The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll solicit individuals for donations to fund his plan for a border wall

"Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll solicit individuals for donations to fund his plan for a border wall" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

When Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that Texas would build its own border wall, one of the immediate questions was who would pay for it.

Abbott has not fully detailed the plan yet, but he said in a podcast interview released Tuesday that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.

“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute," Abbott said on the podcast, a show about Republican politics called “Ruthless."

Abbott made national headlines with his announcement Thursday in Del Rio that Texas would build its own wall at the Mexico border, though he provided no further details and said he would lay out the plan this week.

In the meantime, Abbott has faced threats of legal action and a bevy of questions about where, when and how such a wall could be constructed.

Abbott said in the podcast interview that the donations to Texas' border wall will go to a fund “overseen by the state of Texas in the governor's office." He promised “great transparency," saying “everyone will know every penny in, every penny out, but the sole purpose for those funds will be going to build the border wall."

Abbott's plan would not be the first attempt to crowdfund a border wall. There was We Build The Wall, a private fundraising effort that raised more than $25 million after originally planning to construct 3 miles of fence posts in South Texas. Last year, four people involved in We Build The Wall — including Steve Bannon, the former adviser to President Donald Trump — were charged with allegedly defrauding donors to the effort. Trump pardoned Bannon before leaving office in January.

A closer parallel to Abbott's plan may date to 2011, when the Arizona Legislature passed a law establishing a fund, complete with a fundraising website, to construct a fence along the state's border with Mexico. The fund received almost $270,000 by 2014, and a state border security advisory committee decided to give most of the sum to a county sheriff in 2015. The sheriff instead invested the money in border security technology such as GPS systems and binoculars, according to the Arizona Republic.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/15/texas-border-wall-greg-abbott/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas grid operator ERCOT urges energy conservation as temperatures rise

June 14, 2021

"Texas grid operator urges electricity conservation as many power generators are unexpectedly offline and temperatures rise" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Texas' main power grid struggled to keep up with the demand for electricity Monday, prompting the operator to ask Texans to conserve power until Friday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement Monday that a significant number of unexpected power plant outages, combined with expected record use of electricity due to hot weather, has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 12,000 megawatts of generation were offline Monday, or enough to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day.

ERCOT officials said the power plant outages were unexpected — and could not provide details as to what could be causing them.

“I don't have any potential reasons [for the plant outages] that I can share at this time," said Warren Lasher, ERCOT senior director of systems planning, during a Monday call with media. “It is not consistent with fleet performance that we have seen over the last few summers."

The number of plants that were forced offline today is “very concerning" Lasher said.

“We operate the grid with the resources that we have available," he said. “It's the responsibility of the generators to make sure their plants are available when demand is high."

The conservation request comes at a time of heightened anxiety around electricity after the state's catastrophic February power outages left millions without power for days. Those outages, which were prompted by a severe winter storm, may have killed as many as 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by BuzzFeed News.

Of the plants offline, about 9,600 megawatts of power, or nearly 80% of the outages, are from thermal power sources, which in Texas are largely natural-gas-fired power plants. That's several times what ERCOT usually sees offline for thermal generation maintenance during a summer day. Typically, only about 3,600 megawatts of thermal generation are offline this time of year.

“This is unusual for this early in the summer season," said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a statement. He said the grid operator would conduct an analysis to determine why so many units are offline.

At this time, it “appears unlikely" that the ERCOT grid would need to implement outages, like it did in February, to reduce strain on the grid, Lasher said.

In April, ERCOT asked residents to cut back power use because of a high number of plants offline for maintenance, some due to repairs necessary from damage during the February winter storm.

Lasher said that ERCOT has completed 20 plant visits ahead of the summer peak season, and 11 more are scheduled for the next two weeks. Four of the plants that were inspected are currently on outage, Lasher said.

The grid operator estimates demand for electricity could exceed 73,000 megawatts on Monday. The previous record for June was 69,100 megawatts in 2018.

“[Electricity demand] is really driven by temperatures, and right now it is 99 degrees in Dallas, 97 degrees in Austin and 97 degrees in Houston," said Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin. He said at those high temperatures, people tend to crank up their air conditioning, which strains the grid. At the same time, he said, power plants have already had a rough year given the damage during the February outages, which may be causing new complications.

Texans can reduce electricity use by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher; turning off lights and pool pumps; avoiding use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and dryers; and turning off or unplugging unused electric appliances.

Power grids must keep supply and demand in balance at all times. When Texas' grid falls below its safety margin of excess supply, the grid operator starts taking additional precautions to avoid blackouts. The first precaution is to ask the public to cut back electricity usage.

Following criticism that the grid operator did not consider severe enough scenarios in its planning, ERCOT outlined the most extreme calculations for this summer that it has ever considered. ERCOT warned in its summer assessment of power resources that a severe heat wave or drought, combined with high demand for power, could put the grid in jeopardy. (Texas is expected to have a hotter and drier summer than normal this year, according to an April climate outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

During the recent legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed energy grid legislation that aimed to prevent electricity blackouts in response to the February crisis. Senate Bills 2 and 3 included a few key changes to the state's power grid that experts said will begin to address some issues, such as requiring power companies to upgrade plants to withstand more extreme weather and creating a statewide emergency alert system. However, it will likely take years before those changes are fully implemented.

