Armed with tweets, Wendy Davis alum Zac Petkanas commands DNC’s Trump War Room

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Good morning Austin:

The worst part of each day for Zac Petkanas is when he wakes up and realize that yes, it’s true, Donald Trump is president of the United States.

“It’s the worst part of my day, the absolute worst part of my day, and then I get over it and then we suit up because there is so much work to do,” Petkanas told me yesterday. “Every day is a new horror.”

Petkanas is director of the Trump War Room for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. During the presidential campaign he was director of rapid response for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I got to know Zac when he was the spokesman for Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign against Greg Abbott in 2014.

Like the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Wendy Davis campaign didn’t end well, losing by 20 points. The margin was larger than expected, but it would have been a stunning upset if she had won. On the other hand, Clinton’s loss was a stunning upset.

But Petkanas is relentless and indefatigable.

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“I started at the DNC Jan. 2  with a two-month contract through the end of February to stand up the Trump War Room until the next Chair of the DNC comes in,” said Petkanas, who is 31. “The new chair will decide whether want to continue the war room or not.”

As a child actor in NYC, Petkanas had a small role on As the World Turns. He now has a somewhat larger role in the great geopolitical soap opera of our lives –  As the World Spins out of Control.

Here is my Q-and-A with Zac.

FR: Twitter is an important part of your arsenal.

ZP: The virtue of Twitter is that it provides a real time way to communicate with voters and with reporters to show hem how you frame the issues as they are happening. And it’s the evolution of how information is transmitted from political operatives. It used to be mail press releases then fax machines then email and now it’s twitter. I have never worked in place with a fax machine. I entered with email.

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I think that the best way of way communication is via email as well as Twitter they have to be used in concert with one another. Twitter are quick thoughts by creating a drumbeat about that sentence, the narrative that you believe should frame the events that are happening. Email are important because they sit in a reporters inbox.

In a lot of way email is done incorrectly these days, I think you need to treat email to be a lot more like Twitter. You’re looking for shorter. Reporters are being inundated every day and they simply do not have time to read large blocks. So I think the smart operatives are the ones who treat email more like Twitter so that a reporter can get a glimpse of the message you’re trying to portray. For example, instead of a huge text block to show that there were protests all over the country against the repeal of Obamacare, just put the actual headlines showing that here are protests everywhere, with links.

 

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FR: What do you think of President Trump’s use of Twitter?

ZP: I think it is fundamentally bad for our country. I think it is dangerous.. We’re talking about a man who through his tweets is able to move markets, is able to anger allies, is able to get countries mobilizing their armed forces. So fundamentally it hurts us and makes us less safe. However, it does provides a window into what the president is thinking and feeling at any given moment.

FR: And it gives you plenty to work with.

ZP: I think that his approval ratings are where they are largely because of self-inflicted wounds through his Twitter feed. He has stepped on his message at every turn through his Twitter feed because he cannot control himself.

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FR: Was his tweeting dangerous to the nation as a candidate for president?

ZP: It was less dangerous when he was a candidate. At that point it just provided fodder for his opponents to show how erratic he was – is. Now that he is commander-in-chief it presents a whole other layer of danger and showcases why he is not fit to be president.

 

FR: Would Trump have been nominated and elected without Twitter?

ZP: He was nominated and elected because of the Russians. His use of Twitter or not did not stop Vladimir Putin from coming in and helping him become president of the United States.

 

FR: In the primary and general?

ZP: Just the general.

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FR: So in the primary was Twitter a net benefit for Trump?

ZP: I’m not sure it was Twitter that was what helped him.

I do believe Twitter was helpful for him among his base. It may have helped him in the primary. I think what ultimately helped him was the inability or unwillingness of his Republican opponents to show any backbone in standing up to him.

FR: Putting aside the effect on the nation, is it fair to say President Trump has a natural flair for Twitter and bite-sized communication.

ZP: I think it’s fairly ineffective in communicating beyond his base who already support him. It could be more effective if he didn’t use it as an instrument of vindictiveness and petty childish taunts.

FR: Was there a Tweet that you think was purest essence of Trump.

ZP: I think the one from today is pretty high up there where he essentially says that any bad news is fake news. I mean if that doesn’t capture Donald Trump, I don’t know what does.

 

FR: Do you like tweeting?

ZP:  I actually don’t.

FR: That’s sad.

DT: It’s totally sad.

Twitter is what everyone has to use to communicate at this point in our political history, but really I’d much rather be writing long essay-like missives and mailing them to people in the hope that they read them and print more high-minded discussions that I think are better suited to our republic, but that’s not the world we live in.

FR: So you ‘re nostalgic for the Federalist Papers.

ZP: Yes the Federalist Papers.

Let’s remember that Donald Trump didn’t’ just use Twitter with himself tweeting. One of he big ways the Russians came in and helped him was to flood Twitter with bots – a lot of them generating from Eastern Europe – to go up and promote pro-Trump information and to attack journalists and others who dared speak out against Donald Trump. So I think the story of Donald Trump and Twitter goes a lot deeper than just his penchant for notable tweets early in the morning.

 

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FR: He does his own tweeting, right?

ZP: During the campaign at least, but less so now , whenever there was a tweet from Donald Trump you would check to see, did it come from an Android or came from an iPhone. If it came from Android, you knew it was from Donald Trump. If it came from an iPhone the theory was, they were usually more sedate and more professional, that it came from one of his staffers, so you could try to get a sense whether it was Donald Trump himself succumbing to his 5-year-old, spoiled brat tendencies, or whether it was a staffer who was moderately more professional.

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I don’t know whether it’s been resolved whether he punches the letter into a device or calls over a staffer.

FR: How long do you think Twitter will last?

ZP: Twitter’s been going strong for quite a while. It’s a pretty unique medium and I think that it accurately captures the current attention span, certainly of the media in America, of we as Americans, but also in the Trump presidency, where there is basically a scandal and an outrage a minute, and I think that if Twitter was on the decline before the Trump presidency I think it got a second life with his election … with the help of the Russians.

FR: What tweeters impress you?

ZP:Dan Pfeiffer really strong. John Favreau very strong. John Weaver,  the Republican strategist. is really strong. Evan McMullin is a really strong tweeter. Jason Kander, Chris Murphy, the Connecticut senator, really strong.

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I think the Clinton twitter team was very strong.

FR: Was it Donna Brazile, the acting DNC chair, who called to ask you to head up the DNC war room?

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ZP: Yes. Donna Brazile recognized the emergency need between Trump becoming president and when there is a new (DNC) chair coming in in early March. We need a war room that holds Donald trump accountable on a whole host of issues from the Cabinet nominations, to his conflicts of interests, to the Russian connection, now the Supreme Court, the executive orders, the Muslim ban, and so she asked me to set up and to run that operation in the interim, and so hopefully that’s something we can pass off to the next chair.

FR: If you don’t say on at the DNC, what do you want to do next?

