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What about those constitutional amendments?

Would you like someone to explain to you what those seven Constitutional amendments are about, in painstaking detail, with a recommendation for how to vote on each? Daniel Williams is here for you.

It’s that time of the biennium again! Time for voters to consider constitutional amendments on small minutia of public policy. Texas has the longest state constitution in the nation. It’s so detailed and specific that many ordinary and noncontroversial provisions of the law must be submitted to the voters for approval. That means that we the voters have a responsibility to educate ourselves on all that ordinary and noncontroversial minutia and do our best to vote in an informed and thoughtful way.

I’ve included the text of each proposed constitutional amendment, along with an attempt to briefly explain what the amendment is trying to do and how I’ll be voting when early voting starts tomorrow. I’ve also included information on how various advocacy groups and media outlets on all sides of the political spectrum have endorsed. If I’ve left off a group you think should be included let me know in the comments and I’ll add it.

Click over to read said painstakingly detailed explanations, the TL;dr version of which is “vote FOR props 1, 3, 5, and 7, and AGAINST props 2, 4, and 6”.

If you want further reading on the amendments, the League of Women Voters 2017 guide has you covered, though they don’t make recommendations. They do have information about the city of Houston bond referenda, and a brief Q&A with the HISD and HCC candidates; all but two of them provided answers. Finally, the Texas AFL-CIO has a guide to the amendments as well, along with their recommendations. You may find this exercise exasperating, but you can’t say you don’t have sufficient information to make good decisions.

On the matter of other elections, Instant News Bellaire has coverage on the elections for Bellaire’s Mayor and City Council. And if you live in Alief ISD, Stace has a slate for you. Now get out there and vote!

Session ends in chaos

Seems fitting.

The normally ceremonial last day of this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature briefly descended into chaos on Monday, as proceedings in the House were disrupted by large protests and at least one Republican representative called immigration authorities on the people making the noise.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement while hundreds of people dressed in red T-shirts unfurled banners and chanted in opposition to the state’s new sanctuary cities law. The action enraged Hispanic legislators nearby, leading to a tussle in which each side accused the other of threats and violence.

Rinaldi said he was assaulted by a House member who he declined to name.

“I was pushed, jostled and someone threatened to kill me,” Rinaldi said. “It was basically just bullying.”

Hispanic Democratic lawmakers involved in the altercation said it wasn’t physical but indicated that Rinaldi got into people’s faces and cursed repeatedly.

“He came up to us and said, ‘I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported,’” said state Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, whose account was echoed by state Reps. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth.

“He said, ‘I called ICE — fuck them,'” Romero added. Rinaldi also turned to the Democratic lawmakers and yelled, “Fuck you,” to the “point where spit was hitting” their faces, Romero said.


“Matt Rinaldi gave the perfect example of why there’s a problem with SB 4,” said state Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth. “Matt Rinaldi looked into the gallery and saw Hispanic people and automatically assumed they were undocumented. He racial profiled every single person that was in the gallery today. He created the scenario that so many of us fear.”

And in a press conference, following the altercation, state Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said Rinaldi in a second scuffle had threatened to “put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads.”

But Rinaldi defended the decision to called immigration authorities.

“We didn’t know what to do,” he said. “A lot of people had signs that said ‘We are illegal and here to stay.’”

He said he called law enforcement “to incentivize them to leave the House.”

“They were disrupting,” he said. “They were breaking the law.”

Asked if the protest was too little, too late since the measure has already been signed into law, Adrian Reyna, an organizer with United We Dream, said the movement is just getting started.

“We have to show resistance the whole summer,” he said. “We have identified key representatives that we will take out of office who voted for SB4. People are outraged, people are tired of the Legislature walking all over people.”

First of all, good Lord Rinaldi is a weenie. What a pathetic display of phony bravado. And as Rep. Romero suggests, his words will only help the plaintiffs in the anti-SB4 litigation. Words matter, and judges in the travel ban litigation have made it clear they will take what politicians say about these actions as seriously as they take what the lawyers say.

You can see video of what happened here, Democratic response to what happened here, and a statement from the AFL-CIO here. If there’s going to be an injunction in one or more of the court cases, we ought to know fairly soon, but the bigger fight, both in the courtroom and at the ballot box, will play out over a much longer period. We’re going to need to see a lot more of the kind of action that makes people like Matt Rinaldi cry. The Chron, the Observer, and RG Ratcliffe have more.

House passes its “sanctuary cities” bill


After more than 16 hours of debate, the Texas House of Representatives early Thursday morning tentatively gave a nod to the latest version of a Senate bill that would ban “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas.

The 93-54 vote on second reading fell along party lines and came after one of the slowest moving but most emotional legislative days at the state Capitol.

The vote came at 3 a.m. after state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, successfully made an what some Democratic members called an unprecedented motion to group all of the remaining amendments — more than 100 — and record them as failed. He said he made that suggestion so members wouldn’t be forced to pull their amendments. The motion passed 114 to 29, with about a third of Democrats approving the measure.

Members voted on the bill after adding back a controversial provision that extends the scope of the bill and allows local peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain. The original House version of the bill only allowed officers to inquire about status during a lawful arrest.

That detainment language was included in what the Senate passed out of its chamber in February but was later removed by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, the bill’s House sponsor.

The amendment to add that provision back into the bill was offered by Tyler Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer, who was in the middle of a back-and-forth, deal-making struggle that stopped debate for more than hour. Both parties’ members caucused as they tried to hammer out a deal whereby Schaefer would pull his amendment and Democrats would limit the number of proposals they would offer.

But no compromise was reached, despite several high-profile Republicans, including Geren and House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, telling members they would vote against the Schaefer proposal.

The intent of bill is “getting dangerous criminals off the street. That’s the mission. Shouldn’t be anymore than that,” Cook said.

The bill keeps a provision that makes sheriffs, constables and police chiefs subject to a Class A misdemeanor for failing to cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates subject to removal. It also keeps civil penalties for entities in violation of the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and swell to as high as $25,500 for each subsequent infraction.”


One point of major contention was a controversial amendment that moves the House version closer to the bill that passed the Senate.

The amendment would make police eligible to question the status of any person detained for an investigation of a criminal infraction, no matter how serious. The House had originally gutted that language and limited the questioning to police officers making an arrest.

The 81-64 vote came after key Republicans, including Geren, said came out against the change. Geren was one of nine Republicans joining Democrats in voting against the amendment.

SB4 was given final approval yesterday and will head back to the Senate for concurrence. Remember how the revised House version was supposed to be less awful than the original Senate version? Thanks to the Schaefer amendment, that is no longer the case. This bill was a top priority of the Republicans, and it was always going to pass. The only real question was how harmful it was going to be, and now we have an answer to that. I still don’t know what public policy goals the Republicans have in mind for this bill, but I’m confident they will not achieve them. What they will get is a bunch of lawsuits, so get ready for that.

Two more things. One, there’s this:

Legislation designed to limit the ability of cities for issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants and onetime criminals was tentatively approved Thursday by the Texas Senate.

Supporters insisted Senate Bill 1733 was designed to standardize ID across Texas, and ensure that they meet federal homeland-security standards.

Opponents said the measure is designed to make it harder for minority populations to get access to services, and targets immigrants since many of them use locally issued ID cards for that purpose.


Sen. Jose Rodriguez, an El Paso Democrat who chairs the minority caucus in the Republican-controlled Senate, said he fears “various groups would be restricted from accessing services” because the bill appears to limit local officials from issuing cards and restricts the types of cards that can be accepted for identification by a government official.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, expressed similar concerns.

“They’re more worried about this being used for voting than anything else,” she said after the debate ended. “It’s all made up. It’s a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Many problems that don’t exist have been getting solved this session. I’d say it’s the Republicans’ core competency.

Two, I usually put statements I receive in email about this bill or that news item beneath the fold, but in this case I want it on the main page. So here are some reactions to the House passage of SB4.

From the ACLU, which had a press call with several Texas leaders:

The State of Texas is on the verge of enacting legislation that could make the state a pariah in the eyes of the nation.

Today, local elected officials and advocates gathered on a press call to condemn this legislation and outline the varied consequences, including: 1) promoting racial profiling based on appearance, background and accent that will affect U.S. citizens and immigrants alike; 2) hurting public safety policies that encourage all residents, including immigrants, to report crimes and serve as witnesses; and 3) dictating to elected officials and law enforcement that they must follow state mandates or else face jail time.

A recording of today’s call is available here.

When Arizona enacted draconian legislation in 2010, it resulted in boycotts, lost revenue and a devastating blow to the reputation of the state. Texas is on the verge of repeating that mistake.

As the United States courts continue to uphold the Constitution and block Trump’s overarching, un-American and anti-immigrant executive orders — including his attempts to cut funding from so-called sanctuary cities — legislation, such as this bill, allows states to circumvent the courts and enlarge Trump’s Deportation Force.

Greg Casar, Austin Council Member
“The Legislature is attempting to blackmail cities into violating our residents’ constitutional rights. We must not comply with this unconstitutional, discriminatory and dangerous mandate. We will fight this bill to the end — at City Hall, in the courts, and protesting in the streets.”

​Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas
“I am deeply grieved but wholly unsurprised that anti-immigrant lawmakers in the Texas House have taken a wrongheaded, racist piece of legislation and made it a ‘show me your papers’ bill. They have stated as clearly as they can that they’re willing to target innocent children, break up families, encourage constitutional violations like racial profiling and endanger Texas communities solely to make immigrants feel unwelcome in Texas. But the members of our immigrant communities should know that you are welcome in Texas, and you’re not alone. The ACLU stands ready to fight the inevitable excesses and abuses of this inhumane, wasteful, hateful bill. We stand with Texas immigrants.”​

State Representative Victoria Neave
“This issue is very personal to me. It will impact families on a level some people just don’t understand. This bill will make us less safe and cause a chilling effect among communities in our state.”

Jose P. Garza, executive director of Workers Defense Project
“Today, Texas officially became the front line of resistance against racist and discriminatory immigration policies. SB 4 will result in increased racial profiling, communities that are less safe and a more stagnant economy. On behalf of working families across the state, we vow to fight this policy in the streets, in the courtroom and at the ballot box until we prevail.”

Karla Perez, statewide coordinator for United We Dream UndocuTexas Campaign
“Anti-immigrant legislators in Texas have directed their hate at the immigrant children and families of this state, people of color and our LGBTQ community by criminalizing us and our families, and by passing legislation that will tear apart families like mine. They have shown that they do not care about dignity and respect for immigrants in our state. It is no surprise that under anti-immigrant leadership, Texas is advancing yet another proposal couched in discriminatory intent to the aide of their white supremacist agenda. We will hold accountable those causing pain and fear in our state, and history will not judge them well. Our fight does not end here. When our immigrant community is under attack, we unite and we fight back. Our diverse communities will continue to organize and build our networks of local defenses across the state to move us forward. This is our resilience, this is our strength, and this is our home — we are here to stay.​

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the state Legislature are turbocharging the radical mass deportation strategy of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. If not reversed or resisted, the combination of ‘unshackled’ federal deportation force agents and state-mandated collusion with those agents by local jurisdictions could result in one of the darkest chapters in American history. Texas has a population of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, second only to California. The prospect of a Trump-Abbott mass deportation strategy taking root is as terrifying as it is despicable. People of goodwill from throughout America, and from throughout the world, are not going to stand by in silence as the state of Texas unleashes a campaign of discrimination against people based on their color, national origin or accent. Nor are they going to continue embracing a state that is about to unleash a campaign of terror aimed at immigrant families with deep roots in the state.”

From the Texas Organizing Project:

The following is a statement from Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, on the passage of SB4 by the Texas House early this morning:

“This morning’s vote by the Texas House is disheartening and disgraceful, and puts Texas closer to passing a show-me-your-papers law that will promote racial profiling of Latinos. The amendments added during the debate that will allow police to question the immigration status ofr children and people detained, not arrested, are especially troublesome and cruel.

