Politics

Patrick tells GOP to stick with voters’ choice

By Ian White

DAN PATRICK, the state’s lieutenant governor, threw down a challenge to Republican Party leaders this week, challenging them not to interfere with ordinary voters’ presidential-nomination wishes at this year’s party convention.Patrick, Dan
And he weighed into party insiders, warning them: “People are disgusted with those Washington elites who anoint themselves the power brokers on all things in our country. As conservatives, we believe it is the people who are the power brokers. The Washington cartel will not prevail.”
Patrick, left, who will be a delegate at the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in July, said he “will draw a line in the sand and stand up for the voice of the people” if the party “establishment” attempts during the event to nominate anyone other than Ted Cruz or Donald Trump as the party’s nominee for November’s presidential election.
“Talk is escalating among some in our party suggesting there may be ways to ignore the will of the people in selecting the Republican presidential nominee and instead inject new candidates into the process. It is time for that talk to stop,” he said on Friday.
“The Republican primary voters have spoken and are continuing to speak in primaries all across the country.”
The second-highest-ranking member of the state’s executive, who chairs the Ted Cruz For President campaign in Texas, declared: “At this point, only two candidates, senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, have a legitimate path to the nomination. If neither reaches 1,237 delegates before the convention, I will work to rally support for Ted Cruz’s nomination and fight any effort to disrupt the process by injecting an illegitimate candidate into the mix.”
He continued: “The idea that party bosses would try to undermine the will of the people and ignore the people’s choice is outrageous and is precisely why these candidates have attracted the majority of voters’ support throughout the primary process.
“If anyone else is chosen, the Cruz-Trump voters will lose all confidence in the primary nomination process and may not come back to vote in November. At that point, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats prevail.
“I invite other principled conservative leaders, both in Texas and across the nation, to reject parliamentary sabotage and other half-baked strategies and join with me in fighting to make sure the will of Republican primary voters is upheld in our convention this summer.”

By Lora-Marie Bernard

TEXAS’ US senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz want voters to decide who becomes the next US supreme-court justice.
They came up with the idea late last week just as reports emeerged that president Barack Obama has narrowed his choices for nomination to three candidates.
After the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia last month, the court has four liberal members and four conservatives, giving Obama a chance to swing its balance to the left of center and upset a decades-long right-wing philosophy.Cruz,Ted web ready
Cruz, left, a Republican Party presidential-nominee hopeful, said on Friday night that Obama should not pick a nominee because he is a lame-duck president.
“The stakes are too high to allow President Obama, in the waning months of his final term, to make a lifetime appointment that would reshape the supreme court for a generation,” he wrote in an e-mail to supporters.
Senate Democrats last week urged Obama to choose a nominee even as their Republican counterparts charged it would be uncouth to do so. The GOP had already said it would prefer to delay Scalia’s replacement until after November’s presidential election. The Republicans have threatened to stall any White House nominee.
Now, it appears they want the nominee to be placed on the November ballot, with Cruz also saying he would fight any effort to deny a voter-approved supreme-court justice.
In remarks in the senate judiciary committee on Thursday, Cornyn, below left, addressed Democratic Party opposition to “let America have a voice” in the selection of the next justice.  Cornyn, John
The state’s senior US senator said America is in an unseen state of unrest and that calls for uncommon measures.
“Our friends claim that our position, the humble proposition that the people should choose who makes that selection, is unprecedented,” he said.
“But it’s simply not the case. No president has filled a vacancy in an election year with divided government as we have today in well over a century.”
Cornyn, who is also the senate’s Republican Party whip, charged the Democrats with gamesmanship.
“I can’t help but think, while listening to our colleagues across the aisle, that if flip-flops were an Olympic sport, there might be some gold medals awarded,” he said.
One third of all US presidents have made supreme-court nominations during their last year in office. Six have done so since 1900, including Ronald Reagan, who appointed Anthony Kennedy in 1988.
In 1892, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, nominated a Democrat justice as a nod to his successor, Grover Cleveland, the first Democrat elected to the presidency after the Civil War.
Among Obama’s potential nominees is an Indian-American who could follow that model. Judge Sri Srinivasan of the Washington DC circuit, who was born in India but grew up in Kansas, has served under Ronald Reagan and a series of moderate conservatives. Scalia, Antonin_Official_SCOTUS_Portrait cropped
When Obama nominated him for the DC circuit in 2013, a Republican-controlled senate approved him unanimously.
A Hindu, he would add religious diversity to the court if approved, while his appointment would also be poetic as it would see the replacement of Scalia, left, the court’s first Italian-American justice, by its first Indian-American justice.
But Srinivasan is not the only candidate in Obama’s sights. According to news agency Reuters, the president is also considering two other senior justices.
One is Merrick Garland, chief judge of the Washington appeals court, who was appointed by president Bill Clinton in 1997 after serving the federal justice department.
The third candidate being reported by Reuters is Paul Watford, a judge in the ninth US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. If confirmed, he would be the nation’s third black supreme-court justice, following Clarence Thomas, who was appointed in 1991, and Thurgood Marshall, who retired that year.

