I’ll be sending the following letter to every major newspaper in Texas this morning.
To the Editor:
If you were a Democrat in Texas, you might think that Rick Perry’s decision to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which was run by a Democratic DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, was politically motivated. A Democrat might support that belief with the fact that two other Republican District Attorneys in Texas were guilty of DWI and Perry made no effort to get them to resign. Some have even suggested that Perry was motivated to cause Rosemary Lehmberg to resign because she had a supervisory position for the Public Integrity Unit which was investigating Rick Perry for his corrupt acts regarding the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. If you were a Republican in Texas you might think that the Governor had ultimate discretion to veto any funding approved by the Texas legislature. In fact the Governor has almost unlimited power to veto.
If you were an 8th grader taking a basic civics class, you wouldn’t be focused on the politics of this debate. You would be focused on the fundamental principles of government in the United States that you learned in the first week of class. That 8th grader would be able to describe the fundamental, and essential, principle of our American system of government known as “checks and balances.” The idea of the founding fathers was to create three separate branches of government so that no single branch could exercise unlimited control over our system of government. The Legislative branch is charged with making laws, the Executive branch is charged with enforcing the laws, and the Judicial branch is charged with interpreting the laws. The indictment of Rick Perry is a testament to the importance of the separation of powers of these three branches of government.
The Texas Legislature passed a law that expressly provides the appropriate method for raising the issue of the continued service of a district attorney after a DWI offense. Section 87.013 of the Texas Local Government Code is a law enacted by the Texas Legislature. That law expressly contemplates the possibility that an elected official, and specifically a district attorney, MAY be removed from office for intoxication “on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage.” Section 87.015 expressly provides the proper method for removal of a district attorney who could be removed under 87.013. It requires a judicial proceeding. Thus the legislative branch of government in the state of Texas specifically considered the circumstances of a District Attorney, like Rosemary Lehmberg, who pled guilty to the charge of DWI, and created a statute to set forth the appropriate method of removal of such an elected official from her office. The legislative branch determined that it would be necessary for the judicial branch to make the determination as to whether such a District attorney was fit to finish her elected term of office. In Ms. Lehmberg’s case, such a case was filed, and she was determined to be fit to return to her elected position. Thus the Legislature passed the applicable law, the Judicial branch was called upon to enforce that law, which applied to a person serving in the Executive Branch.
It is only because Rick Perry has repeatedly and publically admitted that his reason for vetoing the funding of the Public Integrity Unit was his “lack of confidence” in the person running the unit that he abused his power. If he simply vetoed the funding it would be impossible to prove abuse of discretion. It is because he has repeatedly admitted that he would, and did, veto funding, would reinstate funding, and would make the same decision again all dependent upon whether Ms.Lehmberg was running the Unit, that Rick Perry is guilty of abusing his power. If the Governor of Texas ignores the law passed by the Texas legislature, he abuses his authority by declaring that he is not bound by the laws that apply to the other citizens of Texas . If the Governor of Texas takes the position that he has power to overrule the Judicial branch by single-handedly overturning a Judicial decree that Ms. Lehmberg is fit to return to office, he is abusing his authority. While the Governor has “authority” to veto funding as he deems appropriate, it is an “abuse” of that authority to replace his judgment with that of the Texas Legislature and the Texas Judiciary. In the absence of any other outcome, the Executive Branch of Government in Texas would have ultimate control over the other two, and there would be no check or balance. Governor Perry would have complete power to do anything he chose to do.
In Rick Perry’s interview AFTER the indictment was handed down, he declared that he would make the same decision again. He said that he felt he had the power to cut funding for any branch of government where he had “lost confidence” in the leader of that branch of government. Thus according to Rick Perry he could cut funding for the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Legislators if he “lost confidence” in them.
Rick Perry still doesn’t get it. He is not an attorney, but even an 8th grader, who passed a basic civics class understands the importance of the checks and balances of the three branches of government.