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The Briscoe Cain follies

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

The Texas House Elections Committee abruptly ended its meeting [Thursday] before about 200 people who traveled to the Capitol could testify on a controversial anti-voter fraud bill.

Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, who chairs the committee and authored House Bill 6, had recessed briefly as he argued with the committee’s vice chair, Democrat Jessica González.

González wanted to hear from Rep. Nicole Collier, a fellow Democrat and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

“Vice Chair González, at this moment, you are not chairing this committee,” Cain said as he overrode González’s attempts to allow Collier to speak. “I’m not recognizing anyone but a member of this committee at this time.”

The meeting’s undoing came to pass for a procedural reason: Cain had not specified when the committee would reconvene, meaning the meeting would have to be rescheduled for a later date. He apologized to the hundreds who had made the trip to Austin to share their feedback on the bill.

“Even though I wish very much to continue today’s hearing, the rules prevent me from doing so,” he said. “Please forgive me for my error.”

This is the third-term GOP member’s first time chairing a committee during a legislative session.

[…]

Civil rights and voting advocacy groups slammed Cain, who had said it was committee practice not to allow non-members to ask questions, for blocking Collier’s testimony. There are no Black members of the elections committee.

“Today was further evidence of the GOP efforts to silence our voices. We can no longer stand by and allow them to shut us down,” Collier said at an informal, livestreamed “citizen’s hearing” in the Capitol rotunda. “We must speak up. Today shows why it’s important we have a seat at the table.”

Common Cause Texas executive director Anthony Gutierrez said non-members participate in committee hearings “all the time.”

“This deviation from standard practice to prevent a Black woman from engaging in debate on a bill that would impact Black communities disproportionately is appalling,” Gutierrez said. “There is truly nothing more absurd than Briscoe Cain having to adjourn his committee hearing on his bill that would criminalize procedural mistakes people might make while voting because he made a procedural mistake.”

Those who had planned to speak Thursday immediately expressed their deep frustration.

“(Cain) has promised a future hearing on the bill, date yet to be determined,” Texas Civil Rights Project, a voting-focused advocacy group, said in a tweet. “But this is still deeply unfair to all the Texans who took time off of work and school to be there today. And it’s troubling that no effort was made to accommodate and listen to these Texans.”

Or to put it another way, give power and responsibility to malevolent incompetents, get malevolent incompetent results. Imagine being someone who took time off from work, drove however many hours to be in Austin to wait even more hours to be given three minutes to testify against this travesty, only to be told that because the committee chair screwed up you have to come back again at some then-unknown date. (Per the Trib, it’s been rescheduled for April 1, which seems a little on the nose.) You’d have Briscoe Cain to thank for that.

R.G. Ratcliffe thinks Cain (who calls himself a “parliamentary guru”, by the way) may have inadvertently done the opponents of his malicious legislation a favor. I say that remains to be seen, because if there are two things we know about the Republicans’ push to change the rules in their favor, it’s that they can always extend the clock and that they don’t much care about the niceties along the way. What do they care if a few rabblerousers didn’t get a chance to vent at them? They will not be deterred.

Also not to be deterred is the Senate, which had its own voter suppression bill hearings.

The 31-page Senate Bill 7 includes provisions that would limit early voting opportunities, such as drive-thru and overnight polls, and stop counties from mass-mailing unsolicited ballot-by-mail applications — all methods that Harris County officials debuted in 2020.

It would also require Texas counties to have ballots with paper trails and maintain online systems tracking the status of voters’ mail ballot applications and ballots.

The bill was scheduled to be heard on Monday, but Senate Democrats delayed the hearing with a procedural move. It contains many similarities to a bill that passed the Senate but died in the House when the paper-trail system requirement, which had bipartisan support, was removed at the last minute.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, raised several potential legal issues with the bill as she questioned Keith Ingram, director of elections with the secretary of state’s office.

Texas is one of 16 states that does not have universal, no-excuse-needed voting by mail. Mail voting is only allowed for people who are 65 years or older; traveling out of the county during the election period; in jail; or have a disability or illness.

SB 7 would require voters to show proof of a purported disability, such as a doctor’s note. Zaffirini asked and Ingram confirmed that no other group allowed to vote by mail would be required to provide backup documentation.

Making a visit to see a doctor costs money, Zaffirini pointed out. Unless the state would provide voters with financial help, she asked, “could that constitute a poll tax?”

“I don’t know,” Ingram said. “That’s a question for a court.”

