The State Senate drew straws yesterday to determine if each has a 2 or 4 year term before running for re-election. This is customary after an election following a redistricting year in which all Senators must run.
The draw has some major implications for our 2014 statewide races here in Texas on both sides of the aisle, starting, of course, with State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, a tireless campaigner who drew a 2-year term.
Many Democrats were eyeing Davis as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014 owing to her fundraising prowess and staunch support of education. Had Davis drawn a 4-year term, thus giving her a "free pass" to run statewide in 2014 without giving up her senate seat, she would have had tremendous encouragement to take the leap and run for governor. Now, her decision becomes somewhat more complicated.
Here are the results from SD-10 in the 2010 and 2008 statewide elections, courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council:
2010 Results in SD-10 38.9% Turnout
Governor Rick Perry: 52.7%
Bill White: 44.6%
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst: 58.2%
Linda Chavez-Thompson: 38.8%
2008 Results in SD-10 66.4% Turnout
President John McCain: 52.1%
Barack Obama: 47.1%
US Senate John Cornyn: 52.1%
Rick Noriega: 46%
Davis won election in 2008 by 2.4% over a Republican incumbent, and won re-election in 2012 by 2.3% over a former State Representative.
Below the jump, find out why Democrats should still be optimistic about Davis in 2014, and what the implications are for the Republicans.
Note: Hundreds of bills have already been pre-filed for the upcoming Legislative Session, so the next round of fighting for the future of Texas has already begun. Having already filed six bills, Democratic State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon, from San Antonio, is especially pushing her House Bill 82, a bill to adopt a standard policy for college credit transfers. Below is her op-ed.
I want to thank the Editorial Board of the Express-News for the Editorial published on November 21st, calling for a standardized, statewide approach to the transfer of higher education course credits. I could not agree more with your summary of the current problem and the need for a solution: "Texas high schools, community colleges and public four-year universities have operated in a vacuum for too long. . . . If Texas is truly serious about providing low-cost options in higher education, the work needs to start with ensuring students are not wasting their time and money taking courses that don't transfer. " The good news is, the call has been answered.
On November 12, I pre-filed House Bill 82, which provides for public institutions of higher education in this state to adopt a single common course numbering system. The development of this Bill was several months in the making, and I am grateful to have had excellent help from important and highly-credible experts in the field. Representatives from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Alamo Colleges, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and Austin Community College participated thoughtfully, and collaborated with each other and with me in this effort. Starting last spring, we met many times, exploring the issues and examining potential solutions, until we reached a consensus. It may not be easy, but it will be well worth the effort to undertake the implementation of a single common course numbering system.
The purpose of H.B. 82 is to streamline and design clear pathways to earn an undergraduate degree, whether a student transfer immediately following community college or later. A single common course numbering system will ensure that appropriate courses will actually transfer and count toward the student's degree plan. It will replace a cumbersome, complex and expensive system of evaluating transcripts and reduce time for Pell grant eligibility, which requires full application of all courses.
This will help the state, students, and local taxpayers save millions of dollars by eliminating the need to complete unnecessary courses or repeat necessary ones. Having a state-wide plan will simplify the transfer process for students and enhance the effectiveness of student advising, rather than spending administrative time and effort crafting and implementing individual college-to-university articulation agreements and many "memoranda of understanding." Students will be able to optimize their community college efforts toward a bachelor's degree, with much less waste of their own money, higher education loans, and state money. Once accepted to a four-year university, community college transfer students will no longer have to surmount a wall of obstacles to earn their undergraduate degree. This will improve graduation outcomes for our community colleges and our state universities.
The Bill gives the Higher Education Coordinating Board until June 1, 2014, to adopt procedures for implementing the single common course numbering system. All public higher education institutions would have time to transition. The single common course system would be in place for all courses offered, in time for the 2018-2019 academic year.
We've launched the boat. Now, the next step is to make sure the Bill is navigated through the legislative waters to enactment. All those who support this concept need to be heard. Write your State Representatives and Senators. Attend the public hearings, or send your written testimony to the Committee Chairs in the House and Senate. You, the public, have the opportunity to help make this happen. Now is the time.
Representative McClendon currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Transportation. She also serves as Chair of the House Committee on Rules & Resolutions. The 83rd Regular Legislative Session will be her ninth term serving Texas House District 120.
Speaker Straus says he wants a 3 day special session. The plan as reported by Mike Ward at the Statesman.
On Wednesday, the Legislature will convene at 10 a.m. Those House bills will promptly be assigned to three House committees - Appropriations, State Affairs and Transportation- for the required public hearings.
On Thursday, the House is expected to have its first calendar for consideration. Committees are expected to have approved the bills the previous day, if everything goes on schedule.
On Friday, "if it is the will of the members to do so, we will conclude our business."
Some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Perry to add CHIP to the special session. Somehow, I doubt that's going to happen.
Quorum Report saw that current Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams former Secretary of State Roger Williams raised more than $400,000 at a Saturday fundraiser in Weatherford in his bid for Kay Bailey Hutchison's potentially open at some point US Senate seat.
Gardner Selby reports that former Lubbock state senator and AT&T executive (and Democrat) John Montford is supporting Gov. Perry's primary campaign as a financial advisor. Guess that takes Montford out of the rumor-mill for running as a Democratic candidate for Governor.
Straus said agencies will continue to operate and a special session may not be necessary. “It’s possible we could avoid one,” he said, deferring the topic to Gov. Rick Perry, who has the sole authority to call special sessions.
“I don’t consider this a crisis,” Straus said.
“Overblown,” he said of senators’ frets about the bonds.
In his 11am press conference this morning, Perry echoed Straus' uncertainty about a special session as he told the press that it was "way too early to make any calls on a special session."
Update (Matt): Here is the full text of Rick Perry's statement.
Here is the short story. The House put a band aide on a bullet wound and then went to the bar to celebrate. The Senate was left to clean up the mess or put off the hard work to a later date. They went with the latter and now the Governor has decide whether the threats for special session were rhetoric or policy.
Here is the long story.
The Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Insurance are under threat of sunseting before the next regular legislative session.
The next session won't start for a little under 2 years, but both agencies begin the sunset process in a little over a year and a half. The gap required legislators to discuss a Sunset safety net to fix the gap.
The House put a quick and dirty solution together and voted out HCR 291. HCR 291 was the proposed solution to keep TDI and TxDOT operating until next session since HB 1959 didn't get through the deadlines.
When the Republican led Senate couldn't figure out what to do in response to the Republican led House, Republican Troy Fraser made the motion to simply adjourn the Texas Senate Sine Die without fixing the problem.
According to Quorum Report, Leticia Van De Putte opposed the idea and told her colleagues in the Senate exactly what she thought.
San Antonio Democrat Leticia van de Putte was not satisfied with the response. She pointed out that the Department of Insurance is also in danger of being sunsetted.
"What happens to consumers should be leave here with out authorizing the continuance of the Texas Department of Insurance (and TxDOT)?" Van de Putte asked.
"I'm afraid that we are shirking our responsibility. Just because the House has acted irresponsibly, does that mean they have to drag the Senate into it, too?" Van de Putte said. "We are possibly facing legislative suicide with those two agencies."
Needless to say, the nearly 2/3rd Republican chamber voted to adjourn without fixing the problem.
Now, Rick Perry has to decide whether addressing the agencies before the sunset really is a top priority of his or not. If it is a priority, his only solution is to call a special session. If it was all political pandering and posturing, then say goodbye to TxDOT and TDI.
Regardless, this is what failed leadership looks like on every level. This a failure of the House, Senate, and the Governor. There wasn't a leader at any level and because of it, Republicans decided to go home instead of working through the problem.