“If SB4 becomes law, it will also make Texas less safe by further driving undocumented immigrants into the shadows, afraid of all interactions with police, whether they’re the victims or witnesses. It will also hurt the state’s economy by making us a target for economic boycotts and the loss of productivity that an increase in deportations this law would surely cause.

“No one except Republicans in the state’s leadership wants this racist, divisive and inhumane bill to become law; not police, not local elected officials and certainly not a majority of Texans.

“This bill, combined with the voter ID law and redistricting maps that have been repeatedly deemed to be intentionally discriminatory by federal courts, prove that our state’s legislature wants to erase and marginalize people of color. But we will not succumb to their will. We will not disappear. We will rise up. We will vote. We will claim our power. This is our Texas.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Justice will prevail. We will prevail.”

From State Rep. Gene Wu:

Today’s passage of Senate Bill 4 is a solution in search of a problem. This is a bill that has been crafted out of fear and hatred of immigrants. Not a single Texas city refuses to comply with voluntary ICE Detainers. Not a single Texas city can be called a “Sanctuary City.” The bill as passed, would not just detain criminals, but would target children, victims of crimes, and even immigrants who served in our armed forces. The Texas Legislature has, today, passed a Arizona-style, “Show-me-your-papers” law that will disproportionately affect communities such as those that make up District 137 — hardworking communities made up of native and non-native Texans, refugees, and immigrants both documented and undocumented.

This legislation is cruel. When it was made clear this bill would cause American citizens to be jailed and detained, the proponents of the bill shrugged it off as an unfortunate inconvenience. When Democrats offered amendments to exempt children and victims going to testify in court, those measures were repeatedly defeated on purely party lines. Democrats also asked to exempt religious-based schools who may object with deeply held beliefs; that too was defeated on partisan lines.

When I first spoke on this bill I couldn’t stop thinking about my boys. This bill and other laws like it are a constant reminder that, despite being born in this nation, they will be seen as outsiders because of the way they look; that the law will treat them with suspicion; and they will have to fight just to be treated equally. I was reminded that this is not the first time laws were passed against immigrants based on fear and hatred. And, it will not be the last.

Democrats were united in their opposition to the legislation because this felt like an attack on the diverse communities that we represent and that make Texas great. At the end of the day, all we asked for was mercy for our communities; mercy for our families; and mercy for our children. But no mercy was given.

From the Texas AFL-CIO:

Approval of a harsh, “show me your papers”-style bill that drafts local criminal justice officials into becoming an arm of the federal immigration system marks one of the saddest days I have ever spent around the Texas Legislature.

This bill will harm all working people. Immigrants do some of the hardest jobs in our state and are net contributors not just to our economy but to our future. SB 4 will not only make it easier for unscrupulous employers to deny important workplace rights to immigrants, but will also undermine important labor standards for all workers.

SB 4 is also bad for our Brothers and Sisters in law enforcement who depend on the trust of those who live in the communities they police. That trust could become all but unobtainable under SB 4.

Worst of all, SB 4 will broadly discriminate against minorities in Texas, regardless of immigration status. It will increase the number of times American citizens are asked about their immigration status because of their appearance or language. By making mere detention, rather than arrest, the threshold for questioning immigration status, the law will ensnare people who are not even suspected of committing a crime.

We believe there is broad consensus that the U.S. immigration system is broken. But SB 4 will simply increase discrimination and hardship rather than point toward comprehensive immigration reform.

The DMN, the Texas Observer, the Dallas Observer, and the Current have more.

Busy day in the Senate

They got stuff done, I’ll give them that. Whether it was stuff worth doing or not, I’ll leave to you.

1. Senate bill would let Houston voters weigh in on fix to pension crisis.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval of a bill that would require voters to sign off before cities issue pension obligation bonds, a kind of public debt that infuses retirement funds with lump-sum payments. Issuing $1 billion in those bonds is a linchpin of Houston officials’ proposal to decrease the city’s unfunded pension liabilities that are estimated to be at least $8 billion.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told The Texas Tribune earlier this month that if the bill becomes law and voters reject the $1 billion bond proposition, a delicate and hard-fought plan to curb a growing pension crisis would be shrouded in uncertainty. He also argued that the debt already exists because the city will have to pay it at some point to make good on promises to pension members.

But lawmakers said voters should get to weigh in when cities take on such large amounts of bond debt.

“Of course the voters themselves should be the ultimate decider,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who authored the bill.


State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said at a hearing on several pension bills last week that Houston voters would likely approve the pension bonds – and that she would publicly support the measure. Nonetheless, holding an election on the issue is worthwhile, she maintained.

“The voters want to have a say when the city takes on debt in this way,” she said.

See here and here for the background. The referendum that the Senate bill would require is not a sure thing as the House bill lacks such a provision. We’ll see which chamber prevails. As you know, I’m basically agnostic about this, but let’s please skip the fiction that the pension bonds – which the city has floated in the past with no vote – represents “taking on debt”. The city already owes this money. The bonds are merely a refinancing of existing debt. Vote if we must, but anyone who opposes this referendum is someone who wants to see the pension deal fail. Speaking of voting…

2. Senate OKs measure requiring public vote on Astrodome project.

In a move that could block Harris County’s plans to redevelop the Astrodome, the Texas Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would require a public vote on using tax funds on the project.

Senate Bill 884 by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would require a public vote before Harris County can spend any taxpayer money to improve or redevelop the Astrodome. “Elections are supposed to matter … and this is an example of how a governing body is trying to ignore an election and go contrary to a popular vote,” Whitmire said.


The proposal has drawn opposition from Houston lawmakers who said that move violates the 2013 decision by voters.

Sens. Paul Bettencourt and Joan Huffman, both Houston Republicans, said voters should be given the opportunity to determine whether the new project goes forward because they earlier rejected spending tax money on the restoration.

“The taxpayers of Harris County would be on the hook for this project, and they should be allowed to have a say in whether they want to pay for it,” Huffman said.

Added Whitmire, “After the voters have said no, you don’t go back with your special interests and spend tax money on the Astrodome anyway.”

See here, here, and here for the background. You now where I stand on this. Commissioners Court has to take some of the blame for this bill’s existence, as the consequences of failure for that 2013 referendum were never specified, but this is still a dumb idea and an unprecedented requirement for a non-financed expenditure.

3. Fetal tissue disposal bill gets initial OK in Texas Senate.

Legislation that would require medical centers to bury or create the remains of aborted fetuses won initial approval in the Texas Senate Wednesday.

Because Senate Bill 258 by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, did not have enough votes to be finally approved, a follow-up vote will be needed before it goes to the House.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, where anti-abortion fervor runs strong, that step is all but assured.


After lengthy debate on Wednesday, the measure passed 22-9. Final passage in the Senate could come as soon as Thursday, after which it will go to the House for consideration.

It is one of several abortion-related measures that have passed the Senate this legislative session. Republican lawmakers supported Senate Bill 8 that would ban abortion providers from donating fetal tissue from abortions for medical research, and Senate Bill 415, which targets an abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation.”

Bills also have been filed by Democrats to reverse the 24-hour period a woman must wait to get an abortion and to cover contraceptives for Texans under age 18. The likelihood of those being approved in the GOP-controlled Legislature is considered almost nil.

I have no idea what that second paragraph means; all bills are voted on three times. Whatever. That sound you hear in the background are the lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights loosening up in the bullpen.

4. Texas Senate approves ban on government collecting union dues.

A controversial bill to prohibit state and local governments from deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks was tentatively approved Wednesday by the Texas Senate after a divisive, partisan debate.

The Republican author, Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, denied the measure was anti-union or was designed to target a historical source of support for Democrats, even though she acknowledged that Republican primary voters overwhelmingly support the change.

Police, firefighter and emergency medics’ organizations are exempted from the ban, after those groups had threatened to kill the bill if they were covered the same as teacher groups, labor unions and other employee associations.

Groups not exempted will have to collect dues on their own, a move that some have said will be cumbersome and expensive. Those groups include organizations representing correctional officers, CPS workers and teachers, among others.

I’m going to hand this off to Ed Sills and his daily AFL-CIO newsletter:

Huffman, knowing she had the votes, repeatedly fell back on the argument that government should not be in the business of collecting dues for labor organizations. She never offered any justification for that view beyond ideology. Nor did she provide evidence of a problem with using the same voluntary, cost-free payroll deduction system that state and local employees may steer to insurance companies, advocacy organizations and charities.

Huffman tried to make the distinction between First Responders, who are exempt from the bill, and other state and local employees by saying police and firefighter unions are not known to “harass” employers in Texas. But she had no examples in which other unions of public employees had “harassed” employers.

“One person’s harassment is another person’s political activism,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said while questioning Huffman about the bill.

Watson noted the main proponents of the bill are business organizations that do not represent public employees.

Huffman was also grilled by Sens. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, John Whitmire, D-Houston, Royce West, D-Dallas, and Borris Miles, D-Houston. Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, offered several strong amendments, but they were voted down by the same margin that the bill passed. The senators relayed testimony from a variety of public employees who said SB 13 would be a significant hardship to them and they could not understand why the Legislature would pursue the bill.

At one point, Huffman declared, “This is a fight against unions.” But it was beyond that, even though the measure was first conceived by the rabidly anti-union National Right to Work Foundation and even though the Texas Public Policy Foundation published a report estimating a substantial decline in public union membership if the bill becomes law. It’s a fight against teachers, against correctional officers, against child abuse investigators and against most other stripes of public employees who only want what most working people would consider a routine employer service.

Particularly galling was Huffman’s general assertion that correctional officers, teachers and other dedicated public employees fall short in some way when it comes to meriting payroll deduction, which state and local governments basically provide with a few clicks of a keyboard.

Huffman was under certain misimpressions. In questioning by Whitmire, she repeatedly declared that it would be “easy” for unions to collect dues through some automatic process outside payroll deduction. Whitmire stated, however, that many state employees make little and do not have either checking accounts or credit cards. Huffman was skeptical that some union members essentially operate on a cash-in, cash-out basis.

Despite her assertion that it would be easy to collect dues from public employees outside payroll deduction, Huffman clearly recognized that when other states approved similar bills, union membership dropped.

To use an oft-spoken phrase, it’s a solution in search of a problem. And as with the other bills, further evidence that “busy” is not the same as “productive”. See here for more.

TOP responds to Chron story on Mayor Turner

Via the inbox, we come full circle:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

The following is a statement by Tarsha Jackson, Harris County director of the Texas Organizing Project, in reaction to the article “Progressives fret over Turner’s focus”:

“Far from fretting over Mayor Sylvester Turner’s focus, I am energized that the mayor of the third-largest city in America is committed to rolling up his sleeves and working with organizations like TOP to make Houston a city where everyone is treated fairly and has access to opportunity.

“TOP agrees with Mayor Turner’s reaction to the Chronicle article, ‘Progressives fret over Turner’s focus.’ There are major fights ahead of us that will determine who we are as a city, and we all need to work together to win them.

“From protecting our immigrant communities, to reforming our criminal justice system, to expanding affordable housing and making real progress on closing the gap between rich and poor, we are proud to be working with this mayor to move Houston forward.

“There is much work to be done, including tackling decades-old problems like providing secure pensions for our retirees and protecting taxpayers, but I am excited by our progress so far and optimistic that we can tackle the work ahead.”

See here for the background. Seems to me we’ve written an awful lot about something that isn’t much of a story, but there you have it. I do agree with Campos that while TOP and the AFL-CIO represent a part of the progressive coalition, they are only a part of it. Even without this followup from TOP, it would have been nice to have heard from some other parts of that coalition before declaring that “progressives” are (maybe) fretting about Mayor Turner.

Is there some fretting about Mayor Turner?

Maybe? I don’t know. I guess it depends on how you define “fretting”.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

The resignation of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s top deputy – a social justice advocate and one of the mayor’s few confidants in a sea of senior staff appointed by the previous mayor – is fueling worry among aides and allies about the administration’s commitment to the progressive policy goals on which he campaigned.