Bernard, Lora-Marie               Lora-Marie Bernard

PUBLIC DOMAIN with Lora-Marie Bernard

THE US SENATE is considering a John Cornyn bill that would prevent fraudulent Medicaid and CHIP providers receiving reimbursements by hopping from state to state.
Texas senator Cornyn introduced the bill in the senate on Thursday, when it was assigned to the finance committee.
The Ensuring Terminated Providers Are Removed From Medicaid And CHIP bill, which was introduced in the house of representatives in October, passed in the house this month.
It is a bipartisan bill that is described as a strong measure to enhance Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program procedures, according to a house report.
Chairman Fred Upton of the house committee that worked on the bill, said: “Republicans and Democrats will help deliver an important ‘one-two punch’ to strengthen Medicaid for the most vulnerable – cutting back on fraud and increasing access.
“It’s an important step forward as we work to strengthen Medicaid and promote meaningful 21st-century reforms.” According to a report from the office of the inspector general, $7.5m has been paid in the course of several years to 99 providers that claimed after being terminated in one state and moving to another.
The report also highlighted some of the issues that complicate a state’s ability to report terminated providers. The number of states that use managed care to deliver Medicaid services is 41, of which 25 do not require management-care providers to have direct enrollment in the state Medicaid agency, the report said.
That means that, if a state does not directly enroll a provider, it cannot terminate that provider. It also means that a state might not even know that the provider is in its Medicaid program.
Another complication found by the report was that some states misunderstand when they can and cannot terminate a provider with a license from another state.
If it becomes law, the bill would ensure that rogue providers are terminated from all Medicaid programs.  Under current law, a state is responsible for excluding from Medicaid participation providers who have been terminated under any state’s Medicaid program or Medicare.
As well as excluding providers who have been terminated under CHIP, the bill also seeks to revise the procedures a state must use to report the termination of a provider from a state plan.
If it becomes laws, the bill will require states to make each Medicaid or CHIP provider enroll with specified identifying information.
The process for a state to inform the federal department of health and human services that a provider has been terminated under a state plan would also be overhauled.
In another proposed measure, the bill aims to expand patient access beyond the emergency room. Beneficiaries under fee-for-service or primary-care case-management programs would be able to choose a medical-services provider from a directory of physicians participating in the program.

‘The right thing’ as Watkins repays $31,000

FORMER superintendent Terri Watkins has returned more than $31,000 to La Marque independent school district after an investigation into undocumented funds she received from former board members.
After an executive session in which the district’s new management board considered the matter during its monthly meeting on Thursday, new president Jack Christiana said the state-imposed managers had reached a settlement with Watkins in which they had agreed to limit their comments to a brief statement.
The statement said: “Although La Marque ISD and Mrs Watkins disagree as to whether the payment for leave days was proper, ultimately, Mrs Watkins decided to return the entire payment amount of $31,069.”
Watkins, who left the district just before its state takeover, received a total of $56,732 in two payments before her departure. One was for $46,732 and the other for $10,000.
The payments were for 59.37 state leave days and 15 non-work days but district policy does not allow an employee to receive payment for leave days when leaving the employment. Of the check totaling $46,732, Watkins received a net sum of $31,069, the amount repaid.
“Mrs. Watkins cooperated fully with La Marque ISD’s review,” Christiana said.
The payments have been part of the new board’s attempts to clean up the district’s finances before the state shutters the district in summer.
In January, interim superintendent Willis Mackey said the conservator was “concerned” about the lack of immediate documentation about them and called the investigation a “formality.”
On Thursday, Christiana said the ability to reach a settlement was the right one.
“As responsible stewards of LMISD’s financial resources, the board of managers believes this resolution is in the best interest of all stakeholders,” he said.

