Ken Paxton

Paxton trying to remove health care from millions of educators and other Americans


The current crop of state leaders gives educators a lot of bad choices on this year’s election ballot, but one of the worst, especially for retired educators and everyone one else who values their health care, is Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Paxton, who was slapped with a criminal indictment for securities fraud shortly after taking office, has spent most of his term as the state’s chief lawyer avoiding a trial and a possible prison sentence. But he has found time to promote policies that are hurtful to educators and other everyday Texans, even as he hypocritically portrays himself as a champion of Christian values.

Perhaps his worst offense though is his effort to deprive millions of Texans and other Americans of middle-class, modest means of basic health care coverage. That is a potential end result of a lawsuit that Paxton has filed, using our tax dollars, against the federal government in still another effort to kill the Affordable Care Act.

The lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, was filed earlier this year by 20 states, and Paxton is the lead lawyer. If the suit is successful, all the protections of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if you prefer, would be invalidated, including the provision that forbids insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If Paxton is successful in destroying that consumer protection, insurance companies could resume their previous practice of charging sick people higher premiums for health coverage or denying them coverage altogether. Older Americans would be hit the hardest, but anybody who had ever suffered a heart attack or suffered from a chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure or whatever would be affected.

To make matters worse, the Trump administration is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act against Paxton’s suit.

“It is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all,” Paxton said when the suit was filed.

Actually, it is time for Texans to be free of the callous piety and anti-family, anti-democratic values of Ken Paxton. Earlier this year, Paxton also misused his office to suggest falsely that it was illegal for educators to support and campaign for candidates for the Legislature and other elected offices.

Paxton is entitled to due process and his day in court, which he continues to avoid. The state of Texas also is entitled to its day in court, and every American is entitled to affordable health care.

The honorable thing for Paxton to do would be to quietly leave office and get his own legal affairs in order. But since he doesn’t plan to do that, since he intends to stay in office on straight-ticket Republican votes, the sensible thing for educators and every other Texan – Democrat, Republican or independent — who values education, health care and other important public services is to show Paxton the door on Election Day.

You can do that by voting for Paxton’s opponent, Justin Nelson. Nelson wants to serve the people of Texas, not make their lives more difficult.

Twenty U.S. states target protections for pre-existing health conditions

Paxton surrenders in securities fraud indictment



Attorney general joins the attack on educators


Attorney General Ken Paxton, who went to court to defend Texas’ very bad school finance system, is still attacking educators. He is doing so, I suspect, to try to keep himself relevant to right-wingers – his political base — as he awaits trial on securities fraud charges.

Although Paxton’s personal legal troubles have been keeping his lawyers busy, the attorney general found time to weigh in on the issue of whether teachers and other public employees should have the freedom to spend their own money as they please, by deducting their association or union dues from their paychecks, at no cost to taxpayers.

Paxton agrees with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that the long-standing practice should be stopped and has as much trouble telling the truth about the issue as Abbott and Patrick do.

Paxton’s name is on an oped, published in The Dallas Morning News, filled with errors and misrepresentations about the dues deduction issue.

“Protecting workers’ rights is one of the government’s most important jobs,” Paxton says in the first sentence. Then he spends the rest of the article defending the state leadership’s efforts to undercut workers’ rights.

Here are a few of his misrepresentations:

Paxton: Public employee unions “spend millions of dollars on partisan activities.”

The truth: Membership dues in TSTA and other public employee unions and associations in Texas are NOT spent on partisan political activities. Membership dues in TSTA and other organizations are spent on professional development, liability insurance and other job-related services. Political activities are conducted by political action committees, which are funded by separate, voluntary contributions, not dues money.

Paxton: “The Supreme Court has ruled that workers cannot be forced to make political donations.”

The truth: TSTA and other unions DON’T force members to pay dues or make political donations. Again, both dues payments and political donations to PACs are voluntary.

Paxton:  Public employees must “opt in if they want to contribute to a union.”

The truth: Workers already opt in if they want to join TSTA or another employee organization or union. If they wish, they also voluntarily choose to have their membership dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.  This is the practice that Senate Bill 13 – supported by Paxton, Patrick and Abbott – would discontinue for most public employees.

Paxton: Quotes  Abbott, “Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to support the collection of union dues.” Patrick also has claimed dues deductions cost taxpayers money.

The truth: Employees’ dues deductions essentially cost governments nothing,  according to the author of SB13, and a fiscal note that says the bill would provide no cost savings. And if there were any costs, current law would require unions and employee associations to reimburse school districts and other governments for any administrative costs.

Another truth: Automatic dues deduction is a secure and convenient way for educators and other public employees to pay membership dues to the organizations of their choice. Abbott, Patrick, Paxton and their allies are trying to punish educators and other employees for opposing bad legislation, including a bill to siphon tax dollars from public education for private school vouchers.

SB13, which has been approved by the Senate and is before the House, would let police, firefighters and EMS workers continue to have membership dues in their unions voluntarily deducted by their government employers.

Why? Because these groups are perceived as more politically friendly to the Abbotts, Patricks and Paxtons. That may be, but these employee unions also are fighting SB13 because they know this is an effort to single out employees for political punishment and they could be next.




Someone educate the governor, please


I know many Texans who are full of themselves, and sometimes I see one in my mirror. But the notion of Texas exceptionalism has grown absurd, fueled by a state leadership that would rather promote ideology than lead us to a prosperous future.

No, Texas isn’t going to follow the lead of British voters and try to secede from the United States, Gov. Greg Abbott told a radio host last week. No fooling?

Texas can’t secede, period. The Civil War settled that notion 150 years ago, although the governor’s political party had to beat back a politically delusional attempt only a couple of months ago to resurrect the idea in the party platform.

Abbott doesn’t talk about secession, but he does promote something called Texas “sovereignty” and, on the same radio show, declared: “What Texans believe in is that we need the United States to be more like Texas. In fact, I believe America longs to be the way Texas is.”

Think about how absurd that statement is.

Although some Texans may want the rest of the United States to follow them over the cliff, many of us would rather the Texas brand espoused by Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton be expunged, not exported. The rest of America doesn’t long to “be the way Texas is.”

Other states don’t want to be the leader in adult residents without a high school diploma. They don’t want to be the leader in residents without health insurance. They don’t want to lead the nation in the number of prison inmates and incarceration rate. And, they don’t want to rank in the bottom tier of states in resources they invest in their children’s education.

They also don’t want an attorney general who is under criminal indictment for securities fraud. They don’t want a lieutenant governor who can’t wait for his next opportunity to cut money for public school funding. And, they don’t want a governor who would rather criticize and sue the federal government than exercise any real leadership of his own.

That is the brand of Texas “exceptionalism” the rest of the country can do very well without.

Abbott’s job is to make Texas better. Let the rest of the states take care of themselves. Many of them, in fact, are doing a better job than Texans are seeing at home.




Think about STAAR the next time you vote


Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attempt to win dismissal of a lawsuit brought by parents over STAAR testing is disappointing, but not really surprising. It’s part of Paxton’s pattern of opposing school kids, their parents and educators.

As a legislator in 2011, Paxton voted for $5.4 billion in school budget cuts. More recently, as attorney general, he defended in court the state’s inadequate school finance system, which the Texas Supreme Court recently upheld. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t bet money against the Supreme Court eventually throwing out the STAAR suit as well.

Educators, parents and students are continuing to feel the consequences of recent elections. In Paxton’s case, that’s the 2014 election, in which he was a poorly qualified candidate swept into office by heavy, straight-ticket Republican voting. Now, is a poorly qualified attorney general, continuing to under-cut public education.

Paxton also is under indictment and awaiting trial on securities fraud charges. Whatever happens to his criminal case, he needs to go away but isn’t in a big hurry to do so. For the record, TSTA supported attorney Sam Houston, Paxton’s opponent, in the 2014 general election because we knew Paxton was bad news and Houston valued the importance of public schools.

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath also is trying to get the STAAR lawsuit dismissed. He was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who also prefers testing to adequate school funding and was promoted to higher office by the same voters and on the same day that Paxton was.

Parents have a right to sue over bad policy decisions and to get angry when the Texas Supreme Court says it’s OK for state leaders to continue to shortchange their children’s classrooms. But the best way to protect against bad educational policy is on Election Day, and parents, as well as educators, have missed many recent opportunities.