March 11, 2009
If he can't testify, he shouldn't redistrict

One of the questions that was raised during the Voter ID All-Nighter in the Senate was why Attorney General Greg Abbott took a pass, even though the Democrats wanted him to be there, since he was a leading crusader of "voter fraud" accusations. Abbott's office claimed his presence would lead to a conflict of interest:

Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said Abbott would not testify. He attributed the decision to Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, who as the Senate's president pro tempore is set to preside over today's hearing before the 31-member Senate sitting as a committee of the whole.

Strickland said: "Because the Office of the Attorney General would represent the state of Texas in legal matters that could arise from this legislation, the chair (Duncan) decided it would be inappropriate for the attorney general to be present as a witness in a legislative debate."

OK, that seems reasonable. It's a partisan political process, and since the AG would have to take one side over the other in any ensuing litigation, it makes sense for him to recuse himself from the process that led to that litigation. If that reminds you of something else, you're not alone. This is from an email that was sent out this evening from State Rep. Mark Homer:

Earlier this session, Representative Homer filed House Joint Resolution 53 which proposes a constitutional amendment to replace the Attorney General on the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) with the Commissioner of Agriculture. "Senator Duncan and General Abbott have made a clear and compelling argument for HJR 53," Homer said. "If General Abbott can not offer the Senate testimony regarding the results of a multi-million dollar investigation conducted by his office without a conflict of interest, he can not possibly vote on the LRB. His participation in the redistricting process would create an even more apparent conflict with even more imminent litigation coming out of it." As currently structured, the Legislative Redistricting Board is composed of five members: The Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Attorney General, the Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Commissioner of the General Land Office.

"If the LRB is called upon to act, there is a 100% certainty that litigation will follow. Through his actions today, General Abbott has certainly clouded the AG's participation in LRB proceedings." Homer continued by saying, "If the Attorney General is not replaced on the LRB and follows the precedent that he and Senator Duncan set today, he would be required to recuse himself. Because of this, I hope I can count on Senator Duncan and General Abbott to support this apparently much needed correction."

Homer quoted spokesman Strickland's statement in his email as part of his case. Gotta say, that seems eminently reasonable to me. Anyone think Senator Duncan or AG Abbott will agree? I look forward to their responses.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2009 to That's our Lege
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