TODAY'S FAIR SHOTS - March 1st, 2017

1-Senate Vote Includes Criminal Provisions If Texas Constitutional Convention Delegate Disobeys Legislature

2-Trump, Congress Run Into Practical Problems on 'Repeal and Replace' of Affordable Care Act

3-U.S. Secretary of Education Claims, Incredibly, That Historically Black Colleges Were a 'School Choice' Movement

4-Key House Chair Says Private School Vouchers Already Dead in Texas House

5-CPPP Offers Statistics, Analysis Against Private School Vouchers

6-Steelworkers Visit Texas AFL-CIO Before Touching Base With Legislators on 'Buy American' Bills

7 -Steve Williams of IAM, a Mighty Labor Activist in Texas, Dead at 97

1. The Texas Senate today approved legislation that would place Texas among states calling for an Article V Convention of States to consider a wholesale rewrite of the U.S. Constitution's provisions on federalism. 

  The votes were in line with Gov. Greg Abbott's "emergency" call for such a convention to give states more power. 

  SJR 2 and SB 21 by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, which would count Texas in on a rewrite of major elements of the U.S. Constitution, each moved to the Texas House. The vote on SJR 2 was 20-11, while the vote on SB 21 was 21-10. (For those wondering about the vote count on the SJR, a joint resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution requires a majority vote, not the two-thirds margin needed to amend the Texas Constitution.) 

  The United Labor Legislative Committee opposes measures to hold an Article V convention in the belief that such a body would not be limited to issues at hand and could compromise the most fundamental constitutional principles that undergird the U.S. It may well take other states to stop this train. 

  In considering the enabling legislation, the Senate voted to enact criminal penalties if Texas delegates - all of whom would come from the Legislature - go rogue at such a convention. An oversight committee would be set up to enforce penalties. 

  The Senate rejected a proposed amendment by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, to require an Article V convention to meet in public. As matters stand, Rodriguez argued fruitlessly, delegates could meet in secret and the Texas Legislature wouldn't even know if a delegate exceeded his or her authority.

  The debate started with SJR 38 by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, which after being amended repeals all but one of the previous Texas calls for an Article V convention going back to the 19th Century. The version unanimously approved by the Senate leaves open Texas's 1977 support for a convention to consider a mandatory balanced federal budget. 

  That has the look of a "Plan B" in the event SJR 2 fails to produce a convention. 

   Another amendment would limit the future validity of any call for an Article V Constitutional Convention (including the balanced budget proposal) to 12 years.

   SJR 38 also moves to the Texas House.

2. In a New York Times column, David Leonhardt explains why the move to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act has run into serious difficulty and is, as President Trump has finally figured out, "so complicated."

  When Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress step aside from politicizing the law as "Obamacare" and try to govern, at heart what they are really doing is telling 20 million Americans who have gained health coverage under ACA that they really can't have it: 

The campaign to let 20 million Americans keep their health insurance is working.

  It still has a long way to go, and it's not guaranteed to succeed. But the progress of the last couple months is remarkable.

  Thanks in part to a surge of activism - town hall meetings, online postings, calls to Congress - the politics of Obamacare have flipped. Many Americans have come to realize that the care part of the law matters much more than the Obama part. As a result, the Republicans no longer have a clear path to repeal.

  There is no free lunch on health care. Your health "costs" pay for my health "benefits," and vice versa. If Trump promises a less expensive system, he is also promising to eliminate some care. He could cut wasteful care - and should - but Republicans caricatured the Obama administration's attempts as "death panels" without offering their own steps.

  Now that they're running the government, free-lunchism has consequences. Their promise to scrap taxes on the wealthy, for example, leaves them without money to cover people. That's why the independent Congressional Budget Office keeps concluding that the various Obamacare replacement plans would deprive millions of people of insurance.

  Read more:

3. The U.S. Secretary of Education under President Trump thinks historically black colleges were "real pioneers when it comes to school choice."

