Tag Archives: Kel Seliger

Sen. Seliger takes aim at veto power

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Kel Seliger already has antagonized Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Now he has drawn a bead (so to speak) on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The Amarillo Republican state senator has filed a bill that seeks to overrule the governor’s line-item veto power.

According to Amarillo Matters, a political action committee based in the Texas Panhandle: Senator Kel Seliger filed a bill to remove Governor Greg Abbott’s line-item veto power. The move comes after Abbott used his Executive Power to veto Article X of the State’s budget, which includes funding for House and Senate lawmakers, their staffers, and those working in nonpartisan legislative agencies. In a tweet, Seliger said, “Out of frustration, the Governor vetoed all funding for the Legislative Branch because Democrats broke quorum. But, vetoing this funding doesn’t punish legislators who left. It punishes regular, hard-working folks who have nothing to do with voting for or against bills.”  

My hunch is that Seliger isn’t going to align with legislative Democrats in their dispute with the GOP over voting restrictions proposed in legislation. Democrats bolted the Legislature to deny the quorum required to enact legislation.

However, Seliger is correct in identifying Abbott’s motives and his hideous overreaction to what Texas legislative Democrats did. He isn’t punishing Democratic politicians. Abbott is taking his anger out on the hard-working staffers who have done nothing to incur the governor’s wrath.

Nut jobs winning the gun debate

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well, I’ll be deep fried and dipped in corn meal.

The nut job cabal within the Texas Legislature appears to be winning the debate over whether to allow Texans to pack heat without requiring a state-issued permit to do so.

What in the world is happening to us? Do we really believe — as most Republicans in the Legislature believe — that more guns on the streets make us safer? Eek, man!

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who once expressed concern about such a notion, now appears set to push it through. He needs 18 state senators to get it to the floor for consideration and, presumably, enactment. Eighteen Republicans are serving in the Texas Senate. One of them, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, had balked at endorsing the permit-less carry bill. Not to worry, though, Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio might be the 18th senator to sign on to the bill and send it to the floor.

So help me, this notion gives me the heebie-jeebies. I was not a fan of concealed carry legislation when it was enacted in the 1990s. I have grown to accept it as sufficient.

Constitutional carry bill advancing in Texas Senate, Dan Patrick says | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports on potential changes to the bill that make it palatable to law enforcement, which so far has stood against its enactment:

Count me as one Texan who remains unconvinced this is a good idea.

New feud brewing in Texas Senate?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Even though I am far removed from state and local politics these days by virtue of my retirement from full-time journalism, I do maintain a fairly high level of interest in the goings-on.

Such as what might be brewing in Austin between Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a longtime nemesis, Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

I’ll stipulate up front that I have declared my pro-Seliger bias. I know the senator quite well and I consider him a friend. He and Patrick have butted noggins already in previous legislative sessions. Patrick has sought to punish Seliger for allegedly “insulting” a key aide of Patrick’s. My reading of Seliger’s response has been it’s rolled off his broad back.

Now, though, comes this nutty legislation that might get stalled in the Senate. It’s the one that would allow any Texan who lives to pack a firearm even without obtaining a state-issued permit under the state’s concealed-carry law. Seliger thinks the current system works just fine and hasn’t signed on to the bill already approved by the House of Representatives.

Patrick, meanwhile, says he’ll move the bill forward once it obtains the required 18-vote majority it requires under Senate rules; Seliger’s holdout leaves the bill one vote short before it can be taken up by the full Senate.

Seliger is leaving open the possibility that he could be persuaded to support the bill. I hope he stands firm. It’s not that I want Patrick to punish him some more. Indeed, there’s little more that Patrick can do to Seliger above what he’s done already, which was to strip him of committee chairmanships and reassign him from some of the higher profile Senate panels on which he served.

I dislike the proposed legislation. No … I hate it!

With that, I will implore my friend to stand firm. Be strong.

