September 5, 2008

Rep. Berman considering running for governor

By Corrie MacLaggan

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, said today that he’ll run for governor at the end of the 2009 legislative session if he doesn’t succeed in passing legislation targeting illegal immigrants.

“If we can’t get anything done next session because it’s blocked, I will run for governor at the end of the session,” he said in an phone interview from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where he landed early this evening after attending the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office today released a document showing Berman has requested Abbott’s official opinion on whether a House member would lose his seat if he announces his candidacy for governor during the first year of a two-year term.

Berman said he wants to keep his House seat and that if Abbott rules that he would have to give up his seat to run for governor, that would factor into his decision whether to run.

Berman would like to penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. He’s also proposing a surcharge on money wired to Mexico.

“We have almost two million illegal aliens in Texas and no one’s doing anything about it,” Berman said. “A lot of people are very concerned, including myself. It’s costing Texans $4 billion a year and we think something needs to be done.”

The cost of illegal immigration is disputed; for example, a state comptroller’s report said undocumented immigrants added $17.7 billion to the gross state product in 2005.

During the 2007 legislative session, a package of anti-illegal immigration bills by Berman and other Republicans died in the House State Affairs committee. Chairman David Swinford, R-Dumas, said after meeting with lawyers from Abbott’s office that at least 20 bills were either unconstitutional or trumped by federal law.

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