Lege Lines: Guns, Islamophobia, & Budget Cuts
The Lege takes on guns, Islamophobia, and sets the draft budget
Gun Crazy ... Like a Fox?
Schizophrenic messages are coming out of the Legislature about open carry. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has sent two pieces of legislation to the State Affairs committee. Senate Bill 342 by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, would allow so-called "constitutional carry," making it legal for anyone to openly carry a firearm, while Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, proposes using the same kind of infamously weak background checks applied to concealed-carry licenses. This all came after Patrick, who previously said the issue was not a priority (i.e. he didn't have the votes), met with Open Carry Tarrant County – the same group that cut a menacing scene in the office of Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, causing even pro-open carry reps to sport "I'm Poncho" stickers in support. Patrick is far more bullish now that he may have the necessary votes to get SB 11, legalizing campus carry, out of the upper chamber. However, UT System Chancellor William McRaven (the former admiral responsible for the mission to kill Osama bin Laden) immediately sent an open letter saying the measure would not make students safer. Coda: State Affairs is headed by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the sole GOP senator not to voice full-throated support for the measures.
Islamophobia: Alive and Well
Last week saw the seventh Texas Muslim Capitol Day at the Legislature. During a polite presentation by Muslim speakers on the South steps, notorious fundamentalist crank Christine Weick grabbed the mic and declared, "Islam will never dominate the United States." Weick, a veritable one-woman Westboro Baptist Church, was kicked out of the National Cathedral in Washington last November for similarly interrupting a Muslim service. Not to be outdone by protesters outside, Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, announced that she had left a miniature Israeli flag at her office's front desk, and instructed her staff to ask "representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws." Filling out the trifecta, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, has filed HB 670, the perennial "no Sharia law here" legislation.
Please Sir, Can We Keep Some More?
On Feb. 2, over pizza and soda in the Mathews Elementary library, AISD's administration laid out its legislative priorities to the media. Predictably, it all came back to money: Under the current school finance system, AISD contributes a big slice of its property taxes to state coffers, because it is classified as "property-rich." In 2014, it sent $128 million – almost double what the next biggest contributor, Highland Park ISD, sends – though that upscale Dallas suburb doesn't have a fraction of the number of bilingual (AISD, 28%; Highland Park, 0.7%) or economically disadvantaged (63% to 0%) students AISD has. Knowing that a full-scale overhaul of the system is not imminent, the AISD board previously adopted positions of support for tweaks, such as cost-of-living and compensatory-education weightings in the funding formulas that haven't been corrected in decades. They also hope the state will allow them to credit Social Security and transportation costs against their recapture payments.
When lawmakers receive warnings about sleeping with the enemy, it's normally a euphemism. Not so the dire protestations of Weston Hicks, a contributor to right-wing Texas blog AgendaWise. In a recent posting, he warned that legislators and "the oxen they hire" (better known as staffers) best beware of "actual political whores" (better known as female journalists and lobbyists). He went on to extol them against going "to slaughter behind a media or lobby concubine," citing the downfall of General David Petraeus after sleeping with his biographer. The Texas House Republican Caucus quickly condemned these comments, describing them as "extraordinarily offensive to the many hardworking women who have made great careers in these professional industries."
Watch out for rattlesnakes: Feb. 2 was the traditional biennial appearance courtesy of the Sweetwater Jaycees and their slithering friends, publicizing the 57th annual Rattlesnake Roundup. One handler was bitten, but it was only a minor injury... A bigger sales tax holiday? Two Houstonians, Democrat Sen. Rodney Ellis and Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac, have filed companion bills, SB 426 and HB 1087, increasing the purchase limit on the annual event to $200, and adding e-readers, tablets, and computers to the list of eligible items... Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that Brendon Anthony, founder of ticket and fan services company One Live Media, will be the new head of the Texas Music Office, replacing popular former Director Casey Monahan, who was not reappointed by Abbott – an "at-will separation," says Monahan* – earlier this year. Anthony is also the former fiddle player for Pat Green, who, by sheer coincidence, played at Abbott's inauguration celebrations.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story reported in error that Casey Monahan had been fired; the error has been corrected.