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June 26th, 2013:

A woman for the Governor’s Mansion

Annie’s List sent out the following email last week:

We’ve had it with Rick Perry. 

First he added insulting anti-choice legislation to the Special Session agenda while ignoring funding for our schools.

Then he did the unthinkable–vetoing the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Bill. 

Perry has it in for Texas women. He’s waging war on our right to equal pay for equal work and access to reproductive healthcare. And we’re not going to take it anymore.

Perry on Notice

Here at Annie’s List, we’re officially putting Rick Perry on notice.

Two years ago, we created the Statewide Opportunity Fund for just this purpose–to set aside a war chest for the first Democratic woman ready to run statewide, and to make a significant impact in her campaign.

Help us elect Perry’s replacementgive to the Statewide Opportunity Fund to put a woman in the Governor’s Mansion.

End Rick Perry’s reign of anti-woman extremism, and defeat his shameful policies for good. 

Give to Annie’s List today and let us know you’re ready to elect the next woman Governor of Texas to send Perry packing.

BOR has a question about that.

That brings to question: can we make that happen in 2014? One has to wonder who Annie’s List has in mind. The most notable female Democrats in Texas are State Senator Wendy Davis and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, but both have indicated that they will not run statewide, focusing on reelection, instead.

Annie’s List’s Communications Director Mitra Salasel told me that due to the organization’s past successes, “we have our eye on a long list of women that would be fantastic contenders.”

Annie’s List’s Statewide Opportunity Fund was created two years ago, and the organization is hoping to build it with this campaign. Salasel told me that any conversation about future Democratic leaders of the state must include our great women leaders. That will certainly be welcomed in the future, and as with a barren ticket for 2014, it would be welcomed with the utmost excitement just right now.

After Sen. Wendy Davisepic filibuster yesterday, I think we know who just about everyone would like to see take a shot at it. As of last report, however, she was planning to run for re-election in SD10 next year. Who knows what happens now, but it might be nice to have a contingency plan in case Sen. Davis decides to stay where she is. As such, I have a question: Has anyone talked to Cecile Richards lately? I don’t know how much of that “long list of women” is just marketing, but unless Sen. Davis changes her mind about running for re-election next year, any such list really ought to begin with Cecile. She’s even right here in Austin. (There is a Draft Wendy movement out there, but you know how these things tend to go.) At this point, just getting someone to say she’s thinking about a run would be a nice boost and a welcome distraction from the seemingly endless list of Republicans who are jockeying for one statewide office or another. Lord knows, there will be no better time to harness all the energy Sen. Davis created than right now. Is there anybody out there? It sure would be good to know.

Filibusted

I figure this is about how the Republicans think of Sen. Wendy Davis right now:

Well, they probably think a few more things, too, but this is a family blog.

If you didn’t stay up late last night and follow the Wendy Davis filibuster by one means or another – I’m pretty sure the Senate livestream would have gotten higher ratings than half of NBC’s fall lineup – I doubt I can explain to you what happened. Go read the Trib and Observer liveblogs, and check the StadWithWendy Twitter hashtag. I spent more time on Twitter last night than I had in the previous six months combined.

It should be noted that the Senate had other business to attend besides SB5 yesterday.

A proposal from Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that raises nearly $1 billion annually for state road construction and maintenance is within striking distance of heading to Texas voters for approval. Senate Joint Resolution 2 would ask voters to approve amending the state constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund. The measure passed the House Monday after House Transportation Chairman Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, amended it to, in part, address concerns about the Rainy Day Fund’s future. Under the amendment, severance tax revenue would only be diverted from the Rainy Day Fund for roads in years when the fund has a balance of at least one-third of its legislative cap, a figure that varies over time. If senators approve the changes Tuesday, the proposed constitutional amendment will be placed on the November ballot. Nichols has requested that the Senate take up the measure before SB 5, the abortion bill, to ensure that a possible filibuster doesn’t doom both bills.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Despite Sen. Nichols’ request, SB5 was first on the agenda. As such, both it and SB23, the bill dealing with capitol murder sentencing for 17-year-olds, also were snuffed out by the filibuster and the ensuing chaos. Make no mistake, putting them behind SB5 was by design, so that if Rick Perry needed to order double overtime, he could blame the unfinished business on those nefarious Democrats. I’m sure Dan Patrick would be happy to go along with that.

