THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton
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Weekly Updates from Attorney General Ken Paxton: January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017 – Austin

Friends,

What a year 2016 has been! From start to finish, it read like a fast paced Tom Clancy thriller. Each month brought something new and unexpected. For conservatives, the year ended on a high note. Voters rejected the heir apparent of President Obama and elected instead a tenacious, outspoken businessman, who promises to cut through the shroud of corruption that lingers over Washington, DC. America finally stands poised to roll back the avalanche of illegal actions that have beset its best and brightest these last eight years.

The battle, however, has not yet turned the corner. Throughout the year, the men and women at the Texas Attorney General’s Office fought against government overreach and won. We even managed to grab a victory on New Year’s Eve, when a federal judge granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Obama administration’s transgender mandate. Had our petition failed, health care providers throughout the country, including the state of Texas, would have been forced to perform gender reassignment surgeries regardless of their religious beliefs or their professional medical judgment.

While the Obama administration was in its twilight hour, my office’s fight against its stamp of lawlessness did not wane. If anything, we picked up the pace. I am therefore deeply proud of what the men and women in my office have achieved this year, and I have decided to share with you some of the highlights. Listed below, you will find what I view as the top ten 2016 victories of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Not all involved the federal government, but each one stood in defense of Texas and the basic rights we hold so dear.  

 

1) Immigration (U.S. Supreme Court – June 23, 2016)

My office led a coalition of 26 states in a legal challenge to President Obama’s executive amnesty on illegal immigration, to force the Obama administration to recognize something that every school child is taught: Congress, not the president, makes our laws. In one of the most important cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in modern history, the court affirmed Texas’ win in the Fifth Circuit that enjoined President Obama’s illegal executive action.

2) Persuader Rule (U.S. District Court ruling – November 16, 2016)

A federal judge granted a nationwide permanent injunction in favor of Texas and nine other states in a ruling that stopped the U.S. Department of Labor’s new interpretation of its “Persuader Rule” from taking effect. The new rules would have made it more difficult and expensive for small business owners in Texas and across the country to obtain legal advice, all while damaging attorney-client privilege—a hallmark of our adversarial system.

3) Overtime Rule (U.S. District Court ruling – November 22, 2016)

Thanks to my efforts and a 21-state coalition, a federal judge granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Labor’s unlawful Overtime Rule just two weeks before it was scheduled to take effect. The new overtime rule would have more than doubled the salary threshold for a worker to be entitled to overtime, and that would have forced many state and local governments, as well as private businesses, to substantially increase their employment costs. 

4) School Funding (Texas Supreme Court – May 13, 2016)

In an historic ruling, the Texas Supreme Court held that Texas’ public education system was constitutional. This was a major victory for the citizens of Texas, who have faced an endless parade of lawsuits following any attempt to finance schools in the state. I made clear that the issue of school financing must be debated and shaped by the Texas Legislature, not through decades’ worth of ongoing litigation in the court system. 

5) Medical Judgment Mandate (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas – December 31, 2016)

A federal court granted Texas a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Obama administration’s new federal health care rules from forcing doctors to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs. The law would force the Employees Retirement System of Texas to amend its insurance coverage for all 500,000 participants to provide gender reassignment procedures and abortions at taxpayer expense. 

6) Southwest Royalties (Texas Supreme Court ruling – June 17, 2016)

The state of Texas and taxpayers saved more than $4 billion when my office successfully argued a case against Southwest Royalties, an oil and gas company that sought a tax exemption for its equipment. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the company failed to prove that the equipment it purchased was used in the actual manufacturing, processing or fabrication of hydrocarbons—which is what the law passed by the Texas Legislature actually exempted from sales tax.

7) Volkswagen (Company settlement – November 18, 2016)

In a settlement with Volkswagen over its emissions cheating scandal, the attorney general’s office negotiated $50 million in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees for the state of Texas. VW violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by marketing and selling diesel vehicles as “clean,” even though it knew the cars were equipped with defeat device software to cheat on emissions tests. In addition, Texas stands to benefit from as much as $191 million from a VW trust fund established to mitigate environmental harm caused by excessive emissions from its rigged vehicles.

8) School Rights (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas – August 21, 2016)

A U.S. District Court judge issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from enforcing its bathroom directives against public schools across the country. My office is leading a 13-state coalition against the Obama administration’s attempts to rewrite Congress’s use of the term “sex” in multiple federal laws to now include “gender identity.” If successful, this radical change would open up all intimate areas within schools and workplaces to members of both sexes, jeopardizing the safety of women and children.

9) “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (State District Court issues temporary restraining order – Dec. 19, 2016)

Nurse’s aide Dedra Shannon couldn’t believe it when the school principal of Patterson Middle School told her to take down her handmade Christmas decoration that depicted a scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Neither could I. It was an unlawful attack on religious liberty. My office therefore intervened in a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Shannon, and a judge ordered the Killeen Independent School District to restore the decoration to the school nurse’s door.

10) Hazlewood Act (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – June 23, 2016)

My office successfully defended Texas’ Hazlewood Act from a constitutional challenge. The act waives public state university tuition for honorably discharged veterans who enlisted from Texas. The Legislature passed the Hazlewood Act in 1923 to ensure the continued success of Texas military veterans who honorably served the United States.

 

I look at these 10 cases and the scale of my office’s mission to return this country to the rule of law hits me full force. President Obama legitimized the practice of elevating political desires above individual rights, as well as the U.S. Constitution. That precedent has been picked by public officials far and wide, and its stamp is hard to erase.

Yet at the same time, I am filled with hope. Judges across the country have come to recognize the excesses incumbent to the president’s agenda. Additionally, the American public has grown tired having their voices left unheeded. The men and women poised to govern next year have a different mandate than those who came before. I would like to believe that they will heed it. The preceding year was eventful, but I, for one, exit 2016 with a lighter step.


Very Truly Yours,

Ken Paxton signature

Ken Paxton