Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Might there be a judicial election reform on tap?

Readers of this blog are aware of this fundamental truth: I detest, hate, loathe the way we elect judges in Texas.

We elect them at every level on partisan ballots. The system stinks. It has resulted in good judges being tossed out of office only because they belong to the party that isn’t in power in the moment. Republican or Democrat. It doesn’t matter. The partisan election of judges sucks out loud, man!

There might be a change in the works. A legislative effort is underway to study how to bring a needed change. It is running into a major roadblock in the form of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate.

According to the Texas Tribune, Patrick is “skeptical” of potential changes in the way we choose our judges. He said something about Texans preferring to elect their judges. Well, duh! I get that. I am not totally on board with an appointment system. I want at the very least to see an election system that allows judges to run on non-partisan ballots.

A former state senator, Republican Bob Duncan, has been a longtime champion for reforming the election system. The Legislature has created a commission to study ways to repair the system. Duncan agrees with Patrick that there needs to be total buy-in if there’s going to be a change. If only the lieutenant governor would throw his support behind a judicial reform effort; Gov. Greg Abbott already has done so. We’ll have a new House speaker in the next session and my hope is that he or she will sign on, too.

I keep asking: What is the difference between Republican justice and Democratic justice? I cannot determine a partisan difference. There are differences in judicial philosophy that have nothing to do with partisan consideration. So why not forces judges to run on their judicial philosophy?

I used to argue for a reform that creates a judicial appointment system; it would require judges to run for “retention.” I don’t think that will happen in Texas. I am going to hold out some hope that Texas can find a way to change the judicial election system from a purely partisan effort to a non-partisan system.

It makes sense and in my view is going to deliver a better quality of judges who adjudicate justice on behalf of all of us.

Texas won’t take refugees? Shameful decision!

Critics of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are understandably outraged over a decision by the state.

Abbott has decided that Texas will not participate in a federal refugee resettlement program, which around 40 other governors — from both political parties — have agreed to do.

I am profoundly disappointed in Gov. Abbott’s decision to opt out of the resettlement effort.

By definition, refugees are those who are fleeing terrible living conditions. They seek to enter the United States because, for varying reasons, they fear for their well-being in their native countries.

Many of those on the far right declare fealty to their religious faith. They are chiefly Christians who adhere to the Jesus Christ’s teachings.

Sigh.

I cannot find a single New Testament passage that suggests Jesus would approve of any effort to turn away the dispossessed, the downtrodden, those who are fleeing repression.

According to the Texas Tribune: Abbott said the state and nonprofit organizations should concentrate resources on those already here, according to a letter the governor sent to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This is not the action of a compassionate government with leaders who proclaim themselves as caring about their fellow human beings.

Bonnen broke the law, but let’s not prosecute him

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This blog post was published initially on the KETR-FM website.

I guess the verdict is in on Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s secret meeting with a right-wing activist.

The speaker likely broke a campaign finance law when he met with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, offered up the names of 10 fellow Republican legislators that Empower Texans could try to defeat in the 2020 election and then offered the right-wing PAC a media pass, giving the PAC immediate access to House members working on the floor of the chamber.

The House General Investigating Committee issued the report, then closed its investigation.

What should happen now? My hope – and it’s just me speaking for myself – is that Bonnen can retire quietly at the end of next year and disappear into the tall grass, never to be seen or heard from again in public life. There need not be a criminal investigation.

General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer, a Dallas Republican, suggested that the report precludes any criminal investigation, even though Bonnen likely broke the law.

According to the Texas Tribune: Bonnen “likely violated” a section of the Texas Government Code, according to Meyer, who was reading from the report … — but advisers in the report said the law provided no “independent statutory consequences” for a state official who breaches it.

That section states that a state officer or employee should not “accept or solicit any gift, favor or service that might reasonably tend to influence the officer or employee in the discharge of official duties, or that the officer or employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence the officer’s or employee’s official conduct.

I get all that. Here’s the deal, though: Bonnen took a lot of political heat and pushback from his fellow Republicans, about 30 of whom demanded he resign the House speakership. He at first denied the meeting with Sullivan. Then Sullivan produced a recording of the meeting. He outed Bonnen, who then announced he wouldn’t seek re-election to his House seat in Angleton in 2020.

Good riddance! That ought to be enough of a punishment for the speaker who double-crossed his supposed allies in the Texas House of Representatives.

As the saying goes: This case is closed. Let’s move on and let the next Texas House of Representatives select a speaker who will remain faithful to any pledge he or she makes to work with his colleagues and avoid stabbing them in the back.

Will ‘Texodus’ cause loss of clout in Congress? Uhh, yes, it will

A headline in the Texas Tribune asks a question that borders on the preposterous.

