Tag Archives: Greg Abbott

Why not fill high court seat with another West Texan?

I know what governors say when they make appointments to the Texas court system: They’re picking the “most qualified” jurist they can find.

Gov. Greg Abbott has a vacancy to fill on the Texas Supreme Court. It’s the seat vacated by former Justice Phil Johnson, who retired at the end of 2018. Justice Johnson came to the highest state civil appellate court from Amarillo, where he served as chief justice of the 7th Court of Appeals.

I am proud to declare that prior to Johnson’s appointment, I used the Amarillo Globe-News editorial page as a forum to call on then-Gov. Rick Perry to select someone from west of the Interstate 35/45 corridor. West Texas had plenty of qualified judges to serve on the state Supreme Court, so it made sense to select someone from, say, the Panhandle to sit on the state’s highest civil court. And, yes, I was aware that Phil Johnson had sought the job.

Texas doesn’t apportion seats on either the Supreme Court or the Court of Criminal Appeals to provide any form of geographic balance. I understand that all nine justices and judges on each court represents the entire state.

However . . .

Why not look a little more closely out west when looking for a replacement for Justice Johnson?

I am acquainted with Justice Johnson, who was elected and then re-elected to his seat on the Supreme Court. I don’t believe he would endorse the notion of apportioning these seats geographically. Although, I was given an interesting bit of intelligence from a former colleague of Johnson’s on the 7th Court of Appeals.

The late Don Reavis, who hailed from Perryton, once told me he was the 7th court’s token “rural” judge, meaning that he was selected because the appeals court was intended to have some representation among its members from the rural regions in the vast territory the court served. It wasn’t written anywhere, Reavis said, but it was just done that way out of a form of custom.

Is the Texas Supreme Court above such a custom when a vacancy occurs? I wouldn’t think so. Then again, it’s the governor’s call to make. Choose wisely, Gov. Abbott.

Amarillo boosting its red-light camera deployment

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is on record saying he believes the state ought to yank cities’ authority to deploy red-light cameras at dangerous intersections.

Amarillo has responded to that declaration by increasing the number of cameras it has posted around the city from nine to 12.

Take that, Gov. Abbott!

I remain a supporter of the technology that the city uses to assist in catching red-light runners in the act of breaking the law.

The city is going to add seven cameras at intersections, while removing four cameras from other intersections. Thus, the city is continuing to use the technology to assist the police department. Moreover, the city is upgrading red-light camera assemblies at five intersections.

So, what does that mean for the future of the technology? I suppose you can say it lies in the hands of the Texas Legislature. Amarillo has two House members representing the city: Republicans John Smithee and Four Price; it also has a state senator, Republican Kel Seliger, who managed to make some news in recent days because of his dispute with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

What do these three men believe about the red-light cameras? I haven’t asked them directly. Maybe I will, even though I no longer live in Amarillo.

I don’t see any such cameras on the job in Collin County, where my wife and I now live. I don’t see them in Fairview, or Allen, or McKinney or in Princeton — where we’ll be moving into our new home quite soon. I would not object to any city in Collin County deploying these devices. The way I figure it, if it deters red-light runners then they are doing their job.

As for Amarillo’s red-light cameras, consider this little tidbit: Texas Department of Transportation officials say that the three intersections where the cameras are being removed recorded just four collisions from July 2016 to the end of June 2017. They are heavily traveled thoroughfares, so I am going to presume that the cameras did their job.

Cities should be allowed to determine for themselves whether or where to deploy these devices. They don’t need Bigger Brother looking over them.

Search for voter fraud comes up . . . empty!

I guess it’s fair to ask: Did the search for fraudulent voters in Texas come up empty?

The Texas secretary of state’s office flagged the names of 95,000 individuals looking for evidence that they aren’t U.S. citizens and were ineligible to vote. Then the office decided that many thousands of those flagged actually are U.S. citizens.

Gov. Greg Abbott is downplaying the significance of what transpired. He said something about it being an ongoing process and that the list was never intended to be a “final” assessment.

Well, OK, governor. If that’s your story, I’m sure you’re going to stand by it.

It just looks to me as though the secretary of state was looking for a problem where none seems to exist. The SoS informed officials in five large Texas counties — including Collin County, where my wife and I reside — that they likely erred in flagging those names.

It looks to me as though we are finding out that the instances of fraudulent voting in Texas is the non-starter that many critics of the allegations about voter fraud have said all along.

There just isn’t the epidemic of voter fraud in Texas that many have suggested is occurring.

The Civil War plaque is coming down! Yes!

Texas Republicans must be smitten with a rash of reason and sanity.

The GOP-influenced State Preservation Board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds has voted to remove a plaque that declares that the Confederacy did not launch a “rebellion” that started the Civil War and that the bloody conflict’s “underlying cause” was not to “sustain slavery.”

Of course it was to allow states to keep slaves and it most certainly was a “rebellion” ignited by the Confederate States of America.

The plaque was installed by the Children of the Confederate Creed. It had been the subject of a yearlong string of complaints from those who called it historically false.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who chairs the board, called for the plaque’s removal, as did House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. State Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican who was just appointed to the board by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, said, “If I had a sledgehammer in my office, I’d go up there right now and remove it. But I’m told that’s not necessary as it will be removed very soon.”

There you have it. Reason has prevailed.

The plaque needs to come down. Thank goodness it will.

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!

ACA ruling puts GOP in a bit of a pickle

Donald Trump, obviously, is happy that a Texas-based federal judge has declared the Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional.

However, are his fellow Republicans thrilled with Judge Reed O’Connor’s wide-ranging ruling? Not . . . exactly.

Many GOP congressional candidates campaigned for election and re-election in this year’s midterm election promising to protect one of the ACA’s key provisions: to cover “pre-existing” medical conditions for those who have purchased insurance under the landmark legislation.

But the judge said the ACA violates the Constitution because of legislation that stripped out the individual mandate provision, which requires Americans to have insurance or else face civil penalties. You can’t do that, Judge O’Connor said.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, two Texas Republicans, have remained quiet about the ruling. So has Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. You’d think they would join the president in extolling the decision.

Here’s the deal, though: The ACA remains popular among Americans. National Public Radio reports that a Kaiser Family Foundation poll declares that 53 percent of Americans like the ACA. What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld the legislation enacted in 2010 during President Obama’s first term and stands as the former president’s landmark domestic legislative triumph.

So, what are GOP politicians going to do? Will they buy into the judge’s ruling and then try to explain to voters why they campaigned in favor of key ACA provisions?

This matter surely is headed for an appeal that well could end up in front of the nation’s highest court eventually. A single judge’s ruling isn’t likely to pull the plug on the ACA; it will remain in effect until a higher court makes the definitive decision.

The nation’s Republican politicians, though, now find themselves squirming and wiggling for ways to justify what they said on the campaign trail while praising a judge’s decision to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

 

Climate change will bring more storms

A report came to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk that delivers a stern message without actually saying the words it needs to say.

The Gulf Coast is going to experience more severe storms with increasing frequency, the report states. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. However, the report doesn’t use the words “climate change” to explain what is patently obvious.

Gov. Abbott won’t accept climate change as a contributing factor, but the report does contain some stern and dire warnings.

According to the Austin American-Statesman: “The enormous toll on individuals, businesses and public infrastructure should provide a wake-up call underlining the urgent need to ‘future proof’ the Gulf Coast — and indeed all of Texas — against future disasters,” according to “Eye of the Storm,’ the report released Thursday by . . . Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas.”

But as the American-Statesman notes, “future proof” has become Abbott’s favorite term as it relates to what the state is experiencing.

Earlier reports note that storms as savage and sweeping as Hurricane Harvey are going to pound the coast with increasing frequency and savagery. Again, our climate is changing. Sea levels along the coast are rising. The rising levels put our fragile coastal wetlands in peril. Other reports note the shrinking Arctic and Antarctic ice caps that could cause sea levels to increase by more than four feet by 2100.

Also, according to the American-Statesman: “The current scientific consensus points to increasing amounts of intense rainfall coupled with the likelihood of more intense hurricanes,” the report states.

The president of the United States says climate change is a “hoax.” I believe he is wrong to say such a thing knowing that he is making a false declaration.

