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August 5th, 2013:

Interview with CM Ed Gonzalez

CM Ed Gonzalez

CM Ed Gonzalez

Council Member Ed Gonzalez is serving his second term in District H. He’s actually already four full years into his service, as he was the winner of the 2009 special election to succeed former CM and now Sheriff Adrian Garcia. Like Garcia, Gonzalez is a former HPD officer who made a successful entry into politics after retiring from that career. Gonzalez currently serves as the Chair of the Public Safety committee on Council, and serves as Mayor Pro Tem after having been Vice Mayor Pro Tem in his first term. Even though I got moved into numerous other districts in 2011, he remains my district Council member after the Council redistricting effort that created two new seats. District H contains some of the more attractive-to-developers neighborhoods in the city, as well as the new North Line light rail extension. Those were some of the many things we covered in our conversation.

Ed Gonzales interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Yeah, they’re still working on a transportation funding bill

The committee hearings will continue until morale improves.

Same hair and same amount of crazy as Rick Perry

After consulting with members from both the House and Senate, state Rep. Joe Pickett decided to make some minor changes to his latest transportation funding proposal. On Thursday — the third day of the third special session — a House committee gave his altered proposal its endorsement.

Pickett added a provision to the plan that would require the Texas Department of Transportation to find $100 million in “efficiencies” over the 2014-15 biennium and put that money toward paying the agency’s multibillion-dollar debt. Paying off that much debt early would save the agency $47 million in debt service payments, Pickett said.

“I wanted a buy-in by the agency,” Pickett said. “I wouldn’t propose it if I didn’t think they were up to the challenge.”

In a 6-1 vote, the House Select Committee on Transportation Funding approved House Joint Resolution 1, with state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, voting no. The committee voted unanimously in favor of the related House Bill 1.

The House is expected to try to pass the plan again early next week. Because it involves amending the Constitution, HJR 1 needs support from 100 members of the 150-member House. A similar plan failed 84-40 on Monday, a day before the end of the second special session. Pickett and others said they believe the measure failed because 23 members were absent that day, not because there aren’t 100 members of the House who support the plan. A version of the legislation also failed in the first special session.

I would argue that the bill didn’t fail in Special Session 1, the bill was failed by David Dewhurst, who chose to play politics rather than let it come to a vote before Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster. Perhaps enough members will show up for the floor vote this time around, or Rep. Pickett’s changes will get enough Republicans to support it, so that it doesn’t meet the same ignominious fate as in Special Session 2. And good Lord will I be happy to get a break from blogging about special sessions.

Fighting for Obamacare

Bring it.

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

Obamacare supporters are launching a new war room operation to stick up for the law, mobilizing liberal groups to talk up its benefits and pound Republicans for trying to cut off its funding.

The new effort — to be headed by Americans United for Change, an all-purpose liberal advocacy group, and Protect Your Care, which focused on Obamacare — will include rapid-response messaging and town halls to try to change the conversation over the health care law, its organizers tell POLITICO. They’ll start next week, during the August recess, but they’re promising to stick around during the massive effort to sign people up for Obamacare this fall.

Their goal: Get Democrats and liberals off of defense, and make the Republicans defend trying to take away benefits like health coverage for pre-existing conditions, which will become available to all Americans when the main parts of the law take effect next January.

“This is about being on offense, not being on defense against the repeal crowd. They’re on the wrong side of this now,” said Brad Woodhouse, the former Democratic National Committee spokesman who’s now president of Americans United for Change. “You know what? Obamacare is the law of the land. Hands off my health care.”

Getting off of defense has been the big problem for the Obama administration and its supporters all along. Past efforts by liberals have fallen short, outgunned by the resources of conservative interest groups and the passion of the Tea Party activists who want to wipe the law off the books.