Stand firm, Sen. Seliger

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, I do hope a certain state senator reads this blog, as I intend to encourage him to stand firm against a blatantly reckless piece of legislation.

Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, a longtime friend of mine, is digging in against a bill that would, if approved, allow any Texan to pack heat even without a permit.

It’s a bit complicated. Texas Senate rules require 18 votes to consider a bill for a floor debate. That means all Republicans need to endorse the legislation. Seliger is balking.

The Texas Tribune reported: On Friday afternoon, one key GOP senator, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, suggested he may not be immediately supportive of the proposal. He told The Texas Tribune that his office was still researching the issue and he tends to support “just about all” bills related to gun rights, but the “system that we have now works.” He said it was too early to say whether he would block the bill from coming to the floor or vote against it if it made it to the floor.

Texas constitutional carry lacks the votes in Senate, Dan Patrick says | The Texas Tribune

The system “we have now” requires anyone who takes a brief course on firearm safety and operation and then passes a background check can carry a handgun concealed on his or her person. Yeah, the current system works well. What the Legislature is considering — and which the House already has approved — is a bill to allow anyone to carry a gun.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said the legislative body lacks the votes to approve the bill, but added that he intends to work to ensure that it makes the grade. That disappoints me, given that in 2017 he expressed concern about the notion of putting guns in the hands of every Texan who wants to carry one.

In a way, though, Seliger’s apparent resistance doesn’t surprise me. Nor would it surprise me if Patrick punishes Seliger in some fashion if the senator digs in for the length of the legislative session. The two men aren’t fond of each other as it is. Hey, I’ll just have to stand with my friend on this one.

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.

Seliger makes a key TM list

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ya gotta hand it to Andrea Zelinski, a writer for Texas Monthly.

She does her homework. Texas Monthly has published a story listing seven Texas legislators to watch in the current session that is set to adjourn at the end of May. One of them is a senator I happen to know pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Zelinski has labeled Seliger “The Swing Vote,” a guy who could tip the balance in either direction on key legislation. And why is that the case? Seliger is a “maverick” in the Senate because, according to Zelinski, he adheres to traditional conservative Republican values. You know, things like local government control at the expense of overreaching state interference.

Amazing, yes? I believe it is.

Seliger served as Amarillo mayor for a decade before being elected to the Senate in 2004. He learned Legislature-speak quickly and became fluent in the jargon that lawmakers use when talking to each other. He also developed plenty of alliances across the aisle, you know, making friends with Democrats. He once told he one of his best friends in the Senate was McAllen Democrat Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, with whom he has worked closely.

Seliger also has crossed swords with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a darling of the TEA Party/Freedom Caucus movement. Seliger spouted off during the 2019 Legislature about one of Patrick’s key aides. So what did Patrick do? He stripped Seliger of his Higher Education Committee chairmanship and removed him from the Education Committee.

Seven Texas Lawmakers to Watch – Texas Monthly

That hasn’t stopped Seliger from exerting his influence among his Senate peers, who I gathered over the years have developed a firm respect for his legislative integrity.

Zelinski writes in TM: Seliger once again might be a crucial swing vote, particularly on policing issues. The 31-member Senate has 18 Republicans, and new Senate rules require bills to receive 18 votes to reach the floor. Both Patrick and Abbott are bent on punishing Austin for reducing funding for its police department, with the governor suggesting that the state freeze property tax revenues of cities that shrink their police budgets. Though Seliger says Austin’s budget reduction in 2020 was “absolutely terrible,” the former mayor adamantly opposes Abbott’s bid to have the state dictate policy in areas traditionally considered the province of city and county governments, calling it “almost Soviet.” “If Greg Abbott wants to be the mayor of Austin, he can do it in a heartbeat and he’d be a very good one,” Seliger told me. “Do we [the Lege] need to go set the speed limit on Austin’s streets? And do we need to determine where stop signs go on Austin’s streets? No, we don’t. That’s what they elect [city officials] for.” 

My goodness, Sen. Seliger is out of control!

