Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wallace Hall Gets a Date with SCOTX!!!


"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Marvelous:
The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday that it will decide whether University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. should be provided records from an internal investigation into favoritism in admissions to UT.

Acknowledging that Hall’s term as regent ends Feb. 1, the court also set an unusually rapid pace by scheduling oral arguments for Jan. 11 — giving both sides only a dozen days to prepare for an event that features frequent interruptions from justices seeking input on often esoteric points of law.

The pace shouldn’t be a problem, Hall lawyer Joe Knight said Friday, because both sides recently submitted their legal briefs, which also were set on an expedited schedule.

“Everything should be pretty fresh on the minds of all the lawyers involved,” he said.

If Hall were to prevail at the Supreme Court, Knight said he believes there will be enough time to review the records, which are electronically stored, and formulate a report for the rest of the Board of Regents.

“While his term expires Feb. 1, he retains the office until his successor is nominated by the governor, confirmed by the Senate and sworn in — and we really don’t know what date that will be,” Knight said. “It’s not like he has stacks of paper to go through or would have to crawl through a warehouse. He’ll be able to very efficiently skim through things that may not be important and focus on those things that are.”

....

It would set a dangerous precedent, Hall told the state Supreme Court, if university officials were allowed to withhold information from regents who are sworn to oversee the school.
Read the whole thing here.

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It's pretty much impossible for this event to have better timing: January 11th is the day after the legislature returns to town.

Consider the following:
  • If you're Joe Straus, considering that you were one of the worst abusers of the secret admissions program, this is literally the last issue you want to see dominate the first month of session.
  • If you're Greg Abbott, and you want to quietly cycle Wallace Hall off of the Board of Regents, this blows that plan to smithereens!!!
  • If you're the Texas Senate, this can only stiffen your spine to stall the confirmation process for three months take a "deliberative and thoughtful" approach to confirming any potential new regents.
    • Author's Note: If the Senate is smart, they'll refuse to confirm anyone to the UT Board and come back in 2019 with 6 vacancies (ie. a MAJORITY of the 9 member Board).
This whole fiasco resembles baseball and steroids.  Similar to Major League Baseball, had the UT politburo and the Texas Legislature simply dealt with the issue in an open and transparent manner, they could have left it in the rear-view mirror years ago.  Instead, they chose to bully, cover-up, and stonewall...which only led to a bigger, more expensive, public relations fiasco.

Bottom Line: That this will come to a head the day after the legislature returns to town is pretty much the greatest act of poetic justice possible; what starts here changes the world, get your Horns UP!!!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Anti-Paxton special prosecutor: Unindicted Co-Conspiritor in Federal Racketeering Case


"For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Galatians 6:8

From yesterday's Houston Chronicle:
Federal prosecutors are fighting to have two Houston lawyers banned from representing the former head of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, saying the lawyers are "unindicted co-conspirators" in the racketeering case involving murder, drug dealing and other crimes.

In federal court papers filed recently, prosecutors ask that prominent Houston lawyer Kent Schaffer and his law partner, James Kennedy, be disqualified from the case.

The filings accuse Schaffer of furthering Bandidos' operations by reviewing court papers for all members charged in any criminal case, to root out who might be cooperating with the government in exchange for leniency.
It gets better:
An indictment naming former organization President Jeff Pike and others contends the Bandidos is a criminal enterprise engaged in murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion and drug trafficking, among other crimes. The outlaw motorcycle gang began in the Houston area in the 1960s.

Bemporad left the door open for prosecutors to show him more evidence against Schaffer, which appears to be included in a 20-page document recently filed in court. The judge has since set a Jan. 6 hearing on the matter.

In the document, prosecutors contend they have recordings of conversations in which Bandidos discuss Schaffer's alleged work for the organization, including reviewing all legal paperwork to look for snitches.

Reviewed paperwork

Prosecutors said that multiple Bandidos will testify at trial that members were required to turn in legal paperwork, when they were arrested, to higher-ranking members so that it could be reviewed for signs of cooperation.

"Several members will testify that Mr. Schaffer was one of the attorneys that paperwork was taken to," according to the documents. "Two witnesses will testify that the Bandidos (organization) maintained a retainer with Mr. Schaffer for future work in defending its leadership from criminal charges."

Prosecutors further contend that Schaffer is so intertwined in Bandidos business that he can't be permitted to represent the ex-Bandidos leader Pike at trial. Schaffer previously has represented at least two Bandidos who are expected to be called to the witness stand to testify against Pike.

That would put Schaffer in the position of perhaps not only trying to defend his own reputation while representing Pike, but questioning people whom he had previously represented. As Kennedy is at the same firm, he would face a similar conflict, prosecutors contend.
Now who, pray tell, is Kent Schaeffer?!?
Two special prosecutors have been appointed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's case. Here's a look at who they are:

Kent A. Schaffer

One of two special prosecutors appointed in the Paxton case, Kent Schaffer, 60, is a partner in Bires Schaffer & DeBorde of Houston. The 17-year-old law firm specializes in criminal defense matters, including business fraud and other white-collar crimes.
Read the whole thing here and here.

Bottom Line: Yes, you read that correctly.  The 'special prosecutor' maliciously prosecuting Ken Paxton has actually been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a major federal racketeering case.  We suppose the cliche about truth being stranger than fiction applies....

Thursday, December 29, 2016

LOL; Dan Flynn earns a DISTINGUISHED honor....


"She will chase her lovers,
But not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
For then it was better for me than now.’ "
Hosea 2:7

From the indefatigable Jon Cassidy:
Most of the folks on the Scariest People of 2016 list qualify as villains, but nobody has ever mistaken Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn, a Republican from Van, for an evil mastermind.

He does a lot of awful stuff, but in such a clumsy way that you can never be sure he has any idea what he’s doing.

