Today's Fair Shots - Thursday, March 16th 2017
1-'Sanctuary Cities' Bill's House Hearing Draws Huge Crowd of Opponents Ready to Testify
2-State Troopers Deport Man Who Had Broken Tail Light, No Criminal Record
3-Project Labor Agreements Work and Haven't Been Tried on Public Projects in Texas, So Why Ban Them?
4-Minimum Wage Bills Get Hearing Next Monday
5-Arizona's $12 an Hour Minimum Wage Has Been Upheld by That State's Supreme Court
6-School Voucher Bill to Be Heard in Senate Committee Next Tuesday
7-'Bathroom Bill' Clears Senate
1. It's a different world as the House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on SB 4, the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill that flew out of the Texas Senate.
First, opponents of the legislation are did virtually all the testifying (see numbers below). These include law officers who believe strongly that their enforcement would be compromised by distrust over the threat of deportations.
Second, the Committee Chair, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said the bill is going to be substantially rewritten in committee.
Third, Cook suggested during testimony by Brother Zeph Capo of Texas AFT that he believes the state should bear the millions of dollars in local costs, which include the expense of honoring jail holds requested by immigration officials.
Fourth, the bill sponsor in the House, Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, promised that local law officers would not be required to become immigration agents.
Fifth, Cook announced no instant vote would be taken at the conclusion of marathon and voluminous testimony in the early hours of the morning, as happened in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Some 638 witnesses signed up to testify, with 619 of them against SB 4. It's looking like a long night ahead. The United Labor Legislative Committee OPPOSES SB 4.
Our friends at the Center for Public Policy Priorities did their usual outstanding job of providing relevant data on the subject of immigrants in Texas:
Of the 4.3 million immigrants living in Texas, an estimated 1.7 million are undocumented4 - about six percent of the total Texas population.
While virtually all Texas kids were born in the U.S., one-third of all Texas children (nearly 2.4 million) live with one or more parents who is an immigrant.Of these children, half live with at least one parent who is not a U.S. citizen.Researchers estimate that 834,000 children in Texas live with one or more undocumented parents.
2. As long lines of witnesses waited to testify on SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" bill, a Texas Observer article suggesting state police may already be going out of their way to seek deportation of undocumented workers is well worth a look.
The article shows SB 4 cannot be considered in a vacuum. Whatever happens with that bill is going to accompany a changing law enforcement environment across the nation:
On February 11, Everardo Conejo-Barbosa and his brother, Juan Luis, were driving home from work on Interstate 35 when they saw a state trooper's lights in the rearview. With Trump in the White House, and immigration agents all over town, they wondered if their time had come. It had.
The brothers, unauthorized Mexican immigrants with clean criminal records, had lived in Austin for several years, working construction jobs to support their families in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Two days before, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had launched a series of Austin-area raids that netted at least 51 arrests of mostly non-criminals.
According to a ticket obtained by the Observer, State Trooper Daniel Gonzalez Jr. pulled the brothers over near the Williamson County line for a broken tail light at around 1 p.m. After the brothers provided Mexican ID cards, Gonzalez contacted ICE and put the brothers in handcuffs. About 15 minutes later, ICE agents loaded the pair into a van and took them to the federal building downtown. Within 30 hours, they'd been deported to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Trooper Gonzalez commented: "I.C.E. picked up individuals."
Such collaboration with immigration agents is common near the Mexican border, but rare in the rest of the state. "I have not heard of this happening in our backyard," said Nina Pruneda, ICE spokesperson for Central and South Texas.
Neither she nor a DPS spokesperson could provide statistics about their cooperation.
"I haven't heard of this happening as far north as Austin," said Astrid Dominguez, policy strategist with the ACLU of Texas. "But I think everyone's fear is that it will start happening a lot more."
San Antonio attorney Andres Perez told the Observer he has multiple clients who were detained by local officers for ICE since Trump's election, adding such reports were exceedingly rare under Obama's program to prioritize criminals. He said he expects to see more and more cases like the Conejo brothers'.
Advocates have long argued such cooperation crosses constitutional lines. DPS has the power to "refer" someone to immigration authorities but has no jurisdiction to enforce immigration law.
