Category Archives: Uncategorized

Open Carry passes Texas Legislature

With the stroke of a pen by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texans will be allowed to openly carry their handguns. The much-debated piece of legislation was sent to the Governor’s desk after navigating the treacherous waters of the 84th legislature at the end of May.

House Bill 910 by state Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) will allow for licensed gun owners to carry their firearm in an openly displayed hip or shoulder holster. Under current law, license holders are required to conceal their weapon in public, and carry a Concealed Handgun License.

While the majority of other states across the nation allow for some form of legal open carry, the legislation tested the boundaries of lawmakers’ acceptance of “constitutional carry,” the carrying of a firearm without a government permit.

The bill’s journey to the governor’s desk took an unexpected turn when, following six hours of debate on the senate floor, an amendment from Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) and state Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) added in language that would have limited the ability of law enforcement officials to question someone solely based on the fact that the person was carrying a handgun. The “Cop-Stop” provision created an unusual alliance between urban Democrats, who said the language would help stop racial profiling, and Tea Party Republicans, who claimed the amendment would help protect citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to unlawful search a seizure of license holders. Opponents of the measure claimed it was an end-around way to eliminate licensing altogether, and an attempt to pass constitutional carry without properly vetting the idea. Other opponents of the amendment, including police associations from across the state, said that it would create additional burden for and endanger the lives of law enforcement officials on a daily basis.

The amendment was later stripped out in a conference committee, and the bill passed both chambers, largely along party lines. Numerous gun rights activists claimed that, without the amendment, the bill did not go far enough to ensure their constitutional rights.

Following its passage from both chambers, Governor Abbott tweeted: “Open Carry just passed in both Texas House & Senate. Next stop: My pen.” With the Governor’s signature, the bill will go into effect January 1, 2016.

Fracking Bill passes House, adds fuel to fire of state/local feud

Friday, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 40, the Denton Fracking Bill, underscoring the broader local control narrative that has defined this legislative session, especially in the minds of municipal leaders across Texas.

The bill, which aims to provide statewide guidelines on the regulation of a variety of oil and gas activities, would most notably take away the ability of local authorities to impose their own regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.

A vote on the bill was delayed by a computer glitch early in the week, but by Friday, House members passed the measure by a 122-18 margin, with author, Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), fending off all proposed amendments in the process.

The San Angelo Republican has repeatedly stated that without his bill, Texas would increasingly have a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that would undermine the future prosperity and economic impact of one of Texas’ most valuable assets.

Those who oppose the bill see it as a dangerous power grab, and one that will limit the rights of Texans to govern themselves across the many cities and towns across Texas.

The filing of the bill, and many like it, was spurred by the City of Denton’s 2014 measure, where residents of the North Texas city voted to ban fracking within the city limits. Darby’s bill, however, quickly became the focal point of the effort to protect continued production.

The Texas Municipal League, which had been one of the harshest critics of the bill prior to this week, dialed back its criticism following the addition of language by Darby and his committee to clarify where cities would be allowed to regulate, including emergency and fire response and noise.

While the bill easily passed the House Friday, the debate between the proper role of state and local authorities is sure to continue as other bills that include broad regulatory provisions in other arenas like gun rights come to the floor.

Unclaimed Mineral Proceeds Commission

Thousands of Texans who are descendants of original Spanish land grant holders will learn this month if they can collect royalties from mineral rights held in the state’s unclaimed property division when the Unclaimed Mineral Proceeds Commission delivers its report to the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House and the newly convened legislature.
During the 83rd Legislative Session, the Commission was formed by the passage of House Bill 724, and is comprised of six members appointed by the governor – three members who represent the interests of land grant heirs and three members who have expertise in property law.

In the late 18th century, Spanish colonial settlement of Texas was based on a “land grant” system. Franciscans, for example were given land to settle missions, while other settlers were given land to settle San Antonio. Other large tracts of land were given to Spanish viceroys, and later to settlers like Stephen F. Austin.

Texans like George Farias, a descendant of an original Spanish land grant recipients, claim that that mineral rights belong to he and his fellow descendants. Attorney Eileen McKenzie Fowler, who has represented the nearly 14,000 descendants like Farias for nearly a decade, remains hopeful that the formation of the Commission is a step in their direction.

Proponents of the move to give these descendants a piece of the pie claim that even a share of the money would go a long way to resolving what they see as property unfairly taken from their families. The group has even taken to Facebook, creating a group page, the South Texas Tejano Land Grant Heirs.

Others, including Commission Chairman Lance Bruun, say the claims are unfounded. He points to the Texas Constitution of 1876, and says that document states that the mineral rights were handed over to the then owners of the land, taking them out of the hands of the land grantees if they no longer owned the land.

Perhaps most important to the issue is the actual amount of money to which descendants could lay claim. According to Francis Torres, the head of the Texas Comptroller’s Unclaimed Property Division, recently stated in an interview with KENS 5 San Antonio that only a fraction of a percent of oil money comes in without identifying information. Torres says the total is around $400,000, which does not add up to much spilt among the 14,000 descendants.

The Commission will expire in June of 2015.

What does the Texas Land Commissioner do?

As the 84th Legislative Session gets underway, the campaigning is over and it’s time to start governing. As you probably know, Texans voted on a new Texas Land Commissioner last November. But did you know that electing Land Commissioners is a tradition as old as Texas herself?

The Office of Land Commissioner is the oldest, continuous elected position in Texas history, and predates all other state executive positions, including the governor. In 1836, immediately following the Texas Revolution, the First Congress of the Republic of Texas established the General Land Office to manage the public domain. The Land Commissioner was charged with collecting and archiving records, providing maps and surveys, and issuing titles. In addition, the office was to verify Spanish and Mexican titles to determine which land was in the public domain and which was privately owned.

Throughout the years, the GLO has taken several other critical state matters under its jurisdiction. Included among these are the management of the Permanent School Fund, keeping Texas beaches open for all citizens and helping Texas veterans.

As George P. Bush takes on the role of 28th Texas Land Commissioner, the General Land Office will continue to serve under it’s motto:

“The Texas General Land Office serves the schoolchildren, veterans, and all people of Texas by preserving their history, protecting their environment, expanding economic opportunity, helping communities rebuild after disasters, and maximizing state revenue through innovative administration and prudent stewardship of state lands and resources.”

With that in mind, here are a few ways the General Land Office serves Texans that you may not have known about:

  • The Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB), a division of the GLO, continues to provide low-interest loans on land a home purchases to impoverished and disabled Texas Veterans.
  • Citizens can order historical county, city and land maps and sketches, as well as historical research guides on items such as Spanish Land Grants through the GLO. The office also cycles through several online digital exhibits throughout the year.
  • The Land Commissioner serves as chairman of various state boards and commissioner, including chair of the Texas Farm & Ranch Lands Conservation Council, the Coastal Land Advisory Council and the Texas State Veterans Cemetery Committee, among others.