Friday, March 24, 2017

Bonnen hears (at least) NINE (more) special interest carve out bills (23 for session)....


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

It's that time of week when we check on the latest from Dennis Bonnen and the Texas House Ways and Means committee:
  •  HB 382        Murphy | et al.
    Relating to the exemption from ad valorem taxation of real property leased to and used by certain schools.
  • HB 589        Bohac                  
    Relating to a sales tax exemption for certain items sold during a limited period.
  •  HB 595        Workman | et al.       
    Relating to a franchise tax credit for entities that employ certain students in certain paid internship or similar programs. 
  • HB 755        Parker                 
    Relating to the use by certain tax-exempt organizations of certain payments made in connection with real property transfers to provide educational activities through certain schools.
  •  HB 1127       Raymond | et al.       
    Relating to a franchise tax credit pilot program for taxable entities that employ certain apprentices.
  • HB 1351       Wray                   
    Relating to the prohibition of local motor fuel taxes on compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. 
  •  HB 2028       Goldman                
    Relating to the procedure for canceling a deferral or abatement of collection of ad valorem taxes on the residence homestead of an elderly person.
  •  HB 2381       Frullo                 
    Relating to the applicability of the sales and use tax to certain insurance services.
  •  HJR 52        Turner                 
    Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation a portion of the assessed value of certain real property used to provide housing to certain individuals with disabilities.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

anti-Innovation, anti-Startup, pro-incumbent Protection Racket hires Jim Keffer....


"He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed."
Proverbs 13:20

Jim Keffer is a former Straus lieutenant who retired in the face of a primary everybody knew he'd lose after the last legislative session.  He also joined a left-wing think tank last October...on national coming out day!!!  Likewise, the Texas Association of Business is an anti-innovation, anti-startup, pro-incumbent protection racket who we're made to look foolish in the Texas Senate two weeks ago.

They're made for each other:

TAB Keffer by Cahnman on Scribd


Fun Fact I: Keffer was also the bully who got busted hurling personal insults at a colleague last session.

Fun Fact II:  Jim Keffer was the original driving force behind the Texas "Ethics" Commissions's haf decade jihad against Empower Texans; speaking of Empower Texans, they have more here.

Bottom Line: Truly, they deserve each other.

Tuition Day in Texas Senate's Higher Ed Committee!!!


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

[Note: Our testimony can be viewed just after the 1:36 mark here; we'll try to get it up on our YouTube page in the next few days.]

Yesterday morning, the Texas Senate's higher education committee heard five bills related to reigning in university tuition increases.  The hearing was in an unusual format where all five bills were laid out then testimony was taken on all five.  Due to misreading the Senate schedule (we thought the hearing began at 9 when it began at 8), we arrived late to the hearing, but we've watched the remainder of the hearing online and did make it in time to testify FOR SB 19 (Seliger) and SB 250 (Schwertner).

Seliger's bill would impose a hard tuition freeze for four years, while Schwertner's would impose a long term cap on tuition at the rate of inflation.

For the most part, testimony was the predictable litany of 'sky will fall' nonsense in the event public universities were required to show mild discipline in containing costs; lots of hysteria about "workforce" and "economic" development.

Chancellor McRaven, however, used his testimony as an opportunity for chutzpah about the UT board being "conservative" with tuition hikes over the past half decade, considering that he came on board at the end of that time and one of his first acts as chancellor was to push a tuition hike.  McRaven cited 2011 tuition data even though he was only hired in 2015.  Also, for the record, Wallace Hall was on all of those boards 5 and 6 years ago.  Beyond that, the Chancellor spoke in cliches about "being competitive," "excellence," and "investing in student success."  The Chancellor did not refer to his military service at any time during testimony.

As it relates to Senator Seliger's bill, we testified that colleges and universities love to build expensive buildings and hire lots of bureaucrats at six figure salaries and that forcing them to take a time out on tuition hikes would begin to curtail that process. [Note: It's also worth pointing out that it could be VERY hard for the House to kill (or Abbott to veto) a full tuition freeze...like it or not, suburban parents vote.]  On Schwertner's bill, we testified that if Boards of Regents are going to continue defying the legislature then the time has come to begin removing various authorities from them.

Finally, we urged the committee to take a very hard look at UTIMCO's $37 billion in assets as it debates higher ed. funding moving forward.

Bottom Line: An encouraging hearing, we'll have to see what happens moving forward.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BYRON COOK orders citizen ARRESTED for Filming....


"No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord."
Isaiah 54:17

[Update: Practical Politicking has more here.]

Amy Hedtke is a North Texas activist who frequently broadcasts political events on Facebook (using an iphone).  For those who are unaware, the Texas House's 'house rules' only allows citizens to film committee meetings "at the discretion of the chair" (even though that's illegal under state law).  Looks like Amy chose to put the 'House rules' to the legal test they've always deserved in Byron Cook's State Affairs committee hearing this afternoon:

[Note: The interaction with House staff and law enforcement begins at the 50:40 mark.]




The next video pretty much speaks for itself:

[Note: There's a full explanation of the day's events in the final minute of this one.]



Bottom Line:  Sometimes you pray for Rosa Parks, and God sends you Amy Hedtke....

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DPS: (512) 463-6481.
Chairman Byron Cook: (512) 463-0730.
Governor Greg Abbott: (512) 463-2000.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Abbott's strangely timed comments on local pre-emption

See if you can spot the irony in this photo.
"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:36

Hmm...at first, this sounds really good:
CORPUS CHRISTI — As local control battles rage at the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott is voicing support for a much more sweeping approach to the issues that have captured headlines.

"As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations, is a superior approach," Abbott said Tuesday during a Q&A session hosted by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, an Austin-based think tank.

Such an approach, Abbott added, "makes it more simple, more elegant, but more importantly, provides greater advance notice to businesses and to individuals that you’re going to have the certainty to run your lives."
But then you start thinking about the current legislative session...and you realize that the bill filing deadline was 12 days ago.

Then you consider that Abbott has been governor for two and a half years, during which time this issue has kept bubbling up in various forms, and you realize that he's never actually done anything about it.

Instead, consider some of the items Abbott has declared "emergencies" ahead of local government accountability:

  • Pre-K.
  • University Faculty recruitment.
  • CPS reform.
  • Article V Convention.
  • Note: In fairness to Abbott, he's also announced some worthwhile priorities (Ethics reform and the border stuff), but it doesn't changed the fact that he's put a bunch of crap seemingly less important issues in front of a systematic approach to local government accountability.
Of course, we would never accuse Greg Abbott of cynically making an inflammatory headline generating comment less than a year out from his re-election secure in the knowledge that the average voter won't realize it's too late for him to do anything about it...he would never do that!

Bottom Line: At this point, when it comes to Governor FoxNews, actions speak SO much louder than words; if he wants to impress us, he should threaten a special session.

#TXLEGE SB 822: A TERRIBLE Bill for Austin's Housing Costs....


"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?"
Matthew 20:15

[Author's Note: The Statesman has a good write up this morning's hearing here.]

There's a bill we've been keeping an eye on for several weeks about which we have yet to comment, but considering that it got a hearing this morning, now is a good time.

SB 822 is a weird attempt to get the legislature involved in a West Austin land dispute that's been simmering for at least a decade.  To be honest, we have no idea why the legislature chose to but in this session.  While we have no specific knowledge, considering the neighborhood involved, we suspect there's a lobbyist who's also a participant in the land dispute.

At the heart of the issue is a tract of land (sidenote: What else is new in Texas?!?) on which is currently situated the Lions Golf Course.  The golf course is operated by the city of Austin while the land is owned by the University of Texas system.  That being said, given its proximity to downtown and various other popular locations, this tract is a prime candidate for residential construction in a city that needs to build 150,000 units of new housing over the next decade.


Because it's such a prime location for housing construction, from time to time UT has looked into selling (or long term ground leasing) the property to various developers...which of course doesn't sit well with the anti-growthers at the Austin Neighborhoods Council.  This has led to the disingenuous and tiresome "Save Muny" campaign in West Austin.  With UT's lease with the city set to expire in 2019, ANC is clearly trying to pre-empt a public discussion of the property.

Which brings us to Estes' bill.  SB 822 would transfer the property from the UT system (who might eventually allow hosing (in our city that needs to build 150,000 new units)) to the state of Texas' Parks and Wildlife department.  The P&W department could be expected to keep the property as a municipally run golf course for the indefinite future.

And, of course, keeping the property as a municipally run golf course will permanently remove almost a 150 acres of prime real estate from the housing stock.

Bottom Line: For this website to come down on the same side as UT on an issue before the legislature should tell you a lot about the unusual nature of this situation, but leaving the status quo in place is the best possible outcome for everyone except a few vocal anti-growthers in West Austin.

-----

Note I: We didn't want to dilute the arguments on the merits above with an ideological tangent, but it's also worth pointing out that no city has any business running any golf course at any time.

-----

Note II: Where the heck are the Texas Exes on this one?!?  For as much as they loved to play the "the legislature shouldn't micromanage universities" card  during discussions of any attempts to hold Bill Powers accountable for all his misdeeds over the years, this actual attempt to micromanage the university's real estate doesn't seem to elicit a peep.  They're the one group that could probably kill this thing if they got involved...so we hope they do.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sampling issues over which House leadership has prioritized Minimum Wage HIKES.....


"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,"
Galatians 1:6

[Author's Note : The list of issues below is not meant to be exhaustive, it's just a collection of issues (not all of which we support) that are more worthy of discussion that the minimum wage.]

It's not a secret that the House heard nine minimum wage bills today; but consider some issues that have yet to receive a committee hearing in the House:
  • Ethics reform (Gov. priority)
  • Article V Convention (RPT/Gov. priority)
  • Anything pro-life (RPT/Lite Guv. priority)
  • Constitutional carry (RPT priority)
    • Note: To be fair, that one is coming next week, but it's still revealing that they heard minimum wage first.
  • School Choice (RPT/Lite Guv Priority)
  • Anything related to property taxes (RPT priority)
  • Local government debt.
  • Short Term rentals.
  • Annexation reform.
  • Any number of other measures related to local government accountability.
  • Anything related to occupational licensing.
  • Abolishing taxpayer funded lobbying.
  • Anything related to preventing university tuition increases.
  • Privacy Act (Lite Guv priority)
  • List [Your favorite issue] in the comment section below.
Bottom Line: Yet, somehow, they've already managed to hear nine minimum wage bills.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stickland announces CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY HEARING!!!


"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

Boom:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Straus' Priorities: Minimum Wage Hikes and Rainy Day Fund Raids!!!


"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,"
Galatians 1:6

One of the interesting dynamics of this session is the degree to which House leadership is being open about their left wing priorities; this past week saw two humdingers.

First the budget:
The institutions that we entrust with our future are facing serious setbacks that would harm our entire state. Our economic success begins in our schools, colleges and universities. In order to compete, we need a well-educated workforce with diverse skills.

And the cuts would hardly be limited to education. Across Texas, state mental hospitals are crumbling. Without significant repairs, for example, the Rusk State Hospital in East Texas will remain a public health hazard. Nursing homes could be forced to reduce their staffs.