Windstorm insurance was a huge priority for Rick Perry. The hard work and push doesn't mean much without the Department of Insurance.
Earlier today, current Texas House Speaker Joe Straus filed paperwork that would enable him to campaign for re-election as speaker upon the conclusion of the legislative session. While not unexpected, the timing would indicate that he feels like he is in a position to secure votes from fellow Republican for having not caved on Voter ID, and killing off debate and passage of Rick Perry's "do not want" bill regarding unemployment insurance.
Of course, all of the following items were as a result deemed less important than Voter ID. Straus and the GOP set the agenda. They, along with the actions of Senate Republicans at the start of session, took actions which had a cascading effect across the legislative calendar.
* The electric co-op reform bill
* Eminent domain
* Averitt's clean air bill
* TDI sunset
* Enabling legislation for $5 billion in highway construction bonds
* Informed consent for abortion
* Solar energy incentive program
* Windstorm insurance (Hurricane season begins Monday)
* Dewhurst's overhaul of health care (SB 6, 7, 8 )
* Unemployment insurance
* Flores' enabling act creating a homestead exemption for disabled veterans
* Criminal asset forfeiture reform (to prevent the abuses that took place in Tenaha)
* Constitutional authorization for bonds for water projects and the state water plan
* Watson's renewable energy bill
So if you were to ask, what is is the House that Straus built- it's constructed of just one brick called Voter ID. Oh, and maybe a budget. But that's about it.
For other thoughts on what this might mean moving forward, I'll point you to read replies by Off the Kuff and Burka.
Had Craddick not be ousted, had they still hovered somewhere just south of 90 members, etc., etc. But the fact is, he was, and they don't. So it's up to the House Rs, not the House Ds, to get the train back on track. They're the ones who have to get the Ds to compromise, because unless they do, the Ds can use, in the Speaker's parlance, the process that's available to them.
"Democrats have been using the process that's available to them to use in a way that I wouldn't suggest is helpful," he said in an impromptu gaggle with the press during floor discussion of the Top 10 Percent Rule debate. "I would say the more they talk, the more explaining they have to do and I feel like the entire Republican caucus agrees with me on that. And I just hope they put aside some of this, some of the abuses of the process - legitimate - but I think ill-timed beyond just making their point."
Smith finally boils down the debate to the simplest point.
As for the explaining to be done, I would say it falls to those people who are so hell-bent on passing voter ID ahead of windstorm, insurance sunset, and other bills that pass the test of pressing need.
This is a complicated issue. Republicans control every branch of government in Texas. The far right wants voter suppression legislation over any other bill. They have made that decision... not democrats.
We have 1 day left to get to work on the people's business. It is only up to the Republican's in the House to get that done. They are the ones in power after all.
Republicans control the Texas Senate.
Republicans control the Texas House.
Republicans set the calendar.
Republicans set the speaker.
Republicans set the agenda.
But let's add one more thing to that list in regards to speed this session.
Republicans set the pace of progress. And it's been slow since January.
Ever since the Speaker's Race, we've see a general lazy pace of legislation. It began with a late appointment of committee chairs and members and continued with the slow pace of getting any legislation passed out of the house until halfway through session.
But now Republicans are wanting to blame Democrats for not allowing them to get as much done as they wanted. Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam calls them out on who started the slowdown.
Texas Observer: "We didn't take up bills on the House floor until maybe latest point of any session," Dunnam said. "Why wasn't insurance reform on the house floor weeks ago? Why wasn't the windstorm insurance bill on the floor weeks and weeks ago? Why'd we go home last week every day at 6 or 7 o'clock so that committees could go have dinner? And then turn around and say that [Democrats] are wasting time? Those were decisions that the Speaker made."
Of course, Democrats have offered over a half dozen times to take up many of the other issues that Republicans placed behind Voter ID on the calendar. Yet, Republicans each time have refused to move forward and debate the very bills they are whining about being killed. That's because in the end, they have bills that they want to kill to, but just don't want to be responsible for killing.
"[Republicans] are offering no compromise. They seem to be very pleased with the way things are going. I think that it's clear, from what they've told me, that it's because they don't want to get to the insurance reform bill."
House Republicans, led (or not led depending on how you look at it) by Speaker Straus are obstructing ruling on the points of order announced against the Voter ID bill. By withholding that information, they are now hiding behind the Democrats. They are in control of obstructing movement on the calendar.
Voter ID is nothing other than a raw political tool by Republicans to extend their lease on life for a few more years. Need we be reminded by this report by Elise Hu from 2008 that previewed this fight over a year ago?
Dunnam said the minutes for the Voter ID committee hearing were not filed within the requisite three days. He said the timestamp on the minutes shows they were approved four days after the hearing - a violation of the rules. He said he has shown Speaker Joe Straus the minutes and the timestamp, and that the speaker is considering them....Dunnam said he is so confident about the technicality - called a "point of order" - that "we've asked them to go ahead and bring the bill forward." No word on whether Straus thinks it will stand.
Quorum Report provides an update that notes how Republicans can play a role in ending the slowdown of the local and consent calendar.
In it, Straus affirmed that committee minutes must be submitted within three days or the bill becomes ineligible. Democrats subsequently brought the Speaker the time stamped minutes indicating a seven day delay in turning in the minutes of the voter id hearing.
Democrats have requested the Speaker recognize them for a motion to suspend the rules in order to take up voter ID specifically for the purpose of offering up and getting a ruling on this and other points of order. If the point of order is sustained, they will stop slow-boating the Local and Consent Calendar.
This morning, after the parliamentary inquiry, the minutes were presented to the Speaker showing the time stamps. He was also presented with another Point of Order on Voter ID which is, if possible, stronger than the one on the minutes.
We have proposed that the Voter ID bill be brought forward so that the Points can be called and sustained immediately and the House proceed with other business. We are informed that the House Republican Caucus would prefer to continue on the present course in part to avoid them having vote on the TDI Sunset bill.
There is another Point of Order that is stronger as well though one would think this one is sufficient. And now it's interesting to see that it's the Republican caucus that might not be willing to move forward because of other major bills that they don't want to deal with.
To watch the Texas House proceedings online, click here.
The Texas House is discussing the Local and Consent Calendar of about 20 pages of bills at a rate of about 6 per hour right now. Members are taking the full, nearly 10 minutes of discussion per bill to discuss the finer details of what consists of mostly Municipal Utility District bills.
We're excited to see members focus on their bills and show such interest. Of course, it's unfortunate that some Republicans are against debate on hundreds of bills that do far more to benefit the operations of Texas... just because they view voting on a Voter ID bill as more important.
I'd invite our readers to watch the proceedings from the link above and read the following articles and posts to get a flavor of today's debate.
So far, there have been fascinating conversations about navigation commissioners in Matagorda County, the historic impact of MUDS on planning philosophy in Houston, whether there's macadamia nuts in macadam (no, there's not) and the the size of Rep. Rolando Guiterrez's uvula.
I have decided to use this time in a constructive manner, so I have taken up a correction of the spelling of my name on the large House vote panels. Although it may seem trivial to some, I believe it is important that the the House be accurate in it's use of language. As you may note in the photograph, the vote board has the last name Peña spelled without the tilde or Spanish Ñ.
Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) told members of the press this afternoon that Democrats are more then willing to consent to suspending rules to take up items on the House calendar, in effect turning the Voter ID bill into the House equivalent of the Senate blocker bill.
Creating a de facto two-thirds' rule in the House for the weekend would allow the members to address legislation such as the TDI Sunset bill instead of the Voter ID bill, Dunnam said. It's been 16 years since the last TDI Sunset legislation and he said it was more important to deal with that issue than Voter ID, which he constantly referred to as "voter suppression" legislation.