Today's Fair Shots - July 12th, 2017

1-Texas in Middle of National Power Struggle Between States and Cities as Special Session Looms a Week Away

2-Columnist: Teacher Pay Raise Proposal Looks Like a Trap for Teachers, Local School Districts

3-Cruz Health Care Proposal a Redistribution From Poor to Wealthy

4-Dallas News Strongly Criticizes Paxton for Placing Texas Among States Looking to End 'Dreamer' Program

5-New Well-Reviewed Book Explores Origins of 'Right to Work' Laws

1) A New York Times in-depth piece on power grabs by states against cities takes note of efforts to impose fines on local officials who do not toe the line on matters that are important to legislatures, even where such disobedience is not otherwise illegal.

   An example of that style of punitive preemption has taken place around immigration. SB 4, which is under challenge in a federal court, would penalize local officials merely for publicly advocating something that is utterly legal: a decision not to honor every voluntary request by federal immigration officers to detain jailed Texans who are otherwise eligible for release.

  The preemption fights, The Times reports, raise questions about the very nature of local government. (Example: a recent Missouri law that rolls back a minimum wage in St. Louis that exceeded the state level.) The article includes a citation to the upcoming Texas special session, about half of which involves a state assertion of power against cities: 

  In the last few years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have intensified the use of what are known as pre-emption laws, to block towns and cities from adopting measures favored by the left. The states aren't merely overruling local laws; they've walled off whole new realms where local governments aren't allowed to govern at all.

  The pattern has worsened a different kind of partisan war beyond Washington, where the political divide cuts not just across the aisle, but across different levels of government. As standoffs between red states and blue cities grow more rancorous, the tactics of pre-emption laws have become personal and punitive: Several states are now threatening to withhold resources from communities that defy them and to hold their elected officials legally and financially liable.

  "There are all sorts of legitimate ways we can divide power," said Nestor Davidson, a law professor at Fordham. But if local officials risk personal fines, lawsuits and lost wealth for their communities over policy disagreements, he said, that changes the rules of the game. "That has the potential to change what it means to be a government official, to change what it means to elect people."

  States have banned local ordinances on minimum wage increases, paid sick days and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. They've banned "sanctuary cities." They've even banned a number of bans (it's now illegal for Michigan cities to ban plastic bags, for Texas towns to ban fracking).

  A law passed in Arizona last year threatens to withhold shared state revenue from local governments that adopt ordinances in conflict with state policy. Texas' new sanctuary city law imposes civil fines as high as $25,500 a day on local governments and officials who block cooperation with federal immigration requests. And it threatens officials who flout the law with removal from office and misdemeanor charges.

  Texas' four largest cities are now suing the state in response. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, has been a vocal advocate for state laws that he says are necessary to protect individual liberty from local government overreach. When cities overstep their bounds, he said this year, they "should have to pay a price for it."...

  In Texas, Mr. Abbott has called a special session for this month. On the agenda: proposals that would block cities from regulating trees on private land, restricting cellphone use in cars, and allowing transgender residents to use the bathroom matching their identity.

  "It's like quick-fire," said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which tracks pre-emption bills. "Once it passes some place, other legislatures go, 'Oh, we could just pre-empt all of this.' "

  Read more:

2) In a vacuum, giving Texas teachers a $1,000 pay raise seems like a great idea. But the upcoming special legislative session is no vacuum, and the proposal by Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be a trap, San Antonio Express-News columnist Gloria Padilla argues.

  Our Brothers and Sisters at Texas AFT have encapsulated the idea as "less than meets the eye," and that's because the price of getting that particular $1,000 raise through the Legislature would probably include private school vouchers and diminished teacher contract rights.

  Padilla, however, takes note that it doesn't even look like the state is willing to pay for the raise, though state leaders appear ready, willing and able to take political credit for the idea:  

  A legislative proposal to give teachers a $1,000 pay raise is nothing more than an attempt to curry their favor on widely unpopular public education measures.

  Even more insulting than this thinly veiled bribe is the fact that lawmakers want you and me, the taxpayers back home, to pay for an unfunded mandate while they take the credit for the generosity.

  The pay-hike proposal is on a long laundry list of items legislators will consider when they reconvene in special session in Austin next month. They should drop this item, develop some political fortitude, and get working on the more serious issues facing public education.

  I have yet to find a single person sold on the idea that an unfunded mandate from the state to increase teacher salaries is a good idea. While we can all agree that teachers are generally overworked and underpaid, a state-mandated raise is not the solution.

  "It's a bit of an insult that they do not think teachers are smart enough to figure out what is going on," said Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers...

  In the San Antonio Independent School District, a proposed raise approved by the school board this week may be delayed.

  Superintendent Pedro Martinez said there is money in the 2017-18 budget for up to a 2 percent pay hike for employees, but the increase is unlikely to be included in the first paychecks of the new year. They will wait for the outcome of the special session.

  North East Independent School District Superintendent Brian Gottardy said his district is still working on its budget. A $1,000 state-mandated teacher raise would cost his district $4.7 million, he said, and it might have to dip into its fund balance.

