A Texas law passed last year that would drug test some unemployed before they received state benefits has hit a bureaucratic hurdle and has been delayed beyond its original February 1st implementation date. The hold up revolves around pending guidelines from the federal Department of Labor which will instruct the state on which individuals and professions will be targeted and is likely to focus on "high risk occupations." The Texas Workforce Commission will then formulate it's outline which will be subject to a 30 day public input period.
The concept of the bill itself is cynical and ineffective, and a similar bill in Florida was recently ruled unconstitutional. That bill has also been proven to be a waste of taxpayer dollars and in general these efforts amount to nothing more than a subsidy for businesses who should be paying to drug test their own potential employees.
See why a Federal judge ruled the Florida law unconstitutional and how Sen. Wendy Davis stood for those in need...
Since Saturday's verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin - and even before then - there has been no shortage of excellent analysis on the reasons behind the verdict, implicating everything from lack of evidence to inherent racism in the jurors to inherent racism in our criminal justice system.
I give you three of my favorites: one from Emily Bazelon at Slate, in which she discusses the state of the law in Florida; another from Justin Peters, also at Slate, written before the verdict and articulately laying out the truly difficult burden facing the prosecutors; and finally a trenchant and wide-ranging reflection from Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic.
Read more about Texas' own stand your ground law after the jump.
George P. Bush has officially entered the field for statewide office and is giving the Texas Republican establishment a run for its money, literally. The fresh face has raised over $1.35 million from some less than fresh sources, 90% of which come from Texas and Florida. His biggest contributors include homebuilder Bob Perry, his uncle and former President George Bush, his father Jeb Bush and a host of oil and gas interests. At least 10 of his top donors were "Pioneer" fundraising bundlers for either of his uncle's Presidential campaigns and over 10% or $113,300 came directly from Bush family members.
Other than his obvious pedigree his political experience includes Co-founding the Hispanic Republicans of Texas and as National Co-Chair of Maverick PAC. His candidacy could upset the establishment's natural line of succession but it also has many looking at whether he can bring more Hispanic voters into the Republican fold. He has expressed that he is a "mainstream Republican" with Tea Party sympathies and told Wolf Blitzer in a 2012 interview that what he, "love[s] about the [Republican] Party is that its extremely diverse", and is an "advocate of the big tent theory". He has currently expressed interest in running for Texas Land Commissioner but has left the door open to a higher profile office (likely Attorney General or Governor) depending on what signal Rick Perry sends at the end of the session. He told the Texas Tribune this week that, "in the grand scheme of things, this session, in terms of state politics, is really going to dictate what the '14 election cycle looks like."
On Tuesday Governor Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced their support for drug testing applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. TANF was created to help families in need, particularly children, and already includes a provision that requires applicants to, "Train for a job or look for employment if capable" and, "not abuse drugs or alcohol."
Texas has experimented with drug testing on a mass scale (High School athletes) and results have shown them to be a waste of taxpayer money. Earlier this year courts struck down Florida's law that drug tested TANF applicants as unconstitutional, but the performance of the program itself makes the financial case for its failure. According to a New York Times report only 2% of applicants showed positive results costing the state almost 120,000 for a mere 4 months. The program ended up costing the state more to implement than it saved by denying benefits and did not reduce the total number of applicants.
Today (my father) State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) expressed his dismay that our state leaders would continue to propose laws that harass Texans who are struggling the most. He suggested that elected officials be drug tested to prove tax dollars aren't going to "drug abusers", but why stop there? What about students who receive financial aid, small business loan applicants or those seeking veteran benefits or Social Security?
Below is Rep. Deshotel's statement in full:
Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. Its even more egregious that it comes at a time of slow economic recovery and while Texas has almost twice the national average of uninsured children. It would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature's expansion of government into our personal lives.
There is no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more frequently than any other socio-economic group, therefore I challenge Senator Nelson, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Many office holders in Texas draw larger incomes from the state than any welfare recipient and officials should adhere to the same standard we impose on our constituents. This would help ensure our leaders "walk the walk" and that taxpayer money isn't , "going into the pockets of drug abusers," as is the concern of our Governor.
The Governor's comments Tuesday also ignore the high cost of drug testing. Between 2007 and 2010, with a $3 million annual budget, Texas conducted over 51,000 drug test on student athletes with only 21 positive results. Most of the funding for this effort was cut after it proved to be at best - an inefficient use of resources. In October of 2012 alone there were over 45,000 applicants to TANF and I have not heard a plan to pay for the expanded testing program. Texas taxpayers would benefit most if its state leaders kept their focus on the economy and education instead of making cynical attempts to legislate people's personal decisions.
The Obama campaign has released "an epic cinematic preview of Mitt Romney's 'convention re-invention'" titled "Do Over". The tongue in cheek video highlights the Romney campaign's own misgivings about the candidate that faces a 2-1 favorability deficit with the president and who's own advisors refer to him as," stiff, aloof and distant." In an interview today with NPR Romney's new national political director said, "as this convention progresses and America is introduced to Governor Romney and his family I think you are going to see people liking what they see and what they hear." This may be a good time to remind the Governor's new political director (this was his first radio interview) that Mitt has been running for President since February, 13th 2007.
Republican's made a strategic play when choosing Florida as the location for their national convention as their narrow path to victory almost completely disappears if they lose the state. The past few months have worn heavily on the Republican's relationships with two of the state's largest and most prized demographics - hispanics and seniors. For months the state's hispanic Senator Marco Rubio was considered a frontrunner for the VP spot but was passed over for Paul Ryan who's budget plan would privatize Medicare. If Republicans thought throwing a party in Florida would make up for bad public policy they were wrong. The latest poll shows Obama leading Romney in the Sunshine State 50% to 46% and right on cue the Romney camp says they can win without Florida. "Obviously Florida is very important to us but, there are other ways to 270." So even in the midst of a "do-over" the Romney camp finds a way to shake the proverbial etch-a-sketch.
Yesterday the Obama campaign released a web video illustrating the way the Romney ticket has been distancing itself from its own position on Medicare. The ad relies on reports from several mainstream news organizations to debunk the myth that the Affordable Care Act will decrease benefits to seniors and remind voters that the infamous Ryan plan would turn Medicare into a voucher program. According to CNBC "Benefits to seniors actually increase under Obamacare which reduces payments to providers in exchange for more people covered by insurance."
Its no surprise that Romney is trying to have it both ways on Medicare. He knows the program is popular with seniors and could break him in Florida - an all but a must-win state- where Obama currently maintains a steady 2 point lead. Last month a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 59% of respondents wanted no reduction to the funding of Medicare and 45% to 34% trust Obama over Romney to handle the program. In his 59 point economic plan Romney expressed support for Ryan's Medicare plan saying it, "makes important strides in the right direction by keeping the system solvent and introducing market-based dynamics." Romney has publicly disavowed the part of the plan that cuts $700 billion but has yet to clarify where their plans truly differ. "We haven't gone through piece by piece and said 'oh, here's a place where there's a difference...but my plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare."
Ryan has defended his plan saying it would not affect anyone currently on Medicare while Republicans accuse the Obama campaign of trying to scare seniors. The fact is his voucher plan would increase the cost of care by thousands every year for millions of seniors and a new AARP poll revealed 59% of aging Baby Boomers really are concerned about their ability to retire and fear they will be more reliant on Medicare than previously anticipated. So, Romney many be used to taking both sides of an issue, but the fact remains that most seniors are not used to living without Medicare and they don't plan to anytime soon.
In November 2000 my wife Rachel and I flew to Palm Beach, Florida to support the Democratic efforts to secure an honest vote count. Rachel served as a recount observer. We spent our time at ground zero, the Palm Beach County counting station.
The enormous usage of lies, spin, intimidation, and subjection of public office to political power to prevent all the votes from being counted was obvious and chilling.
Right now the Clinton campaign sounds like children who aren't getting their way and the Obama campaign sounds distant and unsympathetic when it comes to questions about Michigan and Florida. Their is no good position to take on the situation. Until now!
The Obama campaign can come out smelling like roses and possibly land a blow on Clinton's chin. Obama should tell both the Michigan and Florida legislatures that they want their citizens votes to count and to that end he is willing to donate $5 mill to each state to help pay for the caucuses (which most news sources are citing as costing $10 mill). He should then turn to Clinton and ask for her to pony up the other $5 mill per state. She has the option of saying "no" and looking like chump or dolling out the $5 mill per state from her campaign funds. It's a put up or shut up moment. Let Obama use his pocketbook power to hit Clinton where it hurts.
The caucuses would obviously favor Obama, but if it comes down to it then Obama can probably pony up half of the $20 mill price tag for a "re-primary" in Florida and still won more than a couple "good sport" votes. Obama still has the money and can ask Clinton to put up or shut up.
The real hang up in both states isn't the willingness to have "do-overs" but the availability of funds to run a caucus/primary. Before this turns into a very, very ugly fight at the convention credentials committee and the party loses entire populations of supporters in Michigan and Florida (which will hurt the party in November) this should be dealt with.
This is Obama's argument to win. He has to side with the voters, this is all about hope and change and protecting the rights of every person, this is Obama's campaign in a nutshell. Simply, Obama can tell Clinton to put up or shut up and can win this battle of the war.