For example, as chair of a committee responsible for one of the state’s most pressing issues – pension debt – he has reliably put his impressive incomprehension on display. He once told a pension expert that a bill to restore local control was actually anti-local control, because some people oppose it, and they… (wait for it) live in cities, too. When he was gently but firmly contradicted, his response was so: “Kinda part of it, but kinda not all of it, is that what you’re saying?”
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kent State Massacre: UT Politburo's Chickens Coming Home to Roost....

Look over our right shoulder.

"For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself."
Galatians 6:3

We attended last night's painfully pathetic UT Men's basketball game.  During the second half, we sat almost directly in front of Chancellor McRaven.  It was unplanned, but considering our (unintentional) choice of attire for the evening, it was amusing.

But that doesn't excuse what happened in the game, and what happened in the game illustrates how the corrupt institutional mismanagement that has plagued the past decade has finally bled into the athletic department.

LOSS.  TO KENT STATE.  AT HOME.

The Statesman attempts to spin it positively:
The excitement of Christmas has given way to the drudgery of exchanges.

Texas followed one of its best all-around games with one of its worst in a 63-58 clunker against Kent State on Tuesday at the Erwin Center.

Texas set all kinds of offensive season highs in a 36-point blowout over Alabama-Birmingham last Wednesday. Players and coaches then went their separate ways for the holiday break. They returned looking worse for wear.

The Horns had 18 turnovers and shot 36.2 percent and fell to 6-6 heading into Friday’s Big 12 opener at Kansas State. Jarrett Allen was the leading scorer with 17 points and had 10 rebounds. But Kent State’s Jaylin Walker poured in 24 points and the Flashes got 15 more from Deon Edwin.

Texas’ final possession summed up the whole night. Trailing by three, Eric Davis Jr. tried to get loose on the baseline but got stuffed by Jimmy Hall. Kent State (8-5) got the loose ball, went the other way and just ran out the clock.

Tevin Mack, the Longhorns’ leading scorer, was shutout of the scoring column until a layup with 2:29 left made it a one-point game. He followed that with another score as the two teams traded buckets down the stretch, bringing a decent-sized crowd to its feet.

With Texas down by three, Kerwin Roach Jr. went in for an off-balance layup attempt and missed. The Flashes went the other way, and Jaylin Walker threw down a vicious dunk with 33 seconds left for a five-point lead.
But there's no way to spin this positively; forget elite, even a modestly competent program should be able to beat Kent State at home.

Let's face some facts about the UT Athletic department:

  • The Football program is coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons...and hasn't done anything interesting in seven years.
  • The Men's Basketball program is in last place in the Big-12 and had a .500 run through non-conference play...and conference play is going to be very ugly.
THAT'S what the good-ol'-boy network that runs the institution has produced.

First it was the "forgivable loan" slush fund at the law school.  Then it was the $215 million accounting scandal.  Then it was the tax hike for their Med School.  Then it was the secret admissions program.  Then it was the land grab in Houston.  Then it was the tuition hike.  Just last month, they spent $17 million to purchase a toxic waste dump in El Paso.

Throughout all of the misdeeds listed above (Author's Note: And that's only a partial list of the nonsense they've pulled over the past 5 years) we've been predicting that eventually their arrogant corruption would bleed into the athletic department.  Guess what gang...that day is here.  In case you forgot: Back-to-back 5-7 football seasons and a basketball team that just lost to Kent State at home.

Bottom Line: The University of Texas brand name retains tremendous value, which wouldn't be difficult to restore under genuinely new management genuinely committed to change.  That day will eventually come.  The only question is how much pain they want to put themselves (and the rest of us) through in the interim.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Revelation 19:11-21 -- Jesus' SECOND COMING!!!


Christ on a White Horse
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:


KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.

The Beast and His Armies Defeated
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.  Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Revelation 19:11-21

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  September 13, 2015:

Jesus' Second Coming - Dr. Danny Forshee - September 13, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Acts 1:9-11

2 Thessalonians 2:8

Matthew 24:29-31

Outline:
  1. Jesus RETURNS with His saints (vv. 11-16)
    A. Faithful and True
    B. A hidden name.
         - Psalm 2:12
    C. The WORD of God (v. 13)
         - Isaiah 63:2-3
    D. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords
  2. Jesus DEFEATS His enemies (vv. 17-21)
Highlights:
  • Pastor Danny's health was attacked as he preached this message.
  • Rapture or not, you can't get around Revelation 19.
  • Things on Earth will have to get really bad for Jesus to return.
  • If you reject the first supper, you have to participate in the second one.
  • Armageddon will be the shortest battle on record.

Monday, December 26, 2016

For 2016, Cornyn successfully earns faint praise....


"Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things."
Romans 14:1

Recently, Heritage Action released their final grades for 2016; predictably, John Cornyn received the lowest score of any Texas Republican:


Considering the history, we had originally planned to not grade Cornyn on a curve; then we remembered something we said last February (following Scalia's death):
[I]f the GOP majority follows through on this one thing, a lot of the anger directed towards the party at the moment will subside.
The "one thing" to which we referred was not letting Obama appoint Scalia's replacement.  At the time, we thought the GOP would cave.  Amazingly...they didn't.

On the one hand, we're reminded of what a certain former Governor of Texas once said about "the soft bigotry of low expectations"; on the other hand, we can't take back what we said in February when someone takes a modest step in the right direction, prudence suggests you encourage them.

So...good deal: The GOP leadership in the United States Senate, which includes John Cornyn, kept their promise on the Scalia seat.  That is a good thing.  We'd like to see more of it.

That not to say that the missed opportunities of the past half decade haven't been disappointing or frustrating.  They certainly have.  But, for the moment, acknowledging and building upon the positive seems wise.

Looking towards 2017, we see no reason why John Cornyn can't receive a "70" from Heritage.  Truthfully any self-respecting Republican U.S. Senator from Texas should be north of "90."  But, baby steps and whatnot, a "70" for John Cornyn from Heritage would illustrate tangible progress.

Bottom Line: We're stuck with him for another four years, so we'll swallow our pride and give John Cornyn one cheer for 2016.  As it relates to the Scalia seat, expectations were legitimately exceeded.  Hip hip hooray.

