Paul Brown

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Perry issues statement of support for Regent Hall

Gov. Rick Perry today issued a statement of support for UT System Regent Wallace Hall. A select House committee is drawing up articles of impeachment against Hall, who has been accused of conducting a “witch hunt” against UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Here’s the governor’s statement:

“Wallace Hall should be commended for his persistence – in the face of overwhelming opposition from bureaucrats – in trying to ensure the institutions of higher education under his purview are operating effectively, efficiently and within the law. Hall is doing exactly what every regent and every appointee in the State of Texas should be doing: asking tough questions, gathering facts and searching for the truth. Even the chairman of the Board of Regents has said Hall did not commit an impeachable offense or a crime. Texans should be outraged by his treatment, and deeply concerned it will have a chilling effect on those who are tasked with the oversight of state agencies and institutions that they are responsible for.”

Court stays execution of Robert Campbell

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Robert Campbell, who was scheduled to die Tuesday evening. The ruling is based on Campbell’s attorneys’ argument that new evidence shows Campbell is intellectually disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public,” Robert Owen, one of Campbell’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.”

Campbell’s attorneys want their client’s sentence to be reduced to life imprisonment.

Part of the three-judge panel’s written decision reads, “Because of the unique circumstances of this case, Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty. In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”

Today’s decision comes two weeks after a botched execution in Oklahoma, where the inmate sat up, spoke and eventually died of a heart attack. Campbell’s attorneys had initially requested a stay based on that execution, arguing that Texas’ secrecy about its drug manufacturers could lead to the same outcome. That request was denied by the Fifth Circuit of Appeals.

Update: Ron Paul endorses David Dewhurst

Updated to include Dewhurst statement.

Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul has endorsed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his GOP primary runoff re-election bid. Dewhurst faces State Sen. Dan Patrick, who came in first in the four-candidate field back in March.

According to a story by Brietbart Texas, Paul’s support of Dewhurst comes following Thursday’s endorsement of Dewhurst by former lieutenant governor candidate, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Paul, a former presidential candidate with a huge following from both Tea Party faithful and Libertarians, had endorsed Patterson during the primary. Patterson ended in fourth place in the initial field of candidates that also included Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who came in third. Staples has said he will not endorse anyone in the runoff.

Update:

Dewhurst released this statement in response to Paul’s endorsement:

“I am humbled to earn the support of a straight-talking Texan like Ron Paul. As well as anyone, he shares my deep and abiding concern that an out-of-control federal government is one of the greatest threats to individual liberties in our time. That concern has driven my successful efforts to stop the expansion of Medicaid, keep Texas out of the Obamacare exchanges and secure funding to secure the Texas border in the face of Washington’s abject failure. As his supporters get a closer look at my track record of cutting taxes, limiting spending and keeping government out of people’s way. I look forward celebrating a victory with them after the runoff vote on May 27th and again in November.”

 

UT reacts to Supreme Court ruling in Michigan admissions policy case

The University of Texas is reviewing Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a Michigan ban to use race as a factor in college admissions.

In a 6-2 ruling, the justices said voters had the right to change their state constitution to prohibit public colleges and universities from considering race as part of the admissions process. The decision reverses a lower court ruling.

Meantime, the University of Texas at Austin is awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel over its own admissions policy. The Supreme Court ruled on the Fisher v. University of Texas case last summer and sent it back down to the appeals court to enable a look at UT’s admissions policy under a more narrow set of standards.

Prospective student Abigail Fisher sued the university after being denied admission. Fisher, who is white, claimed she was the victim of racial discrimination because other, non-white students with lower test scores were admitted.

Reacting to Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Michigan case, UT President Bill Powers said that based on its preliminary review, the university does not believe it has any effect on UT’s admissions policy or decisions.

Powers added:

“In today’s ruling, the court recognized that the Schuette case from Michigan was not ‘about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.’ The court also reaffirmed that in the case of Fisher versus the University of Texas, the court ‘did not disturb the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met.’ UT Austin’s admissions policy meets those conditions and we are awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel. UT Austin uses race as one of many factors in our holistic review of applicants. Assembling a diverse student body is vital to the education of all students on campus and helps train the future leaders of our state and nation who will increasingly work in a diverse and global society.”

Reaction mixed over abortion ruling

The political reaction was quick to today’s court ruling that parts of the state’s abortion law are unconsitutional.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry indicated the abortion debate does not end with Monday’s decision.

“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently,” the governor said in a press release. “We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”

Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio also issued a statement soon after the ruling.

