Tag Archives: Greg Abbott

Status quo ‘unacceptable,’ says Abbott; do ya think?

I guess we can now count Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as one who is beginning to see a glimmer of daylight in the search for some way to curb gun violence in this country.

Abbott has called for repairing the background check procedure and for ways to improve mental health screening on those who seek to purchase firearms.

The governor’s remarks today were his first public comments since the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people.

According to the Texas Tribune: “It’s clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and everybody in every state must take action,” Abbott told reporters in Austin after voting early in the GOP primary.

The governor said Texas gun safety standards should be reviewed to see whether they need updating. He added that government leaders need to empower local law enforcement to recognize “red flags.”

It appears to me that we are witnessing some fissures appearing in Republican politicians’ reluctance to speak publicly about gun safety reform and other potential legislative remedies to curb the spasm of gun violence that has taken far too many lives already. For far too long we have witnessed GOP politicians back away from offering governmental solutions, seemingly out of fear at how the gun lobby might retaliate against them.

Not this time. Maybe. Perhaps.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said “everything is on the table” regarding gun violence legislation immediately after the massacre; then came Donald Trump’s directive to the Justice Department to draft regulations that would end bump stocks; then, today, Gov. Abbott weighed in with a call for stricter background check and mental health screening.

Are these massive, landmark steps that signal a sea change? Probably not. They are baby steps. They are welcome nevertheless.

At minimum we are witnessing an important discussion that is commencing one state at a time. I’m glad to know that Texas’s political leadership has joined in.

Texas GOP is at war with itself

I never have thought of Greg Abbott of being such an intraparty back-stabber.

But what the heck. The Texas governor is now in open political warfare with a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis. He has been running attack ads against Davis, who in turn said she cannot commit to voting for Abbott in the upcoming March Republican primary.

Davis chairs the Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee. She criticized Abbott for failing to consider ethics reform in a special session this past summer. Abbott took it personally, I guess.

So he’s been campaigning against Davis, R-West University Place.

This is a rare event. Governors are not known generally as waging battle against politicians from their party. Abbott has tossed that tradition aside by endorsing Davis’s opponent in the GOP primary, Susanna Dokupil.

The anti-Davis ads accuse the incumbent lawmaker of opposing Hurricane Harvey relief and supporting late-term abortions.

This is brutal, yes?

I was out of daily journalism when Greg Abbott was first elected governor. I knew him when he was running for the Texas Supreme Court and later for state attorney general. I always found him to be a cordial gentleman.

He is showing another side of himself as he runs for re-election as governor. To be candid, it’s rather unflattering.

Sexual abuse story now heads for Texas

Larry Nassar, the serial sexual assailant, has settled into his new “home,” which happens to be a Michigan prison, where he will spend the rest of his miserable life.

The story of this monster is still unfolding, in Texas.

Nassar — a former physician — was sentenced to 175 years in prison after he was convicted of sexual assault of young women and girls while they were under his medical care at Michigan State University. His victims were young gymnasts, some of whom were Olympic champions.

The Texas connection? Several of the women contend that they were abused while they trained under the eyes of Bela and Martha Karolyi at their famed “ranch” near Houston.

Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed the Texas Rangers — the elite investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety — to look into the allegations of abuse that have been leveled against the Karolyis.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”

Indeed.

I have supreme confidence that the Texas Rangers will get to the truth, whatever it is and whomever it involves.

Nassar’s conviction and sentence already have brought down members of the U.S. gymnastics association, as well as the Michigan State president and athletic director.

I am not going to bet against the Rangers finding more culprits lurking right here, in Texas.

Cell phone law: How goes the enforcement?

I posted a blog item five years ago this month wondering about the enforcement of a citywide ban on cell phone use while driving a motor vehicle.

The Amarillo City Commission imposed a ban. Then I noticed at the time that the use of cell phones by drivers seemed to diminish so very little since the enactment of the ordinance.

Anti-cellphone law tough to enforce

I hoped in 2013 that the Texas Legislature would enact a statewide ban. It took four years, but the 2017 Legislature did what many of us had hoped: It passed a bill that bans cell phone use while driving throughout the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. I applauded the Legislature and the governor for doing what I consider to be the correct thing.

But the question is as pertinent today as it was five years ago: How are the police enforcing this law?

Even since enactment of the statewide ban my wife and I continue to spot motorists driving while holding a cell phone to their ear. I haven’t been privy to any stats on the matter, but I would be most interested in knowing how the cops are handling this issue.

I suggested in January 2013 that the city might want to consider launching an intense public relations campaign to alert motorists of the anti-cell phone ordinance. The city didn’t take my advice. Imagine my (non)surprise.

