Thursday, August 31, 2017

Central Health (AGAIN) siphoning money away from indigent health care....

"Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy."
Psalm 82:3

Any time Central Health makes the news, it's never good.  Yesterday, we attended an event where a broad ideological cross section of Austinites highlighted their failure to provide services in Del Valle while continuing to subsidize the UT medical school and building lavish buildings for themselves.  Keep in mind, the alleged purpose of this entity is to provide "indigent health care."

  • Central Health has been stonewalling activists for 9 months.
  • Del Valle has paid for facilities that have never been built.
  • CH has a $200 million budget this year.
  • CH building expensive office buildings instead of Health Care facilities.
  • CH gets federal $$$, but Lloyd Doggett isn't doing anything.
    • Ditto Kirk Watson...and central health is his baby.
  • According to several people at the event, the current CH board is stacked with Kirk Watson cronies.
    • The homeless are getting a few crumbs tossed their way for political purposes.
    • CH is involved in all sorts of things outside their charter.
    • "We break the rules all the time in Travis County."
    • Accountability, accessibility, transparency.

    Wednesday, August 30, 2017

    If the Feds REALLY want to help....

    "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

    Obviously, the President was in town yesterday.  His remarks and observations were basically fine.  He met expectations.

    That being said, it appears the wheels are in motion for the Feds to cut Texas a big check for "disaster recovery."  We hope you'll forgive our lack of enthusiasm for this approach.  The history of federal "disaster recovery" efforts doesn't inspire confidence.

    Instead, off the top of our head, are three actions Congress could take that would help fulfill the President's pledge that the Harvey recovery effort would be "better than ever before":

    • Repeal the Jones Act of 1920 -- This protectionist law mandates all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried on U.S. built ships.  This raises shipping costs for everyone to insulate a politically favored industry from competition.  In the context of the Harvey recovery, considering that Houston is the second busiest port in the United States, it doesn't take a genius to see how lowering shipping costs will lower the overall cost of the recovery.

      While some "America first" types might prattle on about foreign ships or some such nonsense, the truth is that by raising the shipping costs for US firms outside a reasonable trucking distance, the Jones act incentivizes seeking foreign suppliers (eg. If politically driven shipping mandates make it cheaper to import from Honduras than ship from North Carolina, you shouldn't be surprised when there are more imports from Honduras).

      Note: While not related to disaster recovery, the Jones Act also increases cost of living in Hawaii and Alaska, so the coalition that could get this through congress is pretty obvious.
    • Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 -- This sop to organized labor artificially raises the costs of Federally funded construction projects by imposing a politically driven wage schedule; in the seemingly inevitable event that the Feds cut Texas a big check, repealing Davis-Bacon will at least allow taxpayers to receive a decent return on our "investment."

      While we're on the subject, the original intent of Davis-Bacon was to make it illegal for African-Americans to compete with whites, which makes getting rid of it that much better of an idea.
    • Repeal the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 -- Federal flood insurance subsidizes construction in flood plains.  If private insurance won't cover something, there's a reason for that.  Once claims for the current crisis are paid, the program should be eliminated.
    Bottom Line: If we continue with stale, government-centric, thinking, we shouldn't be surprised when the recovery produces underwhelming results.  Eliminating crony federal protectionism, by contrast, will lower recovery costs while laying the foundation for new prosperity.  All it requires is Congressional political will....

    Tuesday, August 29, 2017

    Freedom Caucus gets dirty with Harvey relief....

    "But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
    Galatians 6:4

    UPDATE (8/30/2017): Apparently, we overlooked Valoree Swanson....

    There have been a few photo sets circulating social media that are worth sharing.

    First Briscoe Cain:

    Also Jeff Leach:

    Also, while we're on the topic, Cain also addressed a particarly grotesque piece of misinformation put out by the ambulance chaser lobby:

    Monday, August 28, 2017

    Upon further reflection, the University of Texas has NO BUSINESS Supervising Nuclear Weapons....

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

    On Friday, we discussed the University of Texas' latest scheme to help manage the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.  We made the political observation that doing so would require the consent of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, which is ironic considering that Perry was the Governor who appointed Wallace Hall to the Board of Regents.  But, having had a few days to digest everything, we believe the Wallace Hall case encapsulates why the current leadership of the University of Texas should not be allowed anywhere near nuclear weapons.

    Consider what the Wallace Hall case revealed about the university's character: Confronted with indisputable evidence that they had been running a pay-to-play admissions scam for the offspring of connected politicians (who scored a 155 on their LSAT) (and lying on their financial reports) (and creating slush funds for favored faculty), the university engaged in a cover-up the depth of which boggles the mind.  That being said, it wasn't a matter of life or death.  Ultimately, for as bad as some of the stuff Wallace Hall uncovered was, the only consequence to the university would have been embarrassment.

    And if they were willing to go that far merely to avoid much further would they go if there was a serious matter of national security at stake?!?

    It doesn't take a genius to predict that all sorts of global bad guys would love to infiltrate the U.S. nuclear weapons program.  Good grief, the Chinese did just that 20 years ago.  In the event that sensitive information is compromised, the most important next step is to come clean and contain the damage.  Considering their record, does anyone believe that the University of Texas will do that?!?

