Friday, November 6, 2015

Takeaways From Straus' Interim Charges


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

Joe Straus released a list of 243 interim charges on Wednesday morning; having finally reviewed them, some thoughts:
  • Dan Patrick and Jeff Judson are living rent-free in his head:  The most important aspect of these interim charges is that they were released in the first place.  Dan Patrick released his STRONG conservative interim platform a month ago while Judson has been hammering him for weeks about his failure to act following the Planned Parenthood expose.  Clearly, Straus felt he needed to respond.
  • Priorities: Straus' interim charges fall under three categories: Lobby priorities, "Wide-consensus" priorities, and Conservative priorities; in our estimation, 38% of them were lobby priorities, 51% were wide-consensus, and 11% were conservative.
  • Protecting Byron Cook: State affairs received ten interim charges.  Four address conservative issues: economic collapse preparation, Planned Parenthood, illegal immigration, and union dues.  Cook has already called a hearing over illegal immigration on December 10th and we expect similar show hearings throughout campaign season.
  • LOTS of action for lame duck chairmen:  Jimmie Don Aycock, John Otto, and Jim Keffer are all retiring. Nonetheless Appropriations, Public Ed. and Natural Resources got 37 combined. charges.  The overwhelming majority of those charges are bad.
  • Appropriations, Charge 3: "Examine Texas constitutional spending limits compared to limits utilized in other states, evaluate their effectiveness in maintaining fiscal discipline, and recommend potential modifications, if needed."
  • Appropriations, Charge 16: "Evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Public Safety’s use of funds appropriated during the 84th legislative session for border security operations. Examine existing data and reporting on border security metrics, and recommend improvements to ensure the availability of accurate information in considering sustaining or increasing border security funds."
    • Expect a report full of cheap-labor-lobby/Democrat talking points about the 'effectiveness' of border security efforts without any mention of the Federal 'catch-and-release' program.
  • Business and Industry, Charge 3: "Evaluate how Texas can support shared economy growth in the state. Determine how the state can ensure customer security and satisfaction as well as consumer protections without enacting burdensome regulations. Additionally, study the effects of a growing portion of the state's workforce seeking full-time vs. supplemental part-time employment with related technology-based businesses. Analyze recent debate and legal precedent regarding the classification of these employees."
    • The fact that Straus doesn't use commonly accepted nomenclature to describe the sharing economy illustrates he doesn't understand it (which one would expect from someone who describes the economy the same way as Obama).
  • Criminal Jurisprudence, Charge 3: "Examine the use of asset forfeiture in this state, including data reporting on forfeiture actions and procedures from seizure through forfeiture in both contested and uncontested cases. Make recommendations for improving these systems that balance law enforcement needs, private property rights, and government transparency."
    • Expect a report full of cop-lobbyist talking points about some sort of "vital law enforcement program"
  • Economic and Small Business Development, Charge 2: "Evaluate what local governments are doing to attract businesses to their communities and examine ways the state can leverage these practices and provide support. Include ways to improve local economic development programs to ensure a continued return on investment for taxpayers. In addition, study the authority, financial accountability, and types of statutorily allowed expenditures of economic development corporations. Provide analysis of 4A and 4B sales tax programs and determine if they are still meeting their intended purpose effectively."
    • Taxpayer funded lobbyists and assorted rent-seekers LOVE this one!!!
  • Economic and Small Business Development, Charge 8: "Examine partnerships between higher education institutions, public school districts, and workforce that promote postsecondary readiness. Provide coordination recommendations to ensure vocational, career, and technical education programs are more accessible. Determine the most effective ways to invest in these partnerships and programs to direct at-risk students to stable career paths. Examine current rules and laws limiting employers from providing meaningful internships, apprenticeships, and other opportunities. Consider new methods to finance workforce training programs and associated assets in high schools and postsecondary schools, including ways to reduce or eliminate these costs and options to incentivize businesses to invest in training equipment for schools. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Education)"
    • This WREAKS of Common Core.
  • Elections, Charge 1: "Examine the petition process for addressing local ordinances, the time necessary to prepare a petition, the collection of signatures, and the enforcement of local standards required for a petition to be valid. Make necessary recommendations to clarify the petition process to ensure accountability."
  • Energy Resources, Charge 3: "Study current renewable energy regulations in Texas in order to more effectively balance federal, state and local regulations. Review the rights of Texas landowners who receive royalties, operating fees or monthly production payments to ensure fairness. Explore opportunities to maximize existing wind infrastructure toward the promotion of additional renewable energy development such as co-location for generation and transmission. In addition, consider policy solutions to incentivize colocation of simultaneous surface electricity and mineral energy production."
