Today's Fair Shots - April 10th, 2017

1-Senator Changes Column on Texting While Driving Bill in Wake of Horrific Accident

2-Texas House Gives Final Approval to Budget After Characteristic Debate of Nearly 16 Hours

3-Gorsuch Confirmed to U.S. Supreme Court; Employment Cases on Horizon

4-Labor Mourns Gilbert Kissling, Long-time Activist

1. The Texas Senate may soon have the votes to pass a statewide ban on texting while driving with the news that a 19th senator has signed up in support of SB 31 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. An identical bill, HB 62 by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has already passed the House.


   The United Labor Legislative Committee has endorsed the measure.

   The Austin American-Statesman reports Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, has decided to support SB 31. The development comes in the wake of a terrible accident, reportedly caused by texting while driving, that killed 13 New Braunfels church members riding a bus in the Hill County:

   State Sen. Don Huffines has committed to voting for legislation banning texting while driving statewide, the Dallas Republican said Friday, giving the legislation the magic 19th vote it will need to come up for a vote in the full Senate.

  State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has been attempting since 2009 to pass a bill making it illegal to use a hand-held phone to text, email or otherwise use the Internet while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Similar legislation passed both chambers of the Legislature in 2011, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

  A texting ban passed the House in 2015, but Zaffirini could only corral 18 votes. Nineteen, under rules in the 31-member Senate, are needed to bring a bill up for debate and then vote on it.

  Seventeen of Zaffirini's texting supporters returned to the Senate this session. State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, who opposed the legislation in 2015, in recent days had make public her support of the bill. Huffines' decision Friday would push the bill, which has already passed the House in identical form as House Bill 62, to passage in the Senate.

  Read more:\

2. Final passage of a Texas House budget early Friday morning on a 131-16 vote after nearly 16 hours of debate sets the stage for the decisive writing of the budget by a House-Senate conference committee.

   Most of the major substantive developments, including the House's repudiation of private school vouchers, are noted in yesterday's e-mail. The Texas Tribune did a good job of capturing some of the atmospherics. This passage is as good an illustration as any of how the House differs from the Senate in debating style.

   You may recall the Senate traditionally passes its budget (and did so this year) without a single amendment:

   Tempers raged as the night dragged on. At one point in the mid-evening, state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, attempted to offer an amendment that would have abolished the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's advisory council on palliative, or end-of-life, care.

  Cain introduced his amendment as an attempt to stop "death panels." State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, an anesthesiologist and the budget's author, quickly stepped up to the back microphone to lay into Cain for his choice of language.

  Zerwas asked Cain whether he understood what palliative care was. After a tense exchange, the typically mild-mannered Zerwas uttered some of the sternest remarks of the night.

  "If you want to go up and characterize something in such an offensive way, I would hope that you would have a little bit better understanding," he said, as a large crowd of lawmakers gathered behind him in support. 

  Cain withdrew his amendment before House members could vote on it.

  A few hours later, two conservative lawmakers confronted each other during a heated exchange and had to be physically separated.

  Stickland had filed an amendment defund a state program for the abatement of feral hogs, which he's become known for championing at the Legislature each session. Stickland railed predictably against the program, calling it "ridiculous" and a waste of money.

  "It has not worked, and it never will work," Stickland said, his voice rising.

  That apparently offended rural lawmakers, notably state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster. In response, Springer attached an amendment to Stickland's proposal that would cut the same amount of funding for the Texas Department of Transportation, but only for roads and highways in Stickland's hometown of Bedford.

  Stickland took to the back microphone to cry foul.

  "Someone else has chosen to make a mockery of this system and play gotcha politics," he said before being interrupted. Laughter had erupted in the gallery.

  "It's funny until it happens to you," he continued.

  Springer and Stickland then confronted each other on the middle of the House floor and had to be separated by colleagues. Springer's amendment ultimately passed, 99 to 26, forcing Stickland to withdraw his own proposal to which it had been attached.

  Read more:

3. The U.S. Senate's Republican majority may one day regrets its decision to change the rule to confirm Neil Gorsuch as U.S. Supreme Court justice. But Friday the GOP celebrated.

   Gorsuch's ascension to the court on a 54-45 vote bodes badly for working families, based on his record to date. Institutionally and historically, the Supreme Court has a way of moving to the center - in large part because appointments to the high court are for life. But for upcoming employment-oriented cases in the short term, it doesn't look good for labor.

   The New York Times pinpointed some immediate consequences of the Gorsuch confirmation in the world of work:

   Among the cases the court has already agreed to take up next term are three about whether companies can use employment contracts to prohibit workers from banding together to take legal action over workplace issues. In the time before Judge Gorsuch's confirmation, Democrats expressed particular concern about his record on workers' rights, suggesting that his rulings tended to favor the privileged.

  Cases concerning arbitration clauses with class-action waivers in other settings have divided the court along ideological lines, with the conservative justices voting to uphold the provisions. Here, too, Justice Gorsuch may hold the decisive vote.

  The court will also hear a case on whether corporations can be sued for complicity in human rights abuses abroad, a question that has echoes of the court's 2010 decision in Citizens United, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums in elections.

  The court divided 5-4 along ideological lines in both Citizens United and an earlier human rights case, meaning that Justice Gorsuch's vote may once again prove crucial.

  Read more:

4. The Texas AFL-CIO was saddened to learn of the death of Gilbert Kissling, for decades synonymous with the Plumbers Union in San Antonio, at the age of 85.

   Brother Kissling was a member of the Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board from 1978 to 1992 and also served on the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council and AFL-CIO Housing Trust boards. He was a lifetime member of UA Local 142, having joined the union in November 1950. He served as Financial Secretary and, from 1985 to 1992, as Business Agent. He later served Texans more than six years as Administrator of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners.

   Kissling's knowledge of his trade was unparalleled, but he was also widely respected in labor circles for his takes on organizing, politics and the advancement of working people in his community. Kissling was an important voice at the San Antonio Central Labor Council and participated in a variety of union activities as a retiree. The Texas AFL-CIO offers our heartfelt condolences to the Kissling family.

   Via Irene Kissling, Gilbert's wife, here are the arrangements:

   All services will be held at St.Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 4201 De Zavala Rd., San Antonio,TX 78249    Tel. 210-492-4600

   Visitation, 6 p.m. Thursday, April 27; rosary will be recited at 7 p.m.

   Visitation, 8 a.m. Saturday, April 29. Mass at 9 a.m.

   Celebration of life will follow the funeral mass. Location to be       announced.

   For more information, e-mail Irene Kissling at:

   Ph. 210-735-9433,  cell. 210-887-8537