That’s OK with me.

Wanting a reform of rules governing legislators becoming lobbyists

While working on a blog entry I happened to call the office of Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo to ask whether the state had clamped down on legislators who seek to become lobbyists.

The answer I got was “no.” The state had not reformed what is commonly called the “revolving door policy” that allows state legislators to become lobbyists for the special interest group of their choice.

In short, someone can walk away from the Legislature and walk directly into a high-paying job as a registered lobbyist.

That rule has to change. It is one of the items I am going to place on my wish list for the 2021 Texas Legislature to enact.

State legislators have built-in access to their former colleagues when they walk away from their public service careers. My memory of legislators with whom I am familiar who then went to work on behalf of special interests is lengthy.

The most notable example is former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center. The Democrat left the Legislature after being muscled out of the speaker’s chair and became an instantaneous lobbyist/big hitter. And who was surprised at that? No one. Laney had a lot of political allies and personal friends on both sides of the aisle. He has been able to parlay those friendships into a healthy post-Legislature career.

Former Republican state Rep. David Swinford is another one. The Dumas lawmaker left the Legislature after the 2009 session and went to work pitching wind farms to his former legislative colleagues.

The rolls are full of those kinds of examples. I harbor no particular ill will toward lobbyists as a general rule; only those who represent special interests that I find repugnant.

Still, the instantaneous advantage former legislators have when they leave elected office and go to work for special interests puts them at a decided advantage over their competitors.

Why not level the field a bit by mandating, say, a two- or three-year waiting period before former legislators can sign up as lobbyists? Is that such a hard task to accomplish? It doesn’t seem so to me.

Just wondering: Was Bonnen set up?

I believe it is fair to wonder about a possible element in the shocking downfall of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

The lame-duck speaker and a right-wing zealot had this conversation in June in which the zealot, Michael Quinn Sullivan, received the names of 10 Republican legislators he could target in the 2020 legislative election.

I do not know Bonnen or Sullivan. I have understood, though, that they are not considered political allies. Therefore, here’s my question:

Did Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, lure Bonnen into a trap that he sprung when he released the recording of the conversation the men had several months ago? The recording went public, Bonnen’s words were revealed to stunned legislators, many of whom called for his resignation; Bonnen then decided he won’t seek re-election in 2020. He is done as speaker of the Texas House.

How in the world did this meeting occur? What kind of politician — other than someone who adheres to the rigid ideology espoused by Empower Texans — make such an agreement?

Bonnen’s decision to step away after the current term has brought some praise from media outlets and politicians who have talked of the speaker’s sense of principle.

Was he snookered somehow by Sullivan? For that matter, why did Sullivan feel the need to record that conversation?

My sense is that a bare-knuckled political operative records conversations surreptitiously for nefarious reasons.

I watched Sullivan’s tactics unfold during a couple of Texas Senate campaigns in the Panhandle over two election cycles. He sought to topple state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. He failed both times by running the same TEA Party-favorite candidate — Mike Canon of Midland — against Seliger. He played rough. So did Canon. Seliger was able to use his considerable knowledge of legislative matters to maximum advantage.

He won the GOP nomination in 2018, even though he also had to run against a third archconservative, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, in the primary.

Seliger calls himself a conservative. He is proud of his conservative voting record and his conservative political views. He just isn’t conservative enough to suit Sullivan.

I am wondering, therefore, if Dennis Bonnen falls into that category and that Sullivan wants a House speaker to emerge from the GOP ranks who follows the same extreme ideology as he does.

As the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen once said, “Politics in Texas is a contact sport.”

Sen. Seliger thrust into middle of national debate

A Texas state legislator, a fellow I know well — and someone I have supported strongly in this blog — finds himself at “ground zero” of the national debate over how to cure the scourge of gun violence.

State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, whose sprawling Texas Senate district covers Odessa in West Texas, has spoken for many Americans while commenting on this latest spasm of violence, which left seven people dead and dozens more injured.