Seems to me that’s a pretty big can of worms, and could run into issues with privacy laws relating to medical information. Anyone out there want to comment on the possibility that this could run afoul of HIPAA in some way? The lawyers will be busy, that much is for sure. The Texas Signal has more.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, Chris Hollins wrote an op-ed calling on the business community (especially Texas businesses and those that relocated here) to get involved in this fight as they recently have for other social justice issues. He specifically singled out HEB, AT&T, CenterPoint, and Pizza Hut.

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18 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    “Making a visit to see a doctor costs money, Zaffirini pointed out. Unless the state would provide voters with financial help, she asked, “could that constitute a poll tax?”

    Such garbage. The people Zaffirini represents are on Medicaid, so visiting the doctor costs them nothing. Meanwhile, me, with a sore back, I have to wait it out for a few days, to see if it gets better, before I decide whether or not to seek medical help, because I’m paying the bill myself.

    But beyond all that, this is just theater. Has anyone looked back, historically, to see how many folks absentee voted for health reasons? I’m betting it has never been a significant number, and that’s assuming that most of the over 65 mail in votes were those elderly who are actually in poor health.

    If you want to vote, YOU CAN! Go to the polling place and vote! The polling places are already set up to handle disabled voters, all of them. Do you need a ride? I am quite sure that you can ring up the Dems or the Pubs and they would LOVE to arrange a ride for you, assuming you are alone and unliked, and no neighbor or friend will help you, because you’re a bad person. The Dem and Pub parties will still help you….they don’t have to like you, they just want your vote.

    As far as the poll tax argument, here, let me help. I have to have shoes, pants, and a shirt to vote, otherwise I will be turned away. Unless the registrar pays me for a shirt, shoes, and pants, that’s a poll tax, and illegal. The registrar also needs to pay for me to drive to and from the polling place. To not do so places an illegal poll tax on me. And what about my time to travel to and from, and actually vote. Unless I am being compensated for that, it’s an illegal poll tax. I must be paid just like I am paid for jury service, or else it’s an illegal poll tax. See how absolutely moronic this sounds? That’s what Judith Zaffirini sounds like to anyone with a hint of common sense.

    “This deviation from standard practice to prevent a Black woman from engaging in debate on a bill that would impact Black communities disproportionately is appalling,” Gutierrez said.”

    I’m pretty sure Texas will survive without hearing a racist diatribe and invective from a black separatist legislator who loves the sound of her own voice. I’m guessing she’s a She-Jack clone?

  2. brad says:

    Bill,

    You are right, us Republiqanons need to stick together.

    Let’s just pass a law banning black people from holding statewide elected office.

    Problem solved [slapping/wiping hands together twice].

  3. Joel says:

    One of the people who drove in to speak at the hearing and was stymied by this was Beto O’Rourke, who had driven the 8 hours from El Paso.

  4. Joel says:

    PS – https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2021-03-26/travis-county-district-judge-upholds-austins-mask-rule/

    Now through April 15. When the number of Texans vaccinated will be multiples higher than it was on March 10. In case anyone was still wondering about this …

  5. SocraticGadfly says:

    We saw how much good trying to get Coke “woke” against Georgia’s vote suppression bill did. Doubt much diff will happen in Tex-ass. (Coke did get woke on this, but has never apologized for having union organizers in Latin America murdered.)

  6. Ross says:

    Bill, to qualify for Medicaid in Texas as a non-pregnant adult, your income has to be less than about $250 per month. I’m guessing that Zaffarini’s constituents generally don’t qualify, since very few adults do.

    There is no reason for the bullshit legislation the Republicans are pushing, other than to make it harder for non-Republicans to vote, which makes them complete and utter scumbags, along with the people who support them. How does it feel to be a complete and utter scumbag, Bill?

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    Show your source. What I am looking at does not comport with your figures.

    https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1640

    Who is eligible for Texas Medicaid?

    To be eligible for Texas Medicaid, you must be a resident of the state of Texas, a U.S. national, citizen, permanent resident, or legal alien, in need of health care/insurance assistance, whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income. You must also be one of the following:

    Pregnant, or
    Be responsible for a child 18 years of age or younger, or
    Blind, or
    Have a disability or a family member in your household with a disability.
    Be 65 years of age or older.