The legislation also changes ERCOT's governing board to replace what lawmakers called “industry insiders" with appointees selected by a committee comprising selections by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

The state likely won't require companies to make weatherization upgrades until 2022 at the earliest.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/14/texas-power-grid-conserve-ercot/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas will build a border wall, but hasn't offered details on cost or location

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that Texas will build a border wall along the state's boundary with Mexico — but provided no details on where or when.

Abbott declared his plans during a press conference in Del Rio. He said he would discuss the plans next week. The Biden administration issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office.

Abbott announced the news while discussing a slew of border initiatives, such as a $1 billion allocation for border security in the state budget lawmakers just passed and a plan to establish a Governor's Task Force on Border and Homeland Security with public safety and state government officials.

"It will help all of us to work on ways to stem the flow of unlawful immigration and to stem the flow of illegal contraband," Abbott said, while seated next to officials from the National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Division of Emergency Management.

At the conference, Abbott also announced plans to increase arrests along the border — and increase space inside local jails.

"They don't want to come to across the state of Texas anymore because it's not what they were expecting," Abbott said before being met with applause from those at the conference. "It's not the red carpet that the federal administration rolled out to them."

He also announced an interstate compact with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to resolve the border "crisis," and called on other states to do the same.

Abbott's announcement comes after Republican former state Sen. Don Huffines said he will challenge the governor in next year's GOP primary — and as part of his campaign also promised to finish border wall construction in Texas.

"We will completely shut down the border until the crisis is solved and eliminate all taxpayer-funded subsidies to illegal aliens," Huffines tweeted earlier this month. "I am not afraid to take on the federal government."

Building a wall along the Texas-Mexico border was a key element of former President Donald Trump's successful 2016 election campaign plan that can be dated to when he was preparing his bid for a Republican nomination in 2014. His promise that Mexico would pay for it remained unfulfilled for the entirety of his administration.

During his term, Trump built 450 miles of barrier — mostly in Arizona and far less in the Rio Grande Valley, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier this month, Trump backed Abbott for reelection in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election.

On Thursday, Abbott didn't address the ongoing conflict between himself and the Biden administration that escalated this week after federal officials threatened to sue Texas over Abbott's order to strip certain shelters for migrant children of their state licenses, which could force the shelter operators — which operate under contracts with the federal government — to move the children elsewhere.

The 52 state-licensed shelters house roughly 8,600 children, according to data from the state. In a letter to Texas officials Monday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services attorney Paul Rodriguez asked Texas to clarify Abbott's order and said it could violate the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law overrides state laws. He gave Texas until Friday to respond.

However, he did call on the federal government to pay for the "damages" brought on by immigration to the border, claiming landowners are left to foot the bill for people that migrate.

"The border crisis is no laughing matter," Abbott said. "This is something that also is not a tourism site for members of Congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border, and then go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis."

Abbott has blamed the recent surge of migrants to the Texas-Mexico border on the Biden administration's immigration policies, claiming in a disaster declaration this week that new federal policies have paved the way for "dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities."

Two weeks ago, Abbott deployed more than 1,000 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard members to the border as part of Operation Lone Star — an initiative he announced in March aimed at beefing up security at the border. Abbott later expanded those efforts to also tackle human trafficking at the border, including a plan for DPS troopers and Texas Rangers to interview unaccompanied minors that cross the border to identify potential human trafficking victims.

During his first months in office, Biden ordered a review of the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases could be heard in U.S. immigration courts.

The Biden Administration has referred to its new policies as a way to be more humane toward migrants.

After Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico this week, she told NBC's Lester Holt, "We have to understand that there's a reason people are arriving at our border and ask what is that reason and then identify the problem so we can fix it."

During her trip, she faced backlash from progressives after she told Guatemalans: "Do not come."

Allen West resigns as chair of Texas Republican Party

"Allen West resigns as chair of Texas Republican Party" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Texas GOP Chairman Allen West announced his resignation Friday morning, raising speculation he could run for statewide office.

West, who has been in charge of the party for shy of a year, will remain chair until a successor is picked on July 11, the party said.

“It has been my distinct honor to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. I pray Godspeed for this governing body," he said in a statement.

The party said that West “will take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter in his already distinguished career."

West has not ruled out challenging Gov. Greg Abbott, and he has also had tension recently with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The state office for Land Commissioner is also an open seat this election season now that incumbent commissioner George P. Bush has announced he's running for attorney general.

A former Florida congressman who moved to Texas several years ago, West took over the party last summer, unseating incumbent James Dickey. He quickly made a name for himself for his willingness to speak out against fellow Republicans, including Abbott, whose coronavirus response he criticized.

West used the latest legislative session to push hard for the party's eight legislative priorities, and he has spent recent days lamenting the lack of progress that lawmakers have to show on them.

West is set to appear at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. in Whitehouse, near Tyler, to discuss the session.

Abbott has already drawn a primary challenge from former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas. In addition to West, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller could also take on Abbott. On Tuesday, Abbott was endorsed for reelection by former President Donald Trump.

Abbott is not the only statewide official with whom West has butted heads. Toward the end of the session, he put pressure on Patrick, the presiding officer, to pass a House-approved bill allowing permitless carry of handguns, questioning Patrick's commitment to the cause and alleging the Senate added "poison-pill amendments." Patrick eventually wrangled the votes, he got the bill through the Senate and it is now on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature.

