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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.

Law enforcement versus open carry, round 2

This ought to be interesting.

After two shootings targeting police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, there’s been an uptick in the national conversation about how best to support law enforcement. Politicians and lawmakers such as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who used his platform during a town hall on race and policing to ask President Obama if he was sure law enforcement knew in their “heart” that he supported them, have been at the forefront of this renewed dialogue. Governor Greg Abbott has also showed support for law enforcement by announcing the Police Protection Act, a proposal that aims to increase penalties for crimes against law enforcement and would reclassify an attack on an officer as a hate crime.

Abbott hopes that the act will be passed in the 2017 Legislative session. For their part in the upcoming session, law enforcement groups plan to bring up an issue that they somewhat disagree with Abbott on: open carry. According to the Texas Tribune, some groups intend to request revisions to open carry. Along with other issues such as restoring funds and improving employee benefits, Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, wants to recommend changes to the law to make it easier for law enforcement to handle open carry.

“I expect to stand in committee and say all our rights are abridged everyday,” Wilkison told the Tribune. “You still can’t even yell ‘fire’ in a theater. So my freedom of speech is abridged just like yours. There is a greater good called the community. We’ll try to make our stand there.”

Open carry has been a point of contention between Texas lawmakers and law enforcement since the 2015 legislative session. Republican lawmakers, buoyed by Abbott’s promise to sign any bill expanding gun rights that landed on his desk, pushed to pass the open carry and campus carry laws, even as law enforcement groups around the state opposed such measures. There were concerns that open carry would make situations such as active shooters more dangerous as law enforcement tried to figure out who was a threat and who wasn’t. During a Senate committee hearing on the bills in February 2015, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo referenced data that showed that 75 percent of Texas police chiefs surveyed said they were opposed to open carry. It was later in May that the concerns of police officers were taken into consideration, and lawmakers removed a portion of the open carry bill that would have prevented law enforcement from checking people for gun licenses if they were openly carrying a gun.

[…]

So though the Police Protection Act seems to have good intentions, it’s helpfulness is doubtful. What might actually be helpful in protecting police officers is examining their concerns about a law they stated would make their jobs more dangerous. This time around, will politicians and lawmakers like Patrick and Abbott—who are strong supporters of open carry and expanding gun rights—continue to support law enforcement who want to make changes to open carry? The upcoming legislative session might be an opportunity to see how much support they’re willing to give.

This Trib story from a few days before goes into some more detail about this upcoming dispute. I still can’t quite tell what exactly CLEAT and similar organizations are asking for. Ope carry isn’t going to get repealed, though perhaps there is some room to accommodate law enforcement concerns this time around. It’s hard to say without knowing exactly what kind of modifications they’re seeking. The main thing that I’ll be looking for is how Greg Abbott and especially Dan Patrick respond to this. Patrick has been hugging law enforcement extra hard for political purposes lately; we’ll see how he reacts when they don’t play along with his script.

Paxton sues Austin over open carry

No subtext at all to this, I’m sure.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the city of Austin in Travis County district court, trying to force the city to comply with his reading of the state’s open carry law and allow license holders to openly carry handguns in city hall.

After the open carry law took effect in January, Austin banned firearms in its city hall under the law’s “government court” exception, which prohibits them “on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court,” unless a written regulation or the individual court authorizes it.

Paxton argues in the lawsuit filed Wednesday that Austin City Hall does not qualify for the exemption and shouldn’t be posting signs banning licensed carriers from carrying in the building or on the premises.

In the suit, Paxton says a citizen complained in September that Austin City Hall displayed signs prohibiting licensed firearms. The office states it closed that case in March after the city removed the signs. In April, though, another person filed a complaint against the city because “no guns” signs had been posted, and people were being given oral warnings against the carrying of handguns on the premises.

The Austin Chronicle lays out the history.

The suit contends that the city of Austin stands in violation of Texas Government Code 411.209 (the statute that prohibits state agencies and political subdivisions from prohibiting licensed holders from openly carrying on its premises). It arrives nearly 11 months after Michael Cargill, a former Council candidate and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, filed a complaint with Paxton’s office alleging that the city violated the aforementioned statute when it hung a “30.06” sign (those ever-increasingly present signs saying that you can’t open carry on a particular premise) on the front doors of City Hall.

