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campus carry

A starter agenda for when we have a Democratic state government

I’ve been pondering the recent legislative session, which as we have discussed wasn’t great but also wasn’t nearly as bad as some other recent sessions have been. The qualification for all this is that the key defining factor for our legislative sessions is defense. How well did we do preventing bad bills from becoming law? Oh, there are occasional good bills, on things like criminal justice reform and medical marijuana and the injection of money into public education this session, which should be good until the lack of a funding mechanism becomes an issue. But actually moving the ball forward, on a whole host of items, is a non-starter.

That’s not a surprise, with Republicans in control of all aspects of state government. But Dems picked up 12 seats in the House and two in the Senate, and came close in several statewide races in 2018. There’s a decent chance that Dems can win the House in 2020, and I have to believe we’ll have a stronger candidate for Governor in 2022. The Senate remains a challenge, but after the 2021 redistricting happens, who knows what the landscape may look like. Dems need to aim for the House in 2020, and have a goal of winning statewide in 2022. It won’t be easy, and the national landscape is a huge variable, but we know we’re moving in the right direction, and if not now then when?

And if these are our goals, and we believe we have a reasonable chance at achieving them, then we need to talk about what we want to accomplish with them. It’s a cliche that our legislature is designed to kill bills and not to pass them, but having a unified, overarching agenda – which, let’s not forget, can get a boost by being declared “emergency items” by the Governor – can help overcome that.

So towards that end, I hereby propose a starting point for such an agenda. Moving the ball forward is the ultimate aim, but I believe we have to first move the ball back to where it was before Republicans assumed full control of the government in 2003 in order to really do that. That’s the idea behind this list, which I want to stress is a starting point and very much open to discussion. There are a lot of things a Democratic government will need to do, from health care to voting rights to equality to the environment to climate change and so much more, but we can’t overlook fixing the bad things first.

My list, therefore, covers bills passed since 2003 when Republicans took over. I am skipping over constitutional amendments like the 2003 tort “reform” item, because they will require a supermajority to pass, which we surely will not have. I’m aiming for simplicity, in that these are easy to understand and rally around, and for impact. So without further ado, here are my ideas:

1. Repeal voter ID.
2. Repeal “sanctuary cities”.
3. Repeal anti-Planned Parenthood legislation, from prohibitions on PP receiving Medicaid to this session’s ban on cities partnering with PP on anything, and restore the previously used Women’s Health Program.

Like I said, simple and straightforward, with a lot of impact. The first two are obvious and should have unanimous Democratic support. The third is more of a challenge because even with a Democratic majority in the Senate, we won’t necessarily have a pro-choice majority. Eddie Lucio, and to a somewhat lesser degree Judith Zaffirini, are both opponents of reproductive rights, though Zaffirini is more nuanced than Lucio and ought to be gettable on this kind of bill via an appeal to health care access.

As I said, this is a starting point. There are things I have deliberately left off this list, though I am not by any means discounting or overlooking them. The “Save Chick-fil-A” bill from this session, whose real life effect is not yet known, needs to go but might be better handled as part of a statewide non-discrimination law. (Also, too, there’s the Eddie Lucio problem in the Senate.) Campus carry and open carry are terrible laws, but might be better handled via comprehensive gun control legislation. Tuition deregulation, a big cause of skyrocketing college costs at public universities, which was passed in 2003 as one of many cut-the-budget effort over the years, will be a more complex issue that may require time to study before a consensus solution can be brought forward. All these things and more need to be on the agenda, but some things are more involved than others.

Again, this is a starting point. I make no claim that this is a be-all or end-all. Hell, I make no claim that I’m not forgetting anything equally simple and substantive. I welcome all constructive feedback. Ultimately, what I want out of this is for Dems to recognize the need to decide what our priorities are before we get handed the power to affect them, and to make it part of the case we will be making to the voters to give us that power. I believe having some uniformity to our message will help us. Now it’s up to us to figure out what that message needs to be.

Fifth Circuit upholds dismissal of campus carry lawsuit

Not a surprise.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld Texas’ campus carry law, delivering another clear victory to the state in a longshot, long-running lawsuit brought by University of Texas at Austin professors opposed to the law.

In July 2016, three professors claimed that a 2015 state law that allows licensed gun-owners to carry concealed weapons into most public university buildings would have a “chilling effect” on free speech in their classrooms. But a federal district judge threw out their case in July 2017, saying the professors didn’t present any “concrete evidence to substantiate their fears.”

Accepting that logic and advancing it yet further, a three-judge panel on the appeals court this week rebuffed the professors’ free speech claim as well as two other constitutional challenges they had made.

Like the lower court, the 5th Circuit panel found that the professors lacked standing to challenge the law because they had not sufficiently shown how it might harm them.

“[The professors] cannot manufacture standing by self-censoring her speech based on what she alleges to be a reasonable probability that concealed-carry license holders will intimidate professors and students in the classroom,” Judge Leslie Southwick wrote for the unanimous panel.

See here for the background. The plaintiffs’ lawyer is talking about appealing to the Supreme Court, which strikes me as unlikely to succeed, even in the alternate universe of a SCOTUS with Merrick Garland and not-Brent-Kavanaugh. Some problems have to be solved via the ballot box, and this sure seems like one of them.

Campus carry at the Fifth Circuit

We’ll see if this gets a better reception than it got at the lower court.