“I’m grateful that a Texas court agreed today that House Bill 2 would have had harmful effects on women’s access to care and affirmed that the Republican-controlled Legislature went too far in its attacks on women” she said. Van de Putte is considering a run for lieutenant governor.

Glass makes another bid for governor

The day before Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis’ announcement about a possible run for governor, someone else jumped into the race.

Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass announced she’s running in 2014 during an Austin news conference Wednesday morning at the Driskill Hotel.

Glass ran for governor in 2010, receiving a little more than 2 percent of the vote, to Governor Rick Perry’s 55 percent. Democrat Bill White pulled in 42 percent in that race.

She used the current federal government shutdown as an example of why she’s running again.

“This shutdown is just a glimpse of what might happen when there is a total collapse from Washington, because we know — the voters of Texas know — that Washington is broken,” Glass said. “The two-party system is corrupt and broken. They’ll never fix themselves and they can’t be reformed from within.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott and former Texas Worforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken are among the Republican candidates who have already annouced a run for governor.

As was the case in 2010, Glass is campaigning on a platform of limited government.

She said to expect a lot of active, serious Libertarian campaigns for a variety of offices this election cycle.

 

DOJ to file suit against Texas’ Voter ID Law

The Department of Justice will file a lawsuit challenging Texas’ Voter ID Law. In announcing the suit, the DOJ named the State of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The DOJ believes that the law “violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

In addition to the suit focused on Voter ID, the department also filed a motion to intervene in the ongoing redistricting case being considered by a federal three-judge panel in San Antonio.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released today. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights. The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had announced that the Voter ID Law would take effect immediately, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding part of the Voting Rights Act. That ruling suspended federal pre-clearance requirements for states with a history of discrimination in voting matters. The Justices determined that the pre-clearance formula was dated. Congress would have to come up with a new formula for that portion of the Voting Rights Act to be valid once again.

Walt named Perry’s chief of staff

Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday that Kathy Walt is his new chief of staff. Walt is actually returning to the governor’s office after a stint at the Lower Colorado River Authority, where she served as manager of governmental affairs.

“Kathy is a long-time trusted adviser and her continued service will be invaluable as she returns home to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Governor’s Office,” Perry said in a press release.

Walt, a former newspaper reporter, previously served as Perry’s deputy chief of staff and press secretary.

Perry also announced today that Jonathan Taylor will serve as his director of the Economic Development and Tourism Division. Taylor most recently served as director of the Enterprise Project Management Office at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

 

 

Mixed reaction to Holder’s comments on Texas voting laws

Texas political leaders are commenting on remarks made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Texas voting laws.

Holder told members of the National Urban League on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal court to require Texas to ask for permission before changing its election laws. The move follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentialy eliminated the use of a pre-clerance provision of the Voting Rights Act for states with a history of discrimination.

“Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Republican Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement released in response. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

Democratic State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston had a different take on Holder’s announcement.

“I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to join the lawsuit that would require Texas to submit all voting law changes for preclearance for the next decade,” Ellis said in his own statement released to the media.  “Anyone who thinks Texas doesn’t need continued oversight simply hasn’t been paying attention.”

Ellis added that, in his view, Texas has clearly shown a repeated and documented history of discrimination against minority voters, pointing to last year when he said Texas was singled out as the only state to pass redistricting maps which were deliberately discriminatory.

“This is hopefully just the first step,” Ellis said.  “Congress needs to take action [to] revamp the Voting Rights Act to create a formula which takes into account current and historical discrimination and bias while meeting the requirements the Supreme Court has set out.  Otherwise, the voting rights of millions of Americans are in peril.”

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was also quick to respond to Holder’s comments.

“By first going around the voters and now the Supreme Court, Attorney General Holder and President Obama’s intentions are readily transparent,” Cornyn said in a released statement. ” This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda. Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama Administration.”

Senate approves non-abortion measures

The Texas Senate took a pair of quick votes Thursday morning and approved transportation and criminal justice measures. Both are part of Gov. Rick Perry’s call during the 83rd Texas Legislature’s second special session, in addition to the highly-emotional issue of abortion regulation.

The transportation measure approved by the full Senate involves a proposed constitutional amendment that would pump $900 million annually into road building from oil and gas taxes. If approved by members of the House, the measure would go to voters in November because it involves tapping into the state’s savings account, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.

Many lawmakers point out that this is only a partial fix, since Texas transportation leaders say the state needs about $4 billion more for roads per year just to meet current traffic needs. Meantime, the House is working on a different transportation measure, so it’s uncertain if the Senate’s version will get that chamber’s approval.

The Senate Thursday also approved a bill that updates Texas law following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning sentences of life in prison for 17-year-old capital murder defendants.