ZP: I want to go to a beach.

FR: What was your last day off?

ZP: The day before I started this job. New Year’s Day.

This is one of the most intense things I have done in my life and the campaign was pretty intense. This is a different kind of intense because during the campaign it was a war of words – he would say something and we would respond. And the stakes were high but they were not as high as they are right now, because he is not just saying things. He is doing things and he is hurting people and the feeling here is that every second that we are not exposing his agenda and pushing back, more people are getting hurt and that’s something that engenders a lot of passion and lot of drive from people in this building who feel very strongly about what this president is doing.

I think this is unique period that requires all hands on deck, leave everything out on the table, you can worry about self-care later, this first 100 days it’s a unique time when there is no social engagement, no personal thing that you can do that is more important than keeping on him and make sure nothing gets by.

FR: How tough was period after the election?

ZP: I got angry pretty quickly. I did. I was in a very black hole the day after, on Wednesday, and then on Thursday I got mad, I mean really angry at what he was talking about doing to this country and he planned on maintaining his promises to hurt people, the middle class, racial and ethnic minorities, women.

FR: Did you have regrets about things you could have done differently during the campaign.

ZP: At the end of a campaign you always replay in your head what could I have been done differently. I think in this case, which was unique to this campaign, there were unprecedented outside forces that had an impact on this campaign, mainly intervention by a foreign government to sway the election, and that has now led to multiple investigations, including a joint investigation by six law enforcement and intelligence agencies that are looking into whether the Kremlin funneled money to the Trump campaign, and even, in terms of the FBI, asked for wiretaps on members of the Trump team.

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So I mean, when you are assessing the campaign, were there things that could have been done differently? Absolutely, but it is important to contextualize it within the unprecedented outside forces that had an impact on this.

FR: It appears that maybe Trump was caught by surprise by winning.

ZP: They clearly did not think through how they were going to set up a government, and certainly not run it. And I think the gross incompetence of this administration – it’s kind of hard to know which is going to win out, their capacity for hurting Americans, or their incompetence to do it.

 

FR: How long do you think President Trump will be in the White House – two years, four years, eight years?

ZP: I’m going to leave that to others. What our job is is ensuring that the information is out there for people to take action to resist this administration, that there is as much information out there about his connections to Russia, conflicts of interest. debunking their spin on the Muslim ban, exposing their corrupt Cabinet nominees and others, to make sure that information is out there so that people can take that and resist in a way that they believe is good for our republic.

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FR: Anything you like about what Trump has done?

ZP: Anything positive out of this administration is dwarfed by things like the Muslim ban, which is both unconstitutional and makes us less safe.

 

FR: Do you think President Trump is aware of you?

ZP: No, I’m sure he has no idea and that’s perfectly fine with me. He is not my audience.

My job is to provide information to those who are looking to resist this administration as well as to those who are looking to hold this administration accountable, and make sure there is accurate fact-based information to push back against an administration that shows it has an aversion to the truth.

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I asked Petkanas whether he misses Texas.

He said he missed tacos and brisket. He made no mention of the Texas press corps.

No sanctuary: On Gov. Abbott’s promise that `Texas will hammer Travis County’

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Good morning Austin:

You may recall that in March 2013 it was revealed that North Korea’s  U.S. Mainland Strike Plan had targeted New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles for attack.

Oh, and Austin.

 

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It was not clear #whyAustin. Nor was it clear that the North Koreans had ICBM’s capable of delivering on the threat.

Apparently, in the years since Austinites laughed off the threat, North Korea has been working hard on its capacity to wipe South by Southwest off the map. But, thanks to God, we’ve got President Trump watching our back.

But, now comes another threat against Austin.

Uh oh.

The governor of Texas is going to hammer Travis County, which is where Austin finds itself. It is also where I find myself and many of you find yourselves. It’s where the governor, and the Governor’s Mansion and the Texas State Capitol find themselves.

And  yet we have now come to the pretty pass where, apparently, it becomes necessary, as was the case with the Vietnamese city of  Bến Tre in 1968, to destroy – or at least hammer – our city/county in order to  save it.

The good news is that, unlike North Korea’s obscure rationale for targeting Austin, Abbott’s reasoning has been plainly articulated.

Austin, he has declared, is a sanctuary city, thanks to its new sheriff, Sally Hernandez, who, the governor contends, by refusing to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities, is in violation of her oath of office and, if she does not change her ways, must be removed from office. In the meantime, as of last week, the governor has begun to deny Travis County some state funds under his control to try to force the sheriff to bend to his will.

Even amidst the ongoing hostilities, that tweet about Texas hammering Travis County seemed harsh, or at any rate a bit too Trumpian for a man who, after all, is not Donald Trump.

I wondered where that language came from and so I watched Gov. Abbott’s interview with Bill O’Reilly that same day.

 

O’Reilly:  So what are you going to do to Travis County governor.

Abbott: Texas is not going to tolerate any sanctuary city policies, so yesterday, I withheld more than $1.5 million in government grants from the governor’s office to the Travis County sheriff’s office. Also, today we introduced legislation that will put the hammer down on Travis County as well as any sanctuary city policy in the state of Texas. We are seeking fines. We are seeking to withdraw more state funds. We are seeking court orders that will compel officials, like this sheriff, to comply with the law or possibly go to jail themselves.

O’Reilly: What does Sheriff Hernandez want?

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Abbott: She wants to pick and choose which laws she will follow and which laws she will enforce.

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O’Reilly: Austin is a very liberal place and Travis County outside of Austin is a regular Texas place, but what is the sheriff’s justification for defying the federal law?

Abbott: It’s her own policies. It’s her own perception of what she thinks is right. She took an oath of office to uphold the United States Constitution and laws and what she is doing right now is violating that oath.

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O’Reilly: But why, why is she violating it?

Abbott: Because his is her perception and the perception of the people in the liberal Austin city, oh we don’t want to hold these people behind bars.

O’Reilly: Is Miss Hernandez doing this for political reasons. Is she trying to curry favor with the far left? I don’t understand her motivation.

Abbott: It’s both of those that you mentioned. It’s to try to curry favor with the far left or political grandstanding. It’s certain;y bad policy for the safety and security of the folks who live in Travis County and the state of Texas. So basically her policy is idiotic but she is doing it to  pander to the ideology of the left, just like what you see in California, which I will not allow to happen in Texas.

O’Reilly: OK, so you’re going to put the hurt on the county and the sheriff.

Unlike when we were under threat from North Korea, in this case President Trump does not have Austin’s back. He has Gov. Abbott’s back and vice versa.

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Bill O’Reilly asked Trump about sanctuary cities in an interview that aired just before yesterday’s Super Bowl, which turned out to be an uncanny replay of the 2016 Trump-Clinton election from beginning to end.

O’Reilly: Let’s turn to domestic policy. I just spent the week in California. As you know, they are now voting on whether they should become a sanctuary state. So California, and the USA, are on a collision course. How do you see it?