    Also, let's not overlook the fact that Chancellor McRaven ran point on a cover-up into the deaths of two dozen Navy SEALS in his last gig.

    Furthermore, are we really supposed to trust an organization that hasn't done a thing following two on-campus murders in 13 months to supervise nuclear weapons?!?

    Bottom Line: Until the university undergoes the bottom to top housecleaning it so desperately needs, this is a spectacularly terrible idea.

    Saturday, August 26, 2017

    Paxton cracks down on Supply and Demand....

    "Fear not, for I am with you;
    Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you,
    Yes, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
    Isaiah 41:10

    This is...disappointing:

    From the write up:
    Price gouging by Texas merchants in the path of Hurricane Harvey has drawn the attention of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said Saturday that his office is looking into such cases.

    “We’ve already found one big retailer that was charging $42 for a case of water,” Paxton told Fox & Friends. “Another, a gas station $99 for a case of water.”

    "We’ll be dealing with those people as we find them,” he said.

    Paxton didn't identify the culprits.

    Paxton issued a warning about price gouging Friday as the hurricane approached the Texas coast.

    Texas law prohibits businesses from charging exorbitant prices for gasoline, food, water, clothing and lodging during declared disasters.


    “Anytime catastrophic storms hit Texas, we witness the courage of our first responders and the generosity of neighbors coming together to help their fellow Texans," Paxton said in warning against price gouging. "Unfortunately, in the wake of the damage from storms and flooding, we also see bad actors taking advantage of victims and their circumstances."
    This is a dangerous proposal, and it needs to be immediately put to rest.

    We get it: There was a big storm last night, and people are stressed.  But to panic and "crack down" on so-called "price gouging" (Translation: Price Controls) will only add politically driven shortages of basic necessities to the mix.  Calm down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this question: Can anything good come from adding politically driven shortages to the mix?!?

    In case you forgot: Price is a function of where supply intersects demand.  When demand spikes, and supply is held relatively constant, prices naturally spike as well.  That's what's happening in the hurricane zone.

    Those prices spikes then act as a signal to marginal suppliers.  When prices spike, marginal suppliers respond by entering the market.  As the demand spike subsides and the new supply comes online, prices naturally recede.

    But, for price signals to work, they need to be allowed to operate unfettered from political interference.  If anything, price flexibility is more important during a crisis.  Nothing good can come from politically directed price controls driven by panic.

    Just so we're clear: There are few elected officials out there with stronger pro-free enterprise records than Ken Paxton.  In 2006, when he was in the legislature, Ken Paxton fought the dadgum margins tax.  But that's also why Ken Paxton, of all people, should know better.

    Bottom Line: So called "price gougers" are unsung heroes.  Any panic driven attempt to "crack down" on them via politically directed price controls can only produce shortages when we can least afford them.  This is a recipe for turning a 3 or 4 days crisis into a 3 or 4 week catastrophe.

    Friday, August 25, 2017

    Another round of Federal court "voting rights" shakedowns; Texas' congressional delegation still doing nothing....

    "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
    Revelation 21:8

    [Update: It gets better...apparently John Cornyn voted to confirm the Judge in the Voter ID case.]

    The past couple weeks have seen another round of "voting rights" shakedowns from the Federal courts:
    • Voter ID: "Federal Judge tosses new Texas voter ID law; state plans to appeal."
      • This statement from Heritage is spot on: "The Obama-appointed judge in this case once again showed her ideological bias against any voter ID law; there is no evidence whatsoever to support her false claim that the law was passed with an intent to discriminate. Moreover, the amended law passed by the Texas legislature put in place the very same interim measures this same judge had approved for the November 2016 election. This includes a safety net that allows any Texan without an ID to vote if they simply sign a form claiming they had a “reasonable Impediment” that prevented them from getting the free photo ID issued by the state. No one but this obviously biased judge could possibly claim that was discriminatory."
    Both Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton have said the state intends to appeal these rulings.  Good on them, we absolutely should appeal.  Furthermore, there's a very good chance we ultimately win these cases on appeal.

    But while we'll probably win these cases on appeal, here's the infuriating part: Congress has the authority to permanently shut this racket down; yet they do nothing....

    That being said, at least one member of our congressional delegation finally said something:
    [Note: Which other member of our congressional delegation would it be?!?]

    While Cruz's statement is welcome, it's a fraction of what's needed (and even he didn't comment on the redistricting cases).

    As we explained in May, there's plenty our congressional delegation could actually do:
    A few plausible actions they could take:
    • Amending the voting rights act to explicitly state that it doesn't apply to voter ID laws.
    • Reforming the selection process for these three judge panels to disallow the type of judge shopping that always occurs in these cases.
    • Impeaching Judge Xavier Rodriguez, the leftist Dubya appointee who always seems to be at the center of these cases.
    But, instead, they sit around twiddling their thumbs hoping the Federal courts will bail them out (and we all know how reliable that can be).

    Bottom Line: Even if courage is too much to ask, one would think that self-interest or self-preservation would do the trick; but apparently not....

    UT Regents want System to help manage nation's Nuclear arsenal (but there's a catch)....

    "But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."
    James 4:16

    Interesting development from this week's UT Regents meeting:
    AUSTIN – Management of the nation’s most preeminent national laboratory in the areas of nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security, environmental management, energy and other programs will be open for bid for the first time since 2005, and University of Texas System leaders today received strong support from regents to pursue this unique opportunity.

    UT System Deputy Chancellor David Daniel and UT Austin President Greg Fenves, under the leadership of UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven, a recognized figure in national security, presented their case to the Board of Regents for consideration. Both McRaven and Daniel emphasized the UT System is uniquely positioned to provide excellent service in the national interest. The scale of the UT System and its academic and health institutions’ scientific assets could strongly position it for operational leadership of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 17 national laboratories. LANL operates under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE.

    Instead of routinely renewing the contract for the management of LANL, which is currently managed and operated by the University of California System in concert with industry partners Bechtel National, Inc. and others, NNSA has decided to open the bid process and invite new parties to make their case to manage the lab.

    Daniel stressed that the U.S. needs the strengths of its universities’ scientific prowess to maintain its nuclear deterrent, to promote non-proliferation, to monitor for rogue nuclear threats and testing, to manage environmental land and groundwater challenges left from the Cold War era, and to tackle new threats to national security such as cyberattacks.


    UT Austin President Fenves expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to have his faculty and students collaborate and work with the Los Alamos team, learning from and contributing to solutions on national security challenges. He also referenced the critically important research opportunities that would accompany the role of leading the lab, specifically the advantages that would be presented UT Austin as a national top research-intensive university.

    “For UT Austin, it would be a tremendous honor to help serve the nation. The important work at LANL is aligned with our research goals and priorities across the university,” Fenves said. “Our Texas Advanced Computing Center and Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences illustrate just two examples of those synergies, and we have a strong track record of meeting security clearances.”

    If the UT System proceeds, this will be the second time it competes for the LANL contract. It participated in the 2005 bid procurement as part of a larger team led by Lockheed Martin, but the contract ultimately was awarded to the University of California System and its industry partners. The UC System has been involved in the management of LANL for more than 70 years. who understands why this is a hilarious ask?!?

    Hint: The Los Alamos National Laboratory is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Now who, pray tell, is the current U.S. Secretary of Energy?!?

    That would be former Governor Rick Perry.

    Now, remind us which Governor put Wallace Hall on the UT Board?!?

    Oh, that's right, RICK PERRY!!!

    Then, of course, there's the fact that beyond the whole Wallace Hall impeachment fiasco, UT fought (and, unfortunately, largely thwarted) Rick Perry's higher ed reform agenda.

    Bottom Line: Even by their standards, UT asking Rick Perry for a prestigious federal contract is an act of chutzpah.

    #TXLEGE committee chairs: Patrick's Democrats vs. Straus' republicans....

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

    At some point, we might to a longer post about impressions from the most recent Empower Texans legislative index, but one observation stands out.

    Consider the scores of the two Democrats Dan Patrick appointed as committee chairs:
    • Note: It's also worth pointing out that neither of these committees are particularly important.
    Contrast the scores of those Senate Democrat committee chairs with the following house republicans:
    • Cindy Burkett (Redistricting): 48
      • Note: This committee didn't actually hold any meetings this past session.
    • Drew Darby (Energy Resources and Federalism): 40
    • John Kuempel (Licensing and Administrative Procedures): 39
    • Note: At least 9 of these are important committees.
    • Note II: And this list doesn't count the 13 Democrat committee chairs.
    Bottom Line: There are 14 Republican committee chairs in the house who are more liberal than the most liberal Democrat committee chair in the Senate.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    #atxcouncil: #TROXROX, proposes redirecting corporate welfare into core services....

    Ellen Troxclair

    "I love the Lord, because He has heard
    My voice and my supplications."
    Psalm 116:1

    This is a fantastic idea:
    Today’s City Council budget work session will almost certainly feature discussion about a proposal from Council Member Ellen Troxclair that seeks to reallocate money from the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax to pay for more expenses for Austin’s parks, which she argues will free up money from the General Fund budget that can pay for historic building preservation and other community priorities.

    The crux of the proposal centers around the fact that by law Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue can only be used for tourism-related expenses, such as the budget for the Austin Convention Center, marketing and upkeep of local sites that are considered a draw for visitors. Troxclair’s Option A proposal seeks to use much of the expected annual increase in HOT revenue next year to pay for $11.8 million in “parks and preservation” expenses that currently come out of the General Fund. 

    A resolution headed for next week’s Council meeting – co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchen – directs city staff to prepare budget documents and any ordinance language needed to redistribute HOT revenue in the manner Troxclair has outlined.
    More here:
    Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, a co-sponsor of the Troxclair proposal, emphasized that the measure was not attempting to divert HOT funds to general parks spending, but rather to “cultural facilities” run by the Parks and Recreation Department. 

    Cities are allowed to use up to 15 percent of HOT revenue on “cultural arts” projects and up to 15 percent on historic preservation. The city has already maxed out its cultural arts allocation, but it could still spend millions more to preserve historic structures. 

    Other Council members expressed general skepticism of the convention center’s value, pushing back on the argument that the city is missing out on economic opportunities by not expanding the existing center so that it can attract and accommodate bigger events. 

