by Cody Permenter
[Ed. Note: Published in The Texas Tribune Friday, January 25, 2013. CLICK HERE to read the original.]
Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Friday the creation of the Choose Life Advisory Committee, which will make recommendations for the use of funds from the sale of “Choose Life” license plates created by Texas lawmakers in 2011.
The committee was formed in response to SB 257, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, and state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, which required the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a special “Choose Life” license plate. The program was authorized at the same time lawmakers cut funding for state family planning programs by two-thirds — $73 million — in the 2012-13 budget.
The funds raised by the license plates will be allocated to organizations that encourage adoption over abortion.
“Every child’s chance in life starts with a chance at life,” Abbott said.
Sales of the license plates have been three times greater than originally projected and have generated more than $30,000.
The committee is made of four women and two men. The members include Judy Canon, former regional coordinator for the Gladney Center for Adoption; Carol Everett, CEO of Heidi Group, a nonprofit that assists girls and women through unplanned pregnancies; Kathy Haigler, a board member of Texas Alliance for Life; Lois Kerschen, president of Democrats for Life of Texas; Matt Kouri, chairman of the Texas Adoption Review Committee; Mikeal Love, a gynecologist from Austin; and Julie Stobbe, founder of Act of Life, an adoption awareness organization.
Abbott said funds from the license plates would go exclusively to centers that encourage adoption and that he will be relying heavily on recommendations of the committee when allocating the money.
According to Choose Life America, an advocacy group for the license plates, 29 states offer similar plates. Some states, though, have rejected the plates as unconstitutional.
A federal judge ruled in December that the anti-abortion license plates were unconstitutional in North Carolina unless an option for abortion rights advocates was also offered.
Abbott said that he hasn’t seen a valid legal challenge from opponents of the license plates in Texas, which he described as an extension of freedom of speech. When pressed about potential exceptions to abortion, such as if the life of the mother is at risk, Abbott said that the mission of “Choose Life” was to protect all lives.
“When you start putting exceptions into that, you are saying that some children’s lives are not as important,” he said.
If yesterday’s news of “Battleground Texas” was an attempt to put Texas Republicans on the defensive, Texas Democrats might need to rethink the strategy. After all, when has Rick Perry ever played defense?
After waiting maybe a nano-second, Texas Republicans are striking back against Democratic claims that the Lone Star State will turn blue in our lifetimes. And they aren’t holding back.
“They can bring it on,” Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told Breitbart News, “they will be hard-pressed to make much progress with the proven success conservative policies have had in our state.”
Gov. Perry came out of the gates today with the same bold turn of phrase used by former president George W. Bush when he was declaring war on terrorists worldwide.
“Gov. Perry has remained vigilant in working with Republican state leadership to ensure we don’t back down,” Frazier told Breitbart News.
Jared Woodfill, chairman of Harris County Republican Party, told Texas on the Potomac that he doesn’t see “Battleground Texas” as a threat because the numbers point to continued Republican success.
“2010 was the best election cycle in the history of the Harris County Republican Party,” Woodfill told us. “I don’t think you can say anything but that Texas is red and getting more red.”
Although Woodfill said he doesn’t fear the challenge of “Battleground Texas,” he isn’t backing down. Woodfill’s goal over the next two year is to grow the GOP by making inroads into Democratic demographic strongholds, including the African American and Hispanic communities, which are among the identified targets of “Battleground Texas.”
Woodfill said he agrees with Gov. Perry’s statement, and that he doesn’t see a shade of purple appearing in the near future.
“He’s right, his point is and my point is, that we are ready for the fight, and we’re going to be more ready,” Woodfill said.
Gov. Perry and his supporters seem to be confident that sticking to conservative principles and policies will ensure continued dominance for Texas Republicans.
Matt Angle, director and founder of the Democratic “Lone Star Project,” said that he intends to work cooperatively with “Battleground Texas” to turn the state purple, on its way to blue. In response to what Angle described as Gov. Perry’s “arrogant and cynical” statements, the veteran Democratic strategist said it will ultimately benefit the Democratic cause.
Angle said that almost anywhere Gov. Perry campaigned last year, it helped Democrats more than Republicans. His reasoning: Perry doesn’t reflect the people of Texas. Angle said the Lone Star Project will work with Battleground Texas to promote a message for the everyday Texan.