Trump: Well, I think it’s ridiculous. Sanctuary cities, as you know, I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems. If we have to, we’ll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California — California in many ways is out of control, as you know. Obviously the voters agree, otherwise they wouldn’t have voted for me.

O’Reilly: So defunding is your weapon of choice?

Trump: Well it’s a weapon. I don’t want to defund a state, a city.

O’Reilly: But you’re willing to do it?

Trump: I don’t want to defund anyone. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.

Still, I wonder.

The problem with collective punishment is it never makes the punisher look good and that it makes martyrs of the victims.

The Moon is Down
The Moon is Down

The funding Abbott rescinded for Travis County included criminal justice grants for projects such as family violence education and a special court for veterans.

Take that.

In a First Reading last week advancing Abbott’s State of the State Address, in which he made legislation to ban sanctuary cities an emergency item, I wrote how the governor and other Texas Republicans were going to have to figure out a new political paradigm now that they couldn’t run and govern against a Democrat in the White House.

(A)s I watched developments in Austin from a distance last week, I was surprised to see how the spirit of Trump was having an energizing, synergizing effect on Abbott, with his judicial background and judicious, unTrumpian temperament, and how, improbably, in newly-elected Travis County sheriff Sally Hernandez, Abbott had found a worthy substitute for Hillary Clinton, and, in sanctuary cities, an issue that would fully align with the ‘you’re fired,” Trumpian zeitgeist of our time.

The problem, though, for Abbott, is that attacking President Obama  – or, had things worked out, President Clinton – is punching up, while beating up on Sally Hernandez is punching down, and punching down is a lot less attractive than punching up.

On Tuesday, Abbott made sanctuary cities legislation one of four emergency items, and on Thursday, the Texas Senate held a marathon hearing on it.

From Sean Collins Walsh’s story in the Statesman.

A young woman who attempted suicide after her father was deported. An unauthorized immigrant who has lived in Dallas for 17 years and owns a small business. Police chiefs who say they depend on strong relationships with immigrant communities to solve crimes. A nurse whose patients are largely immigrants. The Catholic bishop for Austin.

They were among the more than 600 people who signed up to testify Thursday at a marathon state Senate committee hearing on Senate Bill 4, which aims to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities and counties, where local officials decline to participate in federal immigration enforcement efforts. All but a few spoke in opposition to the bill by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock.

But at 12:45 a.m., after 16 hours of testimony, the State Affairs Committee approved the bill in a 7-2 party-line vote, sending it to the full Senate next week.

Of the more than 600 people who signed up to testify, only a handful were there to support the bill. There appeared to be as many Garcias signed up to speak against the bill as the sum total of supporters..

I talked about this over the weekend with John Mckiernan-Gonzalez, an associate professor of history at Texas State University, who specializes in Mexican American history, Latino Studies, the social and cultural history of medicine, and immigration history.

JMG: One of the things that’s clear is that a number of people who participated (in the hearing) are not enfranchised. They are not legal residents. They are DACA. Their dad’s legal status might not be there. But they are participating in the political arena, which is petitioning government, which is supposed to be accessible to everybody even if the vote isn’t.

That’s the big disjunction between all of Texas and it animates a lot of Texas politics.

But it speaks to the big typhus bath riots that happened in El Paso where overwhelmingly working women – and men – who crossed over into El Paso to work – were offended by being put into kerosene and vinegar baths.

(For decades, U.S. health authorities used noxious, often toxic chemicals to delouse Mexicans seeking to cross the border into the United States. A NPR report from John Burnett on the book, “The Bath Riots: Indignity Along the Mexican Border.”)

This offended their dignity, their access to jobs, and just their sense of worth in the streets of El Paso. And I think SB 4, asking police to treat everyone as a potential illegal immigrant – and it should be everybody and not the people you think are Mexican – is, and should, be offensive to everybody. The cops’ job is to make sure crimes are investigated or crimes do not happen, not whether or not people are here legally.

Just as a thought exercise, what if people inquired into people’s tax records before investigating the crime they are alleged to have been a victim to. It would be a very strange world.

I don’t know if people who support these policies have the same sense of anxiety that the policies won’t pass. There’s probably a sense of confidence that the governor is on their side and they don’t need to go out and advocate for this as much as the people who might be considered to be illegal, just by looking at them, whether they are or not.

When thinking about picking a fight with Travis County, he didn’t pick a fight with (former Austin, now Houston Police Chief) Art Acevedo. Art Acevedo had been public throughout about this decision to embrace people and not hand people over to ICE just because they don’t know what their immigration status is, but Abbott picked a fight with Sally Hernandez, who on the first day is, `I’m going to stop the policy of the previous sheriff because I don’t think it’s very helpful to the people who live here.’

It would be really bad to go up against Art Acevedo who looks like a cop’s cop.

Travis County doesn’t work by Charles Perry, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s rules, and that’s OK, that’s why Lubbock doesn’t work by the same rules. It’s what county jurisdictions are for.

There’s also something else. I miss when Gov. Abbott got up every morning and sued the federal government and ignored the state of Texas, and I think he’s also looking for a role in Texas. I mean punishing campuses for not breaking the law and sharing  the immigration status of their students with police authorities. That doesn’t  sound like Gov. Abbott.

Abbott is the same guy who has made a play for Hispanic votes, noting at every turn that his wife, Cecilia, is the state’s first Latina First Lady.

JMG: Abbott said, `I converted to Catholicism to be part of my wife’s family. I have a big family, Texas is a big family, we’re all in it together,’ and then there’s this.

It’s definitely, `Stay in line, Sally. Stay in line, Austin.’

And it’s also, what are you going to do to Austin? Void the whole city council? Jail Greg Casar for working with (many undocumented) construction workers before he became a city council person, put Kathy Tovo in detention for being a Ph.D. in American Studies, Sarah Eckhardt for putting on a pink hat when she is adjudicating?

How unTexas-like are we supposed to be? You know, let people hang loose and wave their Confederate flags or whatever flag flies. It’s the same difference. It’s not the way people think Texas should be. Get this government off my back so I can do what I want.

I also see people are responded to the bullying of Travis County and the rest of the Texas jurisdictions and Gov. Abbott’s tone and I think a lot of people think the current M.O. is bullying and people want to stand up, `We’re not bullies, and that’s why we’re here.”

From a comment on Gov. Abbott’s Facebook page:

Russell Riggan There was a time in this great State, when we wanted the Federal Government out of our business…Now we are begging for their approval.

Why not fight sanctuary cities in the state and local level, and go back to telling the Federal Government to go screw itself?

 

 

Mckiernan-Gonzalez testified at the hearing. This is from his prepared remarks.