    To be eligible, you must have an annual household income (before taxes) that is below the following amounts:
    $25,503 (before taxes)
    Annual Household Income Limits (before taxes)Household Size* Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
    1 $25,503
    2 $34,492
    3 $43,481
    4 $52,470
    5 $61,460

    Ross, you’re claiming that masses of non White (read: poor) people have disabilities that prevent them from showing up in person to vote, yet they aren’t on Medicaid.

    If that voter that just can’t make it to the polls because of illness or disability is single, they can earn over $ 2,000 a month and never ever pay a doctor bill again. And it goes up from there.

  8. Ross says:

    Bill, you left out the other qualifications for those amounts:

    To be eligible for Texas Medicaid, you must be a resident of the state of Texas, a U.S. national, citizen, permanent resident, or legal alien, in need of health care/insurance assistance, whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income. You must also be one of the following:

    Pregnant, or
    Be responsible for a child 18 years of age or younger, or
    Blind, or
    Have a disability or a family member in your household with a disability.
    Be 65 years of age or older.

    Additional information

    Who is eligible for Medicaid in Texas?
    In addition to those with low incomes who are aged, blind, or disabled (receiving SSI benefits), the following populations are eligible for Medicaid in Texas:

    Children aged 0-1: 198 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)
    Children aged 1-5: 144 percent of FPL
    Children age 6-18: 133 percent of FPL
    Pregnant women: 198 percent of FPL
    Adults caregivers of children or adult relatives: 14 percent of FPL
    Children are eligible for either Medicaid or CHIP if their household incomes are up to 201 percent of poverty

    Notice the “Adult Caregivers of children” are eligible for Medicaid if their income is less than 14% of Federal Poverty Level. So, let’s take a single mother with 2 kids. Federal Poverty Level for that family is $21,960. 14% of that is $3,074 per year, or $256 per month. So, if the income is over $3074 the mother is not eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid and CHIP are available for a decent number of children, but not their parents. So, the parents end up either skipping medical care, or they go to a county hospital if they live in a county that has one. This is because Obamacare doesn’t provide subsidies for adults in families below the FPL in states that have not expanded Medicaid:

    If your state hasn’t expanded Medicaid, your income is below the federal poverty level, and you don’t qualify for Medicaid under your state’s current rules, you won’t qualify for either health insurance savings program: Medicaid coverage or savings on a private health plan bought through the Marketplace.

    This is because the Republicans in the Legislature and State Executive branch, like Abbott, Patrick, etc, are total pieces of shit who could not care less about the poor. In fact, I would almost bet money that Patrick would step over a dying poor person in the street, then call DPS to “remove the garbage”, because it offends him.

    As for voting, Bill, you still haven’t made a reasonable argument for the restrictions the R’s are pushing. How does it increase the potential for election fraud to let people drop off their ballots at 3am, especially if there is an ID check at the time? How does it increase the risk of fraud to have 3 weeks of early voting instead of two weeks? Why shouldn’t anyone be able to ask for a mail in ballot for any reason they want, especially if there is some sort of ID check? How does someone working on a refinery turnaround with a 7×12 schedule for 2 months get to vote, if not by mail? The only reason for these proposed bills is because the R’s hate the thought of poor people or people of color voting. And that’s because the R’s are morally bankrupt, and have no reasonable legislative agenda.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    “How does it increase the potential for election fraud to let people drop off their ballots at 3am, especially if there is an ID check at the time?”

    Because you’re just making it hard for poll watchers to oversee that an ID check on each ballot occurs. When the cats are away, the mice do what, again?

    “How does it increase the risk of fraud to have 3 weeks of early voting instead of two weeks?”

    It probably doesn’t. I voted toward the end of that extra week, just to make sure my vote counted in case I got run over by a bus before election day. Still, We’ve managed just fine without that extra expense all this time. It’s not showing good fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. Two weeks of early voting, including a Saturday, is enough.

    “Why shouldn’t anyone be able to ask for a mail in ballot for any reason they want, especially if there is some sort of ID check?”

    A: Because it encourages fraud. I’m a young single with roommates, or a multi-generational household, like Manny’s. I order mail in ballots for everyone in the house, and just go ahead and vote for them. I work at a group home for the retarded. I just go ahead and order ballots for all the residents and fill them out, because I know how they would want to vote, if they weren’t retards. See how this works?

    “How does someone working on a refinery turnaround with a 7×12 schedule for 2 months get to vote, if not by mail?”

