Friday, May 25, 2007

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead: Why HB 13 Died and Why it Doesn't Matter

Governor Perry's homeland security bill, HB 13, died today on a point of order called by Rep. Lon Burnam. For you non-parliamentarians in the crowd, that means it's DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD.

Fine by me - the House led by Rep. Jessica Farrar made the bill barely tolerable, but the Senate loaded the thing up like a Christmas tree and at this point I'm just as happy to see it go. Given the alternatives, no bill at all is as good an outcome as any. (See previews of its demise from Kuff, Brandi Grissom, and the Texas Observer.)

So thanks, Lon - you get an extra gold star for that one.

What will the bill's death mean in the real world? As far as I can tell, not much.

The Governor already had authority to accept federal homeland security grants, so that doesn't change (his homeland security director Steve McCraw is the agent who receives and distributes those funds), and he certainly has authority to delegate that task to DPS or whomever he chooses. But this does mean a couple of things offhand:

1. A provision in current law (which would have been deleted in the Senate version of HB 13) limits the Governor's authority over the TDEX database and he may have to pull his thumbs out of the criminal intelligence pie anyway.

2. The Governor will still not be accountable to anyone for how he spends the $100 million given him by legislative budget writers for border security. But then, HB 13 would have only ratified his authority, not restricted it. This is a wash - no change from the status quo.

3. Because there is no accountability or oversight, it will be up to the media and nonprofit watchdogs to use open records to study how the governor spends pork barrel money legislators gave him. This will be a labor intensive task, one I hope the MSM will undertake with the same zeal they've covered the border during the election season.

If the Governor wanted to avoid the rightful criticism he faced over ham-handed political appointees mismanaging law enforcement resources like TDEX, he should transfer grant making authority to DPS. They in turn should be charged with funding projects that implement the state's existing, overall border security strategy, not just dole out pork like candy to border politicians with little regard for improving public safety.

Sen. Carona could still revive the bill with a 4/5 vote by stripping off all the Senate amendments, but at this point I hope the thing just dies. Better for now to monitor what the Governor does with his new border pork and start anew to rein in the whole mess 18 months from now.

See prior Grits coverage:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From where I sit, I see the waste in the use of the state's Homeland Security grants firsthand. The Governor's Division of Homeland Security is full of retired military officers who don't have a clue about local emergency preparedness.