Thursday, January 17, 2019

From Forbes: Texas Judge Deals Obamacare A Major Blow

Texas is once again trying to take the law down.

- Click here for the article.

Key terms:

- federalism
- commerce clause
- judicial review
- checks and balances
- district judge
- implied powers

A judicial attempt to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was given a major boost on Friday, December 14th, when a federal judge in Texas ruled that the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

As part of the tax overhaul passed last year, the ACA penalty for not having health insurance was abolished. This went into effect in January, 2018. In a Federal District Court case, Texas v. Azar, in which oral arguments were heard in September of this year, the plaintiffs - Republican officials in 20 states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton - argued that with elimination of the health insurance requirement there is no longer a tax, and therefore the law loses its constitutionality. In brief, “once the heart of the ACA — the individual mandate — is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall,” the lawsuit stated.

In a 55-page opinion, federal judge Reed O’Connor writes regarding the lawsuit: “The court finds the individual mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s tax power and is still impermissible under the interstate commerce clause ― meaning the individual mandate is unconstitutional…. [T]he court finds the individual mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA."

This case will likely to go to the U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, and then possibly on to the Supreme Court, which implies that for now the ACA remains in effect.

Suffice to say, removing the individual mandate does not invalidate ACA on policy grounds. It weakens it, for sure. Indeed, the individual mandate is an integral component of the law, because it facilitates pooling of risk and expands population-wide access. But, it is not a necessary part of the law. ACA can function without it.

I'm a health policy analyst, not a legal expert. So, I won't weigh in on the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Rather, I'll focus on if when one part of ACA, the individual mandate, is found to be unconstitutional the remainder of the law must be jettisoned. Legally, severability implies that if any part of a legislative act is ruled unconstitutional, the remainder shall not be affected. Court decisions tend to favor severability, which, in cases in which certain parts are deemed unconstitutional, preserves as much of the original legislation as possible. In several landmark cases, the Supreme Court held that an unconstitutional provision is severable unless it is evident that "Congress would have preferred no legislation to legislation without that provision, or unless the legislation is incapable of functioning independently without it."

From the Texas Tribune: To settle voting rights suit, Richardson ISD will get rid of at-large elections

This illustrates a point we will make in the chapters on elections. Single member districts in local governments facilitate the election of racial minorities.

key terms
- voting rights
- single purpose governments
- ISDs
- Voting Rights Act
- federalism
- desegregation
- districts

- Click here for the article.

Following a voting rights challenge to the way it elects its school board members, Richardson ISD has agreed to adopt a new election system that could give voters of color more say in who represents them.

After months of negotiations, the North Texas district agreed to switch from an at-large system, with all of the district’s voters able to vote in each race, to a hybrid approach with two at-large districts and five single-member districts. Voters of color will make up a majority of the electorate in at least two of those districts.

It’s the latest victory in a wave of litigation against school boards in the area where the influx of Hispanic families and the flight of white families have dramatically transformed the racial makeup of public school classrooms but haven’t led to increased representation on the local school board. Richardson was one of hundreds of Texas school districts — many of them in suburban areas with similarly changing constituencies — still governed by board members who are elected at-large.

David Tyson, the sole person of color to ever sit on Richardson ISD’s board, brought the lawsuit last January, arguing that the system for electing members prevents people of color from having a fair say in who represents them. The lawsuit points out that the district is now 60 percent black and Hispanic, but its board members are white and live in parts of the school district where most residents are also white.

"The newly drawn districts will hopefully result in a board that is a closer reflection of the diverse and inclusive communities and families that the RISD serves," Tyson said in a statement Thursday.

In the suit, Tyson alleged that Richardson ISD’s at-large election system functioned as a “white-controlled referendum on all candidates” because white voters — who make up a majority of the electorate — regularly formed a voting bloc and wielded control over every seat on the board. Tyson had asked a Dallas-based federal court to declare the system was in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act because it unlawfully diluted the political clout of people of color in the district.

For more: Richardson ISD's student demographics have significantly changed. The makeup of its school board hasn't.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A few items on the agenda of the Texas Legislature

- Texas House proposes massive increase for public school funding.

- Domestic abusers can trap their victims with financial debt. This Texas bill seeks to provide a way out.

- Medicaid, opioids and abortion: Health care issues to expect this Texas legislative session.

- Texas lawmakers indicate they may use rainy day fund for school security, hurricane recovery and teachers' pensions.

- Bill would curtail criminal prosecutions of rent-to-own customers.

From the Texas Tribune: Federal judge rules against Trump administration’s push for citizenship question on 2020 Census

For GOVT 2305

- Click here for the article.

A federal judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

In the first major ruling on the controversial question, U.S. District Judge Furman of New York’s Southern District court ordered the administration to stop its plans to add the question to the survey “without curing the legal defects” identified in his opinion.

“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” said Dale Ho, an attorney for the ACLU, which was a plaintiff in the case.

The Trump administration had tried several times to stop the case from going forward, including requests to the Supreme Court; the administration is likely to appeal Furman’s decision in the high court.

Plaintiffs in the trial include 18 states and several cities and jurisdictions, along with civil rights groups. It is one of three trial that arose from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s March decision to add the question.

Opponents of the question say it will reduce response rates in immigrant communities and make the constitutionally mandated decennial survey more costly and less accurate. The government had said the question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Monday, January 14, 2019

From teh Texas Tribune: In increasingly diverse Texas, the Legislature remains mostly white and male

A topic we will cover in a few areas in class, notably the chapters on the legislature and elections. The diversity of the state population has yet to translate to the state legislature. but indications are that it soon will.

- Click here for the article.

Every two years, The Texas Tribune compiles the demographics of the Texas Legislature. Every two years, the headline is the same.

Once again, the disparities between the makeup of the Legislature and the people they are elected to represent are stark: In a state where people of color are in the majority, almost two out of every three lawmakers are white. And not even a quarter of them are women.

Click on the article for informative graphics.

A few links for GOVT 2306

These are all - mostly - related to the Texas legislature.

2306 students will visit these regularly throughout class.

- Texas Legislature Online.
- Texas House of Representatives.
- Texas Senate.
- Legislative Reference Library.
- Texas Statutes and the Texas Constitution.
- Texas Register.
- Texas Legislative Council.
- Legislative Budget Board.
- Sunset Advisory Commission.

Each is covered in your textbook, be prepared later in the semester to field quiz and test questions about each.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

From the Texas Tribune: Can the Texas Legislature override local ordinances?

A basic point regarding federalism:

- Click here for the article.

The short answer is yes. And a handful of such local control battles have raged in the Texas Legislature in recent years.

