Death threats and fighting words. On a sad and sour sine die.

 

Good morning Austin:

Sine die left me profoundly sad.

Two people I know and like threatened to kill one another on the House floor yesterday, or, more likely didn’t really threaten to kill one another.

But that is how the record will now read, and I fear something has been torn asunder in the Texas Legislature and the Texas body politic and that yesterday’s brief scuffle on the floor of the House will yield a bitter harvest, for all Texans but, I think, especially for Texas Republicans.

Whatever chance there was that those few minutes of deep rancor on the floor of the House would be written off as a surfeit of passion after an emotionally grueling session ended when Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, issued a statement actually accusing Democratic Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, of threatening to kill him, and Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, of assaulting him.

From Rinaldi’s Facebook page:

Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said “I am illegal and here to stay.” Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car.” He later approached me and reiterated that “I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.” I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, “get me,” I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.

I called Nevárez yesterday, about an hour after the confrontation. He was on the road, driving back home to Eagle Pass.


RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here is our conversation.

Nevárez:  The jumping off point is this guy saying that because there were brown people in the gallery he was going to call ICE on them.

Yeah, they’re there and they’re actually breaking the House rules by being unruly, you’re supposed to behave yourself  in the gallery. But his whole thought process is, there’s a lot of brown people together, let’s call ICE.

So he made that known to three or four of my colleagues. When I walked up and I heard he had done that I just told him you need to beat it out of there. We started scuffling a little bit.

Rinaldi’s the one that  started this whole thing. Those words are uncalled for. They are fighting words where I come from, saying stuff like that.

xxxxxx

I think there might have been a video up on Facebook of him doing that before he came up and told our group he was doing it. A video of him calling ICE. Briscoe Cain, I think, may have put it up on Facebook.

He’s saying, “Hey, I did this,” to group of Hispanic legislators – Cortez, Romero, Blanco.

First, I’m just getting in there to make sure nobody gets hurt, and then I realized what this dumb shit had said and so, that was it, like that was it, we’re done with him.

I don’t know remember exactly what I told him. Basically he needed to beat it, he needed to beat it out of there quick.

What about what you said about how he’s got to go outside sometime. Was that a threat?

It’s true he’s got to go outside sometime, but am I threatening to kill the guy? No. I just didn’t want to have those words on the House floor. And there’s no need for that to happen on the House floor. He’s got to go outside sometime and we can do it out there. But did I threaten to kill the guy or put a bullet in his head? No.

I mean, at the end of the day, where I’m from, those are fighting words. I mean, he’s saying those things and not expecting someone to want to scrap with him, he’s nuts. But for it to rise to the level of him wanting to shoot me in the head, that’s crazy. It just shows how crazy he is.

Did you hear him say he would put a bullet in your head?

I couldn’t really hear, but I mean (Rep.) Justin (Rodriguez) stood up at the press conference and said, this is what he said, motioning at me. He’s admitted he said it, he’s already admitted he said it.

If something like this was going to happen, would you have expected it to be Rinaldi?

Nevárez: Yeah. He’s a hateful little guy. He gets upset, throws stuff around his desk and stomps around. A lot of the mean-spirited amendments that come up have his name behind them, he’s involved. Today was just him acting out stuff that he act out all the time on the floor, and we’d just had enough. We’d had enough.

Does this tell Texans something about what’s behind SB 4?

Nevárez: You better believe it does.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

What does it say?

Nevárez: It says if you’re brown, you’re suspect. And the only reason a guy like him wouldn’t ask ICE to get us on the floor is he believes being on the floor gives us some legitimacy or make us, quote, unquote, passable.

Look at his statement,” I called ICE because there were illegals there.” Well how the hell does he know that? What were there were a lot of folks that were brown with a lot of vowels in their names and in his mind then there’s something wrong or afoot. Let’s round them up, let God sort them out. 

Are there repercussions, any violations of House rules?

Nevárez: I don’t know. Look, I’ve got to move past all this. I need to get to a point where we don’t have guys like that on the House floor. if that means working my ass off to make sure he doesn’t come back, then that’s what I”m going to do. If I have to knock on every door in his district, I am gong to do that.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Were you already planning to head straight home?

Nevárez: My plan was to get out of town. I didn’t want the day to end like this. It was not supposed to. Those people in the gallery had nothing to do with it. That’s’ on him. That’s not their fault. That’s what he’s going to say inspired him to do that. But if that’s what inspires you to be mean and hateful, then what kind of a person are you?

I mean you’ve got a bunch of other people on the floor who voted for that thing and they weren’t inspired to say some awful heinous things. 

 

Nevárez: It is unfortunate that that had to play itself out on the House floor, but it’s fitting because this is where that stuff came from. He’s one of the architects of the Schaefer Amendment. He’s right there. You reap what you sow. What upsets then and what makes them feel awful is that they have to stare at that – those people right in the face telling him exactly what they thought of them, and that made them uncomfortable. And what does he do? He jumps on brown folks, it doesn’t matter who they are. All of them.

It’s unfortunate all the way around. Days like today are not supposed to be like this.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here is what Rep. Ramon Romero had to say:

Here is what Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, who was in the thick of it, told me by text:

I was in close to the action as you can tell from the video.

Rinaldi was actually pretty cool and collected up until the moment that Poncho threatened him and that’s when things got heated.

Poncho and Romero immediately overreacted and the serious, physical threats against Rinaldi were very real. You can tell by the fact that it’s Rinaldi that’s been given DPS this evening instead of Poncho. I was glad that the altercation was quickly broken up and then disappointed to see so many Democrats use the scenario they instigated to try and score political points against Rinaldi.

Of the video he apparently briefly posted on Facebook, Cain told me, “That vid got deleted for real.”

And here is what Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, had to say on his Facebook page.

Fallon For Texas

16 hrs ·

UGLY INCIDENT ON THE LAST DAY ON THE HOUSE FLOOR. Many Dems surrounded Rep Matt Rinaldi & began hurling insults & threats because he dared to comment on the unruly protest that had erupted in the gallery. I immediately stepped in at his side to chastise members who chose to abandon decorum and replace it wt school yard bullying.

What is clear is that the incident unleashed some ugly reactions.

There is much to regret here.

A dozen days ago I wrote about the surprising success this session of the dozen-member House Freedom Caucus, of which Rinaldi is an integral part. (Coarse correction: How the Freedom Caucus changed the session’s trajectory.)

Rinaldi has proven a skillful legislator.

On Sunday, predictably, he was named by Empower Texans as one of its ten best legislators. They gave each of their heroes a nickname, and Rinaldi”s was “The Paratrooper.”

While some lawmakers charge headfirst into every battle, State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) takes more of a tactical approach. A cornerstone of the conservative Texas Freedom Caucus, Rinaldi is often the brains of the operation. Though he does fight on the frontlines when he’s needed, the quick-witted lawyer is more often seen working the room in isolated bursts to fix flawed proposals and kill bad ones.

Rinaldi also serves as Texas Right to Life’s “Pro-Life Whip” and was one of the major reasons why conservatives were able to score major pro-life victories on the floor of the Texas House despite intense opposition from the speaker and his lieutenants.

Like a paratrooper, Rinaldi drops in precisely when and where he is needed, and then fights to ensure the grassroots the victories they are due.

It confirms the worst fears.

But now it appears he is not The Paratrooper but The Hothead or The Bombthrower.

It’s hard to see how his future as a legislator who can get any thing done is not now in ruins

Roused, perhaps angered, by the raucous scene that quickly unfolded in the Rotunda and the House gallery yesterday, and by the support his Hispanic Democratic colleagues were showing for those who had come to protest what the House had done, Rinaldi did something that seems intemperate at best and reckless at worst, like shouting fire in a crowded theater.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Why would he think calling ICE, and then, in an apparently in-your-face manner, telling his Hispanic Democratic colleagues that he had done it, seem like a wise or sane course?

Rinaldi and his colleagues had already won the war. The ban on sanctuary cities has been signed into law.

Yet, instead of accepting the spasm of protest as a very American expression of dissent, he saw it as alien and unAmerican. If he really thinks that the great mass of people who are living in America illegally hate America, he lives in a Fox News bubble.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

And, in an instant, he fulfilled the worst fears of those opposed to SB 4, and undermined the assertion of Gov. Greg Abbott and others that it will do no harm to those who are simply living here illegally without committing any serious crime.

The crime for which Rinaldi was calling ICE was protesting, violating the decorum of the House. He writes,  I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said “I am illegal and here to stay.”

For that, he calls ICE.

And what if those who were holding those I am illegal signs discarded them.

How is ICE supposed to proceed on their arrival, if, suppose, SB 4 were already the law. By detaining everyone in the gallery with a red shirt (or brown skin) – fifth generation Americans included – and asking them to show them their papers?  And, for those without papers, beginning deportation procedings that would destroy their family, all because they came to the Texas Capitol in protest?

Also, by his own account, for Rinaldi to describe Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car,” as threatening my life, seems ridiculous, especially compared to the far more explicit threat to put a bullet in Nevárez’s head, albeit, he said, in self-defense.

No good can come of this.

There were nearly 3,000 shares and 3,000 comments on Rinaldi’s Facebook post this morning. They appear to be pretty evenly divided, but consistently vitriolic.

I am sure he will become a folk here to many but he is summoning up something that, for as short as I’ve been here, seems unTexan.

 

Cole Chambless Thanks for calling ICE Matt Rinaldi. We are tired of people that aren’t even allowed to be here thinking they are above the law and can come out of the shadows and rub it in our face without consequences. If you are illegal you should feel like a rat crawling around at night, because the second you are found you will be gone. If you aren’t a citizen, your opinion on our country doesn’t matter, and you have no say in the rules. Just wait until the new immigration law goes into effect. Y’all will all be hiding and running back to the border, whichever border that may be. I’ll have ICE on speed dial.

There seems to be here an ahistorical self-righteousness and a lack of understanding that, whatever the laws have been, there has been a tacit acceptance in America, but most especially in Texas, of people, particularly those from Mexico, who are here illegally but are part of the fabric of the society, of the economy – that the Texas standard of living depends on it, and that Texas culture thrives on it – that there is the law, and then there are the generally accepted rules we all live by, and that it appears that SB 4 is changing those rules in some fundamental way.

It is a cliche that this kind of legislation, like Trump’s election, are the last gasps of a white America, of Anglo Texas, seeking to forestall its declining dominance.

It may also be true, and the smarter people in the Republican Party, or at least those who want to see it prevail past their own lifetimes, realize it is not in their interests to gather their forces in the Alamo.

But, one wonders.

I texted Rep. Jason Villalba – the Dallas Republican most at odds with the Freedom Caucus – yesterday to ask if he was on the floor when the scuffle broke out and what he made of it.

“No sir,” he replied. “But I know Matt is a good man who was merely voicing his passion.”

It was a generous response from Villalba, who a day earlier, Empower Texans, in predictably selecting him as one of the ten worst legislators, applied to him, as it has in the past, the nickname, The Rodeo Clown.

It was a terribly sour sine die.

I will prefer to remember this sweet scene from Sunday night’s penultimate session of the Texas House.

On Sine Die, Jonathan `Kill Bill’ Stickland takes credit for ‘bad bills’ that died

 

Happy Sine Die Austin:

Having finished its business – or not  – the House and Senate on the last day of the 140-day session, generally devote themselves to thanking their staffs, thanking each other, a literal floor fight, and various groupings of legislators honoring the most outstanding legislator from among their ranks.

With that I initiate the Kill Bill Award.

The obvious winner is Rep. Jonathan Stickland and his innovative use of YouTube and Facebook videos to present what he called the Bad Bill of the Week and invite his audience to let legislators know that they wanted that bill killed, with great success.

Here is Stickland explaining it yesterday, followed by as good an accounting as I could pull together.

1. HB 406. Rep. Roberto Alonzo, R-Dallas.

HB 406 (Support): Representative Roberto Alonzo has proposed creating a temporary driving permit for people unable to comply with the overly burdensome identification requirements currently required to receive a drivers license. Drivers permits allow people to drive legally, purchase insurance, and take their children to school and go to work without fear.

Status: Never heard.

2. HB 840 Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso

From Ortega:

“The state should allow local governments the ability to determine what minimum wage is best for their own community.”

House Bill 840 by Representative Ortega allows local governments to consider minimum wage increases beyond $7.25 an hour.

David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics thought this one wasn’t really worthy of Stickland’s attention. It was just too easy a target – like shooting bills in a barrel.

I suppose in a theoretical way someone could have a conversation about local control but no one really believes that the Republicans elected to the Texas legislature support local control. Other than that, the only thing that will come of this one is that his supporters can say that he doesn’t support the minimum wage and by golly they don’t either. Throw in the obligatory ‘libtard’ slam and his day is done. Yet Stickland urges activists that don’t live in her El Paso district to call her and tell her that her bill will kill jobs, profits and hurt our economy. Like she cares.

Come on Stickland, find something worth discussing. I mean, seriously, a bill giving local control to cities to increase the minimum wage by a freshman Democrat is going to go nowhere in the Texas legislature. You know it, I know it and Rep. Ortega knows it. Sort of like freshman Rep. Valoree Swanson’s bill to eliminate property taxes. There will be no serious discussion, no serious conversation, it will simply disappear into the ether.

Status: Left pending in committee.

3. HB 97. Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston.

From Davis’ office:

“HB 97 would allow minors 14 and older to legally consent on their own behalf to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents various forms of cancer, including cervical cancer and head and neck cancers. It does not mandate the HPV vaccine.”

Stickland:

With your help it will go down and flames we will celebrate another victory.

Together we are gong to make America Texas again.

Stats: Never heard.

4. HB 173. Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville.

From Jonathan Salinas at the RGV Independent:

HB 173, or, as it states in the opening: “AN ACT relating to the licensing and regulation of certain rainwater harvesting” will provide “administrative penalties;” “authorizing fees;” and “requiring an occupational license” for installers.

If passed, 173 would authorize the State’s Agriculture Department to “adopt rules that are reasonable and necessary for the performance of the department’s duties under this chapter,” adopting rules to enforce the abovementioned regulations, in other words.

But the prospect of this bill’s passage also has many environmentally-conscious individuals talking about what the bill does and what the motivations are behind it.

Stickland:

This week we have a bill that takes what the good Lord has given us and then tries to regulated it.

Status: Never heard.

5. HB 391. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.

From Chuck Lindell at the Statesman:

Some Democratic bills seek changes that were previously rejected by the majority Republicans in both chambers, including House Bill 391 by Howard, which would let public universities opt out of the campus carry law that went into effect in August. The law only lets private colleges opt out — an acknowledgement, Republicans have said, of the importance of private property rights.

Stickland:

HB 391 takes campus carry and gets rid of it.

Gun free zones are bad. 

With your help we are going to slaughter it.

Status: Never heard.

6. HB 1610. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.

From the American Council of Engineering Companies:

Two very different bills have been filed to revise the current law under which businesses with government contracts must report the controlling interest in their company and any intermediaries who assisted in obtaining a contract. This law, which was sold in the name of transparency, has created a massive paperwork burden for businesses that arguably obscures transparency; 100,000 forms have been filed to date, many of them clearly erroneous since the law and rules are difficult to understand. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, who authored the original requirement for this bill in 2015, has filed HB 1295 which makes a bad law worse by adding civil penalties and lowering the threshold for defining controlling interest to 5% ownership. In contrast, Rep. John Kuempel has filed HB 1610, which defines controlling interest as 51% and establishes an annual filing, in lieu of the current requirement to file with every contract or change order. ACEC Texas supports HB 1610 and opposes HB 1295.

Stickland:

Why is this a bad bill? Because it’s anti-transparency.

Status: Left pending in committee.

7. HB 1938. Rep.  Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.

From Villalba’s office, on introduction.

 Today, Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) filed HB 1938, which will amend the current method of identifying as an organ donor on a Texas driver’s license. HB 1938 would provide that those Texas citizens who seek to donate their organs upon death to an organ recipient may do so by applying for or renewing a valid current Texas driver’s license. If the applicant wishes to opt out of the organ donation protocol, the applicant must simply check a single box indicating that the applicant would prefer to not donate their organs to needy Texas recipients. Under current Texas law, the applicant would “opt-in” to become an organ donor. Under HB 1938, the applicant would instead “opt-out” if they do not want to donate their organs.

HB 1938 will only apply to people who are over the age of eighteen years old and will not impact any current Texas driver’s license holder. The new law will ONLY affect those applying for a license for the first time or who are renewing an existing license.

Representative Villalba’s bill mirrors systems currently in place in many parts of Europe, where, because of such changes, access to organs has been significantly increased. In the U.S., only 26 donors exist per million people. It is clear that our national need is much greater than the number of American organ donors. With 121,678 people in the United States waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, Representative Villalba believes HB 1938 will increase organ availability to those hoping for a second chance. According to a study by the United Kingdom Organ Donation Taskforce, some countries that adopted an opt-out system saw donation rates increase by up to 30%.

