Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Abortion headed for scrap heap?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am profoundly offended by the notion of politicians dictating to women how they can deal with emotional trauma that virtually no one else can comprehend.

Yet that is what is likely to happen if — or likely when — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs an anti-abortion bill into law.

The Legislature has enacted a bill that would make abortion illegal six weeks after conception, which is before many women even know they are pregnant.

Texas Senate advances bill to outlaw abortions if Roe. v. Wade overturned | The Texas Tribune

What’s more, these politicians — dominated in Texas by Republicans, of course — are poised to make all abortions illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in this country.

As the Texas Tribune reported:

I am shaking my head in disgust and dismay at what these pols think they are doing.

As I have noted already on this blog, my distress at this draconian measure does not make me “pro-abortion.” I never could recommend an abortion for a woman who sought my counsel. I simply would stand back and tell that woman to do what her heart tells her to do.

If only our state’s smug political class — comprising a solid majority of men — would comprehend the notion that they are venturing into territory where they should never tread.

Legislature set to ‘eat its young’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Show me a legislator from any state in the Union who enjoys a particular task that awaits them and I will show you a certifiable masochist.

That task has to do with redrawing the boundaries of the congressional districts that lie within that state as well as the state senate and house seats.

Such a task lurks just around the corner for the Texas Legislature, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to redraw those boundaries. It is, to put the kindest face on it, arguably the most arduous task that legislators have to perform. Here, though, is the good news: They only have to do it once every 10 years, when the Census Bureau counts every resident of every state in the nation.

Texas’ count of residents has produced two additional congressional seats for the Lone Star State, giving the state 38 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The House delegation count plus the two U.S. Senate seats gives Texas 40 electoral votes for the next presidential election.

I want to accentuate a term: that would be “resident.” The Constitution stipulates in clear and concise language that the census must count every person who lives within our borders. It doesn’t limit that count to just U.S. citizens, card-carrying Americans.

But what lies ahead for the Legislature? I once knew a Texas state senator, the late Teel Bivins of Amarillo, who told me that redrawing these congressional and legislative boundaries, hands down, was his least favorite legislative duty. He hated doing it. Bivins, though, resisted any change to the way it is done, preferring to keep it in the hands of legislators. Bivins said that redistricting gave Republicans the chance to “eat their young.”

I asked Sen. Bob Hall of Rockwall, a fellow Republican, what Bivins might have meant by that. Hall said that the GOP primary usually is much bloodier than the general election, given that “Texas is such a Republican state.”

The 2021 Legislature will be charged with doing what the U.S. Constitution requires of it. Reapportionment won’t be any prettier than it has been in years past. Which brings me to this: What do legislators expect from a process that is supposed to produce two additional U.S. House seats, bringing the state’s electoral vote count to 40, second only to California, which is going to lose one House seat.

None of the Northeast Texas legislative delegation was on duty during the most recent redistricting effort, done after the 2010 census. The delegation, though, does have legislative experience, which I trust will stand the region in good stead as the process goes forward.

Sen. Hall, serving his second term in the Texas Senate, and who represents Senate District 2, said he has not been assigned to any relevant committee that will work on redistricting, but added that he would “serve on any committee the lieutenant governor wanted me to serve on.” He will get to vote on whatever the Legislature decides when it meets, as expected, in special session once the regular legislative session concludes at the end of the month.

Hall does not yet know what will occur when the Legislature reconvenes, but he believes the Senate district he serves well might expand a bit to the west into Collin and Dallas counties to make up for an expected population loss of around 3 percent. “The best I can tell is that we’re going to change our physical size,” he said. The eastern and western parts of the state are likely to expand geographically, Hall said, while the urban centers will shrink. Why is that? “That’s where the growth is occurring, along the I-35 corridor in the middle of the state,” he said.

This redistricting effort figures to be as cumbersome and potentially controversial as previous efforts, Hall acknowledged. “I cannot imagine how it won’t be,” he said. Hall noted that the Legislature must meet many requirements to assure that minorities get proper representation. “We need to present something that is fair and reasonable for everyone,” he said.

I would say that the upcoming effort at redistricting is “why we pay ‘em the big money,” except that Texas legislators – along with the lieutenant governor – get paid very little for doing the people’s work. I will hope they find the fortitude their predecessors always seem to have summoned to get this tedious and clumsy work done.

For now, all 31 state senators and 150 House members need to hold on with both hands.

NOTE: This blog item was published initially on KETR.org.

Anti-abortion bill nears reality

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

If I were to declare my opposition to a strict anti-abortion bill headed for approval in the Texas Legislature, would you consider me to be “pro-abortion”?

If you say “yes,” you would be wrong.

