Today's Fair Shots - August 16, 2017
4-Two Texas Congressional Districts Must Be Redrawn, Federal Judges Rule, Finding Discriminatory Intent
5-Texas Leading Attack on 'Dreamers' on 5th Anniversary of DACA; Protest at Paxton's Office Leads to Arrests
1) The Texas House yesterday adjourned sine die (Latin for "without a day") after 29 days of a special session, approving some of Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda and leaving the rest dead on the vine. At this writing, the Texas Senate is left with one thing to do: Consider whether it can accept the House's version of the property tax bill (SB 1) or potentially propel the Legislature into another special session.
Dead bills include SB 7 (the payroll dues deduction bill), SB 3 (the "bathroom bill"), Abbott's proposal for private school vouchers and a mélange of the worst proposals seeking to take power from local government.
Before ending its participation in the session, the Texas House swallowed a major concession by approving a scaled-down school bill and funding mechanism. As Texas AFT has warned repeatedly, the bill does not go far (if anywhere) and, worse, sets a precedent of providing funding for open-enrollment charter school facilities.
We will have more analysis of all that happened when we have a better view of how the session is ending and whether another one will begin.
As noted in yesterday's e-mail, the defeat of SB 7 in the special session was highlighted by a House vote on an amendment that sought to include payroll dues deduction among items that a blue-ribbon panel on school finance would study under SB 16.
As you will recall, the amendment by Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, went up in flames, 49-78. It was the first time the issue of paycheck deception has received a floor vote in the Texas House.
That was a win for teachers, police, firefighters, correctional officers, parole officers, child abuse investigators, nurses and other state and local employees.
As Texas AFT reported:
An anti-teacher amendment was rejected decisively by a bipartisan majority in the Texas House late on Monday afternoon. Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) tried to insert the anti-teacher amendment into SB 16, a bill creating a commission to study long-term fixes for school finance and recommend a comprehensive overhaul before the next regular legislative session in January 2019.
Zedler's amendment would have directed the commission to study putting an end to the freedom of school employees to have voluntary payroll deduction of their organizational dues. The amendment drew bipartisan resistance, featuring tough questioning of Rep. Zedler about the reasons for this "teacher discrimination" bill, as Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) described it.
Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), chair of the House Public Education Committee, pressed Zedler to explain exactly how his payroll-deduction amendment had anything to do with school-finance funding formulas, but Zedler couldn't do it. When the time came to vote, it wasn't close. Zedler could muster only 49 votes, according to the unofficial tally, versus 78 votes against his anti-teacher amendment. Some 33 Republicans and 45 Democrats voted against the anti-teacher amendment, and among the 21 representatives absent for the vote were another 12 or 13 likely to have voted against this bad idea.
As Texas AFT suggested, in yesterday's House Journal, the official record of House events, no fewer than nine representatives recorded statements. While the statements do not change the formal result, they do suggest updates to their positions. Of the five lawmakers who were away from their desk when the vote occurred, four said they would have voted "no" and one said he would have voted "yes." Of the four lawmakers who said that the official result was different from what they intended to do, three said they intended to vote "no" and one said he intended to vote "yes".
That brings the apparent number of lawmakers siding with labor's position on paycheck deception to 84. Moreover, a minimum of seven others are known to oppose SB 7, the substantive bill that takes aim at the freedom of public employees to voluntarily choose to spend from their own paychecks to support the labor organizations of their choice through payroll dues deduction.
We will have more to say on this bill in the coming days.
2) Last we checked, the events of Charlottesville were triggered by a white supremacist rally. The decision to drive a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters was made by one of the white supremacists.
After President Trump's grossly inadequate comment on the Charlottesville terrorist attack Saturday, the White House labored overtime to repair the damage, issuing an anonymous explanation on Sunday and a two-days-late "presidential" statement on Monday attacking far-right participants.
But today, again on his own, Trump returned to Saturday's false equivalence, claiming there is "blame on both sides" for what happened. He blasted the "alt-left." Trump also appeared to criticize the decision to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, wondering if George Washington was next.
There can no longer be any debate about what is in Trump's heart when it comes to race relations. Neo-Nazis, the KKK and other breeds of white supremacist have a place in this administration. America elected Trump and now we all own it. The real Donald Trump is on display for all to see. I believe Americans are better than this, as evidenced by the broad-based condemnation of Trump's remarks.
Via The New York Times:
President Trump angrily defended himself on Tuesday against criticism that he did not specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups following the weekend's deadly racial unrest in Virginia, and at one point questioned whether the movement to pull down statues of Confederate leaders would escalate to the desecration of George Washington.
In a long, combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan, the president repeatedly rejected a torrent of bipartisan criticism for waiting several days before naming the right-wing groups and placing blame on "many sides" for the violence on Saturday that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd.
He said that "before I make a statement, I like to know the facts."
And he criticized "alt-left" groups that he claimed were "very, very violent" when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is "blame on both sides."
"Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee," Mr. Trump said. "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
He noted that the first American president had owned slaves.
