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March 14th, 2011:

Rally redux

Many of the folks who rallied in Austin on Saturday stayed around for an encore today.

“At a time when our educators and our educational system is under attack more than ever before, we are here to let our lawmakers in Texas know that our children should not be victims and we, as educators, are not the enemy today,” said Rena Honea, president of Alliance-AFT, a Dallas teachers association affiliated with Texas AFT.

Texas AFT, the statewide chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, organized the event, which spokesman Rob D’Amico said brought out more than 4,000 parents, students and teachers, including buses from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.


As the rally concluded, long lines formed at the Capitol entrances as the throng of protesters headed into the Capitol to lobby their representatives.

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, said lawmakers would be well advised to consider the protesters’ message.

“Look at the polls that are coming out of Texas right now; the public do not want these cuts to education,” she said “And ultimately, if one thinks that elections have consequences, kids should be immunized from those consequences. Kids don’t vote in elections.”

It’s the lobbying part that’s critical. I sure hope a lot of Republican legislators heard from their constituents today. You can see photos from the rally here. Martha has more.

UPDATE: The Trib has more.

Who will ultimately draw the map?

Via Juanita, I came across this story about how redistricting will affect East Texas. It’s a good read, which can be mostly summed up as “they’re gonna lose seats, which will present a challenge to Republicans since they hold all of those seats”, but it was this bit at the end that caught my eye, in which Harvey Kronbeg of the Quorum Report discusses a matter of process:

Redistricting will be handled by legislators in the Senate and House, Kronberg believes.

Kronberg said most House and Senate members do not want the Legislative Redistricting Board, composed of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, comptroller Susan Combs, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, to redraw districts. The board would redraw district lines if legislators fail to act or the new plans are found invalid.

There are political incentives for board members aiming for higher office, including Dewhurst, who is eyeing the U.S. Senate and Abbott, whose name has been linked to runs at lieutenant governor and governor, to avoid the responsibility of drawing lines, he said. Dewhurst, as land commissioner, drew criticism after redistricting in 2000 and “spent the next year asking for forgiveness from the senators,” Kronberg said.

“He would much rather not go through that mess again because it’s a no win situation for him if he runs for lieutenant governor or the senate,” Kronberg said. “There’s no upside for him.”

The reason I find that interesting is that it’s the exact opposite of what insider/lobbyist Robert Miller predicts:

I believe that the Senate will be able to pass a Senate redistricting plan. The Republicans intend to draw a 20R – 11D map with Sen. Wendy Davis’ seat becoming more Republican. Sen. Huffman’s seat will be shored up. The Republican leadership will need to find 2 Democrats to vote to suspend the rules to bring up the map for Senate debate. Finding the votes to suspend appears achievable, given that if a map does not pass the all-Republican LRB will then draw it.

The real question is can the House pass a redistricting plan. In my judgment, the House has a far greater challenge than the Senate. There are currently 101 House Republicans. I believe that you can only draw 86 to 88 Republican seats if you want those seats to remain Republican for 10 years. If you draw too many Republican seats, the Republican majorities will be too thin and the Democrats will flip the seats in succeeding elections given the changing demographics in the state.

Let’s say I am right and you can only draw 86 – 88 Republican seats. That means the Democrats will pick up 13 – 15 seats in the 2012 election; and you could have to pair up to 26 to 30 Republican members. Pairings will probably be less because of retirements: e.g. Rep. Warren Chisum has already indicated that he is running for the Railroad Commission.

It will be very difficult for the House Republican majority to pass a map for two reasons. One, they will have to pair numerous Republicans. Secondly, they will have to go back to their primary voters and say we had 101 seats, and I just voted for a map that will give us 86 to 88.

Finally, we have history as a guide. In 1971, 1981, 1991, and 2001, a legislative plan did not pass in regular session and the LRB drew the seats. The odds are that it will end up at the LRB again this year.

Either one could be right – they both make good points. I just wanted to note this because it’s fascinating to me how two smart people can reasonably arrive at opposite conclusions. On a related point, Miller and Kronberg are much closer to the other’s opinion:

Impressions are that Straus wants a “rock-solid Republican majority” durable through the end of the decade, Kronberg said. It means 83 to 85 GOP districts with 60 percent to 65 percent Republican support could emerge, he said.

It’s harder to draw rock-solid districts because populations are much more integrated now, with minorities, such as African-Americans and Hispanics moving to the suburbs at or beyond the pace of whites, Kronberg said. But it can be done, he said.

“I am told you could draw 100 Republican districts in the House, but I think Straus is suspicious of that,” he said.

I think with the obliteration of the rural Democrats, the Republican ceiling is more like 90 seats, but achieving that in a Presidential year might not be possible. If they actually try to draw a map that aims to keep 100 seats, I’d put money on them losing their majority by the end of the decade, possibly as soon as 2016. As I said before. just trying to decide what a “typical” election year might look like is enough to drive you batty. No wonder it’s easy to make a case for one group wanting the other guys to do it.

