Joe Biden At a joint event with Ohio Gov. John Kasich held Tuesday at the University of Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden warned liberals against suppressing free speech. “You should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be,” Biden said, when asked what could be done to “encourage people to be more accepting of opposing viewpoints.”
Abbott vetoed 13 bills authored by Democrats and seven by Republicans. Twelve of the vetoes targeted bills that originated in the House, and eight were from the Senate.
His most explosive veto came Friday when he signed the state budget but used his line-item veto to reject funding for the Texas Legislature, its staffers and legislative agencies. The move was retribution after Democrats broke quorum in the final days of the session to block the passage of Senate Bill 7, a GOP elections bill that would have overhauled voting rights in the state.
Abbott's office declined comment for this story.
Criminal justice priorities
Among the bills Abbott vetoed over the weekend was House Bill 686 — which would have allowed for earlier parole eligibility for inmates convicted of certain crimes if they were younger than 18 years old when the crime was committed. The bill would have required parole panels to consider the inmate's age and mental state at the time of the crime, among other factors, when determining parole eligibility.
House Bill 686 was authored by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and included in Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan's bipartisan criminal justice priority package called “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas."
In his veto statement, Abbott said that while he commends the bill's author for encouraging and recognizing rehabilitation among young inmates, he felt the bill conflicted with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, “which would result in confusion and needless, disruptive litigation."
Moody and Phelan declined comment for this story.
Another House criminal justice priority bill vetoed was Senate Bill 281 by state Sen. Juan “Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, which called for the ban on using statements obtained through hypnosis in a criminal court. If passed, the bill would have helped bring an end to a controversial practice that law enforcement in Texas used close to 1,800 times over the course of 40 years, according to a Dallas Morning News Investigation.
Abbott said he objected to a late amendment to the bill that would have barred statements that a person makes long after the hypnosis from being used as evidence in a criminal trial. He said that change “would dramatically expand its scope in an unacceptable way."
Hinojosa could not be reached for comment.
Protection for Dogs
Another bill that fell victim to Abbott's veto was Senate Bill 474, known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act. The bill would have made it illegal to chain up dogs and leave them without drinkable water, adequate shade or shelter. It also called for a ban on tethering dogs with heavy chains.
“I'm disappointed in the governor," said Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. “I don't agree with everything he does, but I respect him when it comes to quality of life and protecting life. I want to include dogs in that issue."
Abbott said Texas already has the statutes in place to protect dogs from animal cruelty, and the penalties proposed in Lucio's bill seemed excessive.
“Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization," he said in the veto statement.
Shelby Bobosky, executive director of Texas Humane Legislation Network, a nonprofit that lobbies in support of animal rights, said the organization's members are devastated by the veto, and the bill would have “clarified the vague language that makes the statute completely unenforceable."
“All the elements Governor Abbott cited as 'micromanagement' were carefully negotiated compromises that addressed concerns from lawmakers in both parties to strike the right balance for our diverse state," she said in a statement. “The passage of the bill in both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support from rural, urban, and suburban members was the result of six years of tireless effort by THLN and all stakeholders who care for dogs inhumanely restrained outdoors."
Animal-loving Texans created the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs on Twitter to express their disdain for the veto.
“It's not a political issue with me — it's a humane issue," Lucio said. “We need to do our best to take care of them."
A key issue of the legislative session was protecting and expanding broadband access particularly in rural Texas. House Bill 2667 would have provided universal service fund assistance for Texans.
Abbott named broadband access as one of his priority items for the legislative session, but he shot down the bill saying it would've imposed more taxes on Texans everywhere.
The bill proposed that those receiving assistance through the Texas Universal Service Fund — which helps those in the states receive basic telecommunications services — be charged a universal fee for services. An analysis of the bill stated that recent decisions from the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which funds the TUSF, has placed customers in rural areas at risk of losing telephone services or paying high costs for services.
“What a lot of people don't understand is that there are still parts of Texas, including parts of the rural district that I represent, where you don't have access to internet, some areas don't have access to cell service and even some areas don't have access to landline phones," said Rep. John E. Smithee, a Republican representing the Dallas area.
He also said broadband expansion was also signed into law through other measures, such as Senate Bill 5. This established the creation of the State Broadband Development Office, designed to expand broadband internet access, through The University of Texas System.