Two years ago, three University of Texas at Austin professors — Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter — filed a lawsuit against state Attorney General Ken Paxton and several leaders of the UT System over a 2015 law that allows concealed handguns on college campuses. The professors argued the law infringed their First Amendment right to academic freedom, saying a “chilling effect” pervades their classes when students can bring guns into the room. The law went into effect in August 2016 and was immediately met with stiff backlash on campuses, particularly at UT-Austin.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, sought to block the law and allow the professors to prohibit firearms in their classrooms. A federal judge turned down the request and dismissed the case last year, saying the professors failed to provide evidence that guns infringe on the professors’ free speech or that they have the authority to nullify state law in their classrooms.

Shortly after the decision, Paxton wrote that the “fact that a small group of professors dislike a law and speculate about a ‘chilling effect’ is hardly a valid basis to set the law aside.”

The suit then went to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which [heard] arguments at Wednesday’s session.

[…]

Moore, who teaches English literature, said she’s optimistic about Wednesday’s appeal. Recent news of gun violence in the country, such as the shooting at Santa Fe High School south of Houston in May, shows the need for more sensible gun reform, she said. She and the other two professors, who all teach in the College of Liberal Arts at UT-Austin, want their students “to see us standing up for them,” Moore said.

“I hope we don’t have to have more deaths and school shootings to convince people that guns don’t belong in the classroom,” Moore said.

See here, here, and here for the background. I’ve never been optimistic about this lawsuit – I support the goal, but the arguments have not struck me as persuasive. For what it’s worth, if there was ever a time to make a First Amendment argument, this is clearly it. But this is one of those times where I think the only way forward is going to be at the ballot box. We want better gun laws, we’re going to have to win some elections, because I don’t expect the courts to be on our side. We’ll see if I’m wrong in this particular case. The DMN has more.

Campus carry lawsuit tossed

No surprise.

A federal judge has dismissed a longshot lawsuit filed by three University of Texas at Austin professors seeking to overturn the state’s 2015 campus carry law, which allows people to carry concealed handguns inside most public university buildings.

District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his decision that the professors — Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter — couldn’t present any “concrete evidence to substantiate their fears” that campus carry would have a chilling effect on free speech.

The professors claimed that the law violated their First Amendment rights, since the possibility of a gun being in their classrooms might make them hesitant to discuss controversial issues. In dismissing the suit, Yeakel said the professors didn’t have standing to sue.

The ruling was issued late Thursday, exactly one year after the original lawsuit was filed.

See here, here, and here for the background. I was skeptical of this when it was filed – you would think that if the “well-regulated militia” argument were going to work, someone would have used it successfully by now – so this is what I expected. I don’t care for campus carry and would like to see it thrown out, but that’s going to take a political solution. We will need to have a government that is very different from the one we have now for that to happen.

No injunction for campus carry

So much for that.

A federal judge has denied three University of Texas at Austin professors’ initial attempt to keep guns out of their classrooms under the state’s campus carry law.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the professors, who had sought a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the law, had failed to establish their likelihood for success. UT students resume classes on Wednesday, and the professors’ case will continue to work its way through the court while the law remains in effect.

The professors, Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, filed their lawsuit against the university and the attorney general’s office. In the suit, the professors said the possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion in their courses, which touch on emotional issues like gay rights and abortion. They argued that was a violation of students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

[…]

In an e-mail, Renea Hicks, the lawyer for the professors, said he was “disappointed” by the decision.

“We’ll just have to pull together more facts for trial and hope things go smoothly on campus in the meantime,” he said. “Sometimes, public policies are so terrible and extreme that it takes the law and courts a little while to catch up.”

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for the judge’s order. On the bright side, the lawsuit wasn’t dismissed, at least not yet. As I’ve said before, I would not bet my own money on the plaintiffs ultimately prevailing on this one.

UT and AG ask for campus carry lawsuit to be dismissed

Pretty standard procedure.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office and University of Texas at Austin on Monday asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by three UT-Austin professors seeking to keep guns out of their classrooms despite the state’s new campus carry law.

In two separate court filings, lawyers for the university and the state argue that the professors’ claims that the law violates their First Amendment rights are unfounded. They also argue that the federal court doesn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the state law.

[…]

UT-Austin, however, argues that “incidental impact” on free speech does not violate the First Amendment.

“Even if the … policy had some incidental impact on Plaintiffs’ speech, that impact does not implicate any interest that the First Amendment protects,” the university argues.

See here and here for the background, and here and here for the dismissal motions. More filings are due Monday, with rebuttals due Wednesday, and a ruling will follow, expected to be before the term starts. I still think the plaintiffs are underdogs in this, but we’ll see. The Current has more.

Paxton responds to campus carry lawsuit

It’s about what you’d expect.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday called a lawsuit brought by three University of Texas at Austin professors against the state’s campus carry law “frivolous” and said the professors have no valid reasons for opposing guns on campus.

Paxton filed a brief in response to the lawsuit Monday, saying the professors’ request to block the law — which went into effect Monday — before the first day of fall classes is unconstitutional.

“It is a frivolous lawsuit, and I’m confident it will be dismissed because the Legislature passed a constitutionally-sound law,” Paxton said in a statement. “There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas.”

[…]

In his response, Paxton says the professors’ arguments do not justify banning concealed carry on campus. They have no individual right to academic freedom under the First Amendment, the brief says. It goes on to say that it is irrational to claim the state cannot treat public and private institutions differently, as it does this in countless other areas of the law.

“Plaintiffs will not be irreparably harmed if a preliminary injunction is issued, but Defendants will be,” the brief says. “The citizens of this state — and in particular the students who wish to take the classes offered by Plaintiffs — will be denied both their statutory and constitutional rights.”