The most newsworthy: During the 2017 legislative session, Gov.
Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that pre-empted Texas cities from imposing regulations on ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, as several Texas cities — including Austin — had already done. The bill placed regulatory oversight with the state.

The Texas Tribune partnered with the education publisher Pearson to explain local control — and cities' jurisdictional tussles with the state — for Texas students.

Monday, December 10, 2018

From the Texas Tribune: Can public officials block users on Facebook? This Texas case could help answer that

An interesting spin on free speech

- Click here for the article.

After criticizing the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page, Deanna Robinson found herself blocked from commenting or liking its posts. Nearly two years later, her free speech case against the small law enforcement agency is reaching the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The case could ultimately clear up what's become a muddied legal question impacting everyone from rural elected officials around the country to the president: In the age of social media, what constitutes a public forum?

Robinson’s lawsuit against her local sheriff's office was a culmination of years of contentious run-ins with the office.

Three-and-a-half years ago, a Hunt County deputy and local police officer​​​​​ arrived at her parents’ home with representatives from Child Protective Services and an order to take custody of Robinson’s 18-month-old son. When she asked to see the order, the officers refused. That’s when things escalated. In a home surveillance video widely circulated online at the time, Robinson – eight months pregnant – can be seen cowering in the corner of her kitchen as a Hunt County deputy and a Quinlan police officer force her to the floor and handcuff her. She was charged with assaulting an officer.

Over a year later, charges against Robinson related to both interfering with a child custody order and assaulting an officer were dropped. CPS hadn’t served Robinson the order that she was accused of violating before arriving with the writ of attachment that they wouldn’t let her read. A grand jury decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to put the officers Robinson accused of assaulting her on trial.

In the backdrop of that strained history, the Hunt County Sheriff's Office blocked Robinson from commenting on the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page last year after she criticized the office there. She filed her lawsuit in February 2017. After losing the case at a North Texas trial court, Robinson appealed to the 5th Circuit. Oral arguments will be heard Thursday morning in New Orleans. As one of the first cases of its kind to make it to an appeals court, the outcome could help set a new legal precedent for government use of social media.

For some First Amendment lawyers, Robinson’s history with the sheriff’s office is part of what makes this case fascinating. “It’s quite clear she was singled out,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. “If the First Amendment protects anything, it’s the quality of government services you’re receiving.”

a couple interest groups, a city, and two executive agencies.and the 86th legislative session

Here are a variety of links to what various interest groups would like the legislature to focus on. What follows are the wishes of a couple interest groups, a city, and two executive agencies.

I'll add more.

From the Texas Medial Association: 86th Texas Legislature Letters and Testimonies.
- Who are these people? The Texas Medical Association, the nation’s largest and one of the oldest and most powerful state medical societies, speaks out for more than 52,000 physician and medical student members across the state in our commitment to improve the health of all Texans. In partnership with our 112 county medical societies, we have been helping Texas physicians set high professional and ethical standards since 1853. (its a professional association - a type of interest group)- Click here for background about them from Ballotpedia.

From the City of Dallas: Proposed Program for the 86th Session of theTexas Legislature.
- For related info:
- - Texas Municipal League Legislative Update.
- - Texas Association of Counties: County Legislative Issues.

From the Higher Education Coordinating Board: Legislative Recommendations to the 86th Texas Legislature.
- What is this thing? (Its an executive agency. It oversees - among many other things - your curriculum) 
- Click here for their sunset report

From the Texas Hospital Association: 2019 Legislative Session.
- From their website: In 1930, the Texas Hospital Association was launched by a handful of hospital administrators who recognized the value of working together to provide superior health care. Since then, the health care industry has changed dramatically – and so has THA. Today, THA is one of the largest, most respected health care associations in the country, and the only association that represents the entire Texas hospital industry. The Texas Hospital Association serves as the political and educational advocate for more than 430 hospitals and health systems statewide. From the board room to the C-suite, savvy Texas hospital leaders know that THA is the place to make their voices heard on the issues most important to their operations.- Ballotpedia: the American Hospital Association.

From Texas Court Appointive Special Advocates: 86th Legislative Session.
- What is Texas CASA? Texas CASA is the statewide organization for volunteer advocate programs. Texas CASA and its 72 local programs ensure that every child has an advocate to speak for his or her best interest before the courts. The advocate is a caring adult, trained to help a child through this difficult period in life. Their mission is to support local CASA volunteer advocacy programs and to advocate for effective public policy for children in the child protection system.

From the Texas Tribune: A symposium previewing the 86th legislative session

A good intro about what to expect

- Click here for it.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

From the Texas Tribune: Analysis: It’s still a Republican Texas government, but it’s a new one

The consequences of the recent election reverberate.

- Click here for the article

The Texas House is in the middle of a reboot — a change in leadership and the general mix of things that only takes place about once a decade.

House Speaker Joe Straus is leaving. State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, has collected enough promises from members of the House to succeed Straus in January, when the actual vote takes place.

You can see people changing positions, rearranging their political stances for a fresh start.

After a narrow election victory, the noisiest conservative in the Texas House, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, is telling his local journalists it’s time to for him to use more honey and less vinegar.

Jeff Leach of Plano, another member of the House’s Freedom Caucus — a group that had been playing loyal opposition to Straus within the GOP — quit the caucus in a public letter saying now would be a good time to try to work with all the Republicans.

It’s probably unrelated, but interesting, that outside of the Texas Capitol, Republican leaders are trying to stop the local branch in Tarrant County from ousting its vice chairman because he is Muslim. And you’ve got a lot of Texas conservatives scratching their heads after a general election that saw a scary drop in their traditional suburban voting power — including in Tarrant County.

Maybe it’s just the mood of a funeral week that has seen an outpouring of fond remembrance for former President George H.W. Bush, viewed in the polarity of current times as a model for comity in politics — even between friends and enemies.

What’s happening in the House, though, is both real and predictable.

Monday, December 3, 2018

What is Federal Land?

From Lawfare: The Anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine

The power of a president to threaten - not wage - war is at issue here.

- Click here for the article.

Monroe’s proclamation is a momentous example of the president’s vast constitutional power to set and communicate U.S. foreign policy. This was not just any kind of diplomatic policy, however.

This was drawing a red line—with an implicit war threat—even though the United States at the time lacked the military power to back it up. The United States was counting on Britain, which too wanted to keep continental European powers out of Latin America, to also intervene if necessary. “In its sweep and bravado,” writes Kori Schake in “Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony,” “the Monroe Doctrine has few equals, especially since it was promulgated by a country that was not the peer of the states—Britain, France, and Spain—whose activity it sought to curtail.” The real strategic brains behind this move was then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and for more on his role I highly recommend Charles Edel’s book, “Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic.”

