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May 9th, 2023:

Slaton resigns

Good riddance.

Rep. Bryan Slaton

Rep. Bryan Slaton resigned from the Texas House on Monday after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 19-year-old woman on his staff, providing her with enough alcohol before their encounter that she felt dizzy and had double vision.

Pressure had mounted on the Royse City Republican to resign since Saturday, when the House General Investigative Committee released a 16-page report finding Slaton had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with his aide. The committee of three Republicans and two Democrats recommended that Slaton be the first state representative expelled from the body since 1927.


Slaton, 45 and married, was among the most socially conservative lawmakers in the chamber and had been one of this session’s loudest voices for cracking down on drag shows and decrying drag artists as “groomers” who want to sexualize kids.

The committee report said Slaton had invited the 19-year-old woman to his Austin apartment late March 31 and gave her a large cup of rum and coke, then refilled it twice — rendering her unable to “effectively consent to intercourse and could not indicate whether it was welcome or unwelcome.”

In other questionable actions, Slaton also provided alcohol to the aide and another woman under the age of 21 on several occasions, the report said.

The report also alleged that after Slaton and the woman had unprotected sex in the early hours of April 1, Slaton drove her home, and she later went to a drugstore to purchase Plan B medication to prevent a pregnancy. Slaton, a staunch abortion opponent, later tried to intimidate the woman and her friends into not speaking about the incident, the report said.

See here for the previous update. I skipped a bunch of paragraphs about Slaton’s buddies in the Republican Party finally turning on him, because I absolutely do not have to hand it to them. I’ll be honest, I wanted to see the House have the expulsion vote, in part because he didn’t deserve to leave on his own terms, and in part out of morbid curiosity to see if anyone would still side with him, even as the worst people in the state other than himself had already told him to get lost.

I urge you to read the committee’s report about Slaton’s extremely sleazy and gross actions in this matter if you haven’t already. That highlighted bit about the young woman in question buying a dose of Plan B was the item that made me the angriest when I read it. Because, of course, while Plan B is still legal in Texas – indeed, it’s Greg Abbott’s advised treatment for rape victims, so that he and his fellow forced birthers don’t need to pass a rape exception to our extreme anti-abortion law – there were bills filed in this session that would greatly limit access to Plan B, or even possibly make its purchase and use a felony on par with murder. I’ll give you three guesses which legislator filed that latter bill. By my count, he filed or sponsored at least four even more anti-abortion bills this session, because that’s the kind of moral exemplar Bryan Slaton is. I’m not the praying type, but if I were I’d definitely be beseeching a higher authority to spare this girl the indignity of being impregnated by this horrible man.

Anyway. He’s gone, and as I said, good riddance. One asshole less in the Lege, which is always a fine thing. He likely won’t be replaced until November – if for some godawful reason we have a special session Abbott can call for an expedited election to fill his seat. If we’re very lucky, whoever does replace him will be slightly less of an asshole. I’m not terribly optimistic.

UPDATE: From the DMN:

In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and chief House clerk Stephen Brown, Slaton said his resignation was effective immediately. Slaton did not mention the House General Investigating Committee’s Saturday report recommending his expulsion.

“I look forward to spending more time with my young family, and will continue to find ways to serve my community and all citizens across our great state,” he wrote.

Slaton, R-Royse City, said “it has been an honor” to represent District 2, where he won elections in 2020 and last year.


On Monday, Murr said he still planned on Tuesday to ask the vote to expel Slaton.

“Under Texas law he is considered to be an officer of this state until a successor is elected and he takes the oath of office,” Murr said in a social media post.

Under the state Constitution, lawmakers may be expelled for “disorderly conduct.” Each chamber is left to define what constitutes such conduct.

The General Investigating Committee began receiving complaints about Slaton’s behavior April 5, the report notes.

Former Harris County District Judge Catherine Evans, now a lawyer in Houston, was retained to investigate the allegations against Slaton. Evans provided the panel with the report early last week.

Slaton, who appeared before the committee for 90 minutes on Thursday, has expressed no regret and shown no remorse for his conduct, a “fact” the report called “egregious.” After meeting with the committee, he did not answer reporters’ questions about his presence before the panel.

Glad to hear the expulsion vote will still be held, even if it’s mostly pro forma at this point. And again, I cannot emphasize enough what an asshole Bryan Slaton is.