UT enviros display strange sense of irony....


"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

We noticed the sign pictured above this past weekend; for context, consider recent history:



Highlights:
  • UT dumped raw sewage from the Cockrell engineering building into Waller Creek for two years.
    • Author's Note: The pun of using the word "dumped" in the context of raw sewage was not originally intended, but WAS left as originally written after being recognized.
  • UT has already spent over $300 million on the replacement building.
  • They connected a sewage pipe to a stormwater drain.
  • There's been "human waste" going into the stream for two years.
  • This is upstream of Town Lake.
  • The subcontractor in question is up to their eyeballs in lawsuits over shady corner cutting on other jobs.
    • Author's Note: That one of those jobs is the Dell Medical School, and that UT continues to use them nonetheless, is revealing in and of itself.
  • After UT said they'd fixed the problem, KXAN did their own independent test after a rainstorm which revealed twice the 'legally permissible' amount of...well...#2.
Bottom Line: UT wants to micromanage alleged ill effects of cigarette butts in a body of water.  Meanwhile, their failure in the basic blocking and tackling of property management leads to raw sewage being deposited in that same body of water (to which they respond with a cover-up that begets a wildly expensive public relations fiasco).  Perhaps there's a metaphor in there somewhere....

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Fun Fact: Bob Rawski, the bureaucrat from the UT facilities department interviewed in the KXAN report linked above, makes over $200k.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Babe in Bethlehem


"And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them."
Luke 2:16-20

As a matter of perspective, keep in mind that 700 years before our time would be the year 1316; from ICR this morning:
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
This is a very remarkable prophecy, explicitly predicting that the future King of Israel would be born in the little village of Bethlehem some 700 years before He finally came. Then, to assure its fulfillment, the great Emperor Augustus had to decree a comprehensive census, compelling Joseph to take Mary with him to Bethlehem for her child to be born.
That the prophecy involves an actual birth is clear, not only from the phrase “come forth,” but also from the succeeding verse that warns God will “give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth” (v. 3). The preceding verse had also predicted that “they shall smite [this coming ruler] the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek” (v. 1), speaking of His initial rejection and execution.
But the prophecy not only foresees His birth in Bethlehem, His repudiation by His own people, and His eventual installation as King over all Israel (not merely Judah), but also that this same remarkable person was none other than God Himself! His “goings forth” had been “from everlasting.” That is, He is eternally proceeding forth from His Father. He did not become God’s Son when He was born in Bethlehem; He has been coming forth eternally.
There is still another truth implied in the Hebrew word for “goings forth.” It is also used for such things as the flowing of water from a fountain or the radiations from the sun. Thus, the never-ending flowing forth of power from God through the Son is nothing less than the sustaining energy for the whole creation, as He is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). And this was the Babe in Bethlehem! HMM

Friday, December 23, 2016

Threats to Stickland reveal hypocrisy of "I'm Poncho" #TXLEGE Republicans....


"For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known."
Luke 12:2

At the beginning of the last #TXLEGE session, there was a modest kerfuffle that was politically useful to the business as usual crowd.  On the first day of the session, anti-Second Amendment Democrat Poncho Nevarez got into an excessively heated policy discussion with a libertarian leaning activist from Tarrant County.  While the actions of the activist in question were counterproductive, at the end of the day they were also harmless and irrelevant.

But when you're the business as usual crowd looking for excuses to run out the clock on a 140-day legislative session, any excuse to waste time works.  Following the above incident, the House held a hand wringing 'debate' about whether or not to allow members to install 'panic buttons' in offices (Sidenote: Poncho Nevarez never did.)  This was accompanied by the embarrassing spectacle of Republicans wearing "I'm Poncho" stickers on the floor of the House.

As the Trib explained at the time:
“I think when somebody threatens a representative because he doesn’t vote, it’s everything we don’t stand for in this state,” said state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton. “You can fire us, but you don’t get to shoot us because you disagree.”

A Republican, Drew Springer of Muenster, was behind the gesture. He said he came up with the idea after Nev├írez joked that he should hand out “I’m Not Poncho” stickers to fellow lawmakers so that they would not be targets.

“Immediately I thought just the opposite — we need to show support for him, that we aren’t going to let people threaten us,” he said. “We’re not going to let people, in some cases from out of state, threaten us physically and try to get their way. That’s just not the way democracy works. It’s not the way Texas works.”

Springer said he gave out name tags to about 70 House members, from both parties, before he ran out.

Marsha Farney of Georgetown was among the Republicans donning the name tags. Others included Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, the author of a bill to lift state handgun licensing requirements.

“We’re showing support for Poncho to show that we stand with him as far as, not necessarily a policy position, but for safety issues,” said Farney.
[Author's Note: We told Stickland privately at the time that he shouldn't go along with that farce but, let the record state, that Jonathan Stickland was far more magnanimous in that situation than we would have been.]

Fast forward two years and that self-same Jonathan Stickland receives deeply chilling anti-Second Amendment threats at his home.  This isn't a policy discussion in an elected official's office with some (admittedly counterproductive) heated rhetoric, this is an active threat from a deranged anti-Second Amendment sadist.  So, naturally, the Republicans who ran around last session with "I'm Poncho"stickers were falling over themselves in 'solidarity' with Jonathan Stickland...right?!?

LOL.

Drew Springer's Facebook Page (as of 12:11 pm on 12/23/2016): Nothing.

Phil Stephenson's Facebook Page (as of 12:13 pm): Nada.

Marsha "Felicia" Farney (as of 12:15): Negative.

Bottom Line: That the average Republican in the Texas House will go along with an anti-Second Amendment Democrat's politically expedient exaggeration, while remaining silent on an actual threat to the family of a pro-Second Amendment Republican, speaks volumes.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Latest Paxton Case Revelation: Perhaps Byron Cook is merely incompetent....


