Rick Perry Sends New Hampshire a Belated Valentine

"Live free or die. Amen."

Either Rick Perry has taken to making short travel films for each state he visits, or he definitely plans to make another slog around the GOP presidential primary circuit.

On Sunday, fresh off a trip to the oh-so-important primary state of New Hampshire, the former governor's political action committee RickPAC posted a minute-long video of Perry praising the Granite State, shaking hands with supporters, preaching about freedom to an adoring crowd, and awkwardly touching a baby's face.

"Granite's tough, it's durable, just like the people who live in this fiercely independent state," Perry says in the video before rattling off a list of New Hampshire cities and towns (just in case you thought Perry forgot what state he was in again).

More »

Guns: Coming Soon to a Government Building Near You

Rep. Stickland's "constitutional carry" baby is likely dead.

Here's the good news and bad news on proposed gun bills at the Capitol: The good news is that metal detectors at the front door of government buildings may go away. The bad news is that it would be because some lawmakers think people have a right to carry guns and weapons into those government buildings.

Yesterday was the day for the campus carry and open carry gun bills at the Capitol. And if you didn't think it was a big deal, consider this: The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday and beat it the heck out of Dodge. And Moms Demand Action, an opponent of both campus carry and open carry, had an unarmed police escort to yesterday's hearing, for fear of a run-in with the open carry lobby.

Business associations were on hand to support Senate Bill 17, the open carry bill. That doesn't exactly mean they were cheering open carry. What they like is the language in the bill that still allows them to prohibit guns on their property.

"We have read all the bills on gun legislation," Cathy DeWitt, vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of Business, told the Senate State Affairs Committee. "This is the bill that keeps business and the rights of private property owners in mind."

More »

Dan Patrick's Lonely Border Surge

Photo from Gov. Greg Abbott's office

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is still intent on fighting the good fight to keep the borders secure with expensive National Guard troops, it looks like Patrick might have to wage this particular battle alone.

Patrick held a press conference on Tuesday declaring his unwavering determination to keep National Guard troops camped out at motels along the Texas border in perpetuity (or at least until 2017). However, Patrick seems to be lacking in support on this one from pretty much everyone, including, at least for now, the guy holding the top office, Gov. Greg Abbott.

For those with short memories, last year then-Gov. Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to secure the border as a way of dealing with waves of minors from Central America that were arriving in Texas. At the height of the border surge about 1,000 troops were camped out along our admittedly porous border. They were armed and everything, despite the fact that they were basically only there to watch the border and that was it.

More »

With Campus Carry Bill Fast-Tracked, Opponents Are Scrambling

Robert Nelson via Flickr
The woman who will lead the anti-campus carry movement in Texas has fired a gun all of once, at an outdoor recreation class in a Round Rock middle school.

That certainly didn't set Kristen Katz on the path of an anti-campus carry activist. The epiphany came when Katz attended a documentary on the 2007 Virginia Tech University shooting rampage at Texas State University with two survivors of that bloody winter day: Colin Goddard and John Woods.

John Woods, an earnest engineering grad student at UT-Austin, was the face of the opposition to campus carry back in 2011. Woods was on the Virginia Tech campus the day of the rampage. He lost his girlfriend, one of 32 murdered in the attack.

But that was four years ago, and this is today. The campus carry bill is up in a Senate committee on Thursday, and Katz is pretty much alone, with the exception of a Dallas colleague and a phone line to a national network. Most of the University Democrats who bombarded elected officials with phone calls in 2011 have graduated.

Amid intense criticism from the Second-Amendment crowd, which harangued Lt. Gov Dan Patrick for supposedly backtracking on gun-rights issues, Patrick fired off a Facebook post to "set the record straight" late last month: gun rights would definitely be a priority, and campus carry would be among the first bills to move this year. And fast-track it he did. Early this week, it was announced that campus carry was already set for a senate hearing.

"We did know, after Patrick's Facebook post, that it was going to be an issue, just not this soon," says Katz, "We aren't ready. We felt ambushed. Really, how much can two or three people do in three days?"

