Category Archives: State news

Summer might be as nasty as winter

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Goodness, I wasn’t ready to hear about this predicament from the folks who manage our electric grid.

Our summer might be as miserable as the winter we endured in North Texas and throughout the rest of the state. That is, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — our electrical grid managers — might suffer more power outages on the scale of what occurred when the snow and ice ravaged us.

Hmm. How “reliable” is that? Not very.

The Texas Tribune reports: “This summer, I am as worried right now [about the grid] as I was coming into this winter,” said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp., an Irving-based power company. “Sounds like I’m the boy that cries wolf, but I’m not. I’ve seen this stuff repeat itself. We can have the same event happen if we don’t fix this.”

More from the Tribune: As state lawmakers continue debating how to improve the grid after February’s storm nearly caused its collapse, on Tuesday Texans were asked to conserve electricity because the supply of power could barely keep up with demand. A significant chunk of the grid’s power plants were offline due to maintenance this week, some a result of damage from the winter storm.

ERCOT messed up royally in February with the way it shut down power supply while temperatures hovered at zero or below. Millions of us lost power and water. It’s not as though Texas is a total stranger to this kind of winter savagery. Still, power plants froze; they weren’t properly winterized. Natural gas lines were rendered inoperable.

Texas could face ERCOT power crisis, blackouts during extreme summer heat | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature is meeting at this moment seeking to strengthen the grid. Its regular session ends on May 31. Legislators will need to return in special session if they don’t have a grid repair strategy on the books. They had better prepare for a long and tiring summer of work on our behalf if they can’t get it done when they gavel the regular session adjourned.

It looks as though whatever the Legislature comes with must include a plan to deal with our long, hot summer.

ERCOT’s warning about potential power outages brought about expressions of anger across the state, the Tribune reported: The warning triggered a torrent of outrage from residents and political leaders across the state who questioned why the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid, allowed it to come so close to emergency conditions on a relatively mild spring day. “I appreciate the increased effort toward transparency, but wow this is nervewracking to see in April,” state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, tweeted Tuesday.

C’mon, ERCOT. None of us wants to see a repeat while we are sweltering of what happened when we were freezing.

George P. might run for AG? Yes!

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush says the state’s attorney general must be “approve reproach.”

So … with that the nephew and grandson of two presidents has declared for all the world that he is giving serious thought to running to become the state’s next top legal eagle.

I cannot attest to the kind of lawyer George P. Bush has been over the years. However, I believe I can speak to the seriously damaged reputation of the current AG, Ken Paxton, who is facing a pending criminal trial in state court on allegations of securities fraud and is under investigation by the FBI over a whistleblower complaint brought by several of his former top legal assistants.

Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the grandson of the late President George H.W. Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush.

I saw P. once in person at the 1992 GOP presidential nominating convention in Houston when, as a teenager, he brought the house down with his exhortation of “viva Boosh!” while speaking on behalf of his “Gampy,” the 41st president of the United States. It was Bush 41, you’ll recall, who famously referred to Jeb’s children as “the little brown ones,” given that their mother, Columba, is of Mexican descent.

George P. Bush says he may primary Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton | The Texas Tribune

Paxton needs to quit. I’ve said so already on this blog. The securities fraud allegation — resulting in a Collin County grand jury indictment — is bad enough. Then came the resignations and firing of several key Paxton legal assistants who blew the whistle on their boss, alleging that he is partaking in illegal activities while serving as AG; one of the allegations involves bribery, for God’s sake!

I have been frustrated beyond belief that Texans actually saw fit to re-elect Paxton, who was indicted for securities fraud in his first term as AG. Then, perhaps emboldened by his re-election in 2018, Paxton decides to sue several states where voters cast most of their ballots for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court tossed Paxton’s lawsuit aside, saying the Texas AG didn’t have jurisdiction in telling another state how to conduct its election.

Put another way, the highest court in the land told Paxton to butt the hell out!

I am, therefore, going to applaud the notion that George P. Bush wants to challenge Paxton in the 2022 Republican Party primary for Texas attorney general. I have had enough of Paxton’s dirtiness in an office that demands its occupant be above reproach.

Gov. Abbott needs to settle down

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Did I read this right?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is so angry with President Biden that he is banning state agencies from issuing vaccine passports to prove Texans have been vaccinated against the killer virus. Is that right?