    “Being the place where all of the biggest conventions are isn’t necessarily a plus for our city, particularly downtown, where things are so darned congested,” said Council Member Leslie Pool.
    A few thoughts:
    •  We partially feel like we're commenting about this subject under duress, because "hotel occupancy taxes" are a politically directed extra cost that reduces the amount of money tourists have to spend in actual businesses.  Thus, they should be repealed in their entirety.  Until the legislature takes that step, however, the Troxclair et. al. proposal represents a significant improvement upon the status quo.
    • "Visit Austin," from which the majority of the funding will be re-allocated, is basically a politically controlled slush fund.
    • They say that if you live long enough, anything is possible; we only bring this up because we never thought we'd see Kathie Tovo and Ellen Troxclair on the same side of anything.
      • That being said, considering that the Convention Center is in her district, it's noteworthy that Tovo supports this proposal.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    LOL, the "humility" of taxpayer funded lobbyists....

    "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,
    The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
    And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."
    Isaiah 2:11

    The Texas Associations of counties is holding it's annual "legislative conference" (ie. taxpayer funded boozefest) this week in Austin.  We were in the neighborhood on unrelated business and noticed that they've, literally, got banners proclaiming their greatness (picture above).  Way to be responsible stewards of the taxpayer purse, guys!!!

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    UT Regents, once again, NOT publicly discussing on-campus security....

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

    [Note: Meanwhile, they don't seem to have any problem finding time to discuss tuition hikes.]

    On May 1st, UT-Austin experienced its second on-campus murder in 13 months; this week, the Board of Regents is having its third regularly scheduled meeting (alongside six special called meetings) since then.

    Any chance we can get a public discussion of on-campus security?!?


    Meanwhile, you have violent communists recruiting on campus.

    Bottom Line: This will not end well.

    Court shuts down anti-Paxton prosecutors ability to loot taxpayers....

    "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

    It's about time:
    On Monday, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas voided a $205,000 invoice dating back to January 2016, saying state laws and local rules did not allow the three special prosecutors to be paid the $300-an-hour rate they were promised.

    The prosecutors' attorney David Feldman confirmed Tuesday he would appeal the court's decision, but declined to comment on whether his clients would step down from the case due to nonpayment.

    "We are delighted," said County Judge Keith Self, who sits on the commissioners court. "All along, Collin County has asked for a ruling by a court and we now have it."

    Earlier this summer, the five-member commissioners court sued the prosecutors, claiming their hourly rate was illegal and too high. They said it was a burden on Collin County taxpayers, who are on the hook to pay for prosecuting the attorney general indicted for felony fraud in 2015.


    But the Dallas court on Monday sided with the commissioners, saying Texas law requires counties to "set both minimum and maximum hourly rates" in these cases. By adopting local rules that allowed them to exceed their own maximum fees, the court said "the judges exceeded their authority.


    As of June, Collin County taxpayers had paid $457,956 in Paxton-related expenses, according to the county auditor. About half — $254,000 — has gone to fund the prosecution. The lawyers' last payday was in January 2016.


    A federal judge in March threw out federal civil fraud charges against Paxton - charges that were similar to the state charges.
    Read the whole thing here. One of the Collin County commissioners has more here.  Empower Texans has more here.

    Monday, August 21, 2017

    Fenves defies Abbott over statues (and how will Abbott respond?!?)

    Leland Freeman took the photo of the statue last night

    "I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when your terror comes,"
    Proverbs 1:26

    We're basically agnostic on the whole Confederate statues issue, but with UT taking down their statues last night there's a political angle that's worth noting.

    Governor Abbott five days ago:
    Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday weighed in on the renewed debate over Confederate monuments in Texas, saying that removing them "won't erase our nation's past, and it doesn't advance our nation's future."

    Abbott's statement follows deadly violence that broke out Saturday at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where participants were protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The unrest in Charlottesville led elected officials in some of Texas' biggest cities to begin looking into taking down similar monuments in their areas.

    "Racist and hate-filled violence – in any form — is never acceptable, and as Governor I have acted to quell it," Abbott said in the statement. "My goal as governor is to eliminate the racist and hate-filled environment we are seeing in our country today."

    "But we must remember that our history isn't perfect," Abbott added. "If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won't erase our nation's past, and it doesn't advance our nation's future.
    Greg Fenves last night:
    During the past several days, I have talked with student leaders, students, faculty members, staff members and alumni to listen to their views after the revelatory events in Charlottesville. I also revisited the very thorough 2015 task force report. After considering the original task force report and with the events of the past week and my discussions with the campus community in mind, I have decided to relocate the remaining four statues.

    The statues depicting Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg are now being removed from the Main Mall. The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues will be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center for scholarly study. The statue of James Hogg, governor of Texas (1891-1895), will be considered for re-installation at another campus site.


    We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus. As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all.
    Bottom Line: Greg Abbott has been very accommodating to the University of Texas over the years.  But if there's one thing we've learned about Greg Abbott in recent weeks, it's that he doesn't seem to like open defiance (see: Straus, Joe).  Stay tuned, this just might get interesting....

    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    #TXLEGE: How the LAWLESS Texas house operates (Part 2)....

