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Ana Hernandez

Alvarado claims poll lead in SD06

From the inbox:

Rep. Carol Alvarado

A new Public Policy Polling survey of 589 voters in Texas’s 6th Senate District shows Carol Alvarado leading Ana Hernandez by a 2-1 margin, 38% to 22%. 41% of voters are undecided.

Alvarado’s margin is driven by leads among several demographic subsets – she leads 38-22 among women and 38-21 among men. She leads among Democrats 48-24 and among independents 26-17. Alvarado leads among Hispanics 41-28, among whites 27-12, and she leads among African-Americans by a 46-11 margin.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 589 voters in Texas’s 6th Senate District from April 9th to 11th, 2018. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.7%. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish using automated telephone interviews. This survey was conducted on behalf of the Carol Alvarado Campaign.

Just so we’re clear:

1. We still don’t know when this election will be, though right now signs point to “later” rather than “sooner”.

2. There will be other candidates in this race. Even if they’re all no-names, that will skew things.

3. Modeling turnout in special elections is really tricky.

Having said all that, feel free to enjoy or complain about this poll as you see fit.

Still waiting for those other special elections

Ross Ramsey returned to a frequent topic a few days ago.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, was found guilty of 11 felonies earlier this year. He has not yet faced sentencing and says he will appeal the convictions on charges including money laundering and fraud. He’s not required to quit the Senate in the face of that, but it’s safe to say many of his colleagues are eager to see him go. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stripped him of his committee assignments, and the Senate Democratic Caucus called on him to quit.

The other potential resignation is a happier story: State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, won her party’s nomination to succeed the retiring Gene Green in the U.S. House. It’s a Democratic district, but she’ll face the winner of a Republican primary in November’s election. And in the unlikely event that Garcia were to lose that race, she would still be a state senator; her term in the current job doesn’t end until 2021.

Without putting their names to their words, many of Garcia’s colleagues are hoping she’ll quit early, allowing a replacement to be seated before the Legislature convenes in January.

“A vacancy is never politically helpful, but no one is more harmed than the constituents who are in that district, who have zero representation,” said Harold Cook, a longtime Democratic operative and one-time staffer to the Senate’s Democratic Caucus. “Aside from the fact that it kind of screws with a few majority votes, and that is not unimportant, you’re leaving Texans with no representation — and you don’t have to.”

The idea is that Garcia’s election to Congress is all but certain and that her timely resignation would position Democrats in the Texas Senate at full strength next year, instead of leaving them waiting on a special election to fill her seat. Or Uresti’s seat, for that matter.

Since he wrote that, we have gotten an update on SD06. Also from Ross Ramsey:

A one-seat pickup [in the Senate] would leave the Democrats one vote short of the number needed to force debate. It would also put them in position, if they could hold their own folks together, to block debate by luring one Republican to their side.

Another way to put it: Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats would have any wiggle room — a generally rotten prospect for a group since it empowers any one member to hold an issue hostage by saying, “Do it my way or lose my vote.”

If the Democrats were to win more than one seat now held by Republicans, the Texas Senate would be back in the position it was in for years — when nobody could get an issue to the floor without brokering enough of a compromise to convince a supermajority that the issue is worth hearing.

That’s been used to keep all kinds of things — not all of them partisan, by the way — from coming to the Senate floor for a vote. For a moment, think like one of the swamp creatures; sometimes, it’s safer not to vote on something controversial than it is to take a stand. The three-fifths rule provides a way to either work on a compromise or just walk away without any political bruises.

One needn’t agree with that to appreciate its political value.

But even a big Democratic day in November could leave crafty Republicans with some breathing room. Two Democratic senators who aren’t on the ballot this year — Sylvia Garcia of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio — are contemplating resignation.

Garcia won the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in a district unlikely to elect a Republican to Congress. But she said [last] Thursday, in an interview with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, that she won’t resign until after the Nov. 6 election. She said she’s doing that out of consideration for the voters and doesn’t want to presume what they’ll do. If she wins and then resigns, it’ll take a special election to replace her — one that would likely leave her seat in the Senate empty for the early days of the legislative session.

Gotta say, I’m disappointed to hear that. I really believed Sen. Garcia would step down in a timely fashion, perhaps after the May 22 primary runoffs, to allow a successor to be in place by January. If she does wait till November to step down, then the Leticia Van de Putte experience kicks in, where the special election is in January and the successor is installed in March; that runoff actually happened in February, but the swearing-in didn’t take place till after the official canvass. As Ramsey goes on to say, even if the Dems have picked up one or more seats, they’d lose the numerical advantage if the Garcia and Uresti seats are empty.

So yeah, the timing up front can have a big effect on the back end, and that’s before we take into account the subsequent vacancies that may be caused by the Garcia and Uresti specials. I appreciate Sen. Garcia’s position. It’s honorable and respectful. It’s also completely impractical, and potentially very damaging. I really, really hope she reconsiders.

Endorsement watch: Ana’s army

Re. Ana Hernandez

Two weeks ago, I noted an email sent out by Rep. Carol Alvarado containing a long list of current and former elected officials as well as other prominent folks who had endorsed her candidacy for SD06, for when Sen. Sylvia Garcia steps down after being elected in CD29. I assumed at the time that Rep. Alvarado’s main announced rival, Rep. Ana Hernandez, would follow suit with her own list, and so she has. Rep. Hernandez’s list contains more members of the State House, and at least two people that I spotted – HCC Trustees Eva Loredo and Adriana Tamez – who also appear on Alvarado’s list. I’m not sure if that’s an “oops!” or a change of heart, but I’ll leave it to the people involved to sort it out.

As I said with Rep. Alvarado’s list, this is a show of strength. I suspect lists like these tend to have a marginal effect on voters – as much as anything, it’s about fundraising ability – but it’s a bad look for you if your opponent, who is also your colleague, has such a list if you don’t have one, so here we are. The combined force of the two lists will act as a barrier to other candidates – not for nothing, but all of the other State Reps whose districts are in SD06 are on one of these lists or the other – though as noted before that’s not an absolute barrier. I’ll say again, this is a tough choice between to very excellent candidates.

Meanwhile, in other endorsement news:

Twenty-two of the 55 Democratic state representatives on Wednesday endorsed former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez for governor, as Valdez faces Houston entrepreneur Andrew White in a May 22 runoff.

The winner of the runoff will be the Democratic nominee who will face Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in the November general election.

The endorsements highlighted how both candidates are pushing to raise campaign funds and for endorsements with just less than two months to go before the runoff, in a race that has so far been mostly low-key.

The new endorsements include Reps. Roberto Alonzo, Rafael Anchía,Victoria Neave and Toni Rose of Dallas; Diana Arévalo, Diego Bernal, Ina Minarez and Justin Rodriguez of San Antonio; César Blanco, Mary Gonzales and Evelina Ortega of El Paso; Terry Canales of Edinburg; Nicole Collier of Fort Worth; Jessica Farrar and Ron Reynolds of Houston; Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City; Gina Hinojosa, Celia Israel and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin; Mando Martinez of Weslaco; Sergio Muñoz of Palmview, and Poncho Nevárez of Eagle Pass.

[…]

Valdez has won the endorsements of the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Texas Tejano Democrats, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and Stonewall Democrat chapters in Houston, Dallas, Denton, San Antonio, and Austin.

White has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, former rival Cedric Davis Sr., former lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Michael Cooper as well as the Harris County Young Democrats, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats and the state’s three largest newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle.

I said my piece in the precinct analysis of the Governor’s race. Given what we saw, the runoff is Valdez’s race to lose. Give me some runoff debates, that’s all I ask.

Endorsement watch: Alvarado’s army

Rep. Carol Alvarado

Rep. Carol Alvarado has released a long list of supporters for her campaign to succeed Sen. Sylvia Garcia in SD06. This is clearly a show of strength on Alvarado’s part – the list includes the three most recent Mayors of Houston, four of her State House colleagues, Commissioner (and former Sen.) Rodney Ellis, and a bunch of other current and past office holders. One thought that struck me as I read this was a reminder that Alvarado had been the runnerup the last time SD06 came open, losing in a special election runoff to Sen. Garcia. People had a hard choice to make in that election between two very good and well-qualified candidates, and Sen. Garcia emerged victorious. People will once again have a hard choice to make in that election between two very good and well-qualified candidates, and it may be that the bulk of those who are prominent and being public about it are going to Rep. Alvarado.

