Straus re-elected Speaker of Texas House

Speaker Joe Straus

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio

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Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco

Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, was re-elected as Texas Speaker on Tuesday (Jan. 13), defeating Scott Turner, R-Frisco, who ran to Straus’ right. Straus won 127 to Turner’s 19. No members voted present. Two were absent.

Straus was expected to win re-election, having already clinched nearly the majority of the GOP and Democratic caucuses. While the speaker’s race was never seen as competitive, numerous hard right groups had previously criticized Straus for failing to advance conservative legislation in past sessions.

With both sides on the defense, Straus and Turner’s supporters called for an unprecedented record vote of the election as opposed to the typical voice vote. Members’ votes would be recorded.

Turner even fell short of his backers’ estimates, clinching only 19 members, many of whom ran on opposing Straus in their elections.

It remains to be seen, but don’t anticipate Straus to seek revenge against the 19 members. Unlike with current U.S, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who tossed multiple dissenters within his ranks off committees, Straus isn’t seen as likely to punish them with irrelevant committee selections (or worse).

Here’s the unofficial vote tally, per the Texas Legislative Office. Yeas indicate a vote for Turner, nays indicate a vote for Straus (or against Turner in this case):

Yeas – Anderson, R.; Burrows; Fallon; Hughes; Keough; Klick; Krause; Leach; Rinaldi; Sanford; Schaefer; Shaheen; Simpson; Spitzer; Stickland; Tinderholt; Turner, E.S.; White, M.; Zedler

Nays – Allen; Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Anderson, C.; Ashby; Aycock; Bell; Blanco; Bohac; Bonnen, D.; Bonnen, G.; Burkett; Burns; Button; Canales; Capriglione; Clardy; Coleman; Collier; Cook; Crownover; Dale; Darby; Davis, S.; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Dutton; Elkins; Faircloth; Farias; Farney; Farrar; Fletcher; Flynn; Frank; Frullo; Galindo; Geren; Giddings; Goldman; Gonzales; González; Guerra; Guillen; Gutierrez; Harless; Hernandez; Herrero; Howard; Huberty; Hunter; Isaac; Israel; Johnson; Kacal; Keffer; King, K.; King, P.; King, S.; King, T.; Kleinschmidt; Koop; Kuempel; Landgraf; Larson; Laubenberg; Longoria; Lozano; Lucio; Márquez; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; McClendon; Menéndez; Metcalf; Meyer; Miles; Miller, D.; Miller, R.; Moody; Morrison; Mr. Speaker; Muñoz; Murphy; Murr; Naishtat; Nevárez; Oliveira; Otto; Paddie; Parker; Paul; Peña; Phelan; Phillips; Pickett; Price; Raney; Raymond; Reynolds; Riddle; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Rose; Schofield; Sheets; Sheffield; Simmons; Smith; Smithee; Springer; Stephenson; Thompson, E.; Thompson, S.; Turner, C.; Turner, S.; VanDeaver; Villalba; Vo; Walle; White, J.; Workman; Wray; Wu; Zerwas

Absent – Craddick; Dukes

—  James Russell

An open letter to Sen.-elect Konni Burton, who blocked me on Twitter

house-of-cards-quotes-1Jan. 7, 2015

Dear Sen.-elect Konni Burton:

Next Tuesday, Jan. 13, you will be sworn into the Texas Senate. After more than a year of campaigning, you will become Senator Konni Burton, the conservative Republican representing Senate District 10 in the Lone Star State.

You declared your candidacy in a video by slamming your predecessor, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for her filibuster against anti-abortion legislation. By running in Texas’ only competitive Senate district, you knew you’d be in the national spotlight. Judging by your campaign finance records after declaring your candidacy, you certainly became a national sensation.

Over the next year, you clobbered your GOP opponents — deemed “Republicans in Name Only” by your supporters — in the primary and run-off elections. Finally, you bested your Democratic opponent in the general election. As expected in tight elections, both you and your opponents were critical of your each other in nasty television commercials, advertisements and mailers.

That was clear enough when mailers appeared in the mailboxes of voters across SD-10, slamming your Democratic opponent for everything from being anti-gun to advancing your own anti-LGBT issues. While your spokesman denied the connection to the anti-LGBT mailer sent by the NFC, my research revealed the all-too-cozy connections between your campaign network and the mailers.

Clearly you are willing to give criticism. But I’m concerned you may not be receptive to it, even if it’s rooted in fact.

That’s why I’m writing you. It may seem small, but I couldn’t help but wonder why you blocked me on Twitter. Because I’m a reporter who critically wrote about your campaign? (A sentiment not exclusive to you, I might add.) Because I culled through campaign finance and other records, leading to a story about the dark money and shady mailers surrounding your campaign operation? I knew journalism rankles feathers, but facts are facts.

I didn’t realize doing my job was such an ongoing threat. Of course, neither did Bethany Rodgers, a reporter with the Frederick, Md.’s News-Post, who was threatened with a lawsuit by Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter for using his name without his permission. #kirbydelauter

As of Jan. 13, you will be an elected official, #StateSenKonniBurton. That is exactly what you campaigned on. You got what you wanted. Hopefully you’ll also act like an elected official, too.

Sincerely,

James Russell

Dallas Voice

P.S.: You can follow me on Twitter @james4texas

—  James Russell

Gay Republican George Clayton formally announces bid for TX House

Clayton.George

George Clayton

It’s official: George Clayton, who served on the State Board of Education from 2010-12, formally announced his campaign for the Texas House District 102 seat this morning. Clayton, a Republican who was defeated in the 2012 SBOE primary after being outed as gay, works as an administrator for the Dallas Independent School District. Clayton first indicated he planned to run on Facebook last month. He will seek the seat held by Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, who is stepping down to run for Railroad Commission. Among those Clayton will face in the 2014 Republican Primary is former Dallas City Councilwoman Linda Koop. Clayton would be the first openly gay Republican elected to the Texas Legislature. Below is his full announcement:

—  John Wright

Dan Branch vows to defend state’s right to trample on rights of women, gays

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State Rep. Dan Branch speaks at a Log Cabin Republicans meeting in Dallas in 2008. But don’t expect Branch to address the gay GOP group again now that he’s running for statewide office. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Republican State Rep. Dan Branch, who represents much of Dallas’ Oak Lawn gayborhood in the Texas House, vowed to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as he kicked off his campaign for attorney general on Tuesday.

“Whether defending our First Amendment freedoms, the Second Amendment right to bear arms or the 10th Amendment’s reservation of power to the states, I will exhaust all available remedies to protect Texas from attacks on our freedoms,” Branch said. “When our federal government fails to protect our borders or fulfill its commitment of emergency relief to communities like West, I won’t stop until the federal bureaucrats are held accountable. And I will fight for our state’s right to protect the unborn and our right to define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

In other words, Branch wants to protect Texas’ “right” to trample on the freedoms of women and same-sex couples.

—  John Wright

WATCH LIVE: Texas Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters anti-abortion bill

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

UPDATE: Led by Davis, and with the help of protesters in the Senate gallery, Democrats were ultimately able to run out the clock and defeat the bill, the Texas Tribune reports.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who happens to be an LGBT ally, is in the midst of a 13-hour filibuster aimed at killing sweeping GOP-backed abortion restrictions in Texas. Davis must remain standing throughout the filibuster, without leaning on anything, and cannot take a bathroom break. She has been warned twice for breaking the rules — most recently for getting help from a colleague adjusting her back brace. If Davis receives one more warning and it’s upheld, the Senate can vote on whether to end the filibuster, which must continue until the end of the special session at midnight to be successful. Davis’ filibuster is now a trending topic nationally on Twitter and has spawned accounts such as @WendysBackBrace. Watch Davis’ historic filibuster live below.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Texas state legislators tell LGBT youth, ‘It Gets Better’

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Several LGBT allies in the state Legislature have teamed up to make a two-part “It Gets Better” video to encourage queer youth that even in Texas, times are changing.

Lawmakers featured in the video are Rep. Mary Gonzalez, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, Rep. Mark Strama, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Rep. Rafael Anchia, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Sen. Kirk Watson, Sen. Royce West, Rep. Chris Turner, Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Garnet Coleman, Sen. John Whitmire, Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Justin Rodriguez, Rep. Gene Wu, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia.

The video was made in memory of Asher Brown, a gay Houston teen who committed suicide after being bullied. It was produced by Omar Araiza and Brianna Roberts, with filming and editing by Nathan Burkhart.

Araiza said coming out to his family at 16 was the hardest thing for him because many people in his life has homophobic beliefs. But things changed and he made it through the dark times when he wanted to end his life.

Now, he said he has hope because of the changing attitudes across the state, which was reflected by the strong support for LGBT issues in this year’s legislative session with a record number of pro-LGBT bills filed.

“This change in conversation needs to be made visible to LGBT youth who believe they are alone,” Araiza said. “Because they are supported and cared for by many. These videos are proof that in Texas, we have brave elected leaders willing to stand and support what many call today’s civil rights movement. While Texas may not be on the forefront of civil rights, change experienced here is a sign that full LGBT rights are inevitable.

“Things will continue to get better. We will all make it better.”

Watch the videos below.

—  Dallasvoice

Last anti-gay measure dies in TX Lege

State Rep. Matt Krause

State Rep. Matt Krause

As the session winded down last week, an anti-gay amendment by Fort Worth’s Matt Krause was still pending in SB 215 but was ultimately killed.

The amendment, which was originally filed as HB 360, passed the House in mid-May and would have allowed student organization at state-funded colleges to discriminate for membership. But Equality Texas reports that the Senate refused to agree with the amendments and formed a conference committee over the weekend.

The amendment was later removed on Friday before the session ended Monday.

Overall, LGBT advocates have called this session a success with several anti-gay measure defeated and the advancement of a few pro-equality bills.

However, there’s still a special session, which has been limited to redistricting so far. Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said it’s unlikely anti-LGBT measures would come up unless the special session is expanded to include education or other social issues.