Sterling,Ed              Ed Sterling

Lone Star watch by Ed Sterling

THE ENTIRE US fifth-circuit court of appeals is to review Texas’ controversial voter identification law.
A majority of the 15 judges of the New-Orleans-based court has voted in support of an “en banc” rehearing of oral arguments in Veasey v Abbott, a case challenging the law.
The vote took place on March 9 but, by Monday, no date for the rehearing had been set.
The case stems from senate bill 14, a law passed by the Texas legislature in 2011, which requires prospective voters to present an acceptable form of photo identification along with their voter registration card in order to cast a ballot in political elections.
Six months ago, a three-judge fifth-circuit panel adjudged parts of the Veasey v Abbott case sufficient to merit consideration by the US supreme court.
The panel upheld a Corpus Christi court’s decision that SB14 violates the federal Voting Rights act in a case brought against the state by a coalition of individuals including Galveston County justice of the peace Penny Pope and the League Of United Latin American Citizens.
The plaintiffs argue that SB14, passed by a Republican-dominated state legislature, is a partisan move to suppress minority voter turnout.
Their case, named after plaintiff Marc Veasey, is supported by several intervenor plaintiffs, including the federal government and Texas organizations such as Association Of Hispanic County Judges And County Commissioners.
The vote brought an immediate reaction from both sides of the argument.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton described the development as “a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s voter ID laws.” But Matt Angle, the founder and director of Democratic Party political action committee Lone Star Project, called the decision “inexcusable”.
Paxton said: “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full fifth circuit.”
Angle said: “Nothing exposes Ken Paxton, Greg Abbott and other Texas Republicans’ hostility to African-American and Hispanic Texas citizens more than their zeal to enforce discriminatory voter ID and redistricting laws. They are willing to spend millions in taxpayer dollars to undermine the liberty of the very people who pay those taxes.”
Calling the decision “inexcusable in its delay”, he said: “It is certainly fair to assume that Paxton, Abbott and other Texas Republican leaders will try to take advantage of this delay by continuing to enforce a law designed to suppress and weaken the voting strength of Texas citizens.”

A new year sales dip for Houston

SALES-TAX collections fell in Houston during January, according to state public accounts comptroller Glenn Hegar, whose office is distributing $586.6m in sales-tax revenue to taxing entities this month.
Cities, counties, transit systems and special-purpose taxing districts will receive the allocations, whose total is 0.7 per cent less than the figure for March 2015, the comptroller said last week.
The allocations are based on sales made in January by businesses that report tax monthly.
“Energy-centric cities, such as Odessa, Midland, Corpus Christi and Houston, continued to see decreases in sales tax allocations,” Hegar said.
“Other areas of the state helped to somewhat offset those losses, as cities such as Austin and Dallas saw moderate increases.”

Lottery bets against problem gambling

THE STATE’S lottery commission has joined a month-long campaign to boost public awareness of the dangers of gambling.
With March recognized as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, acting commission director Anthony Sadberry last week announced his organization’s participation in the campaign.
He said it was joining the effort to educate the general public and medical professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and to raise awareness about help that is available locally and nationally.
Sadberry said: “If you believe that you or someone you know may have a problem with gambling, we strongly urge you to seek assistance.”

New smoke signals from UT pow-wow

UNIVERSITY Of Texas leaders want to cut cigarette smoking out of campus life.
Representatives of each of the school’s 14 institutions met in Houston last week to discuss creating a “system-wide tobacco-free culture” in an event titled Eliminate Tobacco Use Summit.
The school said afterwards that each institution has already developed its own comprehensive plan to improve tobacco-control policies and strategies.
Summit participants were tasked with taking back to their institutions information “to facilitate discussion and seek adoption from campus leadership”.

By Ed Sterling

ALMOST A THIRD of the state’s 14.2 million registered voters cast a ballot in last week’s Super Tuesday presidential-nomination primary elections – twice as many as in the 2012 Texas primaries.
Returns posted by the Texas secretary of state’s elections division show that 2.8 million – almost 20 per cent – voted in the Republican Party’s March 1primary, while the statewide turnout in the Democratic Party’s primary on the same day was 1.4 million, or about 10 per cent.CastYourVoteHeadingC0802_L_300_C_R
Texas’ junior US senator, Ted Cruz, won the GOP contest with 1,239,370 votes, or 43.75 per cent of his party’s total turnout.
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton of New York won the Democratic contest with 934,999 votes, or 65.21 per cent, of her party’s total.
Coming in second in the Republican contest was New York businessman Donald Trump, with 757,618 votes, or 26.74 per cent. In third place was US senator Marco Rubio of Florida with 502,223 votes, or 17.73 per cent, while Ohio governor John Kasich placed fourth with 120,257 votes, or 4.24 per cent.
US senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont placed second in the Democratic contest with 475,561 votes, or 33.16 per cent, of his party’s total.In 2012, about two million people voted in the state’s May 29 primaries, with some 1.45 million taking part in the Republican contest and about 590,000 in the Democratic primary.
• For more statewide news from Ed Sterling, see Lone Star Watch on page 3.