The late legal historian David Currie noted in his volumes on the Constitution in Congress that “[v]irtually no one questioned [Monroe’s proclamation] at the time. Yet it posed a constitutional difficulty of the first importance.” The president was unilaterally committing the nation to war if European states crossed Monroe’s red lines, but it was Congress’s sole prerogative to initiate war. By putting U.S. prestige and credibility on the line, his threat limited Congress’s practical freedom of action if European powers chose to intervene. When he succeeded Monroe as president, Adams faced complaints from opposition members of Congress that Monroe’s proclamation had exceeded his constitutional authority and had usurped Congress’s power by committing the United States—even in a nonbinding way—to resisting European meddling in the hemisphere.

Related from the same author:

The Power to Threaten War.

Existing legal scholarship about constitutional war powers focuses overwhelmingly on the President's power to initiate military operations abroad and the extent to which that power is constrained by Congress. It ignores the allocation of legal power to threaten military force or war, even though threats – to coerce or deter enemies and to reassure allies – is one of the most important ways in which the United States government wields its military might. This paper fills that scholarly void, and draws on recent political science and historical scholarship to construct a richer and more accurate account of the modern presidency's powers to shape American security policy and strategy.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What Powers Does the Queen of England Actually Have?

I found this fascinating - compare with the presidents powers, both direct and indirect.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

From the Dallas Morning News: Native Texans voted for native Texan Beto O'Rourke, transplants went for Ted Cruz, exit poll shows

- Click here for the article.

<br>(Courtesy of CNN/Courtesy of CNN)

Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke fought during the Senate race over who was more Texan. It turns out that native Texan voters think O’Rourke is.

A CNN exit poll showed that O'Rourke beat Cruz among native Texans, 51 percent to 48 percent. In contrast, 57 percent of people who had moved to Texas said they voted for Cruz, compared to 42 percent who voted for O'Rourke.

Cruz prevailed Tuesday night, beating his opponent by just 2.6 percentage points. It's the closest Senate race in Texas since 1978.

This midterm race caught everyone’s attention. O'Rourke, a Democrat and native of El Paso, challenged the Republican incumbent from Houston who was coming off a presidential run. Cruz proudly calls Houston home, even though questions were raised when he ran for president about his family living in Canada for the first five years of his life.

While lawmakers in Texas have talked about the wave of Californians moving to Texas and wanting to turn the state blue, data reported by the Texas Tribune in 2013 suggested these people moving to Texas aligned with conservative values more than liberal values.

- Complete Exit Polls.

Law and Order Voice Intro DUN DUN HD Lyrics

From Lawfare: Foreign Election Interference in the Founding Era

Interesting history.

- Click here for the article.

In the fall of 1794, American delegates signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain in an attempt to resolve outstanding trade and territorial issues, while keeping the fledgling republic from being drawn into ongoing hostilities between Britain and France. The Directory, the five-member committee governing France at the time, viewed the treaty as an abandonment of prior French-U.S. commitments. In June of 1795, as President George Washington debated moving the treaty to the Senate for approval, the Directory sent a new minister to the United States with specific instructions identifying the Jay Treaty as France’s “foremost grievance” against the country.

French intervention in American politics was not without precedent. As early as the Revolutionary War, French agents had routinely used bribery and other pressures to influence the Continental Congress. One particularly notorious incident occurred in 1793 when war broke out between Britain and France. Without first consulting the president, the French minister to the United States, Edmond-Charles Genet, began commissioning privateers out of Charleston, South Carolina to fight the British. The “Genet Affair” divided Washington’s cabinet, especially between Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson who favored France and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton who favored neutrality. In the end, Washington issued a neutrality policy and his administration demanded Genet’s recall.

In 1795, the minister, Pierre-Auguste Adet, began bribing senators to derail the Jay Treaty, but the French government’s lack of funds hampered these efforts, and the Senate narrowly approved it. Using his diplomatic status to obtain a copy of the Treaty text, Adet had it published. The release provoked a public outcry throughout United States and sharply divided Americans.

A list of people found guilty of treason in the US

We looked this over in 2305 yesterday after wondering if the narrow definition of treason in the Constitution made it difficult to enforce. This is from Wikipedia, so I;m not sure if it is comprehensive, but if it is, then apparently it is difficult.

Philip Vigol and John Mitchell, convicted of treason and sentenced to hanging; pardoned by George Washington; see Whiskey Rebellion.

John Fries, the leader of Fries' Rebellion, convicted of treason in 1800 along with two accomplices, and pardoned that same year by John Adams.

Governor Thomas Dorr 1844, convicted of treason against the state of Rhode Island; see Dorr Rebellion; released in 1845; civil rights restored in 1851; verdict annulled in 1854.

John Brown, convicted of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1859 and executed for attempting to organize armed resistance to slavery.

Aaron Dwight Stevens, took part in John Brown's raid and was executed in 1860 for treason against Virginia.

William Bruce Mumford, convicted of treason and hanged in 1862 for tearing down a United States flag during the American Civil War.

Walter Allen was convicted of treason on September 16, 1922 for taking part in the 1921 Miner's March with the coal companies and the US Army on Blair Mountain, West Virginia. He was sentenced to 10 years and fined. During his appeal to the Supreme Court he disappeared while out on bail. United Mineworkers of America leader William Blizzard was acquitted of the charge of treason by the jury on May 25, 1922.[12]

Martin James Monti, United States Army Air Forces pilot, convicted of treason for defecting to the Waffen SS in 1944. He was paroled in 1960.

Robert Henry Best, convicted of treason on April 16, 1948 and served a life sentence.

Iva Toguri D'Aquino, who is frequently identified by the name "Tokyo Rose", convicted 1949. Subsequently, pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

Mildred Gillars, also known as "Axis Sally", convicted of treason on March 8, 1949; served 12 years of a 10- to 30-year prison sentence.

Tomoya Kawakita, sentenced to death for treason in 1952, but eventually released by President John F. Kennedy to be deported to Japan.

‘Even the Mafia Was More Circumspect’ Glenn Shankle goes from regulator to lobbyist.

A look at the revolving door in Texas.

- Click here for the article.

The revolving door between government and the private sector is a time-worn tradition in Texas. But here’s a case that on its bare facts is particularly egregious.

In January, six months after stepping down as the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Glenn Shankle signed on as a lobbyist for Waste Control Specialists, the company recently licensed by TCEQ to build a massive radioactive waste dump in West Texas. His lobby contract is worth between $100,000 and $150,000, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.

When Shankle left TCEQ in June 2008, the agency was readying, per Shankle’s orders, two licenses authorizing Waste Control to bury millions of cubic feet of radioactive waste. The four-year license review process had been one of the most time-consuming and contentious in agency history.