“As experienced Texan congressmen retire, will the states’ sway in Congress decline?”

I have the answer: Yes. It will decline.

Both congressional chambers rely heavily on seniority. The more senior the members of the House and Senate, the more powerful committee assignments they get. They ascend to chairmanships or, if they’re in the House, they sit as “ranking members” of the minority party; a ranking member is deemed to be the senior member of the party that doesn’t control the chairmanship.

My former congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, is retiring at the end of next year; he won’t seek re-election to his umpteenth term in the House. He serves as ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, a panel he chaired until Democrats took control of the House after the 2018 election.

Congressional power ebbs and flows. Texans who worry about such things need not fret over Texas’s loss of clout in the House. Indeed, if the state is turning into more of a “swing state,” Texas Democrats might find themselves elevated to positions of power formerly occupied by their Republican colleagues.

For the time being, though, the retirements of six Texas members of Congress does create a dwindling clout for the state on Capitol Hill.

However, it is likely far from a terminal ailment.

Texas House speaker is playing a weird game with colleagues

Talk about doing an end-around …

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who’s under fire over a weird conversation he had with a fiery right-wing activist, has squandered the trust of his Republican House colleagues. He could just resign the speakership, but no-o-o. He decided to ask his colleagues to draft a resolution calling for him to quit.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, made an emotional speech Friday to his colleagues, apologizing for tossing several of them under the proverbial bus. His colleagues, though, decided against the resolution because House rules — not to mention the Texas Constitution — require them to be in active legislative session to remove a speaker from office.

Good grief, man. Just quit your speakership! At the very least, just announce you won’t seek the speakership for the 2021 Legislature.

Bonnen took part in a meeting in June with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who recorded the meeting he had with Bonnen and with former Texas House GOP chair Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. Bonnen offered Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election. He also offered to grant Empower Texans media credentials, which means House floor access to lawmakers.

Bonnen had tried to deny what he said. Then he apologized for saying mean things about his colleagues. Now we have heard the conversation. Sullivan had it right.

The Friday meeting was a tense affair, according to the Texas Tribune. House GOP members have condemned in strong language what Bonnen told Sullivan. They also are angry with Burrows. It is becoming apparent that Bonnen wouldn’t be re-elected as speaker if he decides to seek the office again.

The speaker is seeking to play some kind of weird game of chicken, it seems to me, with his Republican colleagues, several of whom have called for his resignation. He ought to knock it off.

Just submit your resignation or tell your colleagues you won’t run for the Man of the House job next time around.

Right-wing zealot was right about what happened with Speaker Bonnen

I detest the politics of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that seeks to yank the Texas political structure even farther to the right … if that is even possible.

Still, we now know that what Sullivan said about Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — that the speaker was willing to give up 10 House Republicans while granting a political favor for Empower Texans — was correct.

Sullivan released the full text of a recorded conversation he and Bonnen had earlier this year. Bonnen had denied the contents of what Sullivan had alleged; then he kinda/sorta backed off and apologized to House members he insulted.

As the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey reported in his analysis, Bonnen now becomes a potentially vulnerable House speaker: “But that political discussion, as Bonnen calls it, was fraught with underhanded scheming, given Bonnen’s constituents — the other 149 members of the Texas House — everything they need to replace, if that’s what they’d like to do.”

This revelation disappoints me. I had hoped that Bonnen might continue the tradition of moderate leadership set by his immediate predecessor, former GOP state Rep. Joe Straus. Silly me. It now turns out he can be had, as Sullivan’s recording has revealed.

He agreed to give Sullivan the names of 10 Republican lawmakers who Sullivan’s group could target in next year’s election. Empower Texans also would be granted media credentials, giving the PAC access to legislators on the House floor.

If I were a Republican lawmaker — even if my name wasn’t one of those given to Sullivan — I would be, shall we say, really pi**ed off!

Speaker Bonnen appears to have squandered the trust he sought from his GOP caucus in the House.

I won’t predict this will happen, but count me as one Texas resident who wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Texas House finds a new speaker in January 2021.

Sen. Cruz is breaking his silence on Trump and election interference

What do you know about this?

Ted Cruz, who I dislike intensely in his role as the junior U.S. senator from Texas, is speaking out — finally! — on this matter of election interference from foreign governments.

Cruz, the Republican firebrand who nearly lost his seat in 2018, now says that foreign governments have no place in our nation’s electoral system. None, man! He has been critical of Donald Trump’s asking for electoral help from China and Ukraine.

According to the Texas TribuneDuring an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cruz said no foreign government should be involved in American elections.

“That’s true for all of them,” he told moderator Margaret Brennan. “It should be the American people deciding elections.”

