Saturday, July 23, 2016

Abbott proposes new category of thought crime....

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong."
1 Corinthians 16:13

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is asking state lawmakers to make it a hate crime to target police officers.

"You have a governor who has your back," Gov. Abbott told law enforcement last week, during a televised media conference the day after five officers were murdered in Dallas by a man deliberately targeting white officers.

Following the targeted killing of three more officers next door in Louisiana, Abbott announced a proposal Monday to make it a hate crime to attack law enforcement out of bias against police. The "Police Protection Act" would also increase penalties for crimes against officers and create an education program to encourage respect for officers among youth.

"Texas will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve," Abbott wrote in a statement Monday, "And it must be made to clear to anyone targeting our law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice."
Where to begin....

The abstract level: "Hate Crimes" laws are wildly unconstitutional and nothing good can come from this sort of expansion of government power, even to cover groups we like.

The practical level: While recent events in Dallas were horrific, the shooter is already dead.  Furthermore, even if he had been captured alive, he would have already been eligible for the death penalty.  There is no way anything Abbott is proposing could have prevented what happened in Dallas.

It gets better; look who wants to carry the bill:
Draft legislation by Dallas state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would add discrimination against police and first responders to the hate crime section of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which currently includes prejudice based on "race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference."
Then there's this gem, which could never ever in a million years backfire:
"We'd like to see it go a step further, so that the D.A. has to seek the death penalty in every case where an officer is killed."
In other words, we want to expand the scope of a poorly written statute while removing all discretion about how to interpret it when the inevitable case comes up that falls under its purview in a way we do not anticipate.

And all this despite the fact that anyone who kills a cop in Texas is already eligible for the death penalty as long as we enforce the laws that are already on the books.

To learn more about the unintended consequences of "hate crimes" laws, click here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Significant IRREGULARITIES discovered in Byron Cook's election....

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
Leviticus 19:11

As many as 1,743 votes from the March Republican primary are unaccounted for in a small Texas county that was home to a close — and closely watched — House race, prompting a request for a state investigation.
Documents show several votes were counted more than once in the Hill County primary tabulation, including one that was counted as many as four times, the secretary of state's office said in a letter to the attorney general's office.
Hill County was one of several in a competitive race between Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and challenger Thomas McNutt. Cook, a top lieutenant to House Speaker Joe Straus, won by about 200 votes.
Macias called the election irregularities "substantial."
"If an explanation was easily providable, I think it would be provided and the secretary of state would not have to get involved," Macias said. "If corrected, it could potentially affect every single race in Hill County."
A campaign aide to Cook has not yet returned a call seeking comment.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said 1,700 votes was an unusually large discrepancy.
Read the whole thing here.


One more thing:

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dimming the Lights on Property Rights: A Debate on Short Term Rentals

"A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."
Proverbs 28:16

This afternoon, TPPF hosted Dimming the Lights on Property Rights: A Debate on Short Term Rentals in Austin, but the most revealing moment came last week.  That was when representatives from 50 separate "neighborhood" organizations declined to participate following the Austin "Neighborhoods" Council last minute pullout.  That nobody in Austin's NIMBY community came forward to defend this monstrosity really does tell you everything you need to know.

As TPPF explained in today's program:
In the interest of presenting a fair and balanced debate, it should be noted that the Texas Public Policy Foundation extended invitations to each of the following:
Mayor Steve Adler | City Manager Marc Ott | Councilmember Kathie Tovo | Councilmember Ann Kitchen Code | Former Councilmember Laura Morrison | Compliance Director Carl Smart | 28 Austin-area neighborhood associations | 6 Austin-area Activists
As to the substance of today's discussion, it mostly re-hashed things we already knew.  Chance Weldon, TPPF's lawyer against the City of Austin, explained that you don't surrender your constitutional rights based upon how you set up your living arraignments.   A representative from the hotel industry made the same sort of "level playing field" arguments incumbent industries always make, but neglected to suggest de-regulating his own industry until he was asked about it during Q&A.

It's also worth re-stating that the alleged concerns related to 'party houses' that led to this mess could have been solved by enforcing noise ordinances that were already on the books.  Furthermore, short-term rentals have received fewer than 100 noise complaints ever.  When code compliance fails to enforce the current laws giving them a new grant of unconstitutional authority seems, to put it mildly, odd.

But maybe that's why nobody from the "neighborhood community" showed up to defend this abomination.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Team Straus Busted....

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Monday, we wrote a modestly complimentary post about Joe Straus.  The funny thing is that, as we were writing it, we had a feeling something was about to break.  As if on cue, from Empower Texans:
House Speaker Joe Straus is poised to appoint to the Texas Ethics Commission a Democrat who believes it is time to “dismantle the NRA” and who has compared the 2nd Amendment organization to the terrorist group ISIS.
According to records obtained by Texas Scorecard, Austin divorce attorney and far-left activist Anne Wynne is telling Democratic legislators that Straus has agreed to appoint her to the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC). 
In an email to staffers for Austin Democrats Celia Israel and Donna Howard, Wynne says that at Straus’ request she will be replacing Paul Hobby, a Houston Democrat and former chairman of the TEC. Hobby has continued to serve on the commission despite his term expiring eight months ago.
Hobby’s tenure on the TEC has been highly controversial. He has pushed the commission to implement draconian regulations designed to suppress the free speech rights of citizens. The regulations have spawned a series of lawsuits from conservative organizations that are fighting to defend the First Amendment.
We had planned to comment yesterday, but Team Straus issued a denial and we decided to the whole situation play out a little longer:
[Author's Note: It's now been over 24 hours and Embry still hasn't replied].

Cue Empower Texans:
Through media surrogates, Straus is now claiming that no one has been tapped to replace outgoing TEC commissioner Paul Hobby, and that the search for his replacement has not even begun.
But that narrative is refuted by the records obtained by Texas Scorecard, which include statements by Capitol staff and Wynne herself that assert she was tapped to replace Hobby.
In a May 16th email, Jacob Cottingham, the Legislative Director for State Rep. Donna Howard (D–Austin), told State Rep. Celia Israel’s (D–Austin) chief of staff “I think she’ll be replacing Paul Hobby… Dem. Speaker’s appointment.”
Wynne is even more clear about the plan, telling the staffer: “I am replacing Paul Hobby.”
After Texas Scorecard published its report, one Austin reporter confirmed that Hobby would be resigning from the commission, a fact that had not previously been made public. In another Austin publication, a Straus source was quoted as saying: “Speaker Straus has not formally asked members for their input on who should succeed Hobby on the commission.” 
It is obvious that some informal discussions between Hobby, Straus, the Democrats, and Anne Wynne were taking place in May. In fact, it appears likely from the emails that Straus or his staff directed Wynne to have Howard or Israel recommend her name to his office so that he could proceed in appointing her to the vacancy.
Now that Wynne has been revealed to be an anti-gun extremist who would likely use the power of the TEC to try to “dismantle” the NRA and other conservative groups, one would assume that Straus will no longer be able to move forward with her appointment. But the evidence is clear that Wynne believed she was set to be appointed to the commission and was telling Democratic offices as much in May.
It gets better:
After being caught preparing to appoint to the Texas Ethics Commission an extreme opponent of the Second Amendment who has called for the dismantling of the National Rifle Association, the Texas House Republican Caucus is claiming that Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus has not yet finalized that appointment.
In an unattributed statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, the caucus noted that unnamed caucus representatives had communicated with unnamed persons in Straus’ office and been assured that Straus has not yet appointed the anti-NRA zealot Anne Wynne to the TEC.
Straus himself has yet to speak publicly about the issue raised this week when our own Cary Cheshire uncovered documents showing that since at least mid-May discussions have taken place between Straus’ office, House Democrats and liberal Austin lawyer Anne Wynne. She claimed she would be replacing Paul Hobby as the speaker’s Democrat appointee to the TEC. (Hobby was forced to resign after we reported that he and other members of the “ethics” commission were serving long past the constitutional term limit on the agency’s board.)
But words are important, and so is silence. While some members of the Texas House GOP caucus are subtly claiming Straus will no longer appoint Wynne, Straus himself has said nothing. 
At the TEC itself, Paul Hobby, a Straus appointee, has worked to chill the First Amendment rights of Texans and claimed the agency was allowed to pick and chose which groups had their “due process” rights observed. (Hobby pushed through unconstitutional agency rules that were explicitly forbidden under law and opposed by both state and federal court rulings.) 
The GOP caucus says they “have great confidence” in Straus’ ability to pick “the best” Democrat. This should leave Texans wondering what their – and Joe Straus’ – definition of “best” might be. Straus’ record inspires little confidence that his pick will be one who respects the freedoms of speech and political association. 
But now, by their unsigned words, the Republican Caucus officially owns that appointee, and the rules and decisions that appointee adopts.
Bottom Line:  The GOP conference's statement was the tell.  If there was nothing to this story, they would have ignored it.  Team Straus got sloppy and got caught.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How #ATXCouncil's strange crusade against Innovation threatens basic constitutional protections

"A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."
Proverbs 28:16

Fantastic Statesman op-ed this morning from TPPF about council's anti-AirBNB ordinance:
Already, Uber and Lyft have been driven out of town thanks to municipal micromanagement and ballot language chicanery. Now, the short-term rental industry, which includes companies like HomeAway, Airbnb, and VRBO, also finds itself under assault from an overzealous city council hellbent on regulating every aspect of daily life.
Central in this skirmish is Austin’s new ordinance governing short-term rentals, or STRs. The ordinance, which was approved in February by an overwhelming majority of the Austin City Council by a 9-2 vote, is a near-perfect example of the nanny state run amok.
But as intrusive and inappropriate as these regulations are, it’s the city’s new enforcement powers that are truly unsettling.
To make sure that people are abiding by all of its new rules, Austin has given its code officials the ability to conduct warrantless searches, at all reasonable times, of “all buildings, dwelling units, guest rooms and premises” in search of possible code violations. And since some of the restrictions don’t go into effect until after 10 p.m., officials could well show up in the dead of night to search every nook and cranny of an STR looking for any sign of bad behavior — all without a warrant.
Giving city officials the power to search residential properties without a warrant is not just unwise; it’s downright un-American.
Americans have certain fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. These are not forfeit simply because a person stays as a guest at a short-term rental. Nor are they surrendered because a person legally owns and operates a certain kind of investment property. Austin’s ordinance runs so far afoul of these basic tenets of American society that it deserves nothing short of total repeal.
And that’s where we step in.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jason Isaac talks sense on Marijuana reform

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8

Good for him:
Texans who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana shouldn’t be locked out of jobs and haunted by minor lapses in judgment for the rest of their lives, business and legislative leaders say.

As acceptance of marijuana — medical and otherwise — grows nationally and in Texas, members of both major political parties in the Legislature have staked out positions supporting the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed change could be beneficial for Texas businesses, proponents have said.

State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, told the American-Statesman that too many Texans have missed out on jobs because of criminal records that involve nonviolent drug charges. Isaac said he plans to support decriminalization bills in the upcoming legislative session, which will begin in January, to make sure more Texans can get jobs and not face a lifetime with the stigma of a criminal conviction.
Read the whole thing here.

Texas' Public University salaries will SHOCK you....

So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:21

From the Trib:
For college presidents and chancellors, it pays to work in Texas. 
The Chronicle of Higher Education on Sunday released its annual list of public university executive pay. Three of the nation's top four highest paid university presidents or chancellors work for Texas schools, according to the report. 
University of Houston System Chancellor Renu Khator earned the most in the country, making $1.3 million in total compensation. Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young came in third at $1.13 million and University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven was fourth with $1.09 million.
We're astonished McRaven isn't the most egregious offender; read the whole thing here.