UT also filed a brief responding to the professors’ lawsuit, in which it claims there is no evidence to support banning guns in classrooms.

When it comes to limiting robust discussion in the classroom, “plaintiffs do not allege more than subjective chill,” the brief says.

Since the law is already in effect, the professors would have to present a very strong argument to make an exception for them, the brief adds.

See here for the background, here for Paxton’s response, and here for UT’s. I hate to be on the same side of an issue as Ken Paxton, and I think campus carry is dumb policy, but I remain skeptical of this lawsuit. I have a hard time seeing a court buying the First and Second Amendment claims the plaintiffs raise, and even if a district court does, I have an even harder time seeing such a ruling survive the appeals process. But as they say in baseball, this is why they play the games, so we’ll see what happens in court. And what happened yesterday was no ruling yet.

A federal judge took no action Thursday on a request by three University of Texas at Austin professors to temporarily block Texas’ campus carry law, saying he won’t give his initial ruling until at least next week.

But the case against gained a new wrinkle at a hearing Thursday, with the professors’ lawyers now adding a claim that UT-Austin’s gun policies are too vague to be enforced.

It remains to be seen whether the challenge will go anywhere. Lawyers on the professors’ side admitted in court that their claims wade into uncharted legal waters.

“It goes without saying that this is an interesting case,” said U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel. “Both sides, I thought, did an exceptional job.”

[…]

The state law, which went into effect Monday, orders public universities to allow guns. But it doesn’t specifically mention professors’ role. And lawyers on both sides couldn’t point to written UT-Austin policies that describe what would happen to a professor if he or she chooses to ban guns anyway.

Still, the state’s lawyers stressed that public university professors are required to uphold state law and that the law prohibits schools from banning guns in classrooms.

The judge said he wanted to hear more about that argument and asked attorneys on both sides to submit filings detailing their positions. Those are due Monday, and rebuttals can be filed until Wednesday.

This is all for a preliminary injunction, so whatever does get ruled will be temporary. And appealed, but that goes without saying. The Current, the Observer, and the Press have more.

Behind The Tower

Fifty years have passed since Charles Whitman went on an infamous killing spree at the University of Texas. Now a group of historians at UT have taken an in depth look at Whitman and his actions, and tried to answer questions we still don’t fully understand today.

By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

What happens to events that historians ignore, events that are recorded primarily as scattered patches of memory? What kind of history is told by novelists and journalists?

We all know what happened, right?

On August 1, 1966, a twenty-five year old University of Texas student named Charles Whitman went up to the observation deck of the UT tower armed with guns, ammunition, and canned food. For 96 minutes he held the campus in a state of terror. Whitman killed 14 people that day and wounded more than 30. One of the wounded died a week later and one died decades later of injuries connected with his bullet wounds. Austin Police officers Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez (and two other men) made their way to the top of the tower, without knowing who or what they would find. They cornered Whitman and then shot and killed him. Later it was discovered that Whitman had murdered his mother and his wife in the early hours of the morning before his rampage. The shooting was broadcast on the radio and on television and it became a major national and even international news story.

This is arguably the most important event to take place in modern Austin history. There were thousands of eyewitnesses and dozens of survivors. The local archives contain police reports, records of a high-profile Governor’s Commission, medical records, military records, and university records. We have dozens of interviews with survivors: with people who remember and people who have been trying to forget.

It took 30 years for a journalist, Gary Lavergne, to write A Sniper in the Tower, a well-researched and thoughtful narrative. A few oral histories appeared over the years in Texas Monthly and local newspapers. It was only in 2006, that Texas Monthly Senior Editor Pam Colloff spent three months tracking down survivors and recording their memories. In 2014, Elizabeth Crook published a novel about that day called Monday, Monday. Movies, TV shows, novels and even songs refer to the shooting in passing.

But where are the historians?

Bullet holes remained in the concrete and balustrades around the tower when I arrived at UT as an Assistant Professor in 1990, but no visible commemorative marker of the events of that day existed on the UT campus. In 1999 the garden behind the tower was dedicated to the memory of those killed, wounded, or touched by the shooting, but then it took another 8 years to add a plaque that publicly acknowledged that commemoration for the first time. The History tab on the UT webpage devoted to the tower still doesn’t even mention the shooting.

These are events that cry out to be studied. They are also events that raise important questions about commemoration, about public remembering and forgetting, and about the uses of public history.

In Spring 2016, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History Seminar set out to construct a website for writing a history of … and immediately we ran into our first problem. What are we studying? The events of August 1, 1966? Charles Whitman himself? The victims and survivors? The immediate responses, or the aftermath, or the public memories? Do people have a right to forget? What do we want to know? What questions do we have and what questions to we want to answer?

Link via Slate. There’s a lot there to read, and a lot we’re still learning even after all these years. I for one did not know that Whitman had a serious addiction to amphetamines, which no one made a big deal about because amphetamines were so common at the time. Check it out.

Lawsuit filed over campus carry

This ought to be interesting.

Three University of Texas at Austin professors sued their university and the state on Wednesday, claiming Texas’ new campus carry law is forcing the school to impose “overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies” that violate the First and Second Amendments.

The professors — Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter — are asking a federal judge to grant an injunction that would block the law before it goes into effect on Aug. 1. In the suit, professors say they teach courses that touch emotional issues like gay rights and abortion. The possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion, which is a violation of the First Amendment, the suit says.

“Compelling professors at a public university to allow, without any limitation or restriction, students to carry concealed guns in their classrooms chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom,” the lawsuit says.