    • Straus ACTUALLY did an interim charge over 'renewable energy'; we could stop there....
  • Government Transparency and Operation, Charge 3: "Study issues related to access to public information held outside of the custody or control of the governmental body by current or former officers or employees. Assess whether the Public Information Act's procedures for response to repetitious or redundant public information requests adequately protect small governmental bodies from the financial burdens imposed by such requests."
    • NOTHING good can come from this.
  • Higher Education, Charge 3: "Study the affordability and accessibility of undergraduate college education in Texas, including a focus on middle-class students. Analyze the cost of attendance and tuition rates, comparing Texas institutions to their national peers. Review the availability and effectiveness of financial aid programs, and analyze student debt and default rates. Study and recommend ways to promote timely and cost efficient graduation."
    • A source points out this charge is ingenuously worded to look like the leadership actually cares about middle class families, but is carefully littered with UT politburo buzz words.
    • Define "Middle Class."
    • Define "National Peers."
  • Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, Charge 2: "Examine whether family law statutes and those affecting the parent-child relationship provide sufficient guidance to Texas judges as to the appropriate application of foreign law. Consider whether additional statutory provisions regarding application of foreign law could provide useful guidance while preserving judges' ability to consider the circumstances of each case and not needlessly prolonging litigation."
  • Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, Change 6: "Examine the Texas Family Code’s treatment of grandparents in the parent-child relationship, including Chapters 32, 34, 153, 161, and 162 and suggest any changes that may be useful to address the growing population of grandparents and the best interests of Texas children and families."
  • Land and Resource Management, Charge 4: "Examine current regulatory authority available to municipalities in their extraterritorial jurisdiction. Study current annexation policies in Texas. Make necessary legislative recommendations to ensure a proper balance between development, municipal regulations, and the needs of citizens in Texas."
  • Licensing and Administrative Procedure, Charge 1: "Identify all occupations licensed by the state to determine if they are necessary for public safety and health. Determine if any criminal penalties associated with licensure are unnecessarily punitive, recommend methods to improve reciprocity with other states, and determine if a mandatory certification program could be used in lieu of mandatory licensure."
    • Expect a report recommending watered-down half measures that do little to impact the relevant rent-seekers.
  • Licensing and Administrative Procedure, Charge 3: "Explore the increasing incidence of powdered alcohol, its impact on underage drinking, and regulations in other states that have appropriately addressed the various impacts of the product."
    • If he's bringing this one back, then Charlie Geren's getting paid.
  • Natural Resources, Charge 4: "Evaluate the progress of seawater desalination projects near the Texas coast as a means of increasing water supplies and reducing strain on existing supplies, building on the work of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Water Desalination (83rd session). Examine the viability of the use of public-private partnerships and of methods by which the state might facilitate such a project."
  • Public Education, Charge 8: "Study ways to increase parental choice in education, and review the successes and failures of school choice programs in other states. Examine the benefits and costs of implementing such a program in Texas. Recommend whether an expansion of school choice in Texas is needed, and suggest ways to ensure that any school receiving public support is held accountable for its academic and financial performance."
    • Expect a report full of pro-government school propaganda (esp. concerning 'rural school districts') to confuse the debate when the Senate reports.
  • Transportation, Charge 2: "Examine the current framework for designating a project as a tolled road. Consider ways to reduce or eliminate the role of tolled roads in providing congestion relief given recent transportation funding measures approved by the Legislature."
    • Another charge designed to confuse the issue with the Senate.
  • Ways and Means, Charge 1: "Review aspects of the property tax system that contribute to rising property tax levies and taxpayer dissatisfaction. Examine whether the current system allows taxpayers meaningful participation in determining local property tax rates. Explore changes to the appraisal process that could improve the accuracy of appraisals."
    • Another charge designed to confuse the issue with the Senate.
  • Ways and Means, Charge 2: "Assess the impact of a repeal of the franchise tax on the state's economy and on revenue stability for state government. The assessment should include a dynamic analysis of the economic impact."
    • Another charge designed to confuse the issue with the Senate.
Bottom Line: Business as usual.

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