By Donna Garner
Yesterday 24 conservative leaders from all across Texas drove hundreds of miles at their own expense and on their own time to go to Austin to meet with the Texas Attorney General’s (TAG) office.
These 24 conservative leaders were tea party and/or Republican activists who represent thousands of other Texas conservatives who have become totally frustrated with our Texas legislature.
Most of the people who came to the meeting had taken personal leave or had left their own businesses to spend the entire day in Austin, not going to fancy malls and eating at exotic-sounding restaurants but instead to do the grunt work of strategizing for the remainder of this legislative session and for the elections of 2012. (You will soon see visual evidence of our hard work.)
These conservative leaders have already begun spending the hours required to vet candidates for 2012, and they shared their ongoing results yesterday. We want to make sure that the ever-growing conservative numbers of Texas voters are not fooled in the next election by those who run as conservatives and then legislate as left-leaning Republicans-in-Name-Only (RINO’s) as we have seen in this present legislature.
OVER 3,500 SIGNATURES ON OUR PETITION
One of the things that we did was to present our petition that held over 3,500 names, gathered in only 6 days. This was the petition that voiced Texas citizens’ passionate displeasure over the redistricting process that we have seen thus far by the Texas Legislature. The redistricting process will determine the direction in which Texas will go for the next ten years!
Next stop for the petition is Gov. Perry’s office. It is not too late for other concerned citizens to sign the petition at:
The TAG attorneys voiced their amazement at how well prepared we activists were, and the attorneys did not have to waste time with their usual orientation session because we already understood the redistricting process. Therefore, we were able to jump immediately into our talking points. I believe our honest, face-to-face discourse that immediately “cut-to-the-chase” was refreshing to the TAG; and our meeting with them was very productive for all concerned.
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS
One of the issues that we discussed with the TAG is the case against Thomas Ratliff who is on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) even though he is a millionaire lobbyist whose clients do business with the Texas Education Agency and the SBOE. The SBOE is the caretaker of the Permanent School Fund (PSF). On May 30, 2010, Microsoft was one of the PSF’s top five stocks at $157.16 million — a clear conflict of interest for Ratliff and a clear violation of the Texas Education Code.
To learn more of the details, please go to my article entitled “Thomas Ratliff’s Brazen Gall” — 4.3.11:
Because the TAG wants to be so exacting about its opinion on the Ratliff case, the attorneys indicated that it might take the full six months to finalize their opinion. Texas State Board of Education Chair Gail Lowe, as directed per a complaint from a private citizen, sent the TAG’s office the official request for opinion on March 2, 2011. This means that the TAG would have until approximately the middle of August to issue its ruling.
We who spoke to the complaint against Ratliff spared no details, and we were assured that the public could weigh in by sending their e-mails to the TAG because they are still accepting the public’s input.
Early-on I submitted my concerns to this e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). I asked for a receipt for my comments and received the receipt from this e-mail address: email@example.com.
I urge all of you Texans who care about the Rule of Law to submit your complaints. The TAG said that they have a huge file on this case, and we conservatives need to help this file to grow even larger!
When you submit your complaints, you must be sure to put the following file number in the subject line of your e-mail and also at the top of your letter: File #ML 4667511, I. D. #46675 — Thomas Ratliff.
Here is SBOE Chair Gail Lowe’s 3.2.11 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott requesting an opinion on the SBOE-registered lobbyist law:
As a side note, underneath yesterday’s Texas Tribune article in the comment section, Thomas Ratliff posted his wireless telephone number and invited people to call him. I just did, and he answered the phone himself. We had a short chat; and I, of course, was very civil as all of us should be. Wouldn’t it be nice if many other Texans took him up on his offer to talk to him at (903) 717-1190? If enough people called him, it might make it difficult for him to spend all day as a full-time lobbyist at the Capitol who has had the time and the connections to influence the SBOE redistricting map. Coincidentally, Ratliff’s new SBOE district is a “dream come true” and in another big coincidence is drawn in such a way that his biggest challenger for 2012 has been drawn out of his district.
We as conservatives are pleased that the sonogram bill passed out of the Senate yesterday; and we are trusting that the House will concur, thus sending the sonogram bill to Gov. Perry’s desk for his signature. However, this is the only piece of conservative legislation that has gotten this far; and the clock is ticking.
What about the budget, sanctuary cities, photo voter I. D., Choose Life license plates, the confirmation of SBOE Chair Gail Lowe, the continuation of the timeline for the implementation of Texas’ new standards and testing program, the ban in Texas schools of national standards/assessments/database, proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license, appropriations of funds for new English textbooks, prohibiting state courts from considering foreign religious or cultural laws, regulations to make sure all candidates on Texas ballots have been properly vetted, audit and transparency regulations for charter schools, and many other bills that fall under the conservative agenda?