Detaining someone solely so ICE can arrive crosses the line, according to Edgar Saldivar of the ACLU of Texas. Saldivar said the Supreme Court, in the 2015 ruling Rodriguez v. United States, confirmed extending detention by as little as eight minutes can violate the Fourth Amendment.
DPS spokesperson Tom Vinger said departmental policy justifies the trooper's actions. He said Gonzalez had "reasonable suspicion" that the brothers were undocumented, which justified the call to ICE. And from that point, he was acting "at the request, approval or instruction of a federal officer" in accordance with policy.
Vinger added the trooper had "concerns of possible gang affiliation." A public record search revealed no criminal history for either brother, and DPS offered no specific grounds for the suspicion.
3. Senate and House bills that would outlaw public Project Labor Agreements are being heard.
Sadly, the measure has momentum even though, as one wag has said, it falls into the "green eggs and ham" category: Opponents say they hate it, but no one has ever tried it.
The Texas AFL-CIO put out this news release:
4) A legislative hearing on the unconscionably low state minimum wage has been set for Monday, March 20.
The House Business and Industry Committee will hear nine bills and resolutions that directly involve the minimum wage, which in Texas duplicates the deep-poverty federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (but only $2.13 an hour for tipped employees).
The meeting takes place 10 a.m. Monday in Room E2.016 of the Capitol.
The bills, in order of committee posting, include HB 285 by Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas (raise to $15/hour), HB 475 by Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City ($15/hour), HB 840 by Rep. Evelina Ortega, D-El Paso (restores local authority to raise minimum wage), HB 924 by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, ($10.10/hour), HB 937 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, ($10.10/hour), HB 954 by Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio (restores local authority), HB 992 ($15/hour) and HJR 57 ($15/hour) by Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and HB 326 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg (tipped employees own their tips).
The United Labor Legislative Committee has endorsed all the posted minimum wage bills.
The Texas AFL-CIO will convene a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Speaker's Committee Room that will include all or some of the legislators carrying minimum wage-related bills. We will provide more details on that news conference later this week.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE EVENT ON FACEBOOK
5) If a minimum wage hike can happen in Arizona, which gave us Barry Goldwater, it can happen in Texas.
Governing Magazine reports that state's Supreme Court has upheld a minimum wage hike, in steps, to $12 an hour that also features mandatory paid sick leave:
Arizona's minimum-wage law will stand, after a unanimous Arizona Supreme Court late Tuesday rejected a challenge to the voter-approved law.
"The people win again. Unanimously," attorney Jim Barton said in an email as the court's order came down in the closing minutes of the business day...
Chief Justice Scott Bales issued the order, stating the seven-member court unanimously rejected the arguments from business groups that the law is unconstitutional. A detailed explanation of the court's reasoning will come later, Bales wrote.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry led the challenge, asking the court to overturn the law, which will raise Arizona's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. It also requires employers to offer mandatory paid sick leave as of July 1.
6) Via our Brothers and Sisters at Texas AFT, a hearing on this session's big private school voucher bill, strongly opposed by the United Labor Legislative Committee, has been set:
Voucher Bill Set for March 21 Hearing: SB 3 is the high-profile private-school voucher bill of the 2017 Texas legislative session, assigned a low bill number as a token of the priority placed on the bill by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate's presiding officer. It has been noteworthy that the bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing thus far in the 2017 session.
Now the bill does have a hearing date: March 21 in the Senate Education Committee. The bill's author is Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), the committee chair. Taylor initially set the bill for March 16, then pulled it from the agenda for that date and reset it for March 21.
Texas AFT strongly opposes this voucher bill, which has been described as a combination of two bad voucher proposals--education savings accounts and tuition tax credits. Both operate by drawing down dollars otherwise destined for public education, diverting the money instead to private schools that lack accountability to Texas taxpayers for what they do with the money. We urge you to send your legislators a letter now (http://bit.ly/2mueCrm) opposing this bad idea and all kindred bills.
7) The Texas Senate today gave final approval to SB 6, the "bathroom bill." Most of the Democratic senators got their licks in, speaking eloquently against the bill on at least two important fronts: discrimination against the LGBTQ community and jobs that have been and would be lost because of boycotts under such a law.
Final vote on the ULLCO-opposed bill matched the preliminary vote: 21-10. The measure's prospects are shakier than Jell-O in the Texas House.