OK, so he hasn’t yet declared that Donald Trump needs to get booted out of office because of his solicitation of help from foreign governments. However, his statement — in my view — marks an important turning point in GOP reticence regarding the president’s current difficulties.

Trump is facing increasingly probable impeachment by the House of Representatives over issues relating to foreign interference in our elections. Cruz isn’t likely to join his Democratic colleagues in calling for Trump’s impeachment, conviction and ouster. However, at least The Cruz Missile is standing on an important principle that has been lost on the president.

What’s more, Cruz told Face the Nation that Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in connection with reports that the former New York City mayor met with Ukrainian officials about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Is the senator signaling a turn against a president — who he once called a “sniveling coward” and an “amoral” narcissist who is unfit for the presidency?

I won’t bet the mortgage on it. Then again … stranger events have occurred.

That’s why they’re called ‘exploratory committees’

What do you know about this? Texas state Sen. Pat Fallon, a Republican from Prosper, has decided against running for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

He had formed an exploratory committee to, um, explore the possibilities of challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the GOP primary.

He’s decided to stay in the Texas Senate and not expose his wife and young sons to the rigors of trying to pull Sen. Cornyn even farther to the right.

It’s a smart move, Sen. Fallon.

For starters, Sen. Cornyn is pretty far right already. He is a reliable opponent of gun control measures, of abortion rights, of the Affordable Care Act. That’s just three issues.

Trust me on this: Pat Fallon didn’t need to seek to make Texas’s senior U.S. senator even more conservative. So he’ll forgo a race against Cornyn.

It just goes to show that these efforts occasionally produce the kind of result that Pat Fallon has found. It’s why they’re called “exploratory committees.”

Two GOP ‘allies’ now at each other’s throats

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and right-wing activist Michael Quinn Sullivan are having a major spat these days.

They’re blaming each other for “destroying” the Republican Party.

Hmm. Which one is guilty as charged? Well, I’ll and cast my lot with the lieutenant governor, who has taken on the National Rifle Association in seeking increased background checks on firearm purchases. Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, opposes Patrick’s position on gun control.

Thus, I am siding with Patrick.

The gun argument is just part of it. Patrick is angry with Sullivan’s role in the matter involving Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and former Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock.

Sullivan says he has recordings of Bonnen offering him the names of 10 House Republicans that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election in exchange for press credentials on the House floor. Bonnen denies it all. Sullivan isn’t releasing the full recorded conversation.

Patrick is siding with Bonnen.

The fight is on.

Both men say the other guy is hurting the Republican Party. Frankly, I don’t care much about the future of GOP, although I would prefer to see a more reasonable party than the one that has emerged in Texas. Patrick is part of the right-wing emergence of the GOP.

As for Sullivan, he and Patrick have been allies in the past.

Now, though, they are fighting over gun control and that weird conversation that allegedly occurred between Sullivan and Bonnen.

The two men have been sparring via Twitter. I would prefer they speak to each other face to face, man to man, fruitcake to fruitcake. Instead, they choose the social medium to fire insults at each other. Childish? Yes! Effective? Not really.

I detest both men. Of the two, though, I detest Sullivan more. Empower Texans has gotten involved too deeply in local politics, seeking to influence local political races, seeking to seat men and women who ascribe to the political action committee’s far-right-wing agenda. They went after two friends of mine in the Texas Panhandle in 2018: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo, two mainstream Republicans and two damn fine legislators who represent the Texas Panhandle with honor and distinction.

They seek to handpick local representatives who put Empower Texans’ needs above those of their constituents back home. That entire strategy is offensive to the max.

But … keep fighting Lt. Gov. Patrick and Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Castro launches cheap shot at Biden

You may count me as one of those Americans who gasped just a tad tonight when Julian Castro seemed to launch an ageist attack against Joe Biden.

The two men were part of a 10-candidate Democratic presidential candidate joint appearance tonight in Houston.

The former vice president, Biden, sought to make a point about “Medicare for all.” He opposes a plan pitched by opponents Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He said he supported a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which gave Americans a chance to “buy in” to insurance plans provided by the ACA.

Castro then launched a verbal barrage, accusing the former VP of “forgetting” what he just said. He said several times in just a few seconds that Biden “forgot” something he said only moments earlier. The audience at the Texas Southern University hall gasped audibly.

I have to say I thought the moment revealed an ugly side of the former Housing secretary and former San Antonio mayor.

Moreover, he misrepresented what Biden actually said … which makes his attack even worse.

Ageism has no place

I don’t know who won this encounter. They all seemed to score sufficient points arguing with each other at times. However, Julian Castro’s baseless barrage appears to have been the lowest point that any of the candidates suffered.

Too bad.