The suit also cites the Second Amendment, which is usually cited by gun-rights supporters to bolster ideas like campus carry.

“The Second Amendment is not a one-way street,” the suit says. “It starts with the proposition that a ‘well-regulated militia,’ (emphasis added), is necessary to the security of a free state. The Supreme Court has explained that ‘well-regulated’ means ‘imposition of proper discipline and training.'”

The suit adds: “If the state is to force them to admit guns into their classrooms, then the officials responsible for the compulsory policy must establish that there is a substantial reason for the policy and that their regulation of the concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses is ‘well-regulated.’ Current facts indicate that they cannot do so.”

The professors also claim that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection under the law.

A copy of the lawsuit is here; Ken Paxton’s response to it is about what you’d expect. I Am Not A Lawyer, but this seems like a stretch to me. Has any court ever bought that argument in litigation? Maybe it hasn’t really been tried before, which would not be particularly encouraging if true. I mean, anything can happen and I don’t suppose it can hurt to try, but I would not bet money on a favorable outcome for the plaintiffs. The Press and the Austin Chronicle have more.

How ready is Texas law enforcement for open carry?

Hard to say. But we’ll begin to find out soon enough.

Texas law enforcement has also been pretty vocal about their concerns with open carry. They are, after all, the group who’ll have to deal with most of the potential fallout of the new law in the upcoming months. While a majority of police chiefs have expressed a general opposition to the law (75 percent, according to a survey in February) , they were most vocal in May when a provision was added that would prevent police officers from stopping people solely because they were openly carrying a gun. By then, the passing of open carry seemed inevitable, so even Democrats who were originally opposed to the law supported the provision in hopes that it would help prevent the targeting of people of color openly carrying handguns.

“What’s going to happen is more interaction between police and black and brown and poor people because of lawful activity,” Rep. Harold Dutton told KXAN.

The provision made some sense, especially considering issues of racial profiling among Texas state troopers, but it was flawed. In May, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference that the provision would “handcuff” police officers and prevent them from doing their jobs. He was accompanied by members of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, and police unions from Houston and Dallas.

[…]

Experts predict that open carry will most likely take place in small numbers in rural areas, but unlike Oklahoma, six of the most populous cities in the country are in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso. And that’s not taking into account the political climate around gun control in Texas this year. There have been number of demonstrators openly carrying rifles in large cities, the most recent being a group of armed protestors in front of a mosque in Irving and demonstrators who marched with rifles near UT-Austin and later held a mock mass shooting to protest “gun-free zones.” It’s still unclear why they felt the need to protest what would soon be law.

But one of the biggest concerns of law enforcement is establishing the fine line between respecting the rights of someone legally carrying a handgun and protecting the general public. “What happens when an officer sees someone openly carrying a handgun in a holster, in accordance with the law, what can an officer legally do?” Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the Houston Chronicle. “We keep getting more questions than answers.”

The fear is that open carry will make it harder for police officers to tell the difference between a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun and someone with criminal intentions carrying a gun. In the Houston Chronicle, comments like these from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, don’t really help to clarify things.

Houston police, he said, will not “be doing random stops of people simply to see if they have a CHL,” but they also will not “sit back for 30 minutes” if they have a reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

So, what will they do?

Click over and see. I think open carry is bad policy, but I also think it will have a relatively minimal effect. You have to have a concealed carry license in order to be able to carry openly, and it was already legal before now for any yahoo with a cheap Soldier of Fortune fantasy to carry any manner of rifle around in public, as we have seen over and over again. It’s the interaction between law enforcement and those who will be openly carrying that is hard to predict. If I had a CHL, I’d probably continue to carry my weapon in a concealed fashion, because who needs the hassle? But then I’m not the type of person who likes to invite trouble to make a point. The other questions involve where people can carry, and how many lawsuits are going to be filed because someone disagreed with someone else’s interpretation of that, and also with how businesses will cater to those who want to carry and those who want to not be around people who carry. I won’t be surprised if that first issue, for this and for campus carry, is revisited in 2017.

How will campuses handle campus carry?

Good question.

When it comes to guns on campus, University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven is in a bit of an awkward position.

A month ago, the former Navy admiral was one of the most vocal opponents of legislation allowing people to carry guns into university buildings. Now, the campus carry bill has become law, and McRaven must help determine exactly where guns will be allowed at the nine universities he oversees.

But he can’t simply ban guns altogether. Instead, he’ll walk a fine line between his views on safety and his job upholding the spirit of a law passed by a Legislature with strong views on gun rights. And he’ll try to do it with passionate advocates on both sides closely watching.

Similar scenarios will play out at schools across the state. Now that Gov. Greg Abbott has signed Senate Bill 11 into law, each four-year state school has 14 months to come up with its own policy on where concealed handguns may be carried by students or others with a state license. The new law provides few specifics on where those guns can or cannot be banned, leaving the process open to passionate debate.

“We are going to figure out how to make sure we do everything we can to protect the faculty and the students and the visitors and not impact academic freedom in any way,” McRaven said in an interview soon after SB 11 passed. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure we’re meeting the full intent of this bill.”

[…]

For the most part, the schools have offered few hints about how they will interpret the law. A few university presidents have sent out campus-wide emails saying they will consult students, faculty and staff before any decisions are made. Most discussions won’t start until fall, when more people are on campus.

“We are already aware that this is going to be one of the biggest issues that we are going to have next year,” said Adam Alattry, student body president at the University of North Texas for the 2015-16 year.