    "They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
    They delight in lies;
    They bless with their mouth,
    But they curse inwardly. Selah"
    Psalm 62:4

    We finally found the third video we wanted to post yesterday:


    • Murders row of Straus lieutenants signed Huberty's petition.
    • Almost as many Democrats as Republicans signed the petition.
    • Rinaldi: "The effect of the motion you're making is there's no more amendments and we're going to vote on the bill immediately, correct?!?"
    • Pre-filed amendments would have expanded the scope of the bill.
      • Huberty refuses to pull the motion.
    • Leach: "Does the chair have the authority to not recognize a motion to call the previous question?!?"
      • Straus: "Yes."
        • Translation: Straus could have overruled Huberty and allowed debate on the amendments.
      • Straus refuses to answer questions about why he's making this ruling.
    • Previous question motions have historically been used only after marathon floor debates.
    • Briscoe Cain points out how Straus' ruling is a...creative...interpretation of house rules.
    • Cain asks why the bill had been delayed 24 hours if getting it over to the Senate was the top priority.
    • Schaefer: "When we objected to the bill being postponed yesterday, we had amendments ready to go that we wanted to put before the body."
    • Stickland: "More games are being played in your Texas capitol."
      • "There were three different amendments that sought to bring in more Texans."
      • "Instead, there are members of this body who are moving to silence folks like myself who believe that people's property taxes are too high right now."
      • Straus interrupts Stickland.
      • "The substance of this motion is to silence our ability, as members, to bring forth amendments to make this bill stronger."
      • None of Dennis Bonnen's constituents were included in the bill.
      • Millions left out of the bill.

    UT Politburo (predictably) begins laying foundation for next tuition increase....

    "As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    So a fool repeats his folly."
    Proverbs 26:11

    [Note: This story is actually a week old, but it remains worth noting because it's such a textbook example of how they operate.]

    [Note II: You can see our testimony over why reigning in tuition hikes is step one to restoring financial accountability in higher education here.]

    LOL, of course:
    University of Texas System regents sketched out a strategy Friday to ensure that proposals to raise tuition and fees in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years are warranted and to seek support from local officials, lawmakers and statewide elected leaders before adopting them. The effort to bolster the tuition-setting process with an eye toward enlisting political support comes after a legislative session that saw the Texas Senate vote 29-2 to freeze academic charges for two years at the state’s public universities and to sharply restrict future increases. But the measure, Senate Bill 19, didn’t emerge from a House committee.

    “I think more than ever we need to do everything we can to educate them,” Regent Kevin Eltife, a former Republican state senator from Tyler, said of lawmakers. “They may not like it, but we need to be able to say when we go to session in ’19, ‘Look, we had to do this. Here’s the need, here’s why we did it, and we did our best to visit with all of you.’ And we need to target the reps and senators from the area of the institution and we need to target” the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

    Regent Rad Weaver said it will be crucial to find local champions for any tuition increase. “There’ll be one or two within each local delegation, and we need to identify those early on and make sure that they’re informed,” he said.

    Regent Janiece Longoria agreed. “They can be very helpful with state leadership in helping frame the message about why it’s so important, assuming that they need a tuition increase and assuming that it’s the right amount,” she said.

    Regent Sara Martinez Tucker, who chairs the UT board’s Academic Affairs Committee, said campus leaders would be expected to play a key role in making the case to elected officials for any tuition increase. Her committee signed off on the strategy Friday, and the full Board of Regents is expected to go along with it at a meeting later this month.


    Chancellor Bill McRaven noted that a political calculation is inevitably part of the decision.

    “If you look at the facts that will be presented in terms of the needs for the institutions to generate additional revenue, we are clearly going to have to balance that with the political will, and I think we all understand that moving forward,” McRaven said.
    A few points:

    • You'll notice that all the regents pushing this (Eltife, Weaver, Longoria, and Tucker) are Abbott appointees; the 3 remaining Perry holdovers all seem to be keeping their heads down.
    Bottom Line: This was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo predictable (which is why we predicted it)....

    Friday, August 18, 2017

    #TXLEGE: How the LAWLESS Texas house operates

    "They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
    They delight in lies;
    They bless with their mouth,
    But they curse inwardly. Selah"
    Psalm 62:4

    [Note: There was video we saw earlier on Facebook from when Huberty moved to vote on the property tax bill without considering amendments, but we can no longer find it; we'll include it in a separate post if it shows up.]

    For as disappointing as the special session was on so many policy fronts, it certainly produced some humdinger examples of house leadership acting lawlessly....

    Ending the session early with several of Governor Abbott's priorities left undone:

    • You can hear the members both objecting and demanding a record vote on the motion.  Any member has the prerogative to make such a motion.  Yet Straus refuses to recognize either.
    • Note: We have no idea why the audio doesn't line up with the video.
    Leadership uses unprecedented procedural trickery to prevent amendments on retired teacher health care bill:

    • The calendar rule under consideration would have made it impossible to end the rainy day fund raid.
    • Hunter: "You won't be able to make an amendment that doesn't follow section 2A."
    • Rinaldi: "With two days left in session obviously there's a shortage of time...why is the calendars committee opposed to allowing use to even vote on this opportunity?!?"
    • It's kinda moot after the house's early sine die, but Hunter's comments about wanting to keep the bill moving are painfully disingenuous.  The rule Hunter was proposing would have forced a conference committee, which would have had the practical effect of killing the bill.  The amendment Rinaldi wanted to offer the only way to preserve that bill in a form where the Senate could concur and send it to the Governor.

    Thursday, August 17, 2017

    #TXLEGE: Bettencourt's speech after the house killed property tax reform....

    "But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
    Nehemiah 5:15

    From Tuesday night:

    • "Some days the Texas capitol does not recognize the obvious, and that's what's happened today."
    • "Today's action by the Texas house leaves us with a bill, to quote the house ways and means chairman, that provides no property tax relief whatsoever."
    • "SB 1...was a bill that belongs to the taxpayers of Texas."
    • The house refused to appoint a conference committee.
    • "The ability to amend legislation didn't occur in the Texas house."
    • Texans "are being taxed out of their homes and their businesses."
    • "We are not going to accept the take it or leave it proposal from the house."

    #atxcouncil Approves $122 MILLION for office building....

    "There is desirable treasure,
    And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
    But a foolish man squanders it.?
    Proverbs 21:20

    We signed up to testify in opposition to items 16 - 18 from today's council meeting:


    The theory behind the project is that one of the problems with the permitting process is that simply getting the permits requires one to traipse all over town.  Thus, putting all the offices in one physical location will "streamline the process" (Note: Why can't this be done online?!?) (Note II: A nine-figure fiscal note is a strange definition of "streamlining.")

    We had to leave before they got to this item, but if we'd testified we would have hit the following five points:
    • Cost - First things first, dadgum $122 MILLION is a LOT of money.  For an office building.  According to the city's documents, they want to build 264,000 square feet of office space.

      $122,500,000/264,000 square feet = $464.02 per square foot.

      According to any number of commercial real estate sites we checked, the average rate to rent existing office  space in Austin ranges from $23.00 to $50.74 depending on the neighborhood; new construction maxes out at $150 per square foot..

      Two weeks ago, Mayor Adler told this author to bring it to his attention when we think the city is spending money irresponsibly; this is a pretty good place to start.
    • Financing Mechanism - As item #18 makes clear, they're financing this through "certificates of obligation."  The beautiful thing about certificates of obligations for governmental entities is that they don't require voter approval.  While c of o's can have a legitimate cash management function, to use them for this sort of capital expenditure of a horrible abuse of the process.

      On a semi-related note, we fully intended to bring this one up with the legislature whenever we get new leadership in the Texas House.
    • Housing Costs - The city claims that the C of O's will be repaid by "development fees" instead of property tax revenue.  Of course, in order to raise the revenue needed to cover $122 million in obligations, you would need to shoot the development fees through the roof.  And that means every single piece of new construction from here to eternity will have to include those fees in the final cost to the end user.

      Translation: Higher housing costs.
    • Highland Mall Redevelopment - There's widespread agreement across the political spectrum that mixed use development is the best function of the highland mall tract.  Creating a five-acre city office complex on that property will mean the surrounding area is DEAD after 6pm.  Dead zones like that are kryptonite for vibrant neighborhoods.
    • Wrong Mindset - Everyone agrees that the permitting process is too bureaucratic.  But instead of eliminating bureaucracy...we're just going to build the bureaucrats a beautiful new building.  Does anyone actually believe that's going to "streamline" anything?!?

      Again, on a semi-related note, this is why Konni Burton's permitting bill is so desperately needed.
    Following passage of the item, Mayor Adler released the following video to Facebook:

    So he's arguing that he saved taxpayers $45 million...but the project is still going to cost $122 million?!?

    Bottom Line: Never, ever, ever forget that, once you get past the headlines, politics at every level in the state of Texas is mostly about good ol' boys putting together shady real estate deals...and someone's getting paid on this one.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    Reinforcing the Texas "Medical" Association's Diabolical Wickedness....

    "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"
    Romans 11:33

    [Note I: The sections about TMA are from 0:00 to 4:00 and from 12:00 to the end; the middle section is the chiropractic treatment.]

    [Note II: This author had nothing to do with the production of this video.  Thus we were not consulted regarding Ms. Adams' wardrobe.  If some of you Baptist types have an issue with useful information being presented by an attractive woman in a semi-revealing outfit using modestly strong language, you are free to not watch the video without sending this author an angry Facebook message on the topic.]

    [Note III: LOL, Baptist trigger warnings....]

    Oh yeah, we'd forgotten about the chiropractors....

    Over the years, this website's opposition to the texas "medical" association has primarily been rooted in their rabid support for abortion, euthanasia in hospitals, and Obamacare.  But we know they're is involved in all sorts of other terrible things.  But, like we said, we'd completely forgotten about the Chiropractors.

    Gregory Johnson is a Houston based chiropractor with a popular YouTube channel.  We discovered Dr. Johnson's channel this past weekend during some fitness related research that wasn't supposed to be political.  But then the TMA video popped up....

    Apparently, at some recent point, TMA attempted an effort to mandate a referral from a general practitioner before anyone in Texas could visit a chiropractor.  This was obviously a protectionist effort to use the coercive power of the state to create a new revenue stream.  We believe the effort was unsuccessful, but the fact that it had to be fought in the first place speaks volumes.