About the Tommy Lee Jones bandwagon

I really don’t think this will amount to anything, but I have three things to say about it anyway.

In recent weeks, an idea of Houston attorney Geoff Berg’s turned into a Facebook page and then became a website that he hopes might spark a movement. The message: “Draft Tommy Lee Jones for Senate.”

Berg, a left-leaning commentator and host of the radio show Partisan Gridlock on KPFT, says he is “absolutely serious.”

“I can’t think of another Democrat in Texas,” Berg says, “that has the necessary name ID, that has positive name ID, that would be able to raise money, and that would have at least the potential to attract string voters and a substantial number of Republicans.”

1. I would hope that if we’ve learned anything from the Kinky Friedman saga, it’s that projecting your political desires onto a celebrity candidate with an enigmatic political history is at best a roll of the dice. With all due respect to Berg, I’ll remain on the sidelines until I hear Jones talk policy in a coherent manner.

2. While I recognize that we don’t likely have any better choices for the 2012 election, finding some old white guy, even a famous old white guy who could have a puncher’s chance at winning, isn’t a long-term fix for what ails us. To his credit, Berg doesn’t suggest that it is, and there’s certainly something to doing whatever it takes to win the next election, which we haven’t done statewide in far too long. Just keep this in perspective, that’s all I’m saying.

3. I certainly understand the appeal of a candidate who has “the potential to attract … a substantial number of Republicans”. We had a candidate like that in Bill White last year, and in a more normal electoral season, his ability to draw those Republican votes might have carried him across the finish line. But I don’t think we can run any more of those non-threatening, moderate, crossover types. The lesson I believe we need to take from the last election, the budget debate, and the current activism is that a candidate whose appeal is that he or she will do a better job of running government as we know it can’t win. We need candidates who will say that what we’re doing – what the Republicans have been doing – isn’t working, and what we need isn’t someone who can do it better but someone who will do it differently. There are plenty of people who have been saying this for awhile now, and I’m sure they’re wondering what took me so long to say this. Simply put, I don’t think that was a message that would resonate before now. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t know that it will be more successful now. But I do know that the old way has run its course, and pursuing it further is a sure loser.

Again, I think this is much ado about nothing. Jones himself has had no comment about the effort, not even a perfunctory “I’m not ruling anything out” statement, which says to me this is little more than a fantasy football exercise. But hey, that’s what blogging’s for, right? PDiddie has more.

Taking sides on Amazon

The Lege weighs in on Amazon, with opposing bills.

House Bill 2719, filed [Wednesday] afternoon by state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, would favor Amazon’s efforts to avoid collecting tax for online sales by amending the state tax code to say that a company or individual can’t be classified as a retailer if if they — or a subsidiary or affiliate — operate or use “only a fulfillment center… or a computer server.” The bill defines a fulfillment center as “an establishment in this state at which shipments of tangible personal property are processed for delivery to customers.” The bill would also exempt a company meeting those criteria from having to give any state agency information about purchases made in Texas.

That measure is directly at odds with House Bill 2403, filed Monday by Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, which aims to close loopholes in the Texas tax code that Amazon could use to support its claims that it doesn’t have to collect sales tax.

Otto said his bill is intended “to clarify the meaning of Texas law to prevent Internet retailers from evading tax liability that, to me, is established under current law.” Otto said he has talked with Sens. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, about drafting a companion bill in the Senate.

Here’s HB2719, here’s HB2403, and here’s some background on this. I like this development for two reasons. One, Harper-Brown is going to be vulnerable next year pretty much no matter what happens in redistricting, and I’d rather have her on the wrong side of an issue like this. A little extra ammunition never hurts. Two, Otto is a Norquist disciple, so if he’s on board and recruiting Senate allies that strikes me as being a great omen for success. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Neil in it till the bitter end

I guess he doesn’t have anything else to do right now.

After some vacillation, the Republican who is contesting his loss to incumbent state Rep. Donna Howard said [Wednesday] that he is now inclined to take his fight the distance.

Last month, Republican Dan Neil said his decision to continue contesting the election might depend on the upcoming recommendation of a special House committee. But now, he said, he wants to push the matter all the way to the House floor.

“I’m back and forth on it,” Neil said.

Howard beat Neil on Election Day by 16 votes. Eventually, Neil contested the election, which led to a trial-like hearing led by Rep. Will Hartnett, a Dallas Republican. Hartnett ruled that Howard should keep her seat.

Hartnett presented his opinion to a special House committee. And next week, the committee will hear from both sides’ lawyers. Then, the committee chair, Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, will announce the committee’s thoughts on the matter.

And ultimately, the members of the House could figure it out. No date has been set for the members to consider the matter.

Whatever. It’s his right, and Bob Perry’s his money. If nothing else, this ensures he gets cited in future news stories about election contests, as in “The last time a contest went all the way to the House floor was in 2011 when Dan Neil contested his loss to Rep. Donna Howard”. Gotta grab that little bit of immortality whenever you can, I always say.