Governor Perry swung his veto pen like a big league hitter Friday night, vetoing several key measures approved by the regular session of the Legislature.
Perhaps the highest profile measure vetoed by the governor was HB 950, the Lily Ledbetter Act, named after a former Goodyear employee who sued demanding equal pay. Perry said the measure duplicates protections already afforded workers who suffer from compensation discrimination by the federal Lily Ledbetter Act, which was approved by the Congress in 2009.
“Texas commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation, Perry said. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.”
The veto allowed Democrats, already looking for a slogan for the 2014 elections to trot out their ‘War on Women’ bumper sticker for the second time this week.
“Governor Perry’s War on Texas women will not be forgotten in the 2014 statewide elections,” Will Hailer, the male Executive Director of the Texas Democratic Party said.
“With leadership like this, we’re looking at a blue Texas in the very near future.”
Democrats already said the Republicans were waging a ‘war on women’ on Wednesday, when Perry allowed the Legislature to discuss measures to insure that abortion clinics are safe and have undergone proper inspections.
Another high profile veto eliminates $3.2 million, the entire budget, of the Public Integrity Unit, the division of the Travis County District Attorney’s office, which is charged with investigating corruption and wrongdoing by statewide elected officials.
Perry had vowed to veto the funding after the Travis County DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving this past spring. Lehmberg agreed to a brief jail sentence after the video of the arrest showed her alternating between a ‘do you know who I am’ routine and pathetic whining that the arrest would ‘destroy her career.’ But Lehmberg has refused to resign, and Perry said in his veto message that “I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility for that unit has lost the public’s confidence. The unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the state budgetary process.”
It is unclear which agency will now investigate public corruption cases. Texas Republicans have long complained that the Travis County District Attorney, generally a Democrat in a very Democratic County, has played politics with the PIU, singling out high profile Republicans from Kay Bailey Hutchison to Tom DeLay, for politically motivated prosecutions.
Perry also vetoed a measure some opponents called ’nanny state’ legislation, which would have further restricted the types of foods and beverages that could be sold in public schools.
“I support reasonable measures to sustainably improve the heath and wellness of Texas students through nutrition,” Perry said. “Current Texas Public School Nutrition Policy already responsibly limits unnecessary, unhealthy access to high-sugar, high-calorie beverages. House Bill 217 takes this effort to an unreasonable and unnecessary extreme, and would limit access to such innocuous beverages as two percent milk.”
Perry also vetoed measures requiring school kids to be screened for spine curvature, limiting the authority of members of college boards of regents, a bill to allow election judges to appoint interpreters for elections, a measure to set up a nine member board to oversee endangered species habitat, and a bill that would have allowed school employees who receive special training to carry guns on school campuses, although Perry stressed he did sign similar bills to expand the jurisdictions of school district police.
Perry said his main concern about the bill he vetoes is a provision which requires the state to provide the special training.
“A safe, secure learning environment is essential to all Texas students,” Perry said. “SB 17 falls short of clearly expressing the role armed school employees would play during times of crisis and emergencies, and the qualifications and standards they would have to meet fails to address secure weapon storage, and carries a $10 million fiscal note.”
Perry said these will be his ‘final actions’ regarding measures approved by the Regular Session of the Legislature.