    We first encountered TMA's anti-chiropractor nonsense during the Mike VanDeWalle special election campaign three years ago; at least TMA is staying classy.

    This past January, Dr. Johnson released a video with professional wrestler Brooke Adams detailing TMA's latest villainy.  In the video, Dr. Johnson asks viewers to help make the video go "as viral as possible."  Considering that most of the top pro-free market activists in this state read this website, that's a request we can oblige.

    Watch the full video below.



    • Adams lives in Houston: "She wants to preserve the right [to see a chiropractor] without having to go through her medical doctor."
    • TMA trying to change "scope of practice" laws to box chiropractors out of the market.
    • Adams: "I owe the longevity of my career" to chiropractic.
      • Note: Long career or not, we'd never heard of her until we discovered Dr. Johnson's YouTube channel.
    • Adams: "I just think it's complete...[nonsense] that I have to spend extra money to go to a doctor just to get a referral."
      • Selfish and unfair to consumers.
    • Out of state clients would have to get a referral from a licensed doctor before they could see Johnson.
    • TMA has sued the chiropractors multiple times and the chiropractors have won every time.

    #TXLEGE: Thoughts on #SINEDIE (take 2)....

    "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God."
    Romans 8:19

    We're still digesting the past 24 hours, but a few observations in no particular order:
    • 83 Republican house members showed up to today's caucus meeting.  That's a heck of a lot more than we expected.  We were also pleasantly surprised by the length of the meeting.
    • Joe Straus personally showing up is an admission that all is not well in the Republican caucus.
    • There was a whole bunch of traditional media at today's caucus meeting; media interest can only raise the profile of the issue..
    • We're not sure who said it (Jim Graham?!?) but they're absolutely correct: You can't support both Greg Abbott and Joe Straus anymore.
      • At this point, it remains an open question whether Greg Abbott supports Greg Abbott or Joe Straus.
    • The arrogance of house leadership remains a sight to behold: Had they simply shown up for work this morning, they probably could have run out the clock with a fairly typical act of failure theater.  But they just had to jam their thumb in the eye of Abbott, Patrick/the Senate, and the Texas grassroots.  In doing so, they elevated their profile all over again.
      • Note: The only reason we haven't completely given up on Greg Abbott is because the degree to which he's been publicly disrespected essentially demands a response.
    • Apparently, the house Republican caucus has a September retreat scheduled; grassroots activists really ought to crash that party.
      • Note: If the new RPT leadership really wanted to impress this website, they'd convince the caucus make the whole event open to the public.
    • The kumbaya messaging coming out of today's caucus meeting was obnoxious.
    • Abbott said all the right things in today's radio interview.  But Greg Abbott frequently says all the right things.  Its Greg Abbott's follow through that leaves a lot to be desired.
    • Another special session won't accomplish anything right now.
      • Note: But then there's redistricting....
    • Random Thought: We wonder if the Texas Association of Business has ever taken any money from George Soros?!?
      • cc: Abbott, Greg
    • We're getting really, really, really sick of the socialized education industrial complex's sense of entitlement....

    Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    #TXLEGE: House thumbs their nose at Texans one final time....

    "Talk no more so very proudly;
    Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
    For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
    And by Him actions are weighed."
    1 Samuel 2:3

    We had intended to write a post about today's floor action in the house but, literally in the time it took this author to walk from the Capitol to Faulk Central appears the house has adjourned sine die (and killed property tax reform in the process).

    So be it.

    It's been obvious for some time that house leadership is incorrigibly wicked and that they're never going to change.

    Furthermore, recent weeks have made it obvious that Greg Abbott simply wasn't willing to inflict the amount of political pain that would have been necessary to get his agenda moving; so be it.

    This was just one more insult consistent with their actions all along.

    So the (first) special session is done.  The Senate performed reasonably well.  The House went to increasingly great lengths of lawlessness to stifle the grassroots agenda.

    So be it.

    That being said, one thought: Did Tan Parker know this was coming...and was that why they moved the house Republican caucus meeting up a day?!?

    Monday, August 14, 2017

    #TXLEGE: Detailing today's house floor shady business....

    Chris Paddie aggressively confronts Matt Krause

    "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ "
    Matthew 7:23

    Some notable, albeit predictable, items from today:
    • Shady SB 19 calendar rule - The house adopted a calendar rule for to restrict the type of amendments eligible for the retired teacher health care bill up tomorrow.  Todd Hunter's stated reason for the amendment was to speed up the conference committee process.  Unfortunately, as Matt Rinaldi got Hunter to confess under questioning, Hunter's rule explicitly prohibits the type of amendment that would allow the Senate to concur and skip the conference committee process entirely.

      As Rinaldi correctly pointed out, adoption of this calendar rule will (because of time constraints) eliminate any chance for an agreement on helping retired teachers; so this was a vote against health care for retired teachers.

      Jonathan Stickland correctly described leadership's actions in arbitrarily and lawlessly restricting the type of amendments that can be offered as tyranny.