Shankle’s own technical staff, geologists and engineers had concluded definitively that the dump could not legally be permitted. An Aug. 14, 2007, memo drafted by two geologists and two engineers bluntly stated that the landfill’s proximity to two aquifers made it “highly likely” that radioactive waste would leak into the groundwater. The site, they wrote, “cannot be improved through special license conditions.” They recommended denying the license. With little explanation, Shankle overruled them. His only sop to the staff were license conditions requiring additional studies before construction.

Amazingly, Shankle said in a brief telephone interview yesterday—one of the few times he has ever spoken to the press—that he had never heard of any of this.

“I was not aware of that,” Shankle said of his own technical staff’s recommendations. If true, that’s stunning. According to the Houston Chronicle:

When WCS President Rodney Baltzer learned of the [August 14] memo, he immediately sought out meetings with the agency’s executive director, Glenn Shankle, who decided in December [2007] to begin drafting the license.

In fact, records from TCEQ, previously discussed in the Observer, show that during the time period after the staff’s recommendation, Shankle was frequently meeting with Waste Control officials, attorneys and lobbyists. Waste Control is owned by Harold Simmons, the Dallas billionaire and major Republican donor who helped bankroll Swift Boat ads attacking John Kerry in 2004 and television ads in 2008 linking Barack Obama to Bill Ayers.

For more:

- Shankle to take director position at TCEQ.- Lawyer for industry played key role establishing Texas environmental laws.

The Week: Sorry, liberals: The Senate 'popular vote' doesn't matter

A nice reminder about the nature of the Senate - as well as the low level of knowledge people have about our constitutional system.

- Click here for the article.

While constitutionally irrelevant, popular votes for the office of the president and for the House make sense conceptually. We look to the popular vote in presidential elections because, in every race from 1892 until 2000, the candidate who won it also went on to take the Electoral College. It seemed like a solid predictor of who would become the next president of the United States.

So why isn't the popular vote worth noting in Senate races? Because it doesn't even measure anything meaningful. Unlike the House, only a third of Senate seats are up in any given cycle. This year, Democrats were defending 26 of those to the Republicans' nine, so it stands to reason they would get a lot of votes. California, the most populous state, will increasingly have Senate elections where no Republicans are even on the ballot.

"While Democrats lost seats on Tuesday night, they actually won most of the races that were held — at least 22 of the 35 seats, and possibly a couple more," The Washington Post's Aaron Blake explains. "That's 63 percent or more of the seats, despite winning just 55 percent of the vote."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Election commentary from the Texas Tribune

- Are Texas suburbs slipping away from Republicans?

By the end of Election Day, the political maps of the state’s suburban and swing counties had a peculiar blue tint.

The blue washed over the Dallas-Fort Worth area and crept up on suburban counties in North Texas. It spread from Houston — in a county that was once a political battleground — and crested over some of its suburban communities. And it swept through the Interstate 35 corridor from Travis County to its neighbors to the north and south.

Counties that haven’t voted for a Democrat in decades turned out for Beto O’Rourke in his unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and he picked up enough support in ruby red Republican counties to force Cruz into single-digit wins.

It could all be a blip — a year of Democratic enthusiasm spurred by a shiny candidate or vitriol toward President Donald Trump. But with margins narrowing over time in some of the GOP’s longtime strongholds, Tuesday night's results suggest that the Republican firewall in the suburbs could be cracking.

- In Dallas County, Republican gerrymandering backfired in 2018.

The Republican losses in Dallas County are as much a product of the 2018 blue waveas they are of 2011 redistricting, when the GOP was forced to confront a politically inconvenient demographic reality. The 2010 census showed that people of color, who tend to support Democrats, were behind all of Dallas County’s growth in the last decade. Meanwhile, the county’s white population decreased by more than 198,000 people.

On top of that, Dallas’ growth relative to the state as a whole meant that the number of House seats in the county needed to drop from 16 to 14. Mapdrawers knew that those two seats would have to be Republican-held seats because the Dallas County districts represented by Democrats — and mostly made up by Hispanic and black voters — were protected by the Voting Rights Act.

As far as Democrats and redistricting experts are concerned, Republicans could have opted to create a new “opportunity district” for the county’s growing population of color. That would’ve reduced the number of voters of color in Republican districts, giving the GOP more of a cushion through the decade, but it would have also likely added another seat to the Democrats’ column.

- In Texas, the "Rainbow Wave" outpaces the blue one.

Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas.

The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governor down to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.|
- Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: Texas and the Republican Party are “moving in opposite directions

Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seatsto Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.

Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions."

The "small issues" that were popular among Republican primary voters didn't resonate in November, he said.

As Democrats seize U.S. House control, Texas congressional delegation set to lose clout in Washington.

The Texas congressional delegation is poised to lose significant clout on Capitol Hill after the Democrats on Tuesday took control of the U.S. House and Texas voters elected nine new representatives — one-quarter of the state's 36 members.

All told, Texas Republicans will lose seven committee chairmanships. Three of those — Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Mike Conaway of Midland, chairman of the Agriculture Committee; and Kevin Brady of The Woodland, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — won re-election Tuesday and are likely to become ranking members on those committees.

Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas announced earlier this year they would not seek re-election, ending their tenures as chairmen of the Science, Space & Technology and Financial Services committees, respectively.They're being replaced by fellow Republicans — Chip Roy in Smith's seat and Lance Gooden in Hensarling's — who both will begin their congressional careers low in the hierarchy of their caucus.

After losing election, Houston juvenile court judge releases defendants en masse.

On Tuesday, Harris County Family Judge Glenn Devlin lost his re-election bid to Democrat Natalia Oakes. On Wednesday, he showed up for work in the 313th District Court and began releasing virtually all of the juvenile defenders who had detention hearings before him, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Chronicle reports that Devlin simply asked the defendants whether they planned to kill anyone, then released nearly all of them from detention. Under state law, juveniles who are locked up while their cases are pending are required to have a hearing every 10 business days so a judge can decide whether they should stay in detention. It's not clear how many defendants Devlin released Wednesday, but the Chronicle reports that the judge reset all of their cases for Jan. 4 — the day Oakes takes the gavel in the 313th.

County by county breakdown of the O'Rourke - Cruz vote

Image result for graphic 2018 vote texas o'rourke counties

- Click here for the source.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


A look at the conflict involving the president's military powers 

- Click here for the article.

If the United States undertakes military operations, either by authorization from Congress or under the President’s independent powers, the Constitution makes the President Commander in Chief of all U.S. military forces, and Congress cannot give command to any other person. But can Congress itself direct how the President exercises that command by requiring or prohibiting certain military actions?

Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on this question. One view, principally associated with Professor John Yoo, holds that attempts by Congress to control the military contrary to the President’s desires infringe the Commander in Chief Clause by in effect depriving the President of the full ability to give commands. An opposing view, developed by Professor Saikrishna Prakash in a series of articles and an important 2015 book on executive power, sees Congress as having complete power over the military through various clauses of Article I, Section 8, with the President’s substantive command authority operating only where Congress has not provided specific direction.

Both views seem to overstate. Contrary to the first view, the Constitution expressly gives Congress significant power over the military. Most notably, Congress has power to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” Nothing in the Constitution requires these “Rules” to be consistent with the President’s desires (although of course the President can resist them using the veto power). Further, Congress has a long history of regulating the military, including the articles of war (precursor of the modern Uniform Code of Military Justice) enacted in the immediate post-ratification period. Thus, for example, rules regarding how prisoners are to be treated, whether civilians may be targeted and how intelligence may be gathered by the military seem fully within Congress’s enumerated power. If the President’s Commander in Chief power overrode these rules, the Government-and-Regulation Clause would seem almost meaningless. In addition, Congress’s power to declare war likely includes power to set wartime goals and to limit a war’s scope. Prior to the Constitution, other nations routinely issued goal-setting declarations and fought limited wars. And Congress’s power to define the scope of a war seems confirmed by Congress’s statutory limits on the 1798 Quasi-War with France and by the Supreme Court’s approval of those limits in Bas v. Tingy (1800) and Little v. Barreme (1804).

However, contrary to the second view, the Constitution’s enumeration of Congress’s specific military powers indicates that Congress does not have plenary authority over military operations. In particular, although Congress can make general rules regarding military conduct and can define wartime objectives, it lacks enumerated power to direct battlefield operations—a point demonstrated by examining Congress’s powers under the Articles of Confederation.

In contrast to the Constitution, the Articles gave Congress the powers of “making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and of directing their operations” (emphasis added). The former power is carried over directly into the Constitution’s list of congressional powers, but the latter is not. This strongly suggests that Congress’s Government-and-Regulation power does not include power to “direct [military] operations.”

From Bruce Bartlett: How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics

A good walk through changes in the media over the past few decades.

How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.

The creation of Fox News in 1996 was an event of deep, yet unappreciated, political and historical importance. For the first time, there was a news source available virtually everywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a conservative tilt. Finally, conservatives did not have to seek out bits of news favorable to their point of view in liberal publications or in small magazines and newsletters. Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing – many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth.

When Fox News went on the air in 1996, it advertised itself as “fair and balanced,” which implied that its competitors were neither. At the time, there was unquestionably a liberal bias in the major media; not a huge one, but it was pretty consistent across the three major networks, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the rest of the elite media. As Dartmouth communications professor Jim Kuypers put it in a 2002 study, “There is a demonstrable liberal bias to the mainstream press in America.”[1]

Surveys regularly showed that very few reporters were Republicans; the bulk said they were independents, with a large percentage belonging to the Democratic Party.[2] Journalists argued that their professionalism kept bias out of their reporting and that, insofar as there was apparent bias, it was due to the nature of the news itself and the discipline of fact-based reportage. But even if the reporting itself was free of bias, there is no question that the issues that most interested reporters tended to be ones more likely to be liberal in nature than conservative. As the late journalist Michael Kelly once explained, “What journalists choose and how journalists frame inescapably arises out of what journalists believe. And, as a group, journalists believe in liberalism and in electing Democrats.”[3] In any event, the view that the media was generally liberal was widespread among the public.[4]

For more:

How Information Became Ideological.
The rise of American authoritarianism.
“They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing” Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party.

A Brief History of the Development of the Seed Industry – The Shift from Public to Private Seed Systems

A great look at the development of an executive agency along with the clientele it serves.

- Click here for the article.

One hundred fifty years ago the United States did not have a commercial seed industry; today we have the world’s largest. Some view this as real progress, a form of genetic Manifest Destiny. A nation once a ‘debtor’ in plant genetics now supplies the world. In 1854, seeds were sourced in the U.S. by way of a small number of horticultural seed catalogs, farmer (or gardener) exchange, on-farm seed saving, and through the beneficence of the United States government. Specifically, beginning in the 1850s, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (PTO) and congressional representatives saw to the collection, propagation and distribution of varieties to their constituents throughout the states and territories. The program grew quickly so that, by 1861, the PTO had annual distribution of more than 2.4 million packages of seed (containing five packets of different varieties). The flow of seed reached its highest volume in 1897 (under USDA management) – with more than 1.1 billion packets of seed distributed.

The government’s objectives in funding such a massive movement of seed stemmed from the recognition that feeding an expanding continent would require a diversification of foods. To the early colonies, the introduction of wheat, rye, oats, peas, cabbage and many other vegetable crops was as critical to food security as was the adoption of the corn, beans and squash. Immigrants were encourage to bring seed from the old country, founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson engaged in seed-exchange societies, and by 1819 the U.S. Treasury Department issued a directive to its overseas consultants and Navy officers to systematically collect plant materials.

The first commercial seed crop was not produced until 1866—cabbage seed produced on Long Island for the U.S. wholesale market. The industry flourished to some degree, but early seed trade professionals felt their growth was stymied by the U.S. government programs as well as the self-replicating nature of their product (that is, the factory contained within that product). In 1883, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) formed and immediately lobbied for the cessation of the government programs. The organization developed powerful allies, such as Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture, J. Sterling Morton, who wrote that the government giveaway was “antagonistic to seed as a commodity-form and in direct competition with the private seed trade.” But the program was very popular with constituents, and the USDA’s seed budget was kept intact – at one point counting for a full 10 percent of the agency’s overall annual expenditures.

In the early part of the 20th century, the first wave of hybrids began to provide seed companies with a potential increase in product profitability (as farmers would now need to return to the seed distributor for materials each year). However, most of the hybrid development was occurring at Land Grant Universities, and these universities refused to give the companies exclusive rights to the seed. Once again, the industry felt its growth hindered by federal programs and complained of unfair trade practices. Mounting data also indicated a slowing in yield increases from seed developed in government programs. The industry used this last point to strengthen its argument for the privatization of seed development in order to foster greater food security.

In 1924, after more than 40 years of lobbying, ASTA succeeded in convincing Congress to cut the USDA seed distribution programs. The USDA still supported breeding at the state agricultural schools, and for a time these programs continued to compete with seed companies by developing ‘finished’ commercial varieties.

For more:

- Wikipedia: Origins of the Department of Agriculture.
- Wikipedia: Diamond v. Chakrabarty.