"Do not go hastily to court;
For what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor has put you to shame?"
Proverbs 25:8

[Author's Note: Byron Cook wore out every shred of benefit of the doubt he ever had with this website a long, long, long time ago.  We remain firmly, if informally, convinced that Cook has been lying this entire time.  That being said, taking him at his word (in this one instance) is a really fun thought experiment.]

The indefatigable Jon Cassidy just uncovered something new in the fiasco otherwise known as the Paxton prosecution:
The criminal case against Attorney General Ken Paxton is based on an assumption, according to investigatory records of the Texas Rangers.

It’s an assumption that state Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) says he made about Paxton before investing $300,000 in a company called Servergy. Three of his friends say they made the same assumption, according to files obtained by Watchdog.org.

These four friends – Cook, Joel Hochberg, Bill Sandford, and Bob Griggs – have been investing together for decades. Cook and Sandford started going in on deals together 30 years ago; Hochberg joined them 20 years ago.

....

Although deception is a key element in any fraud case, none of the four claimed Paxton misled them – about getting Servergy stock, about putting his own money into the company, or anything else.

Rather, “Jacobson said the four investors assumed Paxton was also investing in Servergy based on past investments with Paxton,” Ranger Stacy McNeal wrote.

However, it was Cook who turned Hochberg, Sandford, and Griggs onto the Servergy opportunity, according to the records. It was Servergy CEO Bill Mapp who gave the presentation on the investment, not Paxton.

Sandford and Griggs, by their own admission, never even talked to Paxton about Servergy.

Their discussions about whether to invest were with Cook, who “was committed to investing in Servergy,” according to Sandford. Nobody claims that what Paxton was doing with his money even entered into the discussion.

....

Still, even with Cook and Hochberg, those special prosecutors are going to have earn the $1 million-plus they’re making by persuading a jury to embrace a novel theory of fraud: Paxton should go to prison not for anything untrue he said or implied, but for an incorrect thought by others about what he was doing with his own money, a pure assumption, which existed only in somebody else’s head.

....

Cook intends to avoid answering questions under oath until after Paxton’s trial this spring is over. His attorneys have filed for a legislative continuance, a perk lawmakers enjoy that allows them to automatically block all action on litigation they’re involved in for six months or more when the Legislature is in session.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line:Even if he were telling the truth (which he isn't) Byron Cook is, at best, the most incompetent investor in the history of investing....

Debriefing #ATXCouncil's "Satanic Invocation"....


Wicked Rulers and Prophets
And I said:


“Hear now, O heads of Jacob,
And you rulers of the house of Israel:
Is it not for you to know justice?
You who hate good and love evil;
Who strip the skin from My people,
And the flesh from their bones;
Who also eat the flesh of My people,
Flay their skin from them,
Break their bones,
And chop them in pieces
Like meat for the pot,
Like flesh in the caldron.”
Then they will cry to the Lord,
But He will not hear them;
He will even hide His face from them at that time,
Because they have been evil in their deeds.
Micah 3:1-4

We'll start this post with a confession: This story is actually a month old, but we have refrained from commenting in this space because there were certain sentiments we wanted first to express privately.

In late November, a representative of the satanic 'temple' signed up to perform the invocation at a meeting of the Austin City Council.  In fairness to council, the rules as they existed at the time allows basically anyone to sign up.  Thankfully, by the Grace of God, logistics intervened and the 'invocation' has been indefinitely postponed.

We addressed Council on this topic two weeks ago:

:

Again, to be fair, this has yet to happen.

Following this incident, Don Zimmerman proposed a new ordinance that would require whomever says the invocation to be invited by a specific council member.  We fully support Zimmerman's proposal, which would establish clear lines of both spiritual and political accountability.  Unfortunately, Zimmerman is leaving the dais in two weeks.

Ellen Troxclair also weighed in:



Also good, but Troxclair is going to be outvoted 10-1 next year.

But, again, this hasn't happened yet...which opens another possibility: Perhaps the process of indefinite bureaucratic delay can finally be used for something good.

Bottom Line: The Council majority has had their warning. We can't stop anything. It will be interesting to see what they do...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Threatening Cargill/Loesch/Stickland only strengthens case for CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY....


"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

Texas Firearms Celebrity Michael Cargill, national pundit Dana Loesch, and State Representative Jonathan Stickland are all friends of this website.  They're also well known advocates for the second amendment.  This past weekend, all three received identical threatening notes at their home.

[Author's Note: The actual letters are incredibly graphic to the point that we're not going to republish them, but you can see the note sent to Cargill here, Loesch here, and Stickland here.]

Obviously, those actions are chilling and unsettling.  But, ironically, they strengthen case for lowering the costs and increasing the options for individual self defense.  In other words, this is exactly why we should pass constitutional carry.

While Cargill, Loesch, and Stickland are in a position to surmount barriers to entry for firearms ownership, many Texans can't.  Well known political figures have options, but the costs of protectionist licensing make lawful self-defense prohibitively expensive for vulnerable citizens.  The woman in East Austin with a stalker ex-boyfriend should have the same options as a political figure with a public platform.

Then there's the fact that, at their core, these were terrorist threats.  On a certain level, we have to laugh because anyone who thinks they can intimidate Michael Cargill, Dana Loesch, or Jonathan Stickland has clearly never met any of them.  Nevertheless, the appropriate response to terrorism is to press forward.

There already was no excuse to not pass constitutional carry.  This past weekend's letters only strengthened that case.  But, unfortunately, we've seen this movie before.

Bottom Line: Ball's in your court #TXLEGE....

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Would School Choice reduce crime in Texas?!?


"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

We hadn't thought about this aspect before but...duh; from TPPF:
TPPF Releases Paper on Education Savings Accounts and Crime Prevention in Texas

AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation today released a paper by Dr. Patrick J. Wolf, a distinguished professor of education policy and a 21st Century Endowed Chair in school choice at the University of Arkansas, and Corey DeAngelis, in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The paper, Whether to Approve an Education Savings Account Program in Texas: Preventing Crime Does Pay, examines the relation between education savings accounts and crime reduction.