As a voter: I voted for Sheriff Sally Hernandez in 2016. I heard her debate these very same questions with Joe Martinez. In November 2016, the voters of Travis County spoke, and they spoke decisively in her favor. Governor Greg Abbott objected to her nuanced position regarding the ways she intends to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to the ways she plans to serve and protect ALL the residents of Travis County.

This gubernatorial disagreement with Sheriff Hernandez and the voters of Travis County has gone too far. It seems that Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Senator Perry have gone too far in their vendetta against a duly elected Latina police officer. Their anger has turned into SB4: a bill that will endanger and imperil the relationship of immigrant communities, whether legal, international students, mixed status families, and those in liminal legal status to police authority. SB4 may ban a whole class of residents from interacting with public institutions, a decision that will ultimately imperil all of us.

My mother – who asked me to state that she is immensely grateful for her education and her employment (and her citizenship) – brought me up to fear the police, that only harm and pain can come from interactions with police authority. Since moving to Austin, and interacting with one-time sheriff Art Acevedo, and seeing the kinds of warm and fraternal relationship the police have wanted to establish with the Latino community here, I have seen police become advocates for people in my neighborhood. However, SB4 magnifies the threat police can pose, allowing them to turn anything – from a busted blinker to a possible trespassing charge – into the occasion for an ICE investigation.

This simply magnifies the threat; it makes me think that the bill wants to turn Texas police back to the kinds of police my mother experienced under the Rojas Pinilla dictatorship in Colombia. And the bill founders want to do this over and against the wishes of established police departments across the great state of Texas.

I was not at the hearing.

You can watch all 16 hours on a Senate video.

I watched a bit here and there. There are a lot of moving, tearful moments.

Here is Jalyn Castro, an 11-year-old, fifth grader from Arlington. (Jalyn is the name she is identified by on the witness list, but I think she calls herself Janet when she introduces herself)

 

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I am here to tell you, the people that make the laws, that SB 4 will hurt my family and I personally. I am really scared that one day I will get home and my parents may not be there. I fear that I will have no one to take care of me or my puppy.

I personally will be very depressed if SB 4 passes and separates me from my family.

My parents work hard all day to get me whatever I need in life. For example, my dad has a job from 8 to 5 and he always finds extra jobs, coming home late at night. I’ve seen him come home dusty, dirty and tired and I never hear him complain. He does all this to make sure that everyone in our family gets what we need.

Without my family, I would have nobody to care for me. No one to help me with anything. And no one to love me.

Please do not separate my, nor anybody’s family, because we will all be depressed and sad if you take away our families. Thank you for listening.

 

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Here is Norma Herrera of Austin, in the center, representing herself and Youth Rise Texas Austin.

 

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Herrera said that ten years ago, before she a legal resident, she was stopped by police driving to a research methods class at UT-Pan American, for not having a front license plate, but luckily, the officer knew her. She now has both a bachelor’s and graduate degree, and has worked for both Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s office and he Legislative Budget Board.

I ask you  to abandon these efforts to make immigrants ever more disposable. If Texas wants to remain the fifth most productive economy per capita by gross domestic product, you cannot do that on your own

 

My brother is an elementary school math teacher, my sister is a food bank program manager, my cousin is a neonatal ICU nurse, my dad  has labored in Texas oil fields for 30 years, my mom works as a health care attendant to the elderly in South Texas, and we are all public servants.

I ask you to vote no.

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“It’s really hard,” she said as she finished and was being told her time was up. “Which side are you on?”

 

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This is Maria Robles of Arlington, Texas, a very active member of her community and mother to four children who are U.S. citizens. She ended her testimony by standing, putting her hand on her heart and delivering an annotated version of the Pledge of Allegiance.

As I look around at what’s happening in our nation and our state I can’t help but wonder, `Wow, what happened to our pledge of allegiance? What does it really stand for?”These are the thoughts that come to mind as  I recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

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I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of America, the only flag I know and love. And to the Republic for which it stands – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In my world as an undocumented person, the American dream is to feel like I belong and I am not persecuted. One nation, under God – we are all created equal in the eyes of God, how can we then treat each other as less than human beings – indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

As I see the Senate bill move forward, the fear paralyzes me, paralyzes my family. I ask you to see me, to see us, the wife, the mother, the sister, the daughter that wants to belong again and have justice for all, not just some. Thank you.

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And this is Ben Weatherman of Austin, who took a more confrontational approach.

My name is Ben Weatherman. I am the co-founder and chief technical officer of a software development  company right here in beautiful Austin, Texas, along with my three immigrant co-founders and we employ nearly 20 people here in Austin

I am here to encourage and implore you to vote against this bill and what my granny would call a load of horse shit.

If you think for a minute that the reason we are concerned for safety here in Austin is undocumented immigrant, you are a fool, a moron and a loser

SAD.

 

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I wish Sen. Perry was here … I wish he was here because he was shoveling horse shit all morning and now these  people only get two minutes and they don’t even get to get clapped at after they make an amazing speech

 

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And here is Sandra Vitone from Hyde Park in Austin.

 

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She cited the governor’s State of the State Address last Tuesday in which, to great applause in the House chamber, he said,  We should demand that the federal government do two things. One: Fulfill important—but limited—responsibilities as written in the Constitution. And two: On everything else, leave us alone, and let Texans govern Texas.

“Let Texans be Texans,” Vitone said, urging a “no” vote on SB 4. “Do not let the federal government threaten us.”

In 2011, ending sanctuary cities was an emergency items for Gov. Rick Perry, but it never made it to his deak.

In July 2015, I wrote

One of the underpinnings of Rick Perry’s long-shot bid for president is that his 14 years of governing a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico gives him unique authority on immigration issues.

Then, less than a month ago, real estate mogul Donald Trump entered the race with what seemed a few ill-chosen words on the subject and stormed to the front of the crowded GOP pack, his position strengthened by the tragic July 1 shooting death in San Francisco of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly by Francisco Sanchez, a five-time deportee from Mexico who eluded being deported a sixth time because he found himself in a “sanctuary city.”

The issue of sanctuary cities is a familiar one for Perry, who in 2011 pressed the issue for strategic advantage without ever prevailing, and on Thursday he unveiled a national plan to end sanctuary cities. It would deny federal monies to help pay for the incarceration of undocumented immigrants to sanctuary communities that refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On the issue of immigration, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, “Perry has always been very astute,” finding ways to “show that he’s tough” while making as few enemies as possible.

xxxxxx

If Perry is no stranger to the issue of sanctuary cities, Jones said there are subtleties to his handling of the issue that might not be readily apparent.

Perry made a ban on sanctuary cities one of his priority emergency items during the 2011 legislative session. When it didn’t pass during the regular session, he put it on the agenda for a special session, where it also died. This occurred, Jones said, despite the fact that Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, all 19 Republican senators and 101 Republican House members backed the legislation.