That’s hardly the final word, of course. There are plenty of people not on Rep. Alvarado’s list, and I’m sure Rep. Ana Hernandez will have her own impressive cadre of supporters. In fact, later in the day Rep. Hernandez sent out this fundraiser email that touted Mayor Turner as the special guest. That email references her HD143 campaign, with no mention of SD06, but you can draw your own inferences. Like I said, both she and Rep. Alvarado are strong candidates. Rep. Alvarado’s opening salvo may have the effect of scaring off other potential candidates, but there’s no guarantee of that, as Sen. Garcia herself could testify from CD29. All I’m going to say at this time is the same as what I said the last time we had one of these elections, which is that I’m glad I was redistricted into SD15 so I don’t have to take a side myself.

The race for SD06 has already begun

Here’s State Rep. Ana Hernandez on Facebook:

The Trib has picked up on this as well. Not long thereafter, I received this in my mailbox:

Dear Friends,

I would like to congratulate State Senator Sylvia Garcia on her hard-earned victory for the Democratic nomination for the 29th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sylvia Garcia is well on her way to becoming the first Latina to represent the 29th District. I am very confident she will be a fighter for us in Washington D.C. and stand up to Donald Trump and fight for the working families of our community. I am proud to have endorsed her and campaigned with her, and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Garcia when she is sworn into office.

It is now likely that there will be a vacancy and I am taking this opportunity to formally announce our campaign to become the next Senator from District 6.

(Click here to view my announcement.)

There’s more, but you get the idea. I am sure this will not be the end of it – Rep. Armando Walle had been briefly in for CD29 when it came open, so I have to assume he’ll take a long look at SD06 as well. We are of course all assuming that Sen. Garcia, who is the nominee for CD29 but not yet officially elected to that position, will step down at some point in the near future, to allow her eventual successor to get elected in time for the 2019 session. I discussed this at some length in November, when Sen. Garcia first jumped in for CD29. I see no reason why Sen. Garcia can’t or shouldn’t step down sooner rather than later – it would be awesome to have the special election to succeed her in either May or November, so everyone can be in place for the opening gavel of 2019 – but the decision is hers to make. What we know now is that people are already gazing at her as we await said decision. KUHF has more.

Rep. Gene Green to retire

I said there would be surprises.

Rep. Gene Green

One of the two longest serving Democrats from Texas in the U.S. Congress won’t seek re-election.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Green was first elected to Congress in 1992 and represents a district that includes South Houston, Pasadena and loops up to pick up Aldine.

“I have been fortunate to have never lost an election since 1972 and I am confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term in Congress,” Green said in a statement. “However, I have decided that I will not be filing for re-election in 2018. I think that it is time for me to be more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. I have had to miss so many of their activities and after 26 years in Congress it is time to devote more time to my most important job of being a husband, father and grandfather.”

[…]

In his statement, Green stressed his years of constituent service in Houston.

“The goal of every elected official should be to serve and help your constituency to have a better life for their families,” Green said. “I am proud of sponsoring events in our district such as having Immunization Day each year for the past 20 years to provide free vaccinations for children and Citizenship Day each year for the past 22 years to help legal residents to become citizens of our great country.”

Didn’t see this one coming. I guess Rep. Green just had enough, because if the Dems retake the majority he’d surely have been in line for a committee chair. As you might imagine, for this strong Dem seat (it’s bluer than Hensarling’s is red), the rumors and gossip about who may be running started in earnest.

Sources confirm to the Texas Tribune that among those considering a run for the seat: Garcia, state Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, and attorney Beto Cardenas, who served as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Frank Tejeda, former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary worked on Green’s re-election campaign last year and knows the electorate well.

“There’s no shortage of strong, ambitious Democrats in that district who have been eyeing that seat for years,” he said. “I imagine the dam will break and we’ll see a lot of strong candidates there.”

Noting that there is a glut of candidates in even the most Republican seats, he suggested the field could be one of the most crowded Texas primaries seen in years.

“An open seat, in a very strongly Democratic seat, you might have double-digit strong candidates deciding to give it a try.”

I’ve heard that Sen. Garcia is already in; it’s a free shot for her, as she’s not on the ballot this year otherwise. State Reps like Alvarado and Hernandez would have to make a choice. Adrian Garcia didn’t get a mention in this story but I’m sure he’s thinking about it. Everyone has till December 11 to decide. All I know is that my schedule for doing primary interviews just got a lot busier. My thanks to Rep. Gene Green for his service, and my very best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement.

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.

Endorsement watch: Latino electeds for Gene Green

Not a big surprise.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, will pick up support from several Houston political players Tuesday.

The 12-term congressman faces what could be a formidable primary challenge in the form of former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. According to a Green campaign press release, seven Houston Democrats are ready to back his re-election: state Sens. Sylvia R. Garcia and John Whitmire, state Reps. Ana Hernandez, Garnet F. Coleman, Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado, and Harris County Constable Chris Diaz.

The endorsements’ apparent aim is to give Green cover against Garcia’s argument that the mostly-Hispanic district would be better served with Hispanic congressional representation. With residual name identification from his unsuccessful run for Houston mayor, Garcia could pose a viable threat to Green’s re-election.

I received a copy of the press release as well as the pre-release on Friday that didn’t contain the officials’ names. The event will take place at 11 AM at the Vecino Health Center (Denver Harbor Family Clinic), 424 Hahlo St., in case anyone wants to attend. As I said before, I was looking to see who might be endorsing whom in this race. Whatever the effect is on the final result, this does affect the narrative of the race. Reps. Walle, Hernandez, and Alvarado all once worked for Green, so their solidarity with their former boss is to be expected, but Sylvia Garcia was one of the candidates for the seat back in 1992; she finished third, behind Green and Ben Reyes, whom Green then defeated in the runoff and again in the 1994 primary. She had previously been talked about as a potential opponent for Green in more recent years, before her election to the State Senate. Make of that what you will.

Going back through my archives, I came across this post from 2014 about Green representing a Latino district and when that might change. Here’s what Campos, who is now working on the Garcia campaign, said at the time:

Having a Dem Latino or Latina in Congress from the H-Town area would be empowering to the community. What is missing is an articulate voice for us in Congress like on a day when the immigration issue is front and center. Who is going to argue with that?

I don’t buy into the notion that just because the local Latino leaders aren’t for something, it won’t happen. I can still recall the spontaneous immigration marches a few years ago that local Latino leaders were scrambling to lead.

I can picture a scenario where an articulate bilingual Latino or Latina leader steps up, grabs an issue and captures the attention of the community. That is certainly not racist, that’s politics. This discussion isn’t going away.

And my comment on that:

Sure, that could happen, and I agree that if it were to happen it would likely be a talented newcomer who can inspire people to pose a serious threat to Rep. Green. The problem is that that’s not sufficient. Look at the recent history of Democratic primary challenges in Texas legislative races, and you’ll see that there are generally two paths to knocking off an incumbent that don’t rely on them getting hosed in redistricting. One is via the self-inflicted wounds of an incumbent with some kind of ethics problems – think Gabi Canales or Naomi Gonzales, for example – or an incumbent that has genuinely lost touch with the base. In the past decade in Texas that has mostly meant Craddick Democrats, though one could argue that Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s win over Silvestre Reyes had elements of that.

What I’m saying is simply that there has to be a reason to dump the current officeholder. Look no further than the other Anglo Texas Democrat in Congress for that. The GOP has marked Rep. Lloyd Doggett for extinction twice, each time drawing him into a heavily Latino district in the hope of seeing him get knocked off in a primary. He survived the DeLay re-redistricting of 2003, then he faced the same kind of challenge again in 2012. His opponent, Sylvia Romo, was an experienced officeholder running in a district that was drawn to elect a Hispanic candidate from Bexar County. Having interviewed her, I can attest that she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress. But she never identified a policy item on which she disagreed with Doggett, and she never could give an answer to the question why the voters should replace their existing perfectly good member of Congress and his boatload of seniority with a rookie, however promising.

That’s the question any theoretical opponent to Gene Green will have to answer as well.

I think both my statement and Marc’s would stand up today. I’d say we’re likely to hear some form of these arguments over the next two months. In the meantime, I wonder if Garcia will roll out his own list of supporters soon. Better still if that list is accompanied by reasons why Garcia is the superior choice, and where he differs in matters of policy. I know that’s what I’d want to hear about if I lived in that district.