According to the New York Times: “We’re not nearly past El Paso and then here it happens again,” said … Seliger, a Republican whose district includes Odessa and who is a former mayor of Amarillo, a city four hours north of where the attack unfolded. He said the attack forces people into the position of “not thinking to ourselves, ‘If this is going to happen again?’ but when it’s going to happen again.”

Seliger is not one to run from his political alliances, but I am struck at this moment by the TV ad he ran while seeking re-election in 2018; in the ad, he pulls away in his pickup while sporting a National Rifle Association sticker on the truck’s rear window. Yes, Seliger is proud of his NRA membership and I don’t for a moment believe he is going to renounce the organization in the wake of this latest massacre.

Seven people died in the slaughter in Odessa. Police killed the gunman in a fire fight.

I am wondering about the pressure Seliger is going to feel now as a senator representing a community victimized by this latest gun violence tragedy.

Seliger is my friend. I have tremendous personal affection for him; I also respect the service he has performed on behalf of his Senate district.

However, I do not want him to dig in with the NRA’s traditional mantra of keeping hands off of any effort to legislate a potential remedy to this kind of gun violence insanity.

I want this good man to stand strong in favor of working with legislators and members of Congress who ought to look for those legislative remedies and, yes, remain faithful to the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

I truly believe there’s a way to do this.

Empower Texans zealot really makes me angry

I am going to admit something about which I am not very proud.

Whenever I see the name of Michael Quinn Sullivan, my hair tends to stand straight up. Why this guy? He runs an outfit called Empower Texans, a far-right political action committee that tends to interfere in Republican Party primary contests; Empower Texans prefers GOP candidates to adhere to rigid ideology, no matter how effective certain Republican incumbents have been in service to their constituents.

He is now linked to Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Sullivan reportedly recorded a conversation he had with Bonnen in which the speaker allegedly offered to give Sullivan the names of 10 Texas House GOP incumbents who might be ripe for targeting in the 2020 GOP primary election.

Texas Democrats have sued Sullivan and Bonnen, alleging campaign finance law violations connected to that conversation. Democrats also want Sullivan to reveal the full content of what he and Bonnen discussed.

Bring it on

Bonnen is embarrassed. He has apologized to his Republican House colleagues for things he allegedly said to Sullivan about them. He has reached out to House Democrats as well in an effort to rebuild his reputation. Bonnen assumed the speakership at the start of the 2019 Legislature after Joe Straus gave up the speaker’s office at the end of the 2018 election.

But … back to Sullivan.

I haven’t met this man. I know him only by what I’ve seen him and Empower Texans try to do in legislative districts in the Texas Panhandle, where I lived for 23 years while writing about politics and policy as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Empower Texans has tried twice to defeat Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo. They ran a TEA Party candidate against Seliger in 2014. Seliger defeated former Midland Mayor Mike Canon five years ago. Canon ran against Seliger again in 2018, along with a third candidate, Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal. Seliger managed to defeat both challengers in the GOP primary, avoiding a runoff.

I’ve stipulated already that I have strong professional and personal affection for Sen. Seliger. It pi**** me off royally to see Seliger get a primary challenge from the far right wing of his party.

Indeed, Seliger has made no secret that he detests Sullivan. The feeling is quite mutual. Never mind that Seliger is a solid and dependable mainstream conservative Republican lawmaker who talks candidly and fluently about issues throughout the vast Senate district he has represented since 2004.

Sullivan also drew a political bead in 2018 on state Rep. Four Price, another mainstream Amarillo Republican. The Fritch city manager ran against Price in the GOP primary, but got thumped in the process. Price, though, has been much quieter about his feelings about Sullivan. My hunch is that Four Price shares Kel Seliger’s view about the Empower Texans political mogul.

Accordingly, I am hopeful that Texas Democrats can prevail in their lawsuit against Sullivan and against Speaker Bonnen.

Sullivan plays a relentless game of political hardball. This guy needs to get beaned.