Mostly Clear
H 63° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Clear. H 63° L 40°
  • clear-day
    Mostly Clear. H 63° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 59° L 36°

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Herman: Chaos in the upper chamber

Herman: Chaos in the upper chamber

Ken Herman: As I See It/Chaos at the Capitol

Herman: Chaos in the upper chamber

Democracy had a bad night late Tuesday/early Wednesday in the Texas Senate chamber where both sides worked to avoid the moral high ground. Both succeeded.

In the end, how the battle over a GOP-backed abortion restriction bill was fought became more important than what was in the bill. That’s saying a lot because the abortion restriction bill, killed by what Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called an “unruly mob,” was a very important measure.

Republicans, who run the Capitol, somehow managed to mismanage the bill so that it didn’t come up for approval until the final day of the special session that ended midnight Tuesday. All Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, had to do was talk for about 13 hours. Piece of cake. She’s a triathlete. So Republicans spent hours watching for filibuster rule violations.

About 11 hours into it, they had found three. Or at least they claimed to have found three and got friendly rulings on each, twice from Dewhurst and once on a vote. Under Senate filibuster rules, three strikes and you’re out.

The rules say Davis’ comments had to be germane to the measure. She was ruled off topic twice for talking about Roe v. Wade and the 2011 legislation requiring preabortion sonograms. I don’t know, seemed kind of germaney to an abortion bill.

The third violation involved Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis’ assistance when Davis donned a back support, which was deemed a violation of the rule against helping a filibusterer. Meager at best, but a reminder of why it’s helpful to win elections and have your team in position to make these rulings.

As midnight approached after the Republicans had railroaded Davis’ filibuster to conclusion, Democratic senators, led by Kirk Watson, D-Austin, stalled as best they could with parliamentary questions and other time killers, moves that revved up the bill’s foes who packed the gallery and had behaved all day.

The behavior deteriorated into intentional chaos when Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, fresh from her dad’s funeral earlier in the day, complained that a motion she had made prior to a procedural vote had been ignored.

“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” she asked.

And the crowd went wild.

The tumult from above in the Senate gallery drowned out everything below. For the first time since I came to Austin in 1979, I saw a legislative chamber out of control. It was not pretty, disturbingly close to scary.

The screaming continued as Dewhurst scrambled to squeeze the vote in prior to midnight. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, came to the press table screaming above everyone else’s screams, as Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, used his iPhone to show us the time. “It was 12:01 when we started,” West yelled, “so the session was over with.”

Nope, Republicans said, insisting the vote began before midnight. The official Senate record initially showed the vote happened Wednesday, after the deadline. The record shortly thereafter was updated to show it happened Tuesday. Time, it seems, is an opinion in the Texas Senate.

After a closed-door caucus of all senators, Dewhurst, blaming the “unruly mob,” declared the bill dead.

“This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Dewhurst, who probably saw some incredible things back when he worked for the CIA.

On a night with plenty of blame to go around, I found myself more concerned by the behavior of the unelected in the gallery who screamed down a bill they opposed.

“What many people are saying is the reason that the time expired is because there was a disruption in the gallery. …. I’ll stand on behalf of all my Democratic colleagues: We’ll take that,” Watson told them in the Capitol rotunda at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

They’ll take that because, due to their inability to win elections, that’s about the only way Texas Democrats can win. And that troubles me far more than the unconscionable rulebook shenanigans Republicans used to try to bulldoze the bill to approval.

There’s recourse against the Dewhurst-led GOP bullying. It’s exacted at the ballot box. But I’m not sure what you do when an unruly mob, on any side of any issue, rules the day. That’s dangerous to democracy.

The fun resumes Monday, opening day for the next special session, which Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday. Fireworks for the Fourth, anyone?

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.


