Chad’s Morning Brief: Gun Control Bill Fails, Texting While Driving in Texas, and More
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of April 18, 2013. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am.
1. Senate Rejects Gun Control Bill (link)
Yesterday the Obama Administration suffered a pretty big defeat in the Senate. Senators voted 54-46 for universal background checks but needed 60 votes for the amendment to pass. The President was angry when he gave a statement from the rose garden.
President Obama angrily blamed the defeat Wednesday of his centerpiece gun-control proposal on lies spread by the National Rifle Association, calling it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
“The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Mr. Obama said in the White House rose garden about 90 minutes after the vote. “It came down to politics.”
As he spoke, Mr. Obama was surrounded by family members of victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Also with him was former Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, wounded in an assassination attempt.
Senators voted 54-46 late Wednesday to expand background checks of gun purchases, six votes shy of the 60 needed for passage of the amendment.
The vote was a huge blow to the president’s efforts since the Newtown, Conn., school massacre last December to enact a broad package of new gun laws. Mr. Obama and his team had considered background checks the most likely gun restriction to be approved by Congress, with polls showing as much as 90 percent of the public in favor of the measure immediately after the Newtown shootings.
The president put the blame squarely on the NRA, which he accused of spreading falsehoods that the legislation would lead to a national gun registry.
“They claimed that it would create some sort of big-brother gun registry, even though it did the opposite,” Mr. Obama said. “This pattern of spreading untruths … served a purpose. A minority in the U.S. Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms, even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery. It’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans just voted against that idea.”
Mark Barden, father of 7-year-old Daniel who was killed in Newtown, said any father in America could be in his shoes.
Mr. Obama vowed not to give up on seeking more gun restrictions.
“You’ve got to send the right people to Washington,” he told voters. “That requires strength and it requires persistence. I see this as just Round One. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it.”
As I’ve said before, this bill would have done nothing to prevent the shootings at Newtown. Today on the show we will play audio from Obama’s angry tantrum.
2. Texting While Driving (link)
Speaking of emotional debates that lawmakers engage in…
Texas lawmakers approved of a ban on texting while driving. The House passed the measure by a 98-47 vote according to the Texas Tribune.
House Bill 63, which would make texting while driving a statewide criminal offense, passed the House by a 98-47 vote Wednesday, narrowly surviving multiple attempts to substantially weaken its provisions.
The bill, authored by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, would make it a misdemeanor to type on a handheld device to send an electronic message while behind the wheel. HB 63 would create a fine of up to $100 for first-time charges, and $200 for repeat offenses.
The bill now heads to the Senate. Similar measures have been vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, and a two-thirds vote in each chamber would be required to override a potential veto of the current bill.
Rep. Charles Perry tried of offer up an amendment to the bill.
But the bill faced substantial resistance. Early on, supporters of the measure successfully defended the bill against two amendments that would prevent police officers from pulling over drivers if texting was the primary, or only, offense and the driver in question was obeying all other traffic laws.
The first was offered by Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who argued that the bill unnecessarily restricted the freedoms of Texans.
“While I am supportive of this bill, it’s very important that liberty not be sacrificed in the process,” he said. “I’m cognizant that [the bill] opens things up to a lot of subjection. And that could become an issue.”
That amendment was ultimately tabled by an 84-60 vote, but a similar amendment offered by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, received more support. Dutton argued that a ban on texting could be applied unequally across the state – and could provide an easy pretext for police officers to pull over drivers.
“I’m a little concerned that this will lead to people of color being stopped because an officer made an allegation that they were texting,” he said. “And there would be no basis with which to prove that.”
That amendment was initially tabled by a vote of 74-68.
I expect that the Governor will again veto this bill.
3. Driver’s Permits for Illegals? (link)
Should illegal immigrants in Texas have access to driver’s permits? It’s an issue being discussed in Austin.
A Texas House committee on Wednesday heard testimony on a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s permits after submitting to background checks, fingerprints and paying about $150 in fees.
House Bill 3206 by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, would also mandate that applicants pass a driving test to get the document, which would allow holders to legally register their vehicles and obtain auto insurance. The measure has the support of state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the chairman of the powerful State Affairs Committee, who presided over contentious immigration proposals before the Legislature two years ago. There are about 1.6 million undocumented immigrants in Texas.
The bill was left pending in committee, but Cook praised Alonzo’s work and willingness to amend the bill and make it more palatable for lawmakers.
“I hope we are successful and we can get a bill signed,” Cook said.
The hearing came on the same day that the so-called “Gang of 8” — a bipartisan group of U.S. senators — filed a sweeping comprehensive immigration reform bill. The 800-page measure includes, among other things, a 13-year path to citizenship for millions living in the country illegally, stronger border security, mandatory use of an electronic employment verification system and an expanded visa system.
It’s been largely hailed as a great starting point for a debate lawmakers, business leaders and immigrant rights groups agree is urgently needed. But the legislation also indicates there will be a long road before anything is agreed to, meaning state governments will still have to grapple with immigration issues in the meantime.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo testified in favor of the bill, arguing that it made sense from a public safety and economic standpoint.
“It will absolutely enhance safety. There is nothing more frustrating than being hit by an individual and when you go to exchange information, there is no ID,” he said. “More importantly, it goes toward helping us investigate all crime. We now have a picture and we now have fingerprints.”
Norm Adams, the Republican co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy, has been lobbying in favor of the bill for months. An insurance salesman, Adams said he knows of several undocumented commercial drivers who are certified by the Department of Transportation, which he said requires a rigorous and challenging testing process, who are subsequently unable to renew a state driver’s license.
“That is a possibility that all of our Texas business owners face with uninsured drivers who are probably undocumented,” he testified. “These people are driving without a driver’s license.”
Cook said he would continue to work with Senate Republicans on the measure. The Legislature is approaching its final weeks of business.
Current law requires that applicants for new or renewed driver’s licenses show proof of legal status. The measure was codified in 2011 during the 82nd Texas Legislature after the Texas Department of Public Safety enacted the rule in 2008. It was challenged in courts after plaintiffs said the department acted without legislative authority. The measure failed to pass in 2009 as a stand-alone bill but was amended to a fiscal matters bill in 2011.
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