Without naming West, Patrick said in a statement at one point after the bill passed the Senate that those who claimed the Senate-amended bill was in peril "willfully misled many Second Amendment supporters in Texas."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/04/texas-allen-west-republican-resigns/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texans lawmakers overlook everyday constituents in response to power outages during winter storm

June 3, 2021

"Everyday Texans overlooked in state lawmakers' response to power outages during winter storm" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

The first day, Melissa Hutchins and her husband burned furniture to keep warm. Friends of theirs burned their children's toys. A neighbor's roof caved in.

When the Hutchins lost water because the pipes froze, they went to a hotel.

Three nights and four maxed out credit cards later, they returned to their Arlington condominium when power was restored to Texans after one of the deadliest and costliest disasters in state history.

“Texas is not prepared for weather like that," Hutchins said. “We're not equipped for that at all down here."

State lawmakers responded to February's deadly power outages during a winter storm with a few key changes to the state's power grid that experts said will begin to address some issues exposed by the storm — such as requiring power companies to upgrade plants to withstand more extreme weather and creating a statewide emergency alert system.

But they did not provide direct relief for everyday Texans, many of whom lost jobs or loved ones during the pandemic and then went through yet another emotionally and financially taxing crisis.

The storm caused the deaths of as many as 700 people, according to a Buzzfeed analysis. Insurance costs for property damage alone are about $18 billion, Reuters reported, citing Karen Clark & Co., a Boston consulting firm. The total economic damage to the state may be $86 billion to $129 billion, according to The Perryman Group, a Texas economic firm.

Lawmakers approved a bill that will likely increase most Texans' electricity bills by at least a few dollars each month for possibly the next two decades to bail out the state's utility and electricity companies. Patricia Zavala, senior policy analyst at Jolt, a Latino progressive advocacy group in Texas, said even a small increase in living costs can put Texans who are “teetering on the edge" into financial jeopardy.

And Doug Lewin, an Austin-based energy and climate consultant, said that while the Legislature took positive steps in requiring power companies to prepare for future storms, nothing was done to provide direct assistance to people harmed by the power crisis or to help Texans reduce electricity use to take pressure off the grid during extreme weather.

He and others said the changes this session were not the sort of sweeping reforms necessary to completely avoid another power grid catastrophe.

“There was really no focus at all to address ... the millions of Texans struggling to pay their electric bills," Lewin said during a Friday press conference with Texas environmental advocates. “There's two sides of the equation: supply and demand. The Legislature has stayed almost entirely focused on supply, and almost completely neglected the demand side."

Lawmakers made the case in the final minutes of the legislative session that overhauling the board that oversees the power grid will provide the structural change necessary to prevent another grid-related disaster.

“I always get questions, 'What have y'all done to fix the disaster that we saw in February?'" state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said before the Senate passed Senate Bill 2, which changes the makeup of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' board of directors. “It starts with leadership, and it starts with the structure [of people who] make the hard calls."

Still, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers acknowledged that they did not do enough this session to aid the people — like the Hutchins and their neighbors — who struggled financially after the winter storm caused medical emergencies, damaged property, spoiled food and sent many Texans' utility bills soaring.

Melissa Hutchins, 37, estimates that the hotel, food, repairs to their condo and lost work cost them $5,000. Her husband, a manager at a food and beverage manufacturer, made an early withdrawal on his retirement account so they could repair broken plumbing to restore their water and fix their dishwasher. All of this, she said, after a year in which her husband was sick with COVID-19 and missed a month of work.

“It was just crazy," Hutchins said. “It's one thing after another. Like water, we can't live without water. We have to have electricity."

Lawmakers said the measure they passed to give utilities and electricity companies access to billions of dollars in bonds and loans will prevent a larger financial crisis in the state in the aftermath of the storm. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called for additional legislation that would provide direct financial relief to consumers.

“The next time, for this Lieutenant Governor, that we're going to spend billions of dollars concerning the storm, it's going to be to help the people of Texas and the ratepayers, or I won't call that bill up," Patrick said. “We have to help the people of Texas and their electric bills."

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to call lawmakers back for a special session later this year to revive certain bills that died during the regular session; in an interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Abbott said he would likely support a proposal to aid consumers, but he hasn't announced whether he would add the issue to lawmakers' plates in a special session.

“Put me on the side of consumers who suffered through this storm," Abbott said.

Little relief for everyday Texans

Senate Bills 2 and 3, the two major power grid bills that lawmakers passed on Sunday and sent to Abbott, focus on ERCOT's board and weatherizing the power plants that serve the electrical grid.

Senate Bill 2 reduces the number of ERCOT board members from 16 to 11 and requires that instead of what lawmakers called “industry insiders" appointing the board, Abbott, Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan will appoint a committee to make ERCOT board selections.

Senate Bill 3 requires power companies and some natural gas companies to make upgrades so their facilities can withstand extreme weather and requires regulators to create an emergency alert system, similar to an Amber alert, for power outages and inclement weather.

The Senate did not approve a $2 billion plan, approved by the House, to help companies pay for weatherization. So companies alone will pay the costs to retroactively equip their power plants to withstand extreme weather.

The state likely won't require companies to make weatherization upgrades until 2022 at the earliest.

Another package of bills sent to the governor would increase rates on Texans' power bills for likely the next two decades to cover at least $7 billion of gas utilities', electric cooperatives' and electric companies' debt from the storm.