State wants birth certificate lawsuit dropped

I don’t know about that.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked a federal district judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims a state agency violated the U.S. Constitution by denying birth certificates to U.S.-citizen children of immigrant parents.

Attorneys with Paxton’s office said that the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is being sued by 17 families living in Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties, has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and cannot be sued in federal court because it has not waived that right, according to court documents.

The immunity extends to interim DSHS Commissioner Kirk Cole and State Registrar Geraldine Harris, who are also named as defendants in the suit, Paxton’s office argues.

A spokesperson in Paxton’s office would not discuss the filing further, saying the “motion speaks for itself.” A spokesperson for the health agency was not available to comment.

See here and here for the background. This sounds specious, more like an ideological argument than a legal one, and a get-out-of-jail-free card if it’s upheld. But I’m not a lawyer, so what do I know?

[Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Jennifer] Harbury said Wednesday afternoon that her team would file a response after reading the state’s motion. The problem appears more widespread than just the families in the lawsuit, she said.

“What I know is there is a very large number of people who are afraid to come forward,” she said.

That would not surprise me. The Chron and the Observer have more.

Lawsuit filed over state refusal to issue birth certificates

I’m sure this won’t be contentious at all.

For nearly 150 years, the United States, under the 14th Amendment, has recognized people born here as citizens, regardless of whether their parents were citizens.

But Texas has other plans. In the last year, the state has refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. In May, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.

Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who is representing the women, said the deluge of birth certificate refusals began last winter. “I’ve never seen such a large number of women with this problem,” she says. “In the past someone might be turned away, but it was always resolved. This is something altogether new.”

According to the lawsuit, the women who requested birth certificates for their children at the state’s vital statistics offices in Cameron and Hidalgo counties were turned away because of insufficient proof of their identities. State law allows the use of a foreign ID if the mother lacks a Texas driver’s license or a U.S. passport.

But employees at the offices, which are run by the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the women they would no longer accept either the matricula consular, which is a photo ID issued by the Mexican Consulate to Mexican nationals living in the U.S., or a foreign passport without a current U.S. visa. Undocumented Central American women are also being turned away because they only have a passport without a U.S. visa. “They are locking out a huge chunk of the undocumented immigrant community,” says Harbury.

[…]

James Harrington, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, is also representing the undocumented families. The legal team is seeking a court order to reinstate the use of the matricula consular and foreign passports as valid proof of identity for undocumented mothers.

“Even in the darkest hours of Texas’ history of discrimination, officials never denied birth certificates to Hispanic children of immigrants,” said Harrington in a written statement. “Everyone born in the United States is entitled to the full rights of citizenship.”

Here’s the Express-News story from May that the Observer post references; it has some more detail so read it as well. Just as a reminder, the 14th Amendment grants birthright citizenship, so I have no idea on what ground the Department of State Health Services thinks it has to stand. Here’s a bit from a press release from MALC that expands on that:

Recently, several parents were denied birth certificates for their U.S. born children by employees at offices administered by the Department of State Health Services, after administrators declined to accept their foreign government forms of identification. This is a major departure from prior practice, as parents had been able to obtain a copy of their child’s birth certificate by providing their passport or a consular ID from their country of national origin in lieu of a US-issued ID.

“The legal standing for this prerequisite is questionable. No section under Texas’s Health and Safety Code mandates that the Department require verification of immigrant status or national original before the issuance of a birth certificate to the parents of an American-born child. This practice also runs counter to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants citizenship to all children born in the United States, regardless of whether their parents are citizens.

The full statement is here. I’d hope this would spur a quick reversal, but I know better than to expect it. We’ll see what the courts have to say. TPM has more.

Rallying to save the Texas DREAM Act

It won’t be easy.

With a new Texas legislative session underway and incoming state leaders indicating a desire to repeal the Texas Dream Act, supporters of the law are gearing up for a renewed fight to keep it in place.

A group of about 60 students, businessmen and legislators gathered on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Wednesday to voice their support for the act, which allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition after graduating from high school if they have lived in Texas for three years and have signed an affidavit promising to seek legal residency.

State Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, a former undocumented immigrant who benefited from the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, was one of several speakers with a personal connection to the issue.

“I know that measures like [the Texas Dream Act] and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 can change a young adult’s life path, as it did mine,” she said.

[…]

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has introduced legislation to repeal the Texas Dream Act. Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said he wants to end the act, and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has indicated he wouldn’t veto any repeal efforts. Patrick and others have characterized the Dream Act as a reward and incentive for illegal immigration.

At Wednesday’s rally, Bill Hammond, the CEO of the Texas Association of Businesses — which endorsed Patrick for lieutenant governor but has opposed him on this issue — spoke about the economic and social impact of the law.

“They work hard, they go to school, they graduate, they do what we want them to do,” Hammond said. “They will be the future teachers, doctors, architects, engineers in Texas if we allow this program to continue.”

Just as a reminder, the Texas DREAM Act was passed in 2001 with near-unanimous support in both chambers. Times may or may not have changed, but the Republican Party sure has. As for Hammond, he and and his group are going to spend a lot of time fighting the candidates they endorsed on multiple issues. You’d think they’d eventually get tired of that, but I guess a corollary to the definition of insanity is that you believe that this time you really will get a different outcome. (The same problem exists in Congress, too, but, well, you know.) This session is going to be all about what the Republicans want to do, and what (if anything) anyone can do to stop them. Sure hope you kept your receipts on these guys, Bill. Stace, the Observer, the DMN, and Texas Politics have more.

It’s still Gene Green’s world

I have three things to say about this story about Rep. Gene Green.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The affable, low-key former printer’s apprentice is a legend across his gritty, blue-collar domain along the 54-mile Houston Ship Channel, where he represents the most heavily Hispanic congressional district in the nation that has not elected a Hispanic to Congress.

By virtue of his seniority and Republican control of every statewide office, Green is effectively the highest ranking Democrat in Texas politics.

“Whatever I do in Congress doesn’t help people unless I’m also back in my district doing things for them,” Green said. “It’s one of the reasons people have developed a trust relationship with me.”

Green, who is not fluent in Spanish, has organized citizenship days to help legal residents apply for U.S. citizenship in a district that is 76 percent Hispanic. He helped conduct a forum in mid-November that enabled hundreds of Houston-area residents to learn about and register for Affordable Care Act coverage in a state with 6.3 million uninsured. And he has sponsored job fairs twice a year to help the unemployed find work.

“We do a lot of things that provide service to people in my district – and that brings visibility,” said Green, who was a member of the Texas Legislature for 20 years.

Green is well known for his constituent service, and I have no doubt that it is a big part of the reason why he has been so successful in office, both in terms of electoral performance and keeping potential primary challengers at bay. But it’s not just about doing well by your constituents, it’s also about getting along with your peers and would-be rivals. Green works well with others, and has mentored or otherwise directly assisted numerous current officeholders. One example of such is State Rep. Armando Walle, whom Rep. Green supported in his successful primary election against Craddick Dem Kevin Bailey. I tend to think of former Rep. Bailey, who was basically a do-nothing that got crosswise with many of his peers for his support of then-Speaker Tom Craddick and who represented a district as Latino as CD29 is, as something like the anti-Gene Green. It’s not really a mystery why some folks are more successful, and thus long-tenured, than others.

Texas has 12 Democratic House members, but “Green stands out as a pragmatist who is not afraid to break with the liberal Democratic House leadership when he disagrees with its position on an issue,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Indeed, Green has voted with the House Democratic leadership only 81 percent of the time – well below the 92 percent loyalty of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, or the 91 percent loyalty of Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.

Green, a loyal oil-patch lawmaker, has backed the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as legislation that would delay implementation of key components of the Clean Air Act related to cross-state air pollution and pollution standards for power plants.

“At least once a week in the Energy and Commerce Committee, I forget that Gene is a Democrat,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, who shares many of Green’s pro-energy positions.

Green’s devotion to helping Houston is apparent to colleagues, too.

“Though Gene and I often disagree on policy, he’s always ready to work across the aisle to get things done when it comes to what’s best for the Houston region and Texas,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, who has served with Green for 16 years. “I’ve found his word to be as good as gold.”

Bipartisanship is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the particulars. Be that as it may, are there any Republican members of Texas’ Congressional delegation that could be described in similar terms as Rep. Green was in those paragraphs? Hell, are there any Republican members of Congress from any state that could be described in those terms? I’m thinking the answer is No, but feel free to supply an example if you think one exists. Honestly, if there were any such Republicans, I’d expect they’d be getting primaried within an inch of their lives about now.