At the time, city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo told the Chronicle the city had precedent to ignore the 411.209 statute because City Hall houses the meetings of Council, most boards and commissions, and certain hearings by the Downtown Community Court. Texas Penal Code, Sec. 46.03 bans guns from “the premises of any government court of offices utilized by the court.”

Paxton dropped Cargill’s complaint on March 30 after learning that city officials had removed the 30.06 signage, but reopened investigation in early April when the city doubled down on its stance with a permanent glass sign barring open carry. Paxton also writes that “oral warnings prohibiting the carry of handguns” were issued to individuals at City Hall.

On June 16, the city responded to a letter Paxton had sent to officials two months earlier saying that it believed Austin’s stance on guns at City Hall stood in concert with the bylaws laid out in Texas Penal Code, Sec 46.03 but, as Paxton writes, “provided no authority for its assertion that Austin City Hall is a government court.” The AG sent a final notice of violation on July 5, giving the city 15 days to welcome guns inside its central building. That hasn’t happened, so now Paxton’s filed this suit.

In addition to a general request that the court order the city to allow guns inside of City Hall, Paxton also seeks a fine of $1,500 for every day after Mon., July 25, that the city’s in violation of the statute.

Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and Ken Paxton will put pandering to the Republican primary crowd above all other considerations. Which doesn’t mean he’ll lose here – Lord only knows what the Supreme Court will make of this, because we know that’s where this will eventually end up. it’s just that of all the things he could be doing with his time and resources, this is what he chose to prioritize. We’ll see if he’s still in office by the time there’s a final resolution. The Statesman has more.

AG upholds Dallas Zoo ban on guns

For now.

It’s back

The Dallas Zoo can continue to ban guns at its 106-acre campus in Oak Cliff after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this week rejected a citizen complaint that the zoo’s firearms policy violated state law.

Paxton’s office said in a letter dated Wednesday that the zoo qualifies as an amusement park. That’s an area where state law says the licensed carrying of handguns can be prohibited, so long as the proper notice is given.

So the privately-run zoo can keep up the signs prohibiting both concealed carry and open carry that it has posted at its entrance.

“We’re heartened that the Attorney General realizes that our zoo … isn’t the place for weapons,” Gregg Hudson, the zoo’s president said in a news release. “The vast majority of our guests are families with children, and they have strongly supported us on this issue.”

Edwin Walker, a Houston attorney, had challenged the zoo under a new state law that allows Texans to formally complain about some local “no guns” policies. His complaint was one of about 50 that have been filed in Texas since September.

He said on Friday that he disagreed with the ruling – arguing that the zoo shouldn’t be able to ban guns since it is owned by the city of Dallas. He predicted that the Legislature, run by gun-friendly Republicans, would take up the issue next year.

“I certainly don’t think that the Legislature envisioned, whenever they created the exception for amusement parks … that a piece of government property would be viewed as an amusement park,” Walker said.

[…]

The zoo offered a multi-pronged argument for why it could ban firearms, including that it should count as an educational institution. But the attorney general’s office ignored those other claims and focused only on the Dallas Zoo’s amusement park exemption.

The carve-out dates back to 1995 and the legislation that created concealed carry in Texas. Then-Rep. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, amended the bill create an exemption aimed at the state’s major theme parks, such as Arlington’s Six Flags Over Texas.

“The nature of the rides and the activities at these theme parks are such that they could create a hazard,” he said during the House debate on the bill.

Today, privately owned theme parks like Six Flags don’t need that specific exemption to ban guns. That’s because the state’s gun laws were tweaked in 1997 to create a process for all private property owners to be able to prohibit guns if they so choose.

The eight-point definition for an amusement park exemption, however, remains part of the gun statutes. And the Dallas Zoo – which, for instance, has security guards on its premises at all times – meets all of those listed standards.

Point being, the Houston Zoo, which had taken down its “no guns” signs then put them back up after declaring itself an “educational institution”, can’t take any comfort from this opinion. And even if they could, I’m certain that Walker is correct and the Lege will trip over itself to accommodate the people like Walker who can’t feel safe anywhere unless they’re armed. So enjoy the reprieve while you can, zoo fans.

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.

Would you like to sit in armed or unarmed?

From Houstonia:

Imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon. You stop into Whataburger to pick up lunch with your kids in tow, the only thing on your mind remembering which kid doesn’t want ketchup on his burger, which kid only wants ketchup on his burger, and whether you want to add jalapenõs to your own. You place your order and are pulling out your wallet to pay when a man walks in with a Sig Sauer strapped to his belt. He’s not in any kind of uniform; he’s not wearing a badge. He’s just a guy with his gun, and you’re just a guy with his kids. Are you okay with this scenario? Maybe so. Or maybe you can’t understand why a guy would need to bring his gun into a fast-food restaurant, and you decide to leave without your burgers.

Whataburger has long bet that a good portion of its customers belong to the latter group, hence its company-wide policy against open carry, which has been legal for years in other states where the chain operates, from Arizona to Arkansas. In advance of the new statewide law that goes into effect in Texas this January 1—the much-discussed House Bill 910 that makes Texas the 45th state to allow residents to openly carry and display their handguns—the Corpus Christi–based company recently reiterated that policy.

[…]

The thing is, there’s still a great deal of confusion surrounding the impending changes, as business associations large and small, reluctant to enter the quagmire of gun control politics, have been slow to provide guidance to private entities that may want to ban open carry. (The Greater Houston Restaurant Association didn’t even return Houstonia’s requests for comment.) As a result, getting those signs up in the first place is proving tougher than expected.

And in fact, rules for the necessary signage are complicated. “Business owners that want to ban guns from their property must post a new sign that adheres to strict wording, colors and text size,” says Terry McBurney, president of the Greater Montgomery County Restaurant Association, one of the few restaurant associations to provide assistance in advance of the new gun laws. Those colors, the Texas Department of Public Safety mandates, must be contrasting. The lettering must be block, and at least one-inch high, for maximum legibility, with the notice in both English and Spanish, posted “conspicuously” at the entrance to the business itself. Any sign that isn’t absolutely perfect, down to the letter, will be null and void.

I would note that State Rep. Diego Bernal of San Antonio has taken it upon himself to help businesses who want to opt out on open carry by printing signs that conform to all of the mandated requirements, which he is providing free of charge. Perhaps one or more of our local legislators could follow that example – I’m sure plenty of businesses would appreciate it. Regardless, I wonder how long it will take before some establishments use open carry as a marketing tool, catering to whatever side they think represents a bigger opportunity for them. I feel reasonably confident saying that there will be more than a few establishments in my neighborhood that feature these signs, and that more than a few of them will not be shy about advertising themselves as such. Should be fascinating to watch.

On a tangential matter:

During a panel [recently] addressing Texas’s new open-carry law, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, and City Attorney Donna Edmunson encouraged citizens to ask as many questions as possible.

Mostly, they asked McClelland and Anderson to consider a myriad of hypothetical situations.

For example, many asked, what if you’re just sitting on a bench at a park with your gun in your holster, and some concerned “mad mom” calls the police on you because she and her kids are alarmed by the very presence of your gun? Are the police really going to detain you and ask that you show your CHL even though you’re just sitting on the bench eating a ham sandwich? Isn’t that a bit invasive?

The resounding answer from McClelland and Anderson, to all of the above types of questions, was basically this: we understand your concerns, but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

Chances are, they explained, you’re going to come across a CHL holder openly carrying his or her gun inside of a Walmart, a Taco Bell, a JCPenny (not a Whataburger, which already said it’s not going to allow guns inside). And chances are, for CHL holders, a police officer is going to ask you to show your license once someone’s kids get scared and they call 911, and you’ll just have to comply, because that’s the law—even if you’re just sitting on a bench eating a sandwich.

This is going to be so much fun, isn’t it? There are already plenty of disagreements about what this law means and what if any restrictions can be legally enforced in various places. I suspect the courts are going to be very busy next year, and the Lege will be back to revisit this in 2017.