Many companies, particularly rural electric cooperatives, were financially wrecked after the winter storm due to state electricity regulators' decision to set power prices at the maximum rate of $9,000 per megawatt-hour and keep them there for an additional 32 hours after power began to return. Natural gas fuel prices also spiked during the storm; some gas utility companies said their customers' bills would increase several times the normal amount if the companies had to finance their storm-related debt without state help.

If Abbott signs the bills into law, the legislation will prevent customers from having to pay huge bills from the storm by allowing companies to seek billions of dollars in state-approved bonds backed by the new charges on customers' bills. The state's plan will help the companies get cheaper, longer-term loans.

Some electric companies also owe massive debts to ERCOT; under House Bill 4492, ERCOT will receive $800 million from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the rainy day fund, to pay off those debts — an effort to prevent most retail electric providers from passing huge bills on to their customers and to also reimburse power generation companies.

Still, some are concerned that the state's solution will add yet another cost to already-struggling consumers. Aaron Gonzales, 27, a graduate student at the University of Texas and a volunteer for Jolt Action, said the rising cost of living has delayed his plans to purchase a home. Even a small increase on his utility bill chips away at that dream, he said.

“It's a straw that gets put on the camel's back, and we have to ask ourselves, how many before it breaks?" he said. “A lot of people in my family were laid off this year or on reduced wages. At a time when we don't have jobs or money, you're asking us to pay even more."

The Texas Senate added an amendment in the final week of the session to House Bill 4492 that would have allowed the state comptroller to provide one-time bill payment assistance grants of $350 to residential customers. That measure was stripped from the bill in the House, and Patrick and some senators called for the proposal to be brought back up during a special session.

“It is only fair and right," said Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. “People froze in their homes. A $350 credit is the least we can do."

The Senate stripped away House proposals to help electric customers, too. An amendment to Senate Bill 3 by Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, would have created a grant program for projects that add backup power generation to water treatment plants, local electric utilities, hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis centers. The amendment was taken out during the two chambers' negotiations.

“I don't know if we got any good consumer wins, which is disappointing to think about," Zwiener said of the session.

What the Legislature didn't do

Although lawmakers required electricity generators to weatherize against extreme weather, they took a more limited approach to requiring gas fuel facilities to weatherize — Senate Bill 3 requires only gas facilities that are deemed "critical" by regulators to make changes.

Dozens of natural gas companies failed to do the paperwork that would keep their facilities powered during an emergency, so utilities — under orders from ERCOT to shut down parts of the grid as demand surged — cut their electricity at the very moment that power plants most needed fuel during the storm. Some power plants were unable to operate during the storm due to natural gas fuel shortages.

Lawmakers did not set deadlines for gas companies to weatherize their equipment, which critics argue will allow companies to delay the upgrades.

Lawmakers also stopped short of ordering an energy market overhaul; some proposals would have fundamentally changed the state's deregulated market structure, which relies on supply and demand to set power prices, but lawmakers didn't bite.

And they rejected a pitch by billionaire Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, to spend $8.3 billion for 10 new natural gas power plants across the state for emergency use only, paid for by electricity customers. Many Texas companies did not support the plan, and lawmakers didn't even support studying the idea.

Lawmakers also didn't pass legislation that would help Texans pay to better insulate their homes and reduce their electricity usage, which could both lower power bills and reduce demand on the grid.

“[Texas] has been kind of reluctant to do it," said Pat Wood III, former Public Utility Commission of Texas chair, of weatherizing homes. “And I don't know why."

Those ideas didn't gain traction in the Republican-dominated Legislature, but Zwiener said she's optimistic that such proposals could later be funded by a federal infrastructure package, which President Joe Biden has pushed hard during his first months in office.

“I'm hopeful that when we return in the fall we will be able to leverage some of that for homeowners to weatherize," Zwiener said. “It's energy efficiency, but it's also about survivability. If you live in a house with decent insulation, your house is going to stay warmer or cooler for a much longer period of time."

What's next for the power grid

The upgrades to the grid that lawmakers approved last month won't eliminate the chance of blackouts in Texas. If the state experiences a severe heat wave or drought combined with high demand for power, outages are a possibility, according to recent ERCOT assessments.

ERCOT included three extreme scenarios in a forecast of the state's power resources for the summer — the most extreme calculations ERCOT has ever considered for its regular seasonal assessment. Each scenario would leave the grid short a significant amount of power, which would trigger power outages.

The grid operator had previously avoided warning the public about such extreme possibilities because of their low likelihood of happening. But after February's storm, ERCOT is changing tactics.

ERCOT interim President Brad Jones will also have to build working relationships with an entirely new board of directors, picked by a committee appointed by the state's top politicians.

Meanwhile, ERCOT has to convince the public that its new regime can be trusted to keep the grid from collapsing again.

“[They are] starting over because there's all these people who got introduced to the grid in February — and not in a good way," said Caitlin Smith, an Austin energy policy adviser. “So, we're starting their relationship with ERCOT from a really traumatic event and going from there."

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/03/texas-electricity-bills-winter-storm-legislature/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vows to defund state Legislature after voting restrictions bill fails

May 31, 2021

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vows to defund state Legislature after voting restrictions bill fails, threatening salaries" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he would veto the section of the state budget that funds the Legislature hours after a Democratic walkout killed his priority elections bill.

“No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities," Abbott said in a tweet. “Stay tuned."

Late Sunday night, enough Democrats left the House to break a quorum and block passage of the elections bill, Senate Bill 7, before a midnight deadline. Calling the bill's failure “deeply disappointing," Abbott quickly made clear he would call a special session to get it passed, though he has not specified a timeline.

