Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#TXLEGE: Patrick escalates JUVENILE Conflict with Seliger


"Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?"
Proverbs 6:27

We said what we said on Saturday.

Today we're here:



Which begs the natural follow up question:


Followed by this:



Followed by this:



And this:


via GIPHY


It would have been one thing if Patrick and Seliger had had a falling out over a policy issue. Instead, it's over personality.  And the worst part is that Patrick both started and escalated it.

Historically, Dan Patrick has been pretty good at managing the more moderate members of both the R and the D caucuses.  The key is that you allow the moderates in question to pass a lot of small, relatively, inconsequential bills.  Then the moderate either supports Patrick, or stays out of the way, on Patrick's major priorities.  Case in point: Kevin Elitife two sessions ago.

But for some reason, even though it's the obvious play to make with Seliger, Patrick chooses this route.

It's mystifying.

That being said, even at this late date, 3 facts remain the case:
  • Dan Patrick needs Kel Seliger more than Kel Seliger needs Dan Patrick.
  • Kel Seliger still needs Dan Patrick badly enough that it's in Kel Seliger's interest to find a way to stay on the reservation.
  • The price of keeping Kel Seliger on the reservation goes up each time you have one of these public blowups.
Unfortunately, it remains an open question whether anyone in a position of authority recognizes the afore mentioned facts.

Bottom Line:  These are unforced errors.  They need to end.  Right now.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Shelia Jackson Lee, Harris County D's, Need to Answer VERY Serious Questions


"He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."
Proverbs 28:13

ICYMI, late last week:
WASHINGTON — A former staffer for Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims in a new lawsuit that the lawmaker retaliated against her and fired her because she was planning to pursue legal action over an alleged rape by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones. The woman said she reported the alleged rape to police and told several people, including Rep. Terri Sewell, her former boss and a distant relative of her mother’s, but did not pursue legal action at the time.

Several years later, when Jane Doe was working for Jackson Lee, the woman decided she did want to pursue legal action, and told Jackson Lee’s chief of staff Glenn Rushing in early March 2018. The woman alleges that she asked to speak with Jackson Lee about it, but a meeting never happened, and several weeks later she was fired. Jackson Lee is chair of the board for the CBCF.

Jones did not return requests for comment. After leaving the CBCF in late 2015, he continued to work in Democratic politics and recently served as the regional political director for former representative Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign. Chris Evans, a spokesperson for the O’Rourke campaign, said in an email to BuzzFeed News, “The Beto for Texas campaign was absolutely not aware of these allegations until today and no longer has a relationship with Damien Jones.”

Rushing told BuzzFeed News in a phone call that “We had nothing to do with any of the actions that have been cited and the person was not wrongfully terminated.” He declined to answer additional questions.

Jackson Lee's office later released a statement pointing to the congresswoman's record on civil rights and non-discrimination measures, and saying that the office "adamantly denies the allegations that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated, the plaintiff. It is against office policy to discuss specific details about internal personnel matters."

"Although the Congresswoman is eager to respond substantively, she will do so only at the appropriate time, as the court docket dictates. The Congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her Office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest," Jackson Lee's office said. "While we still deny the allegations, we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged, and provided opportunities for over 20 years."

Marc Banks, a spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview that he did not know whether there had been any communication between the foundation and Jackson Lee's office about the rape allegation against Jones or Jane Doe's plan to sue the foundation. But he said that a decision to fire a congressional staffer was "outside the purview of the foundation."

"We would have no reason to harm the former intern," Banks said.

Banks said that the foundation took "immediate and swift action" to fire Jones after investigating Jane Doe's allegations, but he was "not privy" to what the foundation learned in the course of that review.

....

In late 2017, Jane Doe took a job in Jackson Lee’s congressional office. Soon after she was hired, according to the lawsuit, Jane Doe learned that Jones might be hired in Jackson Lee’s office, and she told Rushing that she had a “prior situation” with Jones and would not be comfortable working together. Rushing allegedly told her that he understood and didn’t end up hiring Jones “because he had a situation with CBCF and they could not have him working in the office as a result.”

In early March 2018, Jane Doe told Rushing that she had learned “more about her case involving Mr. Jones and CBCF” and was planning to go forward with legal action, according to the complaint. Jane Doe said she asked to speak with Jackson Lee, and Rushing agreed, but no meeting took place. On March 29, she said she was told she was being fired because of budget issues.

Jane Doe’s lawsuit describes times she said she spent driving Jackson Lee in her personal car she and alleges she was pressured by Jackson Lee and Rushing to get a new car after her car was damaged in an accident. When she was fired, she said that in addition to being told it was because of budget issues, that Rushing also told her, “It didn’t help that you lied about the car.” It was not immediately clear from court filings what that was a reference to.

Jane Doe alleges that the budget-related explanation was a pretext and that Jackson Lee retaliated against her for planning to take action against the CBCF related to the alleged rape.
Over the weekend:
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is refusing demands to step down as leader of the Congressional Black Caucus’ nonprofit arm amid claims she fired one of her congressional staffers over rape allegations.

Jackson Lee was told by the CBC Foundation’s board to resign during a lengthy call on Thursday night, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation. Jackson Lee resisted those demands, and the call abruptly ended as other board members were trying to figure out how to continue the conversation without the Texas Democrat.

Jackson Lee has also been pressured by leadership within the CBC to step down from her position with the foundation, according to one of the sources. The foundation’s board was expected to have another emergency call Friday night to assess the situation.

....

Following Jackson Lee’s refusal to step aside, at least one board member stepped down, and sources with knowledge of the situation say more are expected to follow if Lee remains. Cathy Hughes, a media executive and entrepreneur, resigned from the board, according to the two sources. Hughes, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Wow.

This looks like a very serious situation.  Obviously, we don't know all the facts.  But some early questions are unavoidable.

 Among them:
  • What was the nature of the alleged "budget issue" that caused Shelia Jackson Lee to fire Jane Doe?!?
  • Why the heck would Sheila Jackson Lee hire someone with this much baggage in the first place?!?
  • Did Shelia Jackson Lee ever inform the O'Rourke campaign about the accusations against Damien Jones?!?
That last question is especially relevant given that Damien Jones is accused of raping a young woman who was his direct professional subordinate.

The best case scenario is grotesque negligence mixed with an awfully big coincidence.  Not impossible...but the odds seem long.  Possibilities get worse from there.

-------

O'Rourke:



National conservative media outlets are trying to make this about O'Rourke.  That's a mistake.  While things could change, we believe Shelia Jackson Lee bears significantly more culpability than O'Rourke.  It was Lee's responsibility to inform O'Rourke, not vice versa.

Except...for Borris Miles.

During the campaign, we made a big deal out of the fact that O'Rourke held a campaign event with Borris Miles [Note: THIS Borris Miles].  We didn't remark upon it at the time, but Shelia Jackson Lee was the third elected official at that event.  Given what we've just learned about Damien Jones being the link between O'Rourke and Shelia Jackson Lee, to also include Borris Miles at that event seems...newly significant.

The Texas Observer has more:
At a block-walk event on Houston’s South Side earlier that day, Damien Jones, Beto’s political director for the Houston area, laid out the stakes. “Two years ago,” Jones pronounced in his red Chucks and a black-and-white “BETO” trucker hat, “many of us had many regrets about what happened — that we didn’t do enough. This is the time to leave it all on the field. We can’t have any regrets this time.”

O’Rourke has assembled perhaps the most impressive ground game of any statewide Democrat in a generation — and the campaign is trying to reach deep into black communities.
In other words, the O'Rourke campaign was trying to "reach deep into black communities" by hiring Damien Jones to work with Borris Friggin' Miles.

"Reach deep into" indeed.

-------

Other Harris County Democrats (especially Sylvester Turner):

As the de facto leader of the Democrats in Harris County, Mayor Turner could clean up this activity if he wanted.

Instead, from Friday night:

Earlier Today:


In other words, in light of what we learned last week, the de facto leader of the Democrats chose to attend 2 events with Shelia Jackson Lee (one of which also included Borris Miles).

Furthermore, consider that in the picture with O'Rourke shown above, Rodney Ellis is the third person in the photo.

So you've got Rodney Ellis hanging out with Damien Jones at the same time you've got Sylvester Turner doing events with Shelia Jackson Lee and Borris Miles.

With this much smoke, imagine the fire.

-------

Bottom Line: There seem to be an awfully high number of awfully big coincidences surrounding this story.  Most, though certainly not all, seem to surround Shelia Jackson Lee.  She's certainly the best place to start....

Saturday, January 19, 2019

#TXLEGE: Patrick, Seliger, and Playing with Fire....


"Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?"
Proverbs 6:27

Yesterday, we said "time will tell" as it relates to Seliger's committee assignments.  Initial reports are in.  They're not good:
Seliger said he looks forward to championing agricultural issues and that education legislation will remain a top priority. But the senator, who’s back in his Panhandle-area district for the long weekend, said many in the area are feeling “dismayed and disrespected.”

“It’s not what I desired,” Seliger said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “There’s a negative reaction in this district, because [the finance committee] is a good position to try and do the things that are important in an area in West Texas that seems to have to fight for everything, from a budgetary point of view.”

“I know exactly what motivated the change. It was a couple of ‘no’ votes for the lieutenant governor’s priorities in 2017,” the longtime higher education chairman said. “It was a very clear warning to the Republicans that if you get off the reservation, you better be careful.”
Hoo boy.

Patrick's staff replies:
"If Senator Seliger believes serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee — a critical committee for West Texas and all of rural Texas — is beneath him, he should let us know and the Lt. Governor will appoint someone else," said Sherry Sylvester, the Patrick advisor.
Yowza.

This is bad; if it's not resolved quickly, it will consume the session.

-------

Understand something: Dan Patrick needs Kel Seliger's vote (during the regular session).

It takes 19 votes to pass a bill in the Texas Senate (during the regular session).  There are 19 Republicans.  If Patrick loses Seliger, he has to find a Democrat.

Depending on the issue, it might not be impossible to find some Democrats, but it's a lot easier to pass bills with Seliger on board.

-------

There's nothing wrong with removing Seliger from higher ed.  While we had no complaints about his chairmanship last session (he passed the two bills we wanted passed), there's a fairly obvious case for replacing him.  Furthermore, now that his wife is head of the Texas Exes, one could argue it's a conflict of interest.

But tossing Seliger from Finance was STUPID.

Finance is a gigantic committee.  One member's vote doesn't change anything (esp. now that property taxes have been moved to a separate committee).  Keeping the Finance appointment as a courtesy pick to a senior member Senator have been a no-brainer.

Instead, Dan Patrick just gratuitously insulted that senior Senator at a time when the Senator in question has a lot of leverage.

-------

The worst part is that there was an obvious path to placate Seliger; it should have at least been tried.

Kel Seliger is a legislator who, every session, has about a zillion priorities.  Obviously, many conflict with conservative priorities.  But a decent number of them don't.

It doesn't take a genius to envisage a deal where Seliger gets all of his lower profile stuff in exchange for supporting Patrick's high profile stuff.

As cooler heads prevail, here's hoping that still happens.  But the cost for Seliger's cooperation just went up.  And it will continue to rise as long as this conflict festers.

-------

Let's not overlook the potential nightmare of Seliger on Nominations.

Evan Smith hasn't:



Kel freezes over indeed.

-------

For all that, remember one other thing: Kel Seliger also needs Dan Patrick.  Not as bad as the other way.  But bad enough.

For as much leverage as Seliger possesses during the regular session, it evaporates in a special.  The Texas Senate operates under completely different rules during a special.  This is something Seliger already knows, but it's something about which he should be reminded.

If Kel Seliger is the only reason for a special session, he should get nothing.

-------

Bottom Line: Dan Patrick and Kel Seliger can both accomplish more by working together than by feuding.  That's still true.  Hopefully, cooler heads prevail.

Friday, January 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: Initial Thoughts on Senate Committee Assignments


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Proverbs 29:2

Senate Committee assignments are out:



Thoughts:
  • Schwertner out, Kolkhorst in, at HHS -- Given what we just said, to see Lois Kolkhorst take over for Charles Schwertner is...to put it mildly...ironic.

    Beyond that aspect, however, this is a strange assignment.  Kolkhorst's background is in Oil and Gas, not health care.  Why her?!?  Why here?!?

    It's not like there's a shortage of Doctors in the Texas Senate.
  • That being said, good precedent on Schwertner -- We've been arguing for over a year that loss of committee chairs was the most important sanction we could impose on legislators who engage in funny business.  However bizarre that route it took to get to this place might have been, that precedent is now established.
     
  • Seliger to chair new Ag. committee -- Tough to know what to make of this one.  On the one hand, it's easy to view it as a demotion.  On the other hand, it's also easy to see how this is a good fit with Seliger's district.

    Only time will tell.

    If it is a demotion, however, beware the wrath of Seliger down the line.
  • Solid Conservatives on Education
  • Creighton in at Higher Ed. -- Ummmmmm?!?

    We've never known Brandon Creighton to have any particular interest in Higher ed. issues.  So this is...odd.  On the one hand, Creighton has historically tended to vote solidly.  On the other hand, he's not somebody who likes to upset the apple cart.

    Tough to know how that breaks on Higher Ed. issues.

    Longhorn.
  • Buckingham in at Nominations -- This could be interesting.

    Last session, Dawn Buckingham was the only Senator who even showed a pulse during the UT regent confirmation process.  We have no idea if they will be, but Regent confirmations should be an even bigger issue this session.  None of them are great, but Buckingham's record on this subject is less bad that most of the others.

    That being said, if Buckingham puts down her foot on regent confirmations, Watson, Seliger, and Alvarado will go BALLISTIC.  We have no idea how that plays out.  But it would be really entertaining to watch.  If nothing else, it would be a healthy debate to have in public.

    We've also signed onto the coalition letter related to the Sec'y of State confirmation.
  • Plum assignments for Flores
  • Business as usual for Borris Miles -- Obviously, he doesn't have a chairmanship to lose but Economic Development and HHS are...not bad.
Bottom Line: No obvious roadblocks on any major issues.  Couple interesting personnel moves.  We shall see.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Paxton forces Travis County (Democrat) Judge to rebuke LAWLESS City of Austin!!!


"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me."
Nehemiah 4:18

Gnarly:
The City of Austin violated state law by banning licensed handgun holders from entering City Hall with firearms, a Travis County District Court judge ruled today.

Judge Lora Livingston of the 261st Civil District Court fined the city $1,500 for each of six instances in which investigators with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office were denied entry to City Hall. The total fine was $9,000.

Paxton's office sued after Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill filed a complaint with the AG's office saying he had been denied entry to city hall on several occasions.

Livingston cited a provision of Texas law that bans any state agency or political subdivision of the state from prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns in government buildings with a few exceptions, including at open government meetings or in government courts. The city had argued it should be allowed to ban guns from the building because it “maintains office space for court personnel.”

....

“The city of Austin cannot violate the open carry law or any other law the Texas Legislature has enacted simply because they disagree with it,” Paxton said in a statement after the ruling.
Bottom Line: You know the violation of the law is FLAGRANT when a Travis County judge is forced to side with Ken Paxton and Michael Cargill over the City of Austin!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Mary Gonzalez adopts Top YCT Priority


"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
Galatians 5:16

This session keeps getting curiouser and curiouser:



Followed by this:


Gonzalez's bill would repeal the horrifically misnamed so-called tuition 'deregulation' scheme the legislature passed in 2003.  Gonzalez would freeze tuition at the rate of this coming fall semester.  After that, tuition increases would require an affirmative act of the legislature.

Repealing so-called tuition "deregulation" has been a priority of this website for at least five yearsJust last week, we identified it as an important forward looking reform.  So yeah

Bottom Line: This was not something we expected, but we'll take it.

#TXLEGE: Nelson's teacher pay proposal **MIGHT** be a good start


"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

We've seen conflicting chatter about the teacher pay bill introduced yesterday in the Senate.  So we decided to so something crazy.  We read the bill:

SB 3 -- Nelson teacher pay ... by on Scribd



Thoughts:

  • Nelson's bill doesn't do anything obviously bad.  It's a simple, straightforward, state level expenditure for a specific purpose.  None of the shenanigans the educrat lobby sometimes likes to play.
    • Note: So far.
  • Any state expenditures authorized under this bill will, by definition, go into the classroom.
  • State provides a long term funding mechanism.
  • That being said, it's certainly not cheap.  It's very valid to fear Nelson's proposal will be expensive and ineffective.  Across the board raises don't incentivize good performance.
  • Section 1 (c) of the bill specifically leaves room for a merit pay program along the lines of what the Governor has proposed.  That's probably coming soon.  Still, we'd rather see the money that's going for this proposal going to that one.
  • One the other hand (ie. counting votes in the Senate), if an across the board teacher raise is what takes to pass a merit pay system, that might not be the worst trade.
  • Like it or not, this proposal is a reflection of the current political reality.
Bottom Line: Obviously, all the standard disclaimers about it being early and the devil being in the details still apply, but this isn't the worst proposal we've ever seen come out of the legislature.