When the time comes for Green to step down, at least seven Hispanics are widely expected to eye the seat, led by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a former Houston police officer and City Council member who has outpolled Barack Obama in Harris County.

Other potential contenders include state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a former municipal court judge and Houston city controller; term-limited Houston City Council member James Rodriguez; Houston City Council member Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer; and three state representatives: Carol Alvarado, Jessica Farrar and Ana Hernandez.

I’m sure there’s a long line of hopefuls for CD29 when Rep. Green decides to hang up his spurs. This is the first time I can recall seeing Sheriff Garcia’s name associated with this seat, however. Most of the talk I hear about him and other offices he might someday seek center on the Mayor’s office in 2015. If he has his eyes on a statewide office down the line, I’m not sure what the best springboard for him would be. I think he’s in pretty good shape where he is right now, and staying put until he’s ready for something bigger means he’s not putting anything at risk in the meantime, but I’m not his political adviser and I don’t know what he has in mind for the future. As for the other possibilities, I’ll just reiterate what I’ve said before about generational issues. Generally speaking, all things being equal otherwise, I would prefer a candidate that has statewide ambitions in his or her future to one who doesn’t. Our bench isn’t going to build itself, after all.

Keeping the push for immigration reform

From the Texas House:

Democratic Texas House members [have] filed an immigration resolution that could serve as a litmus test for Republican support for reforms being suggested at the national level.

House Concurrent Resolution 44, which urges the U.S. Congress to “swiftly enact and fund comprehensive immigration reform that creates a road map to citizenship,” comes after President Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union Address, where he again pushed Congress to craft a bill to address the 11 to 12 million people living in the country illegally, and to repair the nation’s existing immigration system. Filed by state Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, it incorporates statistics from the Texas Comptroller, the Cato Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy, and statements of support for immigration reform from former state Reps. John Garza, R-San Antonio and Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, the Texas Federation of Republican Women and a national reform framework authored by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators.

Anchia said he wanted the resolution to have some substance and make a strong statement: that Texas can lead the way on immigration reform.

[…]

Anchia said he would reach out to the House Republican Caucus and open up the resolution to joint authorship. He said the timing was ideal after seeing that lawmakers in Texas were unwilling to pass “divisive” state-based immigration measures similar to bills passed in Arizona and Alabama.

“Texas has resisted that and I am proud of the state for having done that,” he said. “If we do not keep momentum going and it fails I worry we won’t be able to get anything accomplished for a long, long time.”

The resolution states that, according to a 2006 study conducted by the comptroller, the deportation of the millions of Texans in the state illegally would have resulted in a loss to the state’s gross domestic product of $18 billion. Figures from the Cato Institute indicate an overhaul of the country’s immigration system would add an additional $1.5 trillion to the country’s GDP.

HCRs aren’t bills, and if adopted they have no force of law behind them. They’re basically legislative petitions, saying “this is what we believe”. It’s a symbol, but if a resolution like this were to be adopted, especially by a strong majority, it would be a powerful symbol, one that just might perhaps get some attention from the folks who can do something about it. Our members of Congress, in other words. Of course, some of them need to hear it more than others. Congressional Democrats are almost entirely on board. Here’s the five Democratic Congressional freshmen from Texas opining on the subject:

Comprehensive immigration reform must include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in this country who pass a background check, pay a fee along with back taxes and meet basic citizenship, civics and English language requirements.

In addition, the plan should include funding to increase the number of customs and border patrol officers at our ports of entry while also allocating resources to improve infrastructure at these ports. These investments will create jobs on both sides of the border and keep our border economies sustainable and thriving.

Immigration reform should include interior enforcement measures to improve the removal process for those who want to do our country harm. Worksite enforcement must also make mandatory the use of employment verification systems while improving that system to weed out criminals.

Finally, the package should reform temporary worker programs and create the opportunity for all, while ensuring we remain competitive in all industries and areas in our country and abroad.

The time is now to make the move on immigration reform, and we support efforts to carry out this monumental task. The time is now because of the needs of our country — the urgent need for a younger and more diverse workforce and the need to ensure that the next generation of Americans pays their fair share and keeps vital programs such as Medicare and Social Security solvent. We also need to know who is here so we can weed out those who pose a threat to our country and criminals who should not be here.

We will continue to secure this country from people who would do us harm and must support the men and women on the front lines of this effort by providing them with the necessary equipment and manpower to effectively protect our country. We, however, will remind our colleagues that some border cities like El Paso and others along the South Texas border are regularly ranked as the safest in the United States. We can no longer delay immigration reform. The time to move forward is now.

The words are clear, and the need is clear. Who’s on board, and who will stand in the way?

Testifying about the Women’s Health Program

More hearings like this, please.

Right there with them

The Texas Department of State Health Services got an earful today from lawmakers and women’s health advocates at a public meeting in Austin to discuss proposed rules for the Texas Women’s Health Program — specifically, the state’s plan to sacrifice 90 percent of federal funding for the program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood and prevent participating physicians from discussing abortion in any capacity with patients.

“Try to get the politics out of the way and do what’s best for Texas women,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, before an eruption of applause from the audience. She emphasized a point reiterated by others testifying at the hearing: that the Women’s Health Program provides cancer screenings, birth control and wellness exams for 130,000 low-income women but does not provide abortions.

One of the proposed rules for the program states that a participating physician could not “promote elective abortions” by providing “counseling concerning the use of abortion as a method of family planning” — even outside the scope of the Women’s Health Program. Physician groups, including the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, oppose the proposed rule, arguing it will put a “gag order” on physicians that could interfere with patient-physician relationships.

“We strongly oppose any interference into a physician’s ability to use his or her medical judgment as to the information that is in the best interest of his or her patient,” the groups wrote in a letter to DSHS.

[…]

Although Planned Parenthood clinics account for less than 2 percent of the providers participating in the program, 45 percent of women participating in the program chose to receive care at Planned Parenthood.

Opponents of the state’s decision to knock Planned Parenthood and other providers out of the WHP worry the state will not be able to provide an adequate health network. But the state and proponents of the reformed Texas Women’s Health Program say that won’t be a problem, as Planned Parenthood clinics make up a small portion of the 2,500 providers enrolled in the program.

What a silly argument that is. As we have discussed, the vast majority of existing providers in the WHP served at most ten clients. Claiming that the loss of Planned Parenthood will cause no disruption in service to the WHP patients is like saying there would be no disruption in the smarphone market if Apple were to disappear because hey, they’re just one manufacturer. You can find that letter to the DSHS here, and for more see State Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna’s op-ed in the Chron, and this letter from Senate Democrats to outgoing HHSC Chair Tom Suehs.

One Texas PAC

Catching up on something from before last week’s runoffs, there’s a new PAC in town with some big ideas for the future.

State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Ana Hernandez Luna unveiled the One Texas PAC, with Martinez Fisher pledging to match the first $50,000 in donations.

The PAC will concentrate on supporting Hispanic candidates for the Texas Legislature, engaging Hispanic voters and mobilizing them in districts where they can make a difference in an election’s outcome, Martinez Fischer told The Associated Press. The group’s strategy of directly engaging voters sets it apart from other advocacy groups, he added.

“I want to talk to people because I believe if they understand what we stand for, they will realize there are people fighting for them,” said Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus in the Texas Legislature.

Non-Hispanic whites make up less than half of the state’s population, and Hispanics are the fastest growing group in Texas. Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to recruit more Hispanics into their ranks, but Hispanic voters here go to the polls in small numbers compared to their population’s size and compared to other states. For example, eligible Hispanic voters in Texas turnout at half the rate of Hispanics in California.

Martinez Fisher said the new PAC hopes to get out the Hispanic vote by pointing out the stake they hold in Texas’ future. Demographers expect them to be the majority by 2020.

“Texas is running out of water and energy, our roads are deteriorating, and the next generation of Texans who have to face this reality will be less educated and in poor health,” Fischer said. “Apparently, our alleged pro-business Republicans think it is more important to attend tea-party rallies than confront this reality. One Texas will change that.”

The PAC’s website is here and its Facebook page is here. I had the chance to speak to Reps. Martinez Fischer, Hernandez Luna, and Armando Walle about this, and the main idea I got from them is that this is about addressing the infrastructure needs of a state with a young and growing population whose current leaders aren’t doing a damn thing about them. Martinez Fischer goes into some detail in this Rio Grande Guardian story.