Abbott also vetoed Senate Bill 1109, which would have required middle school and high school students to learn about child abuse preventation, family violence and dating violence. He said in his veto explanation that he opposed the legislation because it doesn't give parents the option to opt out of instruction.
Abbott also vetoed Senate Bill 237 that would have reduced penalties for criminal trespassing by allowing police to “cite and release" individuals instead of arresting them. Abbott said this change would have a “troubling impact" on businesses and homeowners in Austin that “count" on criminal trespass arrests from homeless people who refuse to leave their properties. He said it would also go against making arrests in border communities.
“It would allow (and tempt) agencies to categorically mandate cite-and-release for this crime, taking away an important tool for officers to keep Texans safe," Abbott wrote.
All of Abbott's veto statements that were released Monday are available here.
Disclosure: University of Texas System has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/21/texas-greg-abbott-veto/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
On Sunday night, CNN aired a two-hour documentary called "Assault on Democracy" chronicling the evolution of the American right's most recent embrace of conspiracy theories and authoritarianism which led to the insurrection of January 6th. Unlike most of the recent TV examinations of this phenomenon, CNN didn't simply go back to the day Donald Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower but traced the beginning of this latest lurch into right-wing lunacy to the election of Barack Obama and the furious backlash that ensued. (The seeds obviously go back much further, but this is a logical place to begin with the Tea Party's seamless transformation into MAGA.)
The program rightly attributes the massive growth in conspiracy theories to the rise in social media during that period and especially takes on Facebook for its algorithms that lead people deeper and deeper into insular rabbit holes. Crude profiteers such as Alex Jones and Breitbart are exposed as well as good old-fashioned talk radio and Fox News. There can be no denying the massive influence of those cynical propaganda outfits on the events that transpired over the past few years.
Perhaps the most disturbing moments in the special were the interviews with some of the MAGA faithful who were at the Capitol on January 6th, which was a trip to Bizarro World in itself. They still don't see anything wrong with what happened and most of them, whether they are QAnon, Proud Boys, religious leaders or local politicians, are obviously 100% sincere in their belief in Donald Trump. If you didn't think he was a cult leader before, you certainly will after hearing them talk about him. It's downright eerie.
Recounting the events of that awful day with all the dramatic footage, some of it new, in chronological order is still as dreadful to watch as ever. And we still are missing huge pieces of what happened that day.
We know that Trump snapped at Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., when the House minority leader asked him to call off his followers as they stormed the Capitol: "Maybe you just don't care as much about this election as they do!" It took much cajoling to get Trump to release the tepid statements he eventually made calling for peace and telling the insurrectionist that they are very special and he loves them. But for all the detailed leaking from the Trump White House over the course of four years, this is one afternoon they've kept a pretty tight lid on. (It's also clear that's one of the main reasons the Republicans have nixed the bipartisan commission, as some people would have to go under oath and testify about all that.)
Perhaps all of this seems tedious by now. After all, we all know the story. Most of us watched it play out in real-time. But as CNN's Brian Stelter pointed out, it's important to keep telling it because the purveyors of lies and conspiracies keep trying to whitewash it into something completely different. He quoted this tweet:
And as I noted last week, conceding to them also means letting down our guard and failing to be prepared for Insurrection Redux. Listening to those MAGA fans in the CNN documentary was very clarifying on that point. Those who took part in the insurrection and have been charged continue to believe they did nothing wrong and are no doubt prepared to do it again. Those who helped incite the mob from their pulpits and various rally stages have absolutely no regrets. There's no doubt that there could easily be more violence.
But just as important in continuing to tell the truth about January 6th is to continue to combat the Big Lie about the election.
The MAGA faithful have been completely brainwashed and I don't think they'll ever change their minds. But devious, partisan players are hard at work in the states subverting the electoral system in ways that are truly insidious. It's so bad that I think everyone is simply obligated to continue to focus very diligently on this issue. To that end. the New York Times reported some very disturbing new details out of Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp signed a new law that allows Republicans to remove Democrats from local election boards:
Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.
Democrats in the state rightly point out that had these laws been in effect last fall, there's every chance that MAGA-friendly officials would have been put in charge of the election and Trump's requests to "find" votes might very well have been successful.
It isn't just local officials. Some states are going after statewide offices as well.