Reactions to Allen

There’s nothing I can say about the weekend massacre in Allen that hasn’t been said many times by many people. My heart is broken for the victims and their families, and my rage is ever-stoked by the sheer indifference exhibited by our so-called leaders. I just have a couple of things to note here in partial response.

Uvalde families have another reason to be angry.

Democrats and relatives of Texas mass shooting victims lambasted the state’s GOP leaders over the weekend after they again rejected gun restrictions in the wake of another massacre.

A gunman wielding what appeared to be an assault-style rifle killed eight people on Saturday afternoon at Allen Premium Outlets, a mall in a suburb about 20 miles north of Dallas. He injured seven others, three of whom are in critical condition. The victims included children as young as 5.

The shooting occurred less than a week after sheriff’s deputies in San Jacinto County reported that a lone gunman armed with an AR-15-style weapon killed five people at a neighbors’ house.

Republicans expressed grief over the mall shooting, offering prayers and condolences to families who lost loved ones. They praised law enforcement for responding and killing the shooter quickly, but they did not address the weapon he used.

​​”They don’t have any answers to this,” said Manuel Rizo, who lost his 9-year-old niece, Jacklyn “Jackie” Cazares, in last year’s mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school.

The attack at Robb Elementary was also carried out by a lone gunman armed with an assault-style rifle. The shooter bought his gun days after he turned 18, prompting calls from victims’ families to raise the age for purchasing the weapons in Texas. Republican state lawmakers have declined.

“They’re just going to ignore the facts, issue their thoughts and prayers, go through their checklist and hope that this goes away,” Rizo said.

I get emails from the Dallas Morning News with daily digests and breaking news and stuff like that. Here are the contents of two of those breaking news alerts on Monday. First one:

The Houston office of the South Korean consulate confirmed Monday that Cho Kyu Song, 37, Kang Shin Young, 35, and their child were killed. The child’s age was not immediately clear.

According to a letter from New Song Church, based in Carrollton, a 5-year-old child of the couple survived. The child was injured and was being treated at a hospital, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

And the second one:

A security guard, an engineer, 3 children among the Allen mall shooting victims

Two Cox Elementary students, fourth-grader Daniela Mendoza and second-grader Sofia Mendoza, were killed Saturday.

Their mother, Ilda, remains in critical condition, according to an email from Wylie ISD Superintendent David Vinson.

Here’s a profile of the victims from the Trib. Just so we all know who we’re talking about here. Who we’re losing every time one of these mass shootings happens.

Later in the day, we got this news.

In a surprise move days after the Allen mall shooting and hours before a key legislative deadline, a Texas House committee on Monday advanced a bill that would raise the age to purchase certain semi-automatic rifles.

The bill faces an uphill climb to becoming state law, but the vote marked a milestone for the proposal that relatives of Uvalde shooting victims have been pushing for months.

Several relatives of children who were killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting last year sobbed when the committee voted 8-5 to send it to the House floor. Republican state Reps. Sam Harless and Justin Holland joined with Democrats on the House Community Safety Select Committee to advance the bill.

Less than two hours earlier, some of the relatives of Uvalde victims had urged the committee chair, Rep. Ryan Guillen. R-Rio Grande, to give House BIll 2744 a vote before a key deadline Monday.

“One year ago today, my daughter had her communion. About a month later she was buried in that same dress,” Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed in the Uvalde shooting, said during an emotional press conference. “Mr. Guillen, and anybody else who is stopping this bill from passing, sad to say but more blood will be on your hands.”

Monday marks the last day House bills can be voted out of committee in the lower chamber. House bills that don’t meet that deadline face increasingly difficult odds at becoming law, though there are some avenues through which measures left in committees could be revived.

HB 2744, filed by Democratic Rep. Tracy King, whose district includes Uvalde, was debated before the House select committee last month during a hearing in which relatives of Uvalde victims shared emotional accounts of lives torn asunder by gun violence.

Monday’s legislative deadline falls two days after a gunman in Allen, a Dallas suburb of about 100,000 people, killed eight shoppers at an outdoor mall with AR-15-style rifle — the same type of weapon used by the gunman in Uvalde, where killed 19 children and two teachers were killed.