So, how about a statewide campaign?

Signage at every highway entry point into the state might alert motorists coming into Texas. As for those of us who live here, public service announcements telling Texans of the penalty associated with cell phone use would be appropriate.

I continue to support wholeheartedly the state’s decision to ban this idiotic behind-the-wheel behavior. I have admitted to waffling a bit on this issue until I decided that a mandated ban was the right course to take.

I also continue to believe that government — state and local alike — can be more proactive in alerting motorists that they are breaking the law when they insist on talking on a handheld device while driving a 5,000-pound missile.

Is hell about to freeze over?

Hell is going to have to freeze over if Greg Abbott is going to lose his bid for re-election next year as Texas governor.

This is not a statement of preference, mind you. I’m merely stating what I believe is a stark reality facing any challenger who might square off against him.

A Texas Tribune analysis points out that eight Democrats are lining up to run in the state’s primary next spring. Ross Ramsey believes the early Democratic favorite is likely Lupe Valdez, the recently resigned Dallas County sheriff. Another key Democratic challenger could be Andrew White, son of the late Gov. Mark White.

Read Ramsey’s article here.

Valdez has won election and re-election several times in the state’s second-most populous county, Ramsey points out.

But if she wins the Democratic primary — which is a huge first test —  get a load of the hurdle she faces. She is going to seek to become the first governor on a couple of important levels … and Texas has not been known in recent years as a place prone to establish significant political precedent.

First, Valdez is a Latina. She wants to become the first Latina ever elected governor. Indeed, the state never has elected anyone of Latin American descent. That’s one hurdle.

Here’s the big one: Valdez is openly gay.

She wants, therefore, to become the first openly gay, Latina candidate ever elected governor.

I feel the need to point out that Texas voters a few years ago approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage, even though there already was a statute on the books that prohibited it. That didn’t matter. The state’s voters said not just “no,” but “hell no!” to gay marriage.

Do you believe Valdez can win the governor’s race in a state that has enacted a double-whammy prohibition against same-sex marriage?

As the Tribune piece illustrates, whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to face an enormous task as he or she seeks to topple a Republican incumbent governor.

As Ramsey describes Abbott: He’s a well-financed, popular figurehead for a political party that hasn’t lost a statewide election in Texas in almost three decades.

But … you never know. Hell could get mighty cold.

Is she — or is she not — the Dallas County sheriff?

Lupe Valdez says she’s still the top cop in Dallas County, Texas.

She denies reports of her resignation. But she still is thinking about running for Texas governor, as a Democrat. She might challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican who recently announced his re-election campaign.

I am not going to comment on Sheriff Valdez’s work as Dallas County sheriff, given that I live way up yonder in Amarillo. I would like to offer a brief comment on the reasons she has posited for considering a run for governor.

She has grown weary of Republican dominance of Texas politics.

To be candid, so have I. So have other Texans. Democrats have been yearning for a serious challenger to Abbott in 2018. None has emerged. Valdez might be the one.

Now … before you get on my case for being one of those partisan Democrats who wants to see Republicans toppled at every turn, I want to make an important stipulation.

It is that one-party political dominance — no matter which party is in command — too often produces an arrogance that diminishes the cause of what I like to call “good government.”

I moved to Texas in the spring of 1984. I took up my post as an editorial write — and later editorial page editor — of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Golden Triangle in the early 1980s was still a heavily Democratic bastion. Every elected office belonged to Democrats. And I noted at the time that I believed that good government would do well to see greater Republican challenges of Democratic officeholders.

Sheriff Valdez and I are on the same page. According to the Texas Tribune: “Last month, Valdez told the Tribune she believes it’s “time for a change” in GOP-dominated state government. “Too much of one thing corrupts, and I’m a strong believer in a two-party system,” she said. “I’m hoping that enough people are seeing that too much one-sided is not healthy for Texas.”

Read the Tribune article here.

Healthy challenges force incumbents to defend their record. They must make the case for their re-election. Texas, which once was dominated by Democrats, has totally shifted its political tilt. Republicans have commanded every statewide elective office for more than two decades; the one exception occurred four years ago when Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers switched from Republican to Democrat while he was still in office, only to lose his bid for re-election in 2016.

I hope Valdez runs for governor. I might even vote for her if she wins the Democratic primary and challenges Abbott in the fall of 2018.

If it comes to pass, then let the debate commence.

Republicans are ‘eating their young’

The late Texas state Sen. Teel Bivins, in an entirely different context, once told me how Republicans occasionally were prone to “eat their young.”