Turner for months has downplayed his unusual decision to entrust much of the implementation and communication of his policies to his predecessor’s staff, urging focus on big-ticket accomplishments, such as bringing a pension reform deal to the state legislature, soothing tempers on City Council and closing last year’s $160 million budget gap.

However, chief of staff Alison Brock’s departure just 15 months into Turner’s term has stoked renewed angst among supporters who think Turner has not championed the progressive platform for which they worked to get him elected.

“We’re a little concerned, because she was that voice at the table, so we were confident our concerns were being heard,” said Tarsha Jackson of the Texas Organizing Project. “Now, we’re just hopeful the mayor gets someone that shares his vision, the vision that he had when he ran for office. We don’t have an ally in the mayor’s office right now.”

Jackson, who met and befriended Brock in 2004 when she was Turner’s legislative aide, said TOP’s attempts to reform city economic development policies have stalled, despite Brock’s support.

Labor leader Linda Morales said the same of her efforts to push an ordinance asking city contractors to provide better wages, community engagement and job training.

“Labor wants to be a partner with the mayor,” she said. “We want him to speak to his staff and get on the program with us because it’s his agenda we’re trying to push.”

Turner distinguished himself as a candidate on such issues, calling for a higher minimum wage and pushing the city to require recipients of tax incentives to pay higher salaries. He also decried Houston’s economic inequality, stressing the need to “build a city for the middle class.”

Despite maintaining similar rhetoric in office, the mayor has hesitated to bring forward sweeping progressive policy proposals. His much-hyped “Complete Communities” plan aimed at revitalizing Houston’s under-served neighborhoods, for example, still awaits implementation. As for employee benefits, the city passed an ordinance last year suggesting companies seeking tax breaks offer additional benefits but did not require them to do so.

“The mayor is being cautious, in my opinion maybe too cautious. He’s got issues he wants to pass at the state Legislature, so he’s trying to make his way through the land mines without having folks hurt his possibility of passing pension reform,” said Morales, of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. “I understand that totally, but there’s other things I know, as a collective, progressives want to move.”

The mayor bristled at any perception of sluggish progress.

“Compare my track record with any previous mayor, and if they did as much. Name me one mayor in the last 20 years that has brought forth a pension reform package to this point. … Name me one mayor that has attended more events than I have,” Turner told reporters. “Even though I came in on a very close vote, I have governed in a very uniform, universal fashion.”

Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer largely agreed.

“Other than (former Mayor Bob) Lanier, he’s probably the most successful first-term mayor I’ve seen,” said Aiyer, who served as former mayor Lee Brown’s chief of staff.

I get Tarsha Jackson and Linda Morales’ concerns. Mayor Turner did run a progressive campaign, and he did talk about a lot of non-pension things. To be fair, that was in part because the other guy was talking about it more than enough for everyone. Mayor Turner was always going to have to deal with that, and I feel like lots of things are sort of waiting in the wings until a pension bill gets through the Legislature. (Assuming one does; if that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to say what comes next.) That was basically the theme of look back at Year One story on the Mayor. I think it’s fair to say that if he gets a win on this big issue, it not only restores a lot of oxygen for everything else, it gives him some momentum and capital to push for things that will generate significant political opposition, which includes a lot of the agenda Jackson and Morales are hoping to see get enacted.

I recognize that it sucks to hear that these progressive items that Mayor Turner campaigned on have to wait. It’s far from the first time that has been the message, and I’m sure Jackson and Morales have lost count of the number of times they have heard it. I don’t know what else to suggest other than if you think Mayor Turner is still basically the same person as Candidate Turner was, you’ll need to have faith that he will do as he said he would. Easy for me to say, I know. The other thing I could add is that given the anti-local control nature of this legislative session, there are strategic reasons for waiting till after sine die to roll out a plan for an increased minimum wage or the like. Again, I know what that sounds like. Jackson and Morales clearly understand how and why things are. A little reminder to the Mayor that they’re still here seems like a reasonable strategy. A press release from the Mayor in response to this story is here.

Texas AFL-CIO wants to be the defendant in the overtime case

Because they don’t trust the feds post-January 20 to do the job for them.

“We’re not saying that the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice haven’t forcefully defended the regulations [so far], but as for whether that will continue in the future, we’re starting to have serious concerns,” Yona Rozen, an assistant general counsel at the AFL-CIO, said in an interview Monday. Rozen is representing the Texas branch in the litigation in front of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III in the Eastern District of Texas.

The AFL-CIO branch’s rare motion, filed Dec. 9, marks the latest chapter in a long fight over the rules, which labor regulators contend will provide time-and-a-half overtime pay to an additional 4 million workers.

The plaintiffs in the case, including 21 states, won a preliminary injunction last month. The challengers in the consolidated litigation—including the states and business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—contend the rules violated states’ rights and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In order to intervene in the case, the Texas AFL-CIO must show it has sufficient interest in the issues and that its position won’t be represented adequately by the current named defendants. The plaintiffs oppose the Texas AFL-CIO’s request to intervene. The Justice Department on Monday said it takes no position on the Texas labor group’s request.

The motion filed by the Texas AFL-CIO, a federation of 650 local Texas unions, anticipates that Trump’s Labor Department will not support the rule. Andrew Puzder, the fast-food company chief executive who is Trump’s pick for Labor secretary, has opposed the Obama administration’s push to boost worker-pay.

“With the recent presidential election, and particularly as more information becomes available regarding the incoming administration’s plans, policy and appointments, the Texas AFL-CIO has grave concerns as to whether its interests in the final rule will be represented by the DOL,” the labor group wrote in its court papers.

See here for the background. The expedited appeal to the Fifth Circuit will take place on January 31, so it’s easy enough to imagine a different cast of lawyers from the Labor Department, whose new chief opposes the overtime rule change, tanking teh case. Of course, Congress or the new honcho could undo the rule as well, but there’s no need to make it easy for them. We’ll see what happens.

Fifth Circuit agrees to expedited appeal of overtime injunction

Good news and bad news.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an expedited hearing for the Department of Labor in litigation over new overtime regulations.

The Labor Department is seeking a hearing in its effort to overturn a trial court’s ruling halting the Obama administration’s proposed regulatory revisions that would have doubled for most employees the salary proposed threshold for overtime pay. Those rules were halted from taking effect on Dec. 1.

The appellate court ordered that oral arguments will be scheduled after Jan. 31, 2017, 11 days after President-elect Donald Trump is set to be inaugurated.

For lawyers advising employers, that timing prompts questions, with speculation that the Labor Department under Trump may drop the appeal.

“Bottom line for employers is unfortunately much uncertainty,” Doug Diaz, a partner with Archer in Haddonfield, New Jersey, wrote in an email.

“In the event the appeal is successful and the overtime rule is enforced retroactively, employers may be liable for overtime to those employees classified as exempt from overtime under the current rules, but not under the new rule,” Diaz wrote.

“At a minimum, employers should therefore keep accurate records of hours worked and ideally, if possible, limit overtime until there is more clarity, in order to reduce any potential exposure in the event of a successful appeal,” Diaz added.

See here and here for the background. Diaz’s email pretty much sums it up. We’ll just have to see what happens in January. The Texas AFL-CIO, which has filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, has more.

Texas versus the feds, Overtime Pay Edition

Hey, look, it’s another lawsuit filed by Texas against something the Obama administration did that our AG doesn’t like.

Texas is helping lead a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration over a new rule that makes millions of more workers eligible for overtime pay.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday he is joining his counterpart in Nevada, Adam Laxalt, to file the lawsuit on behalf of 21 states. Paxton said the rule, announced earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Labor, is another example of Obama “trying unilaterally rewrite the law.”

The rule, set to go into effect Dec. 1, doubles the salary threshold under which workers qualify for overtime pay, from $455 per week to $913 per week. The Labor Department estimates the rule will benefit an additional 4.2 million workers.

Critics of the rule say it will place a new burden on businesses, potentially forcing them to demote or lay off workers whom they cannot afford to pay more. On Tuesday, Paxton warned the rule “may lead to disastrous consequences for our economy.”


The lawsuit specifically claims that the rule is too broad because it is based on the salary threshold. Such a requirement, the states argue, overlooks the fact that some workers in the salary range perform management duties that would make them ineligible for overtime.

The states are asking a federal judge in Sherman to issue an injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect. Texas and Nevada are being joined in the lawsuit by Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

A copy of the lawsuit is here. The DMN has a response to the arguments put forth in the suit.

Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, said sarcastically that the salary standard had also been raised in the past by “other communists like George W. Bush and Gerald Ford.”

“It’s remarkable that somehow they think it’s an overreach,” he said. “But it’s not an overreach when an employer asks a $25,000-a-year employee to work 20 hours of overtime for free?”

I trust that’s a rhetorical question, but feel free to answer it anyway, because those are always the most fun. I suspect that as with other recent litigation, the fact that this lawsuit was filed in Sherman is not a coincidence, but the result of seeking out the most sympathetic bench they could find. That has been a fairly successful strategy so far, so keep an eye on that. A statement from the Texas AFL-CIO is beneath the fold, and the Chron has more.


Endorsement watch: Labor for Thompson, the Mayor for Miles

From the inbox:

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO today announced their support of Senfronia Thompson for State Senator District 13.

“Our unions screened two candidates for Senate District 13 — Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Borris Miles,” said Zeph Capo, President of the Area Labor Federation. “Both candidates have been steadfast allies in our efforts to give workers a voice on the job, raise wages for all, adequately fund public services, and defend civil rights. Ultimately, Thompson’s deep experience and long record as a champion for working families led us to back her.”

“Over her twenty-two terms of public service, Senfronia Thompson has been an energetic and consistent advocate of initiatives to help better the lives of working families,” said John Patrick, President of the Texas AFL-CIO. “She is one of the most reliable, influential, and effective leaders with whom I have ever worked. Her knowledge of how state government works is what sets her apart from the other candidates.”

“Representative Thompson has the integrity, the vision, and the will to advocate for all of SD 13’s constituents. Labor will work hard to get her elected to office and help her achieve that goal,” added Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Area Labor Federation.

The release, which came out on Thursday, is here. It was followed on Friday by this:

Rep. Borris Miles

Rep. Borris Miles

Dear Fellow Democrat,

Please join me in supporting Borris Miles for State Senate, District 13.

With the departure of Senator Rodney Ellis to join Commissioners Court, we need to make sure that we have an energetic warrior for the people representing us in the State Senate. That’s my friend and former House colleague, Borris Miles.

I’ve worked with Borris for years and watched his commitment and skill in moving our Democratic priorities forward.

From giving misguided kids a second chance at a better life, to doubling fines for outsiders who dump their trash in our neighborhoods, to increasing access to health care and expanding educational opportunities for us all – Borris gets the job done.

Believe me, it’s tough getting things done as a Democrat in a Republican-controlled legislature. But that’s exactly what our communities deserve.

I’m for Borris because Borris is a warrior for the people. That’s why I respectfully ask you to cast your vote for Borris as the Democratic Party’s nominee for State Senate, District 13.

Warm regards,

Mayor Sylvester Turner

But wait! There’s still more!

Thompson, who first was elected in 1972, has picked up a slew of endorsements from area Democratic congressmen and state legislators.

They include U.S. Reps. Al Green and Gene Green, as well as state Reps. Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Ron Reynolds, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle and Gene Wu.

Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage and the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation and the also have endorsed Thompson, among others.


Miles also touted Dutton’s support, in addition to that of former Mayor Annise Parker, state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Jarvis Johnson, among others.

Dutton could not immediately be reached for comment to clarify which candidate he has in fact backed.

Asked if he has received any endorsements, Green said he is focused on earning precinct chairs’ support.

I’m a little surprised at how active Mayor Turner has been in intra-Democratic elections so far. Mayor Parker was a lot more circumspect, and Mayor White basically recused himself from party politics for his six years in office. I guess I’m not that surprised – the Lege was his bailiwick for a long time – and while these family fights often get nasty, I’m sure he’s fully aware of the pros and cons of getting involved. Whatever the case, this race just got a lot more interesting.

Final runoff early voting numbers


Here are your final early voting numbers for the Republican and Democratic primary runoffs in Harris County. Note that in both cases, mail ballots have accounted for the majority of the total so far: On the Dem side, there have been 10,913 mail ballots to 10,364 in-person votes, and for the Rs it’s 15,297 to 12,742. For that reason, I don’t expect Tuesday’s results to provide a big boost to turnout, though there are still plenty of people who could vote if they wanted to. We’ll see how good a job the campaigns do at getting their people out.

There are two legislative runoffs in Harris County. In the increasingly nasty HD128 runoff between Republican incumbent Wayne Smith and challenger Briscoe Cain, the effect can be seen in the daily totals from the County Clerk. There were 1,858 in person votes in HD128, nearly double the amount of the next busiest district. It’s more muted on the Democratic side, where 932 people have shown up to pick between Jarvis Johnson and Kimberly Willis. That total trails HDs 146 (984) and 142 (949), not to mention the 1,012 votes cast at the West Gray Multi-Service Center. Of course, the dailies from the Clerk are for in person votes only. We won’t know how many absentee ballots have been cast in each district until Tuesday night.

Speaking of Jarvis Johnson, I could swear I saw a story late last week saying he had been sworn into office after his win in the May 7 special election to fill the remainder of now-Mayor Sylvester Turner’s term, but if so now neither Google nor I can find it. Johnson did pick up Mayor Turner’s endorsement for the primary runoff last week, and he has been endorsed by the Texas AFL-CIO COPE as well. Kimberly Willis has the support of the Texas Parent PAC, but not as far as I can tell Annie’s List. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus did not make an endorsement in this runoff.

Outside of Harris County, you know about the HD27 runoff. The other legislative runoff of interest is in HD120, where candidate Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (who is endorsed by Annie’s List) kicked up a bit of a fuss with labor by appearing to give support to “right to work” laws at a candidate forum. That cost her one endorsement she’s previously received; you can read Express News columnist Gilbert Garcia for the details. By the way, the basically useless special election to fill the unexpired term in HD120, which involved four people who are not in the primary runoff, will have its runoff election on August 2. Lord help us all.

Finally, in the Republican runoff for State Board of Education, District 9, Mary Lou Bruner, this cycle’s winner of the Biggest Idiot Who May Actually Get Elected To Something award, may have inadvertently demonstrated that even in a Republican primary runoff for SBOE in East Texas, there are some limits on stupidity. Maybe. That’s not a proposition I’d want to bet my own money on, but we’ll see. SBOE 9 did elect Thomas Ratliff once, so there is hope and precedent. Ask me again on Wednesday.

Highlighting wages in the Mayor’s race

From the inbox:

Coalition Calls on Next Mayor to Raise Minimum Wage for Publicly Funded Projects

Today, a coalition of community and labor organizations staged a tour of of sites that received tax dollars to tell the story of how the city subsidizes the creation of poverty jobs.

“Of the City of Houston’s 35 economic development tax-incentive deals with developers between 2004 – 2014, only 7 had any job promises,” said Feldon Bonner, a member of the Texas Organizing Project at the press conference that kicked off the tour. “None of the deals included language about the quality of the promised jobs, and only one has provided reports to the City on its job creation deliverables. This is unacceptable.”

The tour started at the Westin Downtown, formerly known as the Inn at the Ballpark, for which Landry’s received $2 million dollars in tax giveaways, and despite failing to provide the 125 jobs promised, the city council voted to allow Landry’s to keep the incentives.

“These tax deals are not going to mom and pop businesses. They are not going to small, women-owned, minority owned or disadvantaged businesses,” said Pastor David Madison, a TOP leader. “Tillman Fertitta, CEO, chairman and owner of Landry’s has a net worth of $2.3 billion. Yet Landry’s is one of the region’s largest poverty job creators paying its more than 10,000 service and restaurant workers in the Houston area low wages.”

The next stop was at Ainbinder Heights, a development anchored by Walmart, and includes a McDonald’s and Taco Cabana. The city awarded Ainbinder $6 million in tax breaks for property improvements. The agreement between the city and Ainbinder spans 48 pages, yet the city failed to negotiate any specific commitments for the number and quality of jobs or any other meaningful community benefits.

“Let’s not forget that Walmart is the largest corporation in the world! And the Walton family is the richest family in America with a net worth of $149 billion dollars. Do you think they need our tax incentives?,” Florence Coleman, a TOP leader, asked the community members present. “Do they deserve our tax incentives? The average Walmart associate makes just $8.81 per hour. Nationally, taxpayers are already footing a $6.2 billion bill in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing for Walmart employees who can’t provide for their families because of the low wages Walmart pays them.”

The final stop was at the Astrodome, a project that will probably receive tax dollars. County Judge Ed Emmett has traveled around the world to put together a plan for its reconstruction that includes water park, theater & trails. But there is no plan to assure that the jobs created by this project pay well and have benefits.

“The Astrodome was built by union workers back in the early 1960s, and we’re proud to have contributed to it,” said Paul Puente of the Building Trades Union. “And our elected officials have the obligation to leverage our public dollars effectively so projects like the Astrodome redevelopment provide good jobs that pay at least $15 dollars per hour or prevailing wage, whichever is higher. Jobs that provide training and benefits. And to make sure African American and Latino families in struggling neighborhoods have access to these jobs by including local hire requirements and second chance provisions.”

The coalition staged the tour today to so that Houston’s next mayor makes higher wages a priority.

“We are here today to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated with publicly funded development projects like the ones we visited earlier today,” Puente added. “Our local economy cannot afford one more poverty wage job. Our communities cannot accept one more poverty-wage job.”

The following organizations participated in today’s tour: Texas Organizing Project, SEIU Texas, AFL-CIO, Fe y Justicia Worker Center and Working America. Pictures can be downloaded from here:

That came out the same day as this story about Houston not being the affordable city we are used to it being. High housing costs are a big factor in that, but so are low average wages. Attacking that problem can have an effect on the bottom line as well. There’s only so much a Mayor can do directly about this – we already have an executive order in place establishing a higher minimum wage for companies that do business with the city, thanks to Mayor Parker – but talking about the issue and making it a point in negotiations over real estate deals like the ones cited above are two of them. I’m glad to see this coalition call attention to it.

Here comes the Uber and Lyft vote

Barring anything unexpected, today is the day that Houston City Council settles – for now, anyway – the Uber/Lyft issue. Houston is not the only place where transportation network companies are seeking to do business in Texas, of course. The Trib takes a look at the state of play around Texas.

“As the current city of Austin code is written, you still have to be a permitted ground transportation service to operate in the city of Austin,” said Samantha Alexander, a spokeswoman with the city of Austin’s Transportation Department. “As of right now, they are not permitted.”

Lyft and Uber drivers in Austin are at risk for a Class C misdemeanor ticket and possibly having their car impounded, Alexander said. She noted that in some cases, Austin police have ticketed Uber or Lyft drivers who were unaware that they were in violation of any city rules.

“Our big message right now is to make sure people aren’t breaking the law accidentally,” Alexander said.

Drivers have also been ticketed in Houston and San Antonio. In Corpus Christi, a 30-day grace period for Lyft and Uber drivers ends Tuesday, according to a recent statement from Corpus Christi Police Chief Floyd Simpson.

“There will be a dedicated enforcement effort following with intent to persuade compliance and ensure public safety,” Simpson said last month in an editorial for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Police officials did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


Texas cities are at varying stages of re-evaluating city regulations overseeing vehicle-for-hire services to see if there’s a way to allow the popular services to co-exist with traditional taxi services. In some cases, the debates have been hotly contested.

“Cities are recognizing they have to change, and that it’s a great thing if people have more options,” said Joseph Kopser, CEO of Austin-based RideScout, an app that provides real-time information about transportation services in different cities.

In Dallas, city officials drew howls of outrage last year after an interim city manager defied the usual protocol and placed an item on the City Council agenda without prior council discussion that would have effectively shut down Uber’s efforts in the city. The item was never approved and drew a city investigation.

In recent months, Dallas officials have been working with various stakeholders, including Uber and Lyft, to update their regulations. Next week, Councilwoman Sandy Greyson is planning to propose a new vehicle-for-hire regulation system that removes the current cap on taxi and limo licenses and allows companies to charge whatever fares they want. TNCs would have to abide by some new regulations, including paying for permits.

“What we’ve done is pretty much scrap all our current regulations and come up with an entirely new model where we will regulate all vehicle-for-hire providers the same way,” Greyson said. “This is a free-market proposal.”


Along with questions about safety and fees, equity issues are also drawing debate, such as whether companies like Uber and Lyft should be required to provide reliable taxi service to a city’s disabled residents. In many Texas cities, the city code requires traditional taxi fleets to include some wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Last week, a group of disabled people, including two in Houston and one in San Antonio, sued Uber and Lyft for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Greyson, the Dallas councilwoman, said her proposal will require that a certain portion of a provider’s fleet be handicap accessible.

Chris Nakutis, an Uber general manager who oversees its Texas market, said the company partners with a wheelchair-accessible taxi service in Chicago. He did not rule out the company partnering with such services in Texas, but he took issue with the idea that the company should be required to in every market.

“We don’t own any vehicles. We don’t hire any drivers,” Nakutis said. “To the extent that there are wheelchair-accessible vehicles, we partner with them. Even if we don’t have wheelchair-accessible vehicles in a community, those people have the exact same opportunities they had before we entered the market.”

In addition to all that, Sidecar is coming to Texas later this year as well, and Uber is looking for drivers in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock and Waco. So expect the stories we’ve heard before to repeat themselves elsewhere. Meanwhile, in Austin, there’s a stakeholder meeting to kick the discussion off there. One way or another, things are happening and I have to figure a year from now the landscape will look very different.

I had not heard about that ADA-related lawsuit before reading this story. A Google News search shows that it’s gotten exactly zero mainstream media coverage. Taxi companies filed a lawsuit in April over the newcomers’ business practices, but this is an entirely different issue. The negotiations in Houston have included a possible requirement for Uber and Lyft to have some percentage of their drivers be able to accommodate disabled riders. I’m very interested to see how this shakes out.

But today is for Houston. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a good feel for who stands where on this, and at this point we don’t know what exactly the final ordinance will look like. Yesterday was the usual Tuesday pop-off session at Council, so it was the last chance before today’s vote for people to give their feedback on the proposals. Lauren Barrash, the founder and CEO of The Wave and a vocal critic of Uber and Lyft, sent me a copy of what she said to Council:

Good afternoon. In preparation for today’s public comment I wanted to shed light on a few new concerns I have regarding the vote tomorrow to pass the new Chapter 46.

First- Last week the limousine stakeholders were not notified that the ordinance was on the agenda which is why they did not have a presence at City Hall for public comment. They were also not aware of the amendments we all found out about from the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday morning.

Second- We were all emailed a new draft ordinance on Friday, June 6th. In speaking with some of the Council staff, that was not sent to you all.

Third- I have been trying, with no avail, to add some jitney revisions, but have been told, “we will have to get to after this one passes”. As a law abiding tax paying stakeholder, my concerns and recommendations should be weighted as heavily as these illegal operators forcing us to rush through this process

Last & most important- I want you to ask the question to them today if they are willing to stand before you & say with all honesty, they will comply 100% with all requirements in the new Chapter 46 Ordinance no later than the date required. And if not, you need to consider harsh consequences- impoundment, criminal charges, tickets, insurance notification because they have already displayed their lack of concern if tickets are issued. And if they say they will comply, you need to make certain you have the ability to enforce those laws. You also need to ensure there are harsh consequences for violation of the ordinance & be able to enforce those.

