Tag Archives: Texas Legislature

Yes, on new animal cruelty law

Animal lovers everywhere should rejoice at this new law that has gone in effect, although some might argue it doesn’t go far enough in punishing those convicted of harming defenseless animals.

The Texas law bans anyone convicted of animal abuse from owning an animal for five years after the first conviction. State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, authored the bill.

How might it be strengthened? Well, the law allows the offender to live in the same house with an animal; that’s a non-starter, for me at least. The five-year ban might be too lax as well, particularly if the offender is convicted of a particularly heinous crime.

The law does contain some provisions to impose against chronic offenders of the prohibition. According to the Texas Tribune: If an offender is found to have an animal during those five years, they could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, or as much as a $500 fine. If the offender is repeatedly in possession of an animal, the charge is raised to a Class B misdemeanor, increasing the possible fine to $2,000 and adding the possibility of up to 180 days in jail.

Texas law bars animal cruelty offenders from owning animals for five years | The Texas Tribune

I am an unabashed lover of animals. I love dogs and cats. I have been a “parent” to both species.  At this moment, I am Daddy to Toby the Puppy and Granddaddy to two kitties, Marlowe and Macy; all of these family members are living with me. I also have two more grandpuppies who live in Allen with my son and his family.

This is a serious law and I am glad to see it on the books. I congratulate Rep. Shaheen for sticking with it through two legislative sessions.

There might be reason down the road to toughen it up. For now, this is a good start in protecting our precious furry friends.

Why do I care about these matters?

It’s time to come clean on something, which is part of this journey I have been traveling since I first started collecting Social Security retirement benefits.

It deals with the current dispute in the Texas Legislature over how to reduce property taxes. I haven’t followed the issue as closely as, say, some members of my family. Why not? Because the state of Texas does an extremely good job of protecting us old folks from the pressures of paying increasing property taxes.

You see, we have these homestead exemptions and senior exemptions that freeze our property taxes.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about how local governments are spending my tax money. I do watch the Princeton Independent School District, the City of Princeton, Collin County and Collin College spending issues carefully. I don’t want the taxes I pay to be wasted on frivolous expenditures.

It’s the debate over the amount I pay that slides past me.

Legislators are bickering among themselves over how to cut property taxes. So are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan and Gov. Greg Abbott. They’re sniping among themselves over which plan is suitable. Gov. Abbott says he’ll keep calling lawmakers back to special sessions for as long as it takes to get his way on the issue.

Meanwhile, he’s vetoing legislation that does affect me and my fellow Texans to force legislators to see it his way. That’s not a good look, governor.

I’ll just let ’em keep bickering over property tax reform. I have no particular opinion on which plan works best for me. I’m an old guy. The Legislature already has solved the issue for me.


Abbott displays petulant side

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is showing Texans a ruthless streak that some folks might claim they never witnessed.

It comes in the form of the veto pen. Abbott is vetoing legislation left and right … because he wants the Legislature to settle its differences on property tax reform.

So, you see, here is what happens. Legislation that Abbott otherwise would be glad to sign is being vetoed because they aren’t as important as property tax reductions that Abbott says must be priority No. 1.

Ridiculous, if you want my opinion on the matter.

One of the bills that Abbott vetoed came from state Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford. Senate Bill 267 would have helped more Texas police departments receive accreditation, which was a proposal that came as a result of the botched police response to the 2022 Uvalde school massacre that resulted in the deaths of 19 second-graders and two educators who sought to protect them from the lunatic shooter.

Gov. Greg Abbott continues his veto campaign, axing 21 more bills | The Texas Tribune

Abbott is trying to cover his backside by adding a statement to many of the vetoes he has delivered: “This bill can be reconsidered at a future special session only after property tax relief is passed.”

This isn’t how you govern, for crying out loud!