During the regular session, it fell victim to the Senate two-thirds rule, which requires two-thirds of senators to agree on whether to debate legislation. That gave Democrats an effective veto. In the special session, in which the two-thirds rule no longer applied, Jones said that Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, chairman of the State Affairs Committee, which had swiftly approved the bill during the regular session, sat on it until it was too late.

Jones believes the “failure” by Perry — abetted by other Republican leaders — to secure passage of sanctuary cities legislation was actually evidence of his deft touch on immigration issues. It enabled Perry to satisfy immigration hard-liners in Texas while keeping Texas from following what was then Arizona’s far more draconian lead. All the better for Perry, Jones said, was that he ultimately didn’t have to sign into law a measure that might have frayed relations with Hispanic voters and business interests that depend on undocumented workers.

There is little likelihood that Abbott’s emergency item to ban sanctuary cities will fail this time. Patrick has complete command of the Senate. The House is unlikely to resist the Senate and the governor on this. It will, at least in the short-term, most likely benefit both Abbott and Patrick politically.

But it is at least possible that the governor, or at any rate the Texas Republican Party, will come to rue the day they won what in the long-term could be a costly victory.

Is licensing music therapists sound policy or a regulatory bottleneck?

 

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Good morning Austin:

Today’s question is which do you find more worrisome – the prospect of an unlicensed music therapist, or the possibility that you might have to have a license to be a music therapist?

To Al Bomanis, director of communications for the American Music Therapy Association, based just outside of D.C. in Silver Spring, Maryland, it is the former. But to William Mellor and Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice, co-authors of Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit, a new book pictured above, it is the latter.

The Institute for Justice describes itself as, “the nation’s only libertarian, civil liberties, public interest law firm.”

The word bottleneckers is the authors’ own coinage.

Bottlenecker

(n)

: a person who advocates for the creation or perpetuation of government regulation, particularly an occupational license, to restrict entry into his or her occupation, thereby accruing an economic advantage without providing a benefit to consumers

They write:

It’s called occupational licensure. Simply put, an occupational license is a government-issued permission slip allowing a person to work. Although some occupational and professional licenses are familiar, such as those for physicians or attorneys, others are less well known, such as those for interior designers, locksmiths, auctioneers, sign language interpreters, music therapists, florists, and many other occupations.

States (and sometimes cities or counties) require that people wishing to work in such occupations go through often-arbitrary anticompetitive hurdles, like completing mandatory education and training, passing
examinations, paying fees, and reaching a prescribed age. Those who cannot clear the required hurdles are prohibited from working in the occupation. Because these hurdles are often purposefully high, occupational licensing is a rare public policy that accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do—keep people out of the occupation.

On Wednesday, Carpenter, who is based in D.C., to talk about his book at the Texas Public Policy Foundation – a conservative think tank with whom it has had along relationship – and on Tuesday night I talked with Carpenter.

The book has chapters on Casket Cartels: Robbery without a Pistol, and Designed to Exclude: The Interior Design Cartel’s House of Lies.

But, of late, Carpenter’s gaze has alighted on music therapists.

From the book:

In just one example, the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and its sister organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), have mounted a nationwide campaign to license the practice of music therapy in order to “[protect] clients or patients from potential harm or misrepresentation from individuals that are not board certified music therapists and are not practicing under the CBMT
Scope of Practice.”

A music therapist, according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles,directs and participates in instrumental and vocal music activities designed to meet patients’ physical or psychological needs, such as solo or group singing, rhythmic and other creative music activities, music listening, or attending concerts.”

Regardless of what one thinks of the value of this work, the unregulated practice of music therapy hardly poses a threat to public health and safety. Although it had been practiced freely and safely for years, licenses have recently been adopted in the field, not at the request of harmed or concerned consumers but rather as an exclusive result of the actions of professional associations.

Through the advocacy efforts of a “regulatory affairs” team, the AMTA and the CBMT coordinated state-based task forces to introduce legislation for the creation of music therapy licenses.

To date, three states have passed such regulation—Nevada, North Dakota, and, most recently, Georgia. Georgia’s adoption of this legislation neatly illustrates the previously described process wherein industry representatives run to the legislature for protection. Upon its introduction, Georgia Senate Bill 414 was sent to the Senate Health and Human Services committee, which heard testimony from
the AMTA in favor of the bill and received a packet containing several letters of support from music therapists, parents of children who were receiving music therapy, and a professor of music therapy at Georgia College.

No one testified against the bill; no empirical evidence was presented demonstrating a genuine threat to public health and safety from the unregulated practice of music therapy; and no one asked about
the potential economic consequences to consumers in the form of higher prices. As a result, working as a music therapist in Georgia now requires:
• obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music therapy or higher from a program approved by the AMTA, the very entity that lobbied for the bill;
• successfully completing 1,200 hours of clinical training, with at least 180 hours of preinternship experiences and at least 900 hours of internship experiences;
• passing the examination for board certification offered by the CBMT, which costs $325 to take;
• paying various fees;
• being at least eighteen years of age; and
• passing a criminal background check.

Consumers in Georgia, North Dakota, Nevada, and any other state  that adopts this law could pay as much as 15 percent more for the services of a music therapist,with no evidence that the cost will be offset by increased protection for the public. Should a legislature attempt to repeal the license at some later date, the same association leaders who advocated for the law in the first place will most assuredly mount an aggressive campaign to protect their interests, and now they will be joined by representatives from the state licensing board, populated by licensed music therapists intent on maintaining their bottleneck on new entrants into the occupation.

There is no licensing for music therapists in Texas, but Carpenter said the AMTA has Texas in its sights.

They don’t have a specific legislator who is introducing a bill yet so they are working to develop a legislator to do that. So they themselves are the advocates right now and they are looking for a legislator to represent them.

Ultimately what they want is a license for their industry. So they want to create an occupational license that will enable them to restrict entry into the occupation so that those who are already in the occupation can obviously keep the competition out and enjoy an economic advantage as a result.

They are going state by state advocating, so here in Texas they’ve been in the organizing and momentum building stage.

It usually takes several years to organize and mount a campaign in a particular state. What they are doing now in Texas is very classic activity that we have seen in other states.

The AMTA website suggests they are indeed on the march in seeking licensing provisions in more states.

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Music Therapy Title Protection Created in Connecticut
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) are excited to announce that, on May 27, 2016, Governor Malloy of Connecticut signed into law HB 5537. This legislation includes language stating that music therapy services can only be provided by those who hold the MT-BC credential. Many thanks to the members of the Connecticut Task Force (Emily Bevelaqua, Jennifer Sokira, Courtney Biddle, Natalie McClune, and Heather Wagner) for all their work, dedication, and advocacy for this legislation.

Music Therapy License Created in Oklahoma
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) are excited to announce that, on April 26, 2016, Governor Fallin of Oklahoma signed into law HB 2820. This legislation creates a music therapy license under the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.