Dr. Shelley Hall, Chief of Transplant Cardiology and Mechanical Support/Heart Failure at Baylor University Medical Center, said “While Texas has seen its greatest rise in donors this past year, we still have a long way to go. Too many people die on the waiting list every day for lack of suitable donors. I believe this is a positive step towards narrowing the gap.”

Representative Villalba said, “Every year, all across Texas, we watch our fellow Texans succumb to heart, liver, kidney and lung disease because there are not enough viable organs available for transplant. We hope to change that. If we pass this bill, we will save thousands of lives. Now is the time to act.”

Representative Villalba aims to increase the number of organs available to recipients with the bill, as well as remove the negative stigma from identifying as an organ donor. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 21 Americans on the organ donation waiting list die each day. Representative Villalba believes implementing an opt-out system for organ donation in Texas will shorten the waiting list in Texas and save lives daily. Likewise, Representative Villalba knows that dialysis, a common medical procedure utilized by people needing kidneys, costs five times more per year than a single kidney transplant. If more kidneys were available, Texas could significantly lower its medical expenses for those on subsidized healthcare.

Stickland”

It forces you to become organ donors by automatically enrolling you in the system when you get a driver’s license.

 Going to end up with even long lines at the DMV.

Yyou have the ability to make these decisions for yourself.

1938 is big government and infringes on our liberty .

Status: Left pending in committee.

8. HB 1. Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond

Stickland:

Should we raid the Rainy Day Fund? 

I don’t think so.

The Rainy Day Fund is off limits.

Texas does not have a revenue problem, Rep Zerwas, it has a spending problem.

Status: Stickland says “hearing canceled” as the disposition here, but I’m not sure how to credit this. The Rainy Day Fund is being tapped in the budget, but not to the extent the House would have liked.

9. HB 2495. Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.

From the Chrsitine McPhate at the Dallas Observer:

Yesterday the state representatives advanced a bill to the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee seeking to establish a Texas State Music Museum and Texas Music Foundation, both to be based in Austin. The state Senate also has a companion bill.

These bills are bad news for Texas music museum owners like Thomas Kreason, who has spent a decade running the Texas Musicians Museum, which he operates with his wife Marianne in downtown Irving. Their collection, on display since 2007, includes the first song ever recorded by a Texas singer (Mary Carson, 1912) and the typewriter that folklorist Mack McCormick used to write about legendary bluesmen like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Johnson.

The couple say they opened a museum dedicated to Texas musicians because they felt the government wasn’t doing anything to preserve the rich music history of our state, which has produced legends from Willie Nelson to Beyoncé. It’s one of the reasons nearly 30 privately owned music museums have appeared over the years in Texas.

But now Texas music museum owners are worried the future of their museums may be at risk due to the bills seeking to establish an official state museum in Austin. They say they’ll have to compete for state resources, funding, collections and tourism dollars.

“If you have your grandfather’s rare [music instrument or collection], you’re going to drive right past Irving and take it to the ‘official’ Texas music museum,” Marianne Kreason said. “Everybody knows it will go to the official one.”

Tracy Pitcox over at the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in Brady, Texas, said unlike the Kreasons’ museum, other museums may be more specialized in their content, “but we’re all vying for the same memorabilia.”

This battle with state legislators over a state music museum isn’t their first, but this time the governor is involved.

Senators Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, introduced Senate Bill 1147, and Rep. Charlie Geren from River Oaks introduced its companion bill (House Bill 2495) in the House. Both bills seek to establish an official state music museum in the Capitol Complex and the Texas Music Foundation, a board designed to manage, operate and provide financial support to the museum and one that the governor will oversee.

xxxxxx

Sen. Watson’s Policy Director Kate Alexander wrote in another email, “Sen. Watson is carrying that bill, along with Sen. Hancock, at the behest of Gov. Abbott.”

Gov. Abbott’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment.

Stickland:

I love Texas music, but I hate bad bills.

Status: Died in Calendars.

10. HB 3324. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

Establishes the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund which would provide funds to encourage companies to open grocery stores, mobile markets and farm stands in low- and moderate-income areas to increase access to healthier foods. The fund would be comprised of money appropriated by the legislature, as well as federal, state, or private grants or loans, federal tax credits, or other type of financial assistance.

Stickland:

It’s stupid. 

It means me and you giving up our tax dollars to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats here in Austin who are apparently going to look at a map and decide where we need a new grocery store.

Status: Died on calendar.

11. HB 1260. Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.

Meaux’s article is here.

Stickland:

We have actually been told the Texas Shrimp Association brought him this bill. Why would they want to regulate themselves? Because they don’t want to have to compete.

This is the one of Stickland’s bad bills that he could not kill.

He hopes the governor will veto it.

Status: Passed, awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature.

12. HB 3387. Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian.

From Diana Wray at the Houston Press:

Freedom of the press is one of the founding principles of the United States — it’s right there in the Constitution and everything — but still, one Texas lawmaker is trying to limit that freedom.

State Representative Ken King, a Republican from Canadian, a tiny town in the Panhandle, has filed a pair of bills in the 85th Biennial Texas Legislative Session aimed at making it more difficult to write about public figures and a lot easier to sue journalists who do so.

King recently introduced House Bill 3387, which would make it easier for public officials to sue reporters for libel. And he didn’t stop there, following up with House Bill 3388, which targets the state’s shield law, the statute that lets journalists keep their sources and records confidential.

The reason behind King’s sudden interest in what reporters can and can’t do is such a typical bit of small-town politics that it’s almost cute. King was reportedly inspired to file this proposed legislation in the wake of a failed lawsuit brought by Salem Abraham, a millionaire hedge-fund operator and school board trustee, in 2012. Abraham just so happens to also live in Canadian, go figure.

Anyway, Abraham filed a lawsuit claiming libel after a blog tied to Empower Texans reported that Abraham had been forcibly removed from a meeting with then-governor Rick Perry. It turned out the story was indeed incorrect, but because the Texas Supreme Court deemed Abraham to be a public figure, he not only had to prove the story was false but also had to prove that it had been published with “actual malice” of intent.

Abraham lost the case and had to pay $76,000 in legal fees.

So, in the aftermath of that, King happened to come up with these bills that were filed earlier this month. Abraham testified at a committee hearing on behalf of the bill, according to Courthouse News:

Stickland:

He thinks he’s better than all of you and he shouldn’t have to go by the same set of rules and standards you do.

Status: Left pending in committee.

13. HB 466. Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

From Chuck Lindell:

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, wants to give cities with at least 750,000 residents the ability to vote on ending open carry in city limits (House Bill 466) and allow businesses to ban firearms by displaying a photo of a circled handgun with a line through it instead of the large, wordy sign now required by law (House Bill 246).

Stickland:

Rep. Anchia has found a sneaky way to try to undermine our Second Amendment rights.

Status: Never heard.

14. HB 550. Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.

Stickland said this was the bad bill relating to sound-producing devices on vessels – he was proudest of spiking.

It was not easy, assuming he actually, did ultimately well and truly slay the boat whistle zombie bill.

Here is excellent coverage form Lone Star Voice:

The Texas House stalled, then killed, then resurrected, then passed HB 550, by Rep. Ryan Guillen. Dubbed the “dinghy bill,” it requires Texans to carry a whistle with them while kayaking, paddle-boating, canoeing, etc.

Guillen argued the bill was necessary to come into compliance with existing federal law, and to collect money from the federal government which is disbursed in exchange for state compliance.

 On April 24th, the bill was laid out during consideration of bills on the “Local and Consent” calendar. Bills on this list are supposedly non-controversial and/or local in impact. However, conservatives have objected to many of the bills which have found their way onto this calendar when they have included regulatory mandates, and have used procedural moves to force them back into committee.

 Thus they did on the 24th to HB 550.

 On April 26th, it was considered in the Calendars Committee and placed on the “General Calendar.” This is the list of bills that may or may not be controversial, but which are subject to debate.

 When it got back to the floor on May 3rd, Rep. Jonathan Stickland railed against it, saying the state of Texas should be rejecting federal regulations, not conforming to them.

 “I’m sick and tired of being held hostage by an oppressive federal government who puts money in front of our face, and says, ‘if you’ll just strip a little bit more liberty, a little bit more freedom from Texas residents, then you can have this money back.’ I say no!”

 The vote was 89-52 to pass HB 550 on to 3rd Reading.

 The bill was laid out on 3rd Reading the next day, with an orchestra of whistles blowing throughout the chamber. Stickland rose again in opposition to the bill and called this final vote a chance for “redemption” for those members who had voted for the bill the bill the day before.

 To shouts, whistles, and Stickland’s celebratory fist pumping, the red lights finally outnumbered the green. The bill failed to pass by a vote of 67-79.

 Rep. Tony Dale tweeted out a picture of the bill and his whistle sitting in the trashcan and said it was, “in the trashcan of history. #txlege #dead”

But today, Rep. Drew Darby brought the bill back while Guillen, the author, wasn’t even in the chamber.

 He said the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife wanted the bill to pass so they could collect $3.2 million from the federal government to come into compliance.

 In a tense exchange, Stickland praised his Republican colleagues for rejecting federal money to comply with Obamacare, and urged them to do the same here.

 Rep. Matt Rinaldi spoke in opposition to the bill, calling it, “silly” and complaining that the House was spending time on this bill while letting pro-life legislation die in committee.

 The arguments for and against were basically the same as they were yesterday, but today, the bill passed 126-21, a wildly different result. Even Dale, who had mocked its death, voted for it today.

 It begs the question, “What changed?” Who is pulling the strings in the House? Why did so many members change their votes? What are they afraid of? Or why did they all change their minds?

 We may never know.

 And, yet, it appears, that was not the end of it and the bill is dead.

Status: According to Stickland, it was “sent back to Senate.”

 

15. HB 2750. Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin.

Relating to requiring a public employer to give notice to new employees of the ability of certain employees to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Rep. Gina Hinojosa 
April 27 ·
Today, the house passed HB2750 on second reading, my first bill on the house floor. This bill would require a public employer to give notice to new employees of the ability to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The public service loan forgiveness program rewards employees who make 120 payments (10 years worth) on college or graduate loans by forgiving the remainder of their debt. We should encourage more people to work in public service after graduation and lessen the financial burden they carry.

Stickland:

This is big government, and the sad thing is, we had literally almost of half of the Republican caucus joining with the liberal Democrats.

Status: Removed from Local and Uncontested Calendar.

16. HB 486 Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston

HB 486 (VanDeaver) allows a school board to raise and lower its tax rate within a voter-approved limit without an election.

 

Status: Died in committee.

17. HB 2766 Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville.

From a guest editorial by Sheffield in the Waco Tribune:

The political professionals in Austin trying to kill my effort to improve Texas nursing homes by calling it a “granny tax” should be ashamed of themselves.

Let’s set the record straight. No one is talking about taxing anyone’s grandma. But “facts” like that can hurt real people if left unrefuted. So I am writing this to set the record straight.

I am a family practice doctor from a small, rural community called Gatesville, not a career politician. I know my neighbors in Gatesville. I’ve watched kids grow up and adults age. Some of my patients age into decline and require assistance despite their best plans. My grandmother lived in a nursing home for many years. For me — like a lot of Texans — the quality of long-term care is very personal.

There is no argument that long-term care is underfunded in Texas. For more than two decades now, I’ve seen the nursing homes I visit face the same struggles: low staffing levels and turnover as high as 90 percent for registered nurses, caused by the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate.

This legislation, House Bill 2766, would bring in much-needed funding to improve Texas nursing homes without increased state spending. This new money would enable nursing home owners across the state to raise wages, improve training and invest to enhance their facilities.

HB 2766 would help nursing-home owners retain good staff, and that will improve the quality of care more than any other thing I can think of. In a long-term care setting, a familiar face with personal knowledge of a resident’s needs and routines can make all the difference in the world.

HB 2766 would do this by creating the Nursing Facility Reinvestment Allowance or NFRA. The NFRA will allow nursing-home owners to put up their own dollars to pull down additional funds from the federal government.

The plan is simple: Each nursing home would put up the same amount per resident day. When the federal dollars are returned, nursing homes would see an increase in their Medicaid payment. Under the NFRA, nursing homes would have the opportunity to earn additional reimbursement if they meet certain quality metrics. The wording of the bill expressly prohibits nursing homes from passing on the allowance to their patients, either directly or indirectly. The fee comes from the nursing home’s revenue — not the residents.

Near the end of life, many Texans deplete their financial assets and, for the first time, they need help. That includes many of us — and from both political parties. These are schoolteachers, small-business owners and community leaders who spent their lives building a future for us. They are veterans who defended our freedoms and the police and firefighters who kept us safe.

Talking about Medicaid and nursing homes isn’t just a discussion about poor people but about the elderly who have outlived their savings. It affects middle-income Texans as well. In fact, a majority of nursing-home residents rely on Medicaid.

Can’t find video on this.

Stickland’s notation on his BBOTW list is “granny tax.”

Status: Died on Intent Calendar.

18. HJR 73 Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne

From Burns office on introduction:

State Representative DeWayne Burns (Cleburne) filed House Joint Resolution 73iled House Joint Resolution 73 Resolution 73 today, which proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution restricting the legislature’s ability to impose mandates on counties and municipalities without also providing adequate funding to comply with those mandates. The measure would require any state directive to local governments be accompanied by a full appropriation from the legislature or force the state to reimburse counties or cities for the costs incurred.

“I’m a small government conservative,” Rep. Burns said. “At its heart that means I believe every decision that can be made at the local level should be made at the local level, and that it is up to the folks in each individual community to decide for themselves what is worthy of their time, talents and tax dollars. But I’m not naïve. I understand that there are instances when the state must step in and dictate policy. I do believe, however, that when those instances occur, they should be properly funded. Anything less is intellectually dishonest and irresponsible.”

Unfunded mandates are laws passed by the state or federal government, or regulations issued by agencies, that direct counties or cities to undertake specified governmental actions without providing the funding to execute them. Conservative estimates reveal hundreds of million dollars in unfunded mandates that local governmental entities are obligated to carry out by statute. This includes criminal indigent defense, funding appraisal districts, incarceration of state inmates in county jails, the collection of state motor vehicle fees and taxes, training jail staff, jury pay, adult and juvenile probation and even conducting elections.

Rep. Burns concluded, “Unfunded mandates are effectively tax increases handed down by the legislature on local families and property owners, and implemented by proxy. They may be unintentional when a bill is originally passed, but often they end up forcing counties or cities to raise taxes to finance the policy. This practice must be stopped. It is unfair, unjust and it runs counter to everything we stand for as conservative Republicans.”

This is on Stickland’s Bad Bill of the Week list, but I can’t find a video to go with it. Sounds like something he would like, but the note on his BBOTW list says that it “creates ability to sue over laws they don’t like,” which he doesn’t like.

Status: Died in committee.

Sine die.

Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform

(Wearing a jester cap that he calls his truth-telling hat, Robert Morrow is sworn in as chairman of the Travis County Republican Party by Melissa Goodwin, Justice of the 3rd Court of Appeals, at the party’s organizational meeting June 28, 2016. Morrow is a conspiracy theorist who was elected despite not campaigning. His short and nationally famous tenure as Travis County Republican Party chairman ended two months later when he launched a write-in candidacy for president that, under state election law, disqualified him from continuing to serve as county party chairman. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The day after he body-slammed and punched a reporter for the Guardian, breaking his glasses and physicalizing Trumpian contempt for the media, Greg Gianforte was elected to Congress from Montana.

Well, clearly Gianforte had the coolest name on the ballot. Never underestimate that.

Gianoforte is so musical, so romantic. Meanwhile, Quist Wicks sounds like a new treat from the Frito-Lay snack lab.

In declaring victory, Gianforte apologized for assaulting a seemingly mild-mannered reporter.

I am glad.

I am a reporter. I am mild-mannered. I wear glasses. I don’t want to be body slammed and punched doing my job.

But apparently Gianforte either doesn’t watch Infowars, or, amid all that is going on in his life, missed yesterday’s episode in which Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich explained why Gianforte had nothing to apologize for, that he was set up.

Courtesy Media Matters for America.

MIKE CERNOVICH: That is why every national reporter in the world went to Montana. Who cares about some race in Montana, right? But they’re all there trying to set people up, putting recorders in your face, getting in your face, badgering you —

ALEX JONES (HOST): I was about to say that’s what they did to Trump and [Corey] Lewandowski. He comes in the room, screams at him, puts a camera in his face. He tries to grab the phone, the guy grabs his arm, he throws him to the ground. That guy touched him. That guy assaulted him. You grab somebody’s wrist you are trying to take control of them.

CERNOVICH: Exactly — that’s what they do. They’re setting everybody up now. And it was a total set up to try to swing a race for the Democrats because they lost all four special elections so what they do now is they send people and they go, “Hey, hey, man, hey.” And they shove it in your face and sometimes, as you know, it hits you. They have bad breath. They’ll breath in your face and there is spittle coming out of their mouth. These media people, a lot of them are just really bad, poor hygiene, they don’t take care of themselves.