Martinez Fischer is a Democrat from San Antonio who has served six terms in the Texas House. He said he and his colleagues formed One Texas PAC because Texas needs to move on from the politics of mañana that permeates the state Capitol in Austin.

“All of our problems, whether it is water, energy, transportation, education, public health… you get to the floor of the House in Austin, Texas, and the Republicans say, yeah, we will deal with that mañana. Mañana is the busiest day of the week in Austin, Texas. You never get to it. That is why One Texas is around and why we are going to change things,” he explained.

At a news conference held in McAllen on Friday, Martinez Fischer looked ahead to the time One Texas PAC’s goal is achieved.

“When we are one Texas we are not going to have the disparity in education and health care that we have today in our state,” he said.

“When we are one Texas we are going to have an infrastructure that is going to provide adequate water for the families and businesses that depend on it. We are going to be able to turn on the light switch and know we have safe, reliable and diverse power sources fueling our state. And, we also know that when our businesses want to relocate, and when moms and dads want to be able to get to that little league soccer on time, that we are going to have a transportation system that works.”

[…]

Martinez Fischer said the new PAC will use its funds to help tomorrow’s Latino leaders win election to public office. He said the PAC will also put out position papers on issues such as transportation, water, and energy to kick start a public policy conversation that currently does not exist in the highest echelons of state government.

“These are not issues out of the blue. They are ordinary, kitchen table issues that every Latino in the Rio Grande Valley talks about on a daily basis,” Martinez Fischer said. “The problem is they are not priority issues because they are not talked about at Tea Party rallies, they are not priorities because people think government needs to be smaller, because people want to cut spending. We can no longer cut spending. We need leaders who can do three things: make hard decisions, make smart investments and ask Texans to share in the sacrifice.”

Martinez Fischer noted that historically, Latino leaders have focused on civil rights, education and health care. He said new Latino leaders must also tackle transportation, water and energy issues because it is increasingly going to be Latino households that provide the taxes to fund the state’s infrastructure needs.

“We have this looming infrastructure crisis, and what we need to do is start thinking big again,” Martinez Fischer said. “We need responsible leaders, Hispanic leaders that recognize this is becoming a Latino problem. Because, as we become the majority of the population in this state – we are 38 percent of the statewide population today – these problems are either going to be fixed by Latino leaders that are in school and colleges right now, or it is going to be financed by the taxpayers that are going to be largely Latino that have to pay taxes to support these projects.”

What I like about this approach is that it’s not just about trying to win the next election, it’s about looking beyond that at the issues that are important now and will become crises if we don’t start addressing them now. It’s about understanding these issues and supporting leaders who understand them and want to engage the public in trying to solve them. Hey, someone’s got to do it. One Texas PAC has already met its initial goal of raising $100K – they may be policy-oriented but they’re still a PAC, and you have to win elections to affect policy – mostly with the support of incumbent House members. They’re continuing their push, and they’re worth your support. Check ’em out.

Sylvia and Mario

Last week, Robert Miller mentioned that there was talk that former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia might challenge Sen. Mario Gallegos in the 2012 primary. PDiddie expanded on that, and the chatter eventually led to a denial from both politicians via their shared consultant, Dan McClung; Campos pooh-poohed the denial. So basically, believe what and who you want about this. If it’s going to happen, we’ll know soon enough.

What I know is that I’ve been redistricted out of SD06, so if it does come to pass, I won’t be forced to pick a side between two people I like. Sen. Gallegos has done a lot of good representing this district; he’s certainly voted as I would want him to most of the time. I have no doubt that Garcia would also do an excellent job if she were to be elected. Having said that, let me say this: Whether by his choice or not, if it is time for new blood in SD06, what I would prefer to see is some actual new blood. There are four young, talented, and (I hope) ambitious State Reps whose districts include parts of SD06: Jessica Farrar, Carol Alvarado, Ana Hernandez Luna, and Armando Walle. Farrar is now a senior member of the House – she was the Democratic Caucus Chair this past session and did a fine job under terrible circumstances – which is a good argument for her to stay put, but the others have no such constraint. If there’s going to be a change in SD06, this is where I’d go looking for it.

Again, I mean no disrespect at all to Sen. Gallegos, who as far as I know isn’t going anywhere, or Sylvia Garcia, who was an outstanding member of Commissioners Court and who I still think would make a great Harris County Tax Assessor. I just see this as a logical extension of the case for Joaquin Castro in CD35. I’ve yet to hear a single Democrat in Texas tell me lately that we’re doing just fine with what we’re doing now. Well, if change is what we want then a key aspect of that is to make way for the next generation of leaders. Sen. Mario Gallegos isn’t going to run statewide for anything, but Sen. Walle or Sen. Hernandez Luna or Sen. Alvarado might. Hell, if one of them were to succeed Sen. Gallegos in 2012, I’d start beating the drum for them as a statewide possibility in 2014. If we’re not thinking about this sort of thing, we’re setting ourselves up for failure in the future.

Nobody knows when Texas is going to turn blue. I think it’ll happen this decade, but beyond that it’s a straight up guess. There are a number of factors that will affect that, and one of them is the quality of the candidates we put on the ballot going forward. If there’s an opportunity to upgrade our bench, we need to take it. What exactly do we have to lose?

Chron profile of Rep. Hernandez Luna

Good story.

State Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna stood before the House on the afternoon of May 9, hours after lawmakers passed the controversial “sanctuary city” bill, and started reading from a prepared statement, her eyes downcast.

“I know House Bill 12 already passed, and in the long run there is nothing that could have been done about its passage,” she said.

But still, she said, she had something to say. And then, in a halting and teary speech, Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, described what life is like as an illegal immigrant.

She knows, she said, because she lived it.

“Immigration and all that it encompasses is very personal for me because I was an undocumented immigrant,” Hernandez Luna said. “You may prefer to use the word illegal alien, but I’m not an alien. I am not a problem that must be handled. I’m a human — a person standing before you now as a representative for the Texas House.”

With her roughly five-minute speech, the 32-year-old lawyer and lawmaker did what some would consider crazy in the current political climate. She tried to put a human face – her own face – on the illegal immigration issue.

“I believe they have a perception of what an undocumented immigrant should be, and I don’t fit in that,” she said in a recent interview. “And that’s why I felt it was important to share my story and put a face on the issue, and let people know we’re not just talking about criminals here who need to be deported.”

You really need to hear Rep. Hernandez Luna give the speech to get its full impact. I shared this on Facebook before, here it is now:

By the way, the “sanctuary cities” bill has been refiled for the special session, though as yet it’s not on the call. Two things to add to the Chron story: One, despite what it says I hope Rep. Hernandez Luna does have aspirations for higher office some day. There’s never enough people like her in office at any level. And two, screw Debbie Riddle and her condescension. A hundred years ago, Riddle’s spiritual ancestors were arguing that we had to “defend the borders” against the menace of too many Italian and Irish immigrants. Same crap, different century. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. This Irish Italian stands with Rep. Hernandez Luna.

“Sanctuary cities” ban passes the House

I suppose we should get used to the phrase “cutting off debate” because that seems to be the norm these days.

After taking the unusual and controversial strategy of cutting off debate, the Texas House late Monday voted 99 to 47 in favor of a ban on “sanctuary cities,” despite objections that the measure was unnecessary and will increase racial profiling against Hispanics.

House Republicans voted to end debate by calling for an immediate vote on the bill, shutting down debate on amendments after four hours of sometimes heated discussion.

Democrats roundly criticized the tactic almost as emotionally as the underlying legislation, and faulted House Speaker Joe Straus for allowing the maneuver.

“Is this the intended course that the chair intends to exercise as we proceed?” asked State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. “If the chair along with the super-majority — if they will simply let the rest of us know — which bills they intend to have proceed regardless of debate and points of order — they will save us a lot of time and effort. No question the super-majority can pass any bill at any time.”

It’s just that, as Burka pointed out, they’ve taken their sweet time about it, and the combination of a few successful points of order, a late-in-the-day “emergency” tort reform bill, and the need to deal with remaining items like redistricting have put them in a bind. As Pete Gallego noted, calling the question like this hardly ever happened in previous sessions under other Speakers, but now seems to be a matter of routine. It’s hard to see this as anything but a deep sense of insecurity about the ability to pass their own agenda in the face of any kind of opposition. The Republicans did allow some debate and amendments before passing the bill on third reading, not that it really mattered at that point.