And perhaps nobody should watch this debate closer than the retired teachers who put so many of us on the path to success. There is a $1 billion shortfall in the health care program for retired school employees. Without an injection of hundreds of millions of dollars to address that shortfall, retired teachers could face massive increases in their health insurance deductibles and very sizable increases in monthly premiums.

....

Another idea is to combine spending reductions with a modest withdrawal from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Read the whole thing here...but, honestly, what would you expect from a guy who uses identical language as Barack Obama to describe the economy?!?

Then there's this:
In a stunning move, the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to support Democrat efforts to hamstring the state’s economy by raising the minimum wage.

Earlier today, State Rep. Hugh Shine (R–Belton) moved to suspend the rules and fast track a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage by almost 50 percent.

Authored by the chairman of the House Democrat caucus, State Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington’s HJR 56 would amend the Texas Constitution to raise the minimum wage in the State of Texas from the federally required $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Loyal to the Democrat-coalition that governs the Texas House, Shine serves as the Vice Chair of the Committee on Business & Industry and likely made the motion at the behest of his committee chairman State Rep. RenĂ© Oliveira (D–Brownsville).

And he succeeded.

Despite the Texas Republican Party Platform’s call for a complete abolition of the minimum wage and a long history of free market rhetoric, Republican members voted overwhelmingly in favor of Shine’s motion, with only 21 members voting against the motion to suspend the rules.

That vote was sharply condemned by conservative State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park) who is serving his first term in the Legislature after dispatching a liberal Republican.
The minimum wage hike won't pass, but it will be used to waste time late in the session.

And there will be nine minimum wage related bills getting hearings on Monday; in other words, whatever your legislative priority, nine minimum wage related bills are going to get hearings first.

Priorities indeed.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#TXLEGE: Zaffirini votes FOR Dismemberment Abortion Ban!!!


"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so."
Proverbs 3:27

We don't bring it up often, but we are actually a resident of Judy Zaffirini's district and, as such, this tidbit from Texas Right to Life caught our eye:
Today, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 415, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, on second reading. The bill was preliminarily approved by the Senate on a bipartisan 22-8 vote. In addition to every Republican of the Senate supporting the measure, two Democrats – Senators Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) – voted for the life-saving measure. Senate Bill 415 and House Bill 844, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, outlaw the barbaric and inhumane procedure that ends the life of a living, conscious preborn child by tearing her limb from limb.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Bottom Line: It's not often we say this, but as a constituent of Judy Zaffirini's we commend her.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bonnen hears (at least) SEVEN (more) special interest carve out bills (14 for session)....


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

It's that time of week when we check on the latest from Dennis Bonnen and the Texas House Ways and Means committee. Yesterday, the Texas Senate took a tangible step towards meaningful property tax reform (even if it doesn't go far enough).  How did the House follow up today?!?

  • HB 170        Lucio III | et al.      
    Relating to exempting books purchased, used, or consumed by university and college students from the sales and use tax for limited periods.
  • HB 242        Hernandez | et al.     
    Relating to exempting textbooks purchased, used, or consumed by university and college students from the sales and use tax for limited periods.
  • HB 350        Canales                
    Relating to exempting textbooks purchased, used, or consumed by university and college students from the sales and use tax for limited periods.
  • HB 359        Cyrier                 
    Relating to the motor vehicle sales tax imposed on the purchase, rental, or use of certain emergency services vehicles.
  • HB 1127       Raymond | et al.       
    Relating to a franchise tax credit pilot program for taxable entities that employ certain apprentices.
  • HB 1199       Rodriguez, Justin      
    Relating to the sale or assignment of tax credits for the certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures.
  • HB 1332       Parker | et al.        
    Relating to the exemption of certain entities that operate ambulances from certain motor fuel taxes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Thoughts on (#TROXROX) Local Government Accountability Day (#TROXROX) in the Texas Senate (#TROXROX)


"Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;"
Proverbs 24:3

We've been in a holding pattern for several hours as the Senate debates the privacy act; this seems like as good a time as any to post our thoughts on this hearings this morning about property taxes, ridesharing, and short-term rentals in the Texas Senate:

[Author's Note: Points about property taxes will be listed in blue; points about Ridesharing and STR's will be listed in green.]
  • We've never seen a day when this many issues related to local government accountability were heard in a day; this is new.
  • In terms of obvious storms on the macroeconomic horizion, the property tax system in Texas (alongside local government debt) is the equivalent of the national debt in term of predictable problems on the short to medium term horizon.  Texans currently pay the highest property taxes of any state without an income tax.  This is a high priority mess that needs to be addressed before it bites us in the backside.
  • On the TNC issue, Don Huffines' bill (SB 113) is the only bill up today that will pre-empt the next round of regulatory challenges related to ground transportation and new technology.  That's why we testified in favor of it.  Nevertheless, we can count votes and Charles Schwertner's bill represents a significant step forward from the status quo.
  • Additionally, the property tax system as it currently exists is the mother's milk that feeds all sorts of other corruption in the legislature.
  • As we have previously discussed; Senator Bettencourt confessed to several good reasons why SB 2 (the property tax relief bill) doesn't go nearly far enough.  Under questioning from other Senators, he repeatedly admitted that the bill does not amount to a revenue cap, and he also admits local jurisdictions will still be able to raise taxes close to 10% without an election.  Nevertheless, this is a significant step in the right direction and see our previous comment about counting votes.
  • Bettencourt's bill would rename the effective tax rate the "no new taxes" rate; this can only simplify things for the average taxpayer.
  • Bettencourt -- Taxpayers in Harris county often pay 10 taxing jurisdictions at a time.
  • Bettencourt too frequently talks in policy wonk language and goes over people's heads.
  • Actually, Bettencourt straight up talks too much.
  • Paul Bettencourt: We love you, and we agree with you, but shut up.
  • #TROXROX -- Texas less desirable place to invest because of Austin Ridesharing debacle.
  • Schwertner: Restricting mobility options is just wrong.
  • Kelly Hancock goes full trial lawyer on Ann Kitchen.
  • Committee took the black market that emerged in Austin after council kicked out Uber and Lyft to the cleaners.
  • Samsung's largest physical plant in the world is located in NE Austin.
    • Even with the incentives they receive, Texas' property tax system still isn't competitive.
      • Note: That's quite a remarkable statement coming from a big business.
    • Whitmire goes full Elizabeth Warren.
  • #TROXROX -- Rates should go down as appraisals go up.
    • Austin had an additional $50 million to spend last year even at "no new taxes" rate.
    • Austin budgets have consistently grown 7 to 10% even without counting 'exemptions.'
    • SB 2: "A critical tool that must be adopted."
    • First thing to cut would be new vehicles every three years.
    • Voted against bailing out library.
    • Kel Seliger tried to throw her under the bus and she threw it back.
    • No reason you can't hold cities and counties accountable alongside school districts.
  • #TROXROX: Several activists from outside the local area who'd never seen Ellen Troxclair in action before spoke positively about the degree to which she refuses to take crap (especially re: the exchange with Seliger).
  • They laid out but have yet to take testimony on the short term rental bill, but the short version is as follows: the degree to which the Austin anti-STR ordinance creates new police powers out of thin air is creepy.
Bottom Line: We'll include links to testimony and deeper thoughts at a later time, but the short version is that after decades of atrophy the Texas Senate is beginning to rehab their constitutional muscles as it relates to local government accountability.

Monday, March 13, 2017

anti-Innovation, anti-Startup, pro-Incumbent Texas Association of Business broadcasts Willful Economic Blindness....


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

The Texas Association of Business exists for one purpose: to protect incumbent industries from startups.  They have a long history of preaching virtue signaling claptrap as a cover for self-interested cronyism.  That being said, the degree of economic illiteracy they displayed under questioning from Senators Kelly Hancock and Paul Bettencourt during last week's hearing over the privacy act was a sight to behold:



Highlights:

  • Hancock: Did your [TAB's] board see this legislation before or after TAB took a position?!?
    • TAB dodges question: Our board took a position back in September.
  • Hancock: Did you take a position before or after this legislation was filed?!?
    • TAB answers with platitude.
    • Blah, blah, "workforce recruitment"....
  • Hancock: So you took a position without reading anything?!?
    • TAB: "Yessir, September."
  • Hancock: Do you often take positions on legislation without reading it?!?
    • TAB: Something, something "Yes, actually, every September prior to every legislative session...."
    • Author's Note: You can't start pre-filing legislation prior to mid-November.
    • Hancock: So the legislation itself doesn't matter?!?
  • Hancock: Can you tell me what the GDP of Texas is?!?
    • TAB: "I don't know off the top of my head."
    • Hancock: "Oh, come on, you're TAB...give it a wild guess Chris [Wallace]."
    • TAB: "I don't know the exact number."
    • Hancock: "Do you want me to google it for you?!?"
  • Hancock: "You're claiming you speak on behalf of the businesses of Texas, surely you know ballpart what the GDP is."
  • Hancock: "Can you divide [$85 billion] by [$1.4 trillion] and...tell me what it gets you?!?"
    • Bettencourt: "The right number is $1.7 [trillion]...but go ahead."
    • TAB: "My phone's off."
    • [CROSSTALK]
    • Hancock: "Dude, if I'm representing businesses, I hope my math skills would be better."
    • TAB: "One half of one percent."
    • Hancock: .005%
  • TAB reverts to talking points; something, something "keep Texas open for business."
  • Bettencourt: "Did you read this study before you quoted from it on December the sixth of 2016...did your board read and approve this study for use?!?"
    • TAB: "The board was never asked to approve this study..."
  • Bettencourt: First two 'laws' you cite weren't actually passed in their respective states.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2017 #TXLEGE Tesla Bills look MUCH Stronger!!!


"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:22

Yes, thank you:
Instead of looking to create any kind of carve-out that favors the high-end electric car maker, legislation filed Friday would simply allow any vehicle manufacturer to sell directly to Texans — bypassing the middleman dealers — in Tesla's biggest challenge yet to a longstanding state ban on the practice.

The proposal "will allow manufacturers of vehicles any weight, class, size or shape to sell direct to consumers," said state Rep. Jason Isaac, the Dripping Springs Republican who filed the legislation in the House. "It’s a simple, free-market bill to allow that to happen."

State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, is carrying the legislation in the upper chamber. He and Isaac filed their bills, Senate Bill 2093 and House Bill 4236, on Friday with hours to go until the deadline to submit legislation for the biennial session.

....

This time around, Tesla is hopeful the legislation is written in a way that assuages concerns that it is giving preferential treatment to the company.

"There are no carve-outs, incentives, subsidies, breaks or deals for any manufacturers here," tweeted David White, who has previously served as a spokesman for Tesla in Texas. "This is all about the consumer and it’s the direct sales model Texans have been asking for."

....

For Isaac, the issue goes beyond Tesla. He recalled having something of an epiphany after recently touring an Amazon facility in Texas and seeing robots zip around with pallets: What if similar technology could one day be used to haul containers up and down the state's highways?

"I really believe in the next 10 to 20 years we are going to see a complete change in our transportation system," Isaac said, "and the last thing I want is any barrier to that technology being available."
We read the bill here, and we can't find anything to dislike; read the full Trib piece here.

Bottom Line: Sometimes, when you have to wait a session or two you just end up with a stronger final product (Note: Something similar might be in the process over parental educational choice).  It might not be necessary, or right, but it's also reality as long as the roster looks the way it does.  This might be one of those cases.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Did Charlie Geren just do something...good?!?


"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."
Mark 2:22

Whoa, whoa, whoa...wait a second...what?!?
State Rep. Charlie Geren isn’t about to let Texas get left in the dust when driverless vehicles start easing their way into everyday life. Especially since car manufacturers need somewhere to test them and could one day need someplace to mass produce them.

“I don’t want General Motors, or Ford, or Volkswagen, or Uber or anybody going anywhere else because Texas isn’t quite ready for this yet,” Geren told The Texas Tribune late Thursday.

The Fort Worth Republican this week filed House Bill 3475, which seeks to lay the framework for driving autonomous vehicles on Texas roads. Geren’s under no impression that the technology is well tested — or well trusted — enough that Texans are going to be walking into dealerships and buying driverless cars anytime soon. But he wants to get the ball rolling so car companies can expand testing of the technology in the state.
The article goes on to detail objections from Google, who believe Geren's bill might slow the development of autonomous vehicles.  Then, of course, there's the fact that this is coming from Geren.  So trust is, putting it mildly, minimal.

So we decided to read the bill.  It's a simple, two page, bill that's not written in lawyer language.  Soo...it seems like a good start.

Also, we must confess that we LOVE this provision:
(c) A political subdivision of this state may not impose a local fee, registration requirement, franchise, or other regulation related to an automated motor vehicle or automated driving system.
In other words, Geren is pre-empting another shakedown from the Austin City Council "burdensome over-regulation" at the local level.

Some might object to the $10 million insurance requirement, and any insurance mandate would be less than 100% free market.  But, realistically speaking, it's difficult to see how a bill like this could pass without some form of insurance requirement.  All things considered, it's a surmountable hurdle.

Bottom Line: If it stays close to its current form (admittedly a big if) then Charlie Geren's autonomous vehicle bill seems like a meaningful step forward.

-----

Read the full Trib article here; read the bill here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

#TXLEGE: In typical Straus move, Sarah FRIGGIN' Davis to oversee abortion related budget subcommittee....


"Who plan evil things in their hearts;
They continually gather together for war."
Psalm 140:2

Joe Straus' commitment to defending preborn babies has always been...suspect.  While he's muddied the waters, and there's a stronger case to make against him on other issues, that discussion has never gone away.  This can only revive it:
Article II of the state budget appropriates state funds for various health divisions (i.e. the Department of Aging and Disability Services, Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of State Health Services, and the Health and Human Services Commission). From these funding streams, Texas Right to Life was able to identify and remove $62 million from abortion organizations, adopt strict funding rules, and increase funding to the Alternatives to Abortion program.

This legislative session, Pro-Life Texans must be even more diligent in watching potential funding of the abortion industry due to the person tapped to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II, State Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place). Davis is the only Republican who is openly anti-Life and endorsed by Planned Parenthood.

Appointed to chair the subcommittee on Article II by Speaker Joe Straus, not only does Representative Davis have an abysmal record on Pro-Life issues, she also scores poorly on all fiscal indexes. In fact, last Session Davis passed an amendment in the same subcommittee to undo Pro-Life language the Senate had written to ensure that Planned Parenthood did not receive state funding through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Such a record clearly indicates she is not the best Republican, out of 94 Republican members, to be chairing a committee tasked with overseeing Texas tax dollars.

Last week’s meeting in the Article II subcommittee showed a glimpse into Davis’ intent to secure funding for additional pet projects undermining the Pro-Life values of Texans. After testimony from a doctor praised the family planning program in Texas, Rep. Davis asked the witness about an exaggerated study attempting to blame Texas’ maternal mortality and morbidity rate (MMR) on the state’s efforts to stop state funds from going to Planned Parenthood. The study and Representative Davis’ position, seek to correlate decreased taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood to the study’s alleged maternal death rate.

The MMR study has been shown to be flawed in many aspects, including failing to take into account that states and countries throughout the world do not have a standard reporting apparatus. The MMR study also failed to parse how many maternal deaths, defined as death within one year of giving birth, were attributed to heart disease, drug use, and hypertension – the three leading causes of death for Texas women. However, such facts do not fit neatly into the abortion left’s deceptive talking points.

Davis’ interest and reliance on such a misplaced “study” further shows Texans she is bent on restoring taxpayer funding of the abortion industry in Texas.
Read the whole thing here.

It was bad enough that Straus appointed a pro-Obamacare spendaholic to chair the Appropriations committee; now that same spendaholic (whose own commitment to life is questionable at best) appoints the only Republican endorsed by Planned Parenthood to oversee the subcommittee that oversees Planned Parenthood's state funding (and no, the State of Texas has not defunded them).

Bottom Line: We've seen this movie before, but good grief...

Adler commits to "transparent and available" transportation bond implementation process...


"The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
Ecclesiastes 7:8

Confession: Given his recent support for Ellen Troxclair's "affordability road map," Mayor Adler is on our good side at the moment.  That being said, we asked him about a recent report about the implementation of the 2016 transportation bond at this morning's trib event.  Our question begins at the 42:00 minute mark of the video.

On a separate note, we thought this was the best performance we've seen from Evan Smith in awhile; he hammered the Mayor on ridesharing and short rentals.

