Up & Down in Texas politics: Marijuana, Hazlewood; Jade Helm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a former conservative talk radio host who, even after he became a state senator in 2007, broadcast his show from a studio at the state Capitol.

He only relinquished his microphone when he ran for lieutenant governor last year — and only then because he was afraid not doing so would violate broadcast rules mandating equal airtime for those candidates running against him.

But just because he’s a former media member doesn’t mean Patrick has much esteem for the profession.

“We understand, in politics, the media sometimes likes to write stories that pit people against each other, issues against each other,” Patrick said at a recent news conference, “to look on what is news as the media sees it.”

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That assessment aside, this past week’s look at what issues had strong, and not-so-strong showings in Texas politics features broad legislative agreement on marijuana and Hazlewood. Granted, there was some discord between Texas’ current and former governor, but the ongoing Jade Helm 15 saga would be news no matter what. Here we go:



Marijuana Bills

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For a state that doesn’t allow any form of legalized marijuana — not even medicinal-use exceptions — Texas lawmakers suddenly seem positively tolerant. The Senate approved legalizing Cannabidiol oil, extracted from marijuana plants, for qualifying patients. And House committees approved a plan to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana and another pushing the Christian argument that pot should be legal for all uses because God made it and the government shouldn’t regulate the Lord’s handiwork. While all still have a long way to go to become law, making it even this far is a surprise.



Hazlewood Act

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The Senate has approved slashing a popular program that provides free college tuition to military veterans, or allows them to pass the perk on to their children. And the House is expected to follow suit. Texas lawmakers almost never do anything considered anti-veteran, but the cost of providing benefits under the Hazlewood Act reached $169 million last year and is estimated to more than double by 2019. Fiscal conservatives have led the charge to deny the benefit to veterans who haven’t been Texas residents for at least eight years. The Senate-approved proposal also mandates that even qualifying veterans or their children use the benefit within 15 years of leaving military service.



Jade Helm Jitters

Gov. Greg Abbott argues he was acting as the voice of reason — not feeding paranoia — when he directed the State Guard to monitor “Jade Helm 15,” the upcoming U.S. military training exercise that some feared was cover for a federal government conspiracy to take over Texas. Abbott says he doesn’t believe in fringe theories but was attempting to assuage the fears of Texans who do. If that sounds like damage control, though, even his predecessor wasn’t convinced. Fellow Republican and former Gov. Rick Perry said he doesn’t trust the government, either — but that’s no reason to besmirch soldiers. “I think our military is quite trustworthy,” Perry said. “Civilian leadership, you can always question that. But not the men and women in uniform.”