The State of Texas: November 5, 2015
HERO post-mortems roll in, Paxton OKs ”In God We Trust” for police vehicles, and the fight over sanctuary cities gets serious.
Quote of the Day
“I am a monkey fan.”
— Jerry Jones. No context needed, really, but here it is.
Crazy Train Thursday
Hide your bats, because Ozzy Osbourne is in Texas. On Wednesday, the infamous rocker took a tour of the Capitol and chatted with representatives as part of a History Channel show he’s filming with his son. Thursday, he is reportedly going to San Antonio to apologize for his peeing on the Alamo Cenotaph in 1982.
— Kevin Cooper (@JKevinCooper) November 4, 2015
Ballot Box Quarterbacking — As the dust settles after the decisive defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, people are looking around and asking an obvious question: what the hell happened? Thankfully, the Houston Chronicle has a pretty thorough analysis. One key misstep, according to political scientists and supporters, was “poor outreach to black voters.” There’s a special kind of irony reserved for fumbling liberals sorta blaming black voters, but it isn’t unprecedented—California did the same after its ban on gay marriage passed. As the Chronicle notes, “Majority black City Council districts were among those most decisively rejecting the law Tuesday, including District B and District D, where 72 percent and 65 percent of voters, respectively, opted to repeal the law.” In addition, the paper notes some obvious issues, namely that HERO proponents failed to effectively combat “The Great Bathroom Panic.” Apparently the best way to reach Houstonians would’ve been to appeal not so much to their emotions or even business sensibility, but their love of football. A KHOU/KUHF poll from earlier this year “showed that among opponents of the law, 24 percent said they would change their mind if told that the National Football League would not come to Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl and the National College Athletic Association would take the Final Four elsewhere if the law was repealed.” And indeed, the call to move the 2017 Super Bowl has begun, but as the Dallas Morning News notes in its own HERO wrap-up, “the NFL said the ordinance’s defeat will not affect plans for the 2017 Super Bowl.” As if HERO proponents weren’t upset enough, outspoken opponent and noted rich white dude Lance Berkman apparently went on a radio program to discuss the “digital persecution” he faced for speaking his mind.
In God We Trust — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday that law enforcement officials can display the phrase “In God We Trust” on their work vehicles. In his three-page letter to State Senator Charles Perry, who asked the AG to weigh in on the issue, Paxton cited everyone’s favorite amendment, the First. Paxton also wrote that “displaying ‘In God We Trust’ on police vehicles is a passive use of a motto steeped in our nation’s history that does not coerce citizen approval or participation,” according to the Amarillo Globe-News. “The (U.S) Supreme Court recently upheld the right of a municipality to open its town meetings with a prayer … A law enforcement department’s decision to display the national motto on its vehicles is consistent with that history.” In addition, Paxton cited the Constitution’s establishment clause as reason why a court would find the phrase permissible. It goes without saying that Perry and state Representative Drew Springer, who also sought the AG’s opinion after the controversy first occurred in Childress, are very pleased with the decision. The Globe-News notes that “as of Wednesday, it appeared that no group or individual in Texas intends to challenge Paxton’s opinion in court.”
A Wall of Money — The fight over “sanctuary cities” had involved a lot of bluster, but it just took a serious turn. Serious meaning that money might now be involved. Governor Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that $250 million worth of criminal justice grants will be “off-limits to counties that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities,” reports the Associated Press. “Abbott said counties applying for criminal justice grants controlled by his office must now certify that federal detention requests will be honored. Dallas County has received about $78,000 so far this year, a fraction of the $146 million sheriff’s office budget.” As the story notes, Abbott is taking a page from congressional Republicans, who attempted to enact similar restrictions last month. While Abbott took aim at local municipalities, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus “ordered the Appropriations Committee to come up with a way to measure border security and evaluate how effective the state has been in keeping its boundary with Mexico secure after an $800 million appropriation by the Legislature,” according to the El Paso Times. The real credit for some possible accountability goes to Representative Cesar Blanco, “a frequent critic of the state’s lack of objective metrics to measure border security,” who requested the order. As the story notes, “Straus’ assignment was part of a lengthy list of ‘interim charges’ — homework assignments he gave various committees to work on between now and the beginning of the 85th Legislature.” But there’s no telling if the dog won’t have eaten up the directives come 2017.