Friday, February 24, 2017

Bonnen prioritizes Lobbyists and Liberals on taxes....

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

Fun times: Two months into the 85th Texas legislature, the Texas House's tax writing committee is finally going to hold their first hearing this coming Wednesday; you'll never guess who Chairman Dennis Bonnen invited to testify (actually, you'll totally guess):

For those who've never heard of them: The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a left wing think tank while the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association is the go-to "policy analysis" shop for every big business lobbyist at the Capitol.

Notice who's NOT on the list: The Texas Public Policy Foundation.

What this means: Lots of special-interest carve out bills along with a staged fight to "prevent tax increases."


Bottom Line: With Dennis Bonnen chairing the Ways and Means committee again this session, this isn't even remotely surprising though it is both revealing and (in it's own weird way) pretty funny.

Daily Texan editor's race descends into anti-first amendment charade....

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7

The Daily Texan has a curious way of choosing its editor-in-chief each year.

Candidates write editorials laying out their vision, and then UT-Austin students vote online to “weigh in” on who gets the position (it’s not clear what effect this vote has).

The two candidates for the term starting June 1 are Janhavi Nemawarkar and Laura Hallas, and while they have contrasting visions for the job, both fundamentally misunderstand what role the public university can legally play in regulating offensive speech.

In her editorial, Nemawarkar expressed worry about the rise of white nationalist Richard Spencer and anti-feminist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. (Both editorials were published Friday, before unearthed comments by Yiannopoulos on age-of-consent laws blew up CPAC and his book deal.)

What should be our response to the protests and violence in reaction to these two? According to Nemawarkar, “we must learn to balance the protection of free speech with the fight against the normalization of these racist ideologies”:
There is a distinct difference between engaging in a contentious dialogue and the type of hate speech that emboldens racists. It is the role of students, organizations, student-run media and professors to ensure that open, wide-ranging discussions continue on campus. But in the interest of supporting students of color, students and university administrators must draw a line and ensure that individuals who espouse specifically hostile views are not validated by receiving a platform to speak here.
What she’s saying is UT administrators should be allowed to prevent (or threatened into preventing) student groups and faculty from inviting the speakers of their choice to campus, based on their views:

Speech can’t be taken in a vacuum — Donald Trump’s presidential election victory was accompanied by an outbreak of hate crimes around the country, including on college campuses.

Hallas makes a better argument in her editorial, but just barely....Yet Hallas also makes an unconstitutional proposal, that the university has the right to compel speech by members of its community:
And if Yiannopoulos wanted to come to campus? Let him show his ignorance, but with preconditions. … Yiannopoulos may come if he likes, but he should submit to some fact checking in order to speak. Universities can protect free speech and host controversial speakers without compromising their informative missions.

Granting someone an open stage can feel uncomfortably close to an endorsement. The University should allow civil rights leaders and immigration lawyers to speak alongside such a speaker to prevent false equivalency. If this option doesn’t exist, students should fight for such a policy or review process.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: As long as Governor FoxNews continues to nominate, and as long as the Texas Senate continues to confirm, pro-status quo regents...nothing will change.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Zerwas refuses to condemn subsidizing heroin addiction (while telling other bald faced lies)....

"The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of wisdom.
Proverbs 10:21

We attended appropriations chairman John Zerwas' trib event this morning.  It was the finest form in which we'd seen a Straus lieutenant in some time.  Our question about medicaid (to which the headline refers) is the final question in the video:


  • Something, something "new sources of revenue."
  • Calls Senate budget "austere."
    • Note: LOLOLOL....
  • "Reasonable" medicaid growth.
  • "I don't think anyone wants to go back" to 2011 education budget 'cuts.'
    • Personally, we'd like to eliminate socialized education in it's entirety; failing that, we'd love to cut it a LOT further than they went in '11.
  • Wants appropriations committee budget vote to be unanimous.
  • School finance requires: "undistracted period of time."
    • Tacit endorsement of special session.
    • Backtracks when he realizes he just endorsed a special session and calls for yet another 'study' during the interim.
  • Endorses continued funding of state level border operations.
  • Offers qualified praise of Obamacare.
    • Repeal must be "very carefully thought out."
    • Something, something people who obtained insurance under Obamacare need to be taken care of.
  • Tax relief: "Going to be a challenge."
    • "We need to fund our schools our responsibilities in Health Care" before tax relief.
  • Rainy day fund: "We have to have a conversation" on a raid.
  • Supplemental: "Will be out in the near future."
    • Calls it a "one time expense" re: RDF.
    • On what planet is medicaid not an ongoing expense?!?
  • Parental Educational Choice: "I have to support my public school system."
    • No "at this time."
  • Throws privacy act under the bus.
  • No public conference committee on budget.
    • "We have to get the work done."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

About SB 18 -- An Open Letter to Chairman Kel Seliger....