Many thanks to the members of the Oklahoma Task Force (Suzanne Heppel, Jennifer Voss, Amber Loomis, Heather Malcom, Rebecca Cantrell, Brandy Jenkins, Sophia Lee, and Hayoung Lim) for all their work, dedication, and advocacy for this legislation, and their commitment since 2006 to the state recognition process. Many thanks as well to Anne Roberts, Director of Legislative Affairs at INTEGRIS Health, as well as the music therapists from the southwestern region for their support of HB 2820.
Three states have successfully enacted music therapy licensure legislation.  On April 26, 2011, Governor Dalrymple of North Dakota signed into law SB 2271. This legislation created the first-ever music therapy license in the country through the Board of Integrative Health. Following close behind in the state recognition process was Nevada.  On Friday, June 3, 2011, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada signed into law SB 190. This legislation creates a music therapy license in Nevada through the State Board of Health.  Georgia enacted music therapy licensure legislation in May of 2012 with Georgia bill SB 414 which was signed by Governor Nathan Deal.

Illinois Legislation Announcement
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) are excited to announce that, on Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois signed into law SB 1595. As a study bill, this legislation creates a Music Therapy Advisory Group charged with exploring the feasibility of regulating music therapy practice in Illinois and submitting a report of its findings and recommendations to the state. Many thanks to the members of the Illinois Task Force (Nancy Swanson, Andrea Crimmins, Allison Gunnink, Stephanie Kleba, Melaine Pohlman, and Victoria Storm) and to all music therapists in Illinois for their work, dedication, and advocacy for this legislation.

Music Therapy License in Oregon Signed Into Law
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) are excited to announce that, on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon signed into law HB 2796. This legislation creates a music therapy license in Oregon through the Health Licensing Office. Many thanks to the members of the Oregon Task Force (Jodi Winnwalker-Chair, Lillieth Grand, Dawn Iwamasa, Laura Beer, Chris Korb, Ted Owen, Melissa Potts, and Adam Young) and to all the music therapists in Oregon for their work, dedication, and advocacy for this legislation.

Rhode Island Music Therapy Legislation Signed Into Law
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) are excited to announce that, on June 30, 2014, Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island signed into law HB 7131.

This legislation creates a music therapy registry that will be administered by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Many thanks to Nicole O’Malley, members of the Rhode Island Task Force (James Danna, Dalita Getzoyan, David Hirschberg, Crystal King, Linda Majewski, Teri Pimley, Kristi Rood, Jaye Watts), other key supporters and organizations (Cathy Andreozzi, Sue Baylis, Cris Brodeur, John Cronin, Kathy Dennard, Jennifer Hoskins, Kathleen Howland, Katie Little, Carol Manglass, Jennifer Sokira, Ella Whaley, The Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island, Easter Seals of Rhode Island), legislative champions (Reps. McNamara, Rep. Palumbo, Sen. Miller, Rep. Langevin), family members of Hands in Harmony, and to all the music therapists and music therapy advocates in Rhode Island and the New England region for your work, dedication, and advocacy for this legislation. Despite significant obstacles, the RI Task Force mobilized an incredible grassroots advocacy campaign and worked tirelessly to support this bill.

Their commitment to securing state recognition for music therapy will serve to benefit Rhode Island citizens by allowing them to more easily access music therapy services provided by qualified practitioners. 

North Dakota and Nevada Regulation
Music therapists from North Dakota and Nevada have been actively involved in the implementation of the AMTA and CBMT State Recognition Operational Plan.  The focus in these states will now move from the legislative process to the creation of regulations.  AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff will continue to provide guidance and assistance as each state implements these new licenses.  Many thanks to the members of the North Dakota Task Force (Andrew Knight, Natasha Thomas, and Emily Wangen), the members of the Nevada Task Force (Judith Pinkerton, Manal Toppozada, and Diane Bell) and to the Government Relations representative for the Western Region of AMTA (Rachel Firchau) for their work, dedication, and advocacy.

I talked with Bumanis, who is in his 26th year with AMTA, and before that worked as a music therapist.

He told me:

The trend has been that more states are licensing music therapists, not to keep other musicians out – there are musicians that are welcome in hospitals – but for the clinical work that needs to be done and to understand the therapeutic milieu and understand the research behind what you are doing.

I think the issue is having unqualified people taking part in health care. Music therapy is a course of study, it is a health profession. It is being licensed in states to protect people from people who really don’t know what they’re doing, or can’t communicate with other health professionals.

Clinical music therapy is different than spreading the joy of music, which is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t an extra gig for guy who’s working in clubs at night. I think a lot of people have always thought that.

If that were the case, Austin might be the musical therapy capital of the world.

Here’s an explainer from AMTA in 2014.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:

What Music Therapy Is and Is Not

January 23, 2014—SILVER SPRING, MD— The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time; we say the more music the better! But clinical music therapy is the only professional, research-based discipline that actively applies supportive science to the creative, emotional, and energizing experiences of music for health treatment and educational goals. Below are a few important facts about music therapy and the credentialed music therapists who practice it:

  • Music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of AMTA’s 72 approved colleges and universities, including 1200 hours of clinical training.
  • Music therapists must hold the MT-BC credential, issued through the Certification Board for Music Therapists, which protects the public by ensuring competent practice and requiring continuing education. Some states also require licensure for board-certified music therapists.
  • Music Therapy is an evidence-based health profession with a strong research foundation.
  • Music Therapy degrees require knowledge in psychology, medicine, and music.

These examples of therapeutic music are noteworthy, but are not clinical music therapy:

  • A person with Alzheimer’s listening to an iPod with headphones of his/her favorite songs
  • Groups such as Bedside Musicians, Musicians on Call, Music Practitioners, Sound Healers, and Music Thanatologists
  • Celebrities performing at hospitals and/or schools
  • A piano player in the lobby of a hospital
  • Nurses playing background music for patients
  • Artists in residence
  • Arts educators
  • A high school student playing guitar in a nursing home
  • A choir singing on the pediatric floor of a hospital

Finally, here are examples what credentialed music therapists do:

  • Work with Congresswoman Giffords to regain her speech after surviving a bullet wound to her brain.
  • Work with older adults to lessen the effects of dementia.
  • Work with children and adults to reduce asthma episodes.
  • Work with hospitalized patients to reduce pain.
  • Work with children who have autism to improve communication capabilities.
  • Work with premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain.
  • Work with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function.

AMTA’s mission is to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world. In consideration of the diversity of music used in healthcare, special education, and other settings, AMTA unequivocally recommends the unique knowledge and skill of board certified music therapists.

More from Bumanis:

What we do is special, unique, it takes a lot of skill, at end of life, working with kids in the neonatal care unit. All of that takes special training.

At least four universities in Texas have the music therapy curriculum. It’s a difficult course of study.

It’s clinical music therapy. I wish that was the way it to describe what we do all the time – clinical music therapy.

Carpenter said there are other, less onerous methods for an industry to pursue to allow practitioners to identify themselves, short of licensing, which he said effectively closes off the field to the unlicensed.