More »

5 Good Bills Filed in the Texas Legislature

Thumbnail image for capitole_1024.jpg
Texas Legislature

We've been enjoying the dark side of the 84th biennial Texas Legislative Session, but it occurred to us that maybe we should take some time out to look at some legislation with some potential for real positive change. Of course, with a Republican-dominated Lege, the odds are good that some of these bills will end up dying an inglorious death without every getting out of committee, but still, it's interesting stuff. Here are five of our favorites:

5. The one that makes it easier to have DNA evidence tested in criminal cases. Senate Bill 487, filed by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, proposes to make it easier to get access to DNA evidence that could end up exonerating someone like Michael Morton, the man who was wrongfully convicted for his wife's murder. Morton served 25 years in prison before he convinced a court of appeals to test DNA evidence on a bandana found near his house. The bandana had DNA on it that wasn't visible to the naked eye, and Morton was exonerated and released.

However, the state's DNA-testing law remained ambiguous, Ellis says. Ambiguous enough for the Court of Criminal Appeals to rule last year that testing could only be granted when biological material had already been identified; the ruling did not consider sweat, saliva or skin cells, which contain DNA but aren't exactly easy to spot with the naked eye when present on crime-scene evidence, Ellis says.In fact, Morton says that had the Court of Criminal Appeals stuck with that interpretation of the law back in 2011, he might have never been granted the DNA testing that ultimately freed him. The new bill will clarify the law to make sure courts allow the testing of any evidence that has a "reasonable likelihood" of containing DNA.

More »

5 More Crazy Bills Filed in the Texas Legislature

Thumbnail image for capitole_1024.jpg
TX Legislature
The place where all of this law-making is supposedly happening

We approached the start of the 84th biennial Texas Legislative session with a mix of fear and giddy anticipation. There were a few things we knew going in -- mainly that open carry and anti-gay marriage stuff would be big -- but as for the rest of the political show, we just couldn't be sure what was coming. Well, we are now well into the best political reality show this side of Washington D.C., and the lawmakers that the people of Texas have unleashed to legislate have really been paying off with some entertaining bill filings. (In this parlance, "entertaining" means "we have to laugh or our blood pressure and the screaming will become a real issue.") There are many bills to choose from, but we've singled out some of our, ahem, favorites to highlight this time around:

5. The one where only people from Texas will be able to get public information. HB 1118, filed by state Rep. Mike Schofield, a Republican from Katy, would give governmental bodies the right to decide whether or not to comply with open records requests filed by those who don't actually live in the state of Texas. This one is ridiculous on a few counts. For one thing, Texas, surprisingly, has some of the best open records laws on the books. (We're right up there with Florida, in fact).

This would essentially make it possible for any representative of any governmental body to eye an open records request and then drag his or her feet on actually complying with the law based on the "you-ain't-from-around-here" defense. This is Texas and implying that the rest of the world shouldn't be obsessed with what goes on within the borders of our fascinating state -- a.k.a. the center of the universe -- is just silly. To cut off access to open records to inquiring minds from Ohio would just be wrong. Besides, if they can't know everything there is to know about Texas, education-wise, how will they ever get to realize that we really are better than every other state around?

More »

Congressman From Crazy-Ass Florida Calls Texas Crazy

Check yourself, Florida.
People in glass houses should not throw stones, especially if their glass houses are in Florida.

But Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings called Texas a "crazy state" Monday during a committee hearing over a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

More »

Tom DeLay's Undead Revival Show Plays Houston

Dianna Wray
A post-Dancing-With-the-Stars Tom DeLay

Those expecting spangles or jazz hands were disappointed on Saturday morning at South Texas College of Law. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was at the podium as the keynote speaker for the 29th Annual Law and Media Seminar ready to talk about his trials and travails dealing with the Grand Jury system, but he was dressed like a politician, down to the American flag pin, and not like a ballroom dancer.

Still, it seems that DeLay learned a little something about showmanship from his stint on Dancing With the Stars. His performance on Saturday had everything -- jabs at the media, diatribes against the judicial system and cracks about how much the "People's Republic of Travis County" hates him -- except a light merengue backbeat.

DeLay took the stage, so to speak, and immediately made it clear he was a little less than thrilled to find himself addressing an audience that included the media. "I didn't know the press was going to be here, so I'm going to have to watch my words," he said. (Yep, that's right. Somehow DeLay apparently missed that he'd have to be talking to both lawyers and journalists at the event, despite the spoiler-ish title.) But after that grumble, DeLay got down to the real business of the morning: Walking through his protracted legal battle and explaining why the whole thing was just a political hatchet job while establishing his complete innocence.

More »

Dan Patrick Gathers His Very Own Tea Party


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.

More »

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

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.

More »