What in the world has gotten into the governor? Oh, I forgot. The pandemic has become a political talking point, with Republicans (such as Abbott) staking our positions that differ from Democrats (such as Joe Biden).

Oh, but the governor’s executive order dovetails off a popular GOP mantra, that the vaccine passports infringe on Americans’ personal liberty. Hey, what about the consequences of Americans infecting their fellow Americans? The documents are intended to provide proof that we have received both vaccine shots.

Spoiler alert: My wife and I are fully vaccinated and if the government wants to issue us a document that forces us to prove it, I have no problem at all with it. You got that?

The Texas Tribune reports: A handful of GOP-backed bills have been introduced in states across the U.S. aiming to restrict entities from requiring vaccines for their employees, including in Texas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also prohibited state agencies from using vaccine passports but went a step further and said no business can require their customers to display them.

… “Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a video announcing the executive order. “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal health information just to go about their daily lives. That is why I have issued an executive order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas. We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health — and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bans state agencies from requiring “vaccine passports” | The Texas Tribune

Vaccine passports aren’t intrusive. They help safeguard communities that have been ravaged by a disease that continues to kill too many of us.

Greg Abbott ought to get over his anger at Joe Biden. We’re all fighting the same enemy.

 

Texas AG just can’t stop demagoguing border issue

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas’s twice-indicted attorney general has become a major-league demagogue regarding what is happening along our state’s border with Mexico.

Ken Paxton told Fox News today that “open borders” are costing the state billions of bucks each year.

There. It’s plain and simple, according to Paxton.

Ken Paxton: Open borders costing Texas billions of dollars (msn.com)

Except that the Texas AG is lying.

The border is not “open,” as he keeps suggesting to friendly media questioners who don’t have the nerve to question him.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has declared that our southern border is closed. I acknowledge that such a declaration hasn’t stopped the flood of immigrants coming into the country. The difference between the Biden administration and the Trump administration is that President Biden isn’t ordering the youngsters among the migrants to be turned back without their parents.

Many of them are being housed as we sit here in North Texas. Many more are expected.

I also will acknowledge that President Biden has a “crisis” on his hands, even though he refuses to call it such.

But … are the borders “open” in the manner that Ken Paxton and others on the right are suggesting? No. They are not!

As for Paxton, he is still awaiting trial on securities fraud allegations and he still is awaiting the outcome of a federal investigation into whether he took bribes while doing his duty as the state’s top law enforcement official. 

For the Texas AG to deflect attention from his own trouble is, shall we say, yet another disgrace.

Hey, Beto … you gonna run?

Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/AP/REX/Shutterstock 

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, Beto, Beto, Beto!

The young former West Texas Democratic congressman had to walk back something he said out loud, in public, to a TV reporter.

He said he didn’t plan to run for Texas governor in 2022. Then his office called the Texas Tribune to say … oops! “What I said today is what I’ve been saying for months: I’m not currently considering a run for office,” Beto O’Rourke said in a statement. “I’m focused on what I’m doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing’s changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future.”

Don’t you just hate it when politicians say something and then tell you what they meant to say?

According to the Texas Tribune: “I’ve got no plans to run, and I’m very focused on the things that I’m lucky enough to do right now — organizing, registering voters and teaching,” O’Rourke said on NBC DFW’s “Lone Star Politics,” which will air Sunday. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

Beto O’Rourke clarifies running for governor still on the table | The Texas Tribune

Sure. I get it. He is “focused” on whatever he is doing at this moment. None of that precludes him getting focused at the next moment on something else, such as running for governor.

I happen to believe Beto O’Rourke is going to run for governor. I believe he should run. I also believe a Beto win over Gov. Greg Abbott would slam-dunk any chance of Abbott seeking the presidency in 2024.

Those are my hopes. I just want Beto O’Rourke to stop telling us what he means to say.

Rep. Slaton makes early impact

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, brother.

I commented earlier on this blog about my respect for Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican whom Texas Monthly has identified as one of seven legislators to watch during the current Texas Legislature.