"Research indicates that more school choice means less crime,” said Wolf. “Texas has a golden opportunity to reduce criminal behavior by establishing a statewide Education Savings Account (ESA) program."

"The proposed ESA policy is unique in that the benefits are twofold,” said DeAngelis. “An Education Savings Account benefits the individuals receiving access to an enhanced educational experience and a better life, but the policy also creates a safer society for the rest of us."
Read the full report here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

More on SxSW fee waivers....


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

More background from Austin Affordability:
For the past several years, various citizen groups, City Commissions and the Austin American-Statesman editorial board have called for doing away with taxpayer funded fee waivers for large for-profit special events. This endless stream of subsidies adds up to somewhere around $2 million per year. Of course, the granddaddy of them all is South By Southwest.

The Old Guard message has always been the same. That these big festivals bring in tourists and boost the economy. They claim that the fee waivers are a “sound investment.” In reality, they put a strain on the taxpayers that has persisted for far too long. At the biggest events, public safety is severely compromised, with police shortages in neighborhoods citywide. It’s time for the New Guard at City Hall to stand up and tell these event promoters that we just can’t afford it anymore.

The question comes down to priorities. If the City insists on not making the for-profit event companies pay their own fees, then they could easily fund the subsidies with the Hotel Occupancy Tax. The revenues from that fund have ballooned from $51 million in 2012 to over $70 million in 2014.

The Old Guard prefers to restrict every penny of the Hotel Occupancy Tax for tourism and convention activities. Their lobbyists have erected a wall of resistance around City Hall. But what are the community’s priorities? Do we have a crisis in Austin with low tourism rates, or do we see new hotels popping up like mushrooms? A couple of million dollars per year would be a minor tick to the tourism fund, but it would certainly help offset the tax burden when combined with other affordabilty reforms.
Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Revelation 19:1-10 -- The BEST is YET TO COME!!!


Heaven Exults over Babylon
After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:1-10

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  August 16,2015:

The Best Is Yet To Come - Dr. Danny Forshee - August 16, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Outline:

-
2 Corinthians 2:17

  1. Four Songs of Praise (vv. 1-8)
    -
    2 Thesselonians 1:6-8
    - After the fall of Babylon
    - True, righteous judgement -- That in opposition to God.
    - 24 elders = Redeemed Humanity
    - Lord God Omnipotent
  2. A fabulous Supper (v. 9)
    -
     Contrast with the Harlot
  3. The Final Scence (v. 10)
    - Angel - I am your fellow servant.
Highlights:
  • Only appearance of the word Hallejuah in the entire New Testament.
  • You don't need to avenge, God will.
  • Command to praise God.
    • We are HIS servants.
  • We should preach holiness and sanctification.
  • 17:1 -- 19:10 are a giant parenthesis.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The unelected bureaucracy that controls Property Tax "appraisals" in Texas....


"If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them."
Ecclesiastes 5:8

Watchdog discusses the Great "Appraisal Districts" Swindle:
By state law, county appraisal districts (CADs) are tasked to do one thing: set the property values that raise revenue for local taxing agencies.

Headed by boards of directors, CADs are bureaucratically opaque, institutionally autonomous and fundamentally incestuous bodies with no effective public oversight.

County boards are composed of the elected local tax assessor-collector and a set of directors named by the very local government agencies that depend on tax proceeds from property appraisals.

....

Seeking to democratize the captive CADs, Bettencourt, R-Houston, proposes mandating that all directors be elected officials within their respective counties.

“This makes them directly answerable to the citizens,” Bettencourt said of provisions in SB 2. “If people don’t like the results, they can vote them out of office.”

....

As currently constituted, CADs have the appearance of doing the bidding of the taxing units that nominate the CAD directors. That perception is fueled by a rising number of property tax protests filed and rejected each year.

....

But CADs’ sharply rising property valuations stoke suspicions that appraisal districts are the wholly owned tools of rapacious public bureaucracies. Skyrocketing appraisals that defy market realities have triggered a rising tide of lawsuits against CADs, especially from commercial property owners.
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.

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We didn't realize Senator Bettencourt had included making 'appraisal boards' an elected body in his proposed reforms for next session, but doing so is one of the biggest steps you could take to handcuff property tax collections; kudos.

-----

Fun fact: The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a generally irrelevant left wing think tank here in Austin.  That being said, they do employ a 'fiscal policy analyst' named Dick Lavine...who also happens to be the Chairman of the Board of the Travis Central Appraisal District.  This isn't a knock on Dick Lavine, who happens to be a really nice guy, but we've always found that to be one of the most revealing conflicts of interest vignettes about how the property tax system actually works.

Friday, December 16, 2016

#TroxRox: Eliminate local taxpayer subsidies to #SxSW....


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

We're actually in the process of developing a more comprehensive proposal that encompasses this issue, but in the meantime Ellen Troxclair hits on the basic unfairness of asking local taxpayers to subsidize for-profit enterprises:
In 2016, it was estimated that 230,000 people came to Austin during the spring festival season, which also the city’s most popular time for tourism. SXSW has helped put Austin on the map, pouring millions into the local economy and boosting local restaurants, hotels and businesses. It is a vital event for our city.

But, it’s not without its drawbacks for full-time residents, the vast majority of whom do not attend the event. Traffic is even more of a nightmare. The city is crowded, noisy and littered.

It is unfair to ask Austinites to put up with these inconveniences year in and year out — and then be forced to pay for it, too. Our already property tax-burdened residents should not foot the bill for the ever-increasing public safety costs associated with these special events.

Despite a previous commitment to finding a long-term solution to this perennial problem, the city is continuing to ignore it. The persistence of this issue is frustrating, given such an obvious solution.

If the city deems it necessary to provide financial incentives to large, for-profit events that drive tourism in Austin, we should do it through hotel occupancy taxes — the city’s huge and growing pot of money set up specifically for this purpose.