  The breathtakingly ignorant assertion in a prepared statement by Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed on a 50-50 vote and tiebreaker by the U.S. Senate, is in line with her career as a big-money advocate for private school vouchers.

 Secretary of Education - Betsy Devos | Photo from CNN

Secretary of Education - Betsy Devos | Photo from CNN

   It bears repetition that the head of the federal government's role in overseeing public schools across the nation does not support public schools. And now we know, when it comes to important points of American educational history, Betsy DeVos offers a giant helping of ideological bias but doesn't have a clue: 

The education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is facing a fierce backlash after she called historically black colleges and universities "real pioneers when it comes to school choice."

  On Twitter, hundreds of angry users accused her of ignoring the fact that many of the schools were founded because black students were not allowed to attend segregated white schools, not because education pioneers wanted to give African-Americans more options in higher education. Ms. DeVos, an aggressive backer of publicly funded vouchers that public school students could use for private school tuition, released her comments Monday evening shortly after meeting with several presidents from historically black colleges and universities...

  Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, called the statement "totally nuts."

Read more:

4. Still on the topic of vouchers, the Chair of the House Public Education Committee reports that private school vouchers are already dead in the Texas House, the Texas Tribune states.

   The Tribune posted a video of Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, on the subject: 

  State Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican and chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said Tuesday morning that school choice legislation has no path forward in the House during the current legislative session. 

  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called Senate Bill 3 one of his top priorities. The bill would create two separate public programs to subsidize private school tuition and homeschooling, including one giving parents debit cards backed by taxpayer money.

  "Yes, this is dead to you as an issue?" Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith asked Huberty as a Tribune event Tuesday morning.

"I believe so, yes," Huberty said. 

  See the video:

5. The Texas AFL-CIO and our predecessors have opposed private school vouchers in Texas pretty much back to the days when economist Milton Friedman's idea to let "free market" forces loose on the public education system began holding sway with the Wall Street Journal editorial board. We have opposed vouchers throughout an era of big-money advocacy in Texas that was jump-started when hospital-bed billionaire James Leininger began contributing money to promote privatization.

  By now, the phrase "private school vouchers" is almost shorthand for our distaste for the idea. So a newly published policy paper by our friends at the Center for Public Policy Priorities is welcome, pointing up with facts, statistics and examples the basis for opposition to private school vouchers:

  Public education is the bedrock of an informed democracy and the bridge to lifelong opportunities. As a state, we rely on our public schools to develop a talented workforce and promote shared prosperity. To fulfill that promise, our public school system needs sufficient resources to enable all Texas kids to get a quality education, regardless of their background or where they live.

  Unfortunately, the Texas school finance system is like an old house that has fallen into disrepair and is in need of serious renovations.

  Rather than focus on these much-needed repairs, some policymakers have proposed school vouchers that use tax dollars to pay for private schools. While it is understandable that policymakers are searching for solutions to ensure that all children get a quality education, school vouchers are not the right answer for Texas children.

  Vouchers would:

  •    Divert public resources from Texas' already under-funded public school system to subsidize private school tuition for wealthier families.

  • Enable the use of tax dollars with no accountability standards to ensure the quality of education, and no clear standards to protect against misuse of public funds.

  • Offer no real choice to low-income families or families living in rural areas.

  •   [Not be] a targeted response to the challenges faced by low-income children attending low-performing public schools.

  •   Have a negligible impact on student achievement.

  Recommendation: Instead of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private school education through vouchers, the Texas Legislature should remodel Texas' outdated school finance system to ensure that there is sufficient financial support for all kids to get a quality public education, no matter where they live or what their background.

Read the full paper:

6. The United Steelworkers union visited the Texas AFL-CIO on Monday on the way to a Capitol visit to talk to lawmakers about supporting "Buy American" bills.

