Secretary of State

Lawmakers file bills to move marriage license distribution to Secretary of State's office

Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.
Sarah Goodfriend (left) and Suzanne Bryant celebrate their marriage at The Highland Club on Thursday evening. A public celebration centered around the couple, who obtained Texas’ first same-sex marriage license.

One day after the Travis County clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, two state lawmakers filed bills that would grant the secretary of state the power to issue marriage licenses rather than county clerks.

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Cecil Bell (R- Mongolia) filed legislation in the House and Senate that would make the secretary of state the only official who would be allowed to issue marriage licenses. Currently, couples can obtain marriage licenses from individual county clerk’s offices.

The secretary of state would maintain the right to authorize certain county clerks to continue the issuance of marriage licenses under the secretary’s supervision.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant married Thursday, making them the first same-sex couple to get married in Texas. Hours after the ceremony, the Texas Supreme Court, under the order of Attorney General Ken Paxton, issued a stay that prevented other same-sex couples in Texas from marrying.

Perry said, in a statement, his bill will work to protect marriage as defined in the Texas Constitution —  “the union of one man and one woman.”

“Yesterday, Travis County officials acted in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “[SB] 673 ensures rule of law is maintained and the Texas Constitution is protected.”

According to the bill, the secretary of state withholds the right to “withdraw authorization” of a county clerk if they issue a license to a same-sex couple.

The bill prevents local funds from being used to license, register, certify or support a same-sex marriage or to enforce an order to recognize a same-sex marriage. It also prohibits a government official from recognizing a same-sex marriage.

Equality Texas issued an action report in response to the legislation, calling for Texans to urge elected officials to oppose the bills.

“Tell Sen. Charles Perry and Rep. Cecil Bell that Texas and Texans respect the constitution, respect the rule of law, and respect the right of loving couples to make their own decisions absent unnecessary government intervention,” the statement said.  

In this week's editorial podcast, Associate Editors Noah M. Horwitz and Amanda Voeller discuss Gov.-elect Greg Abbott's nominee for Secretary of State, the mayoral election and the Fisher v. Texas case.

Governor-elect Greg Abbott waves to supporters at his Election Night night party Nov. 4. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

If you turned on a television in the immediate lead-up to this year’s general elections, chances are that you may have seen one of many attack ads involving Medicaid expansion.

Since the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare) expands eligibility for Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income Americans started by former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society program, Republicans have been particularly quick to connect the popular Medicaid program with the unpopular health care reform heralded by President Barack Obama.

“[Wendy Davis] even wants to expand Obamacare in Texas by executive order,” spouted a commercial by Greg Abbott, who was decidedly elected governor over Davis last week, referencing Davis’ support for the expansion of Medicaid. It expands eligibility to families making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line, up from 100 percent or lower now.

While many states with Republican governors, such as Arizona, Michigan, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, have chosen to expand Medicaid, thus being eligible for big federal benefits they are paying for anyway, Texas has confidently chosen to walk the other way. Gov. Rick Perry ruled out any Medicaid expansion last legislative session, and common sense would assume that Abbott will continue in such a tradition. But the evidence points that there is a chance, however minor, of a change in fortunes.

Earlier this week, Abbott — in his first major decision as governor-elect — chose Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos as his secretary of state, a powerful position that not only carries out the governor’s foreign policy agenda with Mexico, but manage over an impressive legal and election bureaucracy. Cascos, a Republican elected in one of the most Democratic and most Hispanic counties in the state, disagrees with Abbott on Medicaid expansion. And he has strongly insinuated he will not just sit quiet about them.

“It’s contrary to what the leadership in Austin is recommending, but we thought it was important enough to take a position,” Cascos told National Public Radio regarding his position.

When the Texas Tribune pressed Cascos on how his opinion would differ from that of his boss, he calmly retorted that he was planning on “not just going to go along to get along.”

But the news for Medicaid expansion gets even better. On Wednesday, the board of the Texas Institute of Healthcare Quality and Efficiency voted to back the expansion of the program. The 15 board members, all appointees of Perry, noted to the Tribune that “we’re trying to take the politics out of it,” but admitted that Medicaid expansion would effectively maximize “available federal funds through the Medicaid program to improve health care for all Texans.”

Cascos and this state board of Republican-leaning professionals join an already diverse choir of folks from both political parties in this state in backing Medicaid expansion. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who represents more than 4.3 million constituents, has been a particularly vocal advocate.

Medicaid expansion is a rather straightforward idea that has been unfairly maligned by partisan one-upmanship. Contrary to common misconception, it does not involve any new government healthcare schemes. Rather, it merely expands the eligibility of an existing government program, one that is rather efficient, successful and popular.

Originally under the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid was mandatory. If states did not participate, then all of their Medicaid funding would have been revoked. However, when the Supreme Court largely upheld the act in 2012, they ruled 6-3 against what they called the “coercion of states” implicit in the rules governing Medicaid expansion. Thus, the decision to accept 90 percent free federal funds in order to help poor sick people became voluntary.

But even though the program was only expanded through Obamacare, it should not be confused for the still uncertain results of the government subsidies and exchanges behind that program. If anything it should be called “LBJ-care.”

Abbott is in a special position with regard to the future of health care in Texas. He can continue following his party’s small-minded ideology, pathologically opposing anything with the president’s name on it despite how little they have to do with his original policies. Or he can follow mavericks in his party such as pertinent professionals and his own choice for secretary of state. On behalf of the 6.3 million Texans without health insurance, the choice is remarkably clear.

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about her new book "Hard Choices" on Friday, June 20, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On Friday, Hillary Clinton addressed the people of Austin at the Long Center as part of a promotional series for her newly-released memoir, “Hard Choices.” The former secretary of state and US Senator signed books, answered questions and opened up to Austinites about everything from Indonesian talk shows to the future of public diplomacy.

Although this tour was not likely made without a political agenda (Clinton is the top presidential choice for Texas Democratic candidates, with a whopping 65 percent party approval rate in recent polls), Clinton was careful to create an air that was incorporative, bipartisan and highlighted the importance of public service regardless of party identification. The night was equal parts reflective and inspiring as Clinton Hillary offered lessons from her job as Secretary as well as a vision for our nation’s future.

Clinton spoke on both triumphs and regrets during her time at the State Department, as well as the struggle to maintain a “big picture” perspective for international affairs. According to Clinton, this perspective means placing a premium on how the U.S. is perceived by other countries and understanding the lengthy cause-and-effect that can spur from such relationships.

“[I think people need to realize] events in Paris, France… can affect us in Paris, Texas. What is happening far from our borders really does hit home,” Clinton said.

Although Clinton had initial reservations about coming to Texas, her speech seemed to be received very well by UT students.

“As a woman…. Clinton makes me feel empowered”, said biology senior Chanel Zadeh. “She brings a rare offering to politics, a combination of using her head and her heart. I think that’s what translates really well to people.”

Always the eloquent speaker, Clinton navigated controversial waters with ease — even when it came to some of the heavily polarizing issues, such as the Arab Spring protests of 2011 or the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

“The [attack in Benghazi] was my biggest regret,” Clinton stated remorsefully, adding that tragedies of this nature “should not be used for partisan political purposes.”

She quieted criticism of Obama’s decision to send additional military advisers to Iraq, noting that possibility for statewide democracy is “too soon to tell.” Her answers, while lacking no degree of Hillary-sized ambition, were both poised and non-partisan — traits that seemed to go over well with the Austin audience. “Texas is a tough crowd for any Democrat, but she did well,” Zadeh said. “I was impressed.”

Clinton spoke openly and candidly about an overarching commitment to public service and the importance of using our voices not to silence each other but rather to communicate to today’s world.

“We are all part of an [indispensable nation],” Clinton writes in “Hard Choices.” “And we are Americans, all with a personal stake in our country.”

Even critics of Clinton appreciated the candor and frankness of the night.