As for the bill itself, what else is there to say? It’s an offensive solution to a non-problem, one that will impose large unfunded costs on local law enforcement agencies and which makes a mockery of the alleged Republican value of local control. It’s evil and fascistic for the federal government to tell states what to do, but good and just for states to tell cities what to do. What should happen as a result of this is that police departments decide that in order to fully comply with the law they need to ask everyone for proof of citizenship whenever they pull them over for a traffic stop or whatever. How many of the people cheering on this bill’s passage routinely carry their passport or birth certificate – the long form, naturally – on them? That won’t happen, of course, because it’s “obvious” that some people are citizens, and hey, this is America, right? More for some of us than for others, I guess. Statements from Reps. Carol Alvarado, Jessica Farrar, and Garnet Coleman are beneath the fold, and there’s more from EoW, Burka and Burka again, Trail Blazers, Postcards, Texas Politics, and the Trib. Be sure to read the exceptionally ugly comments there if you have any doubt about how supporters of this bill perceive it. And then, to cleanse your mind, watch Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna’s personal privilege speech about growing up as an undocumented immigrant (thanks to Texas Politics for the link). If you think the country and the state would be better off today if Rep. Hernandez Luna and her family had been deported, I don’t know what to say to you.

(more…)

Solomons State House map 2.0

Go to http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ and check out Plan H134 for a revised State House map from House Redistricting Chair Burt Solomons. Here’s the Harris County view:

Harris County, take two

Still 24 districts, with either Rep. Scott Hochberg or Rep. Hubert Vo on the outside looking in. In this variation, HD143 goes back to being an East End seat, and HD148 regains some of its old territory in the Heights, but my part of the Heights gets moved into HD145, which would make me a constituent of Rep. Carol Alvarado. As with Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, I would be delighted to be her constituent, but heartbroken not to be Rep. Jessica Farrar’s constituent. HD134 gains a little more outside the Loop territory, but most of the districts on the west side look not too different than they were before. Beyond Harris County, the only thing I looked for was the weird uterus-shaped HD149 that surrounds and passed through Williamson County. It’s still there. You’ve got to be a little desperate to maintain Republican hegemony if you’re drawing districts like that.

Also, State Rep. Garnet Coleman has submitted a plan, Plan H130. The Harris view:

Rep. Coleman's map for Harris County

That one has 25 seats in Harris County, so Reps. Hochberg and Vo can remain. It also puts me back into HD148, which just feels right. And as we turn our eyes to Williamson County, we see no uterine districts. All of which means that this map won’t be given a moment’s thought.

With regards to Rep. Hochberg, I note that someone has been whispering into Burka‘s ear.

I haven’t discussed Hochberg’s plans with him, but I did hear from sources close to Sarah Davis that she expects Hochberg to move into her district and run against her.

I don’t know who his sources are and I don’t know who his sources’ sources are, but I do know that I have not heard anything like this from Democrats as yet. In fact, the reaction many of us had was that it was Rep. Vo who’d gotten the short end of the stick, since the HD137 drawn (in the original map, anyway; I can’t vouch for the revised map just yet) has more of Hochberg’s precincts in it than Vo’s. I personally thought Vo might be better off running against Rep. Jim Murphy in HD133, since as noted before it might be viable for him. Burka’s sources may be right and they may be wrong, I’m just saying that I’m not hearing the same buzz that he is.

Finally, a couple of stories from the Monitor and the Guardian about redistricting in South Texas and the disposition of Hidalgo County. I figure they wind up getting shafted again, which is to say business as usual.

UPDATE: The following was sent out by email from Karen Loper, Rep. Vo’s campaign manager, last night:

Message from Hubert Vo for help with redistricting

The Texas House Committee on Redistricting  has re-drawn the district lines of the State Representatives and  filed the plan as HB150.   District 149 which is Hubert Vo’s district has been eliminated.  Many of the  precincts in his district have been moved to other districts which breaks up the voting strength of all  ethnicities including the Vietnamese.  The only 3 current Vo precincts left after they move the others are combined with District 137.

Letters should be sent as soon as possible to the redistricting committee.  We have attached two sample letters to email or fax – one is for you to use if you live in District 149 and the other should be sent if you live somewhere else.  These letters will be used  for  the committee and also will be sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) where the redistricting map must be approved .

All you have to do is date the letter and type in your name and address at the bottom.   You can make additions to the letter if you wish to do so. The letters should not argue the Democratic and Republican point because that is not part of the DOJ’s concerns.  You can email or fax the letter. The e-mail address and fax number are listed below.  PLEASE SEND A COPY TO HUBERT VO ALSO

SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

marc.veasey@house.state.tx.us or Fax (512) 463-1516

AND SEND A COPY TO:

hubert.vo@house.state.tx.us or Fax (512) 463-0548

Sample letters were included. You can see them here and here.

First State House redistricting plan is up

Go here, click Select Plans, then Base Plan, then choose Plan H113. The first thing I noticed is that it did in fact reduce Harris County to 24 members. Here’s a screen grab:

This could be what Harris County State Rep districts look like

HD149 is the odd district out – it’s a weird barbell district that joins Burnet and Milam Counties via a thin strip of southern Williamson County. Go ahead, take a look at that and then tell me why MALDEF’s CD35 is too ugly to live.

According to the announcement letter from Redistricting Chair Burt Solomons, which you can see on this Trib post, the map pairs Reps. Scott Hochberg and Hubert Vo in Harris County. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that the “Other” population, which usually means “Asian”, is highest for HDs 137 (Hochberg) and 133, the latter being Rep. Jim Murphy’s district. See here for those numbers. Until we see data for previous elections, it’s hard to put it all in context. Note that this was the only Dem-on-Dem pairing – there were five R-on-R pairings elsewhere in the state, all driven by lagging population.

Beyond that, I don’t have much to say just yet. These things take time to figure out. I will note that this map moves me from HD148 to HD143. While I will be delighted to be represented by Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, I will be equally sad to not be represented by Rep. Jessica Farrar, who has been my voice in Austin since I moved to the Heights in 1997. What do you think about this map?

UPDATE: From the Inbox, a statement from Rep. Carol Alvarado:

“The redistricting proposal by Chairman Solomons is a starting point, however, I believe there is still work left to do,” said Alvarado.

“I believe that there is a major deficiency in taking Harris County down from 25 districts to 24 districts. I believe that unlike other counties in Texas which have seen drastic loss, Harris County’s population did not significantly desert our county, they shifted from the east to the west. It is important that Harris County be able to maintain its 25 house districts in order to best represent our constituents.”

I’d prefer that Harris get 25 as well, but the numbers are what they are. I can’t fault the committee or Rep. Solomons for that.

UPDATE: And a statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman:

I know Chairman Solomons and the members have worked hard and we all have more steps to take in this process. However, I am disappointed that the first Harris County House map produced by the House leadership was devised and designed without the input of many members of the Harris County Delegation. This initial plan only allots Harris County 24 seats, contrary to the original instructions by Chairman Solomons to develop a 25 seat plan for Harris County.

Most importantly, Harris County loses representation under this plan because it pairs two incumbents who represent predominantly minority districts, which almost certainly violates the Voting Rights Act.

With a month left before this bill must be considered by the House, the public should have an opportunity to demand a fair plan instead of one that includes bizarre districts that can cause voters to lose faith in their government. Unfortunately, hearings on this map are scheduled in less than 48 hours. I intend to work with the House leaders to allow more input from our constituents who will be impacted for 10 years by this process.

I’m sure there will be more.

UPDATE: Found on Facebook, a statement from Rep. Jessica Farrar:

“At first glance, there are districts with the proposed House map that would make Tom Delay blush. Surely the final House plan won’t resemble this one, because it does not respect the voters and it violates the standards established by the Voting Rights Act. Simply put, this is not a fair or a legal plan. The map laid out today splits communities of interest and denies proper representation to people of color who drove the population growth in Texas for the past decade. Without question, Texans deserve better than another redistricting plan that puts politics ahead of fair representation for Texas voters. We’ll spend time listening to our constituents about this map and looking at compliance with the Voting Rights Act, legally accepted redistricting practices and protecting communities of interest.”

Keep ’em coming.

UPDATE: Still more, a twofer from PoliTex, from Postcards, and from Burka.

UPDATE: Here’s PDiddie, and Greg with the Google Maps view.

UPDATE: EoW analyzes that barbell monstrosity HD149. Burka analyzes the Republican pairings and longrer term prospects. Greg gives his take on the WilCo Barbell and has several other maps up besides.