Sen. Davis successfully talked for 11 straight hours, without stopping or even pausing for more than a few seconds, without eating or drinking or relieving herself or leaning on anything, before the farcical third ruling that she was talking about something not germane to SB5. (She was talking about sonograms, which of course have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with abortion and its restrictions in this state.) It’s a massively tall order, and from the beginning it likely would have been for naught, at least if stopping SB5 were the only goal. We all know that the Republicans hold the cards. Rick Perry can order another special session five minutes after this one ends, and without redistricting to clog the calendar a bill like SB5 would pass with plenty of time to spare. But some fights aren’t about whether you win or lose, they’re about whether you fought or rolled over. Say what else you want, Democrats didn’t roll over. Wendy Davis sure as hell didn’t roll over. Oh, and she kept standing after her filibuster was interrupted by that last point of order.

And as with the Killer Ds in 2003, Davis and the Dems have received loads of national attention for their refusal to go quietly. Slate tweeted that however this ends, Wendy Davis is going to be a hero for women around the country. Damn right she will.

Here’s some background on Sen. Davis if you’re not familiar with her already, and here are five contributions you can make to support the cause of reproductive freedom. Everybody was fundraising off of this last night, so I’ll leave it at that.

All other points aside, if you want a reminder of what this is all about, read stina’s very personal story. Sen. Wendy Davis read many stories like that as part of her filibuster, because that’s what this was all about. If you’re not inspired, I don’t know what could inspire you. For the ironic last word, see Texas Redistricting.

UPDATE: The final verdict after the chaos died down is that SB5 did not pass because it was not voted on until after midnight, so by the state Constitution it could not have been voted on and thus cannot be enrolled. Nice to know that at least one rule was still in effect for the Senate.

I really have to wonder what Dewhurst et al were thinking. Everyone knew they were ultimately going to win – it was just a matter of how long it took and how they got there. Imagine if at 6 PM or so, after Davis had been talking for seven hours, instead of trying to stop her via ridiculous points of order, they simply announced that SB5 had been withdrawn, brought the other measures to a vote, and adjourned. Then, while everyone who had been Standing With Wendy began to celebrate, Rick Perry announced that Special Session #2 would begin tomorrow, and abortion restrictions would be the only agenda item. Sure, that would take another week or so to get done, but it would have avoided last night’s clusterfsck, kept Davis from becoming a national icon (while also preventing Sen.s Watson and Van de Putte from raising their profiles as well), and completely crushed the energy and spirit of Davis’ supporters. Now they have to have a second session anyway, and the Republican leadership looks like a Keystone Kops tribute band. Tell me that wouldn’t have been a vastly better outcome for them. Texpatriate, BOR, and Wonkblog have more.

RIP, Section 5

By now you are well aware that SCOTUS has dealt a blow to the Voting Rights Act. They actually left Section 5, which is what requires certain parts of the country (including Texas) to get preclearance on voting-related changes, intact, but instead ruled that Section 4, which defined who was under the purview of Section 5, was unconstitutional. While Congress could update the VRA to fix this, I think we all know that ain’t gonna happen with the House under GOP control and the Republicans going full-bore on a white voter strategy. As such, the practical effect is that Section 5 is dead, or at least in a long-term coma.

There’s a ton of coverage out there – Greg has a good link roundup – and there’s not much I can say about the overall implications of this that someone else hasn’t said already. I want to focus on the Texas effects, and for that we turn to Texas Redistricting, who covers two of the three things I want to focus on.

Redistricting

The Texas Legislature completed the process this weekend of adopting the 2012 interim maps as permanent maps (with just the most minor of changes to the state house map). Those bills now are on Gov. Perry’s desk, awaiting signature.

On the other hand, right now, there is no longer any preclearance bar, and the maps passed by the Texas Legislature back in 2011 are technically legally operative (Plan C185, Plan S148, Plan H283).

Governor Perry now has to decide what to do next.

In some Republican quarters, there conceivably could be a call for return to those maps.

At the same time, if the state’s goal is to minimize the risk of litigation and the possibility of yet another delayed primary, moving forward with the interim maps is the state’s best hope of doing so – short of a full settlement with minority groups.

That’s because the interim maps incorporated changes based, in part, on what the San Antonio court found were non-section 5 problems with the maps (e.g., fracturing of non-Anglo communities in Dallas and Tarrant counties addressed through the creation of CD-33).

But internal party politics can be unpredictable, and it remains to be seen how things play out.

Regardless, whatever the maps end up being, they will head back to the San Antonio court which, over the next few weeks (months) will decide what additional changes need to be made to the maps to fully address constitutional and section 2 claims, including claims of intentional discrimination.

If the court cannot complete the process by early September (or end of September at the very latest), it may need to put another set of interim maps in place to allow the 2014 election cycle to go forward with minimal disruption.

