Dan Patrick Gathers His Very Own Tea Party

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Never let it be said that newly anointed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick landed in office and forgot the so-far-to-the-right-they're-practically-left people that helped him bag his lieutenant governor gig. Nope, not only has he not forgotten the Tea Party, he's actually turned around and called the flock to him and picked out the most rabid of them all to put on their own advisory board.

On Monday Patrick announced he was creating the Grassroots Advisory Board, a group that will have a narrow focus (which, let's face it, fits in quite well with the Tea Party modus operandi) on issues including lower taxes, education reform and, of course, border security, according to the Texas Tribune.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of Patrick's recent moves to set up six other similar advisory boards, many of which are comprised (in what we are sure is a big old coincidence) with business leaders and the like who gave a lot of money to Patrick's campaign. However, his latest committee differs a bit from the earlier collectives because this group is like the sanctum sanctorum of the Texas Tea Party.


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Texas's New First Lady Is Heading Up a Pro-Life Rally. Because of Course She Is.

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First Lady Cecilia Abbott is getting down to business right quick.

We admit we've been curious about what it would be like. While everybody and their dog could see that newly anointed Gov. Greg Abbott would essentially be like a grumpier Rick Perry with worse hair, things were really up in the air about our new first lady, Cecilia Abbott. What would the first Latina to hold the spot of governor's wife in the great state of Texas choose to do with her power? The options seemed limitless and anything seemed possible.

Well, that ended fast. While her husband is pretty much living up to expectations since taking office this week, Cecilia Abbott has already gone and surprised us by signing on to headline a massive pro-life (aka anti-abortion) rally in Austin on Saturday. The rally is supposedly being held to "commemorate" the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which made access to abortions a constitutional right, although we're betting this rally isn't exactly about celebrating a woman's right to choose.

Anyway, at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow thousands of people (according to a press release) will gather and then the whole group is going to march through the streets of Austin to wind up at the steps of the Capitol Building. And once there, Cecilia Abbott will be the headliner.


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Further Evidence that Ted Cruz Is Actually a Performance Art Project

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"Ted Cruz" delivers his response to Obama's speech Tuesday night
For quite some time, we've wondered whether there might be more to Ted Cruz than meets the eye. And by that, we don't mean that there might be some sort of reasonable ideology hiding behind the theatrics of Cruz's napalm-the-jungle style of politics. What we mean is, who is Ted Cruz really?

Conventional wisdom tells us that Cruz is the hard-right firebrand of the Lone Star State, a conservative's conservative for whom ideological purity trumps compromise or bipartisanship - the kind of guy who would lead the charge to shut down the federal government in a half-baked, last-ditch attempt to derail legislation that expanded healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.

But maybe Cruz is a totem, a symbol of what shrill partisan politics looks like when you follow it out to its most absurd conclusion. Maybe "Ted Cruz" is just an elaborate performance art project.

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Craig Washington's Law License Suspended Amid Claims He Screwed Over Clients

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Craig "dance like nobody's watching" Washington
To say that former Congressman Craig Washington has a checkered past would be an understatement.

In 2009, the dapper bow tie-sporting lawyer admitted in court to illegally shooting a couple of teenagers who were looking for a parking spot in his private Midtown lot (bullets hit the car but the boys were unharmed). Then, after being sentenced to two years of probation for the offense, Washington sued both teenagers in civil court for about $600,000 each. Right around that time, Washington just so happened to be fighting a lawsuit from the IRS seeking more than $600,000 in unpaid taxes.

All the while, Washington fought complaints by former clients and disciplinary filings by the State Bar of Texas alleging several instances of attorney misconduct. After fighting those allegations for many years, early this month Washington was finally suspended from practicing law for 18 months.

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Dan Patrick's "Advisory Panel" Members Already Spend Millions Lobbying Lawmakers

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Dan Patrick, fighting for the little...er, big guys
Last week when Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced the deep bench of millionaires, heavyweight GOP donors and corporate figureheads he's tapped to officially advise him as he steers legislation through the state Senate, he lamented that private interests don't have a loud enough voice at the table.

Really.

"Very often the private sector is asked for help by a candidate, and after they get elected, there's not much follow up," Patrick told reporters. "Why would you want a legislative body to disconnect themselves from the private sector?"

See also: Dan Patrick Gives Rich People an Official Seat at the Table

Maybe Patrick is being insincere, or perhaps he's just conveniently oblivious to how lobbying actually works. But there's hardly been a "disconnect" between Patrick's handpicked "advisory panel" members and the Texas Legislature. In fact, in addition to being comprised largely of people who have contributed directly to Patrick's campaign, the advisory panel members have another thing in common: Many of them are connected to companies that have dropped serious cash lobbying the Texas Legislature.


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Dan Patrick Gives Rich People an Official Seat at the Table

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Sticking up for the little..er, big guys.
The most powerful officeholder in the State of Texas has tapped a slew of millionaires, billionaires, heavyweight GOP donors and corporate figureheads -- over half of whom have donated directly to his campaign -- to meet in secret and advise him on what should be done about some of our state's most pressing issues.

That might sound like hyperbole. It's not. It's literally the plan that incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced yesterday to a group of reporters in Austin. Even the Associated Press abandoned its usually benign tone to lead its story on Patrick's unprecedented move this way:

"Billionaire political donors and other special interest heavyweights who already spend lavishly on lobbying will begin formally advising Texas lawmakers on crafting bills under a partnership announced Thursday by incoming Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick."

Patrick on Thursday released the names of 56 people who will make up "advisory panels" to tackle issues like economic and workforce development, economic forecasting, energy and oil and gas, tax policy, transportation, and water. These boards will meet privately and will not be subject to state open meetings laws. Patrick says he's tasked these panels with generating policy proposals that he'll consider as he shepherds bills through the 84th Legislature.