“We’ll just have to wait and see if the call gets expanded beyond redistricting, and if it does, it could be problematic,” Smith said.

Read Equality Texas’ timeline of the Krause amendment below.

—  Dallasvoice

Anti-trans marriage license bill dies, but Krause amendment remains

State Sen. Donna Campbell

State Sen. Donna Campbell

Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell’s anti-transgender marriage license bill is officially dead.

SB 1218 passed the Senate last week, but failed to make it out of a House committee and onto the calendar for a vote this week. The bill would have prohibited anyone from obtaining a marriage license with a document that lacks a photo, including an affidavit of sex change.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the organization worked with transgender activists to slow the bill’s progress throughout the session.

“That is absolutely a victory,” he said.

This is the third and last anti-gay bill that’s died this session. However, Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause turned his failed HB 360 into an amendment and tacked it onto a bill last week that passed. The amendment would allow student organizations at state-funded colleges to discriminate against people for membership.

Williams said the bill’s final version will come for a vote this week and the group will work to kill the amendment if it makes it into the bill.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Texas’ ‘Governor for a Day’ delivers emotional pro-LGBT speech

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Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is sworn in as ‘governor for a day’ on Saturday.

The governor of Texas delivered impassioned remarks in support of LGBT equality on Saturday.

Unfortunately, San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was only “governor for a day” — a ceremonial honor bestowed upon the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate for one day each legislative session.

After returning to his pulpit on Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry would inanely compare his opposition to gays in the Boy Scouts to Gov. Sam Houston’s opposition to slavery. But on Saturday, Van de Putte choked back tears as she compared her support for LGBT equailty to Gov. Houston’s support for American Indians.

“A few minutes ago I swore on Sam Houston’s Bible to uphold the oath,” Van de Putte told those gathered at the Capitol for her address. “Sam Houston stood proud and he stood up for our Native Americans, our first nation, who at that time were considered savages, and he said, ‘I am aware that presenting myself as an advocate for the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.’ But Sam Houston stood up, and he did because it was the right thing to do, and I so I will stand because it’s the right thing to do.”

Van de Putte, the author of a bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination in Texas, talked about meeting Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the openly gay Marine from San Antonio who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq in 2003.

“He fought for us. He fought for you,” she said. “He nearly died for our country, and he still suffers for it every day, and yet, here in his home state, he can be denied or fired from a job, not because he’s Hispanic, and not because he has a disability, but because he is gay. A man who protects our country is not protected at home. A man who loves his country is denied and is discriminated against because of who he loves, and Texans, that has to change.”

Van De Putte concluded by referencing portraits of people like Barbara Jordan and Henry B. Gonzalez hanging in the state Capitol.

“At one time it would have been unthinkable to think that an African-American woman and a Mexican-American man, that their portraits would hang, would be adorned on these hallowed walls,” she said. “Someday on these walls there will be a portrait of a Texas hero who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter, because they’re a Texas hero.”

Watch Van de Putte’s historic remarks below.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: State ENDA pending; another pro-LGBT bill advances

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

Two state House bills that would end anti-LGBT job discrimination were left pending in committee Wednesday, but Equality Texas is hopeful the measures will make it out of committee by next week.

Testimonies were given in favor HB 238 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and HB 1146 by Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson before the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was confident the bills would make it out of the committee by next week, as it is common for committees vote on a bill a week after its hearing. The Senate version is still pending in committee.

Williams urged advocates to contact members of the House committee and ask them to advance the bill. Members are: Chairman John Davis, R-Houston, Vice Chairman Hubert Vo, D-Houston, Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, Jason Isaac, R-Drippings Springs, Jim Murphy, R-Houston, Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin.

Earlier this week, LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s HB 2403, which would protect same-sex minors in intimate relationships under the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, was voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version was voted out of committee earlier this month.

Anti-gay HB 1568 also passed out of committee earlier this week. The bill by Republican Drew Springer of Muenster originally aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offered domestic partner benefits and was withdrawn from consideration by the committee last week.

But Williams said a committee substitute bill was passed. The substitute would allow the Texas attorney general to defund and decertify school districts that offer domestic partner benefits without an appeals process. Williams said the substitute bill is “much worse than the first one.”

“As the bill progresses through the system we’ll have a better understanding of how to kill it,” he said, adding that people should contact their lawmakers now to tell them they oppose the bill.

Two pro-equality bills have hearings scheduled for Monday, April 29. HB 201, which would allow same-sex parents to sign an adopted child’s supplementary birth certificate, will be heard by the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

And HB 1701, which would remove the state’s “homosexual conduct” law found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 from the Texas Penal Code, will have a hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version has already passed out of committee.

Equality Texas is trying to get HB 1696 a hearing before the deadline on May 6.

“We’re very much on a deadline,” Williams said.

The bill authored by Democrat Jessica Farrar of Houston would remove language form public school curriculum that condemns homosexuality.

He’s urging advocates to contact House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, at 512-463-0684 and tell him to give HB 1696 a hearing.

—  Dallasvoice