....

It’s time for the city to take the growing burden of these public safety costs off the backs of taxpayers. A simple change could collect fees from the tourists who attend the event, continue to provide an incentive to SXSW, protect the current recipients of hotel occupancy tax funds and provide relief to taxpayers. Everyone wins.

This is yet another opportunity for the City Council to address Austin’s affordability crisis without impacting critical city services. According to the city’s calculations, the property tax burden for the median-value home has risen 29.2 percent since 2012. Over that same time period, the median-family income has only risen 3.7 percent. This proportion is wildly unsustainable.
We'll have more to say on this topic in late-December or early-January (hint: The Legisalture has jurisdiction.) but, for now, read the whole thing here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Did Byron Cook LIE to the S.E.C in Paxton case?!?


"For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Galatians 6:8

Well, well, well....
Lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton are zeroing in on state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, as they make a new push to discredit the latest allegations against Paxton brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a filing Wednesday, Paxton's attorneys asked a federal judge in Sherman to force the SEC to produce notes from its interviews with Cook, who is among the technology company investors Paxton is accused of duping. Paxton faces similar, criminal charges at the state level, where he is getting ready for trial.

The Sherman judge, Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas, dismissed the SEC's civil case against Paxton in October, concluding the commission had not shown Paxton had a "fiduciary duty" to tell investors he was receiving a commission. But the SEC revived the case by filing amended allegations two weeks later, arguing the group of investors had "established purposes, policies, and practices" that Paxton had apparently violated.

That was news to Paxton's lawyers, who say they had been told the arrangement among the investors was much less formal. According to the Wednesday filing, counsel for Cook and fellow investor Joel Hochberg had described the group as "an ad hoc arrangement where, from time to time, good friends might invest in the same transaction."

The suggestion in the Wednesday filing is that Cook, in an interview after the first complaint was filed, changed his story to make the arrangement seem more formal, bolstering the "fiduciary duty" argument.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Read the whole thing here.

Austin ISD actually does something (modestly) encouraging....


"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
1 Peter 4:10

It's not a secret that we've been extraordinarily critical of Austin ISD's finances over the years, but this is a step in the right direction:
The Austin school district on Wednesday afternoon unveiled the 40 bids and proposals for 10 of its properties, including the district’s headquarters just west of downtown.

Some of the proposals are intended to create affordable housing in Austin. The city of Austin, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas and several well-known developers and nonprofits sought the properties, which included vacant land as well as such buildings as the downtown Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club) and the Baker Center administration building in Hyde Park.

While the dollar amounts for the bids were released publicly, the details of the proposals weren’t disclosed.
 A few thoughts:
  • The housing numbers are probably too small to make a major difference...but for a city that needs to construct 150,000 units of new housing over the next decade, every little bit helps.
  • We've seen the suggestion made online that the headquarters on West 6th st should be converted into high rise condos; we'd fully support such a decision, but that probably makes far too much sense to ever be considered by this city.
  • Shedding some of their incredibly valuable real estate is the absolute bare minimum Austin ISD needs to do to get their finances in order.
We remain in wait and see mode, but nevertheless we encourage more thinking along these lines by the district:
The bids come amid the district’s efforts to create a 20-year facility master plan, which could call for building six new schools and closing up to 10 aging campuses in poor condition, in preparation for the next bond package, which could come as early as November. District leaders have said they must demonstrate efficiency with their surplus properties before asking voters to approve new projects.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Disgraced former (Aggie) Texas Senator siccs prosecutors on private citizens


"They are deeply corrupted,
As in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity;
He will punish their sins."
Hosea 9:9

Tommy Williams is a former chairman of the Texas Senate's Finance committee.  He retired in disgrace after helping to shepard through a 26% spending increase in 2013.  But, apparently, he's been busy in retirement:
Due to the ambiguous nature of Texas voter residency requirements, developers and local taxing entities are using a controversial “rent-a-voter” scheme to pass millions of dollars in bond debt and taxes without needing to secure the approval of the general population. However, Tea Party activists who attempted to use the same tactic to oppose the taxes are now facing time in prison.

In what has become a common practice, developers lobby the legislature to create special purpose taxing districts in undeveloped areas where they are wanting to build, however, the boundaries of the district are drawn to exclude all voters. Because an election is required for these districts to pass bonds, developers will hire people to register to vote temporarily in mobile homes they have set up inside the district’s boundaries.

An election is then held and the temporary voters unanimously approve millions, sometimes billions, of dollars in bond debt. As soon as the bonds have been passed, the trailers are removed and the voters move on, often to another district where the process begins again. The debt will be paid over the course of many years by future residents who move into the development.

Blaketree MUD, a development on the Tiger Woods golf course in western Montgomery County, is a recent rent-a-voter example. Two voters brought into the MUD approved over $257 million in bond debt in the November 8th election.

The previous year, two voters in Conroe’s Camp Strake development approved approximately a billion dollars in bonds. The rent-a-voter scheme also approved a tax rate for the district and elected a board of directors, none of whom lived inside the MUD.

While powerful developers are able to hire top lawyers to help them navigate the intricacies of election law in order to pass debt with rented voters, ordinary citizens and grassroots activists often do not have that luxury. Two conservative activists, Adrian Heath and Jim Jenkins, are facing three years in state prison for doing what they believe is no different than what the rent-a-voters are paid to do.

....

While the rent-a-voters are paid to be temporary voters, Heath and Jenkins were prosecuted for their actions and convicted of “knowingly voting in an election in which they were not eligible to vote” after former State Sen. Tommy Williams brought forward a complaint against them. Heath’s and Jenkins’ appeals have been denied, and they are each facing three years in the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#TROXROX: December #ATXCouncil District 8 Newsletter highlights....


