Recently the Austin media published internal campaign memos from the Wendy Davis campaign depicting the dysfunction amongst Davis’s campaign staff leading up to her historic loss. In a January 2014 memo, Davis’s political consultants clashed with her campaign manager over the campaign’s liberal image. In one telling comment, Davis consultants Peter Cari and Maura Dougherty criticized the campaign for allowing Davis to be described as being in favor of Obamacare, gun control, and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.
“Since the announcement … Wendy has been portrayed as being in favor of gun control, drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, and Obamacare. This is hardly the image we want to project. This is not a model where a candidate who appears this liberal and culturally out of touch gets elected statewide anywhere in the south – much less Texas … .”
But these positions – which top Democratic consultants viewed as too liberal even for Wendy Davis and “culturally out of touch” with Texas voters are precisely the positions of liberal Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and his lieutenants.
Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
Last session the chief project of State Affairs Committee chairman Byron Cook was passing drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. For this project, Cook worked with Dallas County Democrat Roberto Alonzo.
On April 26, 2013, House Bill 3206 by Alonzo was voted out of the House Committee on State Affairs – the committee tasked by the Speaker with handling the state’s most important and high profile legislation. The bill, which was coauthored by nearly the entire Democratic caucus, was supported by committee chairman Byron Cook, as well as Representative Charlie Geren, Straus’s House Administration Chairman and Representative Patricia Harless, Straus’s appointee as Chair of the Committee on Environmental Regulation.
Republican Representatives Harvey Hilderbran, Dan Huberty, and John Smithee were not present for the meeting. In a moment of cowardice depicted in the minutes, Lubbock Representative John Frullo skipped the vote on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants despite being present for votes on other legislation moments earlier.
But Cook was not finished there. When Alonzo’s bill failed to pass on the regular calendar, Cook went out of his way to try to pass the bill as an amendment. First he offered the bill as an amendment to Senate Bill 1729 before it was defeated on a point of order called by now-Senator Van Taylor. The next legislative day, on third reading, Cook attempted to offer the same amendment in a rump form as a test vote on the issue of drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. The amendment received Republican votes from Straus allies Byron Cook, Sarah Davis, Kyle Kacal, Jim Keffer, John Otto, Jim Pitts, J.D. Sheffield and Jason Villalba.
Byron Cook would go on to support one more attempt, an amendment to Senate Bill 1705, to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
Support for Obamacare
A different Straus-appointee has been responsible for advancing Obamacare in Texas. Rep. John Zerwas, a physician from Richmond, TX who maintains a very close relationship with the liberal Texas Medical Association spent his time during the last legislature working over fellow Republicans, attempting to get them to join the Democrats in implementing the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion. The medical establishment sees dollar signs in the expansion, even though the strings attached to the federal money could spell hardship for taxpayers in the near future.
Zerwas, one of three members in line to be appointed Appropriations Chair if Straus is reelected to a fourth term, was joined by the other two possible appointees, Rep. Drew Darby and Rep. John Otto, in embracing Obamacare. When the measure came up for a vote, Darby was a “resounding and unequivocal yes” for Obamacare.
Opposition to Second Amendment Rights
House Speaker Joe Straus and his team have not limited themselves to just the first two of the Davis consultants’ taboo issues, he has hampered efforts to expand gun rights as well.
As we recently explained in full detail, Straus and his appointees have satisfied his puppet masters in the higher education establishment by preventing “campus carry” reforms.
During Straus’s first session in 2009, a bill to allow CHL holders to carry concealed handguns on college campuses was killed when Straus enabled Democrats in their infamous “chub” of the local and consent calendar. In the most recent session, Straus would only allow to the floor a neutered campus carry bill that contained an opt-out provision for liberal administrators. Even at that, Straus and his allies were able to rely on the Democrats in the Senate and the two thirds rule to prevent the modest reform from passing to the Governor’s desk.
But it was during the 82nd legislature in 2011 that Straus engaged in his greatest effort to kill campus carry. With the help of liberal Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, Straus was able to gut a higher education bill that was carrying a campus carry proposal and ensure that it would be subject to a point of order when it reached the House floor.
Straus and his Republican allies are forced to maintain appearances on the issue of Second Amendment rights, but each session they work to find ways to curtail the movement in Texas.
Straus Enablers Give Wendy the Veto
Texans rejected Wendy Davis and her campaign by historic numbers precisely because she was open about her liberal priorities. By overwhelming numbers, Texans oppose amnesty measures for illegal aliens, oppose Obamacare, and support Second Amendment rights. However, many Republicans in Austin who cower before a culture of timidity are prepared to give a veto over conservative reforms to masquerading politicians who share Wendy’s values and priorities.
By overwhelming numbers, voters in March, May, and November gave our elected servants a mandate for conservative reform. Those who choose to ignore that mandate, and enable the obstruction of the conservative agenda, should prepare to face stiff opposition when they return to their districts.