Chad’s Morning Brief: Gun Laws Dominate the Weekend in Austin, Ted Cruz 2016 Talk Continues, & More
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of May 6, 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. Gun Day Saturday (link)
Saturday was a busy day in Austin as lawmakers passed several bills dealing with gun laws in Texas. Lawmakers approved a campus carry bill, school marshals, and a bill dealing with the time it takes to get a CHL.
Democrats attempted to block the campus carry bill, but they weren’t successful. While this bill will sail through the House, it’s fate is uncertain in the Senate according to the Texas Tribune even though it is watered down.
Fletcher reassured members that the bill had an “opt-out” provision that allowed schools to reject participation, and allowed an amendment that requires institutions, after consulting with staff, students and other stakeholders, to renew the policy annually. The bill does not extend to sporting events, and Fletcher allowed an amendment that would prevent CHL holders from taking firearms to other “official mass gatherings.” He also gave the green light to an amendment by state Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, that forbids carrying firearms on campuses that hold “biocontainment” laboratories. Eiland’s district includes the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The House will likely pass the bill one more time as required to, but its fate in the state Senate is unclear. This week the upper chamber passed a measure that allowed CHL holders to take their weapons onto campuses but required them to secure them in their cars, a hint that senators may be hesitant to expand gun rights as far as the House would like.
Also on Saturday, the House passed HB 1009 by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, which establishes “school marshals” — similar to air marshals — that public schools may hire to increase student safety.
The bill requires the marshals to undergo 80 hours of training; a normal CHL holder, Villalba said, must only receive eight hours of training and additional instructions. Like Fletcher’s bill, Villalba’s is optional — schools aren’t required to hire such marshals. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, or TCLEOSE, would oversee the training program, and applicants would also be subject to a psychological examination in order to determine if they are fit for the responsibilities.
“This legislation provides school districts with a cost-effective school security option that includes robust training tailored to protect children in schools during an active shooter situation,” Villalba said in a statement minutes after the bill passed.
Villalba said the bill was modeled after the current air marshal program. Like those officers, the identity of the school marshal would only be available to certain law enforcement officials — school officials and the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The measure must still pass the lower chamber a final time, but Villalba said that after discussions with members of the Senate, he is confident the measure will pass the upper chamber.
Those two gun bills weren’t the only ones to pass the House on the lower chamber’s designed “Gun Day.”
The House also passed measures that affect the renewal, cost and time required to obtain a concealed handgun license. Senate Bill 864 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, reduces the amount of training required for the permit to no more than six hours.
The House also passed HB 485 by state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place. That measure decreases the fee for a CHL to $25 for honorably discharged members of the military and volunteer or reserve peace officers. Davis allowed an amendment that would offer the discount to correctional officers who work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, though she said she had concerns that it would swell the bill’s fiscal note. Both measures must be passed out of the House a third time before moving to the senate for consideration.
As you probably know, I am not a fan of this campus carry bill. It’s weak and at the end of the day most schools won’t change.
What do you think of the gun bills that were passed Saturday?
2. Smoking Ban Bills Projected to Fail (link)
The push to ban smoking by some Republicans and Democrats in Austin will fail. At least that’s what it looks like right now.
As they have done in previous Texas Legislature sessions, two lawmakers are pushing bills aimed at banning smoking in public places.
The proposed legislation would save the state $30 million on Medicaid funding in the next two fiscal years, said Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, Crownover’s House Bill 400 would ban smoking indoors at public facilities.
“We know that cigarette smoking is the major killer in the United States,” she said. “And so we think that Texans should have the liberty to breathe clean air.”
But as was the case in previous years, smoking ban measures Crownover and Sen. Rodney Ellis filed in the current session are in jeopardy.
“With 27 days left in the session, it would be hard to get a bill out of committee to the floor of the House and the Senate,” conceded Ellis, D-Houston, whose Senate Bill 86 is the upper chamber’s companion to Crownover’s.
It would be difficult but not impossible to pass the smoking ban bill, Ellis said.
For Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, a non-smoker, the apparent defeat of the Crownover-Ellis bills, session after session, is not surprising.
“I have great respect for Representative Crownover, she is my friend and we agree on just about everything, but on this bill we differ (because) it is about personal liberty and about private property,” Hughes said.
Hughes spoke against Crownover’s bill in the 2011 session when it passed in the House but was ultimately killed in the Senate.
“If you have a business, a restaurant and you want to allow smoking in your business, I don’t have to go there if I don’t want to,” Hughes said. “It is not the government’s job to tell you what you have to do with your property.”
His Republican colleagues John Frullo of Lubbock and Four Price and John Smithee of Amarillo, see it the same way.
“I don’t advocate smoking in any way, shape or form, but I just don’t think it’s the state’s business to tell you where you can or cannot smoke,” Price said.
This is a good development, but the fight isn’t over. We have to keep watching our local, state, and federal elected officials on this issue. The push to take freedom away from you is on-going.
3. Cruz 2016 Talk Continues (link)
Senator Ted Cruz was in South Carolina over the weekend which didn’t help to put an end to the chatter about Cruz and 2016. In fact, it only added fuel to the fire.
He has spent less than six months in the U.S. Senate, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) fueled speculation about his broader national political ambitions Friday night with a coveted speaking role at a state Republican Party dinner in the early primary state of South Carolina.
In a speech designed to rally the state party’s most faithful activists, Cruz sharply criticized the Obama administration for “pushing an agenda aggressively to come after our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
He thanked the state’s conservative voters for helping to stop the Senate from passing any new restrictions despite widespread support for some of the proposals.
“The men and women in this room began speaking up, began calling Washington, going online, going on Facebook, going on Twitter, and said, ‘Go after the violent criminals, go after them with a ton of bricks, but protect the constitutional rights of Americans,’” he said.
Speaking with a wireless microphone and pacing the stage like a televangelist, Cruz urged Republicans not to become complacent in the aftermath of the party’s electoral losses last year.
“Change happens quickly,” he said, recalling that Democrats had warned of a “permanent Republican majority” in 2005, shortly before winning control of Congress and the election of President Obama.
“In 2006, we lost Congress, 2008 Barack Obama got elected, 2009 Obamacare passes, and here we are today,” he said. He later declared: “I am convinced with your help that we’re going to take back the U.S. Senate in 2014.”
As Cruz concluded, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly reminded the senator that former president Ronald Reagan once spoke at the party’s annual fundraising event, known as the Silver Elephant Dinner.
“Not to put any pressure on you, but we have high expectations and we do expect you back in the state,” Connelly told Cruz.
The speech Friday night was Cruz’s second high-profile appearance of the day. Earlier Friday in Houston at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association, Cruz challenged Vice President Biden to an hour-long debate on violence and gun-control.
I still think it’s too early for the Cruz camp to be looking at the White House, but if the other possible 2016er’s continue to flop, Cruz might start looking better and better.
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