Well, TM also has ID’d a bold, brash and bodacious freshman lawmaker, a young man I know only casually, but who is — shall we say — also worth watching for an entirely different set of reasons.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton is another Republican. He hails from Royse City, just a bit east-southeast of where I now live. TM calls him The Fearless Freshman. Why? He is unafraid to make a name for himself for reasons that run quite counter to my own political world view.

Slaton got elected this past year, defeating longtime fellow conservative state Rep. Dan Flynn. I was aghast that he would run “to the right” of Flynn, but he did.

What does the young man do when he arrives in Austin for the start of the Legislature? He pitches a bill that would criminalize the act of a woman obtaining an abortion; she would, in Flynn’s eyes, be guilty of “murder” and would be subject to the state’s death penalty if she is tried and convicted of murder.

Texas Monthly wrote this about Slaton: A principled hard-right conservative and Gen Xer, Slaton is stepping into the void left by former representative Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican who made his reputation as a troublemaker and thorn in the side of his party’s establishment. Slaton says he is focused on advancing social-conservative priorities, including eliminating abortion (by passing a law declaring the Roe v. Wade unconstitutional) and protecting historical monuments (by requiring a two-thirds vote to remove one of, say, a Confederate general, from a state university). 

Seven Texas Lawmakers to Watch – Texas Monthly

He also seems to believe that Texas can secede — again! — from the United States of America. Hasn’t anyone told him (a) that secession is illegal and (b) that the first time Texas did it in 1861, it didn’t work out well for Texas — or for the rest of the Confederate States of America?

My only visit with Slaton was over the phone. We had a cordial conversation. I was working on a story I wrote for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. I hope to be able to talk to him in the future as needs arise.

However, I must be candid. If he flies off the rails and starts yapping about secession, or protecting monuments honoring Confederate traitors or sentencing women in trouble to the death chamber, well … it could get ugly. In a big hurry.

Texas joins Jim Crow cabal of states … sad

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas aims to join a cabal of states aiming to roll back voting opportunities under the guise of protecting the electoral system against the phony allegation of widespread voter fraud.

President Biden has labeled the effort signed into law in Georgia as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” He could hurl the same epithet over this way in Texas.

Senate Bill 7 seeks to prohibit drive-through voting, seeks to limit the number of polling places, seeks to prohibit officials from asking voters fill out applications to vote by mail — even if they qualify.

What is going on here? I think I know. We have a Republican-led legislative effort aimed at retaining GOP power in state government for as long as they can despite the seemingly inexorable shift in the demographic makeup in Texas, which is becoming what has been called a “majority minority” state.

Quite soon, ethnic and racial minorities will comprise a majority of the state’s voting population. Those voters — big surprise! — tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. Thus, we are witnessing this effort to head off the shift in power.

The Texas Tribune reports:

SB 7, which was offered under the banner of “election integrity,” sailed out of the Republican-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the full Senate. The bill is a significant piece in a broader legislative effort by Texas Republicans this year to enact sweeping changes to elections in the state that would scale up already restrictive election rules.

In presenting the bill to the committee on Friday, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes described the legislation as an effort to strike a balance between “maintaining fair and honest elections with the opportunity to exercise one’s right to vote.”

But the bill was met with a chorus of opposition. Advocates for people with disabilities and voting rights tagged the proof of disability requirement as harmful and potentially unlawful. The bill was also widely panned as detrimental to local efforts that would widen access to voting, particularly extended early voting hours and drive-thru voting offered in Harris County in November.

Texas Republicans’ bill to tighten voting rules gets Senate committee OK | The Texas Tribune

This is an insidious trend that bodes grim news for the future of the state if it is allowed to continue.

Reapportionment: Here we go again

(By Michael Schumacher)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The late Teel Bivins was a Republican state senator from Amarillo, Texas, who served in the Legislature from 1989 until 2004, when he got a job as U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

Bivins told me once that he hated the task of redrawing congressional and legislative district lines. He then offered a quip that I never thought to ask what he meant by it. Reapportionment, he said, was a way to “give Republicans a chance to eat their young.”

I scratched me noggin at the time, not quite understanding what Bivins meant by that. He did say he detested the task that fell to legislators to do the job, although he never offered an alternative. Indeed, the Texas Legislature has balked repeatedly on any effort to amend the way it redraws those boundaries.