Voter ID

The situation on the voter ID front is a bit less convoluted.

Texas’ voter ID law now can be legally implemented.

To be sure, the Department of Public Safety and election officials will have to take steps to be implement the law, but it is very possible those steps can be completed in time for the law to be in place for municipal and constitutional amendment elections in November 2013. If not, the law will almost certainly be fully operative by the 2014 Texas primary in March.

Don’t count on the litigation to be over, however. It is possible that groups opposing the law could bring a suit to enjoin enforcement of the law on section 2 or constitutional grounds. To get an injunction, though, they would have to meet the high standard for injunctive relief (irreparable harm, substantial likelihood of success on the merits, etc.)

I’d say it’s a lead pipe cinch that a lawsuit to block or overturn Texas’ voter ID law will be filed. It was far more restrictive than many other such laws, some of which were struck down in the courts on non-Section 5 grounds last year. The preclearance lawsuit also established that there was discriminatory intent in the law, which ought to help the eventual plaintiffs’ case. AG Greg Abbott has already announced that the law will go into effect “immediately”, so I’d say it’s just a matter of time before that lawsuit gets filed. For sure, the first goal will be to get an injunction against enforcing the law before this November’s election. In the meantime, DPS will provide free voter ID cards for people who don’t have drivers’ licenses, assuming they can get to a DPS office and can scrounge up a copy of their birth certificate or concealed handgun license. While you ponder that, go sign the petition in favor of making voting a right and not just a privilege that can be taken away by legislative or judicial whim.

As for redistricting, this goes back to my original puzzlement about Abbott pushing for the interim maps to be legislatively ratified. Everyone was betting all along that Section 5 was doomed, so why give up the maximalist strategy for the maps? From a timing perspective, this could hardly be worse for the Texas GOP. They went through all this trouble to get these maps passed, are they possibly going to say “oh, never mind” and go back to pushing for what they passed in 2011? I kind of doubt that they will – as Texas Redistricting noted, the interim maps were a stab at addressing Section 2 problems, not Section 5 issues – but you have to wonder what might have happened if this decision had been in the first batch, before all the bills were voted on. And as always, you never know what Rick Perry will do.

The third point I wanted to touch on was addressed by K12 Zone.

One of the few remaining hurdles the state faces in shutting down the North Forest school district appears to have been removed with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday.

Houston attorney Chad Dunn, who specializes in voting rights, said the court’s 5-4 ruling means that the Texas Education Agency no longer needs to get pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to dissolve North Forest and annex it into the Houston Independent School District on Monday.

“Now they can move forward with annexation unless or until a judge enjoins it,” said Dunn, who was in the Washington, D.C., courtroom when the ruling was issued Tuesday.

There is still litigation ongoing, plus a new motion filed with the State Supreme Court to hold things off. But the Justice Department involvement in the annexation was a wild card that is now off the table. The odds of North Forest going away on Monday just got a little better. PDiddie, Daily Kos, Wonkblog, Texpatriate, Political Animal, the Observer, and the Trib have more.

UPDATE: One more great link roundup from Slactivist.

HISD budgets for teacher pay raise and more Apollo

Whether that will mean a tax hike, and if so how much, remains undetermined.

Houston ISD employees will see a 2 percent pay raise and many schools will receive more money to help struggling students under the budget that trustees approved on a 6-3 vote Monday.

Left unsettled was whether property owners will face an increase in the tax rate next year. The school board won’t adopt the rate until October.

The district’s financial chief, Ken Huewitt, said after the board meeting that the budget will require a 4-cent increase in the tax rate unless circumstances change. Property values may rise more than expected, for example, or the board could agree to cut programs or dip into savings.

“We’re talking 4 cents if nothing changes,” Huewitt said.

[…]

Trustees Juliet Stipeche and Mike Lunceford, who voted against the budget, expressed concerns about the effectiveness of Grier’s reform program called Apollo. The spending plan continues the program at 20 schools while giving another 126 campuses with low test scores extra money to spend on tutoring or other efforts to boost achievement.

Board president Anna Eastman, who also opposed the budget, said she disagreed with distributing money based on overall school results rather than tying funds to needy students at any campus.

See here for the background. There won’t need to be an increase to cover the construction bonds that were issued last year, thanks to rising property values, so any increase will be driven by these items. The pay raise was a must – among other things, some nearby school districts have bumped their teachers’ pay, so HISD needed to keep up or risk losing talent. Sure is nice when a job market operates like that, isn’t it? As for Apollo, it remains controversial. There’s a lot more one can say about it, but that about sums it up.