I have several questions regarding certain line items both in the section pertaining to jitneys as well as some of the Ordinance applicable to all of us, but am not being heard and am not able to ask those questions to ARA because they are busy accommodating the likes of Uber & Lyft.

Nothing in life is free. Free enterprise is not about not having to pay to be in business. It is about an open market for business to come in & operate legally. The media is hearing one side of this, but I sincerely hope you all have heard all three sides. It is hard to hear the real message hear when you have a shiny marketing, PR, and outreach plan from an $18 Billion company.

I ask that you think if it were your business at stake, would you want them to be a stakeholder. Equate it to someone like Chili’s, who has TONS of money, coming into a market & opening hundreds of restaurants on every prime piece of real estate, but not getting permits, inspections, plans. You wouldn’t let that happen.

I’m not sure how well that analogy holds up once an ordinance is passed, but I can certainly appreciate the frustration in the interim, once the newcomers went rogue. The Chron notes this while urging passage of an overhaul to the vehicle for hire code.

Mandatory prices, minimum fleet sizes and required advanced reservations serve little public good, and have no place in laws regulating Town Cars and other vehicles-for-hire.

But then the lobbyists got involved. Over the past several months, policy has turned to personal politics, and what should have been an easy vote has become a municipal mud fight. Instead of discussing regulations, council members are talking about individual companies.

Do you support Yellow Cab? Do you support Uber, a car service software company that connects riders with drivers? What about other newcomers like Lyft or Sidecar?

Council members should leave that choice to consumers. City Hall’s job is to write policy that achieves goals of safety, predictability and healthy economics. Right now, Chapter 46, which covers vehicles-for-hire, fails to meet those ends.

Frankly, Uber’s antics have worn thin. The $18.2 billion company’s gleeful noncompliance with laws across the nation has begun to smack less of civil disobedience and more of corporate privilege run amok. We’re witnessing the values of a Silicon Valley where men think they’re kings because they learned how to code.

It is hubris matched only by Houston’s current taxi monopoly, which acts as if it is entitled to exist without competition and thinks itself a saint because it accepts Metro vouchers to pick up the handicapped – a rather profitable form of charity.

Instead of duking it out in City Hall, these companies should take their fight to the people.

I suspect they will get that chance. And I will say again, it would be a good idea to review what gets done today in another six or twelve months, since no one really knows what the effect of the changes will be.

Finally, the Times notes that cab drivers are beginning to think more broadly about how to respond.

As services like UberX, whose drivers often use their own vehicles to transport passengers, make inroads in city after city, traditional taxi drivers are facing a loss of clout and livelihood. Years of rising gas prices and, in many places, stagnant fares have contributed to lower incomes for many drivers.

Eager to reverse the trend, taxi drivers in Chicago and other cities are for the first time seeking to form a national taxi drivers’ union — not just to gain leverage against UberX but also to pressure city officials and taxi companies to heed their concerns. The powerful taxi drivers’ union in New York City, with 17,000 members, is spearheading this effort, bringing its organizing expertise to Chicago, where it is pushing to unionize thousands of drivers and to link up with drivers’ unions in Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, northern Maryland and Austin, Tex.

Here and elsewhere, drivers express similar grievances: low pay, high leasing fees, police who issue too many tickets and taxi companies that cheat them. Despite those common problems, forming a national union will be difficult, in part, because taxi drivers are an independent, disputatious group with roots in dozens of countries.


The A.F.L.-C.I.O. supports the idea of a national taxi drivers’ union as part of its broader strategy to reverse decades of decline in union membership and power. Labor groups are realizing that they can no longer afford to ignore sectors like the taxi industry that employ many immigrant workers, whom unions view as a vital source of potential membership growth. And taxi drivers, whether Ethiopian, Haitian or Pakistani, are often leaders in immigrant communities around the country.

One snag these unionization plans face is that taxi drivers are usually independent contractors who are barred by antitrust law from colluding to set prices (although they can lobby city officials to grant fare increases).

Drivers say that some organizing efforts have been paying off. For instance the 1,200-member drivers’ union in Philadelphia helped secure three fare increases, lower fines for violations like having bald tires and a reduction in the fee for accepting credit card payments to 5 percent of the fare, from 10 percent.

Ronald Blount, president of the Philadelphia union, sees benefits in going national. “We can learn from each other. We can see what forms of pressure worked in other cities,” he said.

Probably too late to have any effect in Houston, but we’ll see how it goes elsewhere.

The Texas Future Project

Very interesting.

High-powered Democrats from Texas and California have joined with national labor unions in an effort to mobilize out-of-state donors and raise millions of dollars to build a progressive majority in the Lone Star State that could change state policy and national elections.

The Texas Future Project – that also will seek to convince Texas Democrats to donate here – wants to direct funding to groups that it has identified as working to effect change, from Battleground Texas to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

The project has commitments for close to $1 million, said Houston lawyer Steve Mostyn. He and his wife, Amber, are top Democratic donors and part of a small core group of members of the project, which also includes a key California-based supporter of President Obama.

“The main thing … when we talk to people from out of state, or folks in this state about keeping your money here, is the fact that it’s possible – and that if the work is done, and the money is spent, that it’s probable, it’s actually probable -that you now become a battleground state in 2016 for the presidential race,” Steve Mostyn said. “And the long-term effect – once you get a voter to vote once, then twice, then they are pretty much to be there.”

Mostyn said the group would “like to raise as much as we can. If it’s not doing a few million a year, then it’s not really doing what it was designed to do.”

The effort is aimed at building the infrastructure to turn out underrepresented voters in Texas – particularly Latinos, African-Americans, single women and young voters – as state demographic changes give hope to Democrats long shut out of statewide office.


The Texas Future Project was started by the Mostyns – Susman and his wife, Ellen, who has now stepped back from political efforts because she was appointed by the Obama administration to head the U.S. government’s Art in Embassies program – and San Francisco-based donor activist Steve Phillips, who was founder and chairman of, which conducted the biggest independent expenditure effort in the country in the 2008 presidential primaries to support Barack Obama. Phillips also is founder and chairman of the progressive PAC&.

Also on the ground floor of the state project are labor unions concerned about Texas wages and standards. The AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union helped start it. The United Food and Commercial Workers joined more recently.

The project has identified groups in Texas that it considers to be “high-impact, high-performing, accountable programs that are building field infrastructure and engaging in leadership development for progressive change beyond any election cycle,” according to Mostyn’s email.

They include Annie’s List, Battleground Texas, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, the Texas Organizing Project and the Workers Defense Project.

My interpretation of this is that it’s basically a clearinghouse for large donors to direct funds to various groups that do good work for progressive political causes, especially progressive electoral causes. The named beneficiaries are all certainly worth supporting. Their webpage is nothing more than a way to get on their mailing list at this time, so you won’t learn much there. (Note to Randall Munroe: I had to go to the second page of the Google search results for Texas Future Project to find that webpage.) I’m a little concerned that building this kind of structure might make it more difficult for new progressive organizations to get off the ground, but I don’t know for sure that will happen. Overall, this sounds pretty good to me. What do you think?

Wage theft ordinance back before Council

It should be up for discussion this week.

“Wage theft is defined as a situation in which someone employs someone to perform a service, not intending to pay them wages. That’s an extreme offense,” [City Attorney David] Feldman said. “The city has an interest in knowing if that type of conduct is taking place under a public contract. That’s one reason why this ordinance affords a process for that kind of complaint to be brought directly to the city.”

Workers who believe they have been improperly denied pay can file civil complaints with the Texas Workforce Commission or in court, or pursue criminal complaints with police and prosecutors. Most workers choose the state agency, but Feldman said that the process is hopelessly slow.

A coalition of builders, contractors, restaurateurs, building owners and hotel operators has argued that existing civil and criminal processes should take priority, particularly since the proposed city ordinance levies sanctions only after existing remedies are exhausted. Coalition member Joshua Sanders, executive director of developer-led Houstonians for Responsible Growth, said city involvement in fielding wage theft filings could result in companies being unfairly snubbed if complaints later prove to be without merit. However, Sanders said, the trade groups are open to further discussions.

“We are not supportive of wage theft. The city should set an example in not doing business with these types of individuals,” Sanders said. “But we don’t want a process set up to where individuals can go shame businesses by filing unmeritorious complaints. There’s a system in place that supersedes the city and our ordinances, and there are processes in place there that are effective and work.”


The proposal would bar the city from hiring people or firms that had been assessed civil penalties or judgments related to wage theft or that have been criminally convicted of the offense, provided all appeals are exhausted. Those with final criminal wage theft convictions also would be denied 46 types of city permits and licenses for five years. Feldman has said criminal wage theft convictions are rare.

See here for the previous entry – this ordinance was first proposed in July – and here for some background on the issue. There’s not a lot of detail in the story so I’m not sure what the point of contention is. I hope we all agree that people should be paid the wages they were promised without any subsequent conditions, and that the city should not do business with anyone that rips off its workers in this fashion. Assuming we are in fact all on board with that, then we should be able to work out the details of how to enforce it. If anyone is not in agreement with this, then I look forward to hearing what their arguments are, because I’m having a hard time imagining what they could be. Stace has more.

Let the endorsement race begin!

We may not have a date for the SD06 special election, but that doesn’t mean the race hasn’t begun. In particular, the race to begin collecting endorsements has begun, and both major declared candidates have announced wins. Sylvia Garcia has the AFL-CIO on her side.

[Wednesday] Harris County AFL-CIO COPE Members met with Senate District 6 candidates and by a landslide voted to endorse Sylvia Garcia as the leader they know will fight for fair jobs, healthcare and education in Austin.

“Sylvia Garcia has been a strong supporter of working families’ issues from her days with the City of Houston to Commissioners Court. She has the experience and knowledge to represent the people of District 6 and will address critical needs like education and healthcare. Sylvia will be an outstanding Senator for the State of Texas,” said Richard Shaw, Harris County AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

Meanwhile, Carol Alvarado has the firefighters.

State Representative Carol Alvarado has received the backing of Houston Firefighters in her campaign for Texas State Senate District 6. She is running to succeed the late Senator Mario Gallegos, a former Houston Firefighter who passed away in October.

Alvarado has been endorsed by the Houston Professional Firefighters Association Local 341, which represents over 3,800 men and women who serve in the nation’s third largest fire department.

“I am honored to receive the support of Houston Firefighters,” Alvarado said. “These men and women put themselves on the line every day to protect the people of this community, and it means a great deal that they are supporting with me, particularly since Senator Gallegos was one of their own.”

“Mario Gallegos was our brother,” said Local 341 President Jeff Caynon. “While we still grieve his passing, we are proud to stand with Carol Alvarado to succeed him in the Senate. She is a strong advocate for firefighters and public safety and we believe she is the best candidate to continue Mario’s work.”

We have discussed the value of endorsements many times, and while that value varies with the race and the endorsement in question, they ought to be quite valuable in a special election like this one, since endorsements like these should translate into some number of votes from the members of the endorsing groups. Especially in a race where there’s hardly any difference between the candidates in terms of issues or record of public service, endorsements like these give people like me whose impression going in is that either candidate would be fine by them a reason to pick one over the other. Finally, if there are any other potential candidates out there still weighing their options, as Rick Noriega is said to be doing, the longer they take to decide the more of these they’ll miss out on, thus making it that much harder to win when and if they do jump in. It’s in both Sylvia Garcia’s and Carol Alvarado’s interest to keep the field small, or at least the field of candidates with a realistic path to victory.

The Chamber of Commerce tax cut gets extended

Remember the Chamber of Commerce tax cut from the 2009 legislative session? Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO has an update on it:

Much to our chagrin, the 2009 Texas Legislature approved a law that exempts local Chambers of Commerce from property taxes based on their status as a “nonprofit community business organization.”

The notion that Chambers of Commerce, which in some cases occupy very expensive properties, should not contribute to schools, cities, counties and other local entities seems contrary to their purported roles as catalysts for community growth. While we haven’t seen a full accounting of the cost of this exemption, the permanent tax holiday for Chambers of Commerce certainly seems inappropriate at a time when the Legislature has cut $4 billion from the state budget for public schools.