  • The wife of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says her husband hasn't taken a single breath without pain since what she calls 'a deliberate, blindside attack' by a Kentucky neighbor earlier this month.Authorities say the Republican was attacked Nov. 3 by Rene Boucher while mowing his lawn. Kelley Paul writes in an essay published by CNN that her husband suffered six broken ribs and fluid in his lungs. Paul says he was diagnosed with pneumonia after returning from Washington last week.Boucher is charged with misdemeanor assault. His attorney blames the attack on a 'trivial' dispute and says it wasn't politically motivated.Kelly Paul says neither she, nor her husband, have spoken to Boucher in 10 years. She writes that 'the only 'dispute' existed solely in the attacker's troubled mind.
  • Police are warning mall goers this holiday season after Channel 2 Action News obtained video that shows a man and woman installing a card skimmer on an ATM at Lenox Square. A witness told Channel 2’s Carl Willis he saw it happen and told security. 'It's the season and everyone is going to be pulling out cash,' the witness told Willis, asking not to be identified. 'They did it very swiftly and very quick.' The man told Willis he happened to be standing on the second floor of Lenox Square when he looked down and saw a couple install two devices on an ATM 'I see the guy applying a lot of pressure in the top right corner. I thought that was abnormal,' the man said. TRENDING STORIES: Ex-Braves GM banned for life by MLB; Atlanta loses prospects 60+ people fall ill after company Thanksgiving party Jailhouse phone calls reveal aftermath of deadly heroin-fueled crash Police say the couple seen on the video installed a card skimmer at an ATM in the middle of the mall’s food court 'As you watch you can see that they may have installed a pin camera,' Sgt. Paul Cooper, with the Atlanta Police Department’s major fraud unit, told Willis. With your card number and your PIN, thieves have everything they need to go on a shopping spree. Police told Willis there's been an uptick in this kind of activity in the past couple of years. 'Our best guess is because we're transitioning from the mag-stripe to the chip and pin. The chips are encrypted and it's a lot harder to duplicate those cards,' Cooper said. Cooper worries if scammers are bold enough to hit a mall ATM, there are likely many more devices out there. 'We do try to target these people. We see that they tend to cross state lines they may be working the entire eastern seaboard right now,' Cooper said. For now, shoppers will have to take steps to keep thieves from swiping your information. 'Take that extra couple of seconds. Tug on it (the card reader). Look for those cameras. Just make sure you don't get burned,' Cooper told Willis. 'Definitely cover up your PIN if you're not sure that it's a valid swiper or valid scanner try using another ATM,” the witness said. Police are asking anyone who may recognize the man and woman in the video to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.
  • Ferguson, Missouri, has paid nearly a half-million dollars to the monitor team overseeing its police and court reforms, but city leaders question what they've gotten for their money, especially after the departure of the original lead monitor.Washington attorney Clark Kent Ervin resigned in September after serving a little over a year as lead monitor overseeing the consent agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014. Boston attorney Natashia Tidwell, who has been with the Ferguson monitor team since its start, now leads it.Concerns over the cost of monitoring were detailed in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.The money spent on monitoring is costly in Ferguson, paid for entirely with city funds. The community of 20,000 is much smaller, with far less money, than most cities subject to Justice Department consent agreements. Money is so tight that Ferguson voters twice in 2016 approved tax increases to keep the budget balanced.Mayor James Knowles III said Ervin failed to follow through on some projects, including opening an office in Ferguson and surveying residents. City Attorney Apollo Carey said his departure slowed a court audit and other reforms.'It begs the question: What are residents getting out of (monitoring)?' Knowles said. 'They're supposed to be getting transparency. They're supposed to be getting regular updates and engagement from the monitor. They haven't gotten any of it.'City Manager De'Carlon Seewood said 'there were a lot of concerns on both sides,' which led to Ervin stepping down. 