Jan 26, 2011

The Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas

January 26, 2011

New Hispanic Republican Group Could Have
Signficant Voice on Volatile Issues in House

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The six new Hispanic Republicans in the Texas House have joined forces with the creation of a caucus in a move that's designed to broaden the perspective of the GOP supermajority on key issues that the lower chamber considers this year.

With almost 20 percent of the GOP's 101 House members eligible for membership as a result of their districts' demographics, the Hispanic Republican Conference appears to have the potential to play a significant role in shaping the agenda that conservatives hope to pass at the Capitol in 2011.

The Hispanic Republican Conference was conceived by State Rep. Aaron Peña, a South Texas lawmaker who served four terms as a Democrat before switching to the GOP late last year. Peña's colleagues agreed that he should serve as the caucus' first chairman as the only Hispanic House Republican who's not a freshmen legislator.

The group's charter members include first-term State Reps. Jose Aliseda of Beeville, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, John Garza of San Antonio and Raul Torres of Corpus Christi. State Rep. Dee Margo of El Paso is a founding member of the new group as well as a freshman lawmaker whose grandfather was Hispanic.

Two House Republicans who are Anglo - State Reps. Tryon Lewis of Odessa and Connie Scott of Corpus Christi - have joined the HRC after qualifying for membership as legislators who represent districts where more than 40 percent of the residents were Hispanic when the 2000 Census was taken. State Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston is eligible to be a member of the caucus as well as a Republican lawmaker in a district with a population that was more than 40 percent Hispanic when it was drawn 10 years ago.

Ten more House Republicans - State Reps. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Dan Branch of Dallas, Tom Craddick of Midland, Drew Darby of San Angelo, John Frullo of Lubbock, Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, John Kuempel of Seguin, Ken Legler of Pasadena and Geanie Morrison of Victoria - have the option to sign up for the new Hispanic caucus as non-voting members as reprentatives from districts where at leasat 30 percent of the residents were Hispanic at the start of the last decade.

Several more GOP lawmakers could qualify for membership in the HRC after the 2010 Census figures are released in late February or early March.

The Hispanic Republican Conference, which held its first meeting this week, plans to meet again next week with Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott as the featured guest.

As one of the first orders of business for the new caucus, Pena gave his colleagues in the group a list of legislation that's been filed on illegal immigration and voter identification. Pena said the group's members plan to examine the bills in question before determining if the caucus will take positions on those issues and what they will be.

In a chamber that had no Hispanic Republican members in 2009 and only one in the two previous regular sessions, the HRC hopes to enlighten their GOP colleagues on issues that are high priorities for Hispanic constituents.

Immigration and voter ID have been the most controversial topics in parts of the state with large Hispanic populations. The Hispanic Republican Conference's members - as a consequence - face a delicate balancing act on those hot button issues in a chamber where they appear to have overwhelming support among GOP members at the same time they're fiercely opposed by Democrats.

With the exception of Peña and Garza, the House Republicans who are Hispanic won seats in the lower chamber in November when they ousted incumbent Democrats who are Hispanic as well. Scott claimed a House seat when she unseated a Hispanic Democrat who was seeking re-election last year as well.

Peña ran unopposed as a Democrat in a winning re-election bid last fall. After emerging from the general election with 99 House seats, Republicans gained their first supermajority in the chamber when State Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland and Peña left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP amid high-level fanfare in December.

Garza is the only Hispanic Republican House member who captured a seat in the lower chamber in 2010 by defeating a Democratic incumbent who's Anglo. Twenty-five current House Democrats - or 51 percent of the minority party's members in the Capitol's west wing - are Hispanic.

The original slate of officers for the new Hispanic Republican caucus includes Aliseda as first vice-chairman, Margo as vice-chairman of administration, Torres as vice-chairman for financial affairs, Gonzales as vice-chairman for legislative issues and Garza as vice-chairman for membership.

This article appeared on January 26 on Capitol Inside. Courtesy of Mike Hailey.

Jan 19, 2011

A Summary of the Proposed State Budget

Summary of Legislative Budget Estimates

Valley Legislative Tour Begins Tomorrow

I am joining my legislator friends in a trip to our Valley tomorrow. Hoping to show them the importance of this part of our great state. Speaker Joe Straus has accepted my invitation to join us in a visit to South Texas. Should be another successful event. I hope to continue tweeting or blogging when I can during the trip.

Jan 17, 2011

Texas Governor's Inauguration

Walked by the front of the Texas Capitol today as workers rapidly prepare for the Texas Governor's Inauguration. The theme of the event is - "Texas: Where Opportunity Still Looms Large".

The weather is certainly cooperating as we have clear sunny skies for tomorrow's event.

Tables are set out around the inauguration site to serve barbecue and feed 10,000 guests and dignitaries on the Capitol grounds. The lunch will include brisket, jalapeno-smoked sausage, pinto beans, yeast rolls, potato salad and chocolate pecan pies. For those attending the Evening Inaugural Celebration, Pat Green, Clay Walker and the Eli Young Band along with special guest Bonnie Bishop will entertain guests at the event.

I am looking forward to the event. If your in town stop on by the office for a visit.

Jan 16, 2011

Observing Martin Luther King Day

Our offices will be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day. The Texas House returns to the floor on Tuesday. Tuesday is also the inaugural celebrations for the governor and lieutenant governor.

Jan 10, 2011

House Speaker Appears Safe for Another Term

Texas GOP House lawmakers and lawmakers-elect threw their support behind current House Speaker Joe Straus today. Speaker Joe Straus won the Republican Caucus preference vote by over 2/3 of the vote or 70 of 100 votes. The meeting was cordial and respectful.

Outside the room could be heard chants and protests. After Speaker Straus received 70 votes, the other candidates stopped pressing for other votes. This was a very civil meeting.

The caucus vote was non-binding with the final vote occurring tomorrow immediately after the noon swearing-in ceremony.

Jan 2, 2011

Political Intolerance

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

~ Robert Francis Kennedy

Jan 1, 2011

1-1-11 / A Capitol Blog's 6th Anniversary

A Happy New Year to all!

January 1, 2011 marks the sixth anniversary of our little experiment on the "Internets". From the first day I set up this blog back on January 1, 2005 up until the present I have truly enjoyed the journey. Our thanks to all our new found friends who love politics and the great state of Texas.

My fifth term begins on January 11, 2011. On that day at 12 noon I will be sworn in for a term that will extend until 2012, marking 10 years of public service. The public is invited to attend at the capitol on a first come first serve basis. An alternative is to watch the proceedings via the Internet.

This will also serve as my first term as a member of a new party. The change which is a good fit for me, and I think for the community, is a change from the norm and may cause some unfamiliarity. I am of course the same person with the same values and therefore would continue to invite all to participate in the issues of the day. Together we will continue to build a stronger community.

"A Capitol Blog" will continue on towards it's sixth year and God willing into the future. May God bless you, our community and our great state of Texas.

Photo credit to Bruce McDonald.