NEXT ORDER OF BUSINESS YESTERDAY
After we solidified our complaints about Thomas Ratliff, then we proceeded to our next order of business with the TAG. Because the redistricting of the House and Texas State Board of Education (also of the Senate and Congress) will impact the direction of our state for the next ten years, we believe the redistricting process must be conducted according to the Rule of Law. We do not believe that is the way it is being done in the Texas Legislature.
TEXAS HOUSE REDISTRICTING
1. The elections of Nov. 2, 2010 demonstrated to the entire country that Texas is a conservative state. However, instead of this legislature following the conservative principles upon which the majority of Republicans ran, this session seems bent on teaching conservatives a lesson: “Shut up, or we will throw you under the bus.” We as conservatives are very concerned about the obvious onslaught that is occurring against the conservative voices in our state.
2. Joe Nixon and Tray Trainor are two nationally recognized redistricting attorneys. They worked night and day to draw up a House redistricting map that would help to elect a majority of Republicans while at the same time following the Voting Rights Act. When the time came for the House to debate the Nixon/Trainor (a.k.a., Cain) map, only one map – the Solomons’ plan – was allowed to go to the House floor for debate. The Solomons’ map goes out of its way to decimate Rep. Wayne Christian’s district and to pair up two outspoken conservative leaders – Rep. Flynn and Rep. Cain. We grassroots citizens believe that political retribution is falling on the conservative members of our Texas Legislature, and we do not like it.
3. Not only are conservative legislators being targeted through the redistricting maps, but their legislation that so many of us conservative voters support has hit brick walls all during this session. Many conservative leaders have complained because their bills are receiving no hearings. We are highly concerned that political retribution is slowing down the conservative agenda that we voters indicated we wanted back on Nov. 2, 2010.
QUESTIONS ABOUT SBOE REDISTRICTING MAP
1. Because Texas has rewritten its curriculum requirements for English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR), Science, Social Studies with Math in the pipeline, Texas now is considered to have the best curriculum standards in the entire United States. The SBOE redistricting map deliberately tries to punish the very members who worked so hard to adopt the new-and-improved standards. We want the Texas Legislature to choose to honor by their actions the conservative leaders on the SBOE instead of deliberately shaping their districts in such a way as to set them up for defeat in 2012.
2. Sen. Seliger was appointed chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The majority of the SBOE members clearly stated they preferred (E118). This map had been written by Pat O’Grady, an expert on redistricting and the Voting Rights Act. It was O’Grady who wrote the redistricting map in 2000 which successfully passed through all court challenges.
Ignoring E118, Sen. Seliger, however, chose to produce a rogue map (E120) fifteen minutes before the committee meeting started. This gave the public no time to prepare their remarks or to decide whether or not to testify. The accompanying report to rogue E120 was not even given to the Committee members until after they had already voted for the map.
Interestingly enough, even though the public was not allowed to see the map on the District Viewer (public website) ahead of time, Thomas Ratliff testified at the meeting and said he just “loooooved” the map. How come he was so familiar almost instantly with the map when nobody else had seen it until 15 minutes before the redistricting meeting began? It is certainly easy to understand why we conservative leaders are upset with this legislative process.
3. When it came time for the full Senate to debate both the preferred SBOE map (E118) and the rogue E120Seliger map, no such debate ever occurred because only one map was allowed to be voted on — E120.
We conservative grassroots citizens dislike intensely the political retribution that is being demonstrated during this legislative session; the leaders of both the House and the Senate seem to be going out of their way to silence public debate on any alternative plans.
Based upon the Nov. 2, 2010 election, we conservatives are highly disgruntled that moderate-to-left-leaning Republicans are running this legislative session with such ruthless disregard for the Rule of Law.
Texas voters sent a clear message on Nov. 2, 2010 and elected Republicans who had indicated they were conservatives. Once in office, the large majority of them have set about to punish the conservative leaders on both the SBOE and in the House. These Republicans-in-Name-Only do not represent the majority of citizens in this state, and we are not just going to sit back and let them roll right over us.
We will soon be making our case to Gov. Perry and to anyone else who will listen to us. Soon the entire nation will see the results of our hard work yesterday — be watching!
Below is the information we sent out on 5.4.11 to help grassroots citizens follow the process.
