Monday, May 11, 2009

Showdown looming on voter ID bill

The bill requiring personal identification at Texas polls in order to be able to cast a ballot was passed out of its legislative committee today with the Republican chairman predicting its defeat.

Capitol Annex reports that a Democrat -- Joe Heflin -- helped vote the bill onto the floor. But Todd Smith still doesn't think it will pass:

"I just don't think the votes are there."

"It's pretty clear you can pass a bill like the Senate passed out when you have a 19-12 majority. It's not clear that you can pass that or anything else on this subject with a 76-74 majority in which we have some very independently minded people who make up those marginal votes," said Smith.

So far, Smith's efforts to find a bipartisan compromise have failed.

"You have to have significant numbers of people on both sides of the aisle accept the notion that it's going to be something other than a partisan cram-down," Smith said.

Many Republicans have said they will support the bill only if it contains tough photo identification requirements, while Democrats have said they want additional voter identification documents as well as expanded voter registration efforts. The Democrats control the field because several moderate Republicans are likely to vote against the bill, giving the Democrats a majority to kill it.

"Unless we develop a more pragmatic approach member by member and a stronger desire to reach some bipartisan compromise, then my guess is it's somewhat less than 50 percent to pass a bill," Smith said. "It's clear some members are interested in making a statement. They're not interested in passing a bill."

Lots of others have covered this in the run-up to next week's showdown. See also Rep. Aaron Pena's blog, Elise Hu at Political Junkie, DMN's Trail Blazers, and Gardner Selby's Postcards from the Lege. Update: And Burnt Orange.

Update II: The TDP press release lines up both Smith and Speaker Joe Straus in its sights:

... Smith had stated that the Voter ID bill should expand access and not take effect immediately, while the Senate bill does nothing to expand access and would take effect immediately.

A look at Chairman Smith’s statements:

· "It is my intent to have a part of the legislation that is intended to assure that the net effect of the legislation is to expand access and not restrict it." [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 4/22/09].

· "It's not something that's going to take effect immediately." [San Angelo Standard-Times, 3/29/09].

“Todd Smith may talk a good game, but when pressured by the right-wing of his party, he allowed a bill to move forward even though it failed the standards he set in committee hearings and public statements,” observed Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Ruben Hernandez. “Smith has punted his principles and soon Texans will see if Speaker Straus will fumble his opportunity to prove that he is a leader who will not allow the priorities of the Texas House to be dictated by a narrow partisan agenda.”

Update III: And Kuffner ...

The alleged "problem" that this bill is supposed to address is rarer than getting hit by lightning while being eaten by a shark, yet it's been deemed the single most important issue facing Texas today by those who fear for their electoral future if those damn voters can't be stopped. One certainly could have put forth a bill that would have genuinely addressed legitimate issues, ranging from verifiable audit trails to obstacles to getting registered to actual fraud involving absentee ballots, but Smith's Republican colleagues have never been interested in passing such a bill, as they have made perfectly clear. Given all this, the most sensible thing to do would have been to conclude that there are many more pressing issues that require the Lege's attention, but that wasn't gonna happen, either. So from the GOP's perspective, they either get a half a loaf, ot they get what they think will be a juicy campaign issue, or possibly both. You have to give them credit for keeping on with the wedge issues in the age of Obama, for however much longer that will work. I suppose if your piano only has one key, you play that note for all it's worth and hope nobody notices how monotonic you are.

Update IV
: From Harvey Kronberg, on Heflin's aye ...

In the wake of today’s committee vote on Voter ID, some members of the Democratic caucus are expressing dismay with Joe Heflin’s vote to kick out the bill. One Democratic lawmaker, who asked that he not be named, said the caucus was unhappy with the Crosbyton Democrat for giving Republicans the opportunity to say that Voter ID had bipartisan support in committee.

Democrats acknowledge that Heflin could not have stopped the bill, because Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) presumably would have voted aye if he became the deciding vote. As it was, Heflin’s aye vote gave Bonnen the cover to vote against a bill that he considered not strong enough.

For his part, Heflin disagreed with his colleague’s assessment, saying that he made plain his disappointment with the bill when he voted today. He said that people in his district want a Voter ID bill so he was voting his district by supporting the Senate version of the Voter ID bill today.