How the Post Office Made America

Thursday, November 1, 2018

From Vox: Why Trump can raise steel tariffs without Congress

- Click here for the article.

Why the president can impose tariffs without Congress’s approval

The Constitution is pretty clear: It’s in Congress’s power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States,” and regulate trade between the US and other countries.

But over the past century, Congress has shifted many of the powers to raise and lower tariffs to the executive branch (a concentration of power that conservatives now decry).

There are many ways the president can impose tariffs without congressional approval. To name a few:

- Through the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, the president can impose a tariff during a time of war. But the country doesn’t need to be at war with a specific country — just generally somewhere where the tariffs would apply. (This is how Richard Nixonimposed a 10 percent tariff in 1971, citing the Korean War.)

- The Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to implement a 15 percent tariff for 150 days if there is “an adverse impact on national security from imports.” After 150 days, the trade policy would need congressional approval.

- There’s the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which would allow the president to implement tariffs during a national emergency.

Trump’s White House cited Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, a provision that gives the secretary of commerce the authority to investigate and determine the impacts of any import on the national security of the United States — and the president the power to adjust tariffs accordingly.

In this case, Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, conducted an investigation, which Trump called for last April, into the impacts of steel and aluminum imports. That report was enough legal justification for Trump to bypass both Congress and the independent US International Trade Commission (USITC), which is typically called on to weigh in on proposed tariffs. (When President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs in 2002 as temporary safeguards, it required USITC oversight.)

From 538: What If Only Men Voted? Only Women? Only Nonwhite Voters?

- Click here for the article.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From Vox: A Texas Democrat’s radical experiment in turning out Asian-American voters could become a model for the party Sri Kulkarni’s innovative midterms strategy: campaigning in 16 languages.

- Click here for the article.

When Democrat Sri Kulkarni started campaigning in the deep-red Texas district once represented by Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, consultants told him not to even bother trying to get the district’s Asian-American vote.

“I was told, ‘Don’t chase after Asian voters, they don’t vote,’” Kulkarni said in a recent interview with Vox, adding: “Maybe they don’t vote because we don’t bother.”

Kulkarni, a 40-year-old former foreign service official under the Bush and Obama administrations, is doing the opposite of what the consultants told him. “Why don’t we try reaching out in other languages, not just English?” Kulkarni thought. He’s running a campaign with volunteers speaking to voters in 16 languages — aggressively trying to convince the district’s Asian-American voters to cast their ballots for him.

The district sits in the Houston suburbs, a rapidly diversifying part of Texas. The non-Hispanic white population has fallen to 40 percent, while the Asian community now makes up nearly 20 percent of the district.

It’s a simple premise: greeting a voter in his or her native language builds a relationship with that voter and opens a door to the community. Kulkarni already proved it worked in the primary, emerging on top in a field of five candidates. His campaign’s internal numbers suggested their outreach had dramatically increased Asian-American primary turnout, from 6 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2018.

“This thing that was a waste of time resulted in a 12-fold increase in people coming out in the Asian community,” Kulkarni told Vox.

Winning against Republican Rep. Pete Olson on Election Day will be tough. But Kulkarni and his campaign believe he has a fighting chance, and are buoyed by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently shifting the race to merely “Lean Republican.”

“I’d watch this one,” Cook’s Dave Wasserman tweeted.

Meet the lobbyists of Polan Culley

- Click here for their team of lobbyists.

Here's one:

Kraege Polan has over forty-five years experience in Texas’ legislative and regulatory arenas. He began his career in his early twenties as Administrative Assistant to House Speaker Price Daniel, Jr., where he directed communications and legislation between the 150-member Texas House of Representatives and the Speaker’s office. With a solid background in both politics and legislative procedure, Kraege has built his business and reputation as a skilled legislative advocate.

As a master strategist and an excellent negotiator, Kraege’s efforts have won the solid respect of both Republicans and Democrats as well as plaudits from several legislative publications. The Dallas Morning News, in a survey of Texas Senate and House Committee Chairpersons, named Kraege “one of the ten best lobbyists” in the state. Noted political writer Harvey Kronberg, author of the Quorum Report, called him “first rate… straightforward, low-key and effective.”

In 1992, Kraege founded Polan Culley Inc, originally called Polan Ingram Advocacy Group. The company represents clients ranging from professional business associations to Fortune 100 companies before the legislative and executive branches of Texas government. Kraege’s strong relationships have also garnered projects on the congressional level in Washington. Polan Culley is a charter member of The Advocacy Group, a Washington-based governmental firm, with lobbyists in all fifty states.

In addition to his successful lobby practice, Kraege has utilized his entrepreneurial talent to start several companies. He has served on the boards of banks and publicly traded companies, and founded a non-profit sports foundation.

Kraege is a native Texan and received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is married with three sons, and shares his love of hunting and fishing with his family.

From Vox: How 2018 voters could change America’s criminal justice system

- Click here for the article.

From ballot initiatives to local elections to the state and federal races, the 2018 midterm elections will give voters an opportunity to define the system charged with arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people in America.

These races usually do not get the attention they deserve, especially state and local elections and particularly races for prosecutors. But they are tremendously important: Despite all the attention that goes to the federal system, the great majority of criminal justice work is done at the local and state level, where America’s police departments operate and most of the people in prison are locked up.

A criminal justice reform movement, galvanized by Black Lives Matter, civil rights issues, and prison spending’s strain on government budgets, has already led to some changes in recent years, from reforming prisons and police to reducing criminal penalties for certain crimes. The 2018 midterms offer an opportunity to continue the momentum behind criminal justice reform.

Here are some of the most pressing criminal justice issues on the ballot this November, covering debates over the war on drugs, mass incarceration, policing, crime victims’ rights, and mo

Friday, October 26, 2018


This is an hour and a half long, but it's worth your time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

From the Texas Tribune: Texas values collide in fight over Houston-Dallas high speed rail

- Click here for the article.

Private developer Texas Central Partners LLC plans to build a train that will shuttle people between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes along a 240-mile route roughly parallel to a highway corridor that normally takes four hours to drive. This new link between two of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation — home to roughly half of the state’s 28 million residents — will help create “a super economy” says Holly Reed, Texas Central’s managing director of external affairs.

Texas Central sees the line as a mammoth example of a private entity addressing an infrastructure demand that government agencies are increasingly unable to tackle — and a chance to hook Americans on an alternative to highways that’s long connected major cities in Asia and Europe.

“There’s no doubt once people ride this train, they will want trains like this to go other places,” Reed adds.

The company’s ambitious vision has arrived just as American cities are starting to grasp the detrimental side effects and financial unsustainability of car-centric infrastructure that’s dominated urban planning since the end of World War II.