    • Refusal to consider third reading amendments on SB 1 - As part of an agreed upon deal during last Saturday's floor debate on the property tax bill (to get the spending cap bill to the floor), the Freedom Caucus agreed to pull down several amendments and send the bill to conference committee.  Unfortunately, leadership reneged on their end of the deal.  Thus, the freedom caucus pre-filed the amendments and intended to bring them back on third reading today.

      But Dan Huberty had other plans: Afraid to cast a record vote on the freedom caucus amendments, Huberty produced 25 signatures and immediately "called the question" (ie. moving immediately to a vote on the bill without considering amendments).  Several freedom caucus members, led by but not limited to Stickland, vigorously questioned Huberty and Dennis Bonnen about the last minute change.  Bonnen attempted to argue that second reading was the appropriate time to discuss amendments, while omitting that leadership's about face on Saturday's deal happened after second reading on SB 1.

      Following the vote, Chris Paddie aggressively confronted Matt Krause on the floor and attempted to lie about leadership's action Saturday; Paddie was physically restrained, and eventually led away from the confrontation, by Byron Cook (Note: You know it's bad when Byron Cook is the voice of reason).
    • Zedler's union dues amendment on the school finance commission bill - This one wasn't particularly shady, but it was really entertaining to watch.  During consideration of a bill to create a school finance commission, Bill Zedler offered an amendment to study how much the start.

      Dan Huberty acted particularly butthurt and claimed Zedler's amendment was some sort of restriction on the ability of teachers to participate int he political process.  Byron Cook claimed Zedler's amendment was "discrimination" against teachers.  Two separate points of order were called by democrats.

      The amendment ultimately got 49 votes, which was better than we thought it would do.

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    #TXLEGE: House Republicans who voted against minimally acceptable taxpayer protection.....

    "But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
    Nehemiah 5:15

    SB 1, in the form it passed the Senate, was always a compromise bill.  Nevertheless, by moving to automatic November rollback elections at a 4% rate, you were at least making a tangible step in the right direction.  But even that modest step was too much for the house.

    Among the ways the house version of SB 1 guts the bill, they moved the rollback rate from 4% to 6%; during today's floor debate, Matt Shaheen offered an ultimately unsuccessful amendment to re-establish a 4% threshold.

    The following Republicans voted against Shaheen's amendment:

    Bottom Line: This bill has been watered down into meaninglessness. We'll see what happens in the event of a conference committee. In the meantime, it's pathetic they couldn't take this one small step.

    Friday, August 11, 2017

    #TXLEGE: Schaefer attempts to end rural carve out in Annexation bill; House declines....

    "So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. 7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!"
    2 Chronicles 15:6-7

    Well, he tried.

    During today's house floor debate on the annexation bill, Matt Schaefer offered an amendment (Note: Amendment #2) that would have made the bill apply to all 254 counties.

    It was shot down 58-78.

    Here's the damage:
    RV# 111 — Unofficial Totals58 Yeas, 78 Nays, 1 Present, not voting
    Yeas - Anderson, C.; Anderson, R.; Bell; Biedermann; Bohac; Burkett; Burns; Cain; Canales; Cosper; Cyrier; Dean; Elkins; Faircloth; Fallon; Frank; Frullo; Gooden; Guerra; Hefner; Holland; Isaac; Kacal; Keough; King, P.; Klick; Krause; Kuempel; Landgraf; Lang; Lozano; Metcalf; Meyer; Miller; Muñoz; Murphy; Paddie; Phillips; Pickett; Price; Raney; Rinaldi; Roberts; Sanford; Schaefer; Schofield; Schubert; Shaheen; Stephenson; Stickland; Swanson; Thompson, E.; Tinderholt; Uresti; White; Wilson; Wray; Zedler
    Nays - Allen; Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Arévalo; Ashby; Bailes; Bernal; Blanco; Bonnen, D.; Bonnen, G.; Burrows; Button; Capriglione; Clardy; Coleman; Collier; Cook; Cortez; Craddick; Dale; Darby; Davis, S.; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Farrar; Flynn; Geren; Gervin-Hawkins; Giddings; Goldman; Gonzales; González; Gutierrez; Hernandez; Herrero; Hinojosa; Howard; Huberty; Hunter; Israel; Johnson, E.; King, T.; Koop; Larson; Longoria; Martinez; Minjarez; Moody; Morrison; Murr; Nevárez; Oliveira; Oliverson; Ortega; Parker; Paul; Perez; Phelan; Reynolds; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Rose; Sheffield; Shine; Simmons; Springer; Stucky; Thierry; Thompson, S.; Turner; VanDeaver; Villalba; Vo; Walle; Workman; Zerwas
    Present, not voting - Mr. Speaker(C)
    Absent, Excused - Johnson, J.; Lambert; Leach; Neave; Smithee; Wu
    Absent - Dukes; Dutton; Guillen; King, K.; Laubenberg; Lucio; Raymond
    Note that most of the rural R's (eg. Cecil Bell, Scott Copser, Lance Gooden, Chris Paddie and Four Price) voted for the Schaefer amendment.  That should tell you how this plays in the rural areas.  Unfortunately, it looks like a whole bunch of squish suburban R's took one for the team (lookin' at you Giovanni) took one for the team to kill the amendment.

    Bottom Line: As a resident of Travis County, this bill helps us no matter what, but it sucks for the rural folks.