CONSERVATIVE TEXANS’ CONCERNS
TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REDISTRICTING MAP 5.4.11
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBERS SPEAK OUT
District 5 – Ken Mercer (R – San Antonio)
My concerns are twofold. First, the input of the conservative members of the SBOE map E118 was purposely ignored by Sen, Seliger even though I personally called Seliger’s office as did a multitude of conservative groups to support map E118.
Absolutely no SBOE members nor organizations called to support Seliger’s rogue 120 map because that map was not even available when Seliger began his public hearing at 8:00 A. M.
Suspiciously, lobbyist and SBOE Member Thomas Ratliff arrived at Seliger’s Redistricting Committee meeting to testify FOR map E120 when that map had never been posted for public viewing.
In District 5, I now lose most of the conservative precincts of Travis County which I represented; those went to Marsha Farney in District 10. [Farney has only been seated on the SBOE for two meetings, and she has already exhibited moderate-to-left-leaning tendencies. – Donna Garner]
Suddenly and without any explanation or discussion, I was pushed into new areas and far northern counties — all because two Republicans did not want the east Texas conservative Republican base of Aggieland / College Station in their SBOE districts [Thomas Ratliff and Marsha Farney – Donna Garner].
Both Republican voting strength and my name ID in District 5 is decreased; and the lone Hispanic Republican on the SBOE, fellow Conservative Charlie Garza, became the primary target and #1 victim of “the RINOfaction.”
Sen. Selinger’s rogue E120 map severely punishes conservative Charlie Garza, the lone Hispanic Republican on the SBOE. At the same time, E120 rewards two RINO’s, Thomas Ratliff and Bob Craig. What message does that map send to conservative Hispanics about the Texas GOP?
District 1 – Charlie Garza (R – El Paso)
Prior to April 28, 2011, several maps were introduced to redistrict the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for the next ten years. All SBOE seats are open in 2012. Neither the House Redistricting Committee nor the Senate Redistricting Committee asked for any input from the lone Hispanic Republican (me) on the SBOE. Given that the state holds a majority in both houses, you would think that prudent.
Districts 1, 2, and 3 (under E118 or E120) ALL have higher numbers than was deemed acceptable in 2002. If one analyzes that data it is clearly evident that the Hispanic percent population in District 1 was 72.7%. So why is that NOT the starting point for retrogression measurement, rather than the 76.9% that was used?
So all of this extends the question of just what is retrogression, what is the baseline, and “how much is enough”? With multiple conflicting goals of various Voting Rights Act (VRA) decisions, the mathematics are such that you cannot satisfy all goals simultaneously. The primary goal was (and hopefully is) “one man one vote.” E120 is woefully pitiful in this regard, particularly as compared to E118.
Sen. Seliger determined that the “fix” to my District 1 was to remove “the white counties.” The end result under the Seliger plan is that District 1 is now approximately 60,000 less in population than the number of people needed to give me an opportunity at being re-elected in 2012.
On April 28, I initiated a call to Senator Seliger’s office and asked to speak to someone who was working on the SBOE redistricting plan. In my conversation with a staffer, I expressly asked why I had not even been given a phone call by a fellow Republican since Sen. Seliger’s plan had changed SBOE District 1 more than any other district in the state. Moreover, I requested to know why Odessa (Ector County) and Midland (Midland County) had been switched. Especially when I already have name recognition in Midland!
Approximately two hours later in a fit of anger, Sen. Seliger called me. I stated to Sen. Seliger that I had numerous concerns with the way he had conducted the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting the day before (4.27.11):
(1) He had given the public no opportunity for debate.
(2) I believe his actions violated the Open Meetings Act.
(3) The only map Sen. Seliger presented to the Senate Redistricting Committee was E120 which did not comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Section 2 since I would become a victim of Congressionally-mandated and judicially-enforced “racial packing.”
(4) Map E120 would also diminish the opportunity for Hispanics to have an effect on other districts by packing them into District 1.
As stated by The Lone Star Report on 2.18.11, the Voting Rights Act is not “a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion to the population.” Section 2 is not intended to create racial quotas among elected officials. In fact, that is expressly forbidden by law.
Likewise, Section 2 does not require states to create the maximum number of districts possible in which the majority of the population is composed of members of a minority group. The Supreme Court has specifically rejected the establishment of a rule that would require governing bodies to maximize the number of so-called “majority-minority” districts. Instead, the purpose of Section 2 is to ensure that minority groups have the same ability to participate in elections and affect their outcomes as do other members of the electorate.
Before I had an opportunity to continue, Senator Seliger became argumentative and told me that the district in any map but his map would retrogress and that he had checked this with his attorneys. I responded by telling him that he was wrong especially since to my knowledge no definition exists on what retrogression is!
Instead of debating the merits of retrogression, Sen. Seliger continued to scold me as if I were a child.