"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord."
Colossians 3:20

Dear Chairman Seliger,

I had to work during today's hearing on SB 18.  Had I been able to attend the hearing, I would have testified on the bill without taking a position.  Consider this note the equivalent of written testimony.

First things first, thank you for your attention to the tuition issue.  As we discussed at TPPF's policy orientation, I think a wide range of options should be on the table for the tuition issue.  Furthermore, I want to state publicly that considering the degree to which we haven't always seen eye to eye on higher education policy, for you to consider this bill with the promptness that you have is a tangible action I notice and appreciate.

That being said, SB 18 makes me nervous.

Specifically, SB 18 only ends mandatory tuition set asides.  The Universities are still free to engage in the practice, it's just no longer required.  Thus, I'm afraid SB 18 will produce a lot of sound and fury (and inflame the identity politics crowd) without changing much on the ground.

SB 19 is a much stronger approach.  A hard tuition freeze would be a tangible step over which the University of Texas Board of Regents various governing bodies of the various public universities could not defy the legislature.  Furthermore, it would be a lot harder for the House to kill it would be significantly more likely to attract meaningful bi-partisan support.

Thus, I encourage you hold a hearing on SB 19 at the earliest practical date.

But again, thank you for making this issue a priority.  Indeed, I'm pleased that you've already voted it out of committee before I'd even sat down to write this note.  I look forward to seeing similar action on SB 19 shortly.

Adam Cahn
Austin, TX
February 22, 2017

About Texas Constitutional Carry...and the NRA: An open letter to Dana Loesch

"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


First things first, as I was sitting down to write this post literally before I logged into blogger, I saw that New Hampshire passed Constitutional Carry this morning; good for them!!!

But congrats on the new NRA gig.

Let's talk business: The reason I'm writing today is because we both support constitutional carry in Texas; but, absent significant public pressure, it ain't gonna happen.

To complicate matters, the NRA's Texas affiliate has historically been absent on constitutional carry; as Cary Cheshire reported in January:
In a memo to members informing them of what to expect from the Texas Legislature, the Texas State Rifle Association omitted the top legislative priority of the state’s Republican Party and what is likely to be the most contentious gun-related issue of the session: constitutional carry.

Voted as the number one priority of the Republican Party of Texas by delegates at the 2016 GOP Convention in Dallas, “constitutional carry” refers to removing the licensing requirement for Texans to carry a handgun.

Though conservative State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Beford) pre-filed the legislation in November, thus far the Texas GOP has been glaringly silent with Chairman Tom Mechler refusing to endorse the measure publicly or respond to repeated requests for comment.

The TSRA, which claims on its website to support “the fewest restrictions for law-abiding Texas gun owners,” doesn’t mention the legislation at all in a recent letter to members.
In fairness to TSRA, they got on board following Cary's post.   But they've always been re-active instead of proactive.  And that's a charitable interpretation.

But, given that we're nearly a third of the way through the current legislative session, let's leave the past in the past.

Where do things stand now?!?

HB 375 by Jonathan Stickland is the only credible constitutional carry bill to have been filed in either chamber.  While a second toothless House bill was filed last week, that bill is a distraction designed to create the appearance of second amendment activity without meaningful accomplishment.  In the Senate, they have until March 10 to file a companion bill (Don Huffines carried it last session).

So, absent a Senate bill getting filed in the next two weeks, HB 375 is the only path forward.

HB 375 was recently referred to the Homeland Security committee, chaired by Phil King; right now, the bill needs a hearing.

Rep. Phil King: (512) 463-0738

What can we use from the NRA?!?

Thousands of phone calls.

If the NRA did an e-mail blast to their Texas members, that would generate more than enough pressure to get the bill moving; if they did the same thing at every other stage of the process (four stages total), there's a decent chance it passes.

But, absent the sort of numbers only the NRA can bring, it ain't gonna happen.

