Today's Fair Shots - July 11th, 2017
1-'Sunset and Sine Die' a New Rally Cry for Special Session
2-Bill Would Repeal 'Show Me Your Papers' Immigration Law Before It Takes Effect
3-Workers at Nissan Plant in Mississippi File for Union Representation Election
1) Gov. Greg Abbott yesterday issued a formal proclamation ahead of the special legislative session that begins a week from tomorrow and lawmakers responded by filing dozens of bills.
The issues in the session include a variety of state power grabs (among them the Paycheck Deception bill that would take away the freedom of public employees to spend their own paychecks on labor organization dues through payroll deduction). But arguably only one bill must pass. The Houston Chronicle editorial board is suggesting lawmakers take care of that matter and then go home. Lapel pins declaring "Sunset and Sine Die" are already making the rounds:
The must-have accessory for the sartorially inclined legislator during the special session won't be a seersucker suit for the hot Austin summer or custom-made boots from the legendary Rocky Carroll, who passed away last month.
No. The only thing legislators will need is a shiny little button that reads, "Sunset and Sine Die."
Those lapel pins represent a call for sanity during the special session, which begins July 18 and lasts up to 30 days: Approve the must-pass sunset bill and adjourn. Without that sunset bill, important state agencies like Texas Medical Board will be forced to shut down.
Everything else on the governor's agenda is little more than the wish list of campaign consultants desperate for the political equivalent of a sugar rush after a biennial session that failed to pass any truly appealing meat-and-potatoes bills.
The most likely outcome will be an abridged version of the regular six-month version: The Senate passes bad bills and the House blocks them. If Gov. Greg Abbott wants to see some real action after the sunset bill passes, he'll tell the Legislature to save the Battleship Texas from disrepair or address coastal storm surge protection. Or, if the governor is feeling gutsy, he could call for a school finance reform bill.
Instead, we're stuck with 19 issues that run the gamut from banal to bizarre.
There are items to override local voters on everything from tree regulations to permitting processes and municipal spending. There's a property tax proposal that restricts how locally elected governments can raise revenue but, as Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace wrote last week, won't actually reduce homeowners' bills. And there's, of course, the once-dead bathroom bill. Abbott has apparently taken a plunger to the Pink Dome commode where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, flushed the unnecessary statewide regulation on how transgender Texans use the potty.
At this point, Straus looks like the last sane man up in Austin. Texas Democrats are in a coma - Texas Monthly declared their Senate caucus to be little more than furniture under the Pink Dome. Pro-business conservatives, once the most powerful and prominent political creatures in Texas, are now an endangered species. Straus is one of the last survivors. But it wasn't concerns about boycotts or opposition from tech companies that convinced Straus to block the bathroom bill. Straus was moved by his own sheer humanity - a desire to stop the Legislature from bullying the weak.
Before the end of the regular session, Straus was presented with a compromise version of the bathroom bill that he had been assured was legally crafted to merely abridge local nondiscrimination ordinances. As Austin journalist Lawrence Wright describes in his must-read New Yorker article about Texas politics, Straus didn't even glance at the bill.
"I'm not a lawyer, but I am a Texan," he said. "I'm disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don't want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."
There's a documented pattern of depression and suicide in the transgender community, but no pattern of transgender Texans assaulting folks in restrooms.
We have a state maternal mortality rate on par with developing nations and a failing school finance system that increasingly relies on property taxes. Those issues get little more than a task force or commission during the special session.
But when it comes to the political red meat, no expense is spared hoisting transgender Texans into the spotlight and promising to use government power to halt the menace that has apparently invaded our stalls and urinals.
If you want things to change, then start thinking now about donating to and volunteering for the right candidates in the March 2018 primary and November 2018 election. Look for Texans who believe that government should be run with a heart as big as the Lone Star State. That's the sort of attitude we hope will never go out of style up in Austin.
Until then: Sunset and sine die.
2) Perhaps the best bill out of dozens filed yesterday that are mainly reruns is HB 53 by Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, which would repeal the "show me your papers" SB 4. The bill stands virtually no chance in this Legislature - a federal court may offer a better shot at repeal - but the Texas Observer reports the high hopes:
"My hope is that representatives, as they've gone home and done their research, maybe they understand we rushed to pass SB 4 without understanding its full extent, and the economic impact it's going to have on our state," Romero told the Observer.
Romero, a Fort Worth Democrat, said he thinks the state will face boycotts similar to those Arizona once faced over its own "show me your papers" law. At least one group - the American Immigration Lawyers Association - has already pulled its yearly convention from Texas...
Critics of SB 4 say the law further discourages immigrants from reporting crimes to the police, and evidence from Houston and Austin already bolsters their claims. "There are times I literally can't sleep at night from the thoughts of what has already begun to happen," Romero said.
Here is the official proclamation put out by Abbott on the sunset bill, followed by what amounts to an unofficial draft proclamation on the other 19 agenda items he put forward:
3) The Payday Report's Mike Elk passes along word of a union election filing at the Nissan plant in Mississippi. The 6,000-worker plan will become another front in the effort to Organize the South:
Yesterday, the United Auto Workers filed a petition with the NLRB asking for a vote for the 6,500- worker plant in Canton, Mississippi. If successful, the vote would top off a historic 14-year long campaign to unionize the plant and would be a major breakthrough for efforts to organize the South.
The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for statement about its filing. They intend to hold a press conference in Canton tomorrow to announce their drive.
Sources tell Payday Report that they proposed bargaining unit will include all hourly production and maintenance employees at the plant. The UAW expects Nissan to dispute the size of the bargaining unit, so it is unclear exactly how many workers will be in the proposed bargaining unit.
Workers at the plant say they are hoping to unionize in order to improve working conditions. Starting wages at the plant are a mere $13.50 an hour. Many workers are also forced to work as temps for years before being hired on full time.
"They just keep folks in line by forcing them to work as temps," says Calvin Moore, who has worked the plant for nearly a decade. "People are afraid to speak up about problems because they are hoping to become permanent employees and get that big raise."
In addition, the plant has a history of being cited for safety concerns.