When I tried to bring up the Open Meetings Act, Sen. Seliger, he said he would deny this allegation to any member of the media if the question were asked.
If the Republican Party truly advocates for a more inclusive big tent that includes conservative Hispanics, the Republican Party needs to address my grievous concerns right now while the SBOE redistricting map is being drawn.
District 14 – Gail Lowe (R – Lampasas)
The Solomons’ House map (E111) is particularly bad for me because my four most populous counties are given to four other board members:
1. I lose Wichita Falls area to Bob Craig.
2. I lose Wise and Denton (my most populous) counties to Pat Hardy.
3. I lose Grayson County (Sherman-Denison area) to Thomas Ratliff.
4. I lose McLennan County (Waco– my second most populous) to Marsha Farney.
My Central Texas district would wrap around the Dallas Metroplex area to the east, instead of to the west as it is now; and I would pick up 7 new counties. Most of my population would come from these counties that I have never represented before — 80 percent of my population would be new to me.
This map completely destroys my voter base and the areas I have represented since 2003.
The Senate map (Plan E120) is must closer to my current district. Although I would lose my western border and northern counties to Bob Craig, most of the remaining counties are ones I represent now. Only 21 % of the population in this Senate map would be new territory for me.
(Plan E120 and Plan E118 which the SBOE members like better are very similar for my district. In my case, it is the Solomons’ House map that is particularly bad for me.)
SBOE DISTRICT NUMBERS AND POLITICAL POSITIONS
District 1 – Charlie Garza (conservative Republican, new to Board)
District 2 – Mary Helen Berlanga (Democrat)
District 3 – Michael Soto (Democrat, new to Board)
District 4 – Lawrence Allen (Democrat)
District 5 – Ken Mercer (conservative Republican)
District 6 – Terri Leo (conservative Republican)
District 7 – David Bradley (conservative Republican)
District 8 – Barbara Cargill (conservative Republican)
District 9 – Thomas Ratliff (Republican-in-Name-Only, new to Board)
District 10 – Marsha Farney (Republican, new to Board)
District 11 – Pat Hardy (Republican)
District 12 – George Clayton (Republican, new to Board)
District 13 – Mavis Knight (Democrat)
District 14 – Gail Lowe (conservative Republican)
District 15 — Bob Craig (Republican-in-Name-Only)
TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REDISTRICTING PROCESS
The SBOE map does not follow the same rules as the Texas House/ Senate redistricting process. The SBOE rules are the same as the ones that pertain to the Congressional redistricting map.
Here are the SBOE/Congressional redistricting rules:
As we all know, the House passed map E111 (a.k.a., Solomons’ map). Even though a gentleman’s agreement had been struck whereby Sen. Seliger would support the E118 map (an improvement over E111), Seliger pulled a rogue map out (E120) right before the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting began and without giving the public any time to peruse or debate it, he passed it out of his committee and to the full floor of the Senate. The Senators in the Redistricting Committee passed the bill out of their committee before they had even received nor read the supportive statistical report that was supposed to accompany rogue map E120.
Since the maps that passed both the House (E111) and the Senate (rogue E120) are not the same, the process now goes back to the House Redistricting Committee; and, of course, Chairman Burt Solomon has a major influence on this process.
The House has TWO options.
1. The House can concur with the Senate map (rogue E120) that was passed 28-3. (Only two Republicans opposed it – Senators Patrick and Birdwell; Democrat Sen. Watson opposed it for different reasons.) In this scenario, the House/Senate map agreed upon by both chambers would go to Gov. Perry for his signature.
2. The House could call a joint House/Senate conference committee to pass a redistricting map which could be ANY map that the conference committee agrees upon. The conference committee would be comprised of the author of the House bill (HB 600 by Solomons), the sponsor of the Senate bill (HB 600 by Seliger), 4 Representatives appointed by the Speaker (any 4 members, not necessarily redistricting committee members), and 4 Senators appointed by the Lt. Gov. (any 4 members, not necessarily redistricting committee members). http://tlis/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB600
Both the House and the Senate would have to vote on the conference committee report to approve the bill. A simple majority vote in both the House and the Senate would be sufficient to pass the bill.
GOV. PERRY’S THREE OPTIONS
Gov. Perry also has three options that are open to him by law:
(1) Gov. Perry can SIGN the SBOE bill as presented to him.
(2) Gov. Perry can veto the bill as presented to him, but then the map would go to the courts to decide the SBOE redistricting map.
(3) Gov. Perry can veto the bill as presented to him AND CALL A SPECIAL SESSION for the purpose of coming up with an acceptable map that he would sign.