Why does the governor want to punish recipients who would reap the benefits of legislation approved by their elected lawmakers? Don’t answer that! I know why. He is doing it to score a political point or two. He also is deepening an apparent feud that is developing between himself and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Meanwhile, the governor is inflicting plenty of collateral damage by vetoing legislation enacted by men and women who travel to Austin to do the bidding of Texans in their home districts.

And … why? Because he wants to get his way.



Paxton support at home is, um, shaky

What do you know about this? The Texas Tribune reports that all the state legislators who represent portions of Collin County — Attorney General Ken Paxton’s home county — voted to impeach him at the end of the Texas Legislature’s session.

The Tribune reports: But a unanimous vote to impeach Paxton by the five Republican representatives from Collin County — Frederick Frazier of McKinney, Jeff Leach of Plano, Matt Shaheen of Plano, Justin Holland of Rockwall and Candy Noble of Lucas — exposed a statewide rift within the GOP that’s apparently also been playing out in Paxton’s backyard.

Not only that, but Rep. Leach is one of the House impeachment managers who will make the case to the state Senate, which is set to begin trying Paxton for an assortment of allegations no later than Aug. 28.

“It has been true that Paxton had the support of Collin County, but that support has been decreasing over the years, and when the crunch came, it was simply no longer there,” according to Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University and a Collin County resident.

This is fascinating stuff for me, given (a) that I, too, live in Collin County and (b) that I want Paxton to be booted out of office.

We all should have smelled that Paxton was in serious jeopardy when so many GOP House members voted with their Democratic colleague in impeaching Paxton, who becomes the first Texas AG ever impeached.

Ken Paxton’s impeachment hints at shaky support in Collin County, his longtime base of power (msn.com)

There might be a reckoning to be had when the Senate convenes its trial. At least one can hope.


Special sessions loom

So much, it seems, for setting priorities before the start of a legislative session.

The Texas Legislature reportedly had placed property tax reduction at the top of its to-do list. Well … the list’s major priority remains something “to do.” The Legislature adjourned at the end of May and property tax reform wasn’t completed.

I spoke at the beginning of the session with state Rep. Gary VanDeaver, a New Boston Republican, who said the state had to do something to relieve Texans of the property tax burden. His view had been echoed loudly and clearly by other legislators of both parties, not to mention from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

What the heck happened?

Special sessions loom in the weeks to come. There might be several of them, the Texas Tribune reports.

The failure to enact any property tax reform guarantees, according to the smart money, that a special session will occur. Likely will be soon, too.

I have trouble following the Legislature’s rhythm at times. Lawmakers venture to Austin from hither and yon across the vast state. They spend — seemingly — forever and a day to get busy. I sense a good bit of lollygagging in Austin. Then they seek to rush to get these bills enacted and sent to the governor’s desk.

Too often, though, they run out of time.

If property tax reform was such a big deal, why can’t the Legislature act in a manner that demonstrates its importance?

The Legislature didn’t act. They’ll have to shuttle back to Capitol Building and do what could have been done during the 140 days legislators were gathered.

This time, ladies and gentlemen, get it done! The Senate has another big matter with which it must deal … the trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton. That’s a big … deal, too.


Impeachment reveals GOP fissures

Talk about divisions within a political party, let alone between that party and the other major governing organization.

Texas political observers were treated this past weekend to an up-close and personal look at how sharply divided the Texas Republican Party has become. A significant majority of GOP members in the Texas Legislature voted to impeach Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton on an array of ethical and criminal allegations.

Now comes the fight of Paxton’s political life as he now must stand trial in the GOP-dominated Texas Senate.

When will that trial occur? Beats the cornbread stuffing out of me!

The impeachment vote in the Texas House, frankly, astonished me. I was expecting a closer vote than what came out. The final tally was 121-23, meaning that most House Republicans voted to impeach Paxton. The Texas Tribune reported: About 70% of House Republicans voted Saturday to impeach — 60 of the 85 Republicans in the 150-seat chamber. That included a coalition of center-right and conservative Republicans who defied their party’s far right and heeded the call to protect the state from a public official who had abused his office and power for personal gain.