Houston Zoo reverses its stance on allowing in guns

This was a surprise.

It’s back

The Houston Zoo has reinstalled a series of signs that prohibit the carry of firearms into the gates of the family-friendly attraction almost three months after being forced to take them down at threat of legal action.

Attorney Edwin Walker with Texas Law Shield, a legal services firm for gun owners, sent a demand letter to the Houston Zoo and its corporate entity and the city’s parks and recreation department on Sept. 3 asking that they take down all 30.06 (guns prohibited) signs at the zoo.

The signs came down just a week or so after the letter was received and read.

After the signs came down the zoo staff said that they would be conferring with lawyers to see what the next step should be.

On Tuesday Walker was notified of the zoo’s sign reinstallation and said that he soon plans on taking a complaint to the Office of the Texas Attorney General.

In a statement sent to the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday, Houston Zoo spokesperson Jackie Wallace stated the zoo’s case for bringing the signs back.

“After consultation with legal counsel, the Houston Zoo, Inc. has concluded that Texas government code does not prohibit HZI from lawfully posting signs that ban weapons from its premises because HZI is – at its core – an educational institution,” Wallace wrote Tuesday.

The zoo argues that being an educational institution exempts it from being forced to allow firearms within its gates.

Wallace wrote that the zoo was established for educational and conservation purposes, bringing in some 200,000 children a year.

The zoo, Wallace added, “maintains an Education Department that employs 17 professional educators who develop and deliver educational programming on a daily basis at the Zoo.”

“Given the mission of the zoo and the presence of hundreds of thousands of children on its campus, it is clear that guns and zoos simply do not mix,” Wallace wrote.

“Texas law recognizes that weapons are not compatible with the education of our youth and prohibits weapons at a schools and educational institutions and places where activities sponsored by schools or educational institutions take place,” Wallace concluded, referencing Section 46.03 of the Texas Penal Code.

Walker responded to the statement on Tuesday, calling the signs among other things “provocative.”

“This is a sham,” Walker says. “This is clearly an act of desperation. They are hanging their hat on being an educational institution.”

See here for the background. The original argument, to which the Zoo temporarily acceded, was that since Hermann Park belongs to the city, the zoo counts as a government entity even though it is privately operated, and as a government entity it is required by the new law to allow guns. These fights about where guns may or may not now be restricted are going on all over the state and will be keeping the AG’s office busy for months to come. As the Houston Press noted, the same guy sent a letter to the Dallas Zoo but got a different response from them.

Though the zoo is run by a private nonprofit, it’s owned by the city of Dallas.

Zoo and city officials are adamant that the zoo qualifies as an “amusement park” and an “educational institution” — status that would make the “no guns” signs legal. Edwin Walker, the Houston lawyer, said there is “no way the zoo fits those definitions.”

Now the state attorney general’s office, which has been charged with investigating such complaints, is reviewing the claim to see if legal action is warranted. If the signs are found to be in violation, the city could face fines of up to $10,500 per day.

In the meantime, the Dallas Zoo’s “no guns” signs are staying up.

The “signs prohibiting handgun license holders from bringing concealed handguns into the Dallas Zoo are valid,” wrote David Harper, an attorney representing the zoo. “Therefore, the Dallas Zoo will not be removing those signs.”

[…]

Walker, the Houston lawyer, also filed the grievance against the Houston Zoo. He said his success there caused other gun rights advocates to contact him with similar concerns about the gun prohibition at the Dallas Zoo.

But the Dallas Zoo presents somewhat of a special case, particularly over its standing as an “amusement park.”

The designation typically refers to places like Six Flags Over Texas. But the zoo could potentially meet an eight-point test in state law to qualify. The sticking point appears to be if the zoo’s monorail or other attractions count as “amusement rides.”

That would be “specious at best,” said Walker, who works with Texas Law Shield, an organization that provides legal representation to gun owners.

But Dallas Park and Recreation Director Willis Winters said city officials agree with the zoo’s interpretation.