"For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
Hebrews 6:10

A couple interesting tidbits in Ellen Troxclair's latest constituent newsletter:
Update on Search for New City Manager

As many of you know we are in the process of finding a new city manager. This week, the City of Austin’s Human Resources Department (HRD) is requesting Council approval of the staff-selected firm. Former City Manager Marc Ott resigned back in August to take a position with the International City/County Management Association. City Council unanimously voted in September to appoint Elaine Hart as the interim City Manager.  
 
The City Manager position is obviously an important issue to all of us on Council and to the community. My priority is making sure that we get the absolute best candidate pool possible, which means we must have the best search firm. If this requires us to spend a little more to ensure we end up with an outstanding city manager, this will be well worth the investment. Considering the size of our city, the level of compensation, and the divisiveness that has surrounded the City Manager, it is an important and necessary investment to find a leading executive recruiting firm.
 
I requested that Council restart the interview process and instead of HRD conducting the interviews with the search firm, the full City Council interview the finalists and choose a firm that will best understand our community needs. 
.... 
Central Library Seeking More Money

          Image result for Austin texas new central library
The Library is asking for an additional $5.5 million dollars to complete the new Central downtown Library. Nearly a decade ago voters approved a $90 million dollar bond to construct a central library. This week marks the fifth request for more funding to complete this project. In 2010, council approved an additional 30 million dollars bringing the budget to 120 million dollars. 

On top of the already over-budget library, Council approved an extra $1.3 million dollars to the project in June. Yet, the library is coming back and seeking $5.5 million dollars more from council! If the extra $5.5 million is approved, that would make the Central Library $36 million dollars over budget.
 
The City can not keep recklessly spending our tax dollars.  The City must learn to live within a budget and keep our departments accountable. The voters approved 90 million dollars to spend, and that budget should have been respected. Unfortunately council passed the additional funds on a 8-2 vote, with me voting against. I will continue to fight these costs over runs. 

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

City of Austin subsidizes irresponsible sexual activity....


"Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
1 Corinthians 1:25

Oh good grief:
Austin Health and Human Services employees have been hanging bags of condoms and lube from trees at Walnut Creek Park since last month to promote safe sex — though neither the HHS director nor the city Parks and Recreation Department knew about it, directors said Friday.

Parks employees took the bags down Thursday, considering them litter, but did not immediately know they came from a city initiative, said Parks Director Sara Hensley.

“Plastic bags, of course, can fall into the creek and hurt critters,” she said. “Then we found out it was an effort to educate the public about safe sex, which we absolutely support, but I’m not sure hanging something from a tree is the best way to get the message across.”

“We have to weigh, is this appropriate,” she added. “Our parks are open to everyone, including young children and others.”

HHS Director Shannon Jones said he didn’t know about the initiative within his department until Friday morning, after a KXAN report broke the news Thursday evening.

“We’ve been informed of the activity as of today (Friday)…but it falls within our department, so we are ultimately responsible,” he said. “Most of the programs that we do, we have a vetting process. We have reminded our staff of that.”

KXAN credited the program to Akesha Johnson-Smothers, a program manager for HIV prevention. According to her Facebook page, she began working for the city this year, after nearly a decade with the Texas Department of State Health Services. Jones said there would be an investigation into the communication and vetting concerning the condom program and possible disciplinary action.
 A few thoughts:
  • We basically don't care about the activities in which people engage behind closed doors...but behind closed doors means behind closed doors.
  • Likewise 'live and let live' means not asking the rest of us to subsidize the activity in question.
  • Regardless of the specific activity under discussion, the fact that neither the head of the health department nor anyone in the parks department knew this was happening illustrates the general dysfunction of city government.
But, in what might be a small Christmas miracle, we completely agree with this comment from Leslie Pool (*):
Leslie Pool, the City Council member who represents the district, had just heard about the condoms Friday. She called the effort well-intentioned but said “we need to do it in a more appropriate way.”
Read the whole thing here.  Empower Texans has more here.  KXAN has more here.

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* -- That's a statement we never thought we'd type.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Revelation 18:9-24 -- The Fall of Commercial Babylon


The World Mourns Babylon’s Fall
“The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

“And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’

“They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Finality of Babylon’s Fall
 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”
Revelation 18:9-24

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  August 9, 2015:

Commercial Babylon, Part 2 - Dr. Danny Forshee - August 9, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Outline:
  1. Remorse (vv. 9-19)
    A. The Leaders (they had committed fornication).
    B. The Merchants.
    C. The Mariners.
  2. Rejoice (v. 20)- Isaiah 5:20
    - God has avenged His people.
  3. Retribution (vv. 21-24)
    - John 3:19
Highlights:
  • The God who created everything will consecrate everything, and He is in control.
  • Greed, opulence, and wealth all come to naught.
  • Babylon's gonna make Donald Trump look 'miniscule.'
  • There's nothing wrong with having wealth, the problem is worshiping it.
  • Sin cannot win and Faith cannot fail...if you love Babylon, you are following a lost cause.
  • Lots of Sex Trafficking right here in Austin.
  • People loves to get all worked up over the internet outrage du jour, but our society doesn't seem to care about children being torn up in their Mama's womb.
  • Since we know that this is truth, what are we going to do about it?!?
  • Belivers need both confidence AND compassion.
  • God vindicates the blood of His people.
  • "The Devil was working on me, until...."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Incremental tie down of Team Straus continues....


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

Mark Jones has data that backs up something we'd noticed informally last session:
The 84th (2015-16) Legislative Session witnessed a Democratic Texas House delegation that was on the losing side of about as many final passage votes as on the winning side. This represented a sharp contrast to the 2009-14 period, when the average Democrat had a final passage vote win rate that was higher than that of the average Republican. It suggests that Democrats' level of influence on the House legislative agenda declined notably in 2015, with Democrats more frequently unable to both keep legislation they opposed off of the floor as well as to gain majority backing for legislation they supported.

In 2009, 11 Republican representatives joined forces with an overwhelming majority of Democratic representatives to oust Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and replace him with Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Speaker Straus thus began his speakership indebted to House Democrats, allowing them a de facto veto over the legislative agenda that year. In 2011 and 2013, Democrats no longer possessed this de facto veto power, but they nevertheless retained substantial influence over the legislative agenda — influence that was reflected in them being more likely on average to be on the winning side of final passage votes than their Republican colleagues, even though during this entire period the Texas House of Representatives had a Republican majority.

