State HouseState SenateThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Texas GOP Declines to Drop Gab, PUC Gives Ground on Telecom Fee, Senators Lobby for Electricity Repricing

This week — a look at Texas politics the week of the legislative bill filing deadline.
March 12, 2021
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Jabs Thrown at Social Media Platform Gab by GOP Officials

Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Vice-Chair Cat Parks called on the state party to drop the social media platform Gab from its use.

“Gab is not a viable or healthy outlet for RPT to share our message of opportunity, liberty, and personal empowerment. That is why I have formally requested that our communications team cease communications on Gab and deactivate our account until further notice,” Parks stated in a Tuesday release.

Gab has been accused of allowing antisemitic comments on its platform — something Parks says she identified after “spen[ding] more time researching it.”

Parks added, “Free speech is an issue of enormous concern for Texans. There can be no question where the Texas GOP stands on the issue of racism and anti-Semitism.”

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Governor Greg Abbott jumped in on the issue, stating, “Antisemitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas, and certainly do not represent Texas values.”

Not pulling any punches, Gab responded to both Abbott and Parks in a statement, saying, “The enemies of freedom smear us with every name in the book because they hate America and they hate free speech. It’s a shame to see a GOP politician fall for this trap when conservative values are under sustained attack all over the country.”

The RPT demurred from Abbott and Parks, stating, “The RPT will always fight censorship. We support the 1st Amendment, including free speech platforms [and] Vice Chair Cat Parks’ right to criticize such. [The RPT] has no plan to deplatform from any of our social media accounts. The 1st Amendment still shines brightly in the Lone Star State.”

PUC Chair Concedes It Cannot Withhold Telecommunications Fee

The State of Texas is currently facing a lawsuit from the Texas Telephone Association — which comprises over 50 telephone providers — for missing obligatory payments. The state is statutorily required by the legislature to compensate telecommunications companies that provide service to rural areas.

In a recent State Affairs Committee hearing, newly appointed Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chair Arthur D’Andrea acknowledged the legislative mandate when questioned.

Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), chair of the committee, asked D’Andrea, “[W]ith respect to the USF, and you look at the explicit requirements within that area, it does in fact say ‘you shall,’ right? Do you read that differently than yes I should do this?”

“I don’t read it differently than that, sir, chairman, I don’t,” D’Andrea replied.

As of January, the missed payments totaled $60 million.

The PUC voted last June to reject a scheduled increase in the fee-per-call remitted to these providers. At the time, D’Andrea stated, “I think this is not a time when we should be raising taxes on people.”

Asked about settling the case by Paddie, D’Andrea stated, “We have not discussed settlement yet, but we can with the attorney general.”

Paddie concluded, “I’m not an attorney … but I can’t imagine that you’re going to win that lawsuit.”

28 Senators Request Electricity Billing Repricing

Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has called for the PUC to fix the electricity overcharges by repricing transactions during the blackout. Abbott added it to his list of emergency items for the legislative session.

Almost every senator followed suit on Wednesday, signing a letter in support of “correct[ing] the billing errors related to last month’s winter storm.”

Below is a list of senators who signed the letter.

  • Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)
  • Bob Hall (R-Edgewood)
  • Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
  • Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown)
  • Carol Alvarado (D-Houston)
  • Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)
  • Angela Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • Beverly Powell (D-Burleson)
  • Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
  • Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
  • Borris L. Miles (D-Houston)
  • John Whitmire (D-Houston)
  • Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas)
  • Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
  • Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
  • Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio)
  • Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo)
  • Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)
  • Royce West (D-Dallas)
  • Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway)
  • Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels)
  • José Menéndez (D-San Antonio)
  • Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville)
  • Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
  • César J. Blanco (D-El Paso)
  • Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
  • Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)

The three who didn’t were Sens. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin), and Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) — the last of which chairs the Business & Commerce that hosted the most significant post-blackout investigative hearings.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.