Certification is a way for someone to be recognized either by the state or by a third-party organization, without necessarily restricting entry into the occupation. And there are a host of other options that achieve the exact same thing or something close to it, like registration or bonding and insurance.

What we like to say is licensing should be the very last option when there has been a demonstrable need to protect public health and safety and that demonstrable need should be represented by empirical evidence.

When you see these licenses created, and we see these all the time because we watch this process constantly, what happens is the industry representatives go the legislator and they ask for a license.

At no time do they ever introduce any empirical evidence showing that there is harm being perpetrated on the public as a result or unlicensed practice.  Instead, they have anecdotes and general information and legislators will very rarely ask them to provide any information. Often when you watch these legislative hearings, a question is hardly ever asked by a legislator, so the process by which these are created is one where there is no healthy skepticism and no actual evidence introduced for the need for that particular license.

Bumanis said that AMTA has “just around 4,000 members.”

The best estimate there are about 6,000 practicing music therapists in the country, closing in on 7,000.

I think there’s six states now have licensure or some sort of recognition. I know in North Dakota there is some talk of getting rid of licensure. To me it’s all a change in the political climate in this country with a new administration that’s sort of anti-regulation, anti-safeguard, all that stuff.

I would say licensed music therapists, probably come up to 400.

From Carpenter:

Our experience, and what little data exists about this, suggests that the creation of licenses are not dependent or influenced by political climate or parties in power and here’s why. Legislators have an incentive to create licenses. the incentive is it builds a constituency for them.

The impression is that a license comes with very little or no cost, that’s the impression, because those who advocate for the license say this is going to be budget neutral. There will be no impact on the budget. Which is debatable, but let’s just assume for the moment that it’s true.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a bill with no  costs,  There are significant costs. In fact, the Obama White House in 2015 released a report, in which they detailed the costs with occupational licensing and how severe they are. So there’s a myth that it’s a law with no costs and upside benefits, and so legislators have the impression, that well, `We adopt this bill, the industry wants it so it must be good, it’s a law with little to no cost, oh, and by the way, I can build a constituency for myself,’ and so they have tendency to say yes.

In Texas, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, is drawing up legislation that would reform the licensing process with an eye to culling the numbers of professions that require licensing.

It was the Institute for Justice that successfully fought Texas licensing requirements on behalf of Isis Brantley,

Dallas entrepreneur Isis Brantley, center, speaks to the media Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in Dallas, TX. She is one of the country's leading African hair braiders who has teamed with Institute For Justice Texas Chapter, is suing the state of Texas in Federal Court over economic liberty. She works with everyone from Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu to the homeless. Texas will not permit Isis to teach hair braiding for a living unless she spends 750 hours in barber school, passes four exams that do not teach braiding, spends thousands of dollars on tuition, and builds a fully-equipped barber college she doesn't need.  (David Woo/The Dallas Morning News) 10022013xMETRO 10032013xBRIEFING MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; MAGS OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET USE BY AP MEMBERS ONLY
(Dallas entrepreneur Isis Brantley, center, speaks to the media Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in Dallas, TX. She is one of the country’s leading African hair braiders who has teamed with Institute For Justice Texas Chapter, is suing the state of Texas in Federal Court over economic liberty. She works with everyone from Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu to the homeless. Texas will not permit Isis to teach hair braiding for a living unless she spends 750 hours in barber school, passes four exams that do not teach braiding, spends thousands of dollars on tuition, and builds a fully-equipped barber college she doesn’t need. (David Woo/The Dallas Morning News)’   

 

From Jazmine Ullloa’s 2015 Statesman story:

Texas laws that require African-style hair braiding businesses to become barber colleges before they can issue state licenses are unconstitutional and do not promote public health and safety or any other legitimate government interest, a federal judge in Austin has found.

In a sweeping ruling issued this week, U.S. Sam Sparks sided with Dallas hair braider Isis Brantley, who sued the state in 2013, saying the regulations related to her school were unreasonable and made it nearly impossible for her and other entrepreneurs to teach hair braiding for a living. The federal decision came 17 years after she was arrested for braiding hair without a special state license, leading her to embark on a long legal battle to change the criminal and civil statutes regulating the practice she describes as a cultural art form.

I feel relieved, refreshed,” she said Wednesday from her school in Dallas, the Institute of Ancestral Hair Braiding. “I feel like a new beginning is on the horizon for economic liberty and institutional equity, fairness.”

A decade after police officers in 1997 raided her business and took her away in handcuffs, Brantley had helped change the law making it easier for hair braiders to get licensed. But instead of deriving a new set of regulations for the practice, Texas state officials wedged it into statutes for barbers.

Those laws mandated Brantley and other hair braiders to convert their small businesses into fully equipped barber colleges before they could issue licenses, preventing most braiders from teaching it for a living. Businesses, for example, had to have at least 10 student workstations with a reclining chair, back bar and a mirror, as well as a a sink behind every two workstations.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Monday that the regulations excluded Brantley and others from the market and were “irrational,” pointing to licensed braiding salons, which are not required to have sinks because washing hair is not involved in the braiding process.

Those laws mandated Brantley and other hair braiders to convert their small businesses into fully equipped barber colleges before they could issue licenses, preventing most braiders from teaching it for a living. Businesses, for example, had to have at least 10 student workstations with a reclining chair, back bar and a mirror, as well as a a sink behind every two workstations.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Monday that the regulations excluded Brantley and others from the market and were “irrational,” pointing to licensed braiding salons, which are not required to have sinks because washing hair is not involved in the braiding process.

Sparks said he found it “troubling” that the defendants could not name one school that, like Brantley’s, solely taught African-style hair braiding.

In a statement, Susan Stanford, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, said Brantley and her agency had their day in court and that her agency “respects Judge Sparks’ decision.”

No decision has been made as to an appeal, she said.

Arif Panju, a lawyer for the Institute of Justice in Austin and lead counsel for Brantley, called Spark’s ruling “a resounding victory — not only for Isis Brantley but all entrepreneurs across Texas.”

For Brantley, who has been braiding hair for 32 years and counts singer Erykah Badu among her clientele, the judge’s decision could be the final chapter in a long journey, she said.

“I am happy to see these natural hair schools becoming a reality,” she said. “I also am happy that we will pass down the skills down to another generation.”

Amid the chaos, President Trump does something completely normal

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Good morning Austin:

Last night, President Trump announced his choice of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

Trump’s and Gorsuch’s ties clashed a bit. That could have been better coordinated, though maybe that was intentional to maintain the event’s authenticity.

But otherwise, the announcement was unexpectedly, jarringly normal. There was none of the chaos and drama and insults that have characterized the first 11 days of Trump’s presidency.

Instead of using turmoil to distract from chaos, Trump reached into his bag of tricks and produced something I didn’t know he possessed – calm.