JONES: These are the lowest scum of the earth that know they’re liars. They’re not even paid until they get a big story, so they’re mercenaries, they’re bounty hunters.

CERNOVICH: Right, and Ben Jacobs was actually a former Democrat operative. And by the way, none of these people — as you know if you wear a Trump hat in public,somebody might try to murder you. The media never cared about that kind of violence. But suddenly one of them is maybe pushed to the ground a little bit in self-defense and now it’s the number one story in the world and of course Paul Ryan is saying that he must apologize —

JONES: Oh yeah, this Republican when some guy grabs his arm throwing him to the ground in his own office, he’s worse than the Manchester 22 dead kids, 50 plus injured, and it doesn’t matter that we’ve got Ariana Grande saying, quote, she hopes her fans f-ing die.

Ay yi yi.

Yi yi.

That last line, about Ariana Grande, about something she denied saying in 2014, is part of a post-Manchester attack on Grande by Infowars and others on the right fringe.

As to the assertions that reporters have bad breath, spittle on their face, and are not even paid until they get a big story, I can attest that I get paid whether or not I get a big story. Every two weeks.

Anyway, I think it’s as well that Gianforte sought to calm the waters last night with what seemed a heartfelt apology for behavior that had one wondering whether he might have OD’d on the Caveman True Paleo Jones sells and swears and screams by.

Anyway, almost precisely as the Gianforte story entered a new, more sane and sedate phase, out of the blue of the night sky came news from Austin that one of the most eccentric figures in Republican Party politics of the last couple of years, was back.

https://twitter.com/RobMorroLiberty/status/867962237847085056

For those somehow unfamiliar with the politics of Robert Morrow, here are what on his blog he describes as    A few of the many qualifications I have for being Chairman of the Texas Republican Party.

If you have a short attention span, skip past the murder and mayhem to the bottom and qualification 13.

1)       I am a political truth teller.

2)      In the past 20 years I have voted in more Texas Republican primaries than Rick Perry.

3)      I am a Ron Paul supporter.

4)      In 2004, I played a critical grassroots role in getting Republican Rep. Todd Baxter re-elected to the State House. Just ask Todd Baxter. This is the state rep seat that Donna Howard currently holds.

5)      In both 2008 and 2012 I was one of the leaders of Ron Paul for President in Austin, TX.

6)      Unlike George Herbert Walker Bush, I have not murdered anyone, as he did with Barry Seal in 1986.

7)      Unlike cocaine addict and CIA drug smuggler Bill Clinton I do not think that Barry Seal got what he had coming to him. Barry Seal was a friend of Bill Clinton which tells you a lot about Bill “Serial Rapist” Clinton.

8)      Unlike George Herbert Walker Bush, I am not a homosexual pedophile who molests and has sex with young boys. Read the books The Franklin Cover Up and The Franklin Scandal for information on that. Former Texas GOP chair Cathie Adams knows all about the Franklin Cover Up and I have discussed it with her.

9)      My top priority is the impeachment and removal from office of child molester, business criminal, serial adulterer, golf cheat and political criminal Donald Trump. Message to Trump supporters: you sleep with dogs you will get fleas.

10)    I am very proud of my book The Clintons’ War on Women which rips the hide off the Clintons like no other book has done before. This is one of the few books child rapist Donald Trump has read and he kept it on his desk in 2016.

11)     In 2016 I received 145 votes for President of the United States.

12)    I am the Chairman Emeritus of the Travis County Republican Party, gaining it world attention as I ran it from June 13 to August 19, 2016.

13)    I like big titties. I am a proponent of boobyliciousness. In the past several years I have shared on social media the pics of over 500 extremely hot, busty women. What have Rick Figueroa and James Dickey ever done to promote boobyliciousness, bikini contests and wet t-shirt contests? I am for having bikini contests at the Alamo every 4th of July. Case closed.

Morrow’s candidacy is good news for the likes of Rachel Maddow (and maybe me, though I’m not sure), who loved the Robert Morrow story, ever since he was elected Travis County Republican Party chairman in the March 1, 2016 Republican primary.

Morrow defeated the incumbent Travis Country Republican Chairman James Dickey, mostly, it appeared, because his name appeared above Dickey’s on the ballot, and because voters apparently preferred the name Morrow, to the name Dickey.

Morrow’s election put the Travis County Republican Party and James Dickey through the ringer, until the party figured out a way to remove him.

Robert Morrow, Chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, prepares for his speech at the Travis County Republican Party organizational meeting Tuesday June 28, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

From my story last August:

Robert Morrow’s short, weird and nationally famous tenure as Travis County Republican Party chairman is over.

Unsurprisingly, the end was accompanied by a farcical moment as Morrow tried to crash Friday morning’s press conference by party officials who were eager to announce that he was out as chairman, only to be thrown out of the room.

As he was being escorted away, Morrow said he agreed that his recently launched write-in candidacy for president had, under state election law, disqualified him from continuing to serve as county party chairman.

“Their interpretation of election law is correct,” Morrow, in the colorful jester cap he’s often worn since becoming chairman at the end of June, called out in answer to a reporter’s question.

Morrow was elected chairman during the March 1 state primary, generating national headlines because of his unorthodox views on almost everything, which he tweeted with unabashed enthusiasm. It lasted scarcely two months, but Morrow’s leadership seemed an eternity for party officials who found him a perpetual embarrassment and who had been looking for some way, any way, to remove him from office.

Morrow handed officials what they wanted when he filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office a week ago to be certified as a write-in candidate for president.

Under state election law, a party chairman cannot run for public office unless it’s for another party position, and so, as soon as Morrow filed his declaration of candidacy, he was out.

August 26, 2016 – The doors on an elevator begin to close on former Travis County Republican Party chairman, Robert Morrow, after being asked to leave a Travis County Republican Party press conference that announced Morrow out as party chair in Austin, on Aug. 26, 2016. Morrow, registered as a write-in candidate for president nullified his party chair position. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

In September, Dickey reclaimed the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in a contest in which he defeated Brendan Steinhauser, who, unlike Dickey – who had opposed Trump as a disaster for the party before the convention – said he would not be voting for Trump for president.

In March, a year after his electoral debacle, Dickey and the party’s vice chairman Matt Mackowiak, presided over a very successful Travis County Republican Party Reagan Gala at the Austin Club (the speaker was Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who didn’t vote for Trump).

A happy ending for Dickey and the Travis County GOP.

But then, last Saturday, out of the blue, Tom Mechler of Amarillo, the state GOP Chairman since 2015, announced he was stepping down, with a plea for comity.

From Tom Mechler’s letter of resignation:

When I first took on this role, it was my vision that our Party would be more united. After one of the most divisive primary elections and heated legislative sessions in recent history, our Party needs to work harder than ever to come together. A party that is fractured by anger and backbiting is a party that will not succeed. It is no secret that our party is divided into factions. It is also no secret that those factions frequently throw rocks at each other. As I prepare to leave this role, my hope is that every faction of this party will treat each other with kindness and respect. Though we may disagree on certain issues, we are all part of the same Republican, conservative family. When we work together and treat each other with respect, we are stronger.

My second goal was for our party to look more like Texas. We live in a diverse state. As the demographics continue to change, our state will soon have a majority-minority voting age population. If we do not continue to make efforts to engage in the diverse communities across Texas, our state will turn blue. This is no longer just a possibility, it is an inevitable reality if we fail to act. Over the past two years, engagement has been my biggest passion. We’ve taken unprecedented strides, and we’ve generated remarkable results. As the SREC selects who will serve as your next state chairman, I encourage them to find someone with this same passion. If we do not engage in the diverse communities across Texas, we will lose the state, then the nation, and there may be no coming back.

With his sudden resignation, the power to replace him was vested with the State Republican Executive Committee, with two members from each of the state Senate districts, when they meet in Austin Saturday June 3.

As I wrote:

There is no certain successor, but Rick Figueroa of Brenham, a member of President Donald Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council, said he planned to seek the job.

Mechler and Figueroa have been engaged in a Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour across the state in recent months.

“He’s planted a lot of great seeds,” Figueroa said Saturday. “If the SREC and Republican Party would be inclined to elect me as chairman, I would begin to harvest those seeds.”

But Figueroa will be contested by other possible candidates including Travis County Republican Party Chairman James Dickey, and Mark Ramsey from Spring, who, as a well-liked executive committee member, might have an insider edge. Ramsey is chief of staff for state Rep. Valoree Swanson of Spring, a member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus.

Since then Ramsey announced he wasn’t going to run for chairman.

That left two candidates.

Until just before the stroke of midnight last night.

Morrow’s candidacy will not be welcome news for the state party, not because he stands a chance of getting a single vote from the SREC but because, like the Travis County Republican Party before it, they will have to figure out how to contend with Morrow.

Also, for Dickey, Morrow’s candidacy is a reminder that somehow Dickey lost to this guy in a fair-and-square, high turnout primary election.

Dickey’s other hurdle would seem to be why the fabulously successful Republican Party of Texas should trust its fortunes to a man who presides over the party in the most famously blue place in the state.

Here is James Dickey announcing his candidacy on Tuesday.

Earlier today I sent the following letter to the members of the State Republican Executive Committee announcing my candidacy for Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas:

Many were surprised by last week’s news that Tom Mechler was stepping down as our Chairman. He was absolutely right that it is a tough, demanding job. We cannot keep the GOP’s position as the guardian of our state’s conservative values without a vigorous and sustained effort.

This is a critical time for the Texas Republican Party, with the Democrats being energized and organized in a way we have not seen before. Make no mistake about it, we will need a lifelong conservative to help lead our Party to a brighter future, and someone who has earned the trust of the grassroots and base of our great party, as well as someone who can constructively work with all party leaders and elected officials.

I am honored and humbled by the number of people who have raised my name as a potential candidate to be our next Republican Party of Texas Chairman. Having attended most of the SREC meetings this past cycle as a guest and discussing with several members the qualities needed to lead our Party in the future, it is my pleasure to announce that I am indeed a candidate.

Serving as Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas is a formidable responsibility. In partnership with the Executive Committee, our next chair will have less than six months to prepare for the start of the 2018 election cycle, where it is critical that we build on our successes from 2016 and re-engage with our base in the areas where we are still not living up to their expectations. We must hit the ground running.

As a Precinct Chairman, a volunteer on numerous campaigns, a Delegate and Alternate Delegate to numerous state and national Republican conventions, and a County Chairman, I have a long and proven track record of working for the benefit of the Republican Party and successfully promoting our conservative values.

We’ve made tremendous strides in Travis County – one of the most challenging areas of our state. During my time as county chair, we:

  • Retained our partisan elected positions,
  • Added two conservative members to an infamously liberal city council,
  • Raised over $350,000, including $100,000 in just the past few months,
  • Added a permanent office and two paid staff members,
  • Defeated over $2 billion in wasteful and poorly structured bond issues, and
  • Reached tens of thousands of voters with improved data and phone banking systems and strategies.

My success in these areas has been a direct result of my focus on building a collaborative environment where all conservative voices in our Party can voice their opinions and work together to advance our common goals with mutual respect. We may not always agree, but as the Party of the Big Tent it is critical we listen to each other and work together in good faith. It is the only way we can grow, sharpen each other, and build on our success.

The Chairman is responsible for providing the tools and environment necessary for the Party to grow and increase its impact. With the Travis County Republican Party we made the most of the technology and data available through the RPT and others to improve our results. As Chairman I would ensure that those tools are improved, expanded, and along with the necessary training, rolled out to county parties all over Texas.

In addition to the urgent need to recruit, train, and support great campaign staff and candidates, the Party has crucial legal responsibilities for the management of the primary elections and the filing of numerous federal, state, and corporate ethics reports. I have the experience of building a great team that can ensure those are managed properly so that our volunteers can focus on winning and keeping Texas red — and making it even redder!

As the primary spokesperson for the Party, the Chairman is also responsible for representing and championing the positions of the Party as reflected in its platform and candidates. I’ve spoken and debated dozens of times on TV, radio, and in newspapers to champion the Republican cause. I’ve also rallied support and sent thousands of communications during numerous difficult legislative fights, including 2013’s HB2 ban on abortions after 20 weeks and 2017’s SB6 privacy protections.

This year alone I testified in favor of multiple RPT Platform items including Constitutional Carry and Property Tax Reform and recruited others to do so as well. As RPT Chair I would expand training and communications around the platform and legislative priorities so that Texas will continue to be a beacon of freedom, virtue, and growth for the entire country.

One of the critical ways I have demonstrated that I can perform the many complex duties of Party Chairman is by ensuring that each committee member knows that their position is heard in an atmosphere of mutual respect and fair dealing. Doing so builds an environment of trust that earns more commitment and achieves better outcomes.

I’m ready and have the experience to get to work with you to make the Republican Party of Texas as great as America needs it to be. Now more than ever America needs a strong and vibrant Texas Republican Party to paint with bold colors.

I believe I am uniquely qualified to lead us into the future we so eagerly seek, and I ask for your vote for Chairman at the June 3rd SREC meeting.

Sincerely,

James R. Dickey

Here is Dickey talking about his candidacy on Raging Elephant Radio, which broke the news that Mechler was stepping down.

And here is Rick Figueroa’s case for why the SREC should choose him.

My Vision for the Republican Party of Texas

There is no state party in the country more important than the Republican Party of Texas. Our state dictates the national conversation on conservative governance, innovation, and job creation. Simply put, a strong America requires a strong Republican Party of Texas. After all, it is the efforts of grassroots leaders across our great state who work tirelessly to elect conservative leaders and push for conservative legislation that have helped make Texas a beacon of conservatism for the rest of the nation. And it is the job of the Republican Party of Texas to keep it that way.

If I am fortunate enough to be elected to be your next State Chairman, I promise to not only continue the great work of the past, but to help shepherd our Party to even greater potential in the future. To accomplish such, I present the following five-point plan as a map to help navigate the new areas of growth:

1. Fundraising: To ensure future success, we have to first fuel the machine. With over twenty years of experience in the financial sector and over ten years of experience as a business owner, I know what it takes to make an organization financially successful. I understand the nuances of not just selling products, but selling concepts and ideas. If I’m elected to be your next chairman, I promise to use those skills and that knowledge to ensure our Party shatters previous fundraising levels and has the ability to operate at a capacity never before reached. This will be accomplished through the following means:

a. Systematic broad support- To maintain our independence and ensure we are never beholden to one specific type of donor, we must ensure that our contributions are coming in from a broad spectrum of support. From CEO’s to small business owners, from the $5 donor to the $500 donor, it is important that our Party’s financial support is reflective of the diversity intrinsic within our voting base. If elected Chairman, I will work tirelessly to make sure that our donor base is built up of Texans from all walks of life and all wings of our Party.
b. Fully-funded wish list budget- To ensure our Party remains the strongest State Party in the nation, we must fully-fund our budget. Rather than settling for a bare minimum budget, I promise to work diligently until we have enough money in the bank to fully fund our base and wish list budget. A fully-funded budget will include expanded minority engagement efforts, expanded youth outreach efforts, an expanded media and digital presence, and additional funds to focus on legislative priorities in the future.
c. Expand Grassroots support- Under Steve Munisteri’s leadership, the RPT developed the Grassroots Club. This effort was designed to empower the grassroots to have a seat at the fundraising table. Over the past several years, it has proven to be an effective tool. To date, the largest number of active members we’ve had at one time has been 2,000. If elected Chairman, I promise to work to double that number.
d. Fully-developed finance team- Under the leadership of our current Finance Chairman, Thomas Gleason, the RPT has developed a regional fundraising team across the state. If elected Chairman, I will work with each of these previously identified leaders to ensure we are reaching our maximum potential in every area of the state. The RPT should not receive the majority of its funds from one or two large cities. Rather, we should ensure our financial base is spread evenly across the state.
2. Legislative issues – To maintain the relevancy of our Party, the RPT must take a bold and outspoken stance in support of conservative legislation. At the directive of state convention delegates, the 85th Legislative Session was the first time the Party has taken an active role in advocating for legislative priorities of the grassroots through the establishment of the Legislative Committee. Like many of you, I’ve been personally frustrated and angry to see commonsense conservative measures that the vast majority of Texas Republicans support sit idle as the legislative session draws to a close. I don’t believe that this means we should throw our hands up in frustration, rather we should double down on our efforts to keep fighting for the policies Texas families and taxpayers deserve. It’s important that we be both forceful advocates for our values and also work with our elected officials to help achieve our goals. When Republicans join together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
a. Conservative issues- the RPT must be more vocal about our values. We are about far more than votes at the ballot box. We are a Party of values and principles. The RPT must be the voice for these principles.
b. Expand and empower involvement in the future – The RPT must work to expand and empower the voice of the grassroots in the future. Through trainings, expanded opportunities at convention, and regular information updates, the RPT can be a driving force in enacting conservative policy.
3. Expansion of the party- It is no secret that the demographics of our state are rapidly changing. In just a few short years, our state will become one of just five states in the nation with a majority-minority voting age population. If we allow the Democrats to continue their monopoly of courting minority voters, our Party will fade into irrelevancy. If we do not act now, we will lose Texas. At the current pace, it is not a question of “if,” but rather “when.” If the Democrats succeed in taking our state, it will be mathematically impossible for a Republican to ever win the White House. As goes Texas, so goes the nation. Our charge- here and now- is to ensure that they are not successful on our watch. Because of such, we must develop a robust and targeted engagement plan to not just defend our turf, but to also grow our margin of victory for years to come.
a. Engagement-  Engagement is my top priority. We can have all of the money in the world, but it means nothing if we don’t have the votes. I have worked with Governor Abbott’s office and the previous Chairman to develop the most sophisticated, focused minority engagement program in our Party’s history. Relying on models, data, and previous trends at the precinct level, we’ve developed a plan that targets the highest opportunity voters in the highest opportunity areas. But we aren’t just using data to micro-target voters, we are also coupling it with a relational element to ensure that our efforts establish tangible, long-term relationships in these communities.
b. County Chairs- If I’m elected Chairman, we will work closely with the TRCCA to develop a program to empower our County Chairmen. This effort will focus on incentivizing growth in areas such as precinct chair development, local outreach, and training. We are a bottom-up organization, and the RPT should ensure all of our county chairs have the support, resources, and information they need to reach their maximum potential. This incentive program will be broken down by population segments and will operate on a points system. Each area of growth will be awarded with a certain number of points. County Parties that reach certain point levels will be commemorated at State Convention, via email, and with commemorative plaques. This plan hopes to encourage growth at the local level but will also serve to recognize and applaud the hard work of these leaders.  We have already begun to develop the metrics for success in this plan. If elected Chairman, we will be ready to implement the program by the beginning of July.
c. Youth outreach– Engaging the next generation of Republican leaders is essential to the success of the Republican Party of Texas. I want to empower the Texas Federation of Young Republicans, The Texas Federation of College Republicans, and the Texas Association of High School Republicans to not only be a driving force in Texas’ political scene, but also a breeding ground for new Republican leaders. To do this, the party will supply materials, trainings, and youth summits where we will give the next generation a voice and listen to what issues are most important to them. Once we hear what is most important, we can better engage with conservative youth populations across Texas.  Also, the Republican Party of Texas, through a statewide internship program, will take an active role in identifying and training the next generation to later become staffers for political offices. Through both mentorship and leadership opportunities, we will successfully lay the groundwork for the leadership of the Republican Party of Texas for generations to come.
d. Results- Each of these engagement and outreach plans will be accompanied by measurable metrics for success. If fully-funded and fully-implemented, we will not just defend our vulnerable seats in 2018, we will continue to grow our Republican margins for years to come.
i.     The “Dime” (tell me) Listening Tour is one of those relational elements. This effort has already achieved remarkable successes across the state. With over 50% of attendees at each event self-reporting that they have never before attended a Republican event, we are truly reaching a new audience. These tours have already reached over 500 Hispanic Texans, produced close to 100 new volunteers, and over 15 new precinct chairs. This effort has already received national recognition. The RNC and the White House are both evaluating Texas’ engagement plan as a potential model to roll-out all across the country. If I’m elected Chairman, I will continue to work with all levels of our Party to grow this effort in every demographic group in Texas.  This type of robust plan will not just continue in Hispanic communities, but will be replicated and rolled out in Asian and African American communities as well.
4. Winning Elections – We must never rest on our laurels or take our successes for granted. Make no mistake, Texas is the crown jewel for national Democrats. Our state must be rigorously defended election cycle after election cycle. To do that, we must adapt to run modern campaigns and work tirelessly to win on all levels of the ballot. Today’s county commissioner is tomorrow’s member of Congress or State Senator.
 a. Adapting to Win – Campaign technology is rapidly changing at an almost constant pace. The Republican Party of Texas must use the latest tools, in conjunction with our statewide elected officials, so that we are well prepared to utilize the data collected from our grassroots activities.
b. Harnessing the power of the grassroots – While technology is a critical advantage, it is undoubtedly the power of the grassroots that wins elections. Texas Republicans have consistently produced the largest grassroots army in America. Not only have we made tens of millions of door knocks and phone calls in our state, we have also helped secure victories in battleground states across the country. It is imperative that the RPT hire a full-time political director and immediately begin working with our statewide elected leadership to build a grassroots program that positions us for a dominating 2018 election cycle.
5. Accountability & Accessibility – We must make sure that there is accountability in our plan. The best way to ensure success is to measure your progress. As a businessman, I’m a firm believer in not just developing a solid plan, but developing deliverable metrics to accompany that plan. If I’m elected Chairman, we will develop clearly-defined goals for every aspect of our party. Those goals (and subsequent progress) will be made available to the SREC. The more transparent we are in our efforts and progresses, the better able we will be to work together as a unified team.  If elected Chairman, I promise to be open with you, honest about our progresses, and transparent about our processes. Our next chairman must be accessible and be an amplifier for the voice of the grassroots. You can count on me to be just that. I will always be accessible and work to foster an environment of teamwork among staff, party leadership, activists, and anyone else who wants to help us advance our conservative agenda and keep Texas red.

The Bottom-line:

As Chairman, I will work hard every day to make sure the Republican Party of Texas remains the national leader on promoting and enacting conservative principles and policies, remains fiscally responsible and strong, and remains well-positioned to dominate the Democrats on every level of the ballot in every part of the state. Together, we will ensure the future success of our Party and the preservation of the principles that have made our party and our state so great!

Here is Rick Figueroa on the Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour, via Raging Elephant Radio. (Which obviously doesn’t like him.)

There you go, SREC, your three candidates for state chair.

So far, Dickey has picked up some interesting endorsements.

Here, from Julie McCarty, the influential head of the NE Tarrant Tea Party:

 Julie White McCarty

May 23 at 9:33pm · Grapevine ·

 I am stunned. Two conservatives both considered running for the same seat. Rather than battle it out, split friendships, and trash each other, they got together and decided one would run and the other step aside. James Dickey and Mark Ramsey both have my utmost respect. And James Dickey now also has my full support in his bid for Texas State GOP Chairman. Your SREC members will vote on your behalf. I beg you to look up who yours are and ask them to support James Dickey.

And, also here from Amy Hedtke, who I wrote about on a First Reading at the beginning of the month: Some like it hot: How Amy Hedtke went from Scout mom to anarchist Republican and James O’Keefe heroine

Amy Hedtke shared James Dickey‘s post to the group: Kaufman County Tea Party.

May 23 at 12:09pm ·

I support James Dickey for interim State Chair and urge our SREC to publicly support, endorse, and vote for him at the SREC mtg in June.

So Dickey clearly has the edge with the Tea Party and the anarchists.

We’ll have to see if and how Figueroa and Morrow answer that.

In ‘Giant of the Senate,’ Al Franken suspends the ‘unwritten rules’ to write about how much he loathes Ted Cruz

Good day Austin:

Taking a break from the final excruciating grind of the 85th Texas legislative session, let us look for some diverting reading.

How about Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s new book, Giant of the Senate. Oh, it’s not out for a few days. But thanks to Amazon with its search inside this book feature, I searched for Ted Cruz …

And this is what I found.

Here’s why Franken feels free to flout the unwritten rules of the Senate in Cruz’s case.

Here is Al Franken, who made a good living in comedy before becoming a U.S. senator, recounting the time that his Minnesota colleague, Amy Klobuchar, tried to pre-clear a Ted Cruz joke she was going to tell at the Gridiron Dinner with Ted Cruz.

Here is Al Franken recalling the first impression Cruz made in Washington (Franni is Franken’s wife, Franni. Yes, her name is Franni Franken.):

And here is a contextual look back at an early example of Cruz loathing by his college roommate.

Cruz responded this afternoon to what Franken had written about him.

From Politico:

“Al is trying to sell books and apparently he’s decided that being obnoxious and insulting me is good for causing liberals to buy his books,” Cruz said in an interview. “I wish him all the best.”

And, on Thursday, the Cruz for Senate campaign was fundraising off of Franken’s contempt.

Last week it was Rosie O’Donnell on the attack, yesterday Al Franken decided to take his own shots at Senator Cruz. 

Extreme liberals like Rosie and Franken are increasingly frustrated that their attempts to stop Ted are falling on deaf ears.

In fact Rosie’s tweets supporting one of Ted’s potential opponents has only emboldened you – the grassroots supporters who have been with us since the beginning – by delivering the campaign its BIGGEST fundraising week of Q2 2017!

But we can’t stop now.

The Hollywood left and so-called “resistance” are more energized than ever to defeat Ted at the ballot box, stop the President’s agenda, and turn Texas BLUE

Will you help us #KeepTexasRed?

 

Just so we’re clear – when Al Franken says “I hate Ted Cruz” what he really means is he hates the conservative principles and values he represents. Franken can’t stand the fact that Ted won’t back down from the promises he made to the people of Texas and succumb to the ways of Washington D.C.

Franken, Rosie, and the candidates they have chosen to support are going to be well-funded in next year’s midterms. That’s why it’s going to be up to us to match them dollar for dollar as Ted gears up for reelection. 

Can you make an immediate contribution of $5, $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford right now to our “RESISTANCE RESPONSE” fund?

Senator Cruz is working hard to ensure a conservative agenda is passed on behalf of the American people, despite the non-stop political hits from the likes of Franken, Rosie, and the rest of the liberal left. 

Help him deliver on the promises our Republican majorities have made today!

– Team Cruz

P.S. – Ted will never stop fighting for the interests and values of the twenty seven million Texans he represents, show him you have his back with an urgent contribution of $5, $25, $50, or $100 today!

 DONATE 

 

Franken is not the first author to dwell on Cruz.

He also features prominently in Roger Stone’s The Making of the President 2016, whose animus toward Cruz is at least the equal of Franken’s.

Roger Stone in Austin

 

A sample page:

OK.

Break’s over.

Get back to paying attention to the 85th running of the Texas Legislature.

We’ve got bathroom policy to resolve.

John Kasich can be prickly. The winner of one Texas electoral vote appears at BookPeople

 

 

Good day Austin:

John Kasich can be prickly.

From an April 30, 2015 Molly Ball profile of Kasich in the Atlantic: The Unpleasant Charisma of John Kasich: He’s tamed the federal budget and brought Ohio’s economy back from the brink. His next target might be the White House—and he could be 2016’s most interesting candidate.

The thing about John Kasich is, he’s kind of a jerk.

Lobbyists in Columbus warn their clients before meeting the governor not to take it personally if he berates them. A top Ohio Republican donor once publicly vowed not to give Kasich a penny after finding him to be “unpleasantly arrogant.” As a congressman, Kasich sometimes lashed out at constituents—one who called him a “redneck” in a 1985 letter got a reply recommending he “enroll in a remedial course on protocol”—and when Kasich was thrown out of a Grateful Dead concert for trying to join the band onstage, he allegedly threatened to use his clout to have the band banned from D.C. As I was writing this article, Kasich’s press secretary, Rob Nichols, helpfully emailed me the thesaurus entry for “prickly,” sensing that I would need it.

I spent several days with Kasich in Ohio in February, and during that time he told me, repeatedly, that he did not read The Atlantic—and his wife didn’t, either. He said that my job, writing about politics and politicians, was “really a dumb thing to do.” Later, he singled me out in a meeting of cabinet officials to upbraid me for what he considered a stupid question in one of our interviews. At a Kasich press conference I attended at a charter school in Cleveland, he interrupted several speakers, wandered off to rummage on a nearby teacher’s desk as he was being introduced, and gleefully insulted the Cleveland Browns, to a smattering of boos.

But while Kasich can be rude—and at times even genuinely nasty—he is also prone to spontaneous displays of empathy, frequently becoming emotional as he talks about the plight of people “in the shadows.” To his allies, these traits are two sides of the same coin. They describe Kasich as a sort of heartland Chris Christie—brash, decisive, authentic—without all the baggage. “

 

 

 

 

From Eli Watkins at CNN on March 26:

Washington (CNN)Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Sunday that despite keeping up a high profile since his failed 2016 presidential bid, he has no intention of running for office again.

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” if was going to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, Kasich repeatedly said, “No.”
“I’m not really interested in running for political office again,” Kasich said. “I don’t see it. I just don’t see it.”

From Jennifer Hansler at CNN on May 4:

(CNN) John Kasich may not be planning to run for president again in 2020, but he’s not ruling out the possibility.

The two-term Ohio governor noted that his “inclination is to say (he’ll) never run for anything again.” However, he is maintaining a political organization, planning on forming a team, and won’t be waiting on the results of the midterm elections to make up his mind.
“You never want to say never to anything. You never know,” Kasich told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
Kasich said there is support for him to run again.
“What I have found as I travel around the country for this book or I just travel around period is that people come to me and many of them are just almost begging me to run again,” he said.
 

 

From Ken Herman on Dec. 20.

Background: On Monday, Christopher Suprun of Dallas, one of the 38 Texas members of the Electoral College, carried through on his plan not to vote for Donald Trump. Suprun, who voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, doesn’t think Trump was the best candidate for president this year, even though a majority of Texas voters thought he was.

Texas law doesn’t require electors to back the candidate who got the most popular votes in the state. There is a party pledge to that effect, but no law. So Suprun didn’t vote for Trump. Neither did elector Bill Greene, who voted for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who is 81 and didn’t run for president this year.

More background: Gov. Greg Abbott thinks electors who vote their conscience, as opposed to how the popular vote goes, should be fined $5,000 and banned for life from the Electoral College

 

https://twitter.com/cd_hooks/status/866835551567085569

 

From Ben Gittelson, ABC News, Utica Michigan, Feb. 16, 2016:

It has become a staple of Republican presidential candidate John Kasich’s campaign events: Find a child in attendance — sometimes more than one — call him to the front, and tell him to not do drugs.

From New Hampshire to Michigan and South Carolina, kids have promised the Ohio governor they’ll stay away from drugs. Kasich’s crusade began as a response to questions from voters about how he would address substance abuse; he says “we’ll give you some money” but that personal pitches are key.

That message has become part of his stump speech regardless of whether his audiences actually broach the topic themselves.

“Do you know you’re made special? Did you know that?” Kasich told two young boys Saturday after pointing at them and beckoning them onstage at a rally in Mauldin, South Carolina. “You want to make a commitment to get your buddies to realize,” he told Preston, 11, and Daniel, 14, “that you don’t mess around with drugs? Huh?”

The kids agreed, the crowd applauded and Kasich proclaimed: “That’s how we beat drugs in our neighborhood. I don’t know these boys, but I don’t have to know them. Because I care about them without even knowing them.”

Then, he stopped himself, noticing another potential mark. “Are you still in school?” he asked a young man in the crowd, who told him he was. “You’re in high school,” Kasich said. “No drugs.”

The scourge of drugs rose to national prominence in recent months when presidential candidates crisscrossing New Hampshire, the first state in the nation to hold primary elections, heard tales of abuse and addiction at what seemed like every stop. An October poll of Granite Staters showed nearly half knew someone who had abused heroin in the previous five years, and candidates took notice.

Kasich himself has admitted that he tried marijuana when he was younger, although he does not mention his own background when he pulls the kids before hundreds of attendees at his town hall-style meetings. This week, he rolled out his anti-drug spiel at events in Michigan and South Carolina, always tinged with the motivational message that one’s life is too special to ruin for a quick fix.

Kasich, whose gubernatorial administration has combated its own heroin epidemic in Ohio, altered his advice somewhat for audiences at universities this week.

“I beg you,” he told students at Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, Michigan, Monday. “When you go to that party, OK, and you’re having the second drink or the third drink, OK, and the bowl of pills that’s over here on the side,” he said, pointing. “Don’t go near ’em.”

Kasich, whose parents died in a crash caused by a drunken driver, has said he is open to exploring using marijuana’s medical benefits and that he opposes jailing people for smoking weed, but he opposes legalizing the drug.

Not everyone proves receptive to his “just-say-no” crusade.

On Monday in Utica, Michigan, just outside Detroit, a little boy in the front row looked up in apparent terror as Kasich zeroed in on him and said: “You don’t ever mess with drugs, do you?”

Overwhelmed with the attention, the boy burst into tears.

From
17 Feb 2016 

Kasich appears to be citing a statistic from a 2006 study by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids that found kids are half as likely to use drugs if they discuss the associated risks with their parents. The study doesn’t say much about strangers at restaurants or John Kasich telling them to avoid all drugs forever. That strategy has obvious set-backs in terms of basic human—especially teenaged—nature.

“Telling people they can’t do something, which they think they ought to be able to do, elicits ‘reactance motivation’ or forbidden fruit syndrome,” Ruth C. Engs, Professor Emeritus of Applied Health Science at Indiana University tells The Influence. A 2009 meta-analysis of 20 studies on the effectiveness of DARE, the most widely adopted abstinence-based program, found it had a “less than small effect on reducing drug use.”

