The Brief: Texas Political News for Aug. 27, 2013

Greg Abbott on July 14, 2013, in San Antonio announcing his run for governor.
Greg Abbott on July 14, 2013, in San Antonio announcing his run for governor.

The Big Conversation

A controversial San Antonio ordinance has emerged as an early flash point in two key statewide races.

On Monday, as the Tribune's Jody Serrano reports, Attorney General Greg Abbott waded into the debate over the proposal, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city of San Antonio's nondiscrimination policy.

Abbott, a Republican who is running for governor in 2014, said the ordinance would impinge on religious liberty and violate the state Constitution.

"The proposed ordinance runs contrary to the Texas Constitution, which prohibits religious tests, and also defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman," Abbott said in a statement. "This ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature."

 

Abbott's remarks echoed recent statements by state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney and Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman — the three GOP candidates vying to succeed Abbott as attorney general in 2014.

"The proposed ordinance itself discriminates — against people of faith," Branch wrote last week in a letter to the city's mayor, Julián Castro, urging him to withdraw the ordinance. "The proposed city ordinance would exclude citizens from being appointed to city office ... if they believe — as millions of people of faith do — in the traditional institution of marriage."

Said Smitherman, according to the San Antonio Express-News: "It attempts to stop my freedom of speech by suppressing my point of view. You may disagree with my point of view, you may think I'm an idiot or a redneck for that point of view, but it's not speech that incites riot, and it's not speech that is intended to cause harm."

And on Paxton's campaign website, as the Express-News notes, a line reads: "If you pass this ordinance, we'll see you in court when Ken Paxton is attorney general."

Controversy surrounding the ordinance has escalated since the paper revealed secret recording of San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan calling homosexuality "disgusting." The debate has even caught the attention of national politicians like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who said the ordinance should be "emphatically opposed."

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal, which has incited protests among both opponents and supporters, on Sept. 5.

Culled

•    Paul, Cruz plan anti-Obamacare rally (Politico): "Obamacare opponents are planning a defunding rally for the first day lawmakers return from August recess and just three weeks before millions can start enrolling in coverage. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, who have been leading calls in the Senate to defund the law in any spending bills, will headline the Sept. 10 Exempt America from Obamacare event, organized by Tea Party Patriots and ForAmerica, along with other conservative groups."

•    State hoping for voluntary compliance in wake of West explosion (Houston Chronicle): "While state leaders have expressed reluctance to impose new government regulations in response to the April fertilizer facility explosion in West, state officials testified Monday they are encouraging voluntary compliance with safety initiatives that may induce change in the low-tech, high-risk industry. State Commissioner of Insurance Julia Rathgeber said her office has been surveying insurance companies that insure operations that handle fertilizer and its highly volatile ingredients, such as ammonium nitrate, the source of the West explosion that claimed 15 lives. The department hopes to share information about prerequisites for obtaining insurance coverage."

•    Dallas County taxpayers funding both sides in Texas voter ID fight (The Dallas Morning News): "Taxpayers are caught in the crossfire of partisan bickering and are funding both sides of the fight over Texas’ voter ID law. Dallas County taxpayers will be paying for lawyers to try stop the controversial law and for lawyers to try to uphold it. In fact, they are getting hit in at least three ways. They are footing the bill for federal and county fights against the law, as well as the state’s battles to defend it."

Quote to Note: "I think she knows how much we all respect her, but it’s not really about what anybody outside the state thinks. It’s about what she thinks is possible." — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during a visit to Austin on Monday, on whether she thinks state Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor

Must-Read

 

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