USW Lobby Day

   Texas AFL-CIO officers and staff helped introduce the union members, several of whom had never gone to the Capitol before to promote legislation, to the fundamentals of the 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature.

   Visits from constituents are among the most effective ways to approach lawmakers, giving labor a profile that goes well beyond the lobbyists who are here full-time to promote positive legislation for working families.

  Brother Lee Medley kindly passed along this diary of what took place:   

  The United Steelworkers, working with the Texas AFL-CIO, CWA, and Alliance of American Manufacturing, came to Austin, Texas to fight for jobs Monday, February 28, 2017.
  Following a call from USW Director Ruben Garza for the first Austin Action lobby day, Brothers and Sisters arrived to bring HB769 and HB 770, each by Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, to the Capitol. The two bills call for the use of Texas, then U.S. made materials instead of foreign materials on taxpayer-financed projects. Steelworkers from refineries, paper mills, steel plants, and other USW-represented industries met with House Representatives or members of their staff to share our story of the loss of good benefit bearing jobs and the effects on families.
   Standing out was the reality of the ongoing battle of job losses at U.S. Steel in Lone Star, TX. Brothers Durwin "Oodie" Royal and Trey "Tiny" Green spoke to Legislators sharing the ongoing fight for jobs. The success of the day was due to our rank and file members coming off the floors of their shops and explaining the real issues faced by our families.
   Representing the working families of Texas from USW-1398 were Linda Bluford, Darlene Williams, and Brian Lindsey, USW 13-895 Connie White, Bryan D. Maeckel, and Terry Beasley, USW Staff Lawrence Castillo, USW 13-1 Emir Hinojosa, Emilio Salinas, Tyler Kasinger, and Greg Lahner, USW 342 Sue Little, Texarkana Central Labor Council David Beard, CWA/TPLC Staff Currie Hallford, Texas Fair Trade Coalition's Bob Cash, 13-4134 Oodie Royal and Tiny Green, Texas Sub-Director Ben Lilienfeld, and District 13 Council Texas Legislative Representative Lee Medley. These Brothers and Sisters laid a good base for our fight for Texas jobs as we continue the next steps, Committee testimony and votes to follow.
  All involved decided not to watch history be made. They decided to make the history being watched. Any question on this issue can be directed to Lee Medley at or Texas AFL-CIO Legislative Director René Lara at

7. The Texas AFL-CIO was saddened to learn of the death of Steve Williams, a stalwart of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, at the age of 97.

 Photo from IAM

Photo from IAM

   If there was anything in the union world that needed doing, Brother Williams did it at the highest level. He will be sorely missed.

   The officers and staff of the Texas AFL-CIO offer our condolences to the Williams family and to IAM.

   IAM posted this obituary:  

   Steve E. Williams, a 71-year IAM member who served as a Grand Lodge Representative in the IAM's Southern Territory for 30 years, passed away on Monday, February 20. Williams, a lifetime member of the IAM, was 97 years old.
  Williams was the organizing director for the Southern Territory. The IAM loaned his services to the AFL-CIO, where Williams served as organizing director for the Industrial Union Department.
  "Steve was a great organizer and had a long, successful and colorful career," said retired IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Ed House, who served with Williams.
  Before joining the IAM, Williams was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He flew cargo missions in China, India and Burma over the Himalayan Mountains.
  "I'm glad I had the chance to meet Brother Steve before his passing," said Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin. "He represents what the IAM is all about-helping others achieve the American Dream."
  Following his retirement in 1981, Williams was chairman of the board for the Gulf Coast Trade Center in New Waverly, TX, an organization that helps troubled and disadvantage youth learn a trade and obtain a high school diploma. He would go on to serve as a board member for the Community Learning Center in Fort Worth, TX, which provides employment services for veterans.
  "Brother Williams was a true trade unionist," said IAM International President Bob Martinez. "He had an aura of kindness and care that rubbed off on everyone he met. We have lost a great leader."