“Too often, the schism that exists between what we tell them and their own lived experiences provokes cynicism, mistrust and even more curiosity,” says Jerry Otero, youth policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “So much so, that once they are out on their own, many young folks seem primed for overindulgence. That is why “Just say no” just doesn’t work.”

Otero adds that while “just say no” campaigns might work with very young kids, they have little-to-no effect by the time children get to middle and high school. In fact, one study showed that “scared straight” programs made kids more likely to start smoking cigarettes and drinking.

https://twitter.com/Wileyatx/status/866839671602462720

 

 

 

The large, attentive crowd at BookPeople loved John Kasich.

But he did not hang around afterward to meet them one-by-one and sign books.

In fact, he dashed out of BookPeople so quickly when the event was over that I couldn’t catch a photo of him.

But he did sign 150 copies of his book beforehand and, after his talk, I bought one.

So far, my favorite line in the book comes between parentheses on page 255.

He is writing about how furious he was that after Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz in the May 4 Indiana primary, and Cruz quit the race that night, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus – now President Trump’s chief of staff – tweeted that Trump was the party’s presumptive nominee, ignoring the fact that Kasich was still in the race.

“What Priebus did was dead wrong,” I later told The Washington Post, igniting a feud between me and the party chairman that would continue through the general election. “I was still in it,” I said of the race, “and I think he dissed me.”

(For the record, my daughters appreciated that I was quoted in the paper saying the word dissed, and that I had apparently used it correctly.)

Apparently.

The very next day after Trump beat Cruz, Cruz dropped out and Priebus dissed Kasich, Kasich suspended his campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That didn’t escalate quickly. On the oddly subdued denouement of the bathroom bill debate

 

(State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, discusses his amendment to SB 2078, which would ban transgender-friendly bathroom policies in public schools, on the House floor on Sunday (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Good Monday Austin:

The Texas House last night gave preliminary approval to the bathroom bill, or at any rate a bathroom bill, effectively bringing to a close – almost, maybe, perhaps, probably – the legislative portion of one of the most tendentious debates in recent Texas politics.

But, maybe it was because I was tired, or too numbly cold because of the Yukon temperatures at which the House thermostat is set, perhaps to preserve, until someone notices, the body of a member who dies in place, but I found the closing debate of this powerfully emotional issue oddly enervating.

Not that there was not some powerful oratory brought to bear by the opponents of any bathroom bill, which they consider disgraceful pandering to the prejudices of the Republican primary base, but because there was no equal and opposite oratory from the other side.

What kind of pandering is that?

From the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell Texas House gives initial OK to transgender bathroom ban in schools 

Divided almost exclusively along party lines in a Sunday night vote, the Texas House backed a ban on transgender-friendly bathroom and locker room policies in the state’s public schools.

An amendment, added to a bill on school safety and emergency policies, would require public schools and open-enrollment charter schools to limit bathroom use to each student’s “biological sex,” barring transgender students from using the bathroom of their gender identity.

The amendment by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would apply to grade schools and high schools but not colleges and universities.

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Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said the House needlessly caved in to threats from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who promised to do what he could to ensure a special session unless a crackdown on transgender-friendly bathroom policies was passed.

“This amendment was more about using trans kids as a negotiating tool at a contentious point in the session than about making kids safer. It paints a target on the backs of already vulnerable children,” Israel said. “We are getting rolled by the Senate, and transgender children are a part of that bargain. Texas is better than what the House did tonight.”

Before the debate, about a half-dozen Democratic women stopped into the men’s room just off the House floor Sunday as a symbolic protest.

“We’re feeling like making trouble today,” said Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, and one of the men’s room visitors. “It’s that kind of mood.”

So, the Sharks were ready to rumble.

What about the Jets?

But, it was not to be.

In fact, it was one of few big debates all session in which Stickland had nothing to say.

Nothing from Cain.

Nothing, as far as I can remember,  from any of the Freedom Caucus.

What gives?

Maybe the House really was being held hostage by Dan Patrick, and no one wanted to upset the ransom being paid – place the votes in a paper bag, leave it at the corner of 11th and Congress, come by yourself, and, whatever you do, don’t call the cops.

https://twitter.com/DanPatrickTX/status/866348064814006272

Last night’s vote capped a weekend of frenetic activity in the House as the session entered its last week.

But, if you wanted to see  Saturday afternoon at the fights, you needed to be watching Saturday afternoon in the House, when Stickland and Rep. Dennis Bonnen – who fans of the sport can only hope succeeds Joe Straus as Speaker – went at it over property tax reform.

 

 

Here is their encounter.

But before you look at it – and I know this is rudimentary, but I don’t have the technical proficiency to do it any other way – for enhanced viewing pleasure,  click on the video of Stickland v. Bonnen and then click on the video just below it with an instrumental of the Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House. You can adjust the volume to the Talking Heads so you can better hear the TXLEGE’s finest talking heads.

So,  with that on Saturday, one night have expected things to escalate on Sunday.

But instead what you had was a very subdued Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, presenting what he hoped would be a sensible and sensitive alternative to the bathroom bill and  one that would prove acceptable to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, avoid a special session, cover the backs of Republican members with their socially conservative constituents and, hope against hope, be as inoffensive as possible to the transgender community and its advocates in the House.

Here is the text of Paddie’s amendment.

The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrolment charter school shall ensure that each school or school facility accommodates the right of each student to access restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities with privacy, dignity, and safety by requiring the provision of single-occupancy facilities for use by a student who does not wish to use the facilities designated for use or commonly used by persons of the student’s biological sex.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her remarks, Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said the Paddie amendment was less bad than earlier bathroom bills, but said it was still bad.

My problem with this amendment is it’s not so harmless. In order for the school to make the accommodation that’s talked about in the amendment, the students have to out themselves. so it’s not harmless. They don’t get to go around in the privacy of their own lives. They have to share something very intimate, something that makes them very vulnerable in some places, with school authorities. So I don’t think it will be useful or helpful to these children.

I was asked earlier why I couldn’t support this. This was a compromise. While this is better, perhaps, it fails to recognize the safety of that chid and their well-being. It is better in the sense that it’s limited to schools. We didn’t get a bathroom bills that covers all bathrooms. It is limited to schools, I suppose. And the language doesn’t specifically target GLBT kids. But it’s impact still has that. A kid must sill out themselves.

This Legislature has occupied already too much time and energy on this issue.

Paddie closed in the same low-key fashion as he opened.

First let me tell you that the statistics that were cited related to transgender students (as victims) are alarming and I believe, as you do, that it’s deplorable that it’s happening. I do care abou the safety and dignity and privacy of those students as much as I do my own two children who attend public schools. This is about accommodating all kids. No kid should live in fear.

No legislator was clearer in his opposition to any kind of transgender bathroom legislation than House Speaker Joe Straus.

From my story in March – Straus calls bathroom bill ‘contrived’ answer to ‘manufactured’ problem – off the speaker’s interview with Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

But, as Straus acknowledged then of his members in the House:

I’m not saying it wouldn’t pass if it were pushed on them.

After last night’s vote, Straus issued this statement

I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.

But is it enough for Patrick? Has the ransom been paid?

Are he and Steve Hotze celebrating?

I talked to Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, after last night’s vote and asked him why the muted rhetoric from his side during the debate.

“If this were March 21 and not May 21 it would have been different,” he said.

But, Krause explained, they were winning, not getting all they wanted, but getting something, and there was also no reason to “rub salt in the wounds” of those on the other side who are as passionately on their side of the issue as he is on his.

So, after third reading and final passage today, is that it?

Will the lieutenant governor accept this modest version of what he wanted and claim victory?

Or will there be another turn in the saga?

I texted Stickland late last night with that question.

“Yet to be determined,” he replied. “Lots of fluid aspects.

Meanwhile, before yesterday’s session I did a modest reworking of the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, followed by Phil Ochs singing in the original.

HEAR the leges with the bells — Voting bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
For a bathroom bill done light !
While the bills that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With Dan Patrick’s delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinab(bot)ulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

 

Coarse correction: How the Freedom Caucus changed the session’s trajectory.

Good day Austin:

I guess that’s what’s known as a coarse course correction.

But I like the original, which is truer to Stickland’s rough and tumble style.

Stickland had entered the House chamber for yesterday afternoon’s session with pride in his stride.

“They thought we were idiots,” he told me, referring to himself and other member of the House Freedom Caucus – a dozen strong.

But, Stickland said yesterday, thanks to the Freedom Caucus’ strategic gambit, I was now witnessing the “end of the regime.”

From Chuck Lindell in today’s Statesman:

Launching an unusually public and pointed exchange between the Legislature’s top two Republicans, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called reporters to the Capitol on Wednesday to issue an ultimatum to House Speaker Joe Straus.

Unless the House passes two of his priorities — limits on transgender-friendly bathroom policies and changes to the property tax system — Patrick said he would hold up a sunset bill needed to keep some state agencies operating, all but ensuring the need for a special session after the regular session ends May 29.

What’s more, Patrick said, if the House fails to pass either priority, he will press Gov. Greg Abbott to call as many special sessions as necessary to gain their approval.

“Whether we have a special session is now in the hands of the speaker,” said Patrick, who presides over the Senate.

What does this have to do with Freedom Caucus?

From Chuck’s story:

Patrick said he was inspired to take his disagreement with Straus public after the House speaker sent him a letter Monday, then released it to the media, on end-of-session issues.

The Straus letter asked Patrick for action on SB 310, a version of a House sunset bill that was killed by a calendar deadline. Patrick sensed an opportunity.

RELATED: Lawmakers fear agency closures at risk without special session

“It’s very late, but we can still get it out,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We have less than 48 hours, probably, to pass it to avoid the need for a special session. Before we move Senate Bill 310, I must see action by the House to pass several key bills.”

And, from the Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh on Tuesday.

State lawmakers are worried that last week’s insurrection by tea party-aligned Republicans, which killed hundreds of House bills, might have jeopardized a procedural measure needed to keep some state agencies open.

The struggle to pass what is known as the Sunset Commission scheduling bill is the epitome of legislative inside baseball, but it could play a key role in negotiations over such high-profile issues as transgender bathroom access and the state budget.

With the House version of the sunset bill now dead, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday asked fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to resurrect it by having the Senate quickly pass its version and send it to the House before a procedural deadline arrives at the end of the week.

Conservatives, however, are urging Patrick to use his power over the bill as leverage to either extract concessions from the more moderate Straus on issues important to the socially conservative wing of the GOP or to force Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session when those issues could take center stage. The regular session ends on Memorial Day.

House Bill 3302, which would have extended the life of some state agencies set to expire soon under Texas’ Sunset Commission review process, was one casualty of what became known as the “Mother’s Day Massacre,” in which members of the self-styled Freedom Caucus killed hundreds of their colleagues’ proposals by slowing down the House’s work as key bill-passing deadlines passed.

The only hope for the measure is now Senate Bill 310 by Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano. The Senate, which initially planned to wait for the House bill to be approved before taking up the measure, hasn’t held a hearing on the bill.

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The Texas Sunset Commission periodically reviews all state agencies to decide whether they should continue to exist and, if so, make recommendations for improving them.

The Sunset scheduling measure, called the “safety net” bill, extends the charter of agencies that are set to expire but haven’t yet been reviewed and recommended for continuation.

Most major agencies get their own Sunset reauthorization bills. The House, for instance, on Tuesday approved one for the Texas Department of Transportation.

But some smaller state entities, like the Texas Real Estate Commission, could fall through the cracks if the Sunset scheduling bill fails.

In holding up the House agenda last week, the Freedom Caucus specifically targeted the Sunset bill, said Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, a member of the caucus.

“We accomplished our mission,” he said.

Leach said he hoped the wrench the caucus has thrown in the end-of-session negotiations will bring the House to the table on Patrick-prioritized bills that limit local government’s ability to raise property taxes, prohibit transgender Texans from using the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities and make it harder to get abortions.

On Wednesday, Patrick did exactly what the Freedom Caucus hoped he would do and the Freedom Caucus was recast from hopeless outcasts to The Dirty Dozen, a grizzled and fearless band who had gone behind enemy lines and taken the hostage needed to carry the day.

A Major with an attitude problem and a history of getting things done is told to interview military prisoners with death sentences or long terms for a dangerous mission; To parachute behind enemy lines and cause havoc for the German Generals at a rest house on the eve of D-Day.

I guess, amid the all-star cast, the closest to Stickland would be Charles Bronson as Wladislaw.

The last guy in the world you’d expect to be a hero.

I won’t attempt to connect any other members of Freedom Caucus to particular characters in The Dirty Dozen,

Especially not Telly Savalas as Archer Maggot.

Maggot is a maniac, says Savalas. His religious fanaticism could never be moderated or quelled.

It is a constant danger.

Train them. Arm them. Excite them. And turn them loose on the Nazi high command Straus leadership team.

As yesterday’s session broke up, I put the question to another key member of the Freedom Caucus – Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving.

Q – Jonathan says you all know what you were doing. Can that be true?

Rinaldi:

We actually do.

It was an audible but it was extremely well executed at about 9 o’clock (last Thursday night). We saw the sunset safety net about ten (bills) away. We knew (keeping it from passing) would strengthen the hand of the lieutenant governor and would considerably increase the chance that property tax reform happens, that the Women’s Privacy Act happens.

A little bit earlier that night, the Texas Freedom Caucus had held a press conference at which they promised to take the Local and Consent Calendar down, but without any mention of the sunset safety net because, Rinaldi said, they were not even aware that it was the prize at that moment.

The two were not linked in any way. The press conference was a direct response  to what happened to the Local Calendar and some other things that happened, that had nothing to do with what happened later. What happened later was strategic and had to do specifically with the sunset safety net and passing conservative legislation

With a midnight deadline for bills to pass or die looming, Stickland said:

At about 11:25 the leadership picked up on what we were doing and then went and asked a series of questions about what happens if we don’t pass this, and I think, was it (Rep. Byron) Cook?

Rinaldi:

Cook figured it out about 10:30 or 11.

The Freedom Caucus had not that night or since directly coordinated with Patrick, but, as events unfolded, they realized what they had wrought.

Stickland:

Yeah, when we realized the power that it could transfer to the conservative movement I think we all, went, “All right. This is our big goal.”

Rinaldi:

We knew it would strengthen (Patrick’s) hand. and he used what he was given, so that’s good, that’s all we needed.

Our goal is to pass property tax relief. Our goal is to pass women’s privacy.

Stickland:

Straus gets to pick now. We can either do it in this session or we can do in a special.

They consistently underestimate us and I’m good with that.

A few hours earlier I was among a handful of reporters who met with Rep. Chris Turner, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Rafael Anchia, chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

I asked whether the Freedom Caucus had, in fact, demonstrated some strategic genius.

Turner:

I don’t know. Strategic is not a word I usually associate with that group. Perhaps it was. Only they can answer that, whether it was strictly coincidence or whether it was intentional.

Anchia offered a more generous appraisal of the Freedom Caucuses’ strategery.

I don’t think it was a coincidence at all.

It was very obvious that they were chubbing to stop us from getting to that bill and if you looked at the consequences of not passing safety net bill – two things. Some people call it a scheduling bill and some people call it a safety net because it does both of those things.

It’s a safety net because if you have an important administrative agency whose sunset bill does not pass, you don’t want that agency to go away. TxDOT for example.  You want to catch that in the safety net of this bill.

Second, you want to schedule other things, as problems arise with agencies … you might want to accelerate a sunset on, Dallas County schools, for instance, which is an organ of state statutes … I’m very interested in putting that in some kind of review. I served on Sunset. It’s a very important function.

So by putting that on page 8 of what was going to be already a contentious calendar, it was a self-inflicted wound by the House, and the Freedom Caucus saw leverage there, and their whole goal is to exert their leverage where they can. It was just a kind of gratuitous opportunity for them.

Was the vulnerable placement of the sunset safety net bill on the calendar simply an oversight by the leadership?

Anchia:

I don’t know. All I can tell you is that when I was on Sunset, every sunset was on Major State (Calendar). Period. Full stop. Even lowly little sunset bills that wouldn’t have impacted a lot of folks if they had gone away were on Major State.

Turner:

It was a horrific unforced error. Why it was done that way I don’t know, but it was a really serious unforced error.

Anchia:

You will recall Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) went to the back microphone making parliamentary inquiries, and he asked the speaker point-blank when the speaker was in the chair, “Why was this on Page 8 and not on Major State, and the Speaker simply pointed to the back of the hall and said, “You must ask the chairman of Calendars.”

And I don’t know if any of you had a chance to talk to the chairman of Calendars.

I spoke with Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, the veteran chairman of Calendars, and he was not at all defensive and that, thanks to his long experience, his blood pressure does not spike in situations like this.

The bill was placed on the calendar in a spot that should not have been a problem, and, he said, if the governor wants a special session – or if either the lieutenant governor or the speaker wants to try to force a special session – they hardly need a hostage like this to work their will.

That said, Turner said, the only vehicle for a sunset safety net is the Senate bill, which the lieutenant governor said this morning he is going to hold hostage until he gets a bathroom bill, which is just the height of irresponsibility.

Turner:

I think the House needs to push back. The Senate is not superior to the House. Both are equal chambers. Just because the Senate or lieutenant governor wants something, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I don’t think the House or the Speaker should capitulate to what the lieutenant governor demands, and I don’t think we should capitulate to the governor either.

xxxxx

A special session, that is a decision only the governor can make. So, if there’s a special session it’s on the governor. But the House, and the members of the House and the Speaker of the House should not be blackmailed into passing policies that we know are harmful to our constituents and the state’s economy simply because the lieutenant governor wants it. That’s the bottom line.

Here, thanks to Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe,  is Straus responding to Patrick yesterday.

I was encouraged by much of what Governor Patrick said today. I was especially glad to hear that Governor Patrick wants to start passing bills that are priorities of the House, such as mental health reforms, fixing the broken A-F rating system and cybersecurity. These are not poll-tested priorities, but they can make a very real difference in Texans’ lives. I am grateful that the Senate will work with us to address them.

Budget negotiations are going well but are far from finished. The Senate has indicated a willingness to use part of the $12 billion Economic Stabilization Fund. In addition, the two sides, along with the Comptroller’s office, are working through concerns about the use of Proposition 7 funds to certify the budget. I’m optimistic that we will produce a reasonable and equitable compromise on the budget. I appreciate the work of the Senate conferees and Governor Patrick on these issues.

As I said in my letter to Governor Patrick, the House has worked diligently to pass priorities that are important to him. Senate Bill 2 has been scheduled for a vote on the floor of the House tomorrow. The House has already acted on a number of issues that are important to the Lieutenant Governor and will continue to do so. I’m glad that the Senate is beginning to extend the same courtesy.

Governor Patrick talked about the importance of property tax relief. The Texas House is also concerned about property taxes, which is why we approved House Bill 21 to address the major cause of rising property-tax bills: local school taxes. As it passed the House, this legislation would begin to reduce our reliance on local property taxes in funding education. Nobody can claim to be serious about property-tax relief while consistently reducing the state’s share of education funding. The House made a sincere effort to start fixing our school finance system, but the Senate is trying to derail that effort at the 11th hour. The Senate is demanding that we provide far fewer resources for schools than the House approved and that we begin to subsidize private education – a concept that the members of the House overwhelmingly rejected in early April. The House is also serious about providing extra and targeted assistance for students with disabilities. This is why we put extra money in House Bill 21 to help students with dyslexia. We also overwhelmingly passed House Bill 23 to provide grants for schools that work with students who have autism and other disabilities. The Lieutenant Governor has not referred that bill to a Senate committee.

Governor Patrick’s threat to force a special session unless he gets everything his way is regrettable, and I hope that he reconsiders. The best way to end this session is to reach consensus on as many issues as we can. Nobody is going to get everything they want. But we can come together on many issues and end this session knowing that we have positively addressed priorities that matter to Texas.

In response to a question from Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News, Straus said, “I think it was unfortunate that they delayed getting to the sunset which gave the lieutenant governor  the possibility to make a threat.”

But, Straus said, “I’m not sure it gave anyone positive momentum.”

Whatever the long-term effect (as in a day or two or a week from now), Patrick got the headlines he wanted yesterday.

From R.G. Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly: Patrick Backs Straus Into a Corner

The Freedom Caucus opposes Straus but have generally been an ineffective annoyance.

That changed on April 27, when the House endured sixteen hours of debate on an anti-immigration bill to address so-called sanctuary cities. In the course of the debate, Schaefer offered an amendment to prevent police chiefs from restricting their officers from asking people who have been detained about their immigration status. In a moment of conciliation, Schaefer offered to pull down his amendment if Democrats would stop offering their own amendments designed to make Republicans look heartless and cruel. Some Democrats wanted to take the deal, but Representatives Armando Walle of Houston, Cesar Blanco of El Paso and Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio argued against it. By refusing to compromise, the three guaranteed that the so-called “show me your papers” amendment would become part of the bill that Abbott eventually signed into law.

But undeniably, Straus had an opportunity to affect the outcome of that bill. He could have kept it bottled up as he was doing with the bathroom bill, though he had allowed a similar sanctuary cities bill to go through the House in 2011. Straus also could have demanded discipline out of his chairs to vote against Schaefer. The amendment went on the bill by a vote of 81-64, with fourteen of Straus’s committee chairs voting for the Schaefer amendment, while three other members of his leadership team were away at a conference committee on the budget. Straus needed to switch only a dozen votes to keep the most controversial language out of the bill.

The Freedom Caucus was empowered, at least in perception.

In the days that followed, caucus members got an amendment on a foster care bill to prevent the vaccination of children who have been removed from their homes until a court ordered the child’s permanent removal. And last week they used maneuvers to slow down the House calendar so that a “safety net” bill failed to pass to keep agencies subject to the sunset review process alive even if their reauthorization legislation failed. And finally, they won passage of an amendment to a State Bar of Texas bill to make it an affirmative defense for a lawyer under disciplinary review to claim he or she acted because of a sincerely held religious belief—an amendment that Democrats viewed as giving lawyers the ability to discriminate against the LGBT community.

After the religious beliefs amendment passed on a vote of 85-59, Representative Rafael Anchia of Dallas blurted out, “Last session these guys couldn’t pass gas. Now they’re running the floor.”

Several senior Republican members of the Straus leadership team have told me they don’t feel like anyone is in charge in the House. One called it a rudderless ship. None said they are ready to abandon Straus or revolt against him, though the frustration is rising.

I asked Turner and Anchia if the Speaker was losing his hold on the House.

Anchia cited Zedler’s successful vaccination amendment to Democratic Rep. Gene Wu’s foster care bill.

From Julie Chang Statesman story  last week: How a Texas foster care bill discussion veered into vaccination debate

The Texas House tentatively passed a bill Wednesday that would address major problems in the state’s troubled child welfare system, including overburdened caseworkers and timely health screenings of foster children.

Before the vote, however, discussion on House Bill 39 filed by Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, detoured into a passionate debate about whether the state should allow foster care children to be vaccinated before a judge terminates the rights of the child’s parents.

Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who tacked on an amendment to keep such children from being vaccinated, said in some cases a doctor wouldn’t know if a child is allergic to a vaccine. He and others also said it’s a matter of personal liberty.

“Listen, I’m not against vaccinations,” said Zedler. “I am against … the vaccine schedule. We’re treated like automobiles, like you get your oil change every 3,000 miles, well we’re going to give you this vaccine at birth … and so on down the line.”

Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, unsuccessfully tried to change Zedler’s measure to require foster care children be given the human papillomavirus vaccination, which can prevent certain types of cancers.

“I don’t know how many times I have to say this, I don’t know how many people I have to say it to but we can eradicate cancer with a vaccine,” said Davis, a breast cancer survivor. “I’m equally dumbfounded how this body can vote against wanting to eradicate cancer in the foster care system.”

It was the second time this week that a vaccine measure was attached to a foster care bill that has passed the House. House members on Monday approved an amendment on HB 7 that would prohibit the state from removing children from their parents if they choose not to vaccinate their children.

Anchia:

So you had a majority of the House Republicans capitulating to an anti-vaxxer amendment to Gene Wu’s House Bill 39.

So you had Dr. (J.D.) Sheffield, (R-Gatesville) who has administered vaccines throughout the entirety of his career as a physician, a family doctor, and you have (Rep.) Sarah Davis (R-Houston), who is a cancer survivor, who is arguing in favor of vaccinating kids in DFPS against different forms of cancer and so these weren’t Democrats up there, these were Republicans and subject matter expertise – experts in the subject matter – and they just got rolled.

And you would have thought that Sarah Davis who was a valued member of the Speaker’s leadership team would have carried the day, but they lost to Bill Zedler. and I will tell you that in sessions in the past, Bill Zedler, regardless of whether he was going up against a Republican or a Democrat, would have a hundred votes thrown up against him routinely, and now he’s beating a doctor and a cancer survivor on an anti-vaccine issue, and that to me was shocking.

Something’s changed.

I asked Turner and Anchia whether the session had tarnished the relationship between the Democratic caucus and Speaker Straus.

Turner:

Yeah, I think so.

It goes back to SB 4.

That Schaefer Amendment getting onto SB 4 when it could have been stopped has made a lot of people reconsider where we are on things.

You know, i think the Democrats have understood all along, Joe Straus is a conservative Republican. We understand that. Democrats have supported him with the understanding the House isn’t going to be the Senate, and those distinctions are a lot harder to see right now in light of especially SB 4, some other things, but that’s the most egregious example.

Anchia:

Attacks on SB 4 from the right were entirely foreseeable. That should not have been news to anybody. If you’re speaker of the House and one of your top lieutenants (Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Forth Worth) is carrying a bill that is a different version of SB 4 that’s still offensive but certainly less bad and you cannot whip your leadership team to stick with your top lieutenant as author that’s a problem.

The Speaker has control of virtually every lever in the House. As the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, we went to the Speaker, our executive committee, all six of us, went to the Speaker and said, “We are concerned that this is going to get out of control on the House floor. We are very concerned. Please don’t bring it to the House floor.” Every member of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus who was a committee chair, save one or two, sent a letter to him saying, “This is offensive, please don’t bring it to the House floor, we’re worried.”

When it came to the House floor – we’re not the backstop, we can control 55 votes. We need the author of the bill, the chair of the committee, the Speaker’s leadership team to at least set the tone so that we can at least get 76 votes against (Schaefer). We need 21 (Republicans.)

Turner:

We can be two-thirds of the backstop, but we have got to have some help.

And we can’t pretend, no one should pretend that the Speaker or committee chairs or people in the majority leadership are just bystanders to the legislative process. They are leaders in the process.

Anchia:

(On the Schaefer amendment) Charlie (Geren) said it would be the will of the House, but he’d be voting “no.”

When the Speaker Pro Tempore votes for it (Rep. Dennis Bonnen), that’s Exhibit A, that’s a prime indicator.

Turner:

The point about Geren, in the past on things like this you would typically see committee chairs sticking with the committee chair and bill author on an amendment. That happened in a few cases, so there were nine total Republicans who voted against it, but most of them did not stick with him. That’s unusual.

Which is why this man is smiling.

Stickland:

Straus has lost control of the House.

 

 

 

 

Roger Stone and Alex Jones warn of attempt to remove Trump claiming he has Alzheimer’s

Good morning Austin:

Yesterday, in the dark of night, out on Second Street, in front of the Corner Restaurant and Bar at the JW Marriott Hotel, Alex Jones and Roger Stone made a 15-minute video in which they warned that there will be a bipartisan move to remove President Donald Trump from office under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution claiming that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is Stone:

First of all, a disclaimer. They are going to say this is a “conspiracy theory,” but it is the Stone Cold Truth.

They are going to claim that Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s and that it is progressive and that is the source of his insanity.

I have talked to the president fairly recently. He is as sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process. This is completely bogus, but under the 25th Amendment, if a majority of the Cabinet, plus the vice president, agree that the president is incapacitated, well then, he is removed, and if he seeks to fight the charges, it goes to the U.S. House of Representatives where erosion among Republicans could destroy the Trump presidency.

Here is the full video.

I will further break down what Stone and Jones had to say below, but first a little background about why I find this report worth paying attention to.

Alex Jones may or may not have a close relationship with Donald Trump, though, as he recently related, President-elect Trump did call him on his honeymoon with his second wife.

But Roger Stone’s relationship with Trump is, in the political sphere, as close and enduring as anyone on the planet, and, it just so happened, I watched last night’s Stone-Jones video after watching the sensational new Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone, which, with testimony from Donald Trump on down, makes plain that no one, save Trump himself, deserves more credit for the fact that Tump is president than Roger Stone, who had been plotting Trump’s political ascension for decades.

Also, talk of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump has been in vogue of late, and is certain to blow up in the aftermath of yesterday’s story from Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe in the Washington Post: Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.

From the New York Times’ Ross Douthat on Sunday:

Childish behavior can still lead to abuses of power, of which the Comey firing will not be the last. But liberals need to accept that the strongest case for removing Trump from office is likely to remain a 25th Amendment case: not high crimes and misdemeanors, not collusion with the Russians, but a basic mental unfitness for the office that manifests itself in made-for-TV crises and self-inflicted wounds.

And since a 25th Amendment solution would require Republican leaders, beginning with Mike Pence, to not only go along with his removal but take the lead in instigating it, it’s about as realistic as was the idea that those same leaders would somehow intervene against Trump at the Republican convention. Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell — these men made their peace with Trump’s unfitness long ago. It will take more than further proof of that unfitness to make them move against him now.

Here is the 25th Amendment:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

From Vox:

 The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to two people — the speaker of the House and the Senate’s president pro tem.

 Then the vice president would immediately become “Acting President,” and take over all the president’s powers.
 Let that sink in — one vice president and any eight Cabinet officers can, theoretically, decide to knock the president out of power at any time.

If the president wants to dispute this move, he can, but then it would be up to Congress to settle the matter with a vote. A two-thirds majority in both houses would be necessary to keep the vice president in charge. If that threshold isn’t reached, the president would regain his powers.

 Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked in reality, though it’s a staple of thriller fiction. But there’s been a sudden surge of interest in it in recent months, as reports of Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior behind closed doors have been piling up, and there is increasingly unsubtle speculation in Washington about the health of the president’s mind.

Whatever the current circumstances, an enormous amount rests on any president of the United States’ physical and mental health. The 25th Amendment exists as a failsafe that can be used if any president truly does appear to be unwell — as long as the people involved have the courage to actually go through with it, and the competence to carry it out without causing an even greater disaster.

And then this from Evan Osnos in the May 8 New Yorker, How Trump Could Get Fired. The Constitution offers two main paths for removing a President from office. How feasible are they?

Mental-health professionals have largely kept out of politics since 1964, when the magazine Fact asked psychiatrists if they thought Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit to be President. More than a thousand said that he wasn’t, calling him “warped,” “impulsive,” and a “paranoid schizophrenic.” Goldwater sued for libel, successfully, and, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association added to its code of ethics the so-called “Goldwater rule,” which forbade making a diagnosis without an in-person examination and without receiving permission to discuss the findings publicly. Professional associations for psychologists, social workers, and others followed suit. With regard to Trump, however, the rule has been broken repeatedly. More than fifty thousand mental-health professionals have signed a petition stating that Trump is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that, in this instance, the Goldwater rule is outweighed by another ethical commitment: a “duty to warn” others when he assesses that a person might harm them. Dodes told me, “Trump is going to face challenges from people who are not going to bend to his will. If you have a President who takes it as a personal attack on him, which he does, and flies into a paranoid rage, that’s how you start a war.”

Like many of his colleagues, Dodes speculates that Trump fits the description of someone with malignant narcissism, which is characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies. On February 13th, in a letter to the Times, Dodes and thirty-four other mental-health professionals wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” In response, Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University Medical College, who wrote the section on narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—IV, sought to discourage the public diagnoses. Frances wrote, “He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder. . . . The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

To some mental-health professionals, the debate over diagnoses and the Goldwater rule distracts from a larger point. “This issue is not whether Donald Trump is mentally ill but whether he’s dangerous,” James Gilligan, a professor of psychiatry at New York University, told attendees at a recent public meeting at Yale School of Medicine on the topic of Trump’s mental health. “He publicly boasts of violence and has threatened violence. He has urged followers to beat up protesters. He approves of torture. He has boasted of his ability to commit and get away with sexual assault,” Gilligan said.

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

In the months since Trump took office, several members of Congress have cited concern about his mental health as a reason to change the law. In early April, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and a professor of constitutional law at American University, and twenty co-sponsors introduced a bill that would expand the authority of medical personnel and former senior officials to assess the mental fitness of a President. The bill has no chance of coming up for a vote anytime soon, but its sponsors believe that they have a constitutional duty to convene a body to assess Trump’s health. Representative Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon, introduced a similar bill, which would also give former Presidents and Vice-Presidents a voice in evaluating a President’s mental stability. Of Trump, he said, “The serial repetition of proven falsehoods—Is this an act? Is this a tactic? Is he just wired weird? It raises the question in my mind about the nature of Presidential disability.”

Over the years, the use, or misuse, of the Twenty-fifth Amendment has been irresistible to novelists and screenwriters, but political observers dismiss the idea. Jeff Greenfield, of CNN, has described the notion that Trump could be ousted on the basis of mental health as a “liberal fantasy.” Not everyone agrees. Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, told me, “I believe that invoking Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment is no fantasy but an entirely plausible tool—not immediately, but well before 2020.” In Tribe’s interpretation, the standard of the amendment is not “a medical or otherwise technical one but is one resting on a commonsense understanding of what it means for a President to be ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’—an inability that can obviously be manifested by gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand, the limits of those powers or the mandatory nature of those duties.”

As an example of “pathological inattention,” Tribe noted that, on April 11th, days after North Korea launched a missile, Trump described an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, as part of an “armada” advancing on North Korea, even though the ship was sailing away from North Korea at the time. Moreover, Tribe said, Trump’s language borders on incapacity. Asked recently why he reversed a pledge to brand China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.”

Lawrence C. Mohr, who became a White House physician in 1987 and remained in the job until 1993, came to believe that Presidential disability must be understood to encompass “very subtle manifestations” that might impair the President’s capacity to do the job. A President should be evaluated for “alertness, cognitive function, judgment, appropriate behavior, the ability to choose among options and the ability to communicate clearly,” Mohr told a researcher in 2010. “If any of these are impaired, it is my opinion that the powers of the President should be transferred to the Vice-President until the impairment resolves.”

In practice, however, unless the President were unconscious, the public could see the use of the amendment as a constitutional coup. Measuring deterioration over time would be difficult in Trump’s case, given that his “judgment” and “ability to communicate clearly” were, in the view of many Americans, impaired before he took office. For those reasons, Robert Gilbert, the Presidential-health specialist, told me, “If the statements get too strange, then the Vice-President might be able to do something. But if the President is just being himself—talking in the same way that he talked during the campaign—then the Vice-President and the Cabinet would find it very difficult.”

With that as background, let’s return to what Jones and Stone, who is in Austin through Wednesday and appeared in person Jones’ show Infowars. Stone makes frequent appearances on Infowars, usually remotely, but he was in Austin for most of a week during Jones’ recent child custody trial and did some filling in for him them.

He has described Jones and his vast audience as “Trump’s secret weapon” in the 2016 election.

Here they are on the corner of Second and Congress, Alex Jones amid passing cars, pedestrians, a bicycle, and one shouted epithet from a passing car.

 

AJ:

Alex Jones here on a Monday night with breaking intel. We’ve been researching this for a while. We have our sources inside the Pentagon, inside the CIA, inside the White House. I’m here with Roger Stone right now.

We’re working late into the evening on this situation because it’s so fast-moving. You’ve seen McMaster come out and say there were no leaks inside the Russian meeting with Trump when he’s probably the leaker, and we broke that down earlier in another video.

You’ve got the entire deep state that’s hijacked America panicking that the American people actually elected somebody who is trying to be president.

Now we knew about this three months ago when I broke the story of the planning, or pushing a COG (Continuity of Government) program to use the deep state to overthrow the president. That’s now admitted. The New Yorker magazine and others are saying that they now have members of the House, the Senate, Republicans, Democrats and members of Trump’s inner circle and Cabinet saying he’s mentally ill and under the 25th Amendment, they want to remove him from office.

What is he is stalwart, strong, on point, $3 trillion in the stock market, $300 million in new jobs and killing TPP and a conservative on the Supreme Court. He’s bad because he won’t roll over. He’s “mentally ill” because he won’t be influenced by a bunch of traitors and followers, because he’s a leader.

Is he perfect? Hell no. I mean I do a good job 60, 70 percent of the time. Trump is 90 percent of the time. So this is an amazing time to be alive. Roger Stone has talked to his sources, he concurs with my analysis, and he has the sources, that Trump is in great danger of overthrow right now, and they’re moving forward on many fronts right now. So here is the plan to overthrow the president, by the globalists, in a bipartisan act of treason.

Roger Stone.

RS:

First of all, a disclaimer. They are going to say this is a “conspiracy theory,” but it is the Stone Cold Truth.

They are going to claim that Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s and that it is progressive and that is the source of his insanity.

I have talked to the president fairly recently. He is as sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process. This is completely bogus, but under the 25th Amendment, if a majority of the Cabinet, plus the vice president, agree that the president is incapacitated, well then, he is removed, and if he seeks to fight the charges, it goes to the U.S. House of Representatives where erosion among Republicans could destroy the Trump presidency.

That’s bogus. They could not beat him at the ballot box. So now they seek to remove him by claiming that he’s insane.

Look at his record on the economy. Look at his appointment to the Supreme Court. Look at the way he has the Chinese doing our dirty work in North Korea and you’ll see he’s not crazy, he’s a genius.

 

AJ:

If that’s insane, we need more of it.

RS:

But this is the game plan. Watch carefully. You are going to see the word Alzheimer’s more and more in the next several days. I’ve even been tipped off by leftists about this, that this is the game plan. You heard it first at Infowars.com.

AJ:

To be clear, we’ve seen the spin. Oh, 200 psychologists or psychiatrists say he’s crazy, violating the Goldwater rule, which we can talk about in a minute for history. The guy who woke me even though he was retired by the time I read it.  Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.

They know their psychiatry’s been discredited by all their political activity. And so now they’re shifting to “Oh, the Alzheimer’s,” even though Trump’s climbing up hills, playing gold, super smart, working 20 hours a day, has more stamina than I have at 43. They are still going to try to sell this hoax. Well people say, “but we won’t buy into it.” It doesn’t matter. The are so crazed, they are so scared.

Speak to that, and why is the elite so obsessed and so crazed, wanting to take Trump down?

He’s not perfect. I love to criticize him. I mean I’m not wedded to Trump. But the enemies of America, the globalists, hate him, like he’s high noon to vampires. Why?

RS:

Because for 30 years the two-power duopoly, the Bushes, the Clintons and the Obamas, they’re not going to relinquish power easily.

Even today, inside the Trump administration, 80 percent of the people employed at the highest levels of government, were appointed by and are loyal to Barack Obama. that’s largely because the president’s chief of staff has not been able to build a government by telling the Cabinet officers, half of whom I believe are disloyal to this president, who they must hire.

So you have situation in which you have the idea that 200 psychiatrists, who have never examined the president, and therefore no opinion they have would be valid, that didn’t work, so now we are going to claim that he has the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

Folks, it’s a fraud. They want to remove Donald Trump because he cannot be bullied, and he cannot be bought.

AJ:

And they call that mental, they call that mental illness. Not being bullied. And people that are anti-establishment, they still buy into this in some giant hoax, brainwashed program.

What can we as the people do to expose the Republican establishment, to expose the Democratic establishment?

RS:

They have made a giant mistake. They have pushed Donald Trump too far. And you push Donald Trump into a corner and you are going to get a snarling tiger.

This guy is a fighter and he has give up a fabulous lifestyle. He has sacrificed a great deal to take this job. He is separated from his family. He is living in Washington when he prefers New York. He has given up his golf game by and large. He is putting in hours I never expected, and I’ve known him for 40 years. He is resilient, he is tough, he is optimistic,

Crazy? No, he’s not crazy. He’s resolved. He is resolved to make this country great again and these attacks on him, in all honesty, will make him stronger, and more resilient.

RS:

I think McMaster is fingered as the leaker He was on his way out. This was a desperate attempt to save his job, but I think the president will see through it.

 

AJ:

The Cucks. They’re making jokes about the media attacking me and  my family, stuff that was three years old. I’m remarried. I have more children. I’m happier than ever. My original children are awesome.

We’re winning, winning. My audience under the globalist attack, it took 20 years to get to 40 million a week, and now it’s like 60, 70 million a week, but see the attack on Infowars is for cucks, cowards and fools, to see us getting attacked by MSM, they think, “Oh my God, if I”m for freedom, if I’m for America and I’m for Second Amendment, I’m for private property, I’ll get attacked.”

The attack only makes me bigger. I live in a real universe. The enemy knows that. They do it to make you feel like a loser if you join us in victory, so it’s a Psy Op on you. Do you understand? We’ve gotten bigger and stronger under the attack.

We’ve got big professional studios, giant cameras, all the crap, we’re doing this real because that’s what awake people do, and our awake audience, goes, “Alex, why do you talk to the cucks, why do you talk the zombies, why do you talk to the folks who are in their mom’s basements?” Because they’re the prodigal sons. Read that parable. I care about them as I care about you. You’re already awake. We love you even more. I’m with you. We’re brothers, we’re sisters. but it is the little pathetic cucks we’ve got to reach out to and show them they’ve been lied to.

 

RS- They can’t get over the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Donald Trump.

RS:

Victory or Death.

AJ:

Victory or death, as Col. Travis said.

We’ll see how this unfolds, but Morning Joe this morning sounded like they were preparing for the intervention, that President Trump’s revealing top secret information while yukking it up with the Russians the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey was the final proof that the president was of a dangerously unsound mind.

“Here’s the problem,” said Joe Scarborough. “The arc of this narrative keeps getting worse. People on the inside say he keeps getting worse. and mentally keeps getting worse.”

“This is a man in decline.”

“This is a man who cannot be stopped,” said co-host  Mika Brzezinski. “He is not well.”

“It’s like he’s driving a runaway train and the American people are the passengers.”

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

`Big John’ Cornyn would be crazy to take the FBI job. I say, `Go for it.’

 

Good morning Austin:

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was one of eight people interviewed Saturday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be President Donald Trump’s choice to replace James Comey as FBI director.

Comey was fired for – well you name it:

  • Failure to bring charges last summer against Hillary Clinton for her handling of her emails
  • Failure to stop investigating whether there was Russia interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump — and potential complicity by the Trump campaign.
  • Failure to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump, president of the United States.
  • Telling Congress, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election.” (I mean seriously, who says that about their boss and expects to keep their job.)
  • Being a six-foot-eight showboat and grandstander.

Having fired the head of the FBI, the rules of reality TV recommend a competition to replace him. Announce potential candidates, interview them, and give the public a chance to cheer and hiss, before making a selection.

I’m surprised that Cornyn ended up on Trump’s list, and I’m even more surprised he would be interested in the job. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he just calculated that the smarter and more respectful course was to play it out, go through the process, but without any intention of winning the competition.

What Cornyn may have going for him with Trump is that he has, as has been observed, a looks-the-part quality, whether it’s being a judge, a senator or, why not, FBI director.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

From the intro to a Q-and-A Texas Monthly’s Jake Silverstein conducted with Cornyn in 2010, headlined, the Gentleman from Texas:

Tall and white-haired, with the bearing of the state Supreme Court justice he once was, Cornyn has become a go-to television Republican, appearing regularly on the news programs to dispense his particular style of Concerned Conservatism. Even railing against the Obama administration, Cornyn never seems angry; he only seems . . . concerned. He has a habit of flexing his forehead while speaking, drawing together his eyebrows in an expression of gentle worry that gives everything he says a vague air of condolence, as if he’s just come from a funeral. In an era of tea party rage, he has found a niche as the kindly face of the Republican brand.

Three years earlier, in a 2007 Texas Monthly piece – Big Red – toward the end of Cornyn’s first term, Paul Burka wrote:

If you were to encounter John Cornyn at, say, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, a place where you might reasonably expect to see notable folk, you would immediately think to yourself, “That man is a United States senator.” Indeed, shortly after his election in 2002, USA Today described him as “a casting director’s dream.” He stands six feet four inches tall in the black custom boots he wears to work every day. As a young man, he was so self-conscious about his prematurely white hair that he waited until he turned 32 before filing for district judge in San Antonio, as if an additional year would have made a difference, but today it gives him a veneer of statesmanship. You can’t help but notice the size of his head: It’s quite long and rather narrow, an impression enhanced by a receding hairline. He has a soft face that does not tense up in anger. Even when his words are sharp, his voice is muted and nonthreatening. You would come away from your airport encounter with the feeling that he’s someone to be reckoned with.

Burka noted in that profile, that, after one of Cornyn’s notable forays into right-wing politics, Jon Stewart  remarked on the Daily Show, “What an absolutely handsome crazy person”

But, for the last five years, Cornyn has appeared the soul of moderation, simply by standing next to his junior colleague, Ted Cruz.

Still, if Cornyn actually wants to close the deal with Trump, he could really use a nickname.

Trump likes nicknames, both negative — Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Crooked Hillary — and positive. For example, I doubt that James Mattis would be secretary of defense were it not for his nickname, Mad Dog. It appears that Mattis is anything but a Mad Dog, which is good, but we nonetheless can thank the misnomer for getting him where is today.

But I’m not sure if Cornyn, who as far as I can tell is a man of reasonably even disposition and respectable habits, has any good nicknames, except maybe Big John, or, I suppose, Big Bad John.

(George W. Bush, a nicknamer with a more gentle humor than D.J. Trump, called Cornyn Corndog, not as good as Pootie-Poot for Putin, Turd Blossom for Karl Rove, or Quasimodo for Dick Cheney.)

If anybody does call Cornyn Big John  — and I don’t know that anybody does — it would be because of a memorable video from Cornyn’s 2008 re-election campaign

 

My favorite stanza:

We’ll call folk, we’ll hustle, we’ll outwork our foe.

We’ll tell souls in Texas you must get six mo’.

But that place out yonder needs more men like you.

Who shoot straight, and talk straight and enjoy a good brew.

At the time, Jon Stewart did a parody ad for a fake rival candidate, Joey Bernstein, aka Big Jew.

He’s a big city boy from an Ivy League school who thinks tofu is tasty and veal is cruel.

His Friday Night Lights are a candle or two.

But lest it be forgotten, in the original Jimmy Dean song, Big Bad John is buried alive in a mining disaster.

With jacks and timbers they started back down
Then came that rumble way down in the ground
And then smoke and gas belched out of that mine
Everybody knew it was the end of the line for big John
(Big John, big John)
Big bad John (big John)

Now, they never reopened that worthless pit
They just placed a marble stand in front of it
These few words are written on that stand
At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man
Big John
(Big John, big John)
Big bad John (big John)
(Big John) big bad John

To be honest, I can’t imagine a Cornyn tenure as FBI director, ending much better.

I think there are only two ways it ends, and in either outcome, Cornyn is an object of hate and scorn by a big chunk of the American people, as either Trump’s chump and patsy, or as a Republican Judas.

Either he agrees with Trump that there is nothing to this Russia investigation and calls a halt to it or completes it with a finding exonerating Trump and his campaign, or he pursues an investigation that cripples the Trump presidency.

He simply can’t win and I think he would be crazy to accept the position.

So, having said all that, why am I suggesting that Cornyn take the job if it is offered?

Because I think any patriotic American ought to put nation above self and answer the call of duty?

No, because, as I said, I can’t see Cornyn or anyone leading the FBI at this moment and in this situation in a manner that will bind the nation.

No, I think he should go for it out of the purest self-interest – my own.

Because, if John Cornyn left his U.S. Senate seat to lead he FBI, it would turn 2017 from an off-year, to the best election year ever.

Gov. Greg Abbott would get to appoint a temporary successor to Cornyn, who would serve until the November general election, when all candidates of all parties would compete to serve the remainder of Cornyn’s term. If no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote, there would be a runoff.

One tweet hints at just how good this could be.

Yes!

When Cornyn was up for re-election in 2014 there was some free-floating Cruzian energy looking for a primary challenger for Cornyn. David Barton thought about it but passed. At the time, I suggested to Stickland that he should go for it and even offered him what I thought was, at that moment in time, an ingenious slogan: STICK WITH CRUZ.

Didn’t happen, but that was during Stickland’s first session.

Now in his third session, I think we can all agree he has outgrown the puny stage of the Texas House.

On Friday, Asher Price looked at a few potential names of people Abbott might appoint — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul and Roger Williams, both of Austin, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman — but Patrick has since reiterated that he is only interested in running for re-election as lieutenant governor.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso is already running to challenge Cruz, who is up in 2018, but if Cornyn’s seat were up, he could first run for that and still run against Cruz if he doesn’t win. Alternatively, he could stick to running against Cruz, and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, who passed on running in 2018 at least in part because he would have had to surrender his House seat to do it, could run to serve the rest of Cornyn’s term without risking his House seat.

Great stuff.

But I am not getting my hopes up that any of this will come to pass, Marco Rubio’s encouragement notwithstanding.

Rubio.

The high point of Rubio’s campaign was that time he went all Trump on Trump and suggested at a Dallas rally that Trump might have wet his pants at a debate the night before.

But Trump, at a subsequent rally in Fort Worth, came back with his Rubio water bottle mime, and Little Marco was through.

And now?

Let’s look at Rubio’s Trump Score – a measure designed by FiveThirtyEight.

Here is an explanation of how the Trump Score is calculated:

Donald Trump has Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress — it’s the first time since Barack Obama’s first two years in office that the same party has controlled the U.S. Senate, the House and the White House. Trump’s ability to enact his policies, therefore, will largely come down to how often GOP senators and representatives buck the president’s agenda and, conversely, how often Democrats work with him. To help keep up with this, we’ll be tracking how often members agree with Trump and how that compares with expectations.

We’ll be using two primary measures for each member of Congress: the “Trump score” and “Trump plus-minus.”

The Trump score is a simple percentage showing how often a senator or representative supports Trump’s positions. To calculate it, we add the member’s “yes” votes on bills that Trump supported and his or her “no” votes on bills that Trump opposed and then divide that by the total number of bills the member has voted on for which we know Trump’s position.