    We already have a federal law that mandates employers giving their employees time off from work to go vote. Why do you need to reinvent the wheel? You’re finding a problem that’s already been solved. And since when do you care about petrochemical workers anyway? How many jobs right here in Houston and Port Arthur did your man kill on day one when he stopped the KeystoneXL. That oil would have been refined right here, and there would have been contractors working turnarounds…..but not anymore. Put people out of work, and they don’t need more time to vote. They’ve got all the free time they want.

    “The only reason for these proposed bills is because the R’s hate the thought of poor people or people of color voting.”

    I hate the thought of non Whites, and down with the cause Whites like yourself, cheating, by ordering ballots for others and filling them out. When you do that, you disenfranchise ME, and that’s not OK.

    Finally, you support the murder of millions of American babies. You also support the mass importation of terrorists and uneducated, unskilled 3rd Worlders who will put American citizens out of work, and you don’t give a crap about those American citizens you adversely affected. You don’t get to talk about morally bankrupt. YOU are morally bankrupt. We already all know your an unabashed racist, so being morally bankrupt isn’t much of a stretch. It’s common with atheists and the agnostic.

  10. Manny says:

    On second thoughts Bill, since you once stated that your mother thought like you. Maybe her death was good for this country. One less racist-hating fascist here.

    Keep my name out of your filthy brain, you spineless piece of manure. That is the person that refers to themselves as Bill Daniels.

  11. Ross says:

    Bill, there is plenty of oil to refine without Keystone XL, and there will still be refinery turnarounds. I am somewhat annoyed by the cancellation, but I would still vote for Biden, simply because he is not Trump, and is not nearly as likely to ruin the country or make us a laughing stock to the rest of the world.

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    There won’t be plenty of oil to refine now that Biden cancelled all new offshore drilling and drilling on federal lands. Say goodbye to an energy independent America, which of course, I’m sure you are quite happy to do….anything to weaken America. Bonus that you’ve caused massive inflation that is already starting. Higher energy prices make everything more expensive, and bonus, being dependent on ME oil creates the need for more wars, which is also something you voted for when you voted for Biden.

    Your man is running concentration camps on our Southern border. Why is it OK with you? Remember kids in cages?

    Can you name one Biden policy that has made America stronger, that has been good for American citizens? One? All of his actions thus far have benefited foreigners. Ending the Muslim ban-benefits foreigners. Opening the border to every swinging dick in the world? Benefits foreigners. Stopping drilling? Benefits our enemies abroad. But hey, at least we don’t have mean tweets anymore, amirite?

  13. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    I have always been courteous to you with respect to leaving personal revelations about family as something off limits. We might insult each other, but even in boxing, they know that hitting below the belt isn’t allowed.

    Pointing out that you live in a multi-generational household wasn’t even an attack on you, Manny, although I guess if I really wanted to go for it, I could have. Living in a multi-generational family is generally a sign of strength. It’s a family working together, taking care of each other….I’ve done it, and it’s a good thing, generally.

  14. Manny says:

    Bill stop the BS, you brought my family in. You did not mean it as a sign of strength. You then proceed to write

    Bill; “I order mail in ballots for everyone in the house, and just go ahead and vote for them.”

    I had avoided your other references to me. Remember I play by the same rules you play Bill.

    I have no intention to intervene but leave my family out of your writing.

  15. Manny says:

    Bill, I see that you are not a UH fan. They won, excellent second half.

  16. voter_worker says:

    Every time I read a proposed scenario by an R commenter about how they would game the system if they were an evil D, I notice their abysmal ignorance of the various provisions in the Texas Election Code, known only to those in the business or who are diligent readers, that would flag their inept attempts in a New York minute and lead to their prosecution and conviction.

  17. Ross says:

    Bill, read the damn news and understand what it says. Biden stopped new leases on Federal lands. There are millions of acres already leased that haven’t been drilled. I saw that there are something like 7700 drilling permits outstanding as well. We aren’t going to run out of oil for refineries.

    Much of the vaunted “energy independence” is built on an uneconomic foundation. Most fracking doesn’t make money over the live of the wells. BP and Devon spent something like $8 billion buying Eagleford acreage. They will never make that money back. In addition, many of the smaller operators do a crap job of controlling pollution, with massive methane leaks, massive flaring of gas, and failure to properly dispose of fracking fluid. All in the name of making money for themselves while socializing the negative effects. I don’t support unlimited pollution in the name of job creation like you do.

  18. Jen says:

    All of the fake vote scenarios proposed by White Power Bill are just neo-Nazi fan fiction taken straight from the web. Zero evidence.