cameras to make hundreds of hours of video footage of Texas lawmakers, the expectations for what would appear on those tapes were high. The footage was later promised to Breitbart Texas, whose managing director, Brandon Darby, further teased the salaciousness of the material: 

“Some of it is very newsworthy,” Darby said in a telephone interview. […]

“Just to speak in general terms, I do think that if somebody sells themselves to the people as being a big family values guy and a family guy, I think there is a problem coming to Austin and having sex with people who are not their wives and sometimes in public places and I think that’s a bit of a problem,” Darby said.

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