Tag Archives: Texas Constitution

Early vote totals: impressive

EARLY+VOTING_MGN

Let’s try this number on for size …

13,627.

That’s the number of Amarillo voters who cast ballots in advance of Tuesday’s election. We’re going to decide whether we want to build a $32 million multipurpose event venue that includes a ballpark in downtown Amarillo; we’re also going to vote on seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

The early-vote number isn’t a record-breaker. It’s impressive nevertheless.

By my estimation, that number represents roughly 10 to 11 percent of all registered voters in the city. It’s not great in and of itself.

However, compared to the hideous turnout of many recent previous municipal elections, I believe that early-vote number represents a positive trend.

I’ll be frank. The constitutional amendments aren’t drawing voters out. It takes a citywide issue such as the MPEV to bring ’em to the polls.

I haven’t voted early. I’m waiting until Tuesday. I’ll probably go to my Randall County polling place first thing. I’ll be there by 7 a.m.

You know how I’ll vote on this deal. Oh, just in case you don’t know … I’m voting “for” the MPEV as a statement that the city is ready to keep marching forward.

I’m heartened that the early turnout has been so relatively brisk.

What does it mean for the final result? We’re going to find out early Tuesday evening when those early ballot results are released.

Here’s hoping for the best.

 

AG may keep job, even if he’s convicted? Wow!

The Texas Tribune has published an interesting primer on the complexities of Texas law, its constitution and whether the state’s attorney general can keep his job even if he’s convicted of a felony.

Here’s the link. I encourage you to take a look at it and then try to decide what you think about it.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/08/04/texplainer-if-convicted-will-paxton-have-leave-off/

Ken Paxton, a Republican, has been indicted in Collin County on three felony counts alleging securities fraud. He just took office as Texas attorney general in January. He vows to plead not guilty. He won’t quit.

I don’t think he needs to resign as AG while the case is being adjudicated. But if he’s convicted? To me, it’s a no-brainer. Hit the road, Ken.

The Tribune reminds us of a curious quirk in the Texas Constitution, which is that judges and other judicial officials do not have to be practicing lawyers when they take office, although they do need good standing as members of the State Bar of Texas.

Some years ago, Potter and Randall County voters elected the late Hal Miner to preside as judge in the 47th District Court. Miner hadn’t practiced law, as such, for more than two decades. He ran a family business, but stayed active in the state bar.

The question that Paxton could face involves whether he’d lose his license to practice law if he’s convicted of a felony. If he does, then he cannot serve as the state’s top legal counselor. But as the Tribune reports, the law license and a possible felony conviction are separate issues.

Bizarre, eh?

I believe a conviction should compel Paxton to quit — if for no other reason than his credibility as the state’s top law enforcer would be blown apart if a jury finds him guilty of, um, breaking the law.

Let’s now await high court ruling on gay marriage

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott knows when the Legislature has finished its work and there’s no need for “overtime.”

Thus, he has nixed the idea of a special session to deal with same-sex marriage, which legislative conservatives wanted to do.

To what end? Beats me.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/08/abbott-no-special-session-same-sex-marriage/

Texas already has approved a constitutional amendment that says, by golly, marriage should involve a man and a woman. The amendment came on top of an existing statute that said the very same thing.

Now the state is awaiting — along with 49 other states — a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that well could render all of that action moot. The court is going to decide, more than likely, whether states’ bans on same-sex marriage violate the federal Constitution, the one to which all state governments must adhere.

Texas legislators considered a bill that dealt with religious freedom, a bill that resembled legislation approved in Indiana, but which attracteded a torrent of protest from gay-rights groups. The Indiana bill would have allowed businesses to deny serving same-sex couples on the basis of business owners’ religious convictions. Critics said the bill, in effect, permitted business owners to discriminate openly.

The Texas bill didn’t pass. Legislators, though, did approve a bill that, according to the Texas Tribune says this — and you’ll have to follow it closely to understand it: The bill protects those from being from forced to “solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.” The bill awaits action from Gov. Abbott.

Hey, all of this could be tossed aside if the high court rules that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees every American “equal protection” under the law, regardless of who they love or intend to marry.

I’m pretty sure that covers Texas.

 

Red-light cameras 'unconstitutional'? Guess again

James Watson has filed a lawsuit against cities in Texas that deploy red-light cameras to catch those who run through intersections against signals that tell them they should stop.

Amarillo is one of them.

He got popped by a red-light camera in Southlake. So, to make his point, he’s going after other cities that use the devices as well.

This lawsuit needs to be thrown out on the plaintiff’s ear.

Watson contends that the cities’ ordinance violates the Texas Constitution and state law by depriving motorists of the “presumption of innocence, the right to trial by an impartial jury, the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right against self-incrimination.”