“The city attorneys are comfortable with it, and we’re glad to let the zoo’s counsel handle any challenges that might come up,” he said.

You can see the correspondence related to this at the link above. Gotta say, the “amusement park” claim seems like a stretch to me, but I suppose it’s possible. If it works, that could be a backup plan for the Houston Zoo. Of course, if it does work – indeed, if any of the current claims are resolved in favor of those who argue for allowing whatever restriction is being challenged – you can be sure the Lege will be back in 2017 to “clarify” the law in a way that obviates the exemption. As I said before, this is the world we live in, and this is how it will be until those who would like to see fewer guns in public places win some elections on that issue. More from the Press here.

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.

More on the initial bill filings

From the Trib, a sampling:

As of Monday afternoon, a bill repealing the Texas Dream Act, which allows undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state college tuition rates, had yet to emerge. Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick promised while campaigning that he would work to repeal the act. The bill could part of legislation that is reserved for priorities set by the lieutenant governor.

All bills can be seen on the Texas Legislature site. Here’s a list of other noteworthy legislation filed Monday: 

Guns

State Reps. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and James White, R-Woodville, filed legislation, House Bill 106 and House Bill 164, respectively, that would allow Texans to openly carry handheld guns. 

House Bill 176, filed by Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, would create the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” which would say a federal law “that infringes on a law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 23, Article I, Texas Constitution, is invalid and not enforceable in this state.” 

Transportation

Senate Joint Resolution 12 and Senate Bill 139, filed by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would eliminate diversions from the state highway fund to the Department of Public Safety to ensure those funds are only used on road construction. Currently, part of the state highway fund is paying for state highway police. 

Health

Senate Bill 66, filed by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would require schools to stock EpiPens, and that employees are trained in how to use the medical devices that combat serious allergic reactions.

Senate Bill 96 and Senate Bill 97, also filed by Hinojosa, would introduce regulations of vapor products, or  e-cigarettes, in Texas. SB 96 prohibits the use of vapor products on school property, while SB 97 would apply many of the regulations on cigarettes to vapor products.

House Bill 113, filed by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, would make it illegal to perform an abortion based on the sex of the child.

House Bill 116, filed by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, would expand Medicaid eligibility in the state. 

Education

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed several higher education related bills. Senate Bill 24 would increase the orientation training for university system regents, while Senate Bill 42 would prevent the governor from appointing a student regent if that person did not submit an application to the university or its student government. Senate Bill 23, also filed by Zaffirini, would make pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in Texas and make half-day pre-K available to 3-year olds who meet certain at-risk measures.

Senate Bill 150, filed by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would fund 64 construction and renovation projects at higher education institutions across the state. It would cost $2.86 billion.

House Bill 138, filed by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would stop independent school districts from banning schools from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. 

Voting

House Bill 76, filed by Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, would allow citizens to register to vote online. 

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed three bills in an attempt to increase civic engagement in Texas. Senate Bill 141 would create a voter education program in Texas high schools, Senate Bill 142 would allow deputy registrars to receive their training online, and Senate Bill 143 would notify voters who were rejected while registering of what mistakes they made on their registration forms. 

House Bill 111, filed by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, would create same-day voter registration. 

Energy and Environment

Senate Bill 109, filed by Sen.-elect Van Taylor, R-Plano, establishes new deadlines for processing water rights permits in Texas. In a statement on Monday, Taylor said the bill was aimed at bureaucracy that is preventing parts of North Texas from accessing water.

House Bill 224, filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, would change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas to the “Texas Energy Resources Commission.” Similar legislation has failed in the past.

Other

House Bill 55, filed by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, would allow money from the Texas Enterprise Fund to go to veterans hospitals in the state. The Texas Enterprise Fund became embroiled in controversy this past election season, when it was revealed that several recipients of the fund never formally submitted applications.

House Bill 92, filed by Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would change the legal definition of an “illegal knife.” 

House Bill 150, filed by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would nix daylight savings time in Texas.

House Bill 161, filed by Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, would allow counties to house prisoners in tents.  