Alattry was opposed to campus carry, joining 12 other student body presidents in writing a letter to Abbott asking him not to sign the bill. But he acknowledged that some groups on his campus strongly favor campus carry. Reaching a compromise acceptable to everyone will be difficult, he said.

Chuck Hemptsead, executive director of the Texas Association of College Teachers, agreed. He said that an “overwhelming majority” of his members are opposed to allowing guns in classrooms.

“I think it will be an emotional thing,” he said.

Imposing too many restrictions would risk pushback from pro-gun groups and lawmakers, and legislators might be tempted to repeal the campuses’ autonomy in 2017 if that happens. And gun rights activists say they’ll be closely watching to make sure the schools don’t go too far.

“We know that is a possibility and we are prepared to take the necessary measures to protect students, faculty and staff,” said Michael Newbern, communications director for Students for Concealed Carry.

See here and here for some background. My guess is that private schools, with the possible exception of some smaller religious schools, will maintain their current no-guns-on-campus rules, as they are allowed to do under this law. Public schools like UT will have to walk a very fine line, with a lot of people watching them closely and a lot of very strong feelings involved. The law is fairly vague on how they can restrict guns, which gives them some leeway but will also invite a lot of scrutiny and criticism if they are perceived as going “too far”. Which, for some people, is any restrictions at all. There is no way to make everyone happy – hell, there’s probably no way to make most people anything less than disgruntled – and anything less than an “all guns all the time anywhere” policy will ensure that at least the fanatics will be back to push for complete victory in 2017. I don’t envy Chancellor McRaven or anyone else their task.

Campus student body presidents call for veto of campus carry bill

From the Rice Thresher:

In a letter signed by 12 other Texas university presidents, Student Association President Jazz Silva called for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to not sign Senate Bill 11, which would allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on college campuses statewide, including at Rice. Abbott has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“I know that it is quite atypical of a Rice SA president to behave ‘politically’,” Silva said. “However, I feel that the letter is not only reasonable, but I trust that it is something Rice students would stand for.”

The law, if signed, would take effect on Aug 1, 2016 and allow those age 21 or above to carry a concealed handgun at Rice, unless the university opts out. A provision in the bill allows private institutions to do so if they first consult their faculty, staff and students, Rice President David Leebron said in staff-wide email.

“Should the governor sign the bill, we would engage in such consultation in the near future,” Leebron said. “Rest assured that, after those consultations, our expectation is to maintain [Rice’s current no-weapons policy] … In the coming months, we will take the steps needed to maintain [our] welcoming and secure campus.”

Silva’s letter states all Texas schools, not just private institutions, should be able to opt out should they desire.

“Not all university campuses are identical; they have different cultures, needs and beliefs,” the letter reads. “We trust that our administrators, students, and elected student representatives know how to create a safe educational environment. We should not only be enabled, but empowered to make these decisions on our own based on our individual needs, as universities.”

Silva said she and University of Texas at San Antonio Student Government Association President Ileana Gonzalez drafted the opposition letter together and gathered support from other Texas university presidents, who altogether represent over 300,000 students.

“I don’t speak directly to whether or not guns should be allowed on campus; I only ask that public universities be given the right to choose for themselves – the same right that private institutions currently have,” Silva said.

[…]

The letter is also signed by the student body presidents of Angelo State University, Trinity University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the UH Clear Lake, UT Austin, UH Downtown, San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and UT Dallas.

Good for them. Abbott will still sign the bill, but at least they’re making themselves heard. I’m glad to hear what Rice President Leebron has to say on the issue, and I suspect that at least the non-religiously-oriented private schools will follow that same path; I certainly expect my alma mater to do so. I hope someone follows up on this in a year or two – I’ll be very interested to see what direction the different schools take. The Chron and the Current have more.

Amended campus carry passes

All things considered, this could have been a lot worse.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

The Texas Senate took a final vote Saturday to approve legislation requiring the state’s public universities to allow handguns in dorms, classrooms and campus buildings.

Under the latest version of the bill, universities would be able to carve out gun-free zones in locations of their choice — establishing their own rules on where handguns are carried and how they’re stored based on public safety concerns.

Only concealed handgun license holders would be allowed to carry their firearms on campus, and private universities would be allowed to opt out of the requirement all together.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said his legislation would allow for “very limited, reasonable prohibitions” on handguns in certain locations on university property.

He said his intent was that public college campuses would be as “permissive and accessible” as possible to handgun license holders and that universities would be as “specific and as minimalistic as possible” in defining restricted areas.

The measure was approved along party lines with a 20-11 vote, with all of the chamber’s Democrats opposing it.

While acknowledging that the legislation had improved since its original form, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said she still believed it was “just bad policy.”

She expressed concern that handguns would now be permitted in an environment “already fraught with stress and often fragile emotions.”

I agree with Sen. Garcia and neither support this law nor see any reason to change the status quo. That said, I think if a couple of concealed handgun license holders had challenged the existing law in court, asserting their right to have a gun on a public university campus, I feel pretty confident they’d have won, and I’m not sure I’d have liked this hypothetical ruling any more than I like the new law. As far as private universities go, given all of the other things they are allowed to forbid their students from doing or having, allowing them to opt out seems wise. I’m sure there would be a religious freedom argument to be made if, say, a Quaker-affiliated university was required to allow guns on campus. As things now stand, I’d say the best thing to do is lobby the administration and board of trustees of your alma mater and urge them to adopt as tight a policy as possible.

Filibuster threat for open carry

We could have some end of session drama this year again.

Sen. Jose Rodriguez

State Sen. José Rodríguez said Thursday that if the opportunity arises, he plans to filibuster a bill allowing the open carry of handguns in Texas.

Speaking at a Texas Tribune event, the El Paso Democrat said he thought the legislation was “totally unnecessary” and presented a threat to the safety of police officers and the public.

“I think my back is problematical, but I assure you, for this issue, I will stand as long as I can,” Rodríguez said.

The legislation — House Bill 910 from state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman — has already passed both chambers of the Legislature. It is headed to a conference committee, where Senate and House appointees must iron out key differences in the bill.

See here for the background. Sen. Rodriguez’s threat came before the controversial “no-stop” amendment was stripped from the bill by the conference committee.

“The Dutton/Huffines amendment is dead,” said state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, an Eagle Pass Democrat who took part in the negotiations over House Bill 910.”There’s nothing more to do. That was the only bit of housekeeping on the bill that was to be had. It’s a done deal, for all intents and purposes.”

Once the House and Senate appointed a conference committee to work out differences on HB 910 Thursday, it took only a few hours for the panel to release a report.

Both chambers still have to approve the amended bill, and I have no doubt that they will if they get to vote on it, though there will surely be some gnashing of teeth over the change. The deadline for passage is midnight Sunday, so if Sen. Rodriguez is going to make a stand, that’s when it will happen.

In the meantime, campus carry is also going to conference committee, and will also likely emerge in a different form.

In the Senate on Thursday, the bill’s author, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, requested a conference committee on the legislation to work out differences between the two chambers.

The Granbury Republican said he had concerns with language added in the House that would include private universities in the new law.

“I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights,” said Birdwell. “We must protect most private property rights equally, and not protect one or the other.”

Lawmakers who argued for requiring private universities to follow the same rules as public institutions say it’s a matter of fairness.

“If we are going to have it, I don’t know how I’m going to make a distinction between my kid who goes to Rice University and one kid at Houston,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

[…]

House lawmakers also added provisions that exempted health facilities and let universities carve out gun-free zones. When the bill originally passed the Senate, Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes.

I suspect this one will take a little longer to resolve, but we’ll see. Maybe Sen. Rodriguez will set his sights on it, too. See this Trib story about how removing the “no-stop” amendment also removed a headache for Greg Abbott, and Trail Blazers for more.

The fallout from the chubfest

Cleaning up some loose ends…The campus carry bill that was the subject of much chubbing passed on final reading.

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The battle over “campus carry” is headed back to the Texas Senate after House lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation requiring universities in the state to allow concealed handguns on campus.

Senate Bill 11 from state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, narrowly avoided becoming a casualty of a key midnight deadline Tuesday before House members brokered a last-minute deal to accept several amendments limiting the measure’s reach.

Despite speculation that opponents would put up a fight before Wednesday’s vote on final passage, the measure sailed through in a 102-44 vote. Three Democrats — Tracy King of Batesville, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City and Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi — voted with Republicans for the measure.

The language added in the House exempts health facilities, lets universities carve out gun-free zones, and states that private colleges would have to follow the same rules as public universities. It is a significant departure from the version that passed the Senate, where Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes.

If the Senate does not concur with the new language, lawmakers will then head to conference committee to iron out their differences. After that, both chambers will have to approve the final version of the bill.

Seems unlikely to me that the Senate will concur with the changes, which both weakened and broadened the bill. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll take their chances in a conference committee. We’ll see.

Speaking on conference committee, that’s where the other carry bill is headed.

After outspoken opposition from the state’s law enforcement officials, the Texas House on Wednesday took a step toward removing a controversial provision from legislation allowing licensed Texans to openly carry handguns.

At the center of debate was language added to House Bill 910 in the Senate that limits the power of law enforcement to ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits. Opponents say that provision amounts to a backdoor effort to repeal licensing requirements for handgun-toting Texans altogether, endangering the lives of police officers and the public.

The issue will now be hashed out by Senate and House appointees behind closed doors in a conference committee.

The move to negotiate in conference committee passed against the wishes of the bill’s author, state Rep. Larry Phillips. The Sherman Republican said the language was needed to clarify current law.

He found support from some unlikely allies, including state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who said the provision was needed to prevent racial profiling.

“I’m not willing to give up my liberty in order for the police to go catch some criminal,” said Dutton, who unsuccessfully proposed the amendment when the bill first came up in the House. He gave a fiery speech on Wednesday in favor of keeping the language, which had been added in the Senate by Republican Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

[…]

The two former police officers in the chamber — state Reps. Allen Fletcher of Houston and Phil King of Weatherford, both Republicans — also teamed up to argue against it.

King urged lawmakers to give law enforcement officials the courtesy of at least allowing a committee to explore a compromise on the issue.

“I honestly believe that the unintentional result of the amendment … is to make it very difficult to do their job,” said King.

The partisan dynamics of this one are interesting, to say the least. I have no idea what will happen in committee. As the story notes, if the process takes long enough, the bill could wind up being vulnerable to a last-day filibuster. Who will put on the pink sneakers this time?

The other bill that generated a bunch of chubbing was the ethics bill. That passed, too, but not without a lot of drama.

After a passionate and sometimes raunchy Tuesday night debate, the Texas House on Wednesday gave final sign-off to a far-reaching ethics reform package that would shine light on so-called “dark money” while heavily restricting undercover recordings in the state Capitol.

The bill faces a potentially bruising showdown with the Senate over the details. A stalemate could torpedo the bill, and along with it a significant chunk of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities for the session. But the 102-44 vote in favor of the Senate Bill 19 keeps it alive as the 2015 session comes to its dramatic finale over the next few days.