So this form of political cannibalism appears to be occurring in the current election cycle. We’re seeing Republican officeholders making GOP primary endorsements, picking fellow Republicans over other fellow Republicans.

Donald John Trump endorsed U.S. Sen. Luther Strange in his primary contest against Roy Moore in Alabama. Moore ended up winning that primary and … um … it hasn’t worked out too well for the GOP. Moore has been accused of making improper sexual advances on underage girls. It’s getting ugly down yonder, man.

Closer to home, we have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorsing a Republican challenger to a GOP state representative. State Rep. Sarah Davis’s primary foe, Susanna Dokupil, has earned the governor’s endorsement.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, it is rare for Texas governors to endorse against incumbents; it’s even more rare for them to get involved in primaries of their own political party. Abbott has scored a two-fer with his endorsement in that particular legislative contest.

Abbott weighs in

And so it goes with the Republican Party’s war with itself.

U.S. senators are lining up against the president, who’s firing back at them. GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are retiring from the Senate in 2019. They both have been highly critical of the president of their own party. Donald Trump has returned the fire with angry statements and a bit of petulant name-calling to boot.

Republicans in both congressional chambers have fought among themselves over how to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. They’re now arguing over “tax reform” proposals that look good to one legislative chamber, but not nearly so good in the other one.

And, let’s not forget that the D.C. Republican establishment is gnashing its teeth over what to do if Roy Moore wins that U.S. Senate election in Alabama.

It’s no fun to be a Republican these days.

Especially if they’re about to be eaten.

Texting and driving? It’s illegal in Texas, man!

I want to present a portion of an editorial that appeared in today’s Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, where I used to work before I gravitated in early 1995 way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle.

It comes from a regular Saturday feature called “Bouquets and Brickbats.” The Enterprise tossed a Brickbat thusly at: Southeast Texans who continue to text and drive even though that has been illegal since Sept. 1. Most local police and sheriff’s deputies have not been writing tickets for this offense because of Harvey duties and to give residents time to become familiar with the new law, but they say that will change soon. Statewide, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers issued four citations and 46 warnings for texting in the first 12 days. Texas Department of Transportation officials blame texting while driving for more than 3,000 vehicle crashes in Texas last year. The new law prohibits drivers from using their phones to “read, write, or send an electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Violations can lead to a fine up to $99 for a first offense, with costs rising for subsequent offense.

I want to call your attention to this pearl of wisdom because it could apply at this end of Texas as well. Motorists seem to be ignoring the state law that took effect at the beginning of September.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this statewide ban. It took some guts for the Legislature to approve it, given that a previous Texas governor, Rick Perry, vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011. Gov. Greg Abbott saw the wisdom of signing this bill into law.

Are Texas Panhandle drivers any more obedient than our fellow Texans way downstate? Hardly. A day doesn’t go by without my being able to spot someone yapping on a handheld device while driving a motor vehicle. Just the other day I watched a young man doing that very thing while driving past Windsor Elementary School in Amarillo; I should note that Amarillo enacted an ordinance years ago banning such activity in school zones.

I want to make a request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which does a good job stopping drug traffickers moving along Interstate 40.

How about turning your sights with equal intensity on the yahoos and morons who ignore state law by texting and gabbing on handheld cell phones while exceeding the posted speed limit on I-40?

Still looking for cell phone ban sign at border

I was hoping to see something the other day next to the “Welcome to Texas” sign that greeted us on our way back from a long-weekend trip to Colorado.

It would be a “No cell phone use while driving” sign.

I didn’t see it when we re-entered Texas from New Mexico along Interstate 40. Dammit, anyway! Where is the warning to motorists coming here from elsewhere that they need to put their cell phones away while they’re driving on Texas highways?

The Texas Legislature this year approved a cell phone ban while driving bill. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law, which took effect Sept. 1.

Most states have laws that ban cell phone usage while driving; even more of them ban texting while driving. New Mexico has a “local jurisdiction” ban, by the way; Colorado bans cell phone use if the driver is operating on a learner’s permit. Colorado also bans texting while driving; New Mexico has no such statewide ban.

My point is that states that ban this act of sheer stupidity should be sure to let motorists know it when they enter those states.

I’m proud of our Legislature for agreeing to implement a statewide ban; I also am proud of Gov. Abbott for signing the bill into law, doing something his predecessor as governor, Rick Perry, declined to do in 2011, citing a ridiculous notion that such a bill was too “intrusive” on drivers’ private lives.

The state needs to take the next step and erect those signs at all its entry points that warn motorists: Keep your cell phones put away while you “Drive Friendly, the Texas Way.”

Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.