Today's Fair Shots - June 8th, 2017

1-Adler: Abbott's Special Session Call Also a Fight Against Individual Liberties That Local Voters Have Supported

2-Ratcliffe: Abbott Takes Risk If Special Session Blows Up

3-Texas AFT: Abbott's Proposed Teacher Pay Raise 'Less Than Meets the Eye'

4-Large Lawyers' Convention Cancels Texas Venue, Cites 'Show Me Your Papers' Law; City of Dallas Joins Others in Suing Over SB 4

5-- ATU Local Wins Verdict in Long-Running Case Seeking to Enforce Arbitration Provision

1) Austin Mayor Steve Adler's called Gov. Greg Abbott's call for a July 18 special session that is largely a push for authoritarian state power a "war against cities," the Austin American-Statesman reports.

  In the realm of labor issues, even SB 13, the paycheck deception bill, is in part an effort to cancel the ability of cities to decide how to treat their own employees (in addition to taking away the economic freedom of those employees to support the labor organizations of their choice through payroll dues deduction).

  Likewise, the "bathroom bill" favored by Abbott is about power. The version the governor supports would erase human rights ordinances in Austin and elsewhere. Other matters of preemption like attacks on tree ordinances, permit processes, cell phone regulation and taxing authority have been duly noted by the American-Statesman:

 City leaders on Tuesday saw much of Gov. Greg Abbott's call for a special session as part of a continuing attack on Austin that rose from angry rhetoric about the left-leaning city to an all-out "war against cities," as Austin Mayor Steve Adler put it Tuesday.

  Abbott's announcement will have state lawmakers return to the Capitol on July 18 to create laws that could take control of how the city levies property taxes and annexes land out of the hands of City Hall while scrapping local ordinances Abbott sees as government overreach.

  "I admit to being a little dumbfounded when I heard what sounded to me like a call for a war against cities; a fight against individual liberties exposed at the ballot box," Adler said. "Instead of looking at a future ... the governor's special call looks to the past."

  The governor, who signed a bill last month banning so-called sanctuary cities in response to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's new policy on immigrant detention requests, has made it a habit in recent months to bash Austin. On Monday night in Belton, he announced he had prevented the Austin liberals' efforts to "Californiaize the Lone Star State."

  "As you leave Austin and start heading north, you start feeling different," Abbott told the audience at a dinner hosted by the Bell County Republican Party. "Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different. And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It's the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas."

  Adler said that Abbott's comments gave him pause, noting that Austin is ahead of the state.

  "The air in Austin is pretty sweet with an unemployment rate that is a point lower than the state, a lower violent crime rate than the state, with the highest rates of patents and venture capital in the state," Adler said. "And the air is sweet with tacos."

  Read more:

2) R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly highlighted the risks involved in Abbott's decision to place 20 mainly right-wing radical items (conditionally) on the call of the special session. Ratcliffe paints the larger picture rather than dwelling on individual legislative resurrection attempts: 

  In calling a special session with a broad array of issues, it was a show of strength-but also a demonstration of weakness. Abbott's strength was using the power of his office to call the session and set the agenda. It also revealed his lack of leadership, because almost everything on Abbott's list was something that might have passed in the regular legislative session if he had simply engaged lawmakers instead of sitting on the sideline until it was too late for the bills' salvation. Abbott also set himself up for a potential pratfall if little to nothing on his list reaches his desk in the course of the thirty-day session. He now he owns this list of legislative priorities. Passage is as much up to him as it is the legislative leadership...

  Without naming him, Abbott put the blame for the special session squarely on Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who had held up the legislation renewing the five state regulatory agencies-item number one on Abbott's list. "A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session. As governor, if I am going to call a special session, I intend to make it count," Abbott said at the announcement.

  If you need further evidence that Abbott blames Patrick, the governor said at the press conference that he would not add anything to the special session call until after the Senate approves the only must-have legislation: renewing the state regulatory agencies. Patrick-who wanted to force a special session so he could pass his transgender bathroom policy and roll back property tax elections for cities and counties-has almost complete control of the Senate. Abbott's marquee legislation is the only leverage he has to force another special session on his top two priorities. During the regular session, Patrick pledged to force a special session "again and again and again" until the bathroom bill passed. Once the agency renewal legislation is out of the Senate, Patrick will have no obvious way to force another special session...