And, considering your new gig, you're now in a position to help make that happen.

Thanks for reading.

February 22, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tinderholt proposes reigning in program recently seen Subsidizing Heroin Addiction

“A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
But a faithful ambassador brings health.”
Proverbs 13:17

There's been a longer piece about the personal tragedies being wrought by the decrepit national economy making the rounds on social media the past few days; it contains this gem about the Medicaid program in Ohio:
But how did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program. Here is how it works (we are with Quinones in Portsmouth, Ohio):
[The Medicaid card] pays for medicine—whatever pills a doctor deems that the insured patient needs. Among those who receive Medicaid cards are people on state welfare or on a federal disability program known as SSI. . . . If you could get a prescription from a willing doctor—and Portsmouth had plenty of them—Medicaid health-insurance cards paid for that prescription every month. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.
In 21st-century America, “dependence on government” has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.

You may now wish to ask: What share of prime-working-age men these days are enrolled in Medicaid? According to the Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent). And for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.
Which makes the recently filed HB 1871 by Tony Tinderholt all the more important:
Representative Tinderholt Files HB 1871 to Audit Medicaid

In an effort to protect the integrity of Medicaid and ensure taxpayer dollars are not being wasted, State Representative Tony Tinderholt has filed HB 1871 to audit the state Medicaid program.  
Most Texans agree the elimination of abuse and fraud from government programs is important. HB 1871 requires Medicaid recipients recertify their eligibility when current benefits expire. It also begins a quarterly audit of the program. Qualified individuals would be notified to ensure they continue receiving uninterrupted care during the recertification and audit processes. 
Tinderholt commented on his bill saying, "To make sure resources are available to fund programs like Medicaid, we must stamp out waste in the system. It is our duty as legislators to monitor agency spending and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in an efficient manner." 
While exact estimates vary, experts conclude Medicaid waste numbers in the tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States. While funding comes from a number of sources, including state and federal agencies, individual states exhibit the greatest control of finding fraud in the program.    
Tinderholt said, "If people are receiving benefits to which they are not entitled, we have to get that under control. We want to be sure the funds are there for those that need them most." 
As a combat veteran, Tony has spent much of his life fighting to protect the life and liberty of others. This bill continues that fight. Tony Tinderholt represents District 94 where he lives with his wife Bethany in Arlington. Tony is a proud father, combat veteran, and conservative Republican. He was ranked the 3rd most conservative legislator of the 150 Texas Representatives.
While we're on the subject, learn more about Texas specific examples of Medicaid abusing the vulnerable here.

Bottom Line: Medicaid has always been a fiscal trainwreck, but when socialized medicine subsidizes the drug abuse we owe it to our vulnerable citizens to curtail this abusive program.  In other words, we owe it to both ourselves and the recipients.  That's win/win.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The most important step #TXLEGE can take to rein in ever-increasing housing costs....

"They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
Isaiah 65:21

We finally got around to reading the paper on land-use restrictions that TPPF released last year; the whole thing is worth a gander, but the following recommendation is, by far, the single most important step the legislature can take to rein in housing costs:
Strengthen statutory protections against regulatory takings in Sec. 2007.003, Government Code.

Although the Texas Constitution prohibits state and local governments from taking private property without adequate compensation, the judiciary has all but limited the provision’s application to physical intrusions and/or seizures. In the instance of a regulatory taking—that is when the government restricts an owner’s right to use his land, thereby markedly reducing its value—Texans have to rely on the Private Real Property Protection Act of 1995 for a remedy. Lawmakers, however, exempted municipalities from the Act’s reach, enabling them to impose heavy-handed restrictions on a parcel’s land use without ever having to worry about the costs inflicted on the owner and/ or prospective seller. By closing that exemption, and by applying the compensation requirement to municipal regulations that diminish a property’s value by at least 20 percent, the Texas Legislature would force local governments to confront and assess the real consequences of their land use and zoning policies. Local governments would still have the power to zone for compatible uses, but the worst manifestations of that power. In other words, those policies that have the gravest impact on housing development would be discouraged.
Read the whole thing here.


It's worth pointing out that, before he became Lt. Governor, then-Senator Dan Patrick filed bills related to this subject (that died without a hearing)...which means an advocate exists in leadership.  Craig Estes filed a similar bill (that met a similar fate) last session.  We've heard rumors there will be a reprisal this session, but so far that appears to be more talk than action.