Oh, my.

What, then, do we do about police officers who catch motorists running through red lights? Do the cops who write the tickets also deny motorists the presumption of innocence and all those other rights that Watson lays out in his suit?

Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris said he believes the court will reduce the issues once it reviews the lawsuit. My own hunch is that the court might reduce them to zero, as in tossing the case out.

The lawsuit is as specious as they come.

If he hadn’t run the red light in the first place in Southlake, he wouldn’t be in a jam.

Count me as one who still strongly supports the red-light cameras in Amarillo. I do not want the Legislature to eliminate the law that allows cities to use them. Nor do I want the city to back down on its use because of complaints coming from a vocal minority of residents.

What are our constables doing … actually?

Sometimes you run into people and wonder: Is this person for real?

I saw one of those folks this morning at the Potter County Courthouse in downtown Amarillo.

His name? Morice Jackson. His job? He’s an elected constable in Justice of the Peace Precinct 4. Why take note of this man?

I shall explain.

Constable Jackson was dressed in full police gear. I was being body scanned as I entered the building, which is the new normal at both Potter and Randall county government buildings.

There was Jackson, chatting up a couple of Potter County sheriff’s deputies. He looked sharp in his uniform. He had all the hardware required: pistol, Taser, handcuffs, some kind of leg holster, ammo … for all I know, he might have been packing brass knuckles in a pocket.

Then the thought came to my mind. Why is it I never hear of Constable Jackson making an actual arrest? For that matter, why don’t we hear of any constable making arrests? I brought this up with a friend of mine later in the day who once served as a constable in Randall County. We concurred that we never hear about Jackson being involved in an arrest of a fleeing bad guy, or taking part in what one would call actual police work.

It’s fair to presume, just for the sake of argument, that a constable who’s elected to office is a politician who’d jump at the chance at getting his or her name mentioned whenever an arrest is made.

I don’t bring this up necessarily to poke fun at Constable Jackson. Frankly, I do not know this man.

I do want to wonder aloud, though, just why we have this office in the first place.

I continue to scratch my head over this extra layer of law enforcement that seems to me to be an obvious waste of taxpayer money. Yes, some folks are going to disagree with this, saying that you cannot have “too many cops on the beat.”

But the Texas Constitution, as I understand it, lays out constable’s duties. They are to provide security for JP courts and to serve warrants and other papers on behalf of the justice of the peace. I don’t think either or both of those jobs requires the constable to look like a SWAT team member ready to blast his way into a building. They have authority to perform other police duties, but in the 20 years I’ve lived in Amarillo, I have yet to hear about a constable being involved in anything other than paper-serving and bailiff’s duties.

Which brings up another question: Aren’t those duties that can be performed by sheriff’s deputies?

 

When did we realize these bans were illegal?

A question comes to mind regarding the recent spate of court rulings against statewide bans on same-sex marriage.

The 14th Amendment, which includes the “equal protection clause,” was ratified in 1868. Why has it taken until just the recent past to realize that equal protection means all citizens are guaranteed such protection under the law?

http://blog.mysanantonio.com/texas-politics/2015/02/texas-judge-rules-same-sex-marriage-ban-unconstitutional/

A Travis County probate judge recently ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Judge Guy Herman “ruled the state’s ban violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment,” according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The amendment has been on the books for 147 years! Only now has the issue come up as a reason to ban same-sex marriage.

It is true that gay couples have been largely hidden from public view for most of the history of the Republic. We didn’t have “gay pride rallies” at the turn of the 20th century, let alone in the middle of the 19th century. Same-sex couples lived in the shadows. They didn’t get married. They simply lived together, which was their right to do — except in some states, such as Texas, where it was actually illegal for same-sex couples (notably men) to be intimate; our state enforced something called an “anti-sodomy law” until it, too, was ruled unconstitutional.

So here we are now. Courts are ruling left and right that states cannot violate a civil right written into the U.S. Constitution just three years after the end of the Civil War.

It took us awhile to get to this point. But we’ve arrived. Finally.

 

Ready or not, Texas, same-sex marriage on its way

Get ready, Texas.

We’re about to be told that same-sex marriage is OK after all in the Lone Star State.

That vote we had to amend the Texas Constitution to say “not just ‘no,’ but ‘hell no!’ to same-sex marriage”? It’s going to be ruled in violation of the other Constitution, the federal document that governs all Americans. You see, it has an amendment that guarantees “equal protection under the laws” for all U.S. citizens. It doesn’t say just for those who want to marry those of the opposite sex; it means all, period.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/02/12/light-alabama-plaintiffs-tx-ask-relief/

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an effort to overturn a lower-court ruling involving this issue in Alabama. That has court-watchers believing that other states whose same-sex marriage laws are in limbo at the moment now will be informed that, yes, they also must allow same-sex couples to get married.

