Wednesday, May 18, 2016

If Austin's Tech community is Serious about 2017 #TXLEGE action....


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

Following the Prop. 1 debacle, there's been a lot of ink spilled about getting the legislature involved in various regulatory disputes; we just realized something that, if the tech community is serious, should constitute an IMMEDIATE action item.

The guy who killed the Tesla bill last session is in a runoff RIGHT NOW in HD 128 (Eastern Harris County).  Early voting is this week.  Election day is next Tuesday.

Wayne Smith, the incumbent, has been under the pink dome for 7 terms and done little of note.  Empower Texans has a good summary of his record here.  From the tech community's perspective, however, the most important takeaway is that Smith was the guy who killed the Tesla bill last session.

As we wrote last year:
The Texas House Committee on Licencing and Administrative procedure, however, clearly telegraphed that they would rather protect middlemen from competition than allow entrepreneurs and consumers to flourish....The most revealing moment of the hearing came when chairman Wayne Smith "disclosed" that one of the auto dealers testifying against the bill was a member of the same Rotary club as him. In another act of chutzpah masquerading as disclosure, Chairman Smith told the committee he was friends the spouse of another witness.
Did we mention that Wayne Smith killed the Tesla bill last session?!?

His opponent Briscoe Cain, by contrast, just did this:
A Harris County state district judge ruled Tuesday that a state law barring the use of audio and video produced by the Legislature in political ads likely is unconstitutional, blocking enforcement of a two-decade-old ban that critics said was aimed at protecting incumbents from election challengers.

A tea party House candidate challenging one of Speaker Joe Straus' lieutenants in a runoff sued the Texas Ethics Commission to strike down the law that prohibits the use of audio and video from the floor of the House and Senate, along with committee hearings, in political ads.

State District Judge Brent Gamble granted a temporary injunction requested by Briscoe Cain, a Harris County lawyer in a May 24 runoff with state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown.

Cain wants to use footage in his campaign ads of Smith from the House floor during the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions. According to a court filing, Cain is planning to use the taxpayer-funded footage of Smith in ads on social media websites.

The law prohibits "a person from using in political advertising any audio or visual materials produced by or under the direction of the legislature or of a house, committee, or agency of the legislature." It carries a fine of up to $5,000.

Cain sued the ethics commission, which enforces the law, in late April and claimed the state was engaging in censorship and trying to stifle political speech. Cain also charged that the state law amounted to nothing more than protection for incumbents who did not want potentially unflattering footage of their work at the Capitol to appear in political ads.

"Overall it's a win for the First Amendment because it allows anybody in the state of Texas to use audio and video produced by taxpayers to hold elected officials accountable," said Trey Trainor, a lawyer representing Cain.
The word disruptive gets thrown around too much, but if successfully challenging unconstitutional barriers to entry for political speech isn't disruptive, then nothing is.

In other words, this race is literally between the guy who killed the Tesla bill last session and a challenger who just got a bunch of unconstitutional restrictions on political speech tossed in court.

Bottom Line: We'll say more about what the tech community should expect in the legislature soon, but in the very short term the runoff in HD-128 should be a top priority.

Donate to Briscoe Cain here.

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