Moments ago, the Dallas Friday Group wrapped up its program at the Venetian Room, whereat State Representative (and D Magazine profile subject) Rafael Anchia (D) and State Senator (and D Magazine cover boy) John Carona (R) gave the packed room a preview of the upcoming legislative session. Seriously, these two guys should take their show on the road. They’re pretty amazing together. For instance, from Carona’s opening remarks: “I came here today to share my thoughts about the upcoming session, yes, but mostly because I heard there would be a sighting of an endangered species. Ladies and gentleman” — gesturing grandly to Anchia at the podium to his right — “the last House Democrat.” The joke killed. Anchia had some good comebacks. When Carona finished breaking down the upcoming session like a fraction and turned the proceedings over to Anchia, the latter began his remarks with: “I want to thank Mayor Carona for leaving some meat on the bone for me.” Again, hearty laughs. Anchia then mumbled something under his breath about seeing Natinsky in the hallway.
Okay, on to the highlights. Following are the five things that Carona sees as being the “showcase issues” of the session. Anchia agreed with the list.
1. The budget. Texas will be somewhere between $18 billion and $25 billion in the hole. Zac would call that “stacking money.” Anchia made the point that we’ve got a “structural deficit,” meaning the system is set up right now so that we’ll never close that hole. Last session, they lowered property taxes and increased small-biz taxes. But that increase didn’t bring in as much money as they thought it would. And it never will.
2. Redistricting. Anchia joked at one point that he likely won’t even have a district after they’re done. Carona sits on the Redistricting Committee.
3. Voter ID. Carona supports it and believes a bill will pass the House and Senate. Anchia supports the measure, too — but he was careful to draw a distinction. He said the issue has been sold by Republicans as rampant in-person fraud. Folks using bogus voter cards or ones they’ve stolen go to the polls and cast votes. He said they’ve studied the issue and found exactly one instance of this — and that was a son trying to cast a vote for his father who was too sick to go vote. He doesn’t think we need ID cards for people coming to the polls. There are a lot of older people who live with their children, for instance. These people are citizens. They just don’t have a picture ID because they don’t drive. All you need to do? Have them swear an affidavit that they are who they say they are. Which is already what we do when you sign in to vote with a pictureless voting card. You’re signing an affidavit. The penalty for lying on that thing is stiff. The real problem, Anchia said, is mail-in fraud. That’s what we need to tackle.
4. Immigration. Carona said it’s really about border protection, which ought to be handled by the federal government but isn’t. And here’s where Anchia really shined. He delivered a 10-minute speech about international labor markets and how we, as a country, have to come up with a legal system that is indexed to the economy that would allow low-skilled workers into the United States to perform the work that business needs done. He went on to lay out a very rational plan for dealing with the illegal immigrants already living here (grant them temporary amnesty to get them out of the shadows, make them learn basic English and U.S. civics, make them pay back income taxes, make them pay a fine for breaking the law, then make them get to the back of the line). I’d guess the room was 90 percent Republican. When Anchia was finished, he got applause. It was quite something.
5. Abolishing straight-ticket voting. Carona teased Anchia about this, implying that straight-ticket voting is what got Anchia into office. Carona says we need to abolish it. So does Wick. When Carona said we should do away with the practice, Wick applauded. He was the only one who did so. That was fun.
Finally, Carona wrapped up by passionately asking his audience to demand more of their elected officials. Don’t send people to Austin who just vote their party, he said. Elect people with ideas, people who think. Amen to that.