We’ve set a few ground rules for how we’re planning to count things:

  • To determine Trump’s position on bills and joint resolutions,1 we’ll look for a clear statement of support or opposition made by him or by someone on his behalf. We’ll generally stick to bills themselves, but we may include amendments when Trump makes a statement about them.2
  • If there’s a Senate vote requiring Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie and we don’t know Trump’s position on it, we’ll assume that Trump supports it if Pence votes “yes” and opposes it if Pence votes “no.”
  • Votes in favor of Trump’s Cabinet-level and Supreme Court nominations count as votes in support of him.
  • We’ll count any veto-override votes as bills that Trump opposes.

We’re also calculating a metric that we’re calling plus-minus. Plus-minus measures how frequently a member agrees with Trump compared with how frequently we would expect the member to, based on Trump’s 2016 vote margin in the member’s state or district. (The “predicted score” is calculated based on probit regression.) Put simply, we would expect a member in a district where Trump did well to be more in sync with him than a member in a district where Trump did poorly. As members vote on more bills, their predicted agreement score will change.

Here is Conyn’s Trump Score.

 

I don’t know how much the Trump Score tells you.

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, another former Trump primary rival, has the lowest Trump Score of any Republican.

And here’s another former rival’s Trump Score.

But the score doesn’t measure how often a senator says or does things to contradict or resist Trump beyond Senate votes, where Graham obviously rates higher than most others.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Graham also shot down the idea of a Cornyn appointment.

CHUCK TODD:

While we’re staying on the FBI director, eight people interviewed yesterday. One of them is a colleague of yours, Sen. John Cornyn. Two were women, could be the first woman to ever head the FBI. You’ve got a former FBI agent and then a former member of Congress. Let me ask you this – in this political environment, do you think it is the right time to have the first ever FBI director with an elected political background, which is what it would be if either Mike Rogers or John Cornyn were named.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No. I think it’s now time to pick someone who comes from within the ranks or has such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on day one. You know who does the FBI director work for? To me, it’s like appointing a judge. The president actually appoints the judge, but the judge is loyal to the law. The president appoints the FBI director, but the FBI director has to be loyal to the law. John Cornyn under normal circumstances would be a superb choice to be FBI director. But these are not normal circumstances. We got a chance to reset here as a nation. The president has a chance to clean up the mess that he mostly created. He really I think did his staff a disservice by changing the explanation. So I would encourage the president to pick somebody we can all rally around, including those who work in the FBI.

Todd got a similar response from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

CHUCK TODD:

There’s eight candidates that were interviewed yesterday, two of them have an electoral background, a sitting senator in John Cornyn and a former member of Congress. Some have bipartisan backgrounds like a Fran Townsend served in both the Clinton and Bush administration. Anybody jump out as a favorite of yours or somebody that you could foresee supporting?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

You know I’ve generally made it a practice, Chuck, of not commenting on nominees publicly. Let’s see who they nominate. But I, as I said, certainly somebody not of a partisan background. Certainly somebody of great experience and certainly somebody of courage.

If Cornyn were selected, we would see a lot of replays of his recent encounter with Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general fired by Trump.

The most basic problem for Cornyn, or any of the other candidates to be FBI director, is how one could possibly come to an understanding with Trump about the job amid, as Peggy Noonan put it on Face the Nation, “all the chaos, like the bag of chaos that Donald Trump carries with him every day and everywhere, that is self-destructive for him and self-sabotaging, I think.”

From Ross Douthat in Sunday’s New York Times:

THROUGHOUT the 2016 primary season, two sentiments took turns reassuring Republicans as they watched Donald Trump’s strange ascent:

At some point, Trump will start behaving normally.

If he doesn’t, he’ll self-destruct or quit — or else somebody in authority will figure out a way to jettison him.

It isn’t surprising that people once believed these things; I clung to the second sentiment myself.

What is surprising is that after everything that’s happened, so many people believe them even now.

The reaction to the sacking of James Comey is the latest illustration. Far too many observers, left and right, persist in being surprised at Trump when nothing about his conduct is surprising, persist in looking for rationality where none is to be found, and persist in believing that some institutional force — party elders or convention delegates, the deep state or an impeachment process — is likely to push him off the stage.

Start with the president’s Republican defenders. Not the cynics and liars, but the well-meaning conservatives who look at something like the Comey firing and assume that there must be a normal method at work, who listen to whatever narrative White House aides spin out and try to take it seriously.

In this case this meant saying, well, there was always a reasonable case for firing Comey over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, the president was just following his deputy attorney general’s advice, and anyway it would be simply nuts to fire someone out of pique while they were investigating your campaign’s ties to a foreign power, because that would just bring more attention to the investigation, so surely not even Trump would be that crazy, right?

This last remark was not exactly the admission of obstruction of justice that liberals quickly claimed, since Trump immediately added that he accepted that firing Comey could lead to a longer investigation, which he wanted “to be absolutely done properly.”

It was, instead, a window into an essentially sub-rational and self-sabotaging mind (as were the tweets that swiftly followed), whose obsessions make it impossible for Trump not to act on impulse, whose grievances constantly override the public interest and political self-interest both.

But it was not a new window: This same self-destructiveness was evident at every turn in the campaign. So the only mystery is why otherwise-rational Republicans persist in hoping for anything save chaos from a man who celebrated clinching the nomination by accusing his rival’s father of having had a hand in killing J.F.K.

Right.

And how can Republicans hope to engage in an effective program of behavior modification with their president, when that rival, whose father he suggested “had a hand in killing J.F.K.,” is now an unselfconscious cheerleader and enabler for Trump.

Here was Ted Cruz last May.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Think about the next five years: the boasting, the lying, the picking up the National Enquirer and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back from school and emulating this.

I believe that when Ted Cruz said that — and more — it was something he believed with every fiber of his being. I imagine he still does.

But that’s not what Trump hears or thinks.

When both the president and Cruz appeared at a National Rifle Association event in Atlanta at the end of last month, Trump told the crowd that he initially “really liked” Cruz, then “didn’t like” him, and “now like [him] a lot again.”

“Does that make sense?” he asked. “Senator Ted Cruz. Like. Dislike. Like.”

Yeah. It makes perfect sense.

Trump liked Cruz early in their rivalry when Cruz was an obsequious foe — praising Trump at every turn hoping to inherit his following when Trump, inevitably, fell by the wayside. Trump didn’t like Cruz when Cruz dropped that pose to become Trump’s most serious opponent and, ultimately, severest critic. And now that Cruz is once again obeisant, he likes him again.

John Cornyn would be crazy to take the FBI job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a desperate deadline night in the Texas House, the quality of mercy was strained

Good day Austin:

They fashion themselves as apostles of the one true conservative Christian faith and there are, as it happens, twelve member of the Texas Freedom Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives – Matt Schaefer (Tyler), Bill Zedler (Arlington), Matt Shaheen (Plano), Jeff Leach (Plano), Tony Tinderholt (Arlington), Kyle Biedermann (Fredericksburg), Briscoe Cain (Deer Park), Matt Krause (Fort Worth), Mike Lang (Granbury) Matt Rinaldi (Irving), Jonathan Stickland (Bedford), and Valoree Swanson (Spring).

They also, as often as not, present themselves as martyrs to their cause, never moreso than at about 7:30 last night, more than nine hours into yesterday’s marathon session of the Texas House, with four-and-half-hours yet to go before the deadline for House bills to get a second reading, or perish.

Just outside the chamber doors, they gathered for an impromptu press conference.

Jeff Leach began.

To cut to the chase, a few hours ago the Local and Consent Calendars Committee met behind closed doors to set a local and consent calendar for tomorrow, and when we saw what bills had been set for tomorrow – we suspended the rules on the floor earlier today to allow them to do that and set a local and consent calendar for tomorrow – and when we received word of what bills had been set for tomorrow, what all of us expected might happen had actually happened.

Many of our bills – I know there were three of mine, Rep. Sawnson, Rep. Shaheen, Rep. Cain, Rep. Lang and Rep. Sanford (who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus but is often allied with it) – had our bills removed, not set for the calendar tomorrow, but removed and referred to the general Calendars Committee.

As all of us know, today, midnight tonight, is the deadline for hearing House bills on a second reading, so referring bills to the general Calendars Committee is as good as calling them dead.

Really what this is about is another shot, another direct shot at the conservative members of this House who this session, we have had our debates, we’ve had our disagreements, we’ve had our arguments and our fights, both in public and in private, but for this caucus, for the Freedom Caucus, and for the conservative members of this House, it’s always, always been about policy, 100 percent of the time.

Our disagreements, the times when members of this caucus have knocked bills off local and consent, when we have voted yes or no on the board, it has always been about policy. What’s happened to us has been personal retribution. It’s been personal attacks, personal retribution, petty, personal politics and this caucus has had enough of it.

And so what we’ve decided to do, over the course of the last few hours, is to, as a caucus, along with our friend, Rep. Sanford, who is a conservative warrior as well who had a bill knocked off today, who is not officially part of our caucus, signed a form that we are going to, in a just a few minutes, deliver to the leadership to essentially kill the entire local and consent calendar tomorrow, and essentially what we are doing is exactly what they did to our bills. We’re just asking that they re-refer them to the Calendars Committee.

If members of this body want to hit us personally, nine times out of ten we will rise above it go on, but this has crossed a line that we cannot be silent about. and so that’s our plan.

We look forward to exposing what’s going on in this House in terms of personal politics.

Looming over the scene (he’s tall) – and proudly taking it in on his cell phone – was their spiritual leader, Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans, for whom Speaker Joe Straus is the evil despot and, it seemed Thursday, Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound, the head of the House Republican Caucus, the court eunuch.

At the conclusion of the press conference, MQS reported:

When one reporter questioned if conservatives were using the same tactics as those targeting them, Caucus Chairman Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) sharply disagreed, saying they were merely fighting back with the tools and abilities they had and trying to represent their constituents.

“Here we are, right before the midnight deadline,” said Schaefer. “Has a pro-life bill to save babies lives come to the floor for a vote? No. Has a strong second amendment bill come to the floor for a vote? No. Has a strong property tax reform bill come to the floor for a vote? No.”

It’s worth noting that each of the items mentioned by Schaefer haven’t fared any trouble passing the Texas Senate. In fact, two of the three have passed with strong, bipartisan support.

Of five abortion-related bills that were on the regular agenda Thursday, Schaeffer said, “They always dangle these pro-life bills out at us at the end of session and say, ‘Hey guys, behave and we’ll let you get some pro-life bills out. If you care about babies, you need to know that the leadership of the Texas House does not prioritize that issue.”

The grim mood in the House chamber grew grimmer by the hour.

By 9:30, the House Freedom Caucus was chubbing a non-controversial bill on industrial workforce training, stalling the proceedings with an endless monotony of questions, amendments and other time-wasters that had Democratic representatives marveling how adept these dissident Republicans were proving at a tactic mostly employed by the Democratic minority in recent sessions.

But, as the chub wore on, the scene at Rep. Drew Springer’s desk was growing tense, as Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, his bother, Rep. Greg Bonnen, a medical doctor from Friendswood, and Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, gathered around their increasingly anxious friend. Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth, a member of the Freedom Caucus, leaned in.

Springer, form Muenster, had a bill, a very important bill for him, on the calender, a bill that would create opportunities to use adult stem cells for treating people like his wife, perhaps – he hoped and prayed – even making it possible for her to walk again.

Earlier, all had seemed on track.

Springer:

We were three bills away from it at 9 o’clock . You had to think, it’s a layup.

By 10:30, Springer’s bill was due up next after the one that was being chubbed, but it began to appear like the House might not get to it, that it would die at the stroke of midnight.

You could really see they had the abilities and the rules in order to do it.

 

The bill was HB 810.

Relating to the provision of certain investigational stem cell treatments to patients with certain severe chronic diseases or terminal illnesses and regulating the possession, use, and transfer of adult stem cells.

Springer:

Tan (Parker) had file the bill and brought it to me. He put it together.

It’s adult stem cells. It allows you – we have a ban – it’s a right-to-try situation. Today you can go to China, you can to Panama. You can go to different counties and do it but the people doing the research and understand it all live in Fort Worth their company’s in Panama.

If this bill passes they can turn it and we can have a facility going by Sept. 2.

Of his wife, Lydia, Springer said:

She was an L 1 spinal cord injury from when we were dating 28 years ago.

She has a little bit of leg movement but has a lot of body function loss and truthfully, people talk is it the perfect cure? She’ll never be like you or I, she’ll never walk exactly like us. She may one day hopefully walk, but just to gain functions over your entire body …

The problem is the way you do spinal cord injuries, you have to do a treatment every few days during that dsix-week period. So she would have to literally live in Panama, and that’s a part of the expense is. You can’t do it and go home and come back. The travel and the cost.

There’s a lot of chronic problems, with diabetes and MS, and they use stem cells out of umbilical cord, or cord blood is what it is commonly referred to. In fact my wife saved her’s with our last child and it’s been in one of these freeze banks, 16 years, waiting for this day to come because we knew there was the science and this was being developed. So we’ve known for a long time and the ability to be this close to it…

I took the seat from Rick Hardcastle when Rick retired. Rick had stem cells overseas for his MS and he said if he had known how good it was going to be, he might not have left the Legislature because he was to the point where he couldn’t walk, almost.

As the chubbing wore on, Springer called his wife.

She was watching them and saying, “What are they doing?” And i said, “They’re killing 810.”

About 10:30 ,I was getting so frustrated I was stalking (the back mic) and in fact I had gone and ripped the mic away from (Rep. Matt) Shaeheen (R Plano) to try to plead with him as a friend, “Look, you’ve got to stop this. Y’all can go all night on this bill, just let this next one go.”

They were focused on their’s and the only way to break that focus was with personal privilege.”

Chairman Bonnen helped me with that, Speaker Bonnen. He caught me running out as all get out weighing my options, which I thought was just to start a fight, which was clearly in my mind.

The next opportunity he had, Springer asked to make a statement of personal privilege, which preempts everything else.

Speaker Straus spoke:

Mr. Stickland, will you take your seat. Mr. Cain, please take your seat. Mr. Stickland, please take your seat. Please take your seat.

The chair recognizes Rep. Springer on a matter of personal privilege.

What followed was very dramatic.

I’ll be damned if we don’t have the chance tonight to hear the very next bill that opens up the doors of medical science to be able do it right here in the state of Texas..

I understand that other people are mad that their stuff hasn’t been heard, but I’ll tell you what, I’d trade every one of my bills I’ve passed, every single one of them, to get the chance to hear HB 810. Because I pray to God every time I go to Mass, every time I close my eyes that one day my wife, and not for my sake, for her sake, will have the chance to have that opportunity to be able to walk.

 

It might give somebody like my wife a chance to walk.

To know that the apple is so close and I can’t grab it.

So members, please, if you could find it in your heart I’d appreciate it. If we could move a little bit forward tonight.

Michael Quinn Sullivan and Tony McDonald, general counsel of Empower Texans were unmoved by Springer, even doubting his tears.

 

Nonetheless, HB 810 passed on second reading, 141 to 0.

The bill, however, was not without controversy.

On May 6, Sally Temple, Ph.D., president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, wrote a Letter to Texas House of Representatives, U.S., Opposing Legislation It Says Would Put Patients at Risk

In their current form, House Bill 661, House Bill 810, and House Bill 3236 will also allow companies to sell unsafe and ineffective therapies. It may sound like an appealing idea to allow seriously ill patients accelerated access to experimental therapies, however, in the absence of full clinical testing, these bills will allow snake oil salesmen to sell unproven and scientifically dubious therapies to desperate patients.

But Gov. Abbott, who like Springer’s wife, has been unable to walk since an accident when he was a young, was supportive.

After the session ended at midnight, Springer had still not spoken with his wife.

The last time he had talked to her, “She was cussing all the guys on the back mic before I did it and I didn’t tell her I was going to so I’m not sure if she turned it off or not. She does have work in the morning. I haven’t talked to her or texted her since.

On his way out of the chamber last night, Springer was approached by Waamene Yowiza, a young woman who works as a sergeant-at-arms in the House.

Yowika

I just want to tell you, I Ioved your speech, it was so touching. I was crying the whole time

Springer:

You’re sweet for saying that.

Yowika:

To just stand up there and say something that’s actually important.

Springer:

Once it gets going it gets a little easier. I was just trying not to cry.

On the way back to his office, Springer said he never intended to give a personal privilege speech.

I said I was never ever going to do one.

I think the best personal privilege speech is the guy who has been here ten years, twenty years and they say, “I’ve enjoyed it,”  look back, sort of the Craig Eiland speech (when he left the House at the end of the session in 2013). He was my idol. I said “I’m going to do a Craig Eiland speech when I’m ready.”

But having just delivered the personal privilege speech he said he never intended to give, Spring said, “I never intend to do another.”

On Friday, HB 810 passed on third reading.