There’s plenty more, some good, some bad, some bat$#!+ crazy, some blatantly unconstitutional, many with no hope of ever getting a committee hearing. As always, I’ll do what I can to keep track of ’em as we go. The Chron, Stace, Grits, Juanita, Newsdesk, and the Observer have more.

No open carry

The “Open Carry” movement, which was advocating for a change to Texas’ concealed carry law to allow guns to be worn in plain view, appears to have failed as no bill was filed to achieve this end.

[A]fter months lobbying the Legislature, members of the grassroots gun group [OpenCarry.org] have conceded that they could not persuade any Texas lawmaker to file open carry legislation this session, said Ian McCarthy, a student who chairs the Texas Open Carry Work Group.

“I’ve been calling, meeting, doing everything but nobody wants to introduce it,” he said.

It’s not as if there wasn’t ample interest among lawmakers, McCarthy said, but “most of them are just loaded down with so many bills they’ve already introduced.”

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, whom the open carry folks tagged months ago as the bills presumptive sponsor, had the legislation drafted but never introduced it. Her chief of staff explained to open carry members in an email that such legislation was unlikely to pass and that talks of an open carry proposal have already caused difficulties for other Second Amendments bills.

I find this more than a little surprising, but as had been noted before, this may have been a bit of a turf battle.

In the roughly six months since the group started fundraising through online donations to pay for radio spots, billboards and advertising on taxi’s across Texas, they apparently did little to gain favor with the gun lobby.

The Texas State Rifle Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, never publicly supported the proposal, saying instead they were focusing this session on their current agenda, which did not include open carry. Ultimately, the lack of support from the influential gun lobby could have doomed the group’s efforts to get a bill introduced, open carry members opined on their forums.

I have a hard time believing that a bill like this can’t get passed in Texas. But it’ll have to wait till next session.

Big (gun)man on campus

Did you ever wish you could pack heat on a college campus? Maybe someday soon, you’ll be able to.

Michael Guzman, a 25-year-old Texas State University senior and Marine veteran, takes his Kimber Ultra Carry II handgun just about everywhere he goes. Except to school.

Texas lawmakers, how­ever, are crafting ways to allow licensed handgun owners to tote their guns more easily. One proposal would let guns be carried on campuses, and another would allow licensed handgun owners to openly brandish their guns in public.

Together, the two issues are likely to be the most contentious gun-related laws of the session.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is preparing the campus concealed-carry gun measure. He calls it a “safety protection bill” for students and faculty.

“I don’t want to wake up one morning and hear on the news that some madman went on a Texas campus and picked off Texas students like sitting ducks,” Wentworth said. “I’m doing what I can to prevent that from happening in Texas.”

Yes, we wouldn’t want to discourage anyone’s John McClane fantasies. Jokes aside, I don’t as yet see any bill authored by Sen. Wentworth that addresses this, so I can’t really say much more than that, but I do have a question: Is this only intended for public universities, or for all of them, public and private? I can see the justification for the former, but if it’s the latter, should the state be imposing on them like this? Private universities restrict a number of otherwise-legal things their students can do – I don’t see why this shouldn’t be one of them. There may be constitutional issues as well – what if there’s a religious school that bans guns because it considers them to be sinful? Like I said, I don’t see a bill yet, but that will be something to look for.

As for the other issue:

At present, people with handgun permits have to keep their weapons concealed.

Ian McCarthy, a 22-year-old online marketing entrepreneur in Austin, wants to be able to brandish one openly.

“Criminals want an easy target. When they see you can fight back, they’re going to go somewhere else,” McCarthy said.

He is a member of the national pro-gun group OpenCarry.org, which has raised more than $10,000 online to buy radio and billboard ads across the state and has collected more than 53,000 online Texas signatures in favor of changing the law.

I’ve already said that I’m supportive of this effort, but I still can’t read about it without thinking of something Molly Ivins wrote way back when the concealed-carry law was being debated. She suggested that everyone who was carrying be required to wear a propeller beanie so the rest of us would know who we’re dealing with. You could say this would have the same effect.

On a side note, I see that the two groups mentioned in this story are working at cross-purposes. That ought to add an interesting angle to the debates.