Abbott's tweet referred to Article X of the budget, which pays not only lawmakers and staff but also funds legislative agencies, such as the Legislative Budget Board. Under the current budget, the legislative branch is funded through the end of August, and the budget Abbott is referring to covers the fiscal year starting Sept. 1.

Abbott has until June 20 to carry out the veto.

State lawmakers are paid $600 a month, equal to $7,200 per year. They also get a per diem of $221 for every day they are in session, including both regular and special sessions.

Democratic legislators quickly criticized Abbott's veto announcement.

“This would eliminate the branch of government that represents the people and basically create a monarchy," state Rep. Donna Howard of Austin tweeted.

SB 7 was one of Abbott's emergency items, as was another proposal that died Sunday that would have made it harder for people arrested to bond out of jail without cash.

Abbott's tweet came minutes before the House adjourned sine die, finishing its regular session. In remarks from the dais, GOP Speaker Dade Phelan acknowledged lawmakers had unfinished business.

“We will be back — when, I don't know, but we will be back," Phelan told members. “There's a lot of work to be done, but I look forward to doing it with every single one of you."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/31/texas-greg-abbott-funding-legislature/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Leadership tensions, potential special session loom as Texas legislative session hits uncertain end

The 2021 Texas legislative session is heading into its final weekend fraught with uncertainty and tension between the two chambers that could lead to a special session.

After three of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's priorities effectively died Tuesday night in the House, the Senate presiding officer called for a special session to pass them, jolting the final several days of a session that was already on track to be the most conservative in recent memory. The last day of the session is Monday, and procedural deadlines have been increasingly cutting off opportunities to hash out key issues.

In some ways, it is a familiar story from past sessions: Tensions between the two chambers are peaking, and Patrick is putting pressure on Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session for unfinished business on conservative priorities. Patrick got his way in 2017, forcing a special session in an ultimately failed push to pass legislation to regulate bathroom use by transgender people.

Patrick specifically wants a June special session — prior to the special session that Abbott is widely expected to call this fall to address redistricting and COVID-19 relief funds. Abbott indicated Wednesday he was not immediately on board with Patrick's demand, and he put a finer point on his resistance Thursday afternoon during an unrelated news conference in Fort Worth.

"That's pretty goofy because everybody knows there's only one person with the authority to call a special session, and that's the governor," Abbott said of Patrick's push for a special session, adding that those agitating for a special session should be careful what they wish for.

During special sessions, lawmakers are only allowed to consider legislation on subjects selected by the governor. Abbott said that if he initiates a special session, he would not load up the agenda with multiple items for lawmakers to address at once but would "go one item at a time."

"So if anyone tries to hold hostage this legislative session to force a special session," Abbott said, "that person will be putting their members, in the Senate or the House, potentially into a special session for another two years because I'm gonna make sure that we get things passed, not just open up some debating society."

Patrick appeared caught off-guard by Abbott's "goofy" comment later Thursday, asking a TV interviewer multiple times if the governor had really said it. Patrick went on to say it was "not goofy" to request a special session, arguing it was the only option left to him at this point in the session, despite Abbott's insistence that there is still time to salvage the three items.

Also in TV interviews Thursday afternoon, Patrick denied that the Senate was purposely sitting on legislation to trigger a special session. Speculation ramped up around that possibility overnight when the Senate missed a deadline to consider a seemingly must-pass bill to extend the life of state agencies.

"I support the governor but I'm pointing out that, and clearly he's the person that can call it, only person, but I have a right and so does everyone else to ask him to call it and that's what I'm doing," Patrick told Spectrum News in Austin. "And there was a reference about holding hostage, I'm not holding anything hostage."

At the Fort Worth news conference, Abbott insisted he "strongly" supports the three incomplete priorities that prompted Patrick's call for a special session: Punishing social media companies for "censoring" Texans based on their political viewpoints, outlawing transgender students from playing on sports teams based on their gender identity and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying. The issues cap a session that has already seen a slew of long-sought wins for conservative activists, including permitless carry of handguns and a "heartbeat" bill that could ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Despite the high-stakes staredown with Patrick, Abbott downplayed any perceived disunity among the state's leaders, saying the back and forth was to be expected in the final days of a session.

"If the leaders in the Legislature will stop fighting with each other and start working together," Abbott said in Fort Worth, "we can get all of this across the finish line."

Abbott and Patrick traded comments as lawmakers Thursday afternoon sent Abbott a roughly $248 billion spending plan for the state for the next two years, which is the only legislation constitutionally required to pass during a regular session.

But the comments between the two also came after tensions had been simmering inside each chamber for days. Last Thursday, the House stopped work for the week out of frustration that the Senate wasn't passing enough of its priority bills.

Patrick hardly concealed his disdain for the House in remarks to the senators from the dais on Wednesday night, speaking hours after his special session demand.

"As you all know, the House was not here Friday," Patrick said. "The House was not here Saturday. The House has already quit for today. So we're working hard, we're passing bills— they weren't here for two days in the last five. They're gone now. They killed key bills of yours last night, because they weren't here."

The Senate ended up working hours past midnight Wednesday.

As the senators worked, House Speaker Dade Phelan attempted to enter the chamber to watch proceedings but was denied entry because he did not have a wristband proving he had tested negative for the coronavirus, as Quorum Report first reported. Members, staff and the general public have been required to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering the chamber floor or gallery as part of the Senate's pandemic protocols that have been in place throughout session.

Phelan " is always welcome in the TxSenate and was not denied entry [tonight]," the lieutenant governor's office tweeted early Thursday morning. "Messengers offered to get him a wristband, but the Speaker declined and left."

In a jab at the Senate later that morning, Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican and top lieutenant of the speaker, rattled off statistics comparing the number of House bills and Senate bills the two chambers have taken action on in a series of questions from the chamber's back microphone.

Is it true, Burrows asked Phelan, that "less than 50% of the House bills that we sent over were passed by the Senate, are you aware of that?"

"The chair is not advised," the speaker replied.

"By comparison," Burrows said, "of those bills considered and passed, is it true that we passed 75% of the Senate bills sent over to us?"

"75% is a lot of Senate bills and sounds accurate, Mr. Burrows," Phelan said.

Burrows' line of questioning seemed to reflect the frustration felt by some House members such as Rep. James White, a Hillister Republican, who told the Tribune on Thursday that the Senate had not yet acted on three of his legislative priorities for the session.

White, who chairs the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, said his committee "did not delay one damn Senate bill" this session.

"Tension is good sometimes," White said. "We're all working hard, and I'm proud of the work my committee did."

Other House members were not afraid to take shots at the Senate on Thursday, including Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican.

"The GOP senate bashing the GOP house last night for not working late," Larson tweeted, referring to Patrick's comments made in the Senate the night before. "DP Ego .. ugh."

House Democrats had been most focused on killing Senate Bill 29, which would require transgender student athletes to play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their gender identity. Waving blue and pink transgender pride flags, Democrats celebrated when the midnight deadline to pass the bill came before a vote had been held.

In a radio interview the next morning, one Senate Republican vowed that the issue of transgender student athletes would remain front and center.

"It's not going away," Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills said, speaking minutes before Patrick issued his call for a special session. "You can delay this, but this is not going away."

Abbott has not been outspoken about bills targeting transgender youth this session, though he said during a Fox News appearance last month that he would sign a bill like SB 29.

Like in 2017, Abbott again finds himself facing intraparty pressure to call a special session ahead of a reelection year. This time, though, Abbott is facing more opposition from his right: He has already drawn a primary challenger in former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas, and Texas GOP Chairman Allen West and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller have not ruled out bids against Abbott.

Huffines said Wednesday he backed "calls for an imminent special session," while West voiced support for a special session as long as it addresses the state party's legislative priorities. One of those priorities is abolishing taxpayer-funded lobbying.

Miller, meanwhile, said in an email to supporters Wednesday that a special session to pass Patrick's three unfinished priorities "now looks likely."

Texas House votes to remove state funding from sports teams that don't play national anthem at games

"Texas House votes to yank state funding from sports teams that don't play national anthem at games" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

The Texas House gave preliminary approval on Monday to the so-called “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act," a conservative-backed bill that would require any professional sports teams with contracts with the Texas state government to play the national anthem before the start of a game.

Senate Bill 4 was passed on a voice vote, with no changes by the House. It is expected to receive a record vote and final passage on Tuesday and head to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

House Republicans defeated several proposed amendments along partisan lines, signaling more division on the issue in the lower chamber than was seen in the Senate, which passed the bill last month with overwhelming bipartisan support and only two votes against it.

Athletes protesting the national anthem has become a divisive and partisan issue since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 to protest police brutality against Black Americans.

In February, Patrick named the bill one of his legislative priorities after Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, stopped playing the anthem before home games, which went largely unnoticed during the pandemic with no fans in the stands.

That decision quickly drew the ire of conservative lawmakers in the state.

“Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it," Patrick said in a tweet at the time. “We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave."

In a public response to the outcry condemning his decision, Cuban expressed support for the anthem, but he said team executives “also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them." The NBA later said all teams would play the anthem before games.

During Monday's debate on the House floor, opponents questioned the constitutionality of a law that they said ties funding to free speech by threatening negative action against sports teams that choose to express their opinions by declining to play the anthem.

“Once again, we're carrying legislation that is openly and aggressively unconstitutional," said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat who unsuccessfully tried to turn the bill into a resolution, allowing the House to take a stand in favor of the anthem without the force of law.

The bill's House sponsor, state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, said the bill does not violate free speech because teams can still choose not to play the anthem and forgo the funding and business relationship with the state.

“It's very simple. If they do not want to play the national anthem, they don't take the tax dollars," Burrows said. “If we're going to go ahead and subsidize with hard-earned American dollars the sporting facilities and the teams in the different ways that I think is articulated in this bill, then this would apply."

Attempts by Democrats to require teams to play both the “Star-Spangled Banner" and “Lift Every Voice and Sing," or to choose between them, were shut down along partisan lines.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing" is commonly known as “the Black national anthem," said Rep. Jasmine Felicia Crockett, D-Dallas, who authored one of the amendments.

“I don't even understand why we would feel the need to force someone into singing any song," Crockett said. “But if we are going to force people to sing a song, we should at least be mindful of the people playing on these teams, the people that are actually in the stands supporting these teams."

