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Chad’s Morning Brief: Appeals Court Rules for the Use of Race in College Admissions, Texas Democrats and Their Power in Austin, and Other Top Stories

Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of July 16, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.

Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

Affirmative Action

According to the Texas Tribune, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the University of Texas can use race in admissions.

In a 2-1 decision Tuesday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled — for the second time — that the University of Texas at Austin can use race as an element of its admissions decisions for candidates not admitted via the state’s Top Ten Percent Law.

The overwhelming majority of UT-Austin students are admitted through the state’s automatic admissions law, which is based entirely on class rank. But applicants who are not admitted because of their high school ranking are subjected to a holistic review, part of which allows the consideration of an applicant’s race.

The majority opinion issued on Tuesday found that “universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.”

The university’s use of race has been challenged by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission in 2008 after undergoing such a review.  She sued the university over its consideration of race and has pursued the claim after graduating from Louisiana State University and securing a job in Texas.

Fisher and her attorneys indicated that they intend to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

“It is disappointing that the judges hearing my case are not following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer,” Fisher said in a statement. “I remain committed to continuing this lawsuit, even if it means we appeal to the Supreme Court once again.”

Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense foundation that has represented Fisher, said the ruling was not surprising based on the judges’ questions and comments during the last hearing, which was in November. “This panel was proven wrong last year by the Supreme Court, and we believe it will be proven wrong once again on appeal,” he said in a statement.

UT-Austin President Bill Powers issued a statement Tuesday saying he was pleased with the appeals court’s decision. “This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life,” he said.

In a statement of his own, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa also welcomed the ruling. “The University of Texas System is committed to maintaining policies that sustain a diverse student population on UT campuses, and we respect and appreciate the careful deliberation on this matter,” he said.

In a news conference on the UT-Austin campus following the decision, Powers said the university was prepared to respond to an appeal from Fisher, though he also noted that the cost to the university to litigate the case over many years had already been “very substantial.”

The appeals court had previously affirmed a district court’s summary judgment siding with the university. But the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to lower court in June 2013 on the grounds that the judges had not applied “strict scrutiny” and had been too inclined to take the university representatives at their word when they said the consideration of race was a necessary component of the review process that helped the institution meet its diversity goals.

The university argued that it is striving for — and has not yet attained — a “critical mass” of diversity.  In his dissenting opinion, Judge Emilio Garza said he was not swayed by the university’s argument because it “failed to define this term in any objective manner.”

Give me a break. Race should have NOTHING to do with getting a job or getting into college. UT hasn’t reached a critical mass of diversity? What the hell does that even mean? Want to make it a fair process then get rid of names and race on admissions forms. You get in based on how well you qualify. Get good grades and are a well-rounded student in High School? Congrats! You’re in. Race should have no impact. White students shouldn’t be at a disadvantage just because they were born white, just as black students shouldn’t be at a disadvantage due to their skin color.

Democrats in Austin

Do Democrats in Austin have any power? Well, once you combine them with moderate Republicans the answer is yes. The Hill took some time to point out the influence Democrats have in Austin.

Texas Democrats have not won a statewide election since 1994 and hold only a little more than a third of the seats in the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. Given this reality, it would be reasonable to assume that in recent years Democrats have been relatively powerless bystanders in the state capital of what is far and away the nation’s largest red state.

That assumption would be incorrect.

Over the past few legislative sessions, Texas Democrats have exercised a considerable amount of influence on the policy process in Austin. And this year, in the Lone Star State’s GOP primary, a host of Tea Party/movement conservative candidates skillfully utilized evidence of this Democratic influence to help propel them to victory over their establishment conservative rivals.

In 2009, a small number of centrist Republicans allied with an overwhelming majority of Democrats to remove Republican Tom Craddick from the Speakership and install Republican Joe Straus as the leader of the Texas House. Since that time, the Straus-led House has been run by a coalition of centrist and center-right conservative Republicans and Democrats.

During the 2013 legislative session, Democrats chaired almost two-fifths of the standing House committees. Reflective of their influence over the legislative agenda, the average Democrat was on the losing side of non-lopsided final passage votes a mere 7 percent of the time during the regular (January-May) and special (May-August) sessions. While the Democratic win rates (the percentage of votes where a legislator cast a final passage vote and was on the winning side) were on average slightly lower than those of the group of centrist conservative Republicans who constituted the core of Team Straus, they were noticeably higher than those of the House’s most conservative Republicans. More than half of the Republican representatives had win rates lower than those of every single Democratic representative, including all but two of the Republicans located to the right of the GOP ideological median, whose average win rate (75 percent) was close to 20 points below the Democratic average.

In 2013, the Republican-controlled Texas Senate opted to retain the body’s traditional “two-thirds rule” for the regular session. Under this rule, two-thirds of the senators must vote in favor of a motion to allow a bill to move to the floor. This rule, combined with control of more than one-third of the Senate seats (12 of 31), allowed Democratic senators to block legislation they unanimously or near-unanimously opposed during the regular session. Democrats chaired a third of the Senate committees.

The locus of power in the Senate during the 2013 legislative session was within the body’s centrist conservative bloc of Republicans, who on final passage votes often allied more frequently with Democrats than with their movement conservative brethren. As a result, in spite of a Senate with a 19-12 Republican majority presided over by a Republican lieutenant governor, the eight most conservative Republican senators had final passage vote win rates lower than those of all 12 Democrats.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking on the link above. As the author points out, despite the fact that the Texas Legislature is seen as “conservative” that hasn’t translated into 100% conservative legislation.

Other Top Stories:

Hundreds Turn Out for Littlefield Meeting

Greg Abbott Winning the Money War 

Patrick, Van de Putte Campaign Money 

Texas Monthly: The Senator from San Antonio 

Sweetwater Mayor to Run for SD-28

Federal Judge Rules in Favor of Open Carry in Fight with Arlington

These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard online in our podcast section after the show at kfyo.com.

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