As for the Texas governor, it is long past time for him to climb aboard the climate change wagon. The evidence is there, even if a thorough report doesn’t say it in so many words.

Tom Craddick: testament against term limits

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, whether it’s selling shoes, branding cattle . . .  or writing legislation.

Tom Craddick, a feisty Midland Republican, is about to cross the half-century mark as a Texas legislator during the upcoming legislative session. I’ve had some differences with Craddick, dating back to when I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. That was then. Today I want to say a good thing or two about this Texas Capitol institution.

He and I got crossways some years back when he engineered the ouster from the Texas House speaker’s chair of Pete Laney, a Hale Center Democrat, whom the newspaper supported. Laney was no flaming liberal as speaker and did a good job representing the Texas Panhandle while running a relatively smooth Texas House of Representatives.

Then the Republicans took control of the House and Craddick cast his eyes on that big ol’ gavel that Laney wielded. He enlisted the help of Laney’s Panhandle pals — namely fellow Republican state Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and David Swinford of Dumas. They turned on their old friend, Laney, and backed Craddick for speaker.

We became angry with Smithee, Swinford and Craddick for depriving the Panhandle of a powerful voice . . . and we said so on our Opinion page.

Craddick sent me a testy letter in response. I responded with equal testiness.

That was a long time ago.

Laney, from what I understood, took his ouster personally. He retired from the House and became a lobbyist. Craddick, though, is still on the job, 50 years after being elected the first time.

Craddick ran the House with a heavy hand. It helped him shepherd legislation through a GOP-controlled chamber, but his tactics also created plenty of political enemies.

Since leaving the speakership himself in 2009 after enduring — ironically — an ouster from his fellow Republicans, Craddick has continued to be an effective legislator.

I applauded his work, most notably, in persuading the Legislature to impose a ban on handheld cell phone use while driving. Craddick was tireless in his pursuit of that legislation over the course of five legislative sessions. It was an odd sight to see: a Republican legislator in a heavily GOP state that endorses “personal liberty” working hard to enact a bill that critics decried as a “nanny state” measure. Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it in 2011, but then Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in 2015.

Tom Craddick, I submit, is a walking, talking, breathing testament against term limits. He’s been on the job for 50 years and, according to the Texas Tribune, hasn’t lost an ounce of zest for the job of legislating. He’s done a good job for his Permian Basin constituents, who continue to send him back to Austin to work on their behalf.

Tom Craddick is one tough dude. Stay with it, sir.

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.

Why write about red-light cameras? Here’s why

A social media acquaintance of mine — and I do not know this fellow personally — posed a question about why High Plains Blogger keeps writing about red-light cameras.

He implies that I am fixated on the issue, suggesting I reckon that I am devoting too much attention to it.

Hmm. Here’s my answer to my acquaintance — who’s a frequent critic of this blog.

I write frequently about the issue because I consider it a public safety matter. I also believe that cities that deploy these devices are correct to rely on a technological advance that assists police departments in their enforcement of traffic-safety laws and municipal ordinances.

It’s merely a matter of opinion and I am aware that others do not share it. I believe in the technology. I believe the Texas law that allows cities to use it is not being abused by local authorities.

The Texas Legislature stipulated some strict provisions on the law. It requires cities to use revenue generated by fines paid by motorists who run the red lights strictly for traffic improvements. I urged the Legislature to act while I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News; I wrote personal columns and editorials on behalf of the editorial board imploring the Legislature to act. I have continued beating that drum in my retirement years. I also have applauded Amarillo’s resistance to taking down the cameras despite the overheated protests from a vocal minority of residents.

The cameras take a picture of offending motor vehicles; cities then mail the citation to the registered owner of the vehicle, who then is required to pay the fine. He or she can appeal the fine to the municipal judge.

I answered the social media acquaintance with a semi-snarky response, telling him that I intend to keep writing about it. I’ll reiterate my answer here.

Public safety is important enough for this blog to keep raising the issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott vows to urge the next Legislature to rescind the enabling law, provided he’s re-elected on Nov. 6. If he does and the Legislature follows his lead, you can bet I’ll have a whole lot more to say on this issue.

That, dear reader, is my story and I’m sticking to it.