I happen to like the idea of letting non-politicians do it. The governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker could select a non-partisan commission to do the task every 10 years after they take the census.

The Legislature, though, is going to start the task once more soon. The census will be finalized in about a month and the Legislature will have divide the state into roughly  38 congressional districts; Texas is expected to gain two seats, given its population growth. They all have to be of roughly the same population, which I figure will be about 700,000 people. The Legislature also will redraw its 31 Senate and 150 House seats. That’s where it gets tricky, because the state doesn’t expand the number of legislators, but must spread the population more or less equally among them.

Republicans control the Legislature. I am dead certain that the GOP pols who run the show in Austin are going to be driven to achieve one goal: to keep their power.

The state is changing before our eyes. Yes, it’s still Republican red, but its redness isn’t nearly as vivid as it has been in recent election cycles. Donald Trump won the state in 2020 by less than 6 percent; he defeated Hillary Clinton by 9 points in 2016; Mitt Romney won by a margin of 16  points in 2012; John McCain won it by roughly 11 percent in 2008.

Texas is turning slowly but inexorably into a more “purple” state.

All of this tells me that Teel Bivins’s quip about Republicans “eating their young” makes even less sense now than when he uttered it. However, the changing political demographics of this state tells me the need for reapportionment reform is more critical than ever.

‘Jim Crow in the 21st century’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden has shucked the gloves and donned the brass knuckles to use against Republican Party efforts to suppress voter turnout.

Biden is taking particular umbrage at laws enacted in Georgia and signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that seeks to restrict voter access to the ballot. Imagine that, if you dare.

One of the more odious aspects of the law is something that utterly boggles my noggin. It makes it a crime — a crime! — to give a voter food or refreshment while he or she is waiting in line to cast a ballot.

President Biden has described the law as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” I happen to agree with him.

Gov. Kemp is pushing back, not surprisingly.

Kemp in a statement shared with The Hill said the legislation he signed into law Thursday “expands voting access, streamlines vote-counting procedures, and ensures election integrity.”

“There is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot – every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person,” he continued.

Kemp fires back at Biden: Nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about Georgia law | TheHill

I don’t have a particular problem with requiring a photo ID to vote. I do have a serious problem with restrictions on early voting, or reducing the number of polling places.

Is it a revision of “Jim Crow,” which is how President Biden describes it? So help me, it looks that way!

It is striking that the Georgia legislature would enact such restrictions immediately after Democrats captured two U.S. Senate seats; one of those Democrats, I hasten to add, happens to be an African-American, Raphael Warnock. Coincidence? As they say: In politics, there is no such thing as coincidence.

Georgia, sadly, isn’t alone. Texas legislators are in the midst of enacting equally restrictive voting laws, not to mention getting ready to redraw congressional boundaries in ways that favor electing Republicans.

President Biden happens in my view to call it correctly with regard to what Georgia is trying to enact.

Let the battle rage on!

What is Texas AG hiding?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What in the name of full transparency is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton hiding from the public he took an oath to serve?

This guy is beginning to redefine the term “slime bucket” by refusing to release the text of emails he sent and received while attending a rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection against the federal government.

The Texas Tribune reports:

Several news organizations in Texas have requested copies of the attorney general’s work-related communications. The Texas Public Information Act guarantees the public’s right to government records — even if those records are stored on personal devices or online accounts of public officials.

After Paxton’s office refused to release copies of his emails and text messages, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, The Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, and The San Antonio Express-News are working together in an effort to obtain the documents and review Paxton’s open-records practices.

Ken Paxton refuses to release messages about attendance at pro-Trump rally | The Texas Tribune

Paxton attended the rally on The Ellipse, the one in which Donald J. Trump exhorted the mob to march on the Capitol Building and “take back” the government. You know what happened next, right?

Paxton was among the attendees. News organizations want to know what in the world he was doing there, what he said, what was said to him, whether he was a principal in the effort to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States.

Paxton already has slimed his office. He is under indictment for securities fraud and is awaiting trial. The feds are examining a whistleblower complaint that he allegedly broke the law as attorney general of Texas. He filed that laughable lawsuit that sought other states to overturn their election results that helped elect Biden as president.

Now he is stonewalling media representatives seeking access to records to which they public is entitled.

What is he hiding? Hmm?