The state of the state

Is strong, according to Rick Perry. So strong, in fact, that we’re going to kick the legs out of social services, because clearly we don’t need them.

When the state faced a budget crisis in 2003, Gov. Rick Perry’s office released a budget proposal that was full of zeros, stating that each agency would have to justify every dollar they spent. In 2011, the Governor has taken a different approach, releasing a budget with numbers.

Perry’s budget proposal slashes spending on the Health and Human Services Commission (providing about half of what the agency requested), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (providing only two-thirds of what the agency requested) and the Public Utilities Commission (only giving the PUC about 10% of what the agency requested).

Health and Human Services provides the state funding for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. TCEQ regulates polluters, such as coal power plants and oil refineries. The TCEQ has been engaged in a long running battle with the EPA, which has long held that the TCEQ is far too lax when it comes to enforcing environmental law. The Public Utilities Commission regulates the state’s utilities and power grid. The state’s grid suffered from rolling blackouts during one of the coldest weeks in recent memory in Texas.

What’s a few blackouts among rugged individuals? Naturally, Perry doesn’t share in the sacrifice he’s calling on others to make, as his budget (a copy of which you can see here) calls for more money for his slush funds the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund. He also extracts some revenge on the Historical Commission for not giving his wife what she wanted in the reconstruction of the Governor’s Mansion. Classy.

You can read the full text of Perry’s remarks here if you really want to. My reaction is that the Lege is already working on budget proposals, and they’ve already heard a lot of testimony from people who would be directly harmed by them, about which the Governor might know something if he weren’t off traipsing around the country. He still wouldn’t care, of course, but at least he might know. Other reactions of which I’m aware:

Texas Liberal

Texas Watch

BOR, which has a few more reactions from others here

State Sen. Kirk Watson

Texas Forward

Various other legislative Democrats

The Texas State Teachers’ Association

State Rep. Armando Walle

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

Paul Burka and Patricia Kilday Hart, who notes that Perry essentially refuted the idea of tuition deregulation in this speech

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez

State Rep. Lon Burnam

In the Pink

EoW

State Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna

State Rep. Carol Alvarado

Abby Rapoport

Nick Anderson

Interview with State Rep. Ana Hernandez

Rep. Ana Hernandez

Next up is State Rep. Ana Hernandez, who has represented HD143 since winning a special election to succeed the late Rep. Joe Moreno in 2005. Rep. Hernandez has been a consistent voice for voting rights, cleaner air, and working class families. She was a legislative intern and staffer for several sessions before being elected herself. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

The Great Texas Clean Up Festival

Looking for something to do Saturday? The Sierra Club has a suggestion.

RAY JOHNSTON BAND
LOS PISTOLEROS DE TEXAS
ROBERT ELLIS & THE BOYS
MRS. GLASS

Join us on JULY 24TH, from 4-10pm for a day of music and art.

Featured artists: Amos Garcia, Kate Fu, Kyle Fu, JSQUARD, Lizbeth Ortiz, Andrew Chapa, Rockey Perez, Roger Hunter, Mickael Allen, Christian Navarrete,the Contemporary Art Museum Teen Council

At the Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney Street.
Houston, Texas 77010

For questions, email: cleanuptxnow@gmail.com

It’s more than just music:

On July 24th, the Sierra Club and the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service (TEJAS) with other environmental groups, community organizations, and businesses from Houston and around the state will come together to help clean up Texas. With a concert free to the public, this broad and diverse coalition will speak out with Texans standing up demanding clean air and clean energy for a healthier Texas future.

Speakers include State Sen. Rodney Ellis, State Rep. Ana Hernandez, Representative Ana Hernandez, Matthew Tejada of Air Alliance Houston, and Juan Parras of TEJAS. Come on out, hear some music, and see what they’ve got to say about a cleaner Texas.

From the “Reasons why KBH won’t resign” files

Gardner Selby notes that whenever Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to resign from the Senate, Governor Perry controls the timing of the special election to replace her and can use it to help his preferred candidate.

Under the law, if the governor determines that an emergency warrants holding a special election before the uniform election date, then it can be on a nonuniform date as long as the governor identifies the nature of the emergency.

Translation: The election can happen any day the governor pleases.

And should Hutchison step down, Perry would consider setting an election shortly. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle told me, “If a vacancy were to occur, the governor would be inclined to call an election soon to ensure Texans are fully represented” in Washington.

This possible twist carries huge political implications.

A speeded election would give a leg up to the interim senator that Perry appoints on Hutchison’s departure if only because the fledgling senator will get a burst of attention simply by getting sworn in and settled. And a quick election would probably hurt other aspirants, including Democrats John Sharp of Austin and Bill White, the Houston mayor, leaving them scrambling for attention in an abbreviated campaign period.

Meanwhile, voters — not primed for a customary November vote or given notice of a less-traditional May election — may be asked to act on an unusual date such as (I’ll float) Tuesday, Oct. 13.

An odd date stands to inflate the influence of die-hard voters such as Republican regulars who tend to turn out in heavier numbers in special elections.

The political reverb: Democrats would cry foul, though Perry would draw warm credit in GOP circles for efficiently protecting the seat for his party.

Three things:

1. Of course Rick Perry will take whatever advantage he can get from this situation. It’s what he does, and he does it well – he’s as good at politics as he is bad at governing. I’m not saying some other governor wouldn’t take political considerations into account. I’m just saying that for Perry, those are the only considerations.

2. Bear in mind, whatever “emergency” Perry might cook up to set an election date of his choosing, he did not call an emergency election to fill HD143 after the tragic death of Rep. Joe Moreno in May, even though he went on to call two special sessions on school finance reform after the regular session. HD143 remained empty during this time until now-Rep. Ana Hernandez won a runoff in December. Bear in mind, Texas’ Senate seat will be filled as soon as Perry names a replacement. It will not be left vacant for any stretch of time as HD143 was. This is as clear an illustration as you can want of Perry putting politics first and everything else second.

3. Of course, as I and some others have repeatedly noted, KBH has a simple counter to all this: Stay in office until she’s been sworn in as Governor, assuming she gets that far and then wins in November. Leave the replacement selection and special election date-setting to someone she trusts, namely herself. It’s either that or let Rick Perry send Dan Patrick to Washington. You’d think that wouldn’t be a hard choice from KBH’s perspective.

Ed Johnson’s conflict of interest

As you know, there was a lawsuit filed against Paul Bettencourt and the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over allegations of illegal mishandling of provisional ballots in the past November election. That suit was later expanded to include allegations of voter disenfranchisement by Bettencourt’s office. According to KHOU, some mighty interesting facts have come out so far in the deposition phase.

“This is as blatant a case of election corruption that I have seen,” said Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democrat activist group.

The Lone Star Project’s complaint revolves around Ed Johnson.

Johnson is the associate voter registrar at the Harris County Tax Assessor Collectors office, but according to state documents, that’s just his day job. Johnson is also a paid director of a small company that provides voter data to Republican candidates for office. That company, Campaign Data Systems, billed at least $140,000 in 2008.

Campaign Data Systems happens to be owned by Republican State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, who also happens to be one of the big pushers of voter ID bills. Johnson testified before the Senate about supposed instances of vote fraud. He tells the Republicans what they want to hear in the guise of a nonpartisan election official, while being on their payroll. Nice little scam they’ve got going there, no? I think we all have a better idea now why State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez called for appointed Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez’s resignation over Johnson’s (and George Hammerlein’s) testimony, and it makes Vasquez’s response look that much weaker.

I’m sure the Lone Star Project will have plenty more to say on this soon, and I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’m thinking the campaign ads against Vasquez next year are going to write themselves. This is going to be fun.

Vasquez responds to Coleman and Hernandez

I received the following statement from the office of Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez, which was sent to KHOU and Fox 26 in response to the charges made by State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez about the voter ID testimony given by staffers George Hammerlein and Ed Johnson.

Statement of Leo Vasquez,

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar

April 13, 2009

I am extremely disappointed in the lack of professionalism exhibited by State Representatives Coleman and Hernandez and demand from them a written apology to the dedicated public servants on my staff who they have maliciously accused of perjury. They executed this attack without first providing this office holder the professional courtesy of a face-to-face meeting.