“I’ll be honest. I’m a Republican so I was a little hesitant to come tonight. But Hillary was really great”, said one anonymous student. “[The night] felt less like a political agenda being forced down our throats and more like an actual honest conversation. It was good.”

It is this less-radical-legislation, more relationship-setting approach to politics that has cast a new light on Clinton as a team player—and perhaps she is a more respected politician for it. Her “smart power” approaches to foreign policy were nuanced and largely without controversy. Aside from the Benghazi attack and the Egyptian protests of 2011, involvement in polarizing foreign policy crises has been kept to a minimum. Her tenure was more calm than controversy, more intricacy than immediacy.

It is not just Clinton’s work as a former First Lady or secretary of state that has earned her a unique and somewhat starry-eyed fan base. Rather, the most resonant of Clinton’s actions seem to be those taken on behalf of human rights. Clinton’s ongoing commitment to gay rights in Geneva, Islamic religious liberation and international women’s and children’s freedoms have made her a celebrated figure in many circles. One of her greatest achievements, she noted during the question-and-answer portion of the evening, was paying careful attention “not only to the headlines, but to the trend lines.”

But what about a future as Madam President?

“I could see it,” said government junior Julie Forrister. “Clinton has vision, perspective and the impressive political track record to support it… She’d have my vote.”

It is people, not policy. It is relations, not legislation. Though this passive and passionate side to Clinton may simply be another cog in her political agenda-setting machine — it seems that this wiser, softer Clinton might just see her day in the Oval Office, after all.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited a UT class, gave a speech to a packed auditorium and granted an exclusive interview to The Daily Texan during her campus visit yesterday. 

In the interview, which took place in the residential apartment on the 10th floor of the LBJ Library in a room that remains apparently unchanged since President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife furnished it, Rice addressed questions about race-conscious college admissions, immigration policy and the responsibility of public officials to be candid and honest.

As the national security adviser and then secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, Rice was instrumental in the decision to pursue the Iraq War, which became, as the Vietnam War had for Johnson, unpopular. Throughout yesterday, Rice faced questions  from students, many of whom were not yet teenagers when that war began, about how we should understand the events of the last 10 years, the Iraq War’s consequences and our country’s capacity to overcome them. “Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same,” Rice told her audience twice.

In February, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington announced that Rice would serve on a commission on immigration alongside Democrats and Republicans, including former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. Asked what she believes U.S. immigration policy should be, Rice listed three kinds of people she would seek to help: First, individuals who can participate in the “knowledge-based revolution in Palo Alto and Austin”; second, agricultural workers who “come here to make a better wage” and to the benefit of the industries they work in; and third, offering a “path to citizenship” for the “11 million people in the shadows.” As secretary of state, Rice says she gained a different perspective on the attitudes of those seeking entrance to this country. “Understand: America has a universal narrative, one not based on nationality, religion or ethnicity,” she said explaining the ability of an immigrant to become American is specific to this country. “It’s not where you come from, but where you’re going.”

Asked about the UT v. Fisher case, Rice said she “[has] always been an advocate of soft affirmative action,” and believes “diversity adds to the learning environment” and that schools should be allowed to “consider race as one of many factors.” During the Bush administration, the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to declare two race-conscious policies at the University of Michigan unconstitutional in the Grutter case, a pivotal precedent for arguments on both sides of in the pending Fisher v. UT case. According to news accounts at the time, then-National Security Adviser Rice said she opposed the specific methods used by Michigan but recognized the need to take race into account.

In the broader sense, Rice said she believes “it’s hard to tell who is going to be successful in college” and wishes schools would seek out not simply applicants who have the highest grades and SAT scores, but those “who have overcome a lot.” She believes schools should pay closer attention to economic circumstances of applicants and cites one of her biggest worries, today’s developing gulf in the quality of K-12 education.

Asked to contend with the prevailing belief that young people are not only disenchanted and disengaged with politics, but unlikely to pursue public office, Rice said, “Remember that a democracy is only as good as its citizens,” adding that running for office was not the only way to serve the country. Amid ongoing speculation she may be a 2016 presidential contender, she seemed to take herself out of the running. “I’m never going to run for office,” she said she doesn’t have the temperament or DNA for it. 

Does young people’s confidence in their government depend on leaders’ candidness? Is telling the truth an important value in a democracy?

“Number one, you always have to tell the American people the truth,” Rice said, adding, “Sometimes the leaders think they’re telling the truth ... That happened with us with weapons of mass destruction [when] we thought they were there when they weren’t.” It happened with Obama in Benghazi, she said, referring to the initial misinformation about the terrorist attack at the Libyan consulate. “Sometimes you have bad information.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gives a lecture at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Monday evening. In a Q & A session after the lecture Rice reaffirmed her support of the Iraq invasion leading to the oust of Saddam Hussein but mentioned that, if able,  she would change the approach taken to reconstruct the Iraqi government.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Two days before the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, a conflict that resulted in the deaths of 4,488 U.S. soldiers and thousands of civilians, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed her support for the war and the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein.

“I would have overthrown Saddam Hussein again,” Rice said to a packed house at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium on Monday.

The war began March 20, 2003, following the United States’ and United Kingdom’s allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to international security. A survey conducted later by the Iraq Survey Group found Iraq did not possess WMDs at the time of invasion, but intended to resume its weapons programs if the United Nations lifted its sanctions.

As National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush and later Secretary of State, Rice oversaw the war effort with other Cabinet officials including her predecessor Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Part of her task included engaging in a media campaign to advocate the need for war with Iraq.

“The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But, we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” Rice told CNN in a 2003 interview.

The conflict formally ended on Dec. 15, 2011, and remaining U.S. troops left the country three days later.

Rice said Monday that Hussein was a “cancer in the Middle East” that needed to be removed from the region, despite the lack of discovered WMDs and the deaths that resulted from the conflict.

“It is absolutely the case that the loss of lives will never be brought back and any of us who had a part in that decision will have to live with the lost and maimed lives,” Rice said. “But, nothing of value ever comes without sacrifice and I believe that Iraq has a chance. It may not make it, but it has a chance to be a state that will not seek weapons of mass destruction, will not invade its neighbors, will be a friend of the United States and will have democratic institutions that may, over time, mature.”

Rice said if given the opportunity, the administration would have sought to understand tribal relations more thoroughly earlier and would have begun reconstruction from the country’s borders and worked inward toward Baghdad, not vice versa.

Rice may not have had the hypothetical chance if a slim majority of Americans had their way. A Gallup poll released Monday showed 53 percent of Americans think the United States “made a mistake” by invading Iraq. That amount is down from the record 63 percent that opposed the war in 2008.

At the war’s outset, 75 percent of Americans supported the war and 23 percent did not.

Bobby Inman, Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said that history would view the conflict as “one of the great fiascos.”

Unlike its approach toward Germany and Japan after World War II, the United States did not properly plan for how it would reconstruct Iraq’s government and economy after toppling Hussein’s government in a way that would transform the country into a successful democracy, Inman said.

"When you do not look at the historical record and understand it, you are destined to make big mistakes," Inman said.

Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday to Gov. Rick Perry. Her resignation goes into effect Friday, and it will now be up to Perry to appoint someone new to the position.

Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson from Andrade’s office, said Andrade was satisfied with her time in office and was ready to move on.

“Having finished a successful statewide election, her fifth, the secretary believed that it was a good time to make the transition and let someone else have this great office,” Pierce said.

Andrade’s resignation comes after controversy surrounding an effort overseen by her office to remove dead voters from lists of those registered, which resulted in many voters who are still alive getting letters telling them they would be removed from the voter registration list if they did not respond within 30 days.

Andrade was sworn in as Texas’ first Latina Secretary of State on July 23, 2008. She will leave office as the fourth-longest serving Secretary of State in Texas history.
Before serving as Texas Secretary of State, Andrade served as chair of the Texas Transportation Commission.

In the press release, issued Tuesday, Andrade said it has been her honor to serve in the position.

“It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve as the Secretary of State for the greatest state in our nation,” Andrade said. “I am truly humbled by the trust and confidence Gov. Perry placed in me nearly four and a half years ago and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to represent Texas in this esteemed office.”

Sara Armstrong, a spokesperson in Perry’s office, said Perry has not yet announced his plans for a new appointment, and an “appointment will be made in appropriate time.”

Assistant government professor Jason Casellas said it will be interesting to see who Perry appoints to take her spot, since her becoming Texas’ first Latina Secretary of State was such a high-profile Hispanic appointment.

Perry released a statement about the impact Andrade has had on the state Tuesday.

“As the first Latina Secretary of State, Hope has a permanent place in our state’s history books and her personal commitment to making Texas a place of unlimited opportunity will leave a lasting impression on our state’s future,” Perry said. “Her leadership was fundamental during five successful statewide elections, and we will all be blessed by her work to promote the Texas success story around the country and around the world.”

Texas releases smartphone app to educate voters

Have questions about the upcoming election? There's an app for that.

The Office of Texas Secretary of State has released the first ever voter app for smart phones. Voters can view who's on the ballot, find polling locations, check if they're registered, and set reminders to vote on the SmartTXVoter app. The app is free and is available in both English and Spanish.

In a press release, Texas Secretary of State, Hope Andrade, said the app was created to make election information more accessible in an innovative, interactive, and fun way.

"Smartphone use among Texans of virtually all demographics is growing so this is a way we can put the power of voting in their hands where they need it, when they need it," Andrade said. “SmartTXVoter is essential for engaging Texas voters on an interactive level, and we continue to find ways to use technology to educate our citizens about voting.”

In addition to basic voting information, app users can participate in weekly polls that ask questions such as "What Texas town has the best barbecue?" to practice voting.

The app is part of the “Make Your Mark on Texas” voter education effort created in April.

Early voting beings Monday, Oct. 22. On campus, students can vote early at the Flawn Academic Center.

In her new book, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gives a candid view of her childhood and college years, especially how they influenced her tenure as the country’s top diplomat.

Rice stopped by BookPeople on Thursday, greeting about 350 people, to promote her new book “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family.”

In her discussion with KXAN’s Leslie Rhode, Rice shared details of her family, childhood and how she became the person she is today, all topics addressed in her book. Rice said her parents’ value of education eventually determined her success in the Bush administration.

“It really started with my grandfather,” Rice said. “He really believed, along with my parents, in the transforming power of an education — not only for me, but for everyone. They passed this belief on to me.”
Rice’s memoir not only addresses her education and rise to success but also the challenges she overcame in her life, including racism and her parents’ deaths.

As a child in Birmingham, Ala., Rice said 1968 was the year of her political awakening and represented a turning point in her life, recalling the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

“So much happened in that year,” she said. “At 13, I felt the country was falling apart. I remember being quite frightened of what was going on in the world.”

Rice, who now teaches at Stanford University, said the central theme of her book is the importance of receiving an education and finding a life passion.

“Until my sophomore year of college, I wanted to be a pianist,” Rice said. “Junior year I wandered into a course on international politics, and then I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Soviet specialist. It must have been a divine intervention. I always tell my students to look for their passions, but sometimes they find you.”

Students should seek mentors because a push in the right direction is almost always necessary to reach their goals in life, she said.

“Education is so transforming, it’s the opportunity to do something you’re passionate at and do it well,” Rice said. “My life was a journey and a process. You’ll be more fulfilled by overcoming things you find difficult than doing what is easy.”

Rice represents a political scientist, not a politician, said Jason Rocen, an Austin resident who purchased one of the 375 books sold at the event.

“I come from Alabama as well, and because of this, she’s kind of iconic,” he said. “I’m a fan of political scientists who enact changes directly for the public, instead of trying to appease them. When it comes down to it, the book is really about her development and representing the importance of education in today’s society.”