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Texas Senate Blocks Appointment of Anti-Sex Toy Nominee to Board of Pardons

Texas- In a rare rebuke of a governor’s appointment powers, the Texas Senate voted Wednesday to block one of Gov. Rick Perry’s nominees to the state Board of Pardons and Parole over concerns she is unqualified.

The 27-4 vote against Shanda Perkins of Burleson was a resounding bipartisan rejection of the former banker. Unlike the occasional high-profile debates over presidential nominees, the Texas Senate rarely votes against a governor’s appointment.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had assailed Perkins’ nomination, noting she has no college degree and had no criminal justice background before Perry selected her for a board with the power to grant parole and recommend clemency in a death penalty case.

Perkins worked in banking for more than 20 years. She told senators last week she is qualified for the parole job because through her church she has often counseled youth and women who have been through drug and physical abuse and had family members in prison.

“This person is unqualified,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who led the charge against Perkins’ confirmation. “This is not a partisan issue. This is not a personal issue.”

The parole board, Whitmire said, “literally considers life or death matters.”

Fifteen Republicans joined the 12 Democrats voting against Perkins, who had sailed through the nominations committee on a 4-1 vote. No senator spoke in her defense Wednesday and the Senate approved three other nominations to the board, including current members Rissie Owens and Juanita Gonzalez and new member Thomas Leeper, who is an attorney.

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said Perry stands by his decision to appoint Perkins.

“The governor thought she was the candidate for this position,” Castle said.

Technically, the vote simply sent the nomination back to committee with a little over two weeks lefts in the session that ends June 1. But the overwhelming vote against her suggests the nomination is dead.

Perkins had not served on the board while awaiting confirmation. Perry could wait until after the legislative session to appoint someone else and that person could serve until the Senate meets again in regular session in 2011.

Perkins was also notable for her role in stopping the sale of sex toys in Burleson in 2004. An arrest in that case eventually led a federal appeals court to overturn Texas’ law banning the sale of sex toys.

Perkins has said she informed city officers about the city ordinance that prohibited the sale of sex toys at a business or near a school but did not initiate the criminal complaint that led the arrest.

In February, Perkins distributed fliers linking U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to President Barack Obama and abortion rights. Perry, who is running for re-election, is expected to face a tough battle with Hutchison in the Republican primary.


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