Most of the rest of the discussion was standard company line:



Highlights:

  • Gives company line on Uber/Lyft.
    • "Competitive market"
    • Blah, blah "innovation."
    • Same old discredited spin about fingerprinting in NYC and Houston.
    • New companies "don't have the same reach."
      • Author's Note: No [REDACTED] Sherlock
    • Government and companies "need to work together."
    • "Innovative validator badge."
    • Blah, blah: "Innovating too fast"....
  • Claims innovative companies want to be here because of council policies.
    • Council policies = "Spirit and soul" of community.
  • Same tiresome "local control" argument we hear over and over again.
  • Long discussion of privacy act.
  • Long discussion of school finance.
  • Long discussion of sanctuary cities.
    • "City will follow the law" if it passes lege.
Q&A:
  • Gives company line on 2016 transportation bond.
  • Dodges question re: potential 2018 transportation bond.
  • 2016 bond implementation will be most transparent implementation ever.
    • Author's Note I: We shall see.
    • Author's Note II: If they want to come back with another ask in November 2018, they better have something tangible to show for what they already got by June of that year.
  • Gives company line on Short Term Rentals.
    • Evan calls BS on distinction between short and long term rentals.
  • CodeNext: Need more people living along corridors.
    • Need other population centers besides downtown.
    • Author's Note: See his 97% quote here.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    Bonnen hears (at least) SEVEN special interest carve out bills....


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

    In a world with unlimited bandwidth, we would read every single bill that the House ways and means committee hears.  We might yet bite that bullet in future weeks, but for now the captions are sufficient.  Fresh off of assaulting a colleague on the House floor, check out some of the gems that Dennis Bonnen chose to hear in the first week his committee is (finally) hearing bills:

    • HB 105        Metcalf | et al.        
      Relating to the exclusion of Internet access service from the sales and use tax.
    • HB 423        Wray                   
      Relating to the computation of cost of goods sold for purposes of the franchise tax by taxable entities that transport ready-mixed concrete.
    • HB 518        Darby | et al.         
      Relating to the retention and use of sales tax revenue collected by certain retailers to provide job training and placement services to certain persons.
    • HB 778        Ashby                  
      Relating to a credit or refund for diesel fuel taxes paid on diesel fuel used in this state by auxiliary power units or power take-off equipment.
    • HB 1108       Parker                 
      Relating to apportionment of margin from receipts from the sale of locomotives for purposes of the franchise tax.
    • HB 1169       Button | et al.        
      Relating to an exemption from the sales tax for certain items sold by small businesses in this state during a limited period.
    • HB 1346       Button                 
      Relating to the date for prepayment of taxes on a dealer's heavy equipment inventory.

    Tuesday, March 7, 2017

    HB 21: Textbook case of #TXLEGE Lawlessness....


    "For God will bring every work into judgment,
    Including every secret thing,
    Whether good or evil."
    Ecclesiastes 12:14

    Earlier today, we signed up to testify against the "school finance" bill in the hearing that was hastily announced immediately after the bill was filed yesterday.  But, in another typical move, Chairman Dan Huberty buried HB 21 behind six pointless bills in today's hearing and sitting around the Capitol all afternoon waiting to testify (when they're going to ignore us anyway) isn't our idea of a good time.  So we will say our piece in this blog post instead.

    For those who're wondering what's happening: yesterday afternoon, House public education committee chairman Dan Huberty introduced a bill to completely rework how the state pays for education (ie. one third of the state budget)...then called a hearing on it today.  That's less than a 24 hour turnaround, when state law usually requires giving the public five days notice (*).  In other words, this was a process rigged to benefit those already in Austin (**) (***) over stakeholders from around Texas.

    On top of that, in case you haven't noticed from the non-stop media coverage, today is also the day  the Senate is hearing the privacy act...aka. the most controversial bill of the session.  So, if you were ever looking to push a massively expensive bill under the radar, today would be the day.  And that's before the Obamacare "repeal" fiasco in DC got kicked off today.

    The short version is that, if passed, the bill would pour another $1.6 billion into the bureaucracy...but no one seems to know exactly how it would be spent.  Which is why, if you don't want anyone to ask difficult questions, you introduce this bill at the last minute then schedule the hearing while the other chamber is hearing their most controversial bill of the session.  And, of course, that's what they did.

    And it's such a typical example of how the House, under Joe Straus, is run.  Usually they pull stunts like this for much smaller items than completely reworking one third of the state budget.  But they're obviously feeling brazen.

    And the most pathetic aspect of this whole fiasco is that this bill is DOA in the Senate.  It can't pass.  But why respect an obvious political constraint when you can act like a spiteful, juvenile, thug?!?

    Bottom Line: One of the most important skills you can have in politics is the ability to ignore theater and focus on how you're being robbed blind; today was such a typical example.

    -----

    * - Note: Technically, Huberty relied on a loophole in the law.  But that's a distinction without much of a difference.  The result is still that they're hearing a bill that completely reworks one third of the state budget on less than 24 hours notice.

    ** - ie. Taxpayer Funded Lobbyists

    *** - Which was why we had originally planned to bite the bullet and testify.

    Monday, March 6, 2017

    85th #TXLEGE and Property Taxes: Some Notes....


    "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

    UPDATE (5:22 PM): Looks like we made a boo boo....



    With the Senate set to hear the property tax relief bill tomorrow having announced a date to hear the property tax relief bill, now is as good a time as any to write down some thoughts we've been pondering for the past couple months:
    • Senator Bettencourt's bill, SB 2, is a good start.  But it's only a start.  Lowering the "rollback" rate (ie. the rate beyond which taxing entities must seek voter approval) will begin to reign in the out of control spending in which local governments across the state love to engage; furthermore, making appraisal boards an elected position brings meaningful accountability at the local level.