One of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said publicly that all Americans had better get used to the idea of same-sex marriage becoming legal in this country.

I remain somewhat conflicted on this issue. I dislike using the term “marriage” to define same-sex relationships. Being an old-fashioned kind of fellow, I remain a bit reluctant to climb on board fully. That all said, I do understand what the federal Constitution’s 14th Amendment says about equal protection.

Therefore, I believe it should be legalized purely on the grounds that the Founders understood that all citizens need certain guarantees written into the nation’s governing framework.

Texas remains one of 50 states, all of which are subject to federal law. Thus, we’d better prepare ourselves for the inevitable change in the way we view marriage.

 

 

Gay marriage on its way … to Texas?

Do you ever feel as though you’re swimming against a tide that keeps getting stronger while it sucks the energy out of your efforts to fight it?

That’s how I’m feeling with this gay marriage issue.

I’m still grappling with the notion that it’s all right for people of the same sex to marry each other. I’m a traditionalist and my own values make it hard for me to embrace the idea of same-sex marriage as being the same as the marriage I have enjoyed for the past 43-plus years.

OK, I’ve laid down that marker.

I also understand what the law says, what’s in the U.S. Constitution and how all Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law. Thus, it appears that states’ bans on gay marriage appear doomed.

That notion I will accept.

Florida has just begun allowing same-sex couples to marry. Federal judges — those damn “unelected judges,” in the eyes of conservatives — keep overturning state bans on same-sex marriage. A federal judge in Texas has ruled that our state’s ban — written into the Texas Constitution — violates the federal Constitution’s equal protection clause stated in the 14th Amendment. It grants full rights of citizenship to anyone born in the United States with zero regard to that people’s sexual orientation.

All of this makes perfect sense to me. If the states are governed by a federal framework — the Constitution — then the states are obligated to obey the rules set down within that framework.

Does any of this mean that all Americans must embrace the idea of same-sex partners getting married? Honestly, no.

All it means to me is that the law is the law and that states cannot impose their own laws that supersede the Constitution of the United States of America.

That includes bans on same-sex marriage.

I can feel that tide of political and cultural change getting stronger all the time.

 

Same-sex marriage is legal

Same-sex marriage is more constitutional than states’ bans against it.

Court after court has ruled as such. The blog post attached to this item wonders why Texas’s attorney general can’t bring himself to recognize the inevitable trend that’s going to make it legal in Texas.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/modern-world

Greg Abbott is likely to become the state’s next governor. As attorney general, he is obligated to defend what the federal judiciary is saying is indefensible: the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The courts are tossing out states’ bans — including the one in Texas — because the bans violate the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal protection under the law clause.

The state likely won’t win its appeal on that basis. It will try, though, to persuade federal judges that Texas’s ban is constitutional.

I still struggle a bit with the notion of same-sex marriage. I agree that devoted same-sex couples are entitled to all legal rights as straight couples. Marriage? That particular terminology still bothers me.

The more I hear about courts striking down these bans, the more I am convinced nonetheless that same-sex marriage is more constitutional than the state laws that prevent it.

Paul Burka, the Texas Monthly blogger, wonders why Texas can’t join the 21st century. If the courts keep ruling as they have done, that day might be forced on Texas — and not a moment too soon.

Same-sex marriage debate gets weird

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has just put forward one of the more, um, interesting arguments opposing same-sex marriage.

It’s noted in a blog posted by Dallas Morning News editorial writer/blogger Jim Mitchell. It quotes a legal brief filed by the AG in defense of Texas’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“Because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does,” the brief reads. “That is enough to supply a rational basis for Texas’s marriage laws.”

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/07/ag-greg-abbott-texas-opposes-gay-marriage-because-the-state-has-an-interest-in-procreation.html/

How about that?

As Mitchell notes correctly, this comes from an individual — Abbott — who proclaims to be opposed to government overreach into people’s private lives. Now he argues that he wants to preserve marriage for the purpose of allowing straight couples to produce children.

Intriguing, yes?

Well, I think so.

I get that same-sex couples cannot produce children the old-fashioned way. I also get that same-sex couples are quite capable of rearing children in loving homes, that they can promote “family values” and be caring partners to each other and set perfectly legitimate examples of fidelity to their children to emulate.

So, I am not sure I quite get Abbott’s reasoning as he argues against a federal judge’s declaration that the Texas constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the laws of the land.

Mitchell adds: “The state has no role in procreation. That’s a slippery slope that conservative and liberals should find common ground. You can’t argue in favor of getting the government out of the lives of consenting adults and then turn around and claim that the state wants more children.”

Do you think this might become a campaign issue as Abbott seeks to become the next governor of Texas? I’ll say “yes.”