Now, under an opinion released [last week] by Attorney General Greg Abbott, it turns out that local boards of realtors also fall under the same tax exemption. This apparently comes as a surprise to one of the sponsors of the law, Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Pasadena, who argued in requesting the opinion that the legislative intent was to exempt local chambers of commerce only. That doesn’t matter, Abbott said. The view of one legislator does not determine legislative intent for legal purposes, and the plain language of the statute fits boards of realtors, he argued.

For the record, labor unions pay property taxes and have not lobbied the Legislature for similar tax-exempt status.

The next time you hear a local chamber of commerce official discuss school finance, or local taxes, or support for city and county institutions, remember the privileged status the chambers (and now the realtor boards) have wangled from the Texas Legislature. Come to think of it, you might want to remember when you pay your property taxes in the coming months that your local Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to join you in supporting local government.

This is an issue that, in hard times, cries out for a revisit. Who’s next on the list of privileged business entities that don’t have to pay taxes?

Sure is nice to be in the one percent, isn’t it?

Senate fails to bring the budget to the floor

It started Monday when Senate Finance Chair Sen. Steve Ogden said he might pull same Rainy Day funds out of the budget in order to get more Republican (read: Dan Patrick) support for it. After some discussion about alternate ways of incorporating Rainy Day funds and some griping about the Comptroller, CSHB1 was brought up for debate about suspending the rules on Tuesday afternoon. The Trib liveblogged the action, in which Ogden laid out the game plan:

Ogden started by telling lawmakers that if they vote to suspend — to take up the budget bill for debate — he’ll take out the provision that would dip into Rainy Day Funds if state revenue comes up short. He’d reduce Medicaid spending by $1.25 billion (more on that in a second), and would include a contingent appropriation equivalent to a 1.2 percent across-the-board spending increase in everything except public education and debt services.

The across-the-board cuts would take place if the comptroller says the money isn’t available; if it is, those cuts won’t happen.

And the Medicaid cuts are a sleight of hand: Lawmakers will be back in January 2013 and if Medicaid comes up short — by, say, $1.25 billion — they’ll take care of it then. In fact, the budget without any changes pushes $3 billion in Medicaid spending off for the next Legislature to deal with.

That was not acceptable to Democrats, and after three hours the vote to suspend fell short, 19-12, on straight party lines. But as Nate Blakeslee noted, the Republicans have another card to play.

Under the Senate rules, Wednesdays are “House bill days” in which House bills already on the calendar may be brought up for consideration without suspending the regular order of business—that is, without a two-thirds vote of the senators present. You do have to take the House bills in the order they currently appear on the calendar. The next House bill on the Senate’s official Regular Order of Business calendar—that green book you see floating around the Senate that nobody ever looks at because it is usually totally irrelevant–is HB 1, the budget. Tomorrow is a Wednesday.

It’s clear that this is what will happen today.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the decision before the senators is not about the budget but whether “to change the whole nature of how things operate here.”

Ogden agreed that if he could not get the 21 votes needed today, Senate traditions were at risk.

“That is why I have worked so hard and done everything that I could possibly think of to get to 21 votes,” Ogden said.

But Ogden pointedly noted that “we were not sent down here to preserve the two-thirds rule. We were sent down here to govern.”

“People of the state of Texas don’t give a diddly about the two-thirds rule,” he said.

I do agree with Sen. Ogden about that. People for the most part don’t know or care about procedural minutiae. I for one am not going to defend any supermajority requirements, not after all the crap we saw in the US Senate these past two years. Let the debate happen, and if in the end it passes on another straight party vote, as was the case in the House, then so be it. If this is what the Republicans want, if this is what they think they were elected to do, then let them do it. I’m happy to have that debate. There was some speculation earlier in the week that Democrats, on the House side at least, were hoping for Senate budget talks to break down and force a special session, but politically speaking this does nearly the same thing.

So we’ll see where it goes from here. Robert Miller thinks this is the demise of the Senate’s 2/3 rule, and I think he’s right. Jason Embry had wondered why conservative activists hadn’t been rebelling against it before; now they may not have to. What I know is that ownership of all of the bad effects of the budget is now fully in the Republicans’ hands. Let’s get the next election season started, shall we? A statement from Sen. Kirk Watson is here, a statement from the Texas AFL-CIO is here, and a letter to Sen. Wendy Davis from the Legislative Budget Board about her request “regarding historical funding of student enrollment growth in the Foundation School Program” is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: EoW and the Trib have more.


Pro-Prop 1 op-ed

Council Member Stephen Costello, the driving force behind Renew Houston, now known as Proposition 1 on the November ballot, teams up with a pair of co-authors to pen this op-ed in its favor.

Proposition 1 is a sensible solution that will fill the fiscal hole and get us back on solid ground. It changes our City Charter to create a dedicated fund – preventing the city from using street and drainage funds for any other purpose. It requires the city to pay for road and drainage projects on a pay-as-you-go basis, ending wasteful borrowing and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Even better, Proposition 1 will fill our fiscal hole with jobs. The projects funded by Proposition 1 will create badly needed jobs now – when we need them most. With the city’s anticipated Hire Houston First program, most of those jobs should go to Houston families first. Proposition 1 projects will improve emergency response times by reducing the flooding and bad road conditions that keep first responders from arriving on the scene quickly. And new water retention ponds will not only prevent flooding, but also double as parks and green space and improve the quality of life for our families.


By requiring the city to convert to a pay-as-you-go program, we’ll save more than $2 billion in debt service over the next 20 years – money that will go directly into upgrading our streets and drainage systems. Developers will pay their fair share, to account for the impact of new development on our storm-water drainage systems. Commercial and residential property owners will pay a user fee based in part on their “impervious cover,” the amount of hard surface on their property – like buildings and driveways – that cannot absorb water.

Preliminary estimates put the average user fee at around $5 per month for a typical homeowner. Parker’s administration is working on the exact amount of the fee and the mayor has assured voters they will have a clear picture of how much they will be paying well before the vote.

A few thoughts:

– It’s my understanding that there are a couple of anti-Prop 1 PACs currently in existence. I don’t know anything about them. It’s possible they’ll eventually amount to nothing, but I wouldn’t count on it. Assuming they do fully engage, it would be nice if they would attempt to refute the arguments that Costello and other Prop 1 supporters are making instead of just screaming “Rain tax!” over and over again in the hope of scaring enough people to vote against it. Needless to say, I don’t expect that to be the case.

– As you know, I’ve wondered who the base supporters are of Prop 1. One of Costello’s co-authors for this piece is Dale Wortham, the president of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council. Having labor on board will go a long way towards solidifying Democratic support.

– I have not yet seen Mayor Parker really get involved on this. I’m sure she will, I’m just saying I haven’t seen it yet.

I’ll have an interview with CM Costello next week to discuss Prop 1. What are your thoughts about it?

What Becky Moeller says

I like this statement by Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller so much, I’m printing it in full:

Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller issued this statement at a news conference held near the site of the Republican State Convention in Dallas:

Hello. My name is Becky Moeller. I am president of the Texas AFL-CIO, a state labor federation consisting of more than 200,000 affiliated union members who advocate for working families in Texas.

On May 19, the Texas AFL-CIO publicly offered Gov. Rick Perry the use of this manufactured home as alternative housing for $1 a year. We added some amenities for illustrative purposes to give it a homey touch, including a 50-year-old stuffed German shepherd (not a coyote) that has sentimental value to me, issues of Food and Wine magazine and a goodly supply of hair product.

The governor’s spokesman pooh-poohed the idea, saying we have better uses for our resources. We are interpreting that response and the ensuing silence over the last few weeks as a “no” and we are working on the matter of a worthwhile permanent use for this fine single-wide residence. But first we have a point or two to make at the state political conventions.

Some have described our offer as a “political stunt”. We have used what may be a colorful tactic to make a very serious point.

When the Legislature convenes in 2011, Texans face what may be the most austere budget picture ever, with a shortfall estimated as high as $18 billion. So far, our state’s leaders have asked virtually all state agencies to cut 5 percent from the current budget and propose an additional 10 percent of cuts in the next budget.

These exercises are the norm in tough economic times, but the choices faced by the Legislature are considerably broader than some of the early political-season rhetoric would have you believe. Rather than “cut bone” in critical state programs like education, health care and infrastructure, the Texas AFL-CIO has suggested, for example, that the Rainy Day Fund, which will be nearly $10 billion by next January, should be spent down before a single state job or core program is eliminated or harmed.

In this picture, the governor’s taxpayer-funded lifestyle is not a big issue, but it is hugely symbolic. We don’t begrudge Gov. Perry comfortable living quarters. The People’s Mansion, which was tragically gutted by an arsonist, is a state treasure that we look forward to seeing restored across the street from our office. But in the midst of leadership calls for cuts in public schools, universities, hospitals and infrastructure agencies, we think our leaders should set an example.

When we heard from the governor’s spokeswoman that Gov. Perry was setting that example by making do with a full-time chef and a part-time chef on the taxpayer dime, we believed strongly that the wrong message was being sent.

The record will reflect that when Gov. Perry cut his own budget, he simply cut some unspent funds from the economic development money that he controls. While generating jobs is important to our state, the program is controversial and does not touch on the day-to-day operations of the governor’s office. Meanwhile, AP reported that taxpayers have spent $600,000 to date to house Gov. Perry in a $10,000-a-month mansion in a gated community 14 miles from the Capitol. Gov. Perry has said he was forced to make this choice by the Department of Public Safety and the Legislature, though the evidence for that assertion seems to be wanting.

We think the issue is simple. At a time when Texans are hurting for jobs and the state is preparing for a time of austerity, the governor of Texas – who is calling for less government and more cuts — should set an example of sacrifice. Maybe the manufactured home you see here isn’t to the governor’s liking and maybe the Texas AFL-CIO parking lot is not the best venue for a temporary gubernatorial residence. We would assert, however, that a cloistered millionaires’ neighborhood rented on the people’s dime shouldn’t be to the liking of Texans. Anyone who thinks this manufactured home isn’t serious ought to take a close look at the governor’s temporary digs and consider who is less serious about the times and issues our state faces.

The only thing I’d add is to note that as Lisa Falkenberg has shown, even Perry has now backed away from his ridiculous “DPS made me do it” statement. Besides that, it’s spot on.

AFL-CIO offers Perry cheaper housing

There’s some first-class snark in this press release I got from the Texas AFL-CIO today. The speaker is Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller.

In light of the state’s historically huge budget shortfall and new cuts that will place hundreds if not thousands of state employees on the brink of losing their livelihood, the Texas AFL-CIO stands ready to offer Gov. Perry an opportunity to trade down. We are offering this modest but perfectly comfortable substitute for the extravagant $10,000-a-month, taxpayer-funded rental mansion beset by coyotes.

In keeping with the reality faced by Texans in tough economic times, Gov. Perry might find that using taxpayer dollars to live like an ordinary Texan, rather than like a king, sends a better message.

We are offering the use of this h for $1 a year, compared to $10,000 a month plus many other expenses at the rental mansion. If Gov. Perry accepts our offer, we will work out furnishings, connections and any reasonable details to make certain the building is comfortable for temporary living.

Although it was just delivered, we have tried to bring some homey touches to the manufactured home you see here. Among the amenities, Gov. Perry will find Food and Wine Magazine, a 50-year-old stuffed German shepherd from my personal collection that is not a coyote, and a short-term supply of hair product.

As the Governor well knows, it’s hard to beat this location. The home is within a short walk of the Capitol and in view of the people’s Mansion. The Republican Party of Texas folks next door can join the Department of Public Safety officers across the street in keeping an eye on the place.

The fire at the Governor’s Mansion was a tragedy that has kept the governor out of our neighborhood far longer than anticipated. But we think it is a continuing mistake for Texans to spend an additional $600,000 – and counting – in mansion rent when the state could easily have bought the governor a very comfortable temporary home in that price range, then sold it at little net cost.