But this time, the pro-Obamacare groups say they’ll have the resources and the firepower to give the White House backup in critical states — and to give groups like Enroll America the “air cover” they need to focus on signing people up for health coverage, according to Eddie Vale, a spokesman for Protect Your Care who’s based at American Bridge, another liberal group that’s ramping up its opposition research on Republican candidates.

They’ll have the backing of Stephanie Cutter, the veteran of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and past Obamacare messaging efforts, and Paul Tewes, another Obama veteran who helped run the Democratic attacks that defeated President George W. Bush’s Social Security plan in 2005.

And they’re hiring Democratic consultants to help them organize events and rapid-response campaigns in 10 key states, including Texas and Florida, two of the three states with the highest numbers of uninsured people, as well as swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. The others are Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina.

It’s that last bit about bringing the fight to Texas that made me blog this. Lord knows, we need to have as strong a countervoice to the rebel faction that pervades our state. It also fits in nicely with a campaign against Greg Abbott. I don’t know what this will mean in practical terms, but I look forward to it whatever it is.

State Bar seeks sanctions against Ken Anderson

Seems reasonable to me.

Arguing that a trial is no longer needed, the State Bar of Texas has asked a judge to summarily rule that former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson engaged in professional misconduct by hiding evidence in the murder trial of Michael Morton, who was exonerated after spending almost 25 years in prison.

Such a ruling would allow the State Bar, which oversees lawyer discipline, to proceed directly to a state district court hearing on sanctions against Anderson, who could be disbarred, temporarily lose his law license or receive a public reprimand for his handling of Morton’s prosecution in 1987.

A lawyer for Anderson, now a state district judge in Georgetown, said he will oppose the bar’s motion and plans to move for a dismissal of the State Bar’s lawsuit.

The civil lawsuit is separate from criminal charges that are also pending against Anderson, but both cases rely on the same accusations – that Anderson hid evidence that could have raised questions about Morton’s guilt, then lied when he assured Morton’s trial judge that he had no favorable evidence to turn over to the defense as required by law.

Morton served almost 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Christine, before he was exonerated in 2011.

In its motion for summary judgment, the State Bar’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline argued that a Sept. 30 trial wasn’t necessary because its allegation – that Anderson violated his duties as a lawyer – had already been proved in a court of inquiry that examined Anderson’s handling of Morton’s prosecution.

[…]

The criminal case against Anderson is still in the early stages, and Anderson’s legal team has filed an appeal arguing that the charges are improper because the statute of limitations had passed two decades ago.

Anderson’s lawyers believe the State Bar’s lawsuit also is barred by the statute of limitations and plan to file a competing motion for summary judgment asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, lawyer Eric Nichols said.

In its motion, the State Bar argued that Anderson mounted a vigorous defense during a weeklong court of inquiry hearing in February and isn’t entitled to retry the facts after losing that case.

The law “prevents relitigation of particular issues that were litigated and decided in a previous lawsuit,” argues the motion from Linda Acevedo, the commission’s chief disciplinary counsel.

Nichols disagreed, saying the court of inquiry didn’t result in a final decision or judgment against Anderson, who insisted he did nothing wrong, and operated under looser rules of evidence, providing a questionable result.

As noted in the story, the judge in the court of inquiry issued an arrest warrant for Anderson in April, charging him with tampering with physical evidence and tampering with a government document. I can see Anderson’s point that this wasn’t a normal courtroom procedure and the standards of evidence may have been different, but he got to put on a defense and it’s hard to see how things would play out differently in civil court. Unless some of the previously introduced evidence was suppressed via a successful motion by his attorneys, which would add a layer of irony to the whole thing that I’m not sure any of us could handle. The statute of limitations argument completely fails to impress me. It may be technically right if we are forced to start the clock when Michael Morton was tried, but under the much more sensible interpretation that the limitations period began when the crime was actually discovered there’s no leg to stand on. I say Anderson has had his chance to prove that the misconduct allegations were meritless. The Bar has a responsibility to act, and it should be allowed to do so.