      But it doesn't go far enough.  Local governments can still spend more than they should, they just can't go as far as they can under current law.

      Unfortunately, it's probably about as far as you can realistically get and still find 19 votes in the Senate and 76 votes in the House.  That's obviously pathetic, but it's also reality.  That being said, it's important to pass something tangible this session and Bettencourt's bill qualifies.  Sometimes, when a patient is hemorrhaging, the first step has to be triage.
    • Speaking of rollback rates, HB 15, Dennis Bonnen's property tax companion bill that was filed Friday...doesn't look entirely terrible.  Obviously, it's Bonnen, so trust is minimal.  That being said, if SB 2 and HB 15 can pass their respective chambers close to their current forms, the conference committee will be a productive discussion.
    • There are several bills related to various aspects of the appraisal system; pretty much any would be welcome...but we only have the bandwidth to track so many bills.
    • But getting a better rollback rate (and a better appraisal system) is only relief, it doesn't fix the problem.  The more we've studied this issue, the more we've become convinced that no parts of the current system are worth saving and that property taxes should be scrapped in their entirety.  HB 1050, by Valoree Swanson, is the vehicle for that objective.

      Nothing can change the fact that property taxes siphon capital into nonproductive uses.  To the degree that government needs (Note: SIGNIFICANTLY less) revenue to deliver core services, that revenue should be derived from sales taxes.  Furthermore, the property tax system is the mothers milk that feeds all sorts of other corruption in the legislature.

      The problem is political: we're nowhere close, in either chamber, to getting the votes that we need to pass a bill like HB 1050.  Indeed, HB 1050 has yet to even be referred to committee. Eliminating property taxes will be a multiple session process.  To be honest, we'd be content with HB 1050 simply getting a hearing this session.  That being said, kudos to Valoree Swanson for starting the conversation.
    Bottom Line: For the 85th Texas Legislature to qualify as a good session on property taxes, the bare minimum is for the Governor to sign SB 2 (in its current form) into law and at least a hearing on HB 1050....

    Saturday, March 4, 2017

    #ATXCouncil "indefinitely postpones" cost of living relief....


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

    [Author's Note: The Statesman has a cynical, though plausible, analysis of the politics here.]

    In what can only be described as a crying shame, on Thursday a 6 to 5 majority on the Austin City Council voted to "indefinitely postpone" council member Ellen Troxclair's proposed affordability action plan.  The vote doesn't kill the action outright (why would they have the guts to do that?!?), but it does take the planning process back to square one.  That being said, absent a public backlash, it's hard to see how this returns in anything resembling its current form.

    The plan, in which Troxclair was joined by council members Flannigan, Houston, Kitchen, and Mayor Adler, had at least twenty components.  We'll include a PDF of the full proposal below this write up, but suffice to say that it reflected individual priorities voiced over the years by each of the five co-sponsors.  From our perspective, tangible metrics for aggressive housing construction, simplification of permitting, biennial performance reviews for all city departments (how are they not doing this already?!?), creation of a "no tax increase" option for council during budget season, creation of a similar "no rate or fee increase" option for city utilities, ensuring projects from the 2016 transportation bond are completed on time and on budget, and a fair regulatory environment for mobility service providers (ie. starting with, but not limited to, Uber and Lyft) packed the biggest punch.  As a team effort from five individual council members it wasn't perfect, and there were a few things in there that we're not crazy about, but it was nevertheless a significant step forward.

    The initiative was supported by a diverse array of community partners, including the Independent Business Alliance, the NAACP, the Austin Tech Council, the Hispanic Contractors association, the Real Estate council, and Goodwill industries (yes, THAT Goodwill).  Not that we're always crazy about their priorities, but even the Austin Chamber of Commerce supported this approach.  When are the Independent Business Alliance and the NAACP ever on the same side of anything?!?

    We didn't keep a tally during public testimony, but our informal guess is that it ran 2 to 1 in favor.  Space limitations make it impossible to catalog everything, but a few moments stood out.  The CEO of Kerby Lane cafe discussed how it's becoming prohibitively difficult to open restaurants in Austin because the majority of employees can only afford to live in (*shudder*) Williamson county.  The representative from Goodwill pointed out that, even if we don't agree on all the specifics, getting this diverse of a coalition to support a measure was significant in and of itself.  Personally, we were struck by a slide from a representative of the real estate industry that showed house prices have nearly tripled in the past decade.  From the opponents, we were struck by a gentleman named Gus Pena who protested that the plan didn't do enough for the homeless while overlooking that it would produce significantly more housing.

    During dais discussion, Council member Garza passed the buck to Austin ISD and the state over robin hood; she's not exactly wrong, but her point is irrelevant as long as the city refuses to take care of business in its' own area of jurisdiction.  Pio Renteria offered hyperbole about laying off police officers while similarly refusing to accept the city's share of responsibility.  Greg Casar at least had the courage of his convictions to advocate for a housing bond and "workforce development programs" for "low and moderate wage workers."  On the one hand, we appreciate Council member Casar advocating an alternative policy; on the other hand, we've taken this approach for decades, and
    the results seem meager.  If the last billion dollars didn't accomplish your goal, and if the billion before that didn't accomplish your goal (to say nothing of all of the untold previous billions going back to the 1930's)...why is the next billion is going to be different?!?  Furthermore, the city has had record revenues at its disposal every year of the 10-1 council and the idea that widespread budget cuts are coming anytime soon seems...far fetched.  In a city where the median income is less than $33,000 and the median city employee makes around $60,000 lightening the burden on the people paying the bills doesn't seem unreasonable.