“With Battleground Texas in place, the Lone Star Project is able to convey a message about how dramatic one party Republicans in Texas have failed,” Angle said.
Editor’s note: The Texas legislature will convene early next year. Housekeeping business will include the election of the Speaker of the Texas House. Currently that position is held by State Representative Joe Straus of San Antonio. Conservatives have long been suspicious of Representative Straus, and he recently survived a challenge in the GOP primary from Tea Party-supporter Matt Beebe. While Representative Straus claims he’s a friend of conservatives, he needs to let his staffers know and advise them to be more respectful of those “friends.”
The following November 4th article entitled “Private Emails From Texas Speaker Joe Straus’s Office Reveal War Against Conservatives” was written by Erick Erickson and is reposted here from RedState. Readers, be advised the following report will contain language many will find offensive. Given such crudeness and lack of civility, it isn’t surprising some of us aren’t thoroughly convinced Representative Straus is really conservative-friendly. To begin repairing this image, he might begin with the good ol’ Texas remedy of washing out his aides’ mouths with soap and apologizing to those “friends” they offended.
RedState has uncovered never-before-seen, profanity-laden e-mails between senior staff and legislative lieutenants of Texas’ liberal GOP House Speaker Joe Straus demonstrating disrespect for, and even hostility towards, grassroots activists and conservative lawmakers.
Tea party activists are called “idiots,” allies of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton are called “mother f***ers,” and decorated U.S. Marine and State Rep. Van Taylor is dismissed as “stupid,” by a top Straus political strategist.
Despite efforts by grassroots organizations, new media writers and others, most of the coordinated efforts against conservatives by Straus and his allies regarding Texas redistricting have been hidden from view. Speaker Straus has exerted various privileges and exemptions to keep the public from seeing emails or any other evidence of their activities. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has most or all the emails because of the re-districting litigation, but has not released them at the apparent request of his client, the Speaker.
However, in a batch of emails RedState has managed to get hold of (through other sources), it has become clear that Straus’ key strategists were openly hostile to conservatives. In particular, his top confidant Gordon Johnson (a Straus horseracing partner and former lobbyist) was clearly running the show — not the speaker’s chief of staff or other official office members.
But let’s be clear, this fits a pattern. Some readers may recall a post I wrote a few months back in the heat of the battle between Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst. In that, a friend in Austin detailed a conversation overheard at a coffee shop between a Dewhurst and a Straus staffer. The conversation was similarly dripping with disdain for the Tea Party and all things conservative.
Now, as a quick reminder, Joe Straus was elected Speaker by Texas House Democrats and a gang of 11 liberal Republicans back in 2009. I will get into Straus’s record again in a later post, but there are a host of reasons Democrats backed him – not the least of which is a questionable record on life, a penchant for “new revenue,” and a track record of obstructing the will of conservatives.
In late 2010, before the start of the legislative session, State Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola (now the conservative opposition candidate for speaker) came forward with charges that he was told conservative lawmakers would be punished if they opposed Mr. Straus’ re-election. He specifically testified under oath that it was clear Reps. Erwin Cain and Dan Flynn would be punished.
The investigating committee (appointed by Straus) took no action, despite the charges constituting a breach of law. When the re-districting process concluded, Messers. Cain and Flynn were indeed paired. Meanwhile, conservative stalwarts Wayne Christian and Jim Landtroop were drawn out of 80 percent of their districts.
The Straus team therefore successfully eliminated three of four conservative opponents, replacing them with representatives more compliant to Straus. Of course, because the grassroots conservatives understood what was happening, these three were the only Straus opponents to lose re-election. Meanwhile, a number of Straus supporters — including five committee chairs — lost re-election, and still other Straus allies chose to retire rather than be challenged in their primaries.
But the looming question is whether the ongoing threats by Straus will lock down the race for speaker yet again.
These e-mails from the redistricting process shed new light on just how dismissive the Straus team was of Republican Party and conservative efforts to draw more fair districts – and should serve as a warning bell to the new House that it is time for Straus to go.
