Tag Archives: Texas Legislature

Get ready for more guns, Texas

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The organization once known as the “law and order party” is about to give Texas residents some serious pause about its commitment to the issue of, um … law and order.

On the strength of all 18 Republican Texas senators and a GOP majority of Texas House members, the Legislature is about to approve a new bill that allows Texans to pack heat wherever and whenever they want — without acquiring a mandated state-issued permit to do so.

Do you feel safer now? Hah! Me neither.

I hasten to add that this legislation is being pushed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk over the strenuous objections of big-, middle- and small-city chiefs of police all over the state. Many of them, such as Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, worry about a dramatic increase in armed suspects being stopped for various violations and the risk their officers face as a result.

Now it’s a matter of giving everyone who wants to carry a gun permission to do so. Yes, they have written some restrictions into it, such as disqualifying someone with a recent felony conviction.

Still, the notion that this bill takes down so-called “arbitrary restrictions” to the Second Amendment to our Constitution is foolish. Thus, that’s why it is being called “constitutional carry” legislation.

I had expressed some hope that the Senate would resist approving this nutty notion. My hope rested on my friend state Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, who resisted it saying that the concealed carry permit restrictions were sufficient and that they did not infringe on the Second Amendment’s guarantee of firearm ownership.

I guess Seliger caved. That disappoints me.

As for the Republican legislative majority, I will presume that they all have said at least once during their political career how they support our law enforcement community. Hell, so do I!

If so, then why are they pushing back against the resistance of state’s cops?

Ridiculous.

Listen to us, legislators!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What gives with our elected representation in Austin?

They are charting legislative courses that, according to public opinion surveys, go directly against the wishes of the people for whom they work. That us, folks! You and me! And perhaps even our neighbors and family members.

Here’s a case in point.

The Texas Legislature is moving toward enacting a law that allows Texans to pack heat on their hips — a pistol in the open — without having to undergo a simple course and exam to prove they know how to handle the shootin’ iron.

Legislators, led by the Republican majority, call it “constitutional carry.” So, what do rank-and-file Texans think of it? They are opposed to letting our neighbors pack heat into the grocery store, or to park, or the gasoline service station.

The latest poll from the Texas Tribune/University of Texas says that 59 percent of Texans oppose “constitutional carry” of firearms. According to the Tribune: A solid majority of Texas voters don’t think adults should be allowed to carry handguns in public places without permits or licenses, though the idea is popular with a 56% majority of Republicans. Overall, 59% oppose unlicensed carry — a number driven up by the 85% of Democrats who oppose it. On the Republican side, the gun questions revealed a gender gap. Among Republican men, 70% said they support unlicensed carry; 49% of Republican women oppose that position.

So, my question is this: Who in the hell are the 181 state senators and House members, plus Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who runs the Senate — listening to?

Texas voters on “constitutional carry,” abortion bans and more in UT/TT Poll | The Texas Tribune

If we are to believe the Tribune/UT poll, they ain’t listening to their bosses, those of us who have to live with the laws they approve.

Shameful. Just shameful.

Legislator earns high praise

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Dan Huberty should take a bow and accept this small expression of support for a courageous act he took today on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Houston Republican acknowledged to his colleagues that he is an alcoholic.

“My name is Dan and I am an alcoholic,” he told fellow legislators in an emotional speech in Austin.

Texas state Rep. Dan Huberty apologizes to House after DWI arrest | The Texas Tribune

Huberty was charged with drunken driving on April 23 after he crashed his car into a minivan and failed a sobriety test. The incident occurred just outside of Austin. He told his colleagues today he has been struggling with alcoholism his entire adult life.

He apologized to them and to his family and acknowledged that he has completed three of the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program toward sobriety.

Huberty’s colleagues responded with a standing ovation.

It was richly deserved.

“Alcoholism is a serious disease,” Huberty said. “One that is becoming a pandemic in itself.” Yes. It most certainly has become a pandemic.

It’s not often that we see politicians lay open their emotional wounds in such a candid manner. Rep. Huberty isn’t my representative, but I want to applaud him for showing the courage it takes to find his way out of the darkness.

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.

One surprise from this session

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

If one were to press me for a response to a certain question, I would say that the Texas Legislature’s biggest surprise this session has been the absence of a bathroom bill similar to one that went down in flames in 2017.

For those who might not recall, here’s a brief recap:

The 2017 Legislature considered a bill pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that would have required anyone using a public restroom to use the one that comported with their gender at birth. That meant that transgender people could not use restrooms that aligned with their current gender. Yep, transgender men had to use the women’s restroom and vice versa.

Got it? Well, Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session and put the bathroom bill on the call list of issues to ponder.

Then it ran into then-House Speaker Joe Straus’s resistance. Straus said in no way would he allow the bill to advance through the House of Representatives. He declared it discriminated against transgender individuals and had no place in the roster of state laws.

The bill died a deservedly agonizing death.

Given the Legislature’s continued campaign to forge a conservative social agenda, I am surprised that a return of the bathroom bill has failed to materialize.

Straus left the Legislature after the 2017 session. His replacement as speaker, Dennis Bonnen, didn’t bring it back in 2019. Bonnen then left the House and his successor as speaker, Dade Phelan, hasn’t said a word about bringing this bill back.

Which is just fine with me. This goofy notion needed to die. May it stay dead … forever and ever.

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.

‘No’ on ‘constitutional carry’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

They’re calling it “constitutional carry” legislation.

I will call it foolishness that carries some dire peril for many Texans.

The Texas House of Representatives has voted along partisan lines for a bill that will allow any Texas resident to carry a handgun around with them even without a permit issued by the state. Yep, the House – led by its Republican Party majority – wants to liberalize (if you’ll excuse that verb) the state’s concealed-carry law to enable anyone to pack heat on their person.

House Bill 1927 passed on an 84-56 vote and now goes to the Texas Senate, where it might meet some needed resistance, particularly from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer and a politician who has expressed serious reservations about the bill.

I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I concur with Lt. Gov. Patrick’s squeamishness.

Texas’ concealed carry law has proven to be nothing close to the monster that many of us thought it would be when the 1995 Legislature enacted it. I opposed it then but grew to accept it over time. I feared an outbreak of road-rage violence involving those who were licensed to carry weapons. That hasn’t happened. For which I am glad and grateful.

Now this new law might be on the horizon. Texas does not require stringent knowledge of firearms to issue a concealed carry permit. Applicants need to take a brief course on firearm safety and pass a proficiency test with the firearm while of course clearing the necessary background check to ensure they lack a criminal record.

Why in the word, then, do legislators feel the need to allow everyone who lives here to pack heat without so much as a rudimentary test to acquire a permit?

As the Texas Tribune reports: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick … has previously expressed hesitation over the measure, saying in 2017 … that “with all the police violence today we have in our state … law enforcement does not like the idea of anyone being able to walk down the street with a gun and they don’t know if they have a permit or not.”

I hope Patrick hasn’t swilled the gun-toting Kool-Aid and become a convert to the cause championed by gun-rights activists. Indeed, he ought to heed law enforcement officials who oppose this nutty notion. Newly hired Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia was among those speaking against the legislation, along with members of the clergy and veterans.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/15/texas-constitutional-carry/

Texas has more than enough guns out there already. We already have a concealed-carry law that seems to work well enough.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees our right to “keep and bear arms.” The state’s provisions requiring Texans to take a test to demonstrate that they know how to handle a firearm ought to be enough to help keep these weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.

NOTE: A version of this blog was published originally on KETR.org.

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.

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.