    [Note: You can read a press release from the council members who opposed the plan here.]

    But (no surprise here) the cake was taken by Kathie Tovo.  Tovo spoke about all of the allegedly wonderful work council has done on affordability since she campaigned on the issue in her first (2011) campaign.  Unfortunately, by whatever metric you choose (housing costs, property taxes, utility rates) affordability has gotten worse over the past six years.  Perhaps the time has come to try a new approach?!?  To be honest, Tovo sounded a lot like UT Football fans making excuses for Charlie Strong in that she just "needed more time."  Well, similarly to Charlie Strong, there comes a time when you have to stop grading on intentions and start grading on outcomes.  What did Einstein say about trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?!?

    Bottom Line: Any serious attempt to translate "affordability" from a vague buzzword into tangible relief requires addressing housing costs, city spending/taxes, and utility rates/fees.  Thursday's proposal, while far from perfect, would have represented a significant step forward on all three.  Unfortunately, the council majority chose to protect privileged bureaucrats at the expense of struggling renters, local businesses, and homeowners.  Total missed opportunity.  It's a damn shame....

    -----

    Our testimony:



    Full public testimony/dais discussion:



    -----

    The full proposal:

    Friday, March 3, 2017

    Zerwas now floating Rainy Day Fund RAID....


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

    Oh HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL No:
    The chief budget writer in the Texas House on Friday proposed using $1.4 billion from the state’s savings account to pay bills coming due for a wide array of the state’s health and human services programs.

    The proposal from state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, would continue pay raises for Child Protective Services workers that state leaders ordered last year. It would also pay for renovations at the state’s aging mental health hospitals and state-supported living centers for people with disabilities.

    ....

    The proposal comes in the form of a supplemental budget, which would plug funding holes left by lawmakers in 2015. Most legislative sessions, the Texas Legislature does not fully fund the cost of state programs, so lawmakers must typically pass a supplemental bill to cover the rest.

    Zerwas’ proposal would also reverse some cuts intentionally made by the Legislature in 2015.
    Read the whole thing here.

    Bottom Line: No, no, no, no, no.

    -----

    Chairman John Zerwas: (512) 463-0657

    Following raw sewage, UT NOW pumping chlorine into Waller Creek....


    "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

    Late last year, we amplified a KXAN report about UT literally pumping raw sewage into Waller Creek; kudos to KXAN for discovering yet another gem:



    A pool at the Texas Swimming Center has been leaking water into nearby Waller Creek, the University of Texas at Austin said Thursday.

    Officials with the university say they found out about the leak early Wednesday, after swim center personnel found water down in the basement, running along what would be the side of the pool.

    Personnel knew the water there was unusual and soon realized there was a leak.

    ...

    Environmental Health and Safety managers admit they’re disappointed but call each incident unique and most importantly – rare.
    A few thoughts:

    • $25 BILLION endowment and they can't follow through on this level of basic maintenance?!?
      • Note: In his confirmation hearing, Regent Eltife specifically spoke about the need for the Board of Regents to be much more diligent in making sure the various campuses maintain existing facilities.  Because he's been on the Board for less than a month, we'll cut him some slack over this one.  But Regent Eltife specifically owns anything that happens after, say, the May Board meeting.
    • The silence of the enviros is deafening.
    • In a strange bit of irony, perhaps it isn't the worst thing in the world to pump chlorine into the water following two years of raw sewage.

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

    House Freedom Caucus outlines 85th #TXLEGE Priorities....


    "As iron sharpens iron,
    So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
    Proverbs 27:17

    The House Freedom Caucus held their first press conference this afternoon:



    Highlights:

    •  Matt Schaefer
      • First principles and the grassroots.
      • Coordinating with grassroots.
    • Jeff Leach
      • 89 days left in session.
        • Author's Note: Move we adjourn sine die.
      • Life #1 issue -- Support ANY bill that defends preborn babies.
    • Matt Krause
      • Religious liberty isn't just a Sunday thing.
      • Parental rights a guiding principle.
      • Defending anonymous political speech.
      • Ethics reform.
      • Reduce occupational licensing.
    • Jonathan Stickland
      • Unapologetically supporting constitutional carry.
      • No state funding for unconstitutional anti-#2A federal laws.
      • Elimination of gun-free zones.
    • Matt Rinaldi
      • Budget Reform
        • Constitutional spending limits
        • Eliminate corporate welfare.
        • Property tax reform
        • Elminate Margins tax
      • Parental educational choice.
    • Matt Shaheen
      • Coordinated and unified with grassroots.
      • Already had two conference calls w/ grassroots.
    • JoAnn Fleming
      • Texas should be leading on Freedom and Liberty.
        • Author's Note: LOL
    • Q&A:
      • Grassroots will be "force multiplier" when bills are in calendars.
      • Municipal debt subcategory of transparency component.
    Bottom Line: Our expectations are low, but this doesn't hurt.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    Huberty extends middle finger to GOP Platform....


    "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage."
    2 Peter 2:19

    House public education chairman Dan Huberty spoke with the trib yesterday.  We actually thought the event was going to be Thursday morning thus we didn't attend...which is killing us because we wanted to ask him about superintendent salaries.  Huberty's remarks speak for themselves:



    Highlights:
    • "I've worked the last 20 years to get here."
      • Author's Note: Dude, you should be more ambitious.
    • School finance fix will take multiple sessions.
    • Long discussion of Robin Hood...but it's not going away any time soon.
    • Parental education choice: "Can we move on to the next question."
      • "I believe so, yes" in reference