Tag Archives: U.S. Supreme Court

Abbott Proposes 9 – Count ’em – 9 Constitutional Amendments

Gov. Greg Abbott (TP-Texas) appears to have bigger things on his mind than simply running the state that he was elected to lead.  Abbott has come out with a call for a constitutional convention and 9 proposed amendments to the Constitution that would fundamentally alter the federal-state system that has worked pretty darn well for almost 225 years.   To put this in perspective there have been exactly 27 total amendments to the Constitution in more than two centuries and 10 of those were essentially done in a deal to get the Constitution ratified in the first place.

Abbott’s plan is mostly a direct attack on the U.S. Supreme Court – a profoundly c0nservative institution for the most part.  Red finds this a bit strange from a former Justice of the Texas Supreme Court who had no problem interpreting (some would argue making) law to benefit and kowtow to the corporate masters and insurance company overlords that rule that Court.  Abbott was more than willing to carry their water at the expense of the rights of ordinary Texans.  Among his more foolish proposals are a balanced budget amendment – something that any economist worth his salt will tell you is a prescription for economic disaster.

Here are the short hand descriptions of what Abbott proposes:

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget.
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
  7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

Today in Texas History – July 22

From the Annals of Discrimination – In 1944, Lawrence Aaron Nixon, black physician and voting-rights advocate, was given a ballot to vote in the Democratic Party primary.  In that day, the Democratic nominee was all but assured of election and thus, the Democratic primary was the “real” election.  Nixon had become involved in the civil rights movement after seeing the disgusting number of lynchings of black men in Texas, one of which occurred in Cameron where Nixon was practicing at the time.   He moved to El Paso, established a successful medical practice, helped organize a Methodist congregation, voted in Democratic primary and general elections, and in 1914 helped to organize the local chapter of the NAACP.  But in 1923 the Texas legislature passed a law prohibiting blacks from voting in Democratic primaries. In 1924, with the sponsorship of the NAACP, Nixon took his poll-tax receipt to a Democratic primary polling place and was refused a ballot. This began a twenty-year legal fight.  Nixon and his attorney, Fred C. Knollenberg, twice prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court in their quest to secure voting rights for blacks. The Nixon decisions were major steps toward voting rights, but Texas and the dominant Democratic Party employed a number of legal maneuvers to continue to deny primary votes to blacks.  Only after the decision in Smith v. Allwright ended the white primary system, did blacks have a clear right to vote.

Photo from http://www.blackpast.org

Representative Democracy Under Fire

The Texas Election Law Blog  examines the possible destructive effect on American democracy should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the petitioners in Evenwel v. Abbott.

The plaintiff argues that Texas should not base state redistricting on the distribution of its population, but rather on the distribution of its voters. The motivation for the case is to strip power from urban areas in favor of the rural conservatives.

Central to the conservative argument is that apportionment of representation by population size “dilutes” the power afforded to voters by distributing representation based on both the voting population and all the other people (kids, foreigners, prisoners, non-voters) who happen to live in a state House or Senate district.

In other words, the plaintiff believes that government representatives do not serve all the people in their district. The plaintiff believes that government representatives serve only the people who vote, and everyone else can suck eggs.

The potential impact of this case dwarfs the recent decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act and legalizing same-sex marriage.  While those cases have sex-appeal to the general public, a case about apportionment of legislative seats must seem dull in contrast.  But, if the Supreme Court bites on the argument that only voters should count for apportionment purposes, there will be a fundamental shift in political power that will make the Republicans current gerrymandering of their way into entrenched legislative power seem like weak tea indeed.  There would be a massive shift of representation away from urban populations to rural areas and older white voters would exert an even more outsized influence on the body politic.  This could cement extreme right-wing control of state and federal legislative bodies for another 40 or 50 years.