  Presumably, Abbott said he would put his nineteen items on the call so Patrick would not hector him over bathrooms. And if everything else fails, he just blames the Legislature. Inescapable, though, is the fact Abbott was not a player for most of the regular session, as was pointed out in a New York Times profile on Monday: "Why is he so hands-off?" asked Julie McCarty, the president of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party in the Fort Worth area. "Is that what his dream was, to become governor of the greatest state in the nation so that he could sit out on everything?" The story ended with Abbott defending his lack of legislative engagement: "'The governor's job is far bigger than just a legislative session,'" Mr. Abbott said. 'Most of my time is devoted to being the CEO of Texas, not being involved in a legislative session.'"

  So a day after that story ran, Abbott gathered the state news media in to the governor's press conference room, protected from questions by a wall of cameras, where he outlined his twenty-item agenda for the special session. If a substantial number pass, Abbott can rightfully claim a mantel of leadership. If they fail, blaming the Legislature may not be enough to save his reputation.

  Read more:

3) Texas AFT, which represents working teachers and other school employees who have a disproportionate stake in many of the topics Abbott has put forth, posted an analysis of the broad education issues on the session call. From that post: 

  Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday afternoon that he is calling the Texas Legislature back into session on July 18, first and foremost to enact what he termed a must-pass "sunset" bill continuing the existence of the state medical board, but after that to consider 19 other disparate items on his legislative wish list. A special session can go on for a maximum of 30 days, though the governor could call further special sessions if he chose. 

  Abbott's list of additional items mostly recycles unsuccessful proposals he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed during the 140-day regular session of the Legislature that ended May 29. Some of his wish-list items have been rejected for several sessions in a row...

  Two further education-related items on Abbott's agenda bring to mind the expression "less there than meets the eye." Abbott announced that he wants the Legislature to pass an increase in teacher pay of $1,000, but in the next breath he said there would be no new money to pay for it-so districts already in a budget squeeze because of lagging state aid would be squeezed some more.  (Another catch would be that Abbott says lawmakers should simultaneously make it easier for school administrators to fire teachers deemed ineffective-even though Texas law already gives districts broad latitude to hire and fire.) 

  Abbott also said that the Legislature in this 30-day special session should work on an overhaul of school finance. However, the only specific legislation he called for enacting would just punt this issue to an interim study commission.

  Read more:

4) In the wake of SB 4, the labor-opposed "show me your papers" law, a major immigration lawyers convention has removed its planned convention from Texas, the Texas Tribune reports. There may well be more of this ahead:

  A 15,000-member association of attorneys and law professors said on Wednesday that it is relocating its 2018 convention out of Texas in response to the state legislature passing Senate bill 4, a sweeping and controversial immigration enforcement measure.

  The American Immigration Lawyers Association was scheduled to hold its 3-day event in Grapevine next year, but said the bill's "dangerous, destructive and counter productive proposals" go against the group's mission. About 3,000 people were expected to attend the convention.

  "One of the issues that drove the board's decision was concern on behalf of quite a number of our members that they might not be willing to bring themselves or their families to Texas," AILA president Bill Stock told reporters during a conference call. "Our members are US citizens and green card holders but many of them come from ethnic communities where they felt that they [would] being unfairly targeted."

  Read more: 

  Meanwhile, the City of Dallas has joined cities and counties that have already filed a lawsuit challenging SB 4, the Tribune reports. The Tribune is keeping track of the growing list of challenges:

  Dallas is the latest local government to decide to take legal action to stop the legislation, which would punish police chiefs, sheriffs and elected officials who don't cooperate with federal immigration agents by turning over immigrants subject to possible deportation.

  Opponents of the law call it unconstitutional and racist and argue that it undermines the ability of local governments have to craft their own polices as they see fit in order to keep their cities safe.

  The cities of Austin, San Antonio, Webb County's El Cenizo and Maverick and El Paso counties have already filed legal challenges to the law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last month. It's still unclear if Dallas will join those lawsuits or file its own.

  And earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on behalf of the Texas LULAC and its members, the City of El Cenizo, and Maverick County asking a federal district court in San Antonio to fast-track a ruling on the constitutionality of SB4. 

  Read more:

5) Congratulations to our Brothers and Sisters in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338 in Dallas on a victory in state district court following a six-year legal battle.

  Brother Kenneth Day, ATU Local 1338 President, reports a jury ruled that Dallas Area Rapid Transit breached a previous lawsuit settlement by refusing to grant a union member his rights to an arbitration hearing. Besides being ordered to comply with the arbitration finding, Judge Ken Molberg awarded $2.52 million in damages to the union for "past injury to reputation," plus out-of-pocket costs and attorney fees totaling $300,000. 

  The verdict is, of course, subject to appeal. But the union's stand for contractual rights has been upheld at a critical stage.