Tuesday, June 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: One interesting, modestly positive, note deeper in the budget

"Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished,
But he who gathers by labor will increase."
Proverbs 13:11

From the Trib story on Abbott signing the budget:
Other portions of the budget didn’t see as much growth. The $84 billion for health and human services programs is up just 1% from the last two-year cycle, and Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is facing a $900 million cut.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

What's interesting about this is, for as much of an insaneo spending spree as they went on over education, there was no equivalent on health care.

From a macroeconomic perspective, if the state were to get serious about health care and Medicaid costs, conceivably we could absorb a rather large increase in education spending.  That's not to say that the other problems in the system would go away.  But it is to say the impact on economic growth could be contained.

Of course, all of this would require several years to play out.

Bottom Line: Probably won't amount to much, but it is a situation worth keeping an eye on....

Monday, June 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: Having lawlessly expanded executive power, Abbott refuses to exercise valid authority

"Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—"
Revelation 3:17

LOL, of course:
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s roughly $250 billion budget Saturday, bringing a session-long effort to address the Legislature’s top priorities — school funding and property taxes — to a close.

A spokesman for Abbott confirmed that the governor signed the budget without issuing a single line-item veto, a mechanism that allows him to shrink the budget where he sees fit.

The 2020-21 budget, which state lawmakers approved in May, includes a significant boost in spending compared with two years ago. Lawmakers had billions of dollars more to spend thanks to a positive economic forecast and revised revenue estimates from oil and natural gas production taxes. Total spending is up 16% from the budget the Legislature approved in 2017.

Much of that extra money went to state leadership’s two legislative priorities for 2019. Abbott has already approved a $11.6 billion school finance package that doled out $6.5 billion in new spending for schools and $5.1 billion to buy down Texans’ property tax bills. In total, the state budget spends $94.5 billion on education, which includes funding for public schools and universities. Not including tax break funds, the Legislative Budget Board calculates that the education portion of the budget grew 10%.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Last Thursday, Abbott invented authority out of thin air to preserve an industry cartel.  On Sunday, he couldn't find a single place to use his constitutional authority on behalf of taxpayers.  Got it.

Bottom Line: Priorities people....

Friday, June 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: Regulated Incumbent Industry SPEWS SEWAGE over Liberty and Rule of Law

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776)

We said our piece yesterday about Abbott's move on the plumbers board.  He needs to get sued.  In case that situation weren't sufficiently depressing, however, we made the mistake of attending this morning's victory lap at the Capitol.

Ayn Rand couldn't have scripted it better.

Speakers listed litany of alleged perils to public "health and safety" from plumbing without papers.  Apparently, a dysfunctional state agency is the only thing standing between Texans and exploding water heaters.  Likewise, according to speakers, that same dysfunctional state agency are the only ones qualified to supervise gas lines.

The speakers seemed hyperbolic.

Also, Soviet style signs:

And this nonsense:

Moving forward, their goal is to maintain the plumbing board as a stand alone agency (with a bigger budget, natch).

Regulatory capture much?!?

Bottom Line: There are few things in life more irritating that when people claim to be protecting the public while they're, in reality, protecting themselves....

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Abbott just established an INSANELY DANGEROUS precedent

"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."
James 1:14

Bad...REALLY bad:
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on August 23, 2017, as subsequently amended on August 26, August 27, August 28, and September 14, 2017, certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for certain counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, on September 20, 2017, and in each subsequent month effective through today, I issued proclamations renewing the disaster declaration; and

WHEREAS, recovery from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey continues for millions of Texans living in no fewer than sixty counties across the state; and

WHEREAS, the magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including through the disaster aid bill signed by President Donald J. Trump on June 6, 2019; and

WHEREAS, a qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects; and

WHEREAS, Texas must also be ready for future disasters, by building sound infrastructure that can withstand major weather or other events and by ensuring that qualified workers stand ready to rebuild, and June 1, 2019, marked the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season; and

WHEREAS, the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, whose mission is “to protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” will continue to play an essential role in all these efforts by ensuring that the plumbers who rebuild Texas and prepare for future disasters do so in a manner that will safeguard public health, safety, and property; and

WHEREAS, Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code provides that the Board is to be abolished on September 1, 2019, along with expiration of the Plumbing License Law, Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1301, because they were not continued in existence by the 86th Legislature pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act, Texas Government Code, Chapter 325; and

WHEREAS, abolition of the Board would threaten recovery efforts, diminish hurricane preparedness, and heighten the dangers I am responsible for meeting under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Texas Government Code, Chapter 418; and

WHEREAS, in Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code, the legislature has empowered the governor to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business . . . if strict compliance with the provisions . . . would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster”; and

WHEREAS, the 86th Legislature further expanded the governor’s authority in Senate Bill 285 by enacting Section 418.128(b) of the Texas Government Code, effective September 1, 2019, pursuant to which, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, the governor may, by executive order, take any action necessary to ensure each state agency . . . is able to respond to a hurricane”; and

WHEREAS, to fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans;

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Texas Constitution and the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, I do hereby suspend Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code to prevent the imminent abolition of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and expiration of the Plumbing License Law on September 1, 2019, and to delay that abolition and expiration until disaster needs subside or the 87th legislature addresses the matter. To facilitate the legislature’s consideration of the issue, this suspension shall have the force and effect of law until May 31, 2021.

This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.

Given under my hand this the 13th day of June, 2019.

This is madness.

He's using Hurricane Harvey as an excuse to extend an unrelated state agency.  Two years after the storm.  We've seen some shoehorns in our life, but none that big.


That being said, it'll be interesting to see how the legislature reacts.  Extending the plumbers board is a function of the legislature, NOT the executive branch.  If the legislature has any self respect (*), they ought to both raise hell AND make the Governor pay.

Bottom Line: It does not take a genius to see how this goes horribly, horribly wrong....


* -- Yeah, we know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#TXLEGE: If you still need proof this Chick-fil-a bill was a joke

"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience."
Ephesians 5:6

LOL, from the Human Rights Campaign:
With the leadership of the LGBTQ Caucus, the Texas legislative session concluded with only one anti-LGBTQ bill, SB 1978, being passed into law. SB 1978 was originally filed as a broad, sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. However, after concerns raised by the LGBTQ Caucus, advocates and other organizations, significant changes were made to the bill. HRC opposed SB 1978, but was pleased that it passed in a form which causes no significant legal harm to the LGBTQ community.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
"No significant legal harm the the LGBTQ community" is lawyer-speak for "does nothing."

This is the substantive equivalent of the SCOTUS Colorado cake-baker case: The legislature addressed the specific actions of the San Antonio city council, but did nothing to address any other sort of abuse that falls outside of that narrow set of circumstances.

Good luck trying to live out your Faith in all the other areas of life.

But at least they were able to convince Fox News they accomplished something (and that's all that really matters).

Bottom Line: Nothing of substance was accomplished, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either a liar or a chump....

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Governor FoxNews successfully PROPAGANDIZES multiple GULLIBLE, LAZY Conservative Media Outlets

"The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps."
Proverbs 14:15

[Note: Leon Wolf at The Blaze published this godawful hot-mess on the exact same subject while we were writing a longer response to the Daily Wire.  For simplicity's sake, we're going to stick with responding to the Daily Wire.  But, if anything, this blog post applies even more to the Blaze (who really SHOULD know better) than the Daily Wire.]

There was a Daily Wire piece going around yesterday that's almost impossible to read if you were paying attention to this past legislative session.  Written by Asche Schow, the article strings together a few Abbott tweets into an undeserved narrative about Abbott's alleged conservatism.  If you want to understand how Abbott ROUTINELY spins national conservative media, yesterday's Daily Wire item is a great place to start.

To begin, Schow writes:
Gov. Greg Abbot (R-TX) had a stellar opening week of June. With few exceptions, the governor lived up to his state’s reputation for defending freedom.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

Schow continues:
In a series of tweets last week that ended up going viral, Abbott announced that he had signed legislation that would protect free speech rights on college campuses, ban red light cameras, and allow people to have beer delivered to their homes.
In fairness to Schow, all of Abbott's actions look good in isolation.  That's why Abbott spins them that way.  But all lack context.


Campus Speech:

About SB 18, Schow writes:
On June 9, Abbott posted another video of himself signing a law — this time in an effort to protect the First Amendment on college campuses.

“Some colleges are banning free speech on college campuses,” Abbott said in the video. “Well, no more because I’m about to sign a law that protects free speech on college campuses in Texas.”

“Shouldn’t have to do it,” he added after signing the bill. “The First Amendment guarantees it. Now, it’s law in Texas.”
Sounds great...until you realize:
  1. The Governor of Texas appoints University Boards of Regents.
  2. Boards of Regents routinely turn a blind eye to speech related abuses.
  3. Similarly, Boards of Regents routinely ignore laws passed by the legislature.
  4. The Texas Senate just rubber stamped all of Abbott's Regent nominees.
Thus, while SB 18 is a (modestly) welcome development, nobody should be under any illusions about the future of higher ed. in Texas.

Which is a shame, because if Abbott were serious about it (and, thus, the Boards of Regents were were serious about it), we could have addressed this issue four years ago.

But how would that help Abbott get puff pieces written about him in the Daily Wire?!?


Beer to Go:

Schow also writes:
Two days later, Abbott posted another tweet, this time of him signing a law that would allow Texas citizens to “order beer and wine from retailers to be delivered to your home.” “Enjoy responsibly,” he added.
Except that Texas is, literally, the last state in the country to allow this.

Maybe not the best example of our Governor "defending freedom?!?"


"Defending Freedom" in general:

In fairness to Schow, she does knock Abbott over the smoking age fiasco:
On Friday, Abbott signed a bill that increases the purchase age of tobacco products — including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes — from 18 to 21. Those in the military are exempted from the law. As CBS Austin reported, supporters of the bill said it would “save lives because 95 percent of smokers start before age 21, and three fourths of adult smokers try their first cigarette before their 18th birthday.”

So now those statistics will just shift until 21. Supporters also failed to note that one does not have to personally purchase cigarettes in order to get their hands on one before they are legally able to purchase.
So that's good.  It certainly illustrates how all is not as it seems in the Texas Legislature.  But still....

Schow's biggest problem is less what she says (ie. sins of commission) and more what she ignores (ie. sins of omission).  Perhaps that's not surprising coming from an author who, according to her own bio, lives in Virginia.  Still, it's unhelpful.

By Schow's own standard, do any of the following sound like they're "defending freedom?!?"

  • Creating a "mental health consortium" (through lawless means) in the name of "school safety."  At best, this boondoggle will subsidize shoving more Addreall type drugs down children's throats.  At worst, God only knows the unintended consequences....
  • Raising taxes on ordinary Texans to finance abatements for those who can afford lobbyists.
    • Note for #TXLEGE nerds: Chapter 312 and 313 renewal.
  • Not a DAMN THING on Guns.
In that context, does it sound like our Governor is "defending freedom?!?"


Why this matters:

Like it or not, outlets like Fox News, the Daily Wire, and the Blaze have far more influence over Texas voters than all state level outlets combined.

When they unquestioningly regurgitate Greg Abbott's propaganda, it enables all sorts of other bad behavior from Abbott (examples listed above).


 Why this matters for Texas going blue:

Every time government expands, it creates new political constituencies for big government.  If Republicans expand government enough, eventually, those new constituencies start electing Democrats.  It's what happened in Ms. Schow's home state of Virginia.

As long as Greg Abbott is getting these sorts of headlines from national conservative outlets, he will NEVER do the hard work of taking on those afore mentioned constituencies.

If those constituencies keep growing, then...eventually...you know.


Bottom Line: Texas is less free as a result of the 86th legislative session.  Greg Abbott is a big part of the reason why.  Unfortunately, nothing will change as long as national conservative outlets keep swallowing his propaganda....

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chip Roy will LOSE if he campaigns against "Hollywood and Manhattan elites"

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14

It's not a secret that Wendy Davis is probably running against Chip Roy; unfortunately, Chip's opening salvo is depressing beyond words:

This is an idiotic strategy that is doomed to fail.


Or at least: No swing voter or soft partisan in CD-21 cares.  CD-21 is Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country.  Swing voters/Soft partisans in CD-21 are the type of people who travel to places like New York City and Southern California.  They might not like the policies of those places, but they will roll their eyes at this sort of nonsense.

Campaigning against "Hollywood" is intellectually-lazy claptrapIt's a dying playbook.  We strongly suspect that, in Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country, it's already dead.  If anything, it will produce negative returns.

Bottom Line: This is the stupidest political attack since Ted Cruz's campaign went after hair dye....