Monday, January 28, 2019

#TXLEGE: The Texas Senate needs to STOP giving the Austin Chronicle easy material

"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
John 4:24

Longtime readers know there is no media outlet this author despises more than the Austin Chronicle; which is why it kills us that they got this one 100% correct:
Sex and the Senate
What will it take to curb sexual harassment at the Texas State Capitol?
BY MARY TUMA, FRI., JAN. 25, 2019

Not more than two days into the 86th Texas Legislature, the 150-member House of Representatives approved a new, stronger reporting process to secure justice for victims of sexual harassment at the Capitol. The unprecedented (at least in recent history) move comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which ousted abusive male figures from their perches in politics, journalism, and Hollywood. And it follows a string of shocking media reports from last session that alleged harassment in the halls of the Capitol building from Democrats and Republicans alike over several years. Those reports ignited conversation within both legislative chambers on how best to respond to inappropriate behavior moving forward.

However, one body is noticeably working more steadfastly – and openly – on the issue than the other.

The House Committee on Administration acted quickly, proposing a first draft in December 2017 that was seen as a solid start that needed more work. Former Speaker Joe Straus then created a working group in May 2018 to examine the Texas House's sexual harassment policy and recommend ways to improve it. The 10-member group, led by Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Linda Koop, R-Dallas (who lost her re-election bid in November), was tasked with researching best practices in other states to "prevent and eradicate" misconduct in the Legislature. The latest iteration, approved as a resolution by a unanimous vote of the House on Jan. 9 after months of review, moves misconduct complaints to a House investigating committee with subpoena power, adding real teeth to a once-feeble policy.

Meanwhile, the Senate – recently encumbered by allegations of lewd behavior against one of its most powerful members, Georgetown Republican Charles Schwertner, has taken a slower approach. While the Senate elaborated its misconduct policy from one to six pages some five months after the House released its first draft, it has no plans to hold hearings or take a formal vote as the House did. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, never as engaged on the issue as Straus, also opted not to conduct a Senate investigation into Schwertner, instead taking the wait-and-see route as a University of Texas investigation played out. Both the Senate's weaker policy and its inaction in the Schwertner case have drawn criticism on the state's editorial pages, including a piece penned by former Sen. Wendy Davis.

During the few months of the current regular session, the Senate has the power to strengthen and codify its rules, but will it? Or does the upper chamber hope the issue of sexual misconduct – and public complaints against its members – gradually falls by the wayside?
The article goes on to discuss everything we already know.  We recommend reading the whole thing, but you already know  the names.  Carlos Uresti, Borris Miles, Craig Estes, Charles Schwertner....

The Chronicle then contrasts the reaction between the two chambers.  While we think they give both Joe Straus and the house more credit than they deserve, at least the House is trying.  The Senate, meanwhile, hasn't done anything meaningful.

The Texas Senate's political opponents have noticed.

Unfortunately, they're not wrong.

It gets better:
The Senate's inaction prompted Wendy Davis, who served two terms in the chamber representing Ft. Worth, to pen a critical editorial in the Statesman earlier this month demanding that the upper house get its act together. Among her chief complaints: There remains no legitimate recourse for people who are sexually harassed by legislators; there is no independent, third-party investigator to whom such complaints can be made; the Senate policy fails to define consequences for violations and has not extended its subpoena power, which could have compelled Schwertner (or others) to testify or provide information.

"What happened after the credible allegations against Sen. Schwertner – and also Sens. Miles and Uresti – starkly highlights how broken the system is," Davis told us. "I found myself feeling very upset and frustrated after reading the UT report. I was angry on behalf of the young woman and on behalf of many others who have endured sexual harassment at the Capitol. It's disappointing that the Senate appears disinterested in further investigating the incident."


Davis slams the policy as "a little more than window dressing, but not a whole lot more." She notes the "glaring differences" between Straus' leadership and Patrick's. "Straus supported the effort in an authentic and sincere way, with an open process and a work group," said Davis. "On the Senate side, there is more of an appearance of a process, but without any real desire to hear from experts and people who may have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment at the Capitol. To me, the process looked more like a kangaroo court."

There appears to be a "greater interest in protecting the body than in protecting young women working at the Capitol," says Davis. "It's often part and parcel of the way elected bodies function – if you protect your members, you gain their loyalty." Sexual misconduct at the Capitol is an open secret among members, she says, and she had her own brush with harassment as a freshman senator. During a social, UT-affiliated event, a House member, clearly inebriated, touched her inappropriately. She says it took that member three years to apologize; she never reported the incident because the Senate's policy did not make clear where or who to report to. Even if there had been a direct path, there was no hope that anything would come of it because there were no defined consequences, she says.

"We need to apply continued pressure on the Senate," said Davis. "We cannot give them a pass on this."
You know the situation is bad when you're getting hammered by Wendy Friggin' Davis...and she's completely right.

It's pathetic.

Bottom Line: You can't blame the other team for swinging the bat when you're the one lobbing softballs down the middle of the plate....

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