When the state’s Republican Executive Committee expressed concerns about the maps drawn for the state’s board of education, Straus lawyer and failed legislative candidate Eric Opiela expressed disdain for committee chairman (and Tea Party activist) Jason Moore in an email to other Straus allies, sarcastically saying, “need I say more.” Straus’ legal counsel said he did not “really trust” Moore – presumably because — in the words of Mr. Johnson — Moore “gave us hell.”
In fact, the Straus team had far more than just distrust for conservative input. Two long-standing House members — Wayne Christian, of Center, and Phil King, of Weatherford — were talking with members about ways to improve the maps. But Straus confidant and redistricting committee chairman Burt Solomons of Carrollton would hear none of it. In an email to Straus’ chief of staff, Denise Davis, he wrote: “Just got up… f**k Wayne & Phil. Let’s go to the Floor.” Straus’ official counsel replied, “Couldn’t agree more.” While Straus’ chief of staff, Denise Davis, wrote approvingly, “I love Burt!”
But, again, it appears Davis was just a cheerleader, not actually in charge. That fell to consultant Gordon Johnson. And it was Johnson who, it appears, was setting the tone opposing conservatives.
In one mid-June 2011 e-mail, Gordon Johnson refers to decorated Marine hero and State Rep. Van Taylor of Plano as “stupid” and “impolite” for having posted to Twitter news that a senior lawmaker wasn’t going to give early support to Straus.
The problem was that legislators clearly knew supporting Joe Straus was politically dangerous leaving the 2011 legislative session and preparing for 2012’s elections. (As noted, record numbers of Straus allies lost re-election bids, while others — like Mr. Solomons — chose to retire rather than lose primaries.) As a result, House members refused to sign the traditional “pledge cards” to the incumbent speaker for the next session.
Similarly, when Straus adviser Eric Opiela forwarded along information from a Tea Party activist, Straus consultant and close friend Gordon Johnson wrote that they were “doing battle with idiots.”
Apparently one such “idiot” was Kaufman County Tea Party chairman Ray Myers who called Straus’ office upset by the previously mentioned pairing of Mr. Flynn and Mr. Cain. An email describing the call by Straus aide Tyler Rutherford inconveniently noted that Myers said House Speaker Joe Straus “promised through a surrogate not to do this.”
Reminding Mr. Straus and his allies of their promises clearly wasn’t welcome.
Another person helping the Straus team draw maps was Lee Padilla, the “Central-West Regional Political Director” for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Apparently he and others on the Straus team did not like getting input from the friends of US Rep. Joe Barton. He referred to them as “Barton mother f**kers.”
Other concerns are being raised by various House members, Republican and Democrat alike, about the depths to which the redistricting process was abused by the Straus team.
In the next 72 hours, right after the election, members of the Texas House will have to begin considering who they will support for the speakership in 2013 — Mr. Straus, a self-described moderate dripping with disdain for conservatives, or the conservative Bryan Hughes.
These emails appear to me to be just the tip of the iceberg. Straus is a known liberal who was empowered predominantly by Democrats, and has held on to power through threats and intimidation. Conservatives in Texas have been fighting back; the question now is whether House Republicans in Texas will do what they have been elected to do… and stand up against Straus.
If you live in Texas, make sure your representative knows what to do.
Normally you read such stories coming from those elitist, progressive communities, perhaps in liberal New England or out on the left coast. So it catches one’s attention when we read about it happening in our own backyard.
Can a lady voting in Williamson County, north of Austin, really be refused a vote because she’s wearing an “offensive” shirt that proclaims “Vote the Bible”? Apparently so, according to a story reported by Texas Values and carried by Fox News and the Austin’s Statesman.com.
On October 24, Williamson County election workers at the Taylor City Hall polling place told Kay Hill, a grandmother, that before she would be allowed to vote she had to turn her shirt inside out, go home and change, or cover up the words “Vote the Bible” because they may be “offensive.” Ms. Hill ultimately complied and was forced to cover up the words “Vote the Bible” so she could vote.
This is a clear attack on religious freedom–no person should be put in the position of having to choose religious freedom over deciding to vote. Texas Values is assisting Ms. Hill and has formally requested that Williamson County apologize to Ms. Hill and allow the shirt to be worn at the polls. Rick Barron, the Williamson County Elections Administrator, has defended the ban.