State Sen. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican who has carried ethics reform in his chamber, quickly issued a statement on Tuesday night expressing “astonishment for the elimination of meaningful ethics reform” in the House version of the bill.

“Some in the House apparently don’t think elected officials are the problem and instead muddled the bill with a litany of bizarre measures that point the finger at everyone besides themselves, including a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook to launch an assault on the First Amendment,” Taylor’s statement said. “This is one of those head shaking moments that rightfully raise doubts in the minds of our constituents as to the Legislature’s resolve to serve the people above all else.”

The bill author, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said dark money has had a corrupting influence on politics in the United States and warned that without reforms those abuses will eventually visit Texas. In the 2012 election cycle, politically active non-profits spent more than $300 million in dark money to influence elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A dark money scandal in Utah also brought down that state’s attorney general.

Quoting from a message to Congress from President Ronald Reagan, delivered in 1988, Cook said the right to free speech depends upon a “requirement of full disclosure of all campaign contributions, including in-kind contributions, and expenditures on behalf of any electoral activities.”

[…]

There’s a deep split among Republicans — and between the House and Senate — over the dark money provision in the bill. It would require that large contributions of dark money — or anonymous donations made to politically active nonprofits — be disclosed.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, objecting to the dark money and other provisions, tried to gut the bill, which he said was “designed to protect us from the people. It’s not designed to protect the people from us.”

But his amendment failed 133-33.

That means a showdown is looming, and that could jeopardize SB 19 once it leaves the House floor.

Which could mean a special session if it fails, since this was an “emergency” item for Abbott, though he hasn’t really acted like it’s that important to him since then. Once again I say, I have no idea what will happen, but it should be fun to watch.

As noted in the previous post, the last minute attempt to attach Cecil Bell’s anti-same-sex-marriage-license bill to an otherwise innocuous county affairs bill was likely to come to nothing – late last night, Rep. Garnet Coleman sent out a press release saying the bill had been pulled from consideration in the Senate, which settled the matter – but that didn’t stop the Senate from thumping its chest one last time.

Following an emotional floor debate, the Texas Senate passed a resolution Wednesday evening reaffirming the state’s opposition to same-sex marriage, an action taken as it became clear that a bill to prevent such marriages in Texas was dead.

The body’s 20 Republican senators and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, voted for Senate Resolution 1028, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, that affirmed “the present definition” of marriage in the state.

“This resolution is intended by those of us who signed it to demonstrate that we continue to support what the people of this state have expressed,” state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

Whatever. I’m too tired to expend any energy on this. It has the same legal effect as me saying “Senate Republicans and Eddie Lucio are big fat poopyheads”, and about as much maturity.

Finally, here’s a look at criminal justice bills and where they stand – some good things have been done – and an analysis of how the rules were used as the clock waned. I’m ready for a drink, a long weekend, and sine die. How about you?

House chubfest kills several bad bills

Some good news, though as always at the end of a session, the outcome isn’t clean and the details are very murky.

Squalius cephalus, the official mascot of talking bills to death

As the clock struck midnight, the failure of an anti-abortion initiative — dear to the hearts of the far right — marked the end of a tumultuous day on the floor of the Texas House that saw the passage of sweeping ethics reform and a version of legislation allowing concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses.

On the last day that it could approve major legislation that began in the Senate, the lower chamber embarked on an all-day procedural waltz, with Democrats attempting to kill bills by delaying them past midnight, and Republicans looking for openings to move their legislation.

Early in the day, Democrats narrowly shot down an attempt to essentially change the order of the calendar, moving big-ticket items up for faster consideration. They then used every parliamentary trick in the book to slow the pace, delaying consideration of mostly uncontroversial bills.

But after huddling in a secret meeting in a room adjacent to the House floor, Democrats let the action get moving again.

For hours, the House debated an ethics reform bill, dissolving into angry tirades and raunchy debate about the reach of a drug-testing provision for lawmakers.

The passionate debate pitted Republicans against each other — over lifting the veil on “dark money” and restricting people from recording or videotaping politicians without their permission.

With the clock ticking, a few Republicans at one point even sought to postpone debate over ethics legislation — deemed a priority by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — so the House could take up campus carry and an abortion bill that would have prohibited coverage of the procedure on certain health insurance plans.

Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer of Tyler asked state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the House sponsor of the ethics legislation, to temporarily pull down the measure so that it did not chew up the time left on the clock.

After Cook declined, Democrats took to the mic to reiterate that ethics reform was declared an emergency item by the governor and was supposed to be prioritized over the rest of the calendar.

The House eventually passed the ethics bill, including the dark money provision, then went back to an innocuous agency-review bill, also known as a Sunset bill, to reform the Department of Family and Protective Services.

[…]

The biggest victim of the midnight deadline was Senate Bill 575 by Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, which would have banned abortion coverage on plans sold on the federal Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

Originally, SB 575 would have banned abortion coverage on both ACA plans and private health insurance plans. But the House State Affairs Committee amended the bill to mirror a measure filed in the House by state Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, and approved by the committee this month before dying on a House bill deadline.

Republicans had said they intended to amend it on the floor to bring back the private insurance ban.

The bill — passed in the Senate earlier this month — died in the House after a turbulent ride in the lower chamber.

It was cleared by the State Affairs Committee on Saturday in a last-minute vote on the last day the committee could clear Senate proposals.

