Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wallace Hall Wins; Joe Straus Gets Weaker

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Quite the cave:
After a year-long investigation into a saga that has roiled Texas politics, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 6-1 to admonish and censure Hall for “misconduct, incompetency in the performance of official duties, or behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.” Those charges related to Hall's drawn-out investigations of University of Texas at Austin administrators and his handling of private student information. Hall has alleged the university has allowed lawmakers to unduly influence the admissions process.

Ahead of the vote, the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reported that the committee had several options, including "voting on articles of impeachment against Hall, waiting on the results of a separate criminal investigation, issuing guidelines for all regents or considering another type of reprimand."


With its decision, the committee "appeared to have found a middle ground between inaction and impeachment that reflected a certain political calculation," wrote Ralph K.M. Haurwitz of the Austin American-Statesman. "Censure is a public statement of disapproval, whereas a recommendation for impeachment by the full House would have triggered a new round of review and potentially a trial in the Senate to determine whether Hall should be removed from the Board of Regents."

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Obviously, Straus never wanted a floor debate.

Straus' post-censure statement reveals his impotence:
“I want to thank the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations for its deliberate, thoughtful work over the last year. Today’s vote sends a clear message: The Legislature encourages regents and other executive appointees to ask difficult questions of the agencies in their care. But when appointees’ actions begin to harm those agencies — as Regent Hall’s repeatedly have — the Texas House will not ignore its own oversight role. Going forward, the monitoring requirements imposed today will prevent the types of abuses that this committee has discovered over the last year. The committee’s enhanced oversight, combined with reforms already implemented by the UT Board and the arrival of new UT System leadership, will help the System move past this episode and focus on the students it serves.”
Hall's statement summarizes the year long fiasco:
The committee’s findings are based on distortions, untruths, and intentional misrepresentations. Speaker Straus and his committee have abused the public’s trust and money to cover up their improper interference in System operations, including to defend a university president who was repeatedly asked to leave.

Intimidation of non-paid public servants by an “experimental” committee should not be tolerated by the public, the media, or other Texas officials. This is especially true when the effort is intended to interfere in the performance of duties that are required by law and the Texas Constitution.

If committee members wanted the truth about abuses in the UT System, they would have provided a subpoena that would enable me to answer their questions fully. Instead, they chose to not subpoena me so I could not answer the only questions that matter.

Texas deserves legislators who understand their oversight responsibility, and who will not manipulate state government processes to hide and protect their interests.
Bottom Line: Joe Straus wasted a year (and 500 grand of our money) attempting to intimidate Wallace Hall.   He failed; Wallace Hall is stronger than ever.  Straus, meanwhile, has lost lieutenants as a direct result of this circus.  Texas House Republicans ought to remember that reality when casting their recorded vote for Speaker next session.  It's going to the floor....

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