Obviously a simple misunderstand that will be resolved with an apology, right? Not so fast! Texas Values now reports Williamson County government officials have refused to apologize and have instead harshly responded to Ms. Hill’s request, stating “officials won’t apologize.” And now Rick Barron has reduced himself to name-calling, saying that Ms. Hill is “politically naive.”
Ms. Hill has shared that she was “embarrassed, humiliated, and offended” by the election officials. The SATP, and any freedom-of-speech-loving patriot, is disappointed that Williamson County officials would continue their mistreatment of Ms. Hill—first calling her Bible t-shirt “offensive” and then personally calling her names. The County had an opportunity to do the right thing and apologize, but they have chosen not to. Texas Values is now assisting Ms. Hill in filing a formal complaint with the Texas Secretary of State’s office regarding this matter.
Last week at the 2012 Republican Party of Texas State Convention in Ft. Worth, Tea Partiers were well represented. In fact, some who are part of the San Antonio Tea Party attended the convention, representing themselves and not the SATP, but expressing through the political party apparatus their heart-felt conservative convictions. Judging from our report last week (“Perry Down, Cruz Up at State GOP,” ), they were not alone. We encourage those who attended to add their comments at the bottom of this article.
The following report is from Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The Fort Worth Star Telegram said Sullivan “slays taxpayer dragons in Austin…. When the heat is on in Austin, Michael Quinn Sullivan knows how to make it even hotter.” Dubbed one of the 25 most influential Texans by Texas Monthly, Sullivan is known for holding politicians’ feet to the fire. A former newspaper reporter, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president, Sullivan lives in Austin with his family. This June 12th report is reprinted from Empower Texans.
Included in the 2012 Republican Party Platform, adopted this weekend in Fort Worth, is a plank calling on House members to do something they’ve never done before: hold town hall meetings on legislative leadership. Let’s see how many of them actually do it.
The platform, adopted this last week in Fort Worth, called on Republican legislators to “hold public town hall meetings in which the voters can express their wishes and thoughts about the leadership for the 83rd Session.”
Republican lawmakers are also urged to do away with the secretive “pledge card” system in which lawmakers swear fealty to an incumbent speaker in exchange for campaign support.
Finally, the party platform urges Republican House members to select the speaker in caucus by “secret ballot so that members may vote without risk of retribution by the prevailing party.” In 2011, the Republican caucus met behind closed doors, but had members stand if they opposed re-electing Joe Straus. It is reported that only 30 members were willing to risk retribution and stood against the moderate incumbent.
These planks are part of the evolving response to the recent court finding that for the past 40 years Texans were unconstitutionally restricted from participating in the selection of the third-ranking constitutional officer in the state, the Speaker of the House.
With the so-called “speaker statute,” and the corrupting system that arose around it, a thing of the past, it is time for lawmakers to start actively engaging with their constituents on matters of legislative leadership.
There seems to be a common trait among politicians here in Texas, they all seem to want to pick a fight with Comrade President Barak Husain Obama. Let’s start with Attorney General Greg Abbott; he has filed suit against the man in the White House no less than eighteen times. The most recent suit was the Obama-care case which was heard by the Supreme Court just the month, but he has also defended the voter ID law and the redistricting map.
Then there is Fmr. Railroad Commissioner, Elizabeth Ames Jones; while the head of the Texas Railroad Commission she pushed back against Obama’s EPA (i.e. KGB) and their attempt to claim that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was the cause for contaminated water wells in Parker County. Jones compiled and reviewed the scientific facts and signed the order confirming the conclusion that the natural gas producer involved in the case was not at fault for the contaminated wells. The EPA admitted defeat and backed away from the claim. But the list of state officials that have been fighting against our Comrade-in-Chief and his Marxist appointees does not end there.
Among others are our own Jerry Patterson of the General Land Office, who joined in with Jones and Abbott against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the Sand Dunes Lizard and the Earless Spotted Tailed Lizard. You see these two species have been vanishing because of fire ants and feral hogs so naturally the Wildlife Service is blaming the oil and gas industry. So these folks compiled the scientific data, in sort of a tag team fight, and are proving the Wildlife Service dead wrong.
Then there is our Governor, Rick Perry, who has been fighting to get more border security while bullets fly across the border hitting a university library and other public buildings.
The fight ain’t over yet, the rest of us get to join in on this fight in November. Election Day is November 6th and I for one, am itching for a fight.