Sunday, May 06, 2007

Swinford's line in the sand on HB 13 makes no sense

So since when does Congressman John Culberson get a vote in the Texas House of Representatives when he can't even get his bills passed in Washington?

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. 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.

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.

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).

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.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing that all the deals done by the Office of Homeland Security (procurements) have been sole-sourced (except the BSCO - Border Security Operations Center) which went to Abrams (no one could understand the original RFP and complained, however TX DPS did nothing but went ahead and awarded it to Abrams). APPRIS won a $30M sole sourced contract long with many others. Interesting isn't it....

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Biz as usual in the Texas lege, if you ask me.

Unknown said...

It seems that the modus operandi for the Bush administration is that the federal treasury is just another bank for GOP contributors. It is so blatant as to be ridiculous and Delay got axed only because he so openly coerced businesses to contribute to the GOP.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Swinford has bent over backwards to accomodate critics of this bill. What makes no sense is Farrar's line in the sand, making it appear that she isn't negotiating in good faith.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Are you kidding, 8:15? Farrar's not the only one who thinks it's a bad idea to put the Governor in charge of criminal intelligence or the TDEX database - PLENTY of Rs have the same concerns.

Swinford's reason for insisting on this structure simply don't withstand scrutiny, while IMO Farrar's reasons for not wanting the Governor in control have been both reasonable and consistent throughout the process. She expressed those concerns very early on and has stuck by them, as far as I can tell - that's the definition of negotiating in good faith.