House State Affairs Chairman David Swinford has said he'd rather kill HB 13, the Governor's homeland security bill, than move police powers to the Department of Public Safety away from the Governor's control. In both the committee hearings and on the floor the other day Swinford referenced a deal he made with Congressman John Culberson that he intended to honor. According to the El Paso Times:
Swinford said moving control of border security money out of Perry's office could jeopardize a deal he has made with Texas congressmen to get border sheriffs more federal money. "I will kill the bill before I go back on my word," he said.That struck me as odd, and the chair has said it more than once - he'd rather kill his own bill than move this out of Gov. Perry's control!
What sort of deal could this be, I wondered? Why would John Culberson have so much say so over whether Texas gets money or not or whether a state agency is under the Governor or under an independent board?
I asked around and it turns out Chairman Swinford distributed correspondence between himself and Culberson from April declaring that the legislation that supposedly will get Texas this money hadn't even been filed in Congress yet! A press release from a coalition of Southwestern Border Sheriffs dated May 2 declared:
Congressmen Culberson, Cuellar and Rodriguez are co sponsoring a bill that will address border crime issues. The bill is in the draft stage at this time.Moreover, when it was filed in 2005, the bill failed. Think about that: In 2005 Culberson's party was in the majority in Congress and he couldn't get this bill passed. Now he's in the minority. Why does Chairman Swinford or anyone else think the bill has a better chance now?
A better question: Should the Texas Legislature base its decisions about who provides oversight to the homeland security office based on John Culberson's dicta? Besides, it doesn't sound like Congressman Culberson is having much luck securing the money. Govexec.com wrote on April 24:
Cuellar said he is working with Reps. John Culberson, R-Texas, and Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, on a bill that would authorize $100 million for local law enforcement.So there are no agreements on the bill yet, and certainly not on any new pot of money. The legislation was apparently filed last week, though - it's HR 4437, a massive 256 page bill (pdf) which contains a provision buried deep within it creating a grant program for county sheriffs. Contrary to Chairman Swinford's representations, the bill does not require the Governor's office to control anything. In fact, it delegates all such rulemaking and decisions about grant parameters to the US Attorney General's office, which is authorized to give grants directly to counties. The governor isn't mentioned anywhere at all in the Sheriffs grants (see p. 149-153).
He said the bill will be filed as early as this week, and will be debated by the Homeland Security Committee. In the short term, however, the lawmakers are pressing the Homeland Security Department to find "several million dollars" that can be sent now.
"[The department] said that any money that's on the table right now ... they will work with us to try to expedite it as soon as possible down to local law enforcement," Cuellar said. "We're going to push them real hard."
Cuellar added that the House Homeland Security Border Subcommittee plans to debate a major border security bill in May. "We're trying to find not only the long-term solution but also the short-term solutions," he said.
"We want the president to look at comprehensive immigration reform, and we're going to try to get him to help us get as many Republicans on board as we can because we can't pass it with just Democrats," Cuellar said.
Some Republicans have refused to support such a bill because they believe it would give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said lawmakers are having "constructive discussions" on a bill but have yet to reach any agreements.
What's going on here? I don't understand it myself, but I don't see any statutory or policy reason for Chairman Swinford to draw the line in the sand where he has. If he'd rather kill the bill than take power from the governor, the reason must be something besides Culberson's legislation, which almost certainly will not pass and which didn't even exist when HB 13 was filed.