Burrows opposed the amendments “with the deepest amount of respect to my friend and colleague" because he wanted to avoid any changes to the bill, which would slow its progress to the governor's desk during the final week of the legislative session.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/24/texas-house-national-anthem/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas Senate passes bill aimed at banning critical race theory

"Texas' divisive bill limiting how students learn about current events and historic racism passed by Senate" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

After hours of passionate debate about how Texas teachers can instruct school children about America's history of subjugating people of color, the state Senate early Saturday morning advanced a new version of a controversial bill aimed at banning critical race theory in public and open-enrollment charter schools.

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced a reworked version of House Bill 3979 that also requires the State Board of Education to develop new state standards for civics education with a corresponding teacher training program to start in the 2022-23 school year. The Senate approved the bill in an 18-13 vote over opposition from educators, school advocacy groups and senators of color who worry it limits necessary conversation about the roles race and racism play in U.S. history.

The bill now heads back to the Texas House, which can either accept the Senate's changes or call for a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to iron out their differences.

The Senate-approved version revives specific essential curriculum standards that students are required to understand, including the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. But it stripped more than two dozen requirements to study the writings or stories of multiple women and people of color that were also previously approved by the House, despite attempts by Democratic senators to reinstate some of those materials in the bill.

The Senate did vote to include the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 13th 14th and 19th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the complexity of the relationship between Texas and Mexico to the list of required instruction.

Yet the most controversial aspects of the bill remain, including that teachers must explore current events from multiple positions without giving “deference to any one perspective." It also bars students from getting course credit for civic engagement efforts, including lobbying for legislation or other types of political activism.

Educators, historians and school advocacy groups who fiercely oppose the bill remained unswayed by arguments that the bill is merely meant to ensure students are taught that one race or gender is not superior to another.

“Giving equal weight to all sides concerning current events would mean that the El Paso terrorist ideology would have to be given equal weight to the idea that racism is wrong," said Trinidad Gonzales, a history professor and assistant chair of the dual enrollment program at South Texas College. “That is the problem, white supremacy would be ignored or given deference if addressed. That is the problem with the bill."

Hughes denied that the bill would require teachers give moral equivalency to perpetrators of horrific violence.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said in a statement to the Tribune that Texas schools should emphasize “traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals."

But Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, raised concerns on the Senate floor that the historical documents required in the bill only reflect the priorities of white senators.

“There were documents that were chosen, not by Hispanics, not by African Americans in this body, but by Anglos," he said. “No input from us in terms of what founding documents should in fact be considered by all children in this state."

Hughes also told members there have been instances in various school districts where parents have raised concerns about lessons where students have been taught one race is inherently superior to another. He pointed to a particular instance in Highland Park Independent School District where parents were concerned about a book called Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.

“We do have teaching now that we want to get out that one race or sex is inherently superior to another, or the individual by virtue of the individual's race or sex is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," Hughes said. “I think we agree we don't want that taught in schools. That's why we need this bill."

But Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, pushed back against that premise, reading a passage from the book's author about its intent to help children dismantle white supremacy.

"My point is that we cannot just pick and choose what we are going to teach as history and expect to change things and make things better," Miles said. “It doesn't work that way. This bill is eliminating and excluding some things, and including what you want to say."

Educators also worry the legislation will change how teachers can engage students in hard, but important, conversations about American current events that teachers often use to trace back to historical events.

“Kids get engaged and kids want to dig into your class when they get the relevance and they have some buy-in," said Jocelyn Foshay, a Dallas Independent School District middle school teacher.

The bill, which mirrors legislation making its way through state legislatures across the country, has been coined the Critical Race Theory bill, though neither the House or Senate versions explicitly mention the academic discipline, which studies the way race and racism has impacted America's legal and social systems.

The latest version of the bill also reintroduced an explicit ban of the teaching of The New York Times' 1619 Project, which examines U.S. history from the date when enslaved people first arrived on American soil, marking that year as the country's foundational date. That 2019 work from journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently thrust back into the national spotlight after the University of North Carolina did not grant her tenure after conserative criticism of her work.

“To suggest that America is so racist at its core to be irredeemable and to suggest that people based on the color of their skin can never overcome biases and can never treat each other fairly, that's a real problem," Hughes said of the project.

Educators also worry the bill language is too vague and will allow students and parents to potentially use the legislation against them if they disagree with how they're teaching history curriculum, regardless of the primary sources and historical texts teachers use to back up their lessons. It's also unclear who would enforce these requirements and how schools or districts would handle these issues.

“It makes it so open for anyone to interpret it the way they want to interpret it," said Juan Carmona, a history teacher in the Rio Grande Valley town of Donna

He sees this bill as a pushback to including more historical voices and perspectives in the teaching of history. In recent years, Texas started to offer Mexican American and African American studies courses to all high school students.

Over the past year, the phrase “critical race theory" has turned into a Republican rallying cry in an apparent pushback against increased conversations about diversity and inclusion and unpacking implicit bias.

This week, 20 state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and expressed concern with critical race theory and, specifically, the 1619 Project. The letter says critical race theory analyzes history through “the narrow prism of race."

Georgina Perez, who serves on the State Board of Education, slammed the bill and its supporters, saying they are using buzzwords for political gain rather than to improve education.

“They have no idea what critical race theory is, what it does, who the founders are. They've never read a book, much less a paragraph on it," said Perez. “I understand that maybe some white people are uncomfortable. Well, dammit, when Black people were being lynched, they sure as hell weren't comfortable. Native Americans being removed from their land and Mexican Americans being shot to death in the middle of the night, that shit wasn't comfortable either."

Erin Douglas contributed to this story.