'The thought was it was best to depart,' Seewood said.Ervin did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.Ferguson fell under Justice Department scrutiny after Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson during an Aug. 9, 2014, confrontation on a neighborhood street. A St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department declined to charge Wilson, who resigned in November 2014.But the shooting of the black, unarmed 18-year-old by the white officer drew attention to allegations about mistreatment of African-Americans by Ferguson's police and court system. A Justice Department investigation led to a civil rights lawsuit that was settled in 2016 with the consent agreement.The agreement calls for reforms such as hiring more black officers, requiring diversity training for police, and court reforms that include easing financial burdens for minor offenses such as traffic violations. The process is expected to take up to three years with oversight by a team of independent monitors.Nine teams applied to perform the monitor duties. In July 2016, the Justice Department and Ferguson leaders chose the team led by Ervin, a former inspector general for the State Department and Homeland Security.The agreement called for paying the eight-member monitor team up to $350,000 a year, with the total amount to be capped out at $1.25 million over five years. Ferguson paid $350,000 for the first 12-month period, and has paid another $145,000 since July of this year, its records show.Of the initial $350,000, $291,192 was paid to Ervin's law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, according to Ferguson records. It isn't clear if Ervin received all of that money or if some was shared with other monitors or assistants, Seewood said. The agreement called for Ervin to be paid $685 per hour and work up to 30 hours a month on the monitoring, which would amount to $246,600 over a full year.Since July of this year, an additional $108,000 has been paid out to a data collection firm, along with $21,000 to Tidwell and $15,000 split between two other monitor team members, Knowles said.At a community meeting last December, Ervin pledged to conduct a survey of residents and to open an office in Ferguson. The survey never happened, and no office ever opened.Knowles said the survey 'should have been done in the first year and it wasn't done. You can't have a baseline survey of the community to see how it feels about progress if you don't know what the baseline is.'The proposal to open an office, Seewood said, was aimed at adding transparency to the reform process.'I offered to give him an office at City Hall,' Seewood said of Ervin. 'For some reason he was never able to make that commitment that he should be here.'Carey, the city attorney, said during a town hall meeting last week that Ervin's resignation has slowed reform efforts. He cited a court audit performed in August that remains incomplete.Justice Department attorney Jude Volek said at the meeting that progress is being made despite Ervin's resignation, aided by the fact that Tidwell has been involved in the process since day one.'You can see her commitment,' Volek said.Tidwell, who is a former police officer and federal prosecutor, declined comment through a spokeswoman.Seewood also has high hopes for the team's new leadership.'She's awesome,' he said of Tidwell. 'I'm very optimistic.
  • A man impersonating a law enforcement officer pulled over a woman in Arkansas, according to the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office. The incident happened Saturday on Highway 38 near Hughes. >> Read more trending news Investigators said a man impersonating a game and fish officer stopped a woman and asked to check her vehicle for guns. He had a blue light on his dash and was in a dark-colored pickup truck. The man did not show the woman a badge or a weapon. The incident happened during the daytime hours and appears to have been an isolated occurrence. Investigators said they believe they know who the man is, but no arrests were immediately made. Officials said the impersonator is not the same one who stopped people earlier this year.
  • Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says 'it's great to be alive' this Thanksgiving.Ridge issued a statement Wednesday from the hospital in Austin, Texas, where he's recovering from a heart attack.He says he's thankful for the 'outpouring of love and concern' after his health emergency.He says he's filled with gratitude, even though his doctors won't let him touch turkey and mashed potatoes.He had been attending a Republican Governors Association conference last week when he called for medical help at his hotel.The Republican served two terms as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 to 2001. He was the first homeland security secretary, serving under President George W. Bush until 2005.A statement on Monday said Ridge was in intensive care. It wasn't clear if he remains there.
  • Stolen guns are on the streets after a burglary in DeKalb County. Surveillance video shows the thieves running through Candler Road Pawn Shop early Monday morning. Police said they got in the shop by breaking the lock on the gates, smashing the glass on the door and crawling inside. The burglars got away with $9,000 worth of guns and also some electronics. See the surveillance video of the robbery, on Channel 2 Action News at 4:44.