The Peter Morrison Report, By Peter Morrison
Recently Governor Rick Perry ordered a special legislative session to deal with a few pressing issues, such as school funding, Congressional redistricting, and other matters. During a special session, legislators may only deal with issues specified by the Governor in the call for the special session, or issues which he adds once the session begins. In this case, Governor Perry added two more items to the agenda. The first was a bill banning "sanctuary cities" in Texas. The term refers to cities and towns that declare themselves a sanctuary for illegal aliens, openly stating that they are not going to enforce laws against illegal immigration. The other one was a bill that would make it a crime for TSA agents to touch the private parts of airline passengers during "security screenings."
These are both issues which conservatives care deeply about, and we had high hopes that both would be passed and signed into law. However, we had no illusions about what we were up against, and that it was going to be a real fight to get these bills through. The biggest obstacle was House Speaker Joe Straus, who never seems to meet a conservative bill he doesn't want to obstruct.
We expected Straus to pull out all the stops in order to halt both bills in their tracks. He didn't let us down. Rep. David Simpson is the original sponsor of the anti-groping bill, and here is how he summed things up in a press release: "The Speaker unilaterally halted a bill supported by a majority of Texans, coauthored by 111 members of the House, approved by a majority of the Senate, vetted by Attorney General Greg Abbott, requested by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and called by Governor Rick Perry."
After a huge outcry from conservatives, Straus finally agreed to let a watered down version of the bill come up for a vote, but it didn't get enough support from House members, and it died. The sanctuary cities bill is also DOA. Rick Perry blamed Sen. Robert Duncan, the sponsor of the sanctuary cities bill, for its failure. Duncan said he had no choice, as he couldn't allow the bill to be tied to the school funding bill. Everyone points fingers, makes accusations and plays the blame game, but if they would devote half as much time to actually working to pass a bill as they do to making excuses after it fails, there wouldn't be any problem getting conservative bills signed into law.
Let me be perfectly frank. There is no good reason either of these bills should have died in the special session, let alone both of them, and the blame lies entirely with the Republican leadership in Austin, and I'm not referring only to Joe Straus. Yes, Straus is a definite obstacle to passing conservative legislation, but Rick Perry is still the governor, and if he really wanted these bills to become law, they would have both passed. A big part of what leadership is about involves using your authority to cajole, persuade and convince others to come around to your way of thinking. The governor has a lot of tools at his disposal, including both sticks and carrots, and he could have used them to turn these important bills into law.
Unfortunately, Rick Perry didn't have time to exercise his leadership during this special session. He was too preoccupied with other matters, like running for President. Call me cynical, but it seems pretty obvious that Perry's presidential ambitions were a major factor in his lack of bold leadership on these two bills. He has spent some time over the past few weeks pandering to liberal left-wing race based groups, such as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials - can you imagine the outcry if he had spoken to the National Association of White Elected and Appointed Officials? Instead of shoring up his conservative credentials, Perry chose to speak to a group whose membership is not only race based, but is overwhelmingly composed of liberal Democrats.[ Rick Perry's Jose Cuervo joke at Latino convention bombs in Texas, as governor mulls 2012 GOP bid, By Aliyah Shahid, NY Daily News, June 24, 2011]
Rick Perry was also quoted recently as saying that some of his proudest accomplishments as governor were nominating black and Hispanic judges for Texas courts. [Rick Perry: A Texan's 'exceptionalism', By George F. Will, June 24, 2011]He didn't explain exactly why the race of the judges he appointed is relevant (a governor should simply pick the best qualified candidates, not race-based tokens), but it's clear that Perry has decided to go into campaign mode as he tests his presidential chances. Heading back to Austin to fight for passage of the sanctuary cities bill would not have served his political ambitions, as even the slightest opposition to illegal immigration is these days denounced as "racism" and "hate" by the very groups Perry is pandering to.
We're going to have to show Rick Perry that if he wants to win the White House, it's conservative voters he'd better be trying to please. If Rick Perry wants to be President of the United States, he'd best remember the old Texas proverb that "you dance with the one who brung you." It is conservative voters who put Rick Perry where he is today, and it is our principles and causes he had better be fighting for. The same thing applies to the Republican Party in general. If they keep betraying us, and turning in such miserable performances as we saw during this special session, then they had better start looking elsewhere for votes, because conservatives are just going to stay home.
Thankfully, it's not too late to do something about what just took place in Austin. Rick Perry and the GOP leadership can make up for the abject failure of this past special session and demonstrate that they're serious about fighting for conservative legislation. The governor of Texas has the authority to call as many special sessions as he deems fit. Rick Perry needs to order another one immediately, and then he and the rest of the Republican leadership in Austin need to do what it takes to pass the TSA and the sanctuary cities bills.
Peter Morrison (email him) is a businessman living in Lumberton, Texas with his wife and four children. He currently serves on the Lumberton ISD School Board and as treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party. He says "I believe deeply in the principles of limited constitutional government, the sanctity of life and that our state and nation should be run under Thomas Jefferson's principle of 'Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None.'" This article is from his free newsletter, which features commentary about current events of interest to Texans—sign up here.