The place is a single-wide trailer, which they had parked in front of their headquarters. Not surprisingly, Perry turned them down. Whatever I may day about the dollar amounts involved, there’s no arguing with the AFL-CIO’s math here. People who actually care about managing costs think of stuff like that, unlike our Governor.

We will keep trying the same solutions until they work

Speaker Straus says that all options are on the table for dealing with the budget shortfall, as long as we’re talking about spending cuts. The table isn’t big enough to accommodate any other kind of options.

Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a rare appearance before the Appropriations Committee that the trick will be to write “a balanced, no new taxes state budget in the face of a daunting shortfall.”

He noted the federal health care overhaul law will require Texas and other states to spend more money on their programs for the poor and near-poor in coming years.

“This makes it even more imperative that the state of Texas cover its budget shortall without a tax increase,” Straus said. Higher taxes would slow the state’s economic growth, he warned.

Straus said state lawmakers should consider “a blanket moratorium” on new programs or services funded by state taxes; ways to improve collection of fines and fees; a halt to further state bond issues; and even the unpaid furloughs or four-day workweeks for state employees that have been tried in many other states.

“I’m not advocating for any one of these choices in particular but I do know that every cost savings idea must be on the table,” he said.

All this talk about cuts and furloughs and no politically correct stones being left unturned is little more than window dressing. Any conversation that doesn’t acknowledge the $4.6 billion structural deficit is a conversation that isn’t dealing with the problem. To his discredit, Straus not only doesn’t want to talk about this, he’d rather try to blame others for the fix we’re in. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a very bad feeling about the budget battle to come.

I know it’s bad form to talk about revenue, but as BOR noted, taxes are at a historically low level right now.

Federal, state and local taxes – including income, property, sales and other taxes – consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the past half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

“The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts,” says Michael Ettlinger, head of economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. The real problem is spending, counters Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups. “The money we borrow is going to be paid back through taxation in the future,” he says.

Taxes paid have fallen much faster than income in this recession. Personal income fell 2% last year. Taxes paid dropped 23%. The BEA classifies Social Security taxes as insurance payments and excludes them from the tax calculation.

And yet we can’t even put taxes on the table. Why are we so afraid to talk about this in any context but cuts?

One more thing: In his testimony before the committee, Straus specifically mentioned things like furloughs, moratoriums on new programs, and no more bonds to cover debt. Absent was any talk about reducing the prison population as a means of achieving savings. So I ask again: Is everything really on the table or not? Because it sure looks to me like there’s a lot of things that are not.

Beneath the fold is are statements from Becky Moeller with the Texas AFL-CIO and Linda Bridges from the Texas AFT calling on the Lege to spend down the Rainy Day Fund before making cuts to the budget. I endorse this approach, having seen what the 2003 budget cuts wrought on the state. I fear, however that, we will be as penurious as ever when the time comes.

Lawmakers will have more than $8 billion in the state’s so-called “rainy day fund” to help fill the budget hole. But it takes a two-thirds vote to spend any of it. For now, [Appropriations Committee] Chairman [Jim] Pitts thinks he only has the votes to spend half the fund.

I guess it never rains hard enough for some people to open their umbrellas. Read on for the statements from Moeller and D’Amico, and see EoW for more.


Endorsement watch: LLLC, PBA, HCD

Here’s a trio of recent endorsements, from the Latino Labor Leadership Council, the Pasadena Bar Association, and the Harris County Democrats. In addition to those, here are the AFL-CIO’s recommendations for statewide races. All have been noted on the 2010 Elections page.

Endorsement watch: AWA and AFL-CIO

More endorsements of the mostly-judicial variety for you to ponder, from the Association of Women Attorneys and the Harris County AFL-CIO. The 2010 Elections page has been updated to reflect these recommendations. Note that there were a few dual endorsements handed out, as well as a few races that were skipped, and note also that the AWA touted picks in the GOP primaries as well.

Again, just to reiterate, my policy on these is that more information is better than less, so if I come across a press release or similar document from a reputable source that lists out their endorsements, I’ll publish them as long as time and space allow. You can make of them what you will – it’s entirely rational to decide that a given endorsement may make you less likely to vote for a particular candidate, for example. What I know is that there’s a lot of candidates in these races, and the more I can learn about them, the more confident I’ll feel about my choices when I’m in the voting booth.

A brief intro to Linda Chavez-Thompson

Video of Linda Chavez-Thompson’s filing day remarks, from The Trib.

They have more on Chavez-Thompson here. As I said, I’m really looking forward to Chavez-Thompson and Ronnie Earle making the case for themselves. And as expected, Chavez-Thompson’s candidacy has generated some excitement in South Texas.

“I am excited about the fact that Linda Chavez-Thompson is going to file for lieutenant governor. Along with Bill White, she will energize the statewide base of Democratic voters,” said Nelva Sosa-Slagle, co-founder of South Texas Democrats for Obama.


There was widespread concern that the statewide Democratic ticket would not reflect the changing demographics of the state of Texas because it would lack a high profile Latino candidate. [Ester Salinas, co-founder of the Justice Advocacy Group] said that all changes with Chavez-Thompson’s candidacy. She said the border region would be particularly excited.

“With the current recession, so many Texans are going without. Linda understands that. Her candidacy is a real spark that can have a big impact down here. People are sick of the same old politics. I am looking forward to Linda’s next visit to the Valley and helping her campaign.”

Sosa-Slagle said Chavez-Thompson would “energize” the Democratic base for a number of reasons.

“On a personal level, she can relate to the concerns of working-class Texans due to her humble beginnings which have served as an inspiration to many Latinas. On a professional level, she derives the expertise and vision for resolving these concerns from being a successful executive of the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party,” Sosa-Slagle said. “And, on a political level, she serves as a major contrast to the wealthy Republican incumbent David Dewhurst and the Austin restaurant owner Marc Katz.”

And speaking of the AFL-CIO, this is from Ed Sills’ email newsletter:

Needless to say, this is an extraordinary development for the labor movement in Texas. Chavez-Thompson will build a campaign over the next few days, and it’s only about eight weeks to the March 2 primary, so this thing will run fast and furious over the coming weeks. Other Democrats who have filed for the post include former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and Austin delicatessen owner Marc Katz. Chavez-Thompson made it clear during media questioning that she is running to make changes in Texas, not against the Democratic opponents. This is a good place to note as well that the Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education won’t issue an endorsement in this contest until the COPE Convention on Feb. 6 and 7 and that only the delegates to that convention can finalize such an endorsement. That said, there is no question that Chavez-Thompson has the closest possible ties to the labor movement and there’s no point in pretending otherwise, so this newsletter will be watching the lieutenant governor’s race in detail.

She hasn’t won anything yet, and she has one strong and appealing opponent in Earle, and one with a lot of resources in Katz, so nobody should take anything for granted. But her potential is obvious, and it’s cool and amazing to see a race that three months ago was on no one’s radar generate so much buzz. Stace has more.

HISD Trustee runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the two runoffs for HISD Trustee. It echoes a theme from that Examiner story we saw yesterday.

The outcome of the races could reshape several board debates — particularly over wages for construction workers, efforts to hold weak teachers more accountable and the role of magnet schools. Early voting runs through Tuesday, and Election Day is Dec. 12.

Both Lara and Collins support paying contractors higher wages based on standard federal rates. They argue that bigger paychecks will draw more-qualified workers and prevent shoddy construction.

The Harris County AFL-CIO, which endorsed Lara and Collins, pushed the board to adopt the wages this year. Marshall, who has had crucial support from unions in past campaigns, agreed with the majority of the board in rejecting the idea as too costly.

“This is insulting in a way, that as hard as times are that any organization could even make this an issue,” said Marshall, who estimated that paying the federal rates for the 2007 bond projects would cost an extra $75 million.

Lots riding on the line for several organizations in these races. I noticed that of the four runoff candidates, the Chron did not say where Anna Eastman stood on the issue of prevailing wages. So I sent her a Facebook message to ask, and this is the answer she sent me:

Thanks for asking me about this issue. It never came up in my interview with [Chron reporter Ericka Mellon]. My understanding of the recent argument between the AFL-CIO and the Board of Trustees is tied to some promises that were made by the former superintendent and HISD school bond program administrator Dick Lindsey during the 2007 bond campaign, but not agreed upon by the board.

As a board member I would hope that any negotiations of this sort would involve all parties. I believe when we are spending public dollars there should be accountability on both sides and we should be hiring licensed workers at a fair wage and insure that we are following policy guidelines for inclusion of minority contractors.

Our dollars should be spent to effectively serve and benefit the most children possible, not to fund adult interests. As a board member of a public institution charged with educating children, my decisions will be guided first and foremost by what benefits children and their education.

So there you have it.

Trustee Marshall endorsed by former opponents

In the runoff for HISD Trustee in District IX, incumbent Trustee Larry Marshall received the endorsement of the third and fourth-place finishers, George Davis and Michael Williams. I find that a little odd, since one presumes when they ran to unseat Marshall they thought a change was needed, but I guess they decided they didn’t want Adrian Collins to be that change. Marshall has also been endorsed by the HISD Parent Visionaries group, who backed Trustee-elect Mike Lunceford and runoff candidate Anna Eastman. You can read their runoff analysis and recommendation here. Note the difference between Marshall and Collins’ positions on paying prevailing wages for capital improvement projects in HISD. Labor unions are upset with Marshall for breaking promises made to them about prevailing wages in return for their support of the 2007 bond referendum, which is why they are strongly backing Collins. We’ll see if that can be a difference-maker here.


Here comes the unemployment tax increase

Here comes that unemployment insurance tax hike we’ve all been waiting for.

Under state law, the state’s unemployment trust fund is supposed to stand at 1 percent of taxable wages, or about $860 million. The fund has been depleted in the wake of high jobless claims.

As a result, employers will have to pay more to restore the fund to its mandated level, although the commission tried to cushion the blow by spreading the deficit assessment over several years.

Unemployment tax collections still are estimated to rise to $2.3 billion next year; $2.68 billion in 2011; $2.72 billion in 2012, according to commission spokeswoman Ann Hatchitt. Specific rates for employers were not available Tuesday. How much each employer pays varies, largely based on claims against an employer’s account.

Given the speculation that the Commission was going to push the pain as far back as it could, which is to say after the 2010 elections, I commend them for being realistic about the hole we’re in. The story notes for the umpteenth time the unemployment insurance stimulus funds which Governor Perry refused to take and which surely would have made that hole a lot less deep, not to mention the pain of unemployment a lot less stinging for many Texans, but it wasn’t the only thing he did to exacerbate this situation. His suspension of the tax back when times were good but the ditch was visible on the horizon still ranks as one of the dumbest things he’s done as Governor, and that’s not a short list.

“We haven’t been good squirrels. We haven’t put away nuts for the wintertime,” [Texas AFL-CIO Legal Director Rick] Levy said. “In fact, we deplete our fund so that when wintertime comes, not only is there not anything there, but we have to start charging extra. It’s just a backwards way of doing it.”

[Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, and] a past chairman of the commission, disagreed. “It’s my view, and the view of the employers, that it’s better to collect as little tax as needed,” Hammond said.

“Stockpiling the money in Austin, Texas is not a good strategy. We’d rather have the money out and working, creating jobs during the good times.”

Well, if that’s really what you want, then this is what you’ll get in the bad times. Hope you appreciate it.

Freeman and Bradford spar over SEIU endorsement

Last night, Noel Freeman sent out this press release:

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 confirmed Tuesday during a screening interview with City Council At-Large Position 4 candidate Noel Freeman that his opponent, C.O. Bradford, has falsely claimed to have received its endorsement.

Bradford issued a press release on August 17, 2009 announcing he had received SEIU’s endorsement. According to SEIU officials, Bradford had been asked to remove the endorsement from his campaign website more than a week ago, but as of 11:00 pm on September 1st, the endorsement still appeared on the website.