Texas Central officials say they have raised and spent at least $125 million, of which at least $75 million has come from Texas investors and individuals. In September, the company announced that it secured an additional $300 million in loans from two Japanese entities. But before Texas Central can create an interstate high-speed network in the United States, it’s got to prove high-speed rail is viable in Texas. Even as the company pushes forward with development — and brings on construction and operations partners — it faces daunting hurdles.

The company is embroiled in legal and bureaucratic debates about whether a private company can use eminent domain, a process that allows entities to condemn land it needs for a project and forcibly buy it from owners who aren’t willing to sell.

At the state Capitol, the bullet train represents the collision of two things that Republicans — who control Texas government — hold dear: private property rights and an unrestrained free market. And for two legislative sessions in a row, the free market has largely come out on top. The project has emerged relatively unscathed after bills aimed at hamstringing or killing it failed to get much traction.

“Big business is a big deal in the state of Texas,” says Kyle Workman, who heads the grassroots opposition group Texans Against High-Speed Rail, an organization that has galvanized rural Texans to lobby local and state leaders to stop the project. Workman says they’ll keep trying when lawmakers reconvene in January.

The political debate is an outgrowth of a larger question confronting a state where most people now live in urban areas: How much should rural residents have to sacrifice to solve problems born in the cities they intentionally avoided or outright fled?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

From Wonkblog: Low voter turnout is no accident, according to a ranking of the ease of voting in all 50 states

- Click here for thew article.

There are a lot of factors that affect voter turnout in the United States — race, income, education, electoral competitiveness, the list goes on and on.

Many of those factors are outside policymakers' control. But there’s one big realm that they have a lot of influence over: voting access laws, which vary significantly from state to state. Is early voting allowed? How about no-excuse absentee voting? Are there strict voter ID laws, lax ones or none at all? Can convicted felons vote?

These laws generally affect how easy it is to cast a ballot in a given election. In a new report, political scientists at Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and China’s Wuhan University seek to quantify the net effect of a state’s election laws to determine the “time and effort” it takes to vote there. They call their project the Cost of Voting Index and have published it in the September issue of the Election Law Journal.

To create the index, the researchers collected data on 33 types of election laws that generally fell into seven different categories: voter-registration deadlines, restrictions on registrations and registration drives, preregistration laws that allow people under 18 to register in advance of their first elections, laws governing ease of voting (like early and absentee voting), voter ID requirements and polling hours.

Monday, October 22, 2018

What's going on here?

For this week's GOVT 2305 written assignment.

- Click here for the source (the image will be clearer there).

Fig 1.  Probability density functions of same-party and cross-party pairs over time.

From 2306 today:

- Business groups launch coalition to push for statewide pre-emption of paid sick leave ordinances.

- Federal officials tell Texas to go beyond plan for special education overhaul.

- After historic Texas flooding, officials will likely open more floodgates on Central Texas dam.

For and Against Proposition 2

For this week's written assignment, I'm asking my ACC GOVT students to outline the arguments for and against Proposition 2 - which is on the ballot for residents of Houston. 

- Click here for the ballot language

For: - Vote for Prop. B to give Houston firefighters the same pay as police officers [Opinion].

Against: - Turner: Vote against Prop. B because firefighters deserve a raise the city can afford [Opinion].

For more:
Turner Kicks Off Campaign Against Firefighter Pay Parity Amendment.

Turner's opinion piece mentions a 2004 election putting a cap on revenue collection in Houston. Here's more on that:

- Proposition 1 Charter Amendment.
- Houston voters to decide on Proposition 1.
- City Council trims Houston tax rate to comply with revenue cap.
- What has Houston's revenue cap saved you?

State platforms

- How the Texas Democratic and Republican party platforms compare.

- Texas Republican Platform.

- Texas Democratic Platform.

From the NYT: Senate, for Just the 8th Time, Votes to Oust a Federal Judge

Covered in class this morning. This is the last time a federal official was removed from office.

- Click for the article.

The Senate on Wednesday found Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Federal District Court in Louisiana guilty on four articles of impeachment and removed him from the bench, the first time the Senate has ousted a federal judge in more than two decades.

Judge Porteous, the eighth federal judge to be removed from office in this manner, was impeached by the House in March on four articles stemming from charges that he received cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings. The behavior amounted to a “pattern of conduct incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him,” according to the articles against him.

All 96 senators present voted “guilty” on the first article, which concerned his time as a state court judge and his subsequent failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner, with whom he was accused of trading favors for cash.

Tapping his fingers nervously on the table as he looked at the paper where his lawyer kept track of each vote, Judge Porteous waited in vain for a “not guilty” vote. As the last of the senators stood to formally render a decision, a lawyer for the judge reached over to squeeze his arm in consolation.

- Wikipedia: Thomas Porteous.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fron the Monkey Cage: In the 2018 midterms, many more people are running — and far more seats are contested — than we’ve seen for a generation.

- Click here for the article.

The 2018 elections differ from previous midterms in so many ways. And one, at least, is a good sign for democracy: Many more people are running for office this time around.

Elections are the linchpin of representative government — but only if there’s actual competition among candidates. This year’s midterms are being more vigorously contested than those in the past, mostly because more Democratic women are running for office, particularly in the South.

. . . Nearly all U.S. House seats have been contested in recent years, so this year’s 4 percent uncontested rate isn’t big news. But some key aspects of these contests are different in 2018. Building on a trend, Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents far more often than Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbents. Among the 435 House seats, Democrats are running in 428 while Republicans are running in only 393. And many more of the nominees are female this time around, mainly as Democrats.

Numbers have jumped more dramatically in state legislative elections. As we have noted elsewhere, state legislative seats are usually far more likely to go uncontested. But 2018 has clearly interrupted that trend.

In states with lower-house elections, only 27 percent of the seats aren’t contested this year. Compare that to the rate in 2014, when 35 percent of state lower-house races were uncontested. Yes, that’s a much higher rate of unchallenged seats than we’ve seen for Congress — but this year’s uncontested rate for state legislatures is the lowest in 46 years.