Still, I do oppose legislators’ effort to enact a strict law that makes it illegal for a woman to terminate a pregnancy just six weeks after conception.

Does that mean I favor abortion? That I would counsel a woman to get an abortion if she asked for my opinion on this intensely personal matter? That I oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings that have declared abortion to be perfectly legal in this country?

No on all three counts.

What troubles me about the Texas legislation is the idea that a woman cannot make this decision for herself. That she cannot consult with her spiritual counselor, her partner, other members of her family, that she cannot pray to God for strength and guidance as she ponders what to do.

No, that a group of equally fallible human beings are going to declare that any effort to end a pregnancy after six weeks — when, as I have understood, women often don’t even know they are pregnant — is just plain wrong.

Human beings should not be left to pass judgment on other humans’ most wrenching decision. To my way of thinking, a woman who chooses to end a pregnancy stands alone. There can be no other decision that comes to my mind that is more wrenching than that.

The Texas Tribune reports: Abortion rights advocates say the legislation is among the most “extreme” measures nationwide and does not exempt people pregnant because of rape or incest. Beyond the limitations on abortion access, the bill would let nearly anyone — including people with no connection to the doctor or the woman — sue abortion providers, and those who help others get an abortion in violation of the proposed law. People who support abortion funds and clinics could also be hit with lawsuits, and lawyers warn those sued would not be able to recover some of the money they spent on their legal defense.

Texas House passes fetal “heartbeat” bill banning abortion at six weeks | The Texas Tribune

If only government officials could adopt a concept uttered by President Bill Clinton who once declared his intention to make abortion “rare … but still legal.”

Ham-handedness rules

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There is something that borders on ham-handed governance that troubles me about the Texas Legislature’s apparent desire to punish cities that take money away from police departments in response to the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.

Why is that? It’s because the Legislature is trying to tell communities — the folks who govern their own affairs — how their elected officials should do their jobs.

According to the Texas Tribune: The Texas House on Friday passed a bill to financially penalize the state’s largest cities if they cut their police budgets. The measure was sent to the Senate after two days of heated debate and emotional speeches, with the bill authors calling to “back the blue” and the opposition decrying the bill as political propaganda.

Texas cities that cut police funding could face financial penalties | The Texas Tribune

Let’s call it what it appears to be: a political payback ploy launched by Republicans who control the Legislature against cities run by politicians who lean Democratic.

I want to stipulate in the clearest terms possible that I oppose efforts to “defund the police” in response to what has happened in communities across Texas and the nation. I believe there is ample room for reform and I want the cops to keep the money.

If the Princeton City Council — in a highly unlikely event — were to “defund” the cops, I would be among the loudest protesters calling for the ouster of every one of them. That, however, would be their call, which thus would give voters like me a chance to respond accordingly.

The Legislature has no business dictating to cities how they should spend taxpayer funds dedicated to certain municipal services, such as police protection.

Texans don’t want the state to adopt this kind of ham-handed policy … do they?

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.

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.

GOP = voter suppression

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Honest to goodness, this is the truth, which is that I do not want to believe Republicans favor limiting Americans’ access to voting.

However, it is clear to anyone with a working brain that the GOP is aligned with those who want to restrict many Americans’ rights as citizens of this great land.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sharpened his political long knife in endorsing a Republican plan to limit access to voting while the state is fighting the pandemic. He targets one of the state’s largest Democratic leaning counties, Harris County.

The Texas Tribune reports: At a press conference in Houston, Abbott served up the opening salvo in the Texas GOP’s legislative response to the 2020 election and its push to further restrict voting by taking aim at local election officials in the state’s most populous and Democratically controlled county. The governor specifically criticized officials in Harris County for attempting to send applications to vote by mail to every registered voter and their bid to set up widespread drive-thru voting, teeing up his support for legislation that would prohibit both initiatives in future elections.

“Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots or the unauthorized expansion of drive-thru voting, we must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott said on Monday. Harris County planned to send out applications to request a mail-in ballot, not the actual ballots.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backs bills that restrict efforts to expand voting | The Texas Tribune

Texas is not alone. Other states where Republicans command power are taking similar actions.

“These kinds of attempts to confuse, to intimidate, to suppress are a continuation of policies we’ve seen in this state since Reconstruction,” Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “It is a continuation as well of the big lie that’s being peddled by some far-right elements that the election in 2020 was somehow not true and should be overturned.”

What troubles me is that the phony charge of vote fraud is being used as political cover for more nefarious motives designed to prevent racial and ethnic minorities from being able to vote. My goodness, I hate thinking that is the real reason, but the actions of Texas Republican legislators — as well as Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — leave me with no choice but to assume the worst.

It sickens and saddens me.