I knew we were in uncharted territory when Dahlia Lithwick, who writes about the courts for Slate ,was being interviewed after the announcement by Rachel Maddow and she said that Gorsuch was not a typical nihilist Trump nominee.

This is not someone who in any way doesn’t believe in the judicial branch, which is I think surprising because I think disruptors are kind of Trump’s thing.

And yet, Ted Cruz was pleased by the pick.

Very, very pleased.

Nearly giddy.

Here was Cruz’s statement on the Gorsuch pick:

Last year, after the unexpected passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans drew a line in the sand on the behalf of the American people. Exercising our constitutional authority, we advised President Obama that we would not consent to a Supreme Court nominee until We the People, in the presidential election, were able to choose between an originalist and a progressive vision of the Constitution.

In November, the People spoke, clearly. They elected President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly promised to nominate a justice firmly committed to the following the law and the original understanding of the Constitution. Today, with the nomination of the Honorable Neil Gorsuch from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, President Trump has fulfilled that promise, and the rule of law will be all the better for it.

Like the renowned justice he is set to replace, Judge Gorsuch is brilliant and immensely talented. He has impeccable qualifications, having clerked at the Supreme Court, excelled in private practice, served at the highest levels of the Justice Department, and garnered a stellar reputation over the past decade as an appellate judge. More importantly, though, he also mirrors Justice Scalia in that he has a proven track record of honoring the Constitution, following the text of the law, and refraining from imposing his policy preferences from the bench. As a result of his fidelity to law, he has proven to be a champion of federalism, the constitutional separation of powers, religious liberty, and all of the fundamental liberties enshrined in our Bill of Rights. I couldn’t be happier with his selection.

Indeed, I wholeheartedly applaud President Trump for nominating Judge Gorsuch. Our country desperately needs Supreme Court justices who revere the Constitution and are willing to elevate it over their own personal preferences, and Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that faithfulness. Eleven years ago, the Senate was so confident in Judge Gorsuch’s abilities that it confirmed him by voice vote. In the time since, he has shown himself worthy of that distinction, and I would hope that my Senate colleagues give him the respect he deserves this time around, as well, and support his confirmation.

And John Cornyn’s:

Judge Gorsuch is an excellent choice to serve as our next Supreme Court Justice. A jurist of the highest caliber, he has served with distinction and a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law.

The American people made clear last November that they wanted a judge who would interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. I’m confident that Judge Gorsuch will follow Justice Scalia’s example, adhering to the Constitution and fairly applying the law on behalf of all Americans.

The President has picked a mainstream nominee unanimously supported by Democrats in the past. I hope my colleagues across the aisle will allow an up-or-down vote on this bipartisan, highly qualified nominee.”

And Gov. Greg Abbott’s:

I applaud President Trump’s unwavering commitment to appoint a Supreme Court Justice in the mold of the great Antonin Scalia. Judge Gorsuch’s record to date demonstrates him to be an originalist who will uphold the Rule of Law and help restore the balance of power between the states and the federal government as the Founders intended. In the days ahead and the years to come, I pray that God blesses Judge Gorsuch with wisdom and resolve as he faces the confirmation process and assumes a place on the Supreme Court.

And Attorney General Ken Paxton’s:

President Trump has made an outstanding selection in nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court. There is no other candidate in America who embodies the legal intellect and judicial temperament of the late Antonin Scalia more than Judge Gorsuch. His judicial track record while serving on the 10th Circuit for over a decade is a testament to his conservative philosophy, particularly in the areas of excessive federal overreach and the protection of religious liberty. I am confident that, like his predecessor, Judge Gorsuch will faithfully interpret the Constitution as written by the Framers, exercise judicial restraint, and not legislate from the bench.”

There was, as Frank Bruni wrote in today’s New York Times, a bit of The Supreme Court Meets Reality TV, in the roll out.

You can take the man out of “The Apprentice,” but you can’t take “The Apprentice” out of the man.

President Trump unveiled his nominee for the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, and like so much about his campaign and now his administration, the announcement had some of the unreal aspects of reality TV.

There were reports that he had summoned both of the two finalists to Washington: An elimination contest! He had programmed the big reveal for primetime. No slow leak of the news followed by its anti-climactic confirmation. No muted moment in the Rose Garden in the middle of the day.

Instead, an orchestrated drumroll and then a television appearance at the same hour — 8 p.m. Eastern — when “The Apprentice” sometimes used to begin. Just like old times, but with “you’re fired” replaced by “you’re hired” (pending Senate confirmation).

The pick was Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver who has the blessing of conservatives and a resume of extraordinary accomplishment. When he stepped to the microphone, he showed none of Trump’s proud irreverence, none of Trump’s self-conscious flashiness.

He projected a quality that doesn’t exist in Trump’s wheelhouse — modesty — by saying that he was “acutely aware of my own imperfections” and noting that a “judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.”

“I am humbled,” he said, using an adjective without much currency in Trump’s vocabulary.

Now comes a partisan fight, made all the more heated by Republicans’ sustained, steadfast refusal to hold hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland last year and by Democrats’ horror over so much of what the Trump administration has done so far.

While Gorsuch isn’t as divisive a choice as others Trump might have made, that may not matter. The relationship between Trump and Democrats is deteriorating so far so fast that every battle could wind up being an all-out war.

But this does put Democrats in an interesting dilemma.

There would be the usual ideological reasons for liberals to oppose Gorsuch.

And, a dozen days into what the they consider the dangerous madness of the Trump presidency, Democratic senators, and the party’s grassroots, want and feel obliged to try to thwart and oppose him at every turn. But, do they really want to get into a long, ugly fight over one of Trump’s most rational decisions?

From Neil Kayta, an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, law professor at Georgetown and a partner at Hogan Lovells, in today’s New York Times,Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch

I am hard-pressed to think of one thing President Trump has done right in the last 11 days since his inauguration. Until Tuesday, when he nominated an extraordinary judge and man, Neil Gorsuch, to be a justice on the Supreme Court.

The nomination comes at a fraught moment. The new administration’s executive actions on immigration have led to chaos everywhere from the nation’s airports to the Department of Justice. They have raised justified concern about whether the new administration will follow the law. More than ever, public confidence in our system of government depends on the impartiality and independence of the courts.

There is a very difficult question about whether there should be a vote on President Trump’s nominee at all, given the Republican Senate’s history-breaking record of obstruction on Judge Merrick B. Garland — perhaps the most qualified nominee ever for the high court. But if the Senate is to confirm anyone, Judge Gorsuch, who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, should be at the top of the list.

I believe this, even though we come from different sides of the political spectrum. I was an acting solicitor general for President Barack Obama; Judge Gorsuch has strong conservative bona fides and was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush. But I have seen him up close and in action, both in court and on the Federal Appellate Rules Committee (where both of us serve); he brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job, and a temperament that suits the nation’s highest court.

 

RICK PERRY ADVANCES