At the specific invitation of St. Rep. Todd Smith, a colleague of Reps. Coleman and Hernandez, my office staff responded to the Chairman’s request to present data before the House Elections Committee. Our staff did so as a neutral resource witness only. I cannot imagine Reps. Coleman and Hernandez are advocating that the Harris County Tax Office should ignore the legislators of Texas. It is important to also note that our staff also took the opportunity while in Austin to work with other Democratic and Republican legislators and their staff on many other important pending legislative items.

As many of the Representatives’ miscellaneous and erroneous allegations relate to claims contained in a federal lawsuit pending against the Harris County Tax Office, it is inappropriate to make a comment on those. Any comment on pending litigation should be directed to the Harris County Attorney’s Office. I urge the Plaintiffs and their associates to try this case in a court of law, rather than in the media.

Finally, I must point out the Representatives’ poor grasp of simple facts. They boldly stated, “Leo Vasquez administers elections in Harris County.” We should be clear that I do not administer elections. I am the Voter Registrar and my office is committed to performing those duties in a non-partisan fashion, per the Texas Election Code, and on a fair and equal basis for all citizens of Harris County.

So there you have it. As I said before, there was a big lack of trust in this office by Democrats thanks to the widespread problems getting voter registrations processed last year as well as the longstanding partisan shilling of now-former Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt, and that mistrust still lingers after some early missteps by the TAC’s office after Vasquez took over. I also recommend you read Vince’s post about the disputed testimony. I think even if Ed Emmett draws a serious challenger next year, it’s clear what the top tier countywide race is going to be. Anyway, now you know what they had to say about this.

Dems versus Vasquez

Looks like we’re not ready to make nice with the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over their handling of voter registration last year.

Any honeymoon between Democrats and the new Harris County voter registrar ended suddenly today.

Democratic state Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez of Houston said Leo Vasquez, who is tax assessor-collector and voter registration chief, is responsible for staffers who allegedly misled state legislators considering whether to require voters to offer more proof of identification before casting ballots.

“It is up to (Vasquez) to clean up his office,” Coleman and Hernandez said in a news media handout. “Otherwise, Leo needs to go.”

[…]

Vasquez, saying he is running the registration agency without regard to politics and will not join the GOP frontlines, since has expanded voter registration efforts and hired a Democrat to help with community outreach.

He said today that testimony in Austin last week on the “voter ID” bill by voter registration staffers George Hammerlein and Ed Johnson was no partisan move. The pair, called to testify by Republican lawmakers, took no position on the bill and provided facts as requested, Vasquez said.

Coleman and Hernandez never have taken their concerns to him, Vasquez said, and they owe his staffers an apology for making baseless allegations.

The Democrats today zeroed in on Hammerlein’s legislative testimony, several hours into hearing that ran past midnight, that thousands of Harris County residents who registered to vote on time were not eligible to participate in early voting two weeks later because they applied relatively late.

Hammerlein acknowledged today that his statement was wrong and said it was due to the strange hour rather than any attempt to mislead the Legislature.

I’ve reprinted the press release beneath the fold, and a copy of the doc that spelled out the allegations against Hammerlein and Johnson is here. I’ve been hearing some grumbling about the way things have been run at the Tax Assessor’s office, in particular complaints about being told that deputy registrars could not deliver new registration forms to annex offices. That turned out to be a case of miscommunication between the head office and the annexes. Perhaps that’s to be expected with a change in command, but it wasn’t a good first impression and it didn’t help alleviate any of the lingering mistrust left over from the Bettencourt days. It’s not surprising, given the stakes in the voter ID fight, that Vasquez isn’t being cut any slack. Stace has more.

Meanwhile, immigration attorney and former Houston City Council member Gordon Quan has an op-ed about voter ID and the Betty Brown incident.

While some will argue that this increases the integrity of the ballot, in reality, voter ID requirements have been overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise older Americans, individuals with disabilities, low income and homeless people, students, married women, minorities and most poignantly, those who, for cultural reasons, may have differing names on differing identification documents. According to the nation’s largest exit poll of Asian Americans, nearly 70 percent of Asian voters were asked for ID at the polls — in states where no ID was required!

Voter ID requirements put an inordinate amount of discretion in the hands of already overworked poll workers. Our state and county election offices already find themselves constantly struggling to find the resources to adequately train poll workers and to recruit diverse poll workers who are versed in every possible cultural circumstance that they may encounter. This legislation would take precious funds away from those programs as well as from real priorities such as transportation and education. As evidenced by this episode with Brown and the Elections Committee, even individuals as well versed in the law as they are were unable to understand the complexities associated with Asian names as they relate to voting. Just imagine the difficulty a poll worker would have and how they could easily not allow an eligible voter even with a valid voter registration card to vote.

If you want to discuss this issue in more detail, there will be a conference call Thursday night with Ramey Ko, US Rep. Mike Honda, State Rep. Hubert Vo, Mini Timmaraju of the Asian American Democrats of Texas, and others. The AAA Fund blog has the details. You can submit a question for Ramey Ko ahead of time, but you must RSVP to join the call, so click over for the info if you’re interested.

UPDATE: Vince has more on Hammerlein’s testimony.

Rodney Ellis

Nice profile of State Sen. Rodney Ellis, which talks about his propensity for introducing long-shot bills, and his persistence in getting some of them passed over the course of multiple sessions. This bit summarizes it well:

“Occasionally, Senator Ellis will pick an issue whose time has not yet come, but that’s the legislative process, in that sometimes it takes a little time so we can get a consensus and a majority,” said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, who calls Ellis one of the state’s “brightest, most charismatic senators.”

The article mentions his bills to have Texas adopt California’s emissions standards for automobiles, something he first introduced in 1991. I’d cite his work on innocence matters as well, which are getting a higher profile this session thanks to the large and increasing number of people who can speak to it from their personal experience. It’s good to have some legislators focus on the big picture issues, and Sen. Rodney Ellis does a good job of that.

Blue laws

Ever wanted to buy some booze on a Sunday? Maybe soon you’ll be able to.

Most Texans are familiar with the Blue Laws.

Put into effect decades ago, they prevent the sale of hard liquor on Sundays, among other things.

“There is certainly an inconvenience there, no doubt about it,” Spec’s Liquor Warehouse customer Bud Hall said.

And it’s inconvenient even for customers wanting to buy beer or wine. The same laws make it illegal to sell those items before noon on Sundays.

“If we are having a barbecue on a Sunday or something like that, and it is before noon, we have to sit there and wait,” Spec’s customer Scott Moody said.

Now, a bill filed in the Texas Legislature is looking to repeal those restrictions for good.

There’s no information given about said bill or its author in the story, so I’m not sure what its number is, or whether there may be more than one such bill. The closest thing I could find is HB863 by Rep. Robert Roland Gutierrez (D, San Antonio), which would allow for liquor sales on Sundays between noon and 6 PM; it doesn’t mention anything about beer or wine. That doesn’t quite fit the description in this story, but it’s all I could find.

But that’s not good news for Spec’s owner John Rydman.

“In the 2,500 or 2,600 package stores that there are all over the state of Texas are family people. We don’t want to necessarily work another day. It’s not good for my employees. They need a day off,” Rydman said.

It would also add more overhead to the store’s bottom line, Rydman said.

With the economic downturn, state lawmakers are looking for different ways to generate revenue. Selling booze on Sundays is just one of their ideas.

“I think this is a good source of revenue without having to increase taxes or cut valuable state programs,” District 143 State Rep. Ana Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Sunday liquor purchases could generate upwards of $5-8 million for the state.

Rydman disagrees.

He said his sales wouldn’t go up. Instead, he believes they’d just be spread out over seven days instead of six.

“Those who filed the bills are still convinced there is extra money somewhere. They just think we are crazy—that we people in business don’t know what we’re talking about,” Rydman said.

I support repealing the blue laws because I think they’re a relic of a bygone past that doesn’t really serve any purpose today. I think there would be a modest increase in state revenue from such a change; in context, five to eight million bucks is pretty modest and is probably in the neighborhood. It also likely would spread existing sales around more, but that sounds like a convenience customers have wanted. I appreciate Rydman’s concern about his employees and his bottom line, but I feel confident he can make it work. Spec’s notes that its hours of 10 AM to 9 PM Monday through Saturday are “The maximum allowed by law”, which suggests to me they’d do more – certainly that their customers would want them to do more – if they could. So whether it’s HB863 or some other bill I was unable to locate that’s the vehicle for this, I support the effort to extend the allowable hours for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

UPDATE: Roland Gutierrez, not Robert. My apologies.