Mr. Trump defended those gathered in the Charlottesville park to protest the statue's removal, saying, "I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch."
Mr. Trump unleashed a torrent of frustration at the news media, saying they were being "fake" because they did not acknowledge that his initial statement about the Charlottesville protest was "very nice."
Again and again, Mr. Trump said that the portrayal of nationalist protesters in the city were not all Nazis or white supremacists, and he said it was unfair to suggest that they were.
"Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch," he said, adding that blame for the violence in the city - which also took the lives of two Virginia state troopers when their helicopter crashed - should also be on people from "the left" who came to oppose the nationalist protesters.
"You had a group on one side and the other, and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch," the president said. "There is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want. That's the way it is."
He also called the alleged driver of the car that crashed into the crowd, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, "a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want."...
Within minutes, Mr. Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised Mr. Trump's comments as a condemnation of "leftist terrorists."
"Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville," Mr. Duke said in a Twitter post.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/us/politics/trump-press-conference-charlottesville.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
3) AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO today joined a parade of corporate CEOs resigning from President Trump's Council on Manufacturing in the wake of his remarks on Charlottesville. They issued this statement:
"We cannot sit on a council for a President who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism. President Trump's remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America's working people, who reject all notion of legitimacy of these bigoted groups."
"It's clear that President Trump's Manufacturing Council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today were the last straw. We joined this council with the intent to be a voice for working people and real hope that it would result in positive economic policy, but it has become yet another broken promise on the President's record. From hollow councils to bad policy and embracing bigotry, the actions of this administration have consistently failed working people."
4) A three-judge federal panel has ruled two congressional districts in Texas illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act, potentially affecting other congressional districts in Central and South Texas.
The Austin American-Statesman reports the panel found the Legislature intended to discriminate against minorities in drawing districts. The three judges unanimously threw out CD 35, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, although the district is actually weighted toward San Antonio. That district was part of a line-drawing exercise that made Travis County, which consistently votes Democratic, part of five districts, four of which have Republican representatives. The panel also threw out CD 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop.
The newspaper reports the panel gave Attorney General Ken Paxton three days to indicate whether the Legislature will redraw lines and when. The state is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, so it is unclear when a special legislative session might be triggered, if at all:
In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel gave Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton three days to advise the court on "whether the Legislature intends to take up redistricting in an effort to cure these violations and, if so, when the matter will be considered."
If the Legislature passes, the court will hold a hearing beginning Sept. 5 "to consider remedial plans."
The ruling will require a new District 35, currently held by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. In practical terms, the order will change nearby districts, particularly in Travis County, which was partitioned into five congressional districts represented by four Republicans and Doggett.
The judges also voided District 27, held by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi - which includes the Coastal Bend along the Gulf of Mexico and stretches north to include southern Bastrop County. Previously, the district extended south to Brownsville and was heavily Hispanic.
Although the judges had previously found problems with District 23 - held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes - Tuesday's ruling said that district did not have to be redrawn.
Read more: http://www.statesman.com/news/federal-court-voids-travis-county-congressional-district-other/vFiIOrtUdQiQdq3G4GGs0O/?
5) Attorney General Ken Paxton's leading role in legal action aimed at dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should come as no surprise. Paxton is part of a Texas leadership apparatus that is offering the "tough on immigration" flavor of the moment in state politics.
But DACA - the "Dreamers" program - has helped working people in Texas. And DACA is a matter of basic fairness for Texans who were brought to the U.S. as babies or small children and know no other home. Instead of living in the shadows, DACA has given those Texans legal status and has paved the way for them to contribute to our nation's financial and cultural prosperity.
The Texas AFL-CIO joins the AFL-CIO in strongly supporting DACA and, more generally, comprehensive immigration reform. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka today issued this statement on the 5th anniversary of the program:
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs provide work authorization to more than 1 million people, preventing workplace exploitation and protecting their freedom to join together in a union. We are all stronger when working people have the status to assert their rights on the job and stand together against a rigged system to change the rules of the economy.
DACA and TPS holders are members of our families, our unions and our communities who have made positive contributions to our society for many years. We will not allow them to lose their rights and status. We will stand with them in the fight to defend these programs as a necessary part of our long-term struggle to ensure that all working people have rights at work and the freedom to negotiate together for fair pay and conditions.
We call on the Trump administration to demonstrate a genuine commitment to lifting up the wages, rights and standards of all working people by acting to defend and extend vital DACA and TPS protections.
The Texas AFL-CIO and our affiliates participated in a protest at the Attorney General's office today. (Late word: There were arrests, including two superb union activists - Ken Zarifis and Montserrat Garibay of Education Austin.) A few photos of the early portion of the event:
6) This year, Labor Day falls on Monday, Sept. 4. A list of Labor Day events associated with Central Labor Councils and the Area Labor Federation is included at this link: http://www.texasaflcio.org/labor-day-2017/ or go here to enter you zip code and find the nearest event: