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Texas Tea Party Groups Send a Clear Message to President Trump: ‘The Freedom Caucus Is Not the Problem’

The Texas Tea Party will not be silent.

Last week, Republicans scrambled to form a circular firing squad in the wake of the American Health Care Acts’ failure to launch. Conservatives’ opposition to the legislation drew the ire of President Trump and members of the Republican Establishment, who (unfairly) attacked the Freedom Caucus for killing the bill.

But in a letter made available to Conservative Review, Lone Star state Tea Party organizations make clear that the Republican Party base in the highly consequential state of Texas stands with the Freedom Caucus in opposition to RINOcare. The letter was signed by over 90 conservative grassroots leaders and state GOP officials, and will be sent to President Trump Monday.

“To our dismay, the ‘repeal and replace’ plan put forward by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) did nothing to address the core regulatory infrastructure of Obamacare, which means that American families would still see health care costs continue to rise until at least 2026,” the letter reads. “This is unacceptable.”

Public support for the American Health Care Act placed around 17 percent, per Quinnipiac polls. The Freedom Caucus members argue their push for more conservative amendments saved the Republican Party from political disaster. According to the leader of the organization that put the letter together, those members are exactly right.

“The Freedom Caucus is doing exactly what their supporters and their constituents sent them to Washington to do,” JoAnn Fleming told Conservative Review. “The Ryancare bill did not do what the Republicans promised they would do.”

Fleming is the Executive Director of Grassroots America – We the People, a political action committee that is “the largest constitutional conservative citizen organization in East Texas and one of the largest in Texas.” A volunteer conservative activist in Texas for over 25 years, Fleming also serves as the three-term chairman of the Texas Legislature’s TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee, Chairman of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s Grassroots Advisory Board, and an adviser to the newly formed Freedom Caucus of the Texas state legislature.

“Frankly, the people that I work with in Texas, all these grassroots leaders on this letter – they worked their tails off to send Republicans to Washington and to offices at every level of government — to stand strong behind conservative, limited government, constitutional conservative principles,” Fleming said.

In the eyes of these activists, Fleming explained, the GOP plan was a betrayal.

If you go back and look at the 60 times there was a bill that fully repealed Obamacare, why now is that not the right kind of bill? What this does is it just peels back the façade. What this says to grassroots conservatives in Texas is, “You really didn’t mean it to begin with. You knew President Obama would veto any repeal that you sent to him, and so it was all political theater.”

Opposition to RINOcare was exactly what voters wanted from their elected representatives. The letter takes pains to drive that point home to the president.

With a bad “take it or leave it” bill on the table, the Freedom Caucus rightly believed they had a responsibility to protect both the GOP and the Trump Administration from the political fallout that would surely come in 2018 and 2020 when angry voters realized their healthcare costs did not go down and health care access did not improve. The Freedom Caucus had the promises they made back home and the long-term good of the American people on their minds and in their hearts when they opposed the AHCA.

President Trump’s pledge to “fight” the Freedom Caucus is baffling for these Tea Party activists.

Trump had long positioned himself as an ally of the Tea Party. And so, according to JoAnn Fleming, this letter intends to make clear exactly where one of the Republican Party’s most organized and enthusiastic voter base stands.

The point of this is we’re trying to say, “We don’t agree with you, Mr. President, on the approach you’re taking toward the Freedom Caucus and toward the promises we intend to hold the GOP to. They made a promise that they were going to repeal Obamacare, and that means take out all of the big government structure that was there, the mandates, and to get us back to a patient-centered, free-market based approach to health care. This bill did not do any of that and what we believe is that it would have driven up costs, premiums.”

The Tea Party groups of Texas urge Trump to work with the HFC to actually “drain the swamp.”

“We believe that he’s not going to be able to drain any Washington, D.C., swamp without the support and help of conservatives,” Fleming told CR. “That’s just a given.”

All signs point toward another attempt at Obamacare repeal happening sooner rather than later. Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted an attack on the “Fake News media” for suggesting that attempts at repeal were “dead.”

Some liberal Republicans have signaled they’d rather work with Democrats than join with the Freedom Caucus to come up with a conservative plan. The Texan Tea Party is not willing to follow President Trump down that path.

“Unfortunately, the president will be on the opposite side of many conservative grassroots leaders on the ground, in the trenches every single day,” should he continue to oppose the Freedom Caucus, Fleming said.

“This is what we do. We try to advance liberty through conservative principles. It’s not about the person. It’s not about a political icon. It is about principle for us.”

The dedicated hard work of the Tea Party base here in Texas, as well as all across the nation, has bestowed Republicans with historic majorities in Congress and placed the presidency in their hands. If the GOP believes Tea Party activists will go away or blindly trust the Republicans in control, they are mistaken.

“I have given up the best part of my life to do this, and I’m not about to change. I don’t do this because I don’t have anything else that I could do. I gave up a career in business to do this, and I do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Fleming.

“Anything that makes it harder for my grassroots colleagues to do what they do in their own communities just kind of sets my teeth on edge,” Fleming said. “That’s where this letter came from.” (For more from the author of “Texas Tea Party Groups Send a Clear Message to President Trump: ‘The Freedom Caucus Is Not the Problem'” please click HERE)

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Texas Redistricting Case Makes It Official: Courts Are Rigging the Game … And It’s Entirely Legal

A gerrymandering case out of Texas serves to further prove the point that the judiciary is rigging the game against Republican candidates — and it’s all completely legal.

Late Friday, a panel of federal judges threw out three of Texas’ congressional districts — because racism. This further highlights how the federal judiciary is using provisions of the Voting Rights Act to rig elections in favor of Democrat candidates.

According to a report at NPR:

Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote the court’s decision, which comes after a protracted and complex legal battle that began when the new districts were drawn in 2011, following the last census.

“The political motive does not excuse or negate that use of race; rather, the use of race is ultimately problematic for precisely that reason — because of their political motive, they intentionally drew a district based on race in a location where such use of race was not justified by a compelling state interest,” says the ruling.

Politically motivated redistricting is legal, but redistricting with an intent to reduce the influence of minority voters — either by “packing” those voters into a district, or “cracking” them among multiple districts — is not.

More troubling is that the ruling goes after both practices of political redistricting (packing and cracking) and throw both out, alleging to discern racial animus amongst the political — even though the political was most clear. (What gifted mind-readers in black robes we have at our disposal!)

So there is literally no way to draw districts in a political fashion without a federal judge being able to cry racist and kick the maps out.

What’s truly laughable is that the state maps of Maryland and Illinois – which are infamously rigged in favor of Democrat politicians – remain wholly unchallenged despite some of the absurd-looking districts on their maps. But, details …

Even if as many GOP politicians were legitimately racist as liberals claim, the Left tends to forget what politicians really love: winning elections. Any sensible politician will draw a map that maximizes their chances of winning, regardless of race. You may not like it, but it’s legal, constitutional, and how things have been done since ratification.

As Daniel Horowitz and I explained in a previous, more comprehensive piece on the subject:

Then there is the reality that contrary to breaking up demographic constituencies, many of the maps pull them together. One could statistically argue that such districts would actually give minorities a statistical punch above their weight in Congress than if the lines were drawn otherwise.

When a minority votes near-monolithically for one party and lives in geographically distinct enough areas to be lumped together via gerrymandering, of course that is the result of intentional action. That’s not racially motivated; it’s party motivated. How much smaller would the Congressional Black Caucus be if those districts weren’t drawn as such?

First, in order for the courts to rule that maps drawn with political intent are racially discriminatory, they assumed that minorities are going to monolithically vote for Democrats every single time. This is a false assumption and just bad law when one realizes that the whole of American political history displays the continual birth, death, and realignment of political coalitions.

If you grant one voter bloc a new constitutional right to maximize their potential, then why not grant another bloc (of another demographic) the same constitutional right? What about white rural voters? What about white rural voters in blue states (listed above) who have also had their representation sliced up? Why is nobody crying “foul” and “racism” over them?

So, because Republicans often have enjoy atrocious election results among some racial demographics, any effort to draw a constitutional map that isn’t suicidal will look racially motivated. However, as much as Democrats do everything they can to shame black people out of even entertaining the idea of voting Republican, the amount of melanin in your skin does not dictate your political party.

Simply put, there’s no way to draw a district map without someone being able to claim disappointment or “disenfranchisement.” This is why these are political questions — not ones for unelected judges, unaccountable election commissions, or (per a recent suggestion) the robots.

There’s only one question remaining about the current redistricting scenario: Where is Congress?

Since several states are losing a constitutionally enumerated power at the hands of the judiciary — based off the interpretation of a law that usurped that power — it would only make sense that the branch that started the problem clean up its own mess by either clarifying what the courts’ power over the states are, or repealing the outdated provisions of the act (or the whole thing) altogether.

Until then, Democrats have a handy way to pick the lock and rig the system on future elections, and it’s only going to get worse. (For more from the author of “Texas Redistricting Case Makes It Official: Courts Are Rigging the Game … And It’s Entirely Legal” please click HERE)

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Texas Bathroom Bill Intended to Be ‘Model for Other States’

The Texas Legislature will be voting next week on a bill that will prevent men from entering women’s restrooms and the lieutenant governor of Texas says his state’s legislation is a model for the nation.

“I think that our legislation can be a model for other states to follow and end this discussion once and for all about men being able to walk into ladies’ rooms in public buildings and to stop school districts from allowing boys and girls to shower together,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Wednesday.

If passed into law, the Texas Privacy Act will ensure that men and women use separate bathrooms.

Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, the author of the bill, said there is currently no law on the books in Texas that prevents a man from entering a woman’s restroom dressed looking like a man.

The Texas Legislature held a hearing for the bill on Tuesday.

After nearly 20 hours of public testimony by over 400 witnesses, Patrick said the Texas state Senate Committee on State Affairs voted 8-1 to send the bill to the full Texas Senate for a vote.

The bill is nondiscriminatory, Patrick said, because it encourages schools and government buildings and businesses to provide special facilities for those who want an exception.

“It does not discriminate but it is focused on public safety and common decency and privacy,” Patrick said.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), released a statement in February in opposition of the bill.

It was published with a letter that included over 140 signatures of entertainers and musicians decrying the Texas Privacy Act and other “anti-LGBTQ bills.”

“The public outcry by musicians and influencers against upcoming anti-LGBTQ bills in Texas should have lawmakers taking note,” Ellis said. “By adding their voices to the chorus of fair-minded people calling for equality, these artists are using their platforms to speak out and send the resounding message that discrimination is not an American value.”

The American Civil Liberties Union released an ad protesting the legislation which tells viewers they can “stop the bill.”

“You’ve gotta roll up your sleeves, pull down your pants, and pee with LGBT … this isn’t a privacy issue,” the ad states.

Dana Hodges, state director for Concerned Women for America of Texas, a conservative women’s advocacy organization, said the bill is about safeguarding privacy and dignity.

“This bill protects the privacy, safety, and dignity of women and girls in public facilities,” Hodges said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “It also allows private industries to make their own restroom policy. This is an issue I’m passionate about having been personally violated in a women’s restroom.”

Patrick said he expects a full vote in the Texas state Senate next Tuesday or Wednesday. (For more from the author of “Texas Bathroom Bill Intended to Be ‘Model for Other States” please click HERE)

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Texas Legislature to Consider Bill to Ensure ‘Public Safety’ in Bathrooms

Texas is taking measures to protect its citizens from laws that hinder “common sense and public safety” when it comes to transgender persons being allowed to use both men’s and women’s restrooms.

“This is a public safety issue,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said during a conference call with reporters Friday.

Legislation filed by Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, seeks to ensure that men and women use separate bathrooms.

Kolkhorst said the bill, titled the Texas Privacy Act, will clarify who will be allowed to enter both men’s and women’s restrooms.

“I don’t view this bill as a transgender bill,” Kolkhorst said in the conference call. “It truly is about public safety … It is not against the law for a man to enter a woman’s restroom dressed looking like a man. There is nothing on the books here in Texas.”

The gender on a person’s birth certificate would determine which bathroom Texans could use.

“In Texas, there is a way to change your birth certificate and it is going before a district judge and presenting the date of either hormone therapy or the surgery and then the judge makes the decision that [the gender on] the birth certificate shall be changed,” Kolkhorst said.

Patrick said the bill is necessary because it is “common practice” that men and women use separate bathrooms.

“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense, and public safety,” Patrick said in a statement. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever—that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms.”

Patrick says the legislation has received bipartisan support and is viewed favorably by men and women, African-Americans, and Hispanics.

While ensuring that bathrooms remain separate for men and women, the bill also specifies that “no public school can institute a bathroom policy that allows boys to go in girls restrooms, showers, and locker rooms and girls to go in boys restrooms, showers, and locker rooms,” according to Patrick’s statement.

According to Patrick’s office, the hearing for the Texas Privacy Act is the first legislative hearing for privacy protection legislation following President Donald Trump’s revocation of President Barack Obama’s bathroom directive issued by the Justice and Education departments in May.

Obama’s directive allowed students identifying as transgender to be able to use the restroom that corresponded with their gender identity and mandated schools conform to the rule.

Trump rescinded the directive in late February, and a statement from the White House on bathroom usage specified that policy for those who identify as transgender should be decided by the states.

Opponents of the Texas bill say they are concerned that Kolkhorst’s legislation is too similar to the bathroom bill passed by North Carolina last March.

During a conference call with reporters, Patrick said that he does not believe the Texas Privacy Act will have adverse economic effects.

Critics of North Carolina’s bill claim the state lost out on economic opportunities because of the bill, CNN reports.

According to CNN, businesses chose not to expand because of the bill and the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, to a location outside the state.

However, former North Carolina Commerce Secretary John Skvarla said North Carolina’s economy was not adversely affected, according to The Charlotte Observer.

“It hasn’t moved the needle one iota,” Skvarla said in October.

Patrick argued the Texas bill was different than the North Carolina bill.

“I think there has been significant misrepresentation in what happened in North Carolina,” Patrick said. “Our bill is not the North Carolina bill … Our bill is very narrow and it deals with public safety, keeping sexual predators pretending to be transgender people [from entering] adult bathrooms.”

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that this bill is appropriate because it seeks to protect the dignity of all people.

“While we must be sensitive to the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of people who identify as transgender, that is not a reason to ignore the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of everyone else,” Anderson said in an email to The Daily Signal.

The Texas Privacy Act hearing is scheduled for March 7 in the Texas Senate. (For more from the author of “Texas Legislature to Consider Bill to Ensure ‘Public Safety’ in Bathrooms” please click HERE)

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Latest Court Decision Blocking Texas’ Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood Shows Need for Congressional Action

A U.S. district judge has blocked the state of Texas from cutting off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding. This is the sixth instance in which a court has prevented a state from denying Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood: Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have also attempted to make Planned Parenthood ineligible for funds.

On Dec. 20, 2016, the Office of Inspector General at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission sent a final notice informing Planned Parenthood that its participation in the state’s Medicaid program would be discontinued.

Referencing Center for Medical Progress videos released by pro-life activists in 2015, the notice informed Planned Parenthood that the inspector general “finds you are not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner under … state and federal law pertaining to Medicaid providers.”

According to Judge Sam Sparks’ ruling, the notice outlined specific alleged violations of accepted standards of medical practice by Planned Parenthood:

1. “A history of deviating from accepted standards to procure samples that meet researcher’s needs.”

2. “A history of permitting staff physicians to alter procedures to obtain targeted tissue samples needed for their specific outside research.”

3. “A willingness to convert normal pregnancies to the breech position to ensure researchers receive intact specimens.”

4. “An admission that ‘we get what we need to do to alter the standard of care where we are still maintaining patient safety, still maintaining efficiency in clinic operations, but we integrate research into it.’”

5. “An admission that Planned Parenthood gets requests for ‘information from our study sponsor on what data they need that is not our standard of care,’ and that [Planned Parenthood] provides what is needed by creating a separate research protocol or template that can include medically unnecessary testing.”

6. “A willingness to charge more than the costs incurred for procuring fetal tissue.”
Planned Parenthood sought a preliminary injunction claiming that Texas violated a federal statute commonly referred to as the Medicaid “free choice of provider” provision, which says that beneficiaries may obtain medical services “from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person qualified to perform the service or services required … who undertakes to provide him such services … ”

On Tuesday, Sparks sided with Planned Parenthood and issued the requested injunction.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately announced plans to appeal the decision, sharply criticizing the judge’s decision to rule that “willingness to violate state and federal law on manipulating abortion procedures and profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, making false statements to law enforcement, and misleading multiple courts were insufficient grounds for Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood” from the state’s program. Planned Parenthood has denied any illegal activity.

In a press release, Texas Right to Life expressed disappointment in the decision, but added that it “hopes Texas will soon prevail in the decision to award Medicaid contracts to ethical providers that offer health services to Texas women and families”

Congress should follow Texas’ lead and end federal funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers.

Disqualifying Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers from receiving Title X family planning grants, Medicaid reimbursements, and other grants and contracts does not reduce the overall funding for women’s health care.

The funds currently flowing to abortion providers can instead be distributed to health centers that offer comprehensive health care without entanglement with abortion on demand.

Congress should take this step in the context of the upcoming budget reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare, ensuring that package includes a provision (just as the 2015 version of the bill did) that would make Planned Parenthood affiliates ineligible from receiving Medicaid reimbursements for one year after the enactment of the bill.

Ultimately, Congress should send the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in January, to the president’s desk for signature. (For more from the author of “Latest Court Decision Blocking Texas’ Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood Shows Need for Congressional Action” please click HERE)

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SCOTUS Declines to Protect Texas from Tyrannical Lower Court Injunction on Voter ID Law

Americans must show a form of photo ID to purchase a pack of Sudafed or to engage in any major transaction. Yet according to almost every lower court — including the “conservative” Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals — states can’t use their plenary power over election procedures to require a photo ID in order to protect the integrity of our democracy. Today, the Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal from the state of Texas in a bid to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s unconstitutional opinion.

My point is not to criticize the passive decision of the Supreme Court today, but rather to demonstrate how the entire conception of the modern federal judiciary as it relates to constitutional construction and its role in law-making is irremediably broken. And while it’s important to select the best nominee to SCOTUS as possible, merely “appointing good judges” alone will not save us from the tyranny of lower courts, absent wholesale judicial reform.

In Abbott v. Veasey, the Fifth Circuit upheld most of a district court’s ruling in describing Texas’s voter ID law as discriminatory against blacks, in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. The 9-6 en banc decision, which included some GOP-appointed judges, essentially said that blacks are too dumb and poor to provide a photo ID for the foundation of our democracy, even though they would be provided with one by the state free of charge. Today, the Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal. Chief Justice Roberts noted that because the case is not fully decided (it was remanded to the district court for further adjudication), he reserves the right to grant cert to a future appeal when the issue is finalized, but took a pass for the time being.

The decision from Roberts seems reasonable enough given the workload of the Supreme Court and that none of the conservatives, including Thomas, dissented from this denial (as he has done in previous denials of cert on important issues). However, this further proves my point about the broken nature of the judiciary. The capacity of good judges to do good is not nearly equal to the capacity of post-constitutional judges to do harm.

No state should have to wait even a single day to implement such a common sense regulation that is well within its constitutional powers. Yet, liberal groups have the ability to get an injunction against basic voter integrity laws within weeks and then encumber the law in the system for years. Even if we ultimately fill Scalia’s seat with an originalist, it will take years to grant relief to the states embattled by the legal profession and the lower courts. Unlike liberal Supreme Court justices who would take any opportunity to use their majority on the high court to overturn anything they disagree with from a lower court, conservative judges are never as aggressive the other way. The notion that a lower court, which is an institution created by Congress, can steal state powers away from the state — and that decision is not swatted down by the Supreme Court immediately — is one of the many reasons why we need wholesale reform.

Even if Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires and we successfully fill both her seat and Scalia’s seat with orginalists (relatively speaking), the 5-4 majority (yes, Kennedy is on the left) would not be a full safety valve for the Constitution. So much of the anti-constitutional jurisprudence surrounding the Fourteenth Amendment has been legitimized or at least tolerated by the legal Right that cases such as the Texas voter ID law will inhibit states from doing what they need to do to protect their elections in a timely fashion.

This is why, in addition to nominating the best judges to the Supreme Court, Congress should:

1. Immediately fill lower court vacancies and not wait the traditional six months to begin the process. [I’ll have more on this in a few days].

2. Finally harness their Article III Sec. 2 plenary power to “regulate and except” the jurisdiction of at least the lower courts, as I advocate in my book. All lower courts should be barred from adjudicating cases overturning state election laws. Those cases should be left to state courts, which are usually elected by the people of the state.

3. Pass resolutions explicitly defining the scope of the Voting Rights Act and prevent courts from using past erroneous precedent to apply anti-discrimination laws against universal voter integrity measures that are manifestly not discriminatory. The federal judiciary, especially lower courts created by Congress, don’t have a monopoly on constitutional interpretation, much less statutory interpretation. The House recently passed a similar bill with regard to regulatory litigation, barring the courts from using “the Chevron Doctrine” to allow executive agencies to bastardize environmental statutes in a way that was never intended by the legislative branch.

Supreme law Hierarchy

Most importantly, as we commence a national debate over the next SCOTUS nominee, conservatives inside and outside of Congress must utilize this focus to educate the public on the true role of the court system. As I’ve written before, even those founders who believed federal courts have the power of judicial review, understood that they are not the sole and final arbiter of every political issue. Judicial review does not equal judicial supremacy. The judiciary’s power is certainly not greater than the power of Congress, which in itself fully created the institution of the federal judiciary and has the power to regulate the court’s jurisdiction.

Many Republicans are giddy about assuming full control over the federal government and 33 state legislatures. But if nothing is done to reverse the false deference to judicial supremacy, the election will be rendered moot and the Constitution will continue to be tarnished. (For more from the author of “SCOTUS Declines to Protect Texas from Tyrannical Lower Court Injunction on Voter ID Law” please click HERE)

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Texas Governor Pledges to Sign Anti-Sanctuary City Bill

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he expects the Legislature to pass an anti-sanctuary city bill this year, opening a new front in the battle over “local control.”

Weighing in on the intensifying national immigration debate, the Republican governor pledged to sign S.B. 4, which would require municipalities to enforce migrant detainers at local jails and withhold state grants if they don’t comply.

“I will work with the Legislature to compel government bodies and employees to live up to their oath of office,” Abbott declared.

Cities, counties, or universities that violate the law will face a “multitude of consequence, ranging from financial penalties to removal from office,” the former state attorney general said.

Abbott, who has clashed with Sheriff Lupe Valdez over sanctuary policies in Dallas County, took aim at newly elected Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who vowed to remove Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from the Austin jail.

“It’s erroneous to have an attitude that laws are like some big buffet where you can choose one item and ignore other items,” Abbott said, referring to sanctuary cities and campuses.

Federal law states: “A federal, state, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service [now ICE] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any citizen.”

Responding to reports of crimes committed by illegal immigrants—some of them after multiple deportation—Hernandez told The Texas Tribune: “I just don’t think you solve the criminal justice process by deporting them. We talk about being progressive. I believe we need to lead the way.”

Larry Korkmas, president of Texans for Immigration Reduction and Enforcement, said sanctuary policies punish taxpayers while municipal and school officials complain about chronic funding shortages.

“If we enforced [immigration] laws, we would reduce our medical welfare and education costs,” Korkmas told Watchdog.org.

In introducing S.B. 4, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, cited the election of Donald Trump, saying, “The American people made it clear that solving our illegal immigration crisis must be a priority. We cannot sit idly by and allow local policies to undercut efforts made at the federal and state level.”

Bob Dane, executive director of the nonpartisan Federation for American Immigration Reform, said, “Local politicians who support sanctuary policies are, in effect, giving the middle finger to federal law enforcement and, in so doing, giving it to every law-abiding, taxpaying resident.”

“Those days are over,” Dane told Watchdog from his Washington, D.C., office. “Since there is no longer fear of recrimination by [President] Barack Obama’s iron-fisted Department of Justice, Texas should pass [S.B. 4] and Abbott should sign it. The rule of law will be restored and Texas will be a safer place.”

Jeff Judson, a policy fellow with the market-oriented Heartland Institute, agreed.

“I think Abbott is smart enough to know how [antithetical] sanctuary cities are to voters. It fits with his belief that cities have abused their home-rule ‘local control’ and are violating freedoms the state is pledged to uphold,” said Judson, a former councilman in the San Antonio suburb of Olmos Park. (For more from the author of “Texas Governor Pledges to Sign Anti-Sanctuary City Bill” please click HERE)

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Will Texas Grant the Unborn Decent Burial?

Today, a Texas regulation was supposed to be implemented to preserve the dignity of unborn children’s lives by requiring that they be buried or cremated after an abortion or miscarriage.

Proposed by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, the new regulation was simply an amendment to the existing code. The health services provisions previously allowed for aborted or miscarried fetuses to be ground up and discharged into sewer systems as alternatives to cremation or burial. The proposed law now requires internment via one of the latter two options, which are customarily applied to the deceased.

However, that regulation was blocked by a temporary injunction last Thursday by a U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas. He expects to make a final ruling regarding the regulation on January 6, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Pro-choice groups joined with the Center for Reproductive Rights to challenge the regulation in a lawsuit in July. According to the AP, the Center for Reproductive Rights called the regulation “unwise, unjustified and unconstitutional.”

Mainstream Culture Living in Denial

Their outrage comes as no surprise. Required burial or cremation assumes that the deceased being is human, and such assumptions are inconvenient for pro-choice activists and abortionists. After all, it’s easier to justify the killing of millions of fetuses every year if you deny their humanity.

According to Amy Hagstrom-Miller, president and CEO of the case’s lead plaintiff Whole Women’s Health, it’s not the dignity of the unborn, but the dignity of women at stake.

“We will not stand for Texas putting more undue burdens on women and families who deserve the safe and compassionate abortion care that we provide at Whole Woman’s Health,” she said in a press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights

While the burial of the deceased is often acknowledged as a burden to the family they leave behind, no one argues that it’s “undue.” Unless, of course, the deceased isn’t recognized as a human being.

The lawsuit claims that “Women and their families hold a diversity of views on whether and when an embryo or fetus attains the status of a human being.” (Emphasis added.)

Whether and when. Not only is the lawsuit highlighting the hotly contested issue of when an unborn baby becomes alive — it is alleging that an unborn baby may not even be human at all!

The lawsuit claims that these diverse opinions about a baby’s humanity are “informed by science, culture, spirituality and religion.”

By suggesting that a fetus may not actually be human (and therefore completely eligible for killing, with no moral qualms), pro-choice culture is attempting to assuage the conscience of a society that aborts millions of unborn human children each year.

Mainstream Media Devalues Life in the Womb

The euphemistic bias has, unsurprisingly, seeped into the mainstream media.

The AP’s report on the judge’s block of the Texas regulations last Thursday is a perfect example. Consider this paragraph from AP reporter Will Weissert:

The Center for Reproductive Rights and other national advocacy groups sued to prevent Texas from requiring hospitals and clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages rather than disposing of them in a sanitary landfill, as they often currently do with such remains and other biological medical waste. (Emphasis added.)

Weissert is equating the bodies of unborn human beings with “biological medical waste,” as if an aborted child were the same as a discarded tumor.

The Truth Regarding Life

It doesn’t take a degree in science to recognize three simple truths that appear in grade school biology textbooks:

1. The being that grows inside a womb is human. Conceived of two humans, it can’t be anything else.

2. Since that being is constantly growing from the moment it enters the womb, we know it is alive.

3. Abortion ends that life.

Pro-choice activists and the media which follow their lead aren’t just rejecting religion and ethics; they are sunk in denial of basic medical facts. (For more from the author of “Will Texas Grant the Unborn Decent Burial?” please click HERE)

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How Texas Can Lead the Charge on Education Choice

The debate around school choice has shifted from whether states should enact education choice to how best to accomplish that goal.

In a special report released on Monday—co-published by The Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation—we discuss how this question will be especially important in Texas, which is considering adopting education savings accounts, becoming a leader in the education choice movement.

What will now be critically important for Texas as it works to create education choice is that policymakers avoid adopting a flawed version of accountability.

More Choice, More Accountability

The best way for policymakers in Texas and elsewhere to expand access to a high-quality education for all children is to provide all families with education savings accounts that give them the maximum possible freedom to choose the education providers that work best for their children.

In “Recalibrating Accountability: Education Savings Accounts as Vehicles of Choice and Innovation,” we outline ways in which policymakers can ensure parent-centered accountability is a key feature of education savings accounts in Texas.

Education savings accounts enable families to access a variety of educational options beyond the traditional classroom.

In addition to, or even instead of, enrolling at a private school, students using education savings accounts might learn from tutors, take a course online or at a local college, study from a homeschool curriculum, or use some combination of these. Education savings accounts both empower parents to completely customize their child’s education and provide a platform for innovation.

Education savings accounts expand students’ opportunities and make education providers more directly accountable to parents. But this new model of education will require rethinking the way we hold education providers accountable. And it’s a rethinking that couldn’t come soon enough. For far too long, parents have been deprived of genuine accountability.

That’s because a lack of accountability is a hallmark of monopolies. District schools operate like monopolies because many parents have no viable alternatives. District schools are primarily accountable to politicians and unelected bureaucrats, not parents, and they receive funding regardless of their performance or whether they are meeting the needs of families.

And because district schools are not held directly accountable to parents, some policymakers have attempted to impose accountability through top-down government regulations. Yet decades of attempts to regulate district schools into quality have had little effect.

Without question, parents and taxpayers have a legitimate interest in the accountability debate.

Parents should have robust, contextual information about how their children are performing, and whether their education providers are setting them up to achieve their life goals and aspirations. Taxpayers, meanwhile, deserve transparency about how their dollars are being spent.

Unfortunately, too many policymakers have still come to see centralized government regulations as synonymous with “accountability” rather than an inferior alternative to direct accountability to parents, and have therefore sought to impose similar regulations on choice programs.

At the center of the technocratic approach to “accountability” is the standardized testing mandate. Yet research has demonstrated that over-reliance on standardized math and reading tests has the propensity to narrow the curriculum.

As a result, a uniform, statewide testing mandate can limit the supply of high-quality schools and education providers willing to participate in an education choice option as well as create an incentive for participating providers to teach to the test.

Parents and students can be better served by the numerous other market mechanisms that channel expert knowledge and user experience in order to make an informed decision. The plethora of college ratings providers is a good example of the types of information market eagerly provides.

Reviews such as U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review, Forbes, Kiplinger’s, and Business Insider are examples of that. Sites like College Times, Students Review, Rate My Professors, and Get Educated provide a platform for students to share information about their actual experiences at the college they attended.

Because the market for K-12 education is still relatively small, there are fewer ratings providers. Nevertheless, websites like GreatSchools.org and Niche.com are already providing parents with vital information as well as platforms for parents and students to share their experiences.

As the market for K–12 education grows, we should expect to see even more expert reviewers and platforms for user reviews to fill the growing demand for such information.

Holding education providers directly accountable to parents through market-based mechanisms creates a feedback loop that does not exist in more centralized, top-down systems like the district schools. This process builds on strengths and corrects errors more effectively than regulatory fiat.

Universal Access

In addition to creating parent-driven accountability, policymakers must also consider the scope of program eligibility.

“Universality”—the policy of allowing all children to be eligible for an education savings account, in addition to ensuring every child can match learning options with their unique education needs—can create broad public support for an education choice initiative to increase its likelihood of long-term viability.

Moreover, universality breaks the link between where children live and what school they attend, creating competition among all schools to catalyze improvements for all children.

A robust education market will also require education providers to have the freedom to innovate and parents to have the freedom to choose the providers that best meet their child’s needs.

States therefore should avoid well-intentioned but misguided regulations such as open admissions requirements, price controls, state testing mandates, and excessive reporting requirements.

Although intended to guarantee access and accountability, these regulations produce consequences that can reduce the effectiveness of education savings accounts and even undermine their goals.