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Houston Lawmaker Pens Slobbering Ode to Rick Perry

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Paint Creek's Patriot
Because of a few throwaway lines tacked on at the end, many in the state's political media apparently saw in Rick Perry's farewell speech yesterday a call to bipartisanship and compromise.

Which is strange, since to us it sounded an awful lot like the prelude to another schlep around the GOP presidential primary circuit. Perry espoused the "simple philosophy" that "job creation, not higher taxation, is the best form of revenue generation." He championed tort reform and Texas having "the most sweeping lawsuit reforms in the nation" -- ironic for a guy who relished legal fights with the feds at every turn (in the Obama years, of course). There was grandstanding on border security, the pot shots at Washington, and the well-worn warnings against over-taxation and excess regulation.

There's certainly a lot to chew on when you consider the at-best mixed legacy Perry leaves behind after 14 years in the governor's mansion, and the uncertain (and potentially embarrassing) future he hopes to chart in national politics. Along with the "Texas Miracle," we've got about 6 million people in this state without health insurance. Our public school funding scheme has twice been ruled unconstitutional. We have one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation -- likely the result of limited access to healthcare, poverty, high rates of school dropouts, and a laughable system of sex-education. We could go on.

So, how should we best reflect on the Perry years? If you're Houston GOP State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, you pen a slobbering, obsequious poem, that's how.

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5 Craziest Bills Already Filed With the Texas Legislature

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Photo from the Texas Legislature

The 84th biennial Texas Legislature convenes on Tuesday, and based on recent developments -- namely the sweeping Republican victories in the midterms -- this session is going to see one of the most conservative crews ever to sit down and legislate in Austin. But never fear, all is not lost.

A tightly held Republican state legislature (a.k.a. the best every-other-year reality show around) will feature the usual focus on abortion rights (and how to get rid of them) and education funding (and what else can be cut after the budget was already scraped to the bone back in 2013.) But there are also going to be some extra-special ridiculous bills being looked at over the next few months. We've rounded up some of our favorites so far ("favorites" translates to "the ones that made us want to smack our head on the desk") of the more than 700 bills already filed since back in November. Keep in mind that state legislators will be able to file bills until March, so what follows is by no means the last word on that which some (a.k.a. we) see as just this side of crazy-pants crazy.

5. The one where everybody gets all the guns. HB 195: Relating to the carrying of handguns; providing for the open carrying of handguns; and removing the requirement that a person who may lawfully possess handguns obtain a Concealed Handgun License in order to carry a handgun lawfully in the state of Texas.

There are lots of Open Carry bills that have been filed, but the one by Rep. John Strickland is a real honey of a creation. See, Strickland not only wants to allow people to openly carry pistols and the other smaller firearms, he wants to make it so that all the people can carry all the guns all the time. HB 195 even proposes getting rid of concealed handgun licenses entirely. It's practically impossible to see how this one could, you know, backfire. Despite what you'd expect, this being shoot-em'-up Texas and all, the Lone Star State has had a 140-year ban on openly carrying firearms. If this or any of the other bills filed actually get through the Lege, Texas will become the largest state to allow this type of pistol packing.

4. The one that's trying to quash gay marriage just in case it becomes legal in Texas. HB 623: Relating to the funding, issuing, and litigation of certain marriage licenses.

It's hard to believe it, but as of right now, gay marriage has been recognized in 36 states that contain roughly 70 percent of the country's population. It's quite possible that Texas may become one of the next states to be legally on board with same-sex marriage judging from the response of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday. But of course, Texas lawmakers can't just go quietly and get along on this issue.

Last week Rep. Cecil Bell filed HB 623, a bill that will, among other things, prohibit the use of taxpayer funds for the licensing and support of same-sex marriage. It will also bar any government employee who recognizes gay marriage from being paid. Gay marriage is such a hot-button issue right now, this is only one of a slew of bills filed touching on the subject. However, considering where things stand and the fact that Texas may well be on the brink of becoming the next state to recognize same-sex marriages, the timing of and calculation behind this bill make it particularly exasperating.


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Anti-HERO Alarmists Argue to Keep Trial in Front of Jury

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Flickr/torbackhopper HE DEAD
More craziness...
Forget about dirty old men throwing on dresses and trying to seduce women and children in restrooms throughout Houston. The coalition of conservatives trying to overturn the Equal Rights Ordinance say a Harris County District Court "should not be seduced" into letting a judge -- and not a jury -- decide the case's fate.

Attorneys for the city last month filed a motion requesting a bench trial, but the plaintiffs say they have a "constitutional right to a trial by jury." That motion and others are scheduled to be heard today, but we'll have to wait until the trial, scheduled for January 19, for the truly good stuff, which includes allegations of forged signatures.

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Will Sid Miller Do Better Than Todd Staples as Ag Commissioner?

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Today Sid Miller will become the new Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. However, it's a fair bet that from the moment he is sworn in, Miller will follow the grand tradition of ag commissioners as he starts angling to end up somewhere higher in the political food chain.

Predecessor Todd Staples spent eight years in the office trying to finagle some political traction, mainly by obsessing over the border, but also by railing against things like the introduction of "Meatless Mondays" in Texas school districts and against gay marriage as a sort of side project, as the Texas Observer has noted.

But Staples seemed to believe the border would be his ticket to the office of his dreams, lieutenant governor. He even went out and created a taxpayer-funded website, "Protect Your Texas Border," that got him all kinds of bad press. However, after losing to Dan Patrick, Staples galloped off into the sunset back in September. (Translation: He became president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association after failing to get the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor last March.)


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