Killing SB575 was a big one, and one of the Democrats’ main goals for deadline day. They also succeeded in preventing an amendment allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBT families to a sunset bill for the Department of Family and Protective Services, another main goal. What did get passed was a somewhat watered-down version of campus carry that will allow university trustees to designate certain “gun-free zones” as long as there isn’t a blanket ban on carrying firearms by those with concealed handgun licenses. The campus carry bill could possibly have been stopped, though (this is where we get into the messy and murky stuff) that could have had effects that would make the victory a lot more pyhrric. The Morning News hints at some of what might have happened.

Late Tuesday, the House was debating the gun measure, though it was unclear if it would pass.

Several Republicans said that after the initial slowdown, Speaker Joe Straus intervened in the early afternoon, to get things moving. There were conflicting accounts, though, of precisely how Straus, a San Antonio Republican, did so.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Tan Parker of Flower Mound said that in conversations with individual Democrats, “the speaker was firm that he would use everything,” meaning parliamentary “nuclear options,” to shut down debate and force votes.

Straus, though, was coy.

“I didn’t talk to Democrats,” Straus told a reporter. “But I intend to get through this,” he added, referring to the House’s agenda.

One consideration may have been that the campus carry bill is part of a grand bargain on tax cuts, border security, guns and ethics. The deal may allow lawmakers to finish their work Monday, as scheduled, instead of having a special session.

As passed by the Senate, the campus carry measure would allow the licensed concealed carrying of handguns in most public university buildings. There were rumblings the House might restore a campus-by-campus opt-in provision, as it did two years ago, or let the measure die when the clock struck midnight.

Whether Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his GOP allies in the Senate would consider that a breach of the grand bargain remained unclear.

[…]

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said he was upset that some senior Democrats relented.

“We’ve given away too much leverage,” he said.

There was talk that Martinez Fischer and other long-serving Democrats were worried the minority might be asking for too much, especially after gaining key House GOP leaders’ cooperation in squelching bills aimed at unions and stopping hailstorm damage lawsuits.

[Rep. Trey] Martinez Fischer, though, called that too facile.

“You can’t view everything as a quid pro quo,” he said. “It’s not personal. It’s all about business.”

Martinez-Fischer had a point of order that could have killed the campus carry bill, but he pulled it down after some intense discussion, and thus it went to a vote. How you feel about all this likely correlates directly to your opinion of his dealmaking ability and trustworthiness in making such deals. It’s also the case that this isn’t the end of the story, as the Statesman notes.

Cutting off debate ended a daylong Democratic effort to avoid a floor vote on the campus carry legislation before a drop-dead midnight deadline to have an initial vote on Senate bills.

After the vote, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said Democrats voluntarily pulled down their amendments after winning a key concession with an approved amendment allowing colleges and universities to have limited authority on banning guns in certain campus areas.

In addition, he said, Republicans were prepared to employ a rarely used maneuver to cut off debate with a motion that had already lined up agreement from the required 25 House members.

[…]

The bill-killing tactics appeared headed for success late Tuesday, until Speaker Joe Straus abruptly called for a vote on SB 11 about 20 minutes before the deadline.

The move avoided a bitter blow for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Based on assurances from House leaders that campus carry would get a floor vote in their chamber, Patrick and Birdwell declined last week to add the school gun bill as an amendment to House Bill 910, a measure to allow openly carried holstered handguns that is now one small step away from Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Before approving SB11, the House voted overwhelmingly to allow each college and university to regulate where guns may be excluded, as long as firearms are not banned campus-wide. Each plan would have to be approved by two-thirds of the board of regents under the amendment by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, that was approved 119-29.

The House also adopted an amendment by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, to exempt health care-related institutions and the Texas Medical Center from campus carry.

“Never assume the Democrats gave up on campus carry. Democrats did not give up on campus carry,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. “The Zerwas amendment waters it down. The bill will go to conference and we will continue to have our input in the process.”

Here’s a separate Trib story on the campus carry bill, an Observer story about the ethics reform bill that was a main vehicle for Democratic stalling tactics, and a Chron story on the overall chubbing strategy as it was happening. Newsdesk, RG Ratcliffe, and Hair Balls have more on the day overall, and for the last word (via PDiddie), here’s Glen Maxey:

LGBT people are finally, FINALLY free from all types of mischief and evilness. The Senate gets to debate the Cecil Bell amendment by Sen. Lucio put on a friggin’ Garnet Coleman bill tomorrow. It’s all for show. Garnet Coleman is one of the strongest allies of the LGBTQ community. They could amend all the anti-gay stuff they want on it and he’ll strip it off in conference or just outright kill the bill before allowing it to pass with that crap on it. This is for record votes to say they did “something” about teh gays to their nutso base.

And lots of high stakes trading to make sure that other stuff didn’t get amended onto bills today (labor dues, TWIA, etc.) and making sure an Ethics Bill of some sort passed. We didn’t want that to die and give Abbot a reason to call a special session.

Campus carry got watered down… no clue what happens in conference. And the delaying tactics kept us from reaching the abortion insurance ban.

Four good Elections bills passed today. Three on Consent in the House, three in the Senate all will be done by noon Wednesday.

And Lastly: Pigs have flown and landed. HB 1096 the bad voter registration bill is NOT on the Calendar for tomorrow and is therefore DEAD. I am one proud lobbyist on that one. With it’s demise, no major voter suppression bills passed (well, except for Interstate Crosscheck which is only bad if implemented badly, and we have to stay on top of it to make sure it’s not), and over forty good ones survived.

Just a few technical concurrences, and we’re done. Thank the goddess and well, some bipartisanship for once.

As someone once said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. See the next post for more on that.