Because the man identified as the gunman in Allen was 33, raising the age limit for semi-automatic rifle purchases likely wouldn’t have kept that gunman from purchasing such a weapon. But Saturday’s shooting renewed calls for tightening some gun laws in a state whose lawmakers have loosened firearm restrictions despite repeated mass shootings.

That is true. You know what else is true? None of the false promises made by Greg Abbott about “mental health”, and none of the faux-security “school hardening” bills – you know, the ones that put more restrictions on doors than on guns, those bills – would have done anything to deter this shooter, either. It’s going to take an actual commitment to address the problem, and that begins with having a government in place that sees these shootings as problems. See what I mean about there not being anything to say that hasn’t been said before?

This Twitter thread takes you through the action yesterday that led to the committee vote on HB2744. Here’s a quote for you:

Rep. Guillen, who chairs the House Select Committee on Community Safety where HB 2744 is pending, just told reporters he is now considering having a vote on the bill. When asked what changed, he said “Nothing”.

That’s turncoat Republican Ryan Guillen speaking there. I have nothing at this point, either. Even if this bill makes it out of the House, there’s no way Dan Patrick gives it a vote in the Senate. High marks for trying, but the problem is bigger than this. DAily Kos has more.

UPDATE: Received the following statement in my inbox from Asian Texans for Justice:

“Instead of supporting what we’re asking for – gun safety legislation which 83% of AAPIs support, Texas statewide leaders are blaming mental health alone. The reality is that our state’s lax gun laws allowed someone who sympathizes with Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists to easily get a gun and kill and injure over a dozen people. We need the state legislature to take immediate action on gun reform that will make our communities safer, such as passing HB 2744, which would increase the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

Asian Texans for Justice calls on local law enforcement to exhaust all measures to determine whether the gunman was truly a lone actor or if he worked in concert with other individuals or organizations who aided and abetted these horrendous actions.

We urge Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature to focus their priorities on issues that better serve Asian and Pacific Islander Texans, and keep all Texans safe.”

I agree.

We ask again if the HISD Board should bother doing anything right now

I think the answer is still mostly No, but there’s some nuance to that.

The Houston Independent School District board met Thursday to discuss potential cuts to the district’s $2.2 billion budget as it faces a growing a growing deficit and a looming takeover by the Texas Education Agency.

Superintendent Millard House II has already walked back plans to slash school budgets by roughly $40 million after an outcry from the Board of Trustees, which insisted against campus-level cuts. That leaves cuts of just $15.3 million to the HISD central office with the district facing a projected $118 million deficit that could rise to $258 million by the 2024-2025 school year, as enrollment drops and pandemic-related funds dry up.

Most of those $15.3 million in savings would come from closing unfilled positions. The district had previously proposed reducing small school subsidies and high school allotments, along with returning to an attendance-based school funding policy that was suspended due to COVID-19, before those suggestions were nixed by the board.

HISD expects enrollment to continue to decline by nearly 3 percent between this school year and the next, from roughly 189,000 students to 184,000. The district’s enrollment has already fallen by about 31,000 students since the 2016-2017 school year, according to HISD data.

“As enrollment declines, that’s an impact to our revenues. That’s less money coming in than we have to be able to spend,” said Jim Grady, a consultant who presented the proposed budget to the board.


It’s not clear how the impending state takeover will affect the budgeting process, but the local board is moving forward with their plan to lay out a financial plan as normal. Another, final budget workshop is scheduled for May 18.

See here for some background. I’ve spoken in favor of the Board doing as little as possible in the time it has left, so as to leave the difficult and surely unpopular decisions that will need to be made about the looming deficit and the likely need to close some schools (seriously, what are we doing about that enrollment drop?) to the unelected overlords who will soon have to run the place. But maybe that’s too simple. Maybe it’s better to do at least some of the easier and more straightforward things on their own, in part because they will be done anyway and in part to perhaps head off some weird directions that the Board of Managers could take if given full discretion over these initial conditions. Give them slightly less room to do things we wouldn’t have considered, as well as less room to build up political capital for making the “hard” choices that really aren’t that hard. The Board of Trustees exists as a decision-making entity until June 1, and the district needs to pass a budget by June 30. My position is maybe more in flux now than it was before, but I’m still comfortable saying to the Board to not overthink this. Do the easy things, and pass on the rest.