  Over in the South San Antonio Independent School District, Superintendent Abe Saavedra said the district will include a pay hike in the new budget that will probably average to more than $1,000 per employee.

  He said he will be talking to the district's legal counsel to ensure that when the pay raises are approved by his board, it is with the understanding that they are intended to cover any increases mandated by the state.

  "It's all political propaganda. Most districts are already giving raises. They just want to take credit for it," the longtime superintendent said of the legislative proposal.

  Read more:

3) The Washington Post's "Wonk Blog" reports the health care planproposed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which would allow insurers to offer separate low-cost plans to healthy Americans, would be little more than a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

  Cruz is on record as opposing the current version of TrumpCare, but he has the look of a "vote in the pocket" -- prepared to cast a decisive vote for any plan that would destroy as much of the Affordable Care Act as possible. 

  On a related note, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced today the Senate will postpone its summer recess for two weeks, in large part to complete work on the health care bill:

  The proposal, the brainchild of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), would let health insurers offer plans that don't follow Obamacare's rules as long as they offer one that does. Which is to say that they'd once again be free to not only sell skimpy plans that didn't cover things like mental health or maternity care or prescription drugs, but also charge people with preexisting conditions more for them - if they didn't just deny them outright...

  This is really only about one thing: redistributing money from the poor and sick to the rich and healthy. And that's not just what liberals are saying. Conservatives are too. James Capretta, a former Bush administration official who is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says that "the main effect" of Cruz's plan "would be to shift costs from healthy consumers to less-healthy consumers and household with lower incomes."

  Freedom, ain't it grand!

  Read more:

4) The Dallas Morning News editorializes against the move by Texas to end the "Dreamer" provision known as DACA. Even President Trump, who has attacked immigrants right and left, has hesitated to cancel a program that offers legal status to immigrants who entered the U.S. as children and are contributing to the economy and society:

  Attorney General Ken Paxton is wrongheaded to thrust Texas at the head of a 10-state coalition urging President Donald Trump to go after the Dreamers.

  Paxton and leaders from the other states are threatening to sue the federal government if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not rescinded by September. Since 2012, it has helped 800,000 so-called Dreamers, unauthorized immigrants brought to this country as small children, protecting them from deportation and allowing them to work and go to school in the U.S.

  Texas is one of the states with the most to lose if this program is killed, so it's disappointing to see Paxton leading this charge. 

  With more than 120,000 DACA recipients, Texas ranks second in the nation. The Center for American Progress estimates that the Texas economy would lose $6.1 billion annually if 100,000 workers were deported. 

  If they're deported, they no longer will pump money back into their communities. They won't pay taxes, or buy and sell goods. They may not be able to pay back loans for mortgages, cars and higher education.

  We understand the desire to be tough on illegal immigration. But targeting these young immigrants is misguided. They did not choose to be brought here, and now that they're here, they contribute mightily to the Texas economy...

  There was a time that conservatives in this state more widely understood that. Let us remind that Texas was the first to offer unauthorized immigrants in-state tuition at public universities under GOP Gov. Rick Perry. Perry not only signed it into law but courageously defended the policy as both humane and smart  - even as he ran for president in heated GOP primaries in 2012 and 2016. He now happens to be Trump's energy secretary.

  Read more:

5) Hat tip to Brother Ron Gonyea for passing along a stellar review of a new book that gets into the 19th Century origins of "right to work" and other anti-union laws that have been sold to the public as "freedom" for working people.

  Reform or Repression: Organizing America's Anti-Union Movement appears to offer insights into anti-union management's thought processes during the Robber Baron era and beyond. Those insights are relevant today. Via LaborNotes:

  The final two decades of the 19th century, beginning with the great strike wave of 1877, and the first two decades of the 20th century were a period of intense class combat in the United States. The industrial working class struggled with the financial and industrial employing class in a bitterly fought battle that established an initial relationship of forces between the two emerging classes.

  Chad Pearson's new book recounts a critical component of that momentous struggle-the efforts of the employing class to establish an "open-shop" (i.e. non-union) movement, in order to defeat union attempts at organizing workers at the point of production and establishing what were characterized as workplace "closed shops" (i.e. unionized shops).

  Pearson's book is without a doubt among the best labor histories to be published in recent years. In keeping with the modern trend in labor history, this is not a labor history in the "traditional" sense of the term. Rather than being based on union minutes and other records and on union publications, Reform or Repression is almost exclusively based on sources produced by the employing class.

  These include employer association magazines and other publications, speeches and writings by leaders of the employers' associations and the "open-shop" movement, newspaper accounts about the movement, etc. Pearson uses the rhetoric of the "bosses" to document their efforts to prevent unions from organizing their workplaces.

  Pearson concentrates on the metalworking industry, with the factory owners' attempts to defeat the Iron Molders Union and the International Association of Machinists organizing efforts...

  The origin of the "the right to work" concept, which prevails in 2017, had its inception well over a century ago as did the concept of "free labor." The employers argued that the concepts of the "right to work" and "free labor" were the very essence of democracy. These became their mantra to keep unions out of their workplaces.

  Read more: