Public integrity reform Texas 2015

At present Texas vests authority for prosecuting cases of official misconduct in the district attorney of one county, now Travis County, which contains the capital city of Austin, and until recently, the additional work was funded by an appropriation by the State Legislature. This is done because the Texas Constitution vests authority for criminal prosecutions in local county and district attorneys. Neither the State Attorney General nor any state-level official has such authority.

Two controversial prosecutions by the Public Integrity Unit in predominantly Democratic Travis County were clearly political and have led to calls for reform. the first was prosecution of U.S. Rep. Tom Delay, essentially for laundering campaign contributions through the National Republic Party. He was convicted in Travis County but the verdict was reversed on appeal. However, it ended his career in the U.S. Congress.

The second case arose after the Travis County District Attorney was arrested, and later convicted, for DWI, and was video recorded acting very badly, trying to throw her weight around. Governor Rick Perry demanded she resign, or else he would veto the next appropriation for the Unit. She refused, and he did. But Travis County kept the Unit going at reduced strength using County funds. It then hired a special prosecutor who obtained an indictment against Perry for making a felonious threat to a public official in threatening to exercise his veto power. As this is being written, that case is still in the Travis County District Court.

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School Prayer by Random Selection

Here’s a case of random selection that I don’t believe has been discussed before. An American school held prayers at its graduation ceremonies. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State objected to this, claiming that the school was endorsing a religious perspective in doing so. It appears that the school had been permitting the student who opened the ceremony to decide whether or not to open with a prayer, but since this student was selected by majority vote (in a west Texas school district), this always led to a vote for some pro-prayer Christian. (Insert remarks about the tyranny of the majority here.) So now the school district will randomly select the student to open the graduation ceremony. The student can still make a personal decision to open with a prayer if s/he wishes. Presumably, the fact that the student choice is random means that the school district cannot be accused of endorsing the religious perspective of the prayer.

ECISD Removes Official Prayer From Graduation Ceremony After Lawsuit Threat

ODESSA – The Ector County Independent School District confirmed to CBS 7 that the Invocation and Benediction will now say “opening and closing” after concerns from American United for the Separation of Church & State.

The District says that the students who lead the opening and closing ceremony will now be randomly chosen and can choose to lead those ceremonies as they wish, including adding the traditional prayers if they so choose.

“The references to Invocation and Benediction give the impression the school or the school district are endorsing religion, which is not allowed. Those references will be changed and student speakers will be randomly drawn, according to policy FNA (Local) page 3 of 4, to give the Opening and Closing remarks at graduation,” Spokesperson Mike Adkins said in a release.

The senior class will no longer vote on whether or not to have prayer during the ceremony because that vote will not be permissible.