The 2018 elections differ from previous midterms in so many ways. And one, at least, is a good sign for democracy: Many more people are running for office this time around.
Elections are the linchpin of representative government — but only if there’s actual competition among candidates. This year’s midterms are being more vigorously contested than those in the past, mostly because more Democratic women are running for office, particularly in the South.
More candidates running for state legislature
As Steven Rogers noted early in this year’s primary season, the number of candidates is up, especially in elections for state legislatures. Now that the summer primary season has ended, we can revisit Rogers’s preview of the general election with some firm data.
We calculated the rate at which offices go uncontested, comparing it with previous elections. When only one candidate’s name appears on the ballot, with no one running against him or her, that’s an uncontested seat. (For the few states that use multi-member districts, we consider a race uncontested if the number of candidates is not higher than the number of seats up for grabs.)
Nearly all U.S. House seats have been contested in recent years, so this year’s 4 percent uncontested rate isn’t big news. But some key aspects of these contests are different in 2018. Building on a trend, Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents far more often than Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbents. Among the 435 House seats, Democrats are running in 428 while Republicans are running in only 393. And many more of the nominees are female this time around, mainly as Democrats.
Numbers have jumped more dramatically in state legislative elections. As we have noted elsewhere, state legislative seats are usually far more likely to go uncontested. But 2018 has clearly interrupted that trend.

In states with lower-house elections, only 27 percent of the seats aren’t contested this year. Compare that to the rate in 2014, when 35 percent of state lower-house races were uncontested. Yes, that’s a much higher rate of unchallenged seats than we’ve seen for Congress — but this year’s uncontested rate for state legislatures is the lowest in 46 years.

From the Texas Trubune: Did you register to vote in Texas before the deadline but can’t confirm it online? Here’s why.

Texas does not make it easy to vote, continued....

- Click here for the article.

The last-minute efforts to register people to vote by the 30-day deadline ahead of each election typically result in what local election officials have previously described as a paper tsunami.

Whether Texans drop their registration cards into a mailbox or sign up through a volunteer voter registrar, thousands of voter registration cards pour into local elections offices where county workers rush to process them in the short window between the registration deadline and the day Texans begin heading to the polls.

Because Texas does not allow for online voter registration, election officials verifying voter registration cards have to manually enter each new voter’s information into their local voter database — a time-consuming process that often leads to backlogs in the weeks before elections.

Election workers are left to decipher people’s handwriting, which can often be illegible, county workers say. And in some cases, prospective voters leave blanks in their applications, forcing officials to mail out individual notices about incomplete registrations so they can be resolved. When an application is complete, counties must then send the voter file to the secretary of state’s office, which then verifies and adds the voter to its statewide database.

For more:

- How a federal lawsuit could open the door to online voter registration in Texas.

From the Money Cage: The Supreme Court hasn’t followed public opinion for 50 years. Why would it start now?

- Click here for the article.

We argue that understanding how public opinion may affect court decisions depends crucially on the Warren Court era (1953-1969). The Warren Court was historically liberal at a time when overall public opinion was also trending liberal. As a result, court decisions and public opinion were pretty strongly correlated during these years.

But if you set aside the Warren Court era, the picture changes. To show this, we drew on a measure of public opinion created by political scientist James Stimson. This measure combines survey questions about a wide range of topics into a single measure of the relative liberalism or conservatism of the American public. Higher values on this measure indicate a relatively more liberal public. Obviously, public opinion is more complex than this single measure, but it nicely captures the overall ideological “mood” of the countr

From CNN: Exclusive club: Harvard, Yale and former clerks dominate Supreme Court

- Click here for the article.

The confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh reinforces the elitism of the nine.

Even before the retirement of Anthony Kennedy this summer, all justices had attended either Harvard or Yale law school. But with the addition of Kavanaugh, the high court passed a new marker of exclusivity: For the first time ever, a majority of the sitting justices once served as Supreme Court law clerks.

This amounts to more than a peculiar fact of biography. It demonstrates how narrow and selective the path to the Supreme Court has become. Most of these justices have emerged from insular, privileged backgrounds in the meritocracy. The two most recent justices, Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, attended the same preparatory school in suburban Washington, and Chief Justice John Roberts himself graduated from a prep boarding school in northern Indiana.

Appointed for life, justices like Kavanaugh, who is only 53, are in a position to shape the nation's law for decades. Among the controversies the justices are likely to resolve in coming years are those testing partisan gerrymanders and voting districts; abortion rights and health care; and the reach of environmental, consumer and other regulatory protections.

But unlike some of the litigants who come before the high court, the majority has simply not faced economic hardship or discrimination in their adult lives.

Sonia Sotomayor, who became the first Latina justice in 2009, gave voice to her distinct experience in a 2014 affirmative action case. She referred in a dissenting opinion to the debilitating effects of discrimination.

"Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here,'" Sotomayor wrote.

Also: How John Roberts will manage the Supreme Court's conservative majority

Chief Justice John Roberts on the Supreme Court (C-SPAN)

Commentary: John Roberts touts collegiality, but Supreme Court's record suggests otherwise.

And from ScotusBlog.

Court-watchers continue to consider the effect of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation on future Supreme Court decisions and on the court as an institution. At CNN, Joan Biskupic writes that although “[i]n the wake of the divisive Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday tried to assure the public that the US Supreme Court serves the whole country, not one political party over another, and that it is committed to collegiality,” “America’s highest court is deeply split along ideological and political lines, and Roberts sometimes fosters that divide.” In an episode of New York magazine Daily Intelligencer’s 2038 podcast, Dahlia Lithwick talks about what the court might look like in 20 years. Focusing on the nearer future, Daniel Hemel points out at Take Care that “Roberts Court doctrines regarding the Commerce Clause, compelled speech, commercial speech, RFRA, federalism, and agency deference don’t always tilt toward the right.” At National Review, Conrad Black maintains that “[n]ow that the dust is settling on the Kavanaugh affair, it is well to remember that much of the concern over the stance he may take as a judge could be unjustified,” and that because “[t]hese are life appointments, and judges’ views change once they are installed,” “[t]he calculation of a solid conservative majority is apt to be fragile in fact.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

From Vox: A new study reveals the real reason Obama voters switched to Trump - Hint: It has to do with race.

Race matters.

- Click here for the article.

The study, from three political scientists from around the country, takes a statistical look at a large sample of Obama-Trump switchers. It finds that these voters tended to score highly on measures of racial hostility and xenophobia — and were not especially likely to be suffering economically.

“White voters with racially conservative or anti-immigrant attitudes switched votes to Trump at a higher rate than those with more liberal views on these issues,” the paper’s authors write. “We find little evidence that economic dislocation and marginality were significantly related to vote switching in 2016.”

This new paper fits with a sizeable slate of studies conducted over the past 18 months or so, most of which have come to the same conclusions: There is tremendous evidence that Trump voters were motivated by racial resentment (as well as hostile sexism), and very little evidence that economic stress had anything to do with it.

This isn’t just a matter of historical interest or ideological ax-grinding. Understanding the precise way in which racism affected the 2016 election should shape how we think about the electorate in the run-up to the 2018 midterms. More broadly, it helps us understand the subtleties of America’s primordial divide over race — and why racism will continue to fracture the country politically for the foreseeable future.