Classic Wanda

Not over the top at all.


Wanda Sykes' comedy routine at the White House Correspondent's Dinner was really offensive. In it, Sykes suggested that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is supported by Hamas, and that Islamists are "constantly issuing Limbaugh talking points." She joked about terrorists supporting conservatives in general, suggesting that recent violent events in Iraq are attempts by terrorists to swing the upcoming midterm elections in favor of Republicans.

Then she got really personal. She joked that Limbaugh was a racist who doesn't want black people to "escap[e] the underclass." She accused him of being responsible for killing "a million babies a year," and aired her friend's theory that Limbaugh himself was a terrorist attack," a followup to 9/11. She also, most disgustingly, said that if conservatives kept apologizing to Limbaugh, they'd eventually contract "anal poisoning." She wondered when Republicans would finally stop "bending over and grabbing their ankles" for Limbaugh, and finally concluded that Limbaugh was just a "bad guy."

Oh wait. Wanda Sykes didn't say any of these things. These are things Rush Limbaugh has said about Obama or other Democrats in the past year, the kind of statements few reporters found offensive enough to write about, despite the fact that most of them were said with the utmost seriousness. And while Sykes is a mere comedian whose influence on the Democratic Party is negligible, Limbaugh's influence in the party is so great that Republican leaders can't even criticize him without having to issue apologies after the fact.

Post Cinco de Mom-o Wrangle

Time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up.

The city of DISH, TX is one of several municipalities that have already adopted a resolution calling for the repeal of Big Oil's exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act. TXsharon gives DISH a high-five and hopes your group, organization, club, city or county will do the same, at Bluedaze.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad the internets have Texas Progressive Alliance! The Republicans have their house of cards and a batsh*t crazy base.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees danger in the watered down, dumbed down attempt to educate students by committee. Sanitized History, Truth or Consequences is an example of why education needs serious attention.

Houston political reporter Jane Ely passed away this week. PDiddie collected some recollections of her life at Brains and Eggs.

WhosPlayin was totally absorbed in the municipal elections in Lewisville, and was glad to see conservative radio talk host Winston Edmondson soundly defeated by 30 points in his bid to turn Lewisville into the next Farmers Branch.

Is it a good idea to give TXDOT it's own taxpayer funded investment bank? Yeah, McBlogger doesn't think so, either.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker thinks it is time to reconsider moral absolutism in politics. He talks about how Obama made progress on this issue nationally and how his tactics may apply in Texas. Check out his posting:Moral Absolutism and Politics - What Obama's Victory Has to Say to Texas Progressives

Off the Kuff takes a look at the latest polls in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has a wrap-up of the action taken on the TxDOT Sunset bill in the House last week: CDA/PPP’s kicked to House Transportation Committee.

Neil at Texas Liberal writes that using Twitter in politics may well have the effect of further isolating a narrow elite from the larger mass of folks.

Vince at Capitol Annex discusses the right wing's e-mail lobbying campaign against legislation that would have subjected the State Board of Education to sunset review provisions.

And Teddy (aka Liberal Texan) at Left of College Station is back after a month-long hiatus and blogging as one of the newest members of the Texas Progressive Alliance. This past week he covered the Bryan city council election (despite being uncontested) and the College Station city council election campaign for Place 4 and Place 6.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lazarus has nothing on the Rockets

Aaron Brooks danced about the middle of the floor, his red-hot right hand raised and held above his head as the 18,313 at Toyota Center roared at levels they have rarely reached before.

Brooks had just thrown himself hard to the court in pursuit of a loose ball, tearing it away from Trevor Ariza before getting up to nail a 3-pointer for a 27-point Rockets lead that inspired even Phil Jackson to halt things with a timeout, the only way the Lakers could stop the Rockets all afternoon.

Reeling hours earlier from the loss of center Yao Ming for the season, the Rockets took it out on the Lakers, dominating the game from the start to take a stunning 99-87 win to send the Western Conference semifinals back to Los Angeles tied two games apiece.

Whatever else they do or don't accomplish this season, the Rockets have already earned -- with their Game 1 upset in LA, and this win without Yao today -- an A-plus in determination, heart, and guts.