One of the more unbelievably transparent acts took place in Arizona, the epicenter of Big Lie activism, in which the Republican legislature introduced a bill that would strip the Democratic secretary of state of authority over election lawsuits. But in an act of epic chutzpah, they plan to have the law expire once she is out of office. (I assume they will reinstate it if another Democrat wins, but perhaps they feel they've put up enough roadblocks to ensure that never happens again). In Georgia, they've similarly turned the secretary of state's office into little more than a ceremonial position with little authority.
And this one is especially concerning because it tracks with the growing belief in a crackpot legal theory that state legislatures are the one and only legitimate arbiters of elections, superseding all other elected officials and the courts:
Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature's consent.
It is only a matter of time before one of these states passes a law that openly allows the legislature to overturn an election — and then does it.
If you read the inane rationalizations by these Republican officials, some of whom are quoted saying they believe the Big Lie, it's clear that the assault on democracy is actually just beginning. And it isn't just about Donald Trump. The Republican Party realized that just a few tweaks to the election laws means they can call into question any election result they don't like and take steps to overturn it. They are also very well aware that the specter of January 6th violence hovers still hovers over the country and they have millions of agitated Americans who are willing to believe anything. They have power and they are using it.
The idea that the Republicans are the party of the working class is now conventional wisdom among some members of the Washington press corps. That has bothered me for a variety of reasons, but I don't recall reporting the following annoyance. If the Republicans are the party of the working class, what does that mean in terms of class? We don't know, because most of the press corps does not bother asking the question.
Instead, we are left to read between and among the lines. The working class is drawn to the Republicans on account of the Republicans standing against things and people and ideas that the working class stands against. Those "things and people and ideas" have a certain color and a certain gender such that the Republicans are the party of the working class less in terms of class and more in terms of bigotry and prejudice. We are not talking about a working class so much as a whites-only working class. This is what lurks between and among the lines but the press corps never comes out and says it.
There are intimations of class, though. The people who twice broke for Donald Trump were largely the very obscenely rich as well as Americans believing they deserve to be very obscenely rich but for whatever reason are not. They live in every city and town. They are businessmen, property-owners and church members. They are respected and admired. They work hard and give back. They didn't go to college, which to the press corps means they are working class. To everyone else, they are the local upper crust.
That's not usually reported either. Neither is the root of the local upper crust's support for their idol. The Republicans, when they had control of the Congress, did one thing. They passed tax cuts benefiting the very obscenely rich. To the extent they benefited a petty bourgeoisie that's resentful of not being very obscenely rich, it was by treating the petty bourgeoisie as if they were very obscenely rich. That they got little or nothing materially is beside the point. The point was being seen as being like Donald Trump.
In this, the former president was a unity figure. In him was embodied the right combination of "cultural" factors that were capable of transcending real class divisions between the whites-only working class and the whites-only petty bourgeoisie for whom the whites-only working class worked. By "cultural," of course, I mean bigotry and prejudice. In this context, I think, we would profit from reconsidering the relationship between class and race (and other identifiers). To the whites-only working class, Trump was their hero. To the whites-only petty bourgeoisie, he was their ideal. To both, I'd suggest, he was the means by which they either stayed white or got whiter.
e're all familiar with the idea of upward mobility. If you work hard and play by the rules, the American dream can be yours. But what if, as Editorial Board member Kaitlin Byrd has argued persuasively, the US economy was built in accordance with white supremacy? Then class and upward mobility, in reality, are indistinguishable from systemic racism. That would mean the whites-only working class panics when the economy crashes. Being white no longer protects them. They need a savior. That would mean the whites-only petty bourgeoisie rejoices at the sight of their idol signing massive tax cuts for the very obscenely rich. Though they are not and never will be very obscenely rich, it doesn't matter. They got to be like Trump. They got to be whiter.
Seen from this perspective, one has to wonder how the whites-only working class is feeling in 25 states, where the Republican governors have shut off pandemic relief funding at the behest of a whites-only petty bourgeoisie that does not want to pay more in wages than the whites-only working class is receiving in unemployment benefits. Where Trump was capable of transcending the real class divisions between these camps with appeals to their whiteness, these GOP governors are inflaming divisions by taking whiteness away from one while maintaining it for the other.
We don't usually talk this way, because the (mostly white) press corps doesn't talk this way. It doesn't have, or doesn't want to have, the language with which to convey these felt realities. Instead, it talks about class as if it were only about class. It talks about race as if only Black people had a race. I hope someday we will all have access to a new American social vocabulary. In the meanwhile, I'll have to settle with being annoyed.
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