Tag Archives: bathroom bill

Texas GOP is eating its own

The Texas Republican Party used to be represented among its elected officials as an organization dedicated to low taxes, local control and individual liberty. There was little else at the top of the party’s agenda.

That’s no longer the case. It now gets involved in issues such as use of public restrooms, school vouchers and whether we should allow prayer in public school classrooms.

I mention this in light of the recent tumult involving two key Texas Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Kel Seliger.

Patrick has kicked Seliger, of Amarillo, out of the chairmanship of two Senate committees and removed him from membership on two others. Seliger didn’t like one of the chairmanships he got, said something to a radio talk show host and then got the boot from that chairmanship.

Patrick blames Seliger’s impolite remarks about a key Patrick aide; Seliger blames the tempest on the vast differences in the two men’s approach to government. Spoiler alert: I am going to side with Seliger on this one.

Which brings me to a key point. I once wondered aloud whether Seliger has a place in today’s Texas GOP. I posited the notion that the party has moved away from the senator’s more pragmatic approach to government. Given the rigid ideology that at times drives Patrick’s legislative agenda, I am thinking once again that might be the case.

The closest thing I can find in Seliger’s political portfolio that might tilt him toward a “socially conservative” viewpoint is his strong support for gun owners’ rights. He calls himself a proud member of the National Rifle Association. The rest of his legislative political career has focused more on the value of public education, on keeping our tax burden low, fighting for private property ownership, issues that matter to the rural West Texans who help re-elect him to the Senate every four years.

Patrick well might believe in all that, too, but he goes a whole lot farther than Seliger does. He pushed that idiotic Bathroom Bill through the Senate in 2017, only to watch it die in the House when then-Speaker Joe Straus declared it dead on arrival. The bill would have required transgender individuals to use public restrooms in accordance to their gender at birth. Discrimination, anyone?

That’s the kind of nonsense that seems to drive so many Texas Republicans in public office these days. I don’t believe Seliger — whom I have known well for the past 24 years — buys into that agenda.

So these two men have butted heads.

Patrick presides over the Senate. He can assign or un-assign senators to whichever committees he chooses.

Sen. Seliger calls himself a proud Republican. I believe he does so with sincerity. The problem, as I see it, is whether the GOP leadership is aligned with this good man’s practical sense of government’s reach and its limitation. I fear it isn’t.

Bathroom Bill is dead, but Lt. Gov. Patrick declares victory

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has found a curious way of declaring victory even when he clearly loses a key political battle.

Strange, but true.

Patrick said today he sees no need to resurrect the Bathroom Bill that died a much-needed death in the 2017 special legislative session. You remember this one, right? It would have discriminated against transgender individuals by requiring people to use public restrooms according to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate.

In other words, if you were born a male but have changed your gender to female, you still have to use the men’s restroom; and vice versa. It’s a virtually unenforceable notion, but the Texas Senate approved it anyway. Thanks to the courage shown by then-House Speaker Joe Straus, the Bathroom Bill went nowhere in the special session.

But . . . Lt. Gov. Patrick has declared victory anyway!

“When you win the battle you don’t have to fight the battle again,” Patrick said in a press conference with Gov. Greg Abbott and the brand new Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Then, according to the Texas Tribune, he said that the school district “behavior that necessitated the action has stopped.”

So he declared victory!

Very good, Lt. Gov. Patrick. Except that you lost! Count me as a Texan who is glad that Patrick’s will didn’t become law in Texas.

The 2019 Legislature that just convened has many more important matters to ponder. They deal with taxes and human trafficking. How about water management? Or perhaps investing in alternative energy development? Then there’s public education and public higher education.

The Bathroom Bill need not return to the legislative agenda.

Not ever!

Speaker Bonnen sets constructive legislative agenda

Texas has a new speaker of the state House of Representatives.

Dennis Bonnen of Angleton is a Republican who says he doesn’t believe in “sugarcoating” issues. He says he calls ’em the way he sees ’em. “I am direct and I am a problem solver,” Bonnen said.

A new legislative era begins

But he also apparently is more interested in substantive matters than he is in some of the more cultural issues that came out of the Texas Senate in 2017.

Public school finance is Speaker Bonnen’s first priority, followed by human trafficking and property tax collection reform.

Bonnen succeeds Joe Straus as speaker. Straus, a San Antonio Republican, decided to step aside and not seek re-election in 2018. I am one Texan who is grateful, though, for Straus’s resistance to the Senate approval of that ridiculous Bathroom Bill, which required people using public restrooms to use those facilities that comport with the gender on their birth certificate. It discriminated against transgender individuals and Straus would have none of it.

Speaker Straus managed to scuttle the Bathroom Bill during the Legislature’s special session in the summer of 2017, angering Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, under whose watch the Senate approved the bill.

The new speaker’s legislative agenda suggests he is going to travel along the same path as his predecessor — to which I offer a salute.

Good luck, Mr. Speaker. May the new Man of the House lead the legislative chamber with wisdom and reason.

Will the new speaker be a bulwark?

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen appears set to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Angleton Republican says he has the votes to win the job when the Legislature convenes in January. I’m glad for him. I am not yet willing to say I’m glad for the state, given that I know nothing about him other than what I’ve read in recent days.

My favorite speaker candidate, Republican Four Price of Amarillo, bowed out of the race; three other GOP hopefuls did the same.

They left the field open to Bonnen.

Bonnen has the votes

I have a request of the presumptive speaker: Will you act as a bulwark against some of the Texas Senate’s more reckless impulses, the way the current speaker, Joe Straus, did in 2017?

I hope he does. Indeed, I understand that Bonnen has a bipartisan streak he might be willing to exhibit. One way is to select Democrats to chair House committees.

Bonnen is making some noise that he might stand tall against the likes of, say, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the leader of the Senate. The men have had an occasionally testy relationship. That suits me fine, given my distaste for some of the stunts that Patrick has tried to pull on the Legislature and, therefore, on Texans.

The most notorious stunt, of course, was the 2017 Bathroom Bill that the Senate shoved through at Patrick’s insistence. It got to the House during a special session in the summer of 2017. Speaker Straus dug in. He ensured the death of the bill that would have required individuals to use public rest rooms in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificate.

The Bathroom Bill intended to discriminate against transgendered people. Straus was having none of it.

Bonnen says he is an ally of the lame-duck speaker. I hope he remains faithful to Straus’s policy in running the House of Representatives.

The early indications about a Dennis Bonnen speakership look promising.

Don’t let me down — please! — Rep. Bonnen.

Speaker Straus to Lt. Gov. Patrick: Listen more, talk less

Joe Straus is now officially the lamest of ducks in Texas politics and government. The midterm election is over. The speaker of the Texas House didn’t run for re-election and voters in his San Antonio House district have selected a successor.

That doesn’t mean he is keeping quiet. He has offered Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the garrulous politician from Houston, some cogent advice: Patrick should “listen more and talk less” during next year’s Texas legislative session.

Patrick, not surprisingly, is having none of it. He responded in an interview with the Texas Tribune: “(Straus) decided he wanted to continue to poke a finger in the eye of Greg Abbott, the president, myself and conservatives as he goes out the door and I find that disappointing. I wish him the best and I thank him for his public service, but at the end of the day, it’s clear he’s not much of a conservative — and it’s beginning to look like he’s not much of a Republican.”

Read Texas Tribune story.

I suppose if Patrick’s view of a true Republican rests with some of the harsh, nutty notions that came out of the Texas Senate this past year, then perhaps he’s right about Straus. It sounds to me that Patrick is still miffed that Straus killed the Bathroom Bill that the Senate — over which Patrick presides — sent to the House. The Bathroom Bill required individuals to use public restrooms that comported with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. .

It clearly was a discriminatory measure aimed at transgender individuals. Straus called it a non-starter, along with police chiefs and other law enforcement officials across Texas.

Straus made sure the bill would die in a special legislative session during the summer of 2017. He said it was virtually unenforceable; he said it would harm businesses in Texas. He wanted no part of it.

The soon-to-be-former speaker is a reasonable man. He is as much of a Republican as Patrick, without the stridency that Patrick brings to his high-profile position.

To be candid, I’ll miss Straus’s leadership as the Man of the Texas House. As for Patrick, he ought to take Straus’s advice and listen more and talk less … a lot less.

That did it: Valdez has lost me

I know this isn’t exactly a scoop, that it’s been out there for a bit. I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake but what the heck. Better to know it now than after an election.

Democratic candidate for Texas governor Lupe Valdez will not get my vote in two weeks. I am not yet sure whether Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will get it; I’m inclined to vote for the incumbent, if only to hope that he is willing to reel in a wacky lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who wants to discriminate against transgender individuals by forcing a Bathroom Bill down our throats.

The Beaumont Enterprise, where I used to work for nearly 11 years before we moved to the Panhandle, endorsed Abbott’s re-election today. It noted the following about Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff: The Democratic candidate for governor, Lupe Valdez, disqualified herself from any serious consideration for this job when it was revealed that she was delinquent on $12,000 in 2017 taxes on seven properties is Dallas and Ellis counties. If candidates for public office don’t pay their tax bills, it’s hard to have confidence in them handling the tax revenues of other people. If nothing else, Valdez should have understood how embarrassing this would be in political terms and taken care of her obligations. The fact that she did not shows she is not ready for the highest job in state government.

That’s a two-fer. Failure to pay taxes and failure to understand the blowback she would get once that failure became known.

I had hoped that Valdez would have done better as a major-party candidate for governor. Well, nice try, sheriff.

If she cannot pay her own tax bills, Texans have no reason to trust her with our money.

Bathroom Bill looms over Patrick candidacy

I cannot forget or forgive the effort to legislate a patently discriminatory policy regarding the use of public restrooms.

And I put the responsibility for that effort right at the feet of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is running for re-election against Mike Collier.

Spoiler alert: I plan to vote for Collier.

Patrick managed to engineer a Texas Senate approval of a bill that would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. It’s known now as the Bathroom Bill.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and is arguably the state’s most powerful elected official. The Senate approved the Bathroom Bill at Patrick’s insistence. Then it ran into House Speaker Joe Straus, another Republican, but one with common sense and the belief that Texas should not discriminate against transgender individuals, which is what the Bathroom Bill would have allowed.

Straus, who isn’t seeking re-election, blocked the Bathroom Bill, much to his credit. The House never approved it in its special session in the summer of 2017.

The Bathroom Bill remains an indelible scar on Lt. Gov. Patrick’s tenure as the Man of the Senate.

Collier is a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party. The Houston Chronicle, which has endorsed Collier’s candidacy, likens him to another former lieutenant governor, Republican Bill Ratliff, one of the state’s great statesmen.

The Chronicle’s endorsement notes that Collier doesn’t look for simple solutions to complex problems.

Patrick, meanwhile, is quick with the quip — owing to his days as a radio broadcaster — and simplistic demagoguery.

The Bathroom Bill died the death it deserved in 2017. I don’t know what’ll happen when the 2019 Legislature convenes. My hope is that the next Texas Senate will be run by someone who won’t seek to demonize transgender individuals by resurrecting this patently hideous legislation.

Where is Rep. Price in this speaker race?

I just read where state Rep. Drew Darby has become the fifth member of the Texas House to declare his candidacy for speaker of the House of Representatives.

What do I know about him? He’s a Republican (naturally!) from San Angelo. OK. That’s it. Now he’s running for Speaker Joe Straus’s job, which Straus is giving up at the end of the year after choosing not to seek re-election to another term.

The roll of speaker candidates is missing a key player who has been reported to be somewhat interested, although he’s being typically coy about it.

I refer to my friend state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo.

I want Price to run for the speakership. I also want his House colleagues to elect him.

I’ll admit to bias here. I’ve known the young man almost from the moment my wife and I moved to Amarillo in 1995. He is a lawyer and our paths crossed as I developed a list of friends — and sources — while working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Then he decided to run for the Texas House in 2011, succeeding former state Rep. David Swinford in the District 87 seat. He won the GOP primary, which meant election in the heavily Republican House district.

Price has acquitted himself handsomely, becoming a champion for the cause of mental health rehabilitation in the Legislature.

He also developed a constructive alliance with Speaker Straus, a man for whom I developed great respect over his objection to that hideous Bathroom Bill that died in the special legislative session in 2017. You remember that one, yes? It would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificate; it was clearly discriminatory against transgender individuals. Straus would have none of the bill that sailed through the Texas Senate.

Four Price is an ally of the speaker and I’ll presume he backed Straus’s decision to torpedo the Bathroom Bill.

What’s more, Price fended off a challenge this past year from someone who was backed by the far-right political action committee, Empower Texans.

I believe Rep. Price would make a fine speaker of the Texas House. Yes, my wife and I have moved away from the Panhandle, but my interest in Texas politics and government is as strong as ever.

Thus, I hope Rep. Price decides to compete for the title of Man of the Texas House.

Run, Four, run!

Stand tall, Speaker Straus

Joe Straus offers living, breathing, demonstrable proof that not all Texas Republican politicians have gone around the bend, that they all aren’t bat-crap crazy.

Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives — until the end of this year, when his term ends — has emerged as a leading GOP opponent of Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

The speaker, who is not seeking re-election, wrote the president a letter urging him to end the program that allows for children to be snatched from their parents’ arms at the southern border and sent to, um, somewhere apart from Mom and Dad.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “I know that members of Congress from both parties have proposed various ways to address this issue in the form of legislation, and while I applaud their attention to the problem, I also know that congressional action often does not come quickly,” the speaker told Trump in a letter. “In order to at least begin addressing this issue, there is no need to wait for Congress to act. That’s why I respectfully ask that you move immediately to rescind the policy that [Attorney] General [Jeff] Sessions announced in April and any other policies that have led to an increase in family separations at the border.”

There’s more: In the letter, Straus also rejected arguments by the Trump administration that the policy could be used as leverage against Democrats in Congress. “It is wrong to use these scared, vulnerable children as a negotiating tool,” Straus wrote.

Straus hails from San Antonio. While the state’s second-largest city isn’t on the border with Mexico, it is close enough to be considered near Ground Zero of this still-boiling crisis. The city has a huge Latino population, comprising many recent immigrants. Speaker Straus is listening to them as well as the better angels of his own conscience in seeking relief from this hideous policy.

I want to add, too, that Straus is no stranger to political sanity in a state that at times veers into fits of partisan hysteria.

Gov. Greg Abbott called the 2017 Legislature into special sessions to consider, among other items, that goofy “Bathroom Bill,” which required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to their birth certificate. The bill was clearly discriminatory against transgender individuals.

It passed the Senate — which is led by GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — on a partisan vote. Speaker Straus, as the Man of the House, would have none of it.

Through the speaker’s leadership, the Bathroom Bill ended up dead and buried. Which is where it should remain now and forever.

Straus is turning his speaker’s gavel over to someone else in 2019. I do hope, however, that he remains a clear voice of reason among Republicans whose hearts, minds and souls have been captured by the lying carnival barker/flim-flam artist who in 2016 got elected president of the United States.

Texas needs Joe Straus to continue speaking out, as does the nation.

If only POTUS had served

Donald J. Trump’s decision to implement a ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military is wrong on at least two levels.

Yes, he has made some exceptions to the ban, allowing certain individuals to continue their service.

However, he is promulgating the bias against transgendered individuals, allowing a form of discrimination against them because they have decided to change their sexual identity. The discriminatory nature of the decision is offensive on its face, just as it was in Texas when the Legislature sought to enact the “Bathroom Bill” that would have required individuals to use public restrooms that aligned with the sex stated on their birth certificate; that bill didn’t see the light of day.

Here is another factor that rankles many critics of the president, such as yours truly.

This man seeks to deny Americans the privilege of serving their country in uniform, of going to battle for their nation and denying them the right to do the very thing that young Donald Trump sought to avoid doing back when he was of age during another time of war.

Trump obtained at least five medical deferments to keep him out of serving during the Vietnam War. He cited “bone spurs,” or some ailment that hasn’t been independently confirmed so many decades later.

The very idea that a commander in chief who avoided service in the military would deny others the right to serve their country — and to go to war on our behalf if they got the order — is even more offensive on its face.

Many millions of Americans answered the call during that earlier time. Say what you will about citizens’ rights that they employed during that time of tumult. I understand that young men of privilege are entitled to avoid military service if they have the chance.

However, that history does tend to stick in our craw.