Ken Paxton impeachment fight exposes deep fissures among Texas Republicans | The Texas Tribune

What does one draw from this stunning outcome? My take is that the Texas Republicans who occupy public office in the Legislature are weary of Paxton’s long list of legal skirmishes, either with the authorities who are probing his conduct or with Paxton seeking to raise hell with Democrats in high places.

The attorney general has done little more during his more than two terms in office than make a spectacle of himself. Thus, we might be witnessing serious fissures within the Texas Republican Party.

Gov. Greg Abbott, another Republican (of course!), needs to call the Texas Senate back to work in advance of the trial that will commence in that legislative chamber. One of the senators who will report for duty is Angela Paxton, the attorney general’s wife. Your blogger (me!) has called already for Sen. Paxton to recuse herself. I hope she heeds my unsolicited advice.

None of that will lessen the divide that will play out as the Senate hears evidence gathered by House Republican investigators into the slew of allegations that have piled up around the attorney general.

As a Texan who is not affiliated with the Republican Party, I am watching all this with a healthy dose of bemusement.

It makes me wonder out loud if Republicans in this state are as incompetent at governing as their national colleagues who gathered at the start of the year and burned through 15 ballots just to elect a speaker of the House.


Impeachment vote set!

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. The Texas House of Representatives is set to vote Saturday on whether to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The question of the moment: Are there enough Republicans to grant the House the simple majority it needs to impeach the AG?

All 64 House Democrats are likely to cast affirmative votes to impeach Paxton. Of the 149 members of the House, that means just nine Republicans need to join their Democratic colleagues to impeach Paxton.

Here’s where it gets weird. An impeachment would require Paxton to step away from his office while the Senate prepares to conduct a trial that could result in his expulsion as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

This is the most serious intraparty squabble I’ve ever seen in the nearly 40 years I’ve been watching and covering Texas government.

Paxton has been under a mountain of trouble since being elected AG in 2014. A Collin County grand jury indicted him on allegations of securities fraud; whistleblowing lawyers quit as they alleged widespread corruption; they settled with Paxton, whom they had sued, but then Paxton sought to have Texas taxpayers foot the bill for the settlement. The allegations include bribery and even an extramarital affair.

It’s been nothing but a mess with this guy.

The bipartisan House General Investigation Committee voted unanimously to recommend impeachment.

So … on Saturday, the House will make that decision.

Texas House Vote on Impeachment of AG Paxton Set for Saturday (msn.com)

The 20-count impeachment lays out a huge array of issues. The 20th article of impeachment declares: “While holding office as attorney general, (Paxton) used, misused or failed to use his official powers  in a manner calculated to subvert the lawful operation of the government of the State of Texas and obstruct the fair and impartial administration of justice, thereby bringing the Office of Attorney General into scandal and disrepute to the prejudice of public confidence in the government of this State.” 

Now we get to see what the Texas House Republican caucus will do when presented with these most serious allegations.


Paxton calls on speaker to quit? Huh … ?

Wow! That’s all I should have to say on this matter, but of course I’ll add a couple of cents’ worth.

Of all the elected officials serving in this great state of mine, it falls on an indicted Texas attorney general to call for the resignation of the speaker of the Texas House.

What in the world is wrong with this picture?

AG Ken Paxton, who’s been under criminal indictment almost his entire time as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, said this week that Speaker Dade Phelan was drunk while presiding over the House. Paxton said Phelan should resign at the end of the current session of the Legislature.

For the life of me I cannot fathom what in the world is happening to this state.

A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton in 2015 of securities fraud, stemming from an allegation that he failed to notify investors of his relationship with a securities firm. Eight years later and the case hasn’t gone to trial … yet!

Then we have allegations of corruption within the AG’s office. There has been a settlement on that matter, but several top lawyers in the office resigned after blowing the whistle on what they said were improper relationships between Paxton and a key political supporter and donor.

Paxton is a joke! Actually, he needs to resign his office.

Now he declares that Dade Phelan has been sipping the sauce. A video of Phelan has gone viral, showing him slurring his words a bit while conducting the House’s business.

“After much consideration, it is with profound disappointment that I call on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign at the end of this legislation session,” Paxton said in a statement posted on Twitter. “His conduct has negatively impacted the legislative process and constitutes a failure to live up to his duty to the public.”

Ken Paxton calls on Dade Phelan to resign, citing apparent intoxication | The Texas Tribune

I suppose, of course, that Phelan’s resistance to some of Paxton’s top legislative priorities has nothing to do with the AG’s call for the speaker to resign. Texas’s top Republican officeholders have been squabbling a good bit of late. They can’t agree on some of the priorities being pushed by, say, Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.

Now it has come down to this, with the state’s indicted attorney general offering an armchair medical diagnosis of the House speaker.



‘Yes!’ on park investment

Finally, I’m tellin’ ya — finally! — I get to offer unabashed enthusiastic praise for a Texas legislative policy decision without qualifying it in any fashion.

The Texas House has given final approval for a $1 billion investment in the state park system, seeking to add more parks to the state’s already impressive network of public recreational sites.

It’s not entirely done deal just yet. The Texas Senate has approved it already. It heads for Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. Then it comes to us — you and me — for a final vote this November as an amendment to the Texas Constitution.

I am going to vote enthusiastically for the measure.

“This would create a new golden age for our state parks,” said Luke Metzger, the executive director of Environment Texas. “We have a lot to celebrate. What a great birthday present to give all Texans for the state parks system’s 100th.”

Indeed, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is celebrating the centennial of the state park system.

The Texas Tribune reported: According to a report by Environment Texas last year, Texas lags behind most others states in state parkland: The state ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita, with about 636,000 acres of parkland for a population of over 29 million as of 2019. The report suggests that Texas needs to add 1.4 million acres of state parks by 2030 to meet the needs of its residents.

Texas House approves bills to spend up to $1 billion for more state parks | The Texas Tribune

The Trib also noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state park system became even more popular with Texans, who faced interstate and international travel restrictions.

So … they packed up their gear and headed for our state parks.

My late wife and I were among those Texans who have embraced all that the park system has to offer. By my unofficial count, we visited roughly two-thirds of the state parks during the years we were hauling recreational vehicles behind our pickup.

I am distressed to learn, of course, that the state has lagged behind other states in dedicating resources to state parks. I hope that can change with this investment.

I just want to offer a heartfelt “bravo!” to both legislative chambers for the decision they have made to set aside more land for development into state parks.

We need them … and Texans will use them.


No to gambling!

No doubt I am likely in a distinct minority, but I happen to be glad to know that sports betting isn’t coming to Texas … at least not anytime soon.

A bill that would have expanded gambling has failed to clear the Legislature.

One of the bill’s sponsors is state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican from nearby Plano, who said this, according to the Texas Tribune:

“I look forward to building on our success with Senator (Lois) Kolkhorst and our Senate colleagues to get this legislation across the finish line and allow the voters a voice in whether we have a legal, regulated sports betting market in Texas,” Leach said in a statement.

Just to be clear, I worked for a newspaper that in 1991 opposed the establishment of the Texas lottery. We were a lonely voice in opposition, as the measure passed overwhelmingly.

Also, I need to acknowledge that I recently stuffed a $20 bill into a Nevada slot machine and walked away with a small jackpot.

Do I want the temptation to come to Texas? No!

Effort to allow casinos falls short in Texas House | The Texas Tribune

I find it offensive that the gambling industry doesn’t even use the term “gambling” to describe the activity it is promoting. They euphemistically call it “gaming.”

Listen up, folks! It’s gambling! Any time one gambles on winning a big jackpot by throwing away money for the once-in-a-zillion chance of winning big is, um, taking a chance. Isn’t that gambling?

No need to create a “destination resort” that entices people to throw their money away.