“I find it disappointing my opponent would attempt to mislead voters by claiming an endorsement he does not have.” Freeman said. “My opponent’s claim that he received SEIU’s endorsement more than two weeks before they even finished screening candidates in this race does a tremendous disservice to the proud men and women of SEIU who take the political process seriously.”

This morning, C.O. Bradford responded with a press release of his own:

“C.O. “Brad” Bradford does have Labor’s endorsement. Noel Freeman’s claim that C. O. Bradford is falsely claiming that he had received the endorsement of the SEIU, Local 1 is not truthful. I am the person that told C. O. Bradford that he had the endorsement of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council and of all of the Unions affiliated with it – including SEIU, Local 1. It is possible that SEIU, Local 1, is reserving their endorsement and they have every right to do so. I gave C. O. Bradford the wrong information. Noel is off base on this one and is stirring up trouble to get attention. The Unions of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council did endorse C. O. Bradford. If one or two of the 77 Unions choose to do otherwise, this is still an endorsement of the whole (thousands and thousands of members who will be informed of the endorsement) of the Labor movement for a very good candidate who will represent Houstonians very well on City Council. Noel Freeman does not have our endorsement,” stated Mr. Richard Shaw, Harris County AFL-CIO Council.

“I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Labor Unions in Harris County. I am committed to helping the thousands of workers who are striving for better conditions, benefits, safety equipment, and training for the greater good of all in our community,” stated Bradford.

Both Freeman and Bradford suggested that I speak to Tiffany Hogue with the SEIU, Local 1 organization. So I did, and this is what she told me:

– Generally speaking, all of the local unions participate in the AFL-CIO screening process, with the AFL-CIO acting as an umbrella organization for this purpose. Each union has the right to conduct its own screenings and make its own recommendations, but most of them follow the AFL-CIO’s lead. This is basically what Shaw said.

– SEIU, Local 1, and HOPE, which is affiliated with AFSCME, is in the process of conducting its own screenings and making its own endorsements for all city races. They have already issued an endorsement of Annise Parker for Mayor, but have not yet completed the screening process for other races. They anticipate doing so and announcing their endorsements in the coming weeks. I specifically asked if this meant that they could endorse Freeman, and she said yes, that could happen.

What that says to me is that Freeman’s claim that Bradford did not have the SEIU endorsement is truthful. On the other hand, Bradford certainly had reason to believe he had the SEIU endorsement once he had won the AFL-CIO Council nod, based on the usual way these things go and on what Shaw told him. I don’t think either of these points is seriously in dispute.

Where it gets dicey is the claim that Bradford had been told to remove SEIU’s name from his endorsement list. Bradford denied being asked by anyone to do this. Freeman says he had several conversations with Hogue about this, that she told him she had asked Bradford to take SEIU’s name off his list, and that when he asked her at his screening interview to confirm that someone had asked him to take it down, she said Yes. Hogue agrees she told Freeman that she had heard that someone had asked Bradford to do this, but she told me she didn’t know who that was, and she couldn’t say for certain that it had happened at all. Freeman, in a followup email, gave specific dates and times for the conversations in which he said he asked about this.

So that’s where it stands. I’m somewhat at a loss for what to make of it. It’s clear there was miscommunication, but it’s not clear where it all comes from. This is hard for me, because obviously I wasn’t party to any of the original conversations, and because I like everyone involved. I don’t know what actually happened, but this is what I’ve been told about it. I don’t know how much this clears things up, but it’s what I know. If I hear more, I’ll update this post.

The Sheriff and the deputies

I had mentioned before that there was some discontent from the Sheriff’s deputies bubbling up, mostly in the form of emails sent to Carl Whitmarsh’s listserv. Earlier today, the following was sent out:


A Labor Resolution

Whereas, Houston Police Officer Adrian Garcia enjoyed a Peace Officers Bill of Rights when he worked the streets as an officer; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia promised the Harris County Deputies Organization, Local 154, IUPA, a Harris County AFL-CIO affiliate, that if elected he would support and sign a Peace Officers Bill of Rights within the first 90 days of taking office; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected the union would be a part of the transition process; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would review all cases pending before the Civil Service Commission to see if any could be resolved prior to a formal civil service hearing; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would stand with us in Austin to get favorable bills including a Collective Bargaining Bill and a permanent Peace Officers Bill of Rights; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would talk to members of the civil service commission to see if he could get quicker hearings for unresolved cases; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would work with us toward adopting a better transfer policy; and


Whereas, once elected Sheriff Adrian Garcia also has proposed a transfer policy that is based on a 25% “oral review” provision that is totally unacceptable; and

Whereas, current state law (Texas Government Code § 614.021 – 614.023) requires internal investigators to give deputies copies of sworn complaints within a reasonable time after the complaint is filed, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s internal investigators have not abided by the law;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Harris County AFL-CIO joins with the Harris County Deputies’ Organization to tell Sheriff Garcia that we expect him to keep his promise and to support and sign the un-amended, unadulterated Peace Officers Bill of Rights without further delay; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Harris County AFL-CIO joins with the Deputies’ Organization, tell Sheriff Garcia that we expect him to keep his promises to the union.

This resolution was adopted by the Harris County AFL-CIO on this the 26th day of August, 2009.

I forwarded the email to Alan Bernstein, who is Sheriff Garcia’s public affairs director, asking if Garcia had a response, and a little while later received the following:

Statement of Sheriff Adrian Garcia

August 27, 2009

For most of my 30-year career in public service, and long before holding elective office, I was a Houston police officer union member. The experience informs my understanding of employees’ needs and is the basis for many of the policy changes I am making in the Sheriff’s Office. And while I recognize the primary responsibility employee groups have to aggressively advocate on behalf of their members, as Sheriff I must balance those interests with my commitment to the people of Harris County to restore accountability to the HCSO and regain and protect the public trust.

So when I took office in January, I pledged to improve the operations, management, and transparency of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and to lead an organization that is accountable both to the public we serve as well as to our employees. Putting into place organizational policies that are consistent, transparent and fair to all employees is vital to achieving that accountability. Thus, it has been a top priority for my administration. My new policies include:

A Fleet Accident Review Board, which includes an employee group representative, assures the fair treatment of deputies involved in fleet accidents and sets a standardized system of review and even-handed penalties, if any. I have removed the automatic probation and its ban on extra jobs because of fleet accidents.

An Administrative Disciplinary Committee, consisting of four majors, which reviews serious allegations against HCSO employees.

Resolution of Complaints – I have redirected existing HCSO resources toward the investigation and resolution of allegations of employee misconduct with a goal of resolving complaints within 180 days.

    An Appeals Process – Two members of my executive team – a major and a civilian – consider appeals of disciplinary actions. The inclusion of a civilian executive adds balance and perspective to the process.

I have also taken steps to create a Corrective Action Manual, which will clearly define appropriate, consistent disciplinary actions for policy violations by all employees, as well as a Peer Review Group, in which employee group representatives will review minor employee infractions. Over the last several months, I have met with supervisors – sworn and civilian – at all levels of this organization to have constructive dialogue, as well as to set my expectations for the treatment of front line employees.

Finally, nearly four months ago I submitted to employee group leaders an Employee Bill of Rights, which will apply to all HCSO employees, sworn and civilian. It clearly enumerates employee rights, as well as investigators’ powers, duties and authority when conducting internal investigations of alleged employee misconduct. It was drafted with considerable input from employee groups; they have accepted 98 percent of it. Our discussions, as fresh as this month, continue so we can reach agreement on the remainder.

I am grateful to the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for their continued dedication and hard work, and I remain fully committed to treating all employees with fairness and consistency.

It doesn’t sound nearly as bad as what’s happening in the District Attorney’s office, but it certainly bears watching.

The Chamber of Commerce tax cut

I mentioned before that a secondary reason for Governor Perry to veto HB770 and its Wayne Christian Beach House provision was an amendment slipped in by State Sen. Mike Jackson to give a property tax exemption to local chambers of commerce. Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO went off on a righteous rant about this in his email newsletter the other day, and I wanted to reproduce it here. With his permission, it’s beneath the fold, so click on to read it.


Unemployment insurance dies, CHIP lives

Not unexpectedly, SB1569 was a casualty of the weekend chubfest. Also not surprisingly, it was basically chubbed by Republicans, who wanted to ensure its death as the local and consent calendar was finally finished up a little before the midnight deadline. I’m disappointed to see this bill die, but given that it hadn’t been passed by a veto-proof majority in time for the inevitable veto to be overridden, it was doomed anyway. If that helps the House Republicans blow off some steam, then so be it.

On the good side, CHIP expansion got new life.

The Texas Senate late Wednesday, facing a midnight deadline, used a House bill concerning newborn screening to revive a measure aimed at expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, put SB841 (the CHIP expansion bill) into HB1795, which was approved 28-2 by the Senate.

The CHIP amendment allows some families with incomes above current limits to buy into the insurance program.

The measure now heads back to the House with changes approved in the Senate.

One hopes it will be accepted as amended. That’s at least one less casualty from the weekend.

I’m including an excerpt from Ed Sills’ Texas AFL-CIO email newsletter about SB1569 beneath the fold. Click on to read it.

UPDATE: Floor Pass, quoting Harvey Kronberg, thinks the CHIP add-on might fall victim to a point of order.


Budget yes, UI not yet

The conference committee on the budget finished its work yesterday.

While final details are still emerging, the 10 conferees worked out a last minute plan for spending $700 million of federal stimulus money for state fiscal stabilization. They hope that it will avert a special session, even if Perry vetoes some or all of the money. It appeared to go to school textbooks in part. And there were other things funded that are near and dear to the Perry family, such as preservation of a couple more county courthouses ($7 million) and restoring the fire-gutted Governor’s Mansion.

Burkablog and Floor Pass, which notes that the committee will vote out the budget on Tuesday, fill in a few more details. The first obstacle is making sure Governor Perry will sign it, but so far there’s no evidence that he wants to force a do-over. Not dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, for which we can all thank President Obama and the stimulus package, likely helps out there.

Unclear at this time is the fate of the Davis/Walle amendment, which would drain money from the Texas Enterprise Fund in the event that SB1569 gets vetoed. And speaking of SB1569, it took a few steps forward in the House, but ultimately was not brought to a vote. The best writeup I’ve seen about what went on during this comes from Ed Sills’ TxAFLCIOENews; I’ve reproduced it beneath the fold.

According to Brandi Grissom on Twitter, the House has recessed for the night due to its computers being down, without having passed any bills today. They’re scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday, and according to Gardner Selby, voter ID is supposedly atop the calendar for Saturday. That’s assuming they actually get to it – as we’ve seen multiple times this session, being on the calendar is no guarantee of anything. The Democrats will surely do what they can to run out the clock if they feel they must. We’ll see how far down the agenda the House gets tomorrow.


Senate approves stimulus funds for unemployment insurance


The Texas Senate tentatively approved Sen. Kevin Eltife’s bill to change the state’s unemployment laws so that Texas can accept an estimated $555 million in federal stimulus dollars.


Eltife’s bill was supported by 22 senators and opposed by nine. It faces a final vote before going to the House for consideration.

SB 1569
would make several changes to Texas law to drawn down the funds, including adopting unemployment insurance benefits for part-time employees and for workers forced to quit their jobs for compelling family reasons.

The record vote isn’t available yet, so I don’t know who the nine are. Sens. Deuell and Carona are listed as coauthors, so presumably they voted in favor. I guess Sen. Eltife had the numbers he needed. Kudos to him for getting this done.

Now of course, Governor Perry will surely veto this. The question is whether the House can pass it with enough votes to override, and if it can be passed in time to try to override it. Perry can sit on it for three weeks before issuing a yay or nay, so unless the House acts quickly, it’ll be a moot point. No clue when they might get to it.

A statement from the Texas AFL-CIO in praise of this vote is beneath the fold.