Disclosure: New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/22/texas-critical-race-theory-legislature/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texas’ divisive bill restricting how students learn about current events, history, and racism passed by Senate

After hours of passionate debate about how Texas teachers can instruct school children about America's history of subjugating people of color, the state Senate early Saturday morning advanced a new version of a controversial bill aimed at banning critical race theory in public and open-enrollment charter schools.

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced a reworked version of House Bill 3979 that also requires the State Board of Education to develop new state standards for civics education with a corresponding teacher training program to start in the 2022-23 school year. The Senate approved the bill in an 18-13 vote over opposition from educators, school advocacy groups and senators of color who worry it limits necessary conversation about the roles race and racism play in U.S. history.

The bill now heads back to the Texas House, which can either accept the Senate's changes or call for a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to iron out their differences.

The Senate-approved version revives specific essential curriculum standards that students are required to understand, including the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. But it stripped more than two dozen requirements to study the writings or stories of multiple women and people of color that were also previously approved by the House, despite attempts by Democratic senators to reinstate some of those materials in the bill.

The Senate did vote to include the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 13th 14th and 19th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the complexity of the relationship between Texas and Mexico to the list of required instruction.

Yet the most controversial aspects of the bill remain, including that teachers must explore current events from multiple positions without giving "deference to any one perspective." It also bars students from getting course credit for civic engagement efforts, including lobbying for legislation or other types of political activism.

Educators, historians and school advocacy groups who fiercely oppose the bill remained unswayed by arguments that the bill is merely meant to ensure students are taught that one race or gender is not superior to another.

"Giving equal weight to all sides concerning current events would mean that the El Paso terrorist ideology would have to be given equal weight to the idea that racism is wrong," said Trinidad Gonzales, a history professor and assistant chair of the dual enrollment program at South Texas College. "That is the problem, white supremacy would be ignored or given deference if addressed. That is the problem with the bill."

Hughes denied that the bill would require teachers give moral equivalency to perpetrators of horrific violence.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said in a statement to the Tribune that Texas schools should emphasize "traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals."

But Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, raised concerns on the Senate floor that the historical documents required in the bill only reflect the priorities of white senators.

"There were documents that were chosen, not by Hispanics, not by African Americans in this body, but by Anglos," he said. "No input from us in terms of what founding documents should in fact be considered by all children in this state."

Hughes also told members there have been instances in various school districts where parents have raised concerns about lessons where students have been taught one race is inherently superior to another. He pointed to a particular instance in Highland Park Independent School District where parents were concerned about a book called Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.

"We do have teaching now that we want to get out that one race or sex is inherently superior to another, or the individual by virtue of the individual's race or sex is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," Hughes said. "I think we agree we don't want that taught in schools. That's why we need this bill."

But Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, pushed back against that premise, reading a passage from the book's author about its intent to help children dismantle white supremacy.

"My point is that we cannot just pick and choose what we are going to teach as history and expect to change things and make things better," Miles said. "It doesn't work that way. This bill is eliminating and excluding some things, and including what you want to say."

Educators also worry the legislation will change how teachers can engage students in hard, but important, conversations about American current events that teachers often use to trace back to historical events.

"Kids get engaged and kids want to dig into your class when they get the relevance and they have some buy-in," said Jocelyn Foshay, a Dallas Independent School District middle school teacher.

The bill, which mirrors legislation making its way through state legislatures across the country, has been coined the Critical Race Theory bill, though neither the House or Senate versions explicitly mention the academic discipline, which studies the way race and racism has impacted America's legal and social systems.

The latest version of the bill also reintroduced an explicit ban of the teaching of The New York Times' 1619 Project, which examines U.S. history from the date when enslaved people first arrived on American soil, marking that year as the country's foundational date. That 2019 work from journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently thrust back into the national spotlight after the University of North Carolina did not grant her tenure after conserative criticism of her work.

"To suggest that America is so racist at its core to be irredeemable and to suggest that people based on the color of their skin can never overcome biases and can never treat each other fairly, that's a real problem," Hughes said of the project.

Educators also worry the bill language is too vague and will allow students and parents to potentially use the legislation against them if they disagree with how they're teaching history curriculum, regardless of the primary sources and historical texts teachers use to back up their lessons. It's also unclear who would enforce these requirements and how schools or districts would handle these issues.

"It makes it so open for anyone to interpret it the way they want to interpret it," said Juan Carmona, a history teacher in the Rio Grande Valley town of Donna

He sees this bill as a pushback to including more historical voices and perspectives in the teaching of history. In recent years, Texas started to offer Mexican American and African American studies courses to all high school students.

Over the past year, the phrase "critical race theory" has turned into a Republican rallying cry in an apparent pushback against increased conversations about diversity and inclusion and unpacking implicit bias.

This week, 20 state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and expressed concern with critical race theory and, specifically, the 1619 Project. The letter says critical race theory analyzes history through "the narrow prism of race."

Georgina Perez, who serves on the State Board of Education, slammed the bill and its supporters, saying they are using buzzwords for political gain rather than to improve education.

"They have no idea what critical race theory is, what it does, who the founders are. They've never read a book, much less a paragraph on it," said Perez. "I understand that maybe some white people are uncomfortable. Well, dammit, when Black people were being lynched, they sure as hell weren't comfortable. Native Americans being removed from their land and Mexican Americans being shot to death in the middle of the night, that shit wasn't comfortable either."

BRAND NEW STORIES

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.