It’s time for America’s education system to catch up to the 21st century. Our institution-centric system of district schools built for the industrial age is not well equipped to educate children in the information age.

What’s needed now is a student-centric system that empowers parents to customize their child’s education. Education savings accounts are the most effective way yet designed to achieve that goal.

Texas should seize the opportunity to lead the way. (For more from the author of “How Texas Can Lead the Charge on Education Choice” please click HERE)

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Texas Judge Victorious Over Atheist Group in Prayer Dispute

Judge Wayne Mack, a justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Texas, recalls several people telling him they were initially worried about coming before his court, but after the chaplain’s prayer opened the proceedings, they felt better.

“It was clear it would be a solemn event and they knew I would be fair,” Mack told The Daily Signal in a phone interview a day after the Texas attorney general’s opinion held that opening court with a chaplain’s prayer and the voluntary chaplain program Mack established were constitutional.

Mack started a voluntary chaplaincy program that has more than 60 clergymen participating, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, and people of other faiths. It openly invites, “all religious leaders of any faith in to participate.”

As a justice of the peace, Mack also serves as the coroner for the Montgomery County. It was in this duty that he first implemented the voluntary chaplain program, after finding himself not always able to console people when he had to be first on the scene for deaths.

In a six-page opinion issued Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, which determined that initiating local government meetings with prayer did not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ”

Paxton compared Mack’s courtroom with the Town of Greece, New York, writing, “In both instances, religious leaders of any faith are invited to deliver a prayer at the beginning of proceedings.”

“A court would likely conclude that a justice of the peace’s practice of opening daily court proceedings with a prayer by a volunteer chaplain as you describe is sufficiently similar to the facts in Galloway such that the practice does not violate the Establishment Clause,” the opinion reads.

He added, “A court would likely conclude that the volunteer chaplain program you describe, which allows religious leaders to provide counseling to individuals in distress upon request, does not violate the Establishment Clause.”

The Paxton opinion cited lower court rulings on chaplain programs.

“Courts in other jurisdictions have likewise upheld the hiring of chaplains by a county hospital, prisons, and military establishments in order to provide counseling and guidance to individuals who request it,” the opinion said.

It added, “In each of these cases, the chaplains were paid by public funds, creating more significant Establishment Clause concerns than exist here, where the chaplains serve on a voluntary basis without cost to the taxpayer and only upon request of those who wish to receive the chaplain’s assistance.”

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation isn’t happy with the opinion, but asserts that the matter is likely over because two individuals who regularly appear before the court felt “fearful” about how Mack would judge their case and are not willing to file a suit.

“We are confident that if we could bring this [case] before a federal judge, we could prove this far exceeds precedent, but we can’t do that without a plaintiff willing to challenge Judge Mack,” said Sam Grover, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in a phone interview with The Daily Signal.

There was never an intent to offend anyone, and whether someone participated in the courtroom prayer would have no affect on the ruling, Mack said.

“I would never use the bench as a pulpit,” he said. “Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court open with prayers.”

The Texas attorney general’s opinion marks a decisive victory for Mack, after getting a mixed victory before the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, based on the Freedom From Religion Foundation complaint from 2014. The judicial commission dismissed the complaint, but “strongly cautioned” against the chaplain program and prayer.

But the commission ruling that offered neither discipline nor a mandate to stop, led Mack and First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group that represents the judge, to seek more clarity. In February, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Paxton to issue a clarifying opinion on the constitutionality of the case.

“The attorney general’s opinion is clear and sound constitutionally,” Mack said. “It emboldens believers of any faith to stand up for the First Amendment because it’s the First Amendment for a reason. The tyranny of political correctness is causing people to step away from their values. They should stand up and be counted.”

The attorney general opinion offers a clear victory, said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute.

“This is a total victory for Judge Mack and for the citizens of Texas,” Shackelford said in a statement. “If the Supreme Courts of the United States and Texas can open with prayer, clearly, the law allows for Judge Mack’s court to open with an invocation by a volunteer chaplain. We are grateful Attorney General Paxton has brought clarity to this important issue, reaffirming the constitutionality of prayer in the public arena.”

However, Grover of the Freedom From Religion Foundation contends that Paxton did not address the group’s main points from a letter sent in April.

“None of the points we raised were addressed. The opinion barely scratches the surface,” Grover said. “This far exceeds the ceremonial acknowledgment of a deity to open of the the Supreme Court or the Texas Supreme Court.”

Grover said merely allowing multiple faiths to participate in the chaplain program doesn’t mean it’s not exclusionary to nonbelievers.

“It makes the violation less severe, but a prayer in any setting, any prayer of any religion leaves out a large segment of nonreligious people,” Grover said. (For more from the author of “Texas Judge Victorious Over Atheist Group in Prayer Dispute” please click HERE)

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