We just posted on the Mexican American Legislative Caucus hearing regarding the State Board of Education last week. Sitting through a grueling nine hours straight of testimony, it seemed almost everyone (with the exception of one late-comer
) had their say. But not to the state GOP's ears. Last Thursday they issued a press release
belittling a process they said "had no legal power," in which "the usual assortment of leftwing `sic` interest groups...got their moment in the sun to talk up leftwing anti-SBOE talking points." Yes, you Republican-appointed academic
, you are a leftwinger. Yes, you Republican SBOE candidate
, you are a leftwinger. Yes, Amy Jo Baker, retired San Antonio ISD teacher who defended outgoing Republican SBOE former Chairman Don McLeroy's preference to teach American Exceptionalism, you, dear, are a leftwinger. We, unlike the Texas GOP, won't speculate on the 20 or so other speakers' political affiliations.
MALC acknowledges that currently its make-up is 100% Democrat, however that's
definitely due to the fact that there simply aren't any Republican and
Mexican-American state representatives currently elected in the state of Texas. According to MALC director of operations Christina Gomez, her organization asked SBOE chairwoman Gail Lowe, a conservative Republican, twice to attend the hearings. In its press release, the Texas GOP said they "badgered her."
The rest of their press release is rather catty, characterizing the hearing, also sponsored by the Legislative Study Group, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Hispanic Caucus, as "pretend," and "a dress-up party," but the part that caught our attention was the Texas GOP's assertion that MALC had no right to hold their hearing at the state Capitol and party spokesperson Bryan Preston's allegation that "it may be an unethical and illegal use of state resources." Whoa, really? According to Gomez, "MALC is an official legislative policy caucus and as such has all the rights and privleges as any other legislative caucus." She said as long as her boss, MALC Chairman and State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer*, has been at the caucus, they've frequently held interim hearings. We're calling the Texas Ethics Commission first thing tomorrow, but they generally don't speak on these issues unless a formal complaint has been filed and they've issued an opinion.
UPDATE: An attorney at Texas Ethics Commission told us that their rules don't specifically govern this type of legislative caucus activity. We turned to the House Rules of the 81st Legislative Session. In HR 3 Article 6, section 6.02, subsection C it states "A caucus may use the meeting rooms of the Capitol and Capitol extension to conduct meetings of the caucus membership or to host public forums on matters of interest to the caucus."
* Maybe you saw him on CNN debating Senator Debbie Riddle about immigration earlier today? Maybe you didn't. Due to the Times Square bomb story, Martinez Fischer's debate about immigration with State Rep. Debbie Riddle has been postponed until Weds. May 5, at 10:45 a.m., barring any terrorist acts, oil rig explosions, Sandra Bullock baby sightings or Ke$ha/The Simpsons collaborations.
Here's the full text of the Republican Party of Texas press release, followed by MALC's response:
Apr 29, 2010
How Much Did MALC`s Pretend Hearings Cost Texas Taxpayers?
AUSTIN - The Mexican American Legislative Caucus held what it described as a "Special Hearing on State Board of Education" all day Wednesday, April 28. This "hearing" had no legal power, as the MALC has no legal standing to conduct hearings. MALC is not a state House or Senate Committee. It is a political caucus.
MALC tried to badger State Board of Education Chairman Gail Low into attending the spectacle, even though as a political caucus, MALC has no power to hold hearings whatsoever.
During MALC's all-day hearing, politics repeatedly dominated. The "hearing" featured a grandstanding political speech by Michael Soto, the Democratic Party's nominee for SBOE Place 3. The usual assortment of leftwing interest groups, from the Texas Freedom Network to the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), got their moment in the sun to talk up leftwing anti-SBOE talking points.
It became clear that MALC's liberal agenda is to abolish the elected State Board of Education, and replace it with unelected bureaucrats. The Texas Democrats evidently agree with that agenda, since they have been cheerleading MALC's dress-up party from the sidelines.
And at least one state employee was used throughout the day in the "hearing" itself.
"If MALC wants to get in touch with their inner children, play dress up and have a pretend committee hearing, I'm sure they can rent a community center somewhere and have themselves a ball," said Republican Party of Texas spokesman Bryan Preston. "But holding a blatantly political pep rally on the Texas taxpayer's dime may be a little more serious. It may be an unethical and illegal use of state resources."
At issue is whether MALC's pretend hearings run afoul of HR3 from the 81st legislative session, which the members themselves set forth and governs how political caucus groups can and cannot use state resources.
1. Why is MALC - which accepts donations from nonmembers and special interest groups - holding a mock hearing in the state capitol?
2. Why did they use state staffers?
3. Were other state resources and personnel used to facilitate their pretend hearing in any way?
4. Did any of the state Representatives who attended claim per diem for April 28th, 2010?
5. What is MALC's agenda, and why was its pretend hearing so politically one-sided?
6. Why did a hearing supposedly about education standards veer off into irrelevant topics like the controversial Arizona immigration law? And why were Democrat SBOE candidates allowed to give stump speeches and bash our state's elected SBOE?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christina Gomez, Director of Operations
Wrong-Wing of the Texas GOP misses the mark on the SBOEâ?¦again.
Once again, the extreme right-wing faction of the Republican Party fails to see the forest for the trees when it comes to the State Board of Education. Rather than be part of the solution, the GOP has decided to hurl baseless insults aimed at distracting Texans from the real problems facing the SBOE.
Talking out of both sides of his mouth, GOP spokesman Bryan Preston decries MALC's hearings as politically one-sided and then bemoans MALC for "badgering" Chairwoman Gail Lowe to
attend. Conveniently, Preston forgets to acknowledge that a letter from Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts was entered into record as was testimony from Governor Perry appointee and TEA
Commissioner, Robert Scott, and Republican nominee for SBOE, District 9, Thomas Ratliff.
"You can't have it both ways. You can't decline an invitation to give testimony, and then call the proceedings one -sided. MALC is proud of its bi-partisan record, and our accomplishments speak for themselves" said Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer, who along with
the Legislative Study Group, Texas Legislative Black Caucus and Senate Hispanic Caucus sponsored the Special Hearing.
"If the Republican Party spent as much time building up minority groups, as they do tearing them down-- maybe they wouldn't have to explain why there is not one single Latino Republican in the Texas House or Senate" said Martinez Fischer.