....

In 2015, Democratic win rates plummeted to lows not seen since 2005 during the zenith of the Craddick speakership. At least from the optic of win rates on final passage votes, the impact of Texas Democrats on the legislative agenda during the 84th Legislative Session was substantially weaker than in the three preceding sessions of Straus' speakership.

The median Democratic win rate in 2015 was a mere 52 percent, with win rates ranging from a low of 40 percent to a high of 67 percent. At 82 percent, the median Republican win rate in 2015 was significantly higher than the Democratic median, with win rates ranging from a low of 54 percent to a high of 93 percent. All of the Republican ideological quartiles had median win rates greater than that of the Democratic delegation median, with the respective win rates declining as the level of conservatism increased among the quartiles: 90 percent, 87 percent, 82 percent, and 71 percent.

As a further example of this change, in 2013 a majority of Republicans (53 out of 94) had a win rate that was lower than that of the Democrat with the lowest win rate. In 2015, only 8 Republicans out of 97 had a win rate that was lower than that of the Democrat with the highest win rate.

In 2015, the win rate gap between the least and most conservative quartiles of the Texas House Republican Caucus narrowed noticeably, from 29 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2015. This phenomenon indicates a combination of more movement conservatives aligning themselves with Straus than in the past and Straus and his leadership team shifting the legislative agenda somewhat to the right in order to bring movement conservatives more into the fold. As part of that shift, the House leadership relied more heavily in 2015 on the votes of movement conservative Republicans than on the votes of Democrats to push through its legislative agenda, a contrast to the three preceding sessions when the centrist conservative Republican House leadership on average tended to rely more on the support of Democrats (especially in 2009 and 2013) than on that of their movement conservative GOP brethren.

As we look toward the 85th Legislative Session, Democrats once again find themselves outnumbered in the House, 95 to 55. If Straus and his leadership team follow the same general legislative game plan as in 2015, relying more on the support of movement conservative Republicans than of Democrats, then the influence of Democrats on the House agenda is likely to again be reduced compared to 2013, let alone to their halcyon days of 2009. A corollary of this repeat of 2015 would be a House whose legislative agenda is more in tune with the preferences of more movement conservatives than was the case between 2009 and 2014.
Read the whole thing, and see the data for yourself, here.

Bottom Line: We know it's happening at an INFURIATINGLY slow pace. We know, in a state like Texas, they should be doing A LOT more. But, nevertheless, the long-term trends in the #TXLEGE are inexorably on our side so long as we remain diligent and persistent....

Friday, December 9, 2016

(U of H Board Chairman) Tilman Fertitta's (recent) political donations


"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home."
Luke 16:9

It's not a secret, between the land grab and the Tom Herman hire, that those within U of H circles are livid with UT.  We were still struck by a rather...bold...comment from U of H Board Chairman Tilman Fertitta following the Herman hire.  That got us thinking: If Tilman Fertitta starts making phone calls around the legislature next session, who's likely to listen?!?

We reviewed Texas "Ethics" Commission data for the past two election cycles.  Fertitta appears to be a pretty typical big money donor in that he donates to everyone regardless of ideology.  For the most part, he donates within Harris County, although there are some interesting ones outside of the area as well.

Results are mostly presented in the order in which they appear on the "Ethics" commission website.  The primary exception is that we moved statewide officials to the top of the list.  Former members of the legislature who will not return next session have been excluded.

The list:

  • Greg Abbott: $404,000
  • Dan Patrick: $189,723
    • Author's Note: To his credit, Fertitta gave to Patrick during the 2014 primary but does not appear to have given to David Dewhurst.
  • Ken Paxton: $25,000
    • Note: Again, to his credit, he gave to Paxton during the 2014 runoff but does not appear to have given to Dan Branch.
  • Glenn Hegar: $50,000
  • George P. Bush: $15,000
  • Joe Straus: $35,000
  • Joan Huffman: $25,000
  • John Whitmire: $45,000
  • Senfonia Thompson: $3,500
  • Craig Goldman: $1,000
  • Ana Hernandez: $2,000
  • Dennis Paul: $1,000
  • Charles Schwertner: $3,500
  • Dan Huberty: $2,000
  • Kelly Hancock: $12,500
  • Gene Wu: $2000
  • Donna Campbell: $3,500
  • Sylvia Garcia: $5,000
  • Van Taylor: $2,500
  • Konni Burton: $2,500
  • Paul Bettencourt: $7,500
  • Trent Ashby: $1,000
  • Charles Perry: $2,500
  • John Zerwas: $2,500
    • Author's Note: House Higher ed committee chairman last session.
  • Byron Cook: $2,500
  • Alma Allen: $2,000
  • Lyle Larson: $1,000
  • Brian Birdwell: $3,500
  • Todd Hunter: $2,500
  • Chuy Hinojosa: $1,000
  • Will Metcalf: $1,000
  • Jose Menendez: $1,000
  • John Keumpel: $1,000
  • Sarah Davis: $1,000
  • Phil King: $2,000
  • Garnet Coleman: $2,000
  • Jim Murphy: $2,000
  • Oscar Longoria: $1,000
  • Mike Schofield: $2,000
  • Hubert Vo: $2,000
  • Jane Nelson: $2,500
  • Armando Walle: $1,000
  • Dennis Bonnen: $3,500
  • Craig Estes: $2,500
  • Ed Thompson: $1,000
  • Robert Nichols: $1,000
  • Larry Taylor: $5,000
  • Dwayne Bohac: $1,000
  • Geanie Morrison: $1,000
  • Lois Kolkhorst: $2,500
  • Travis Clardy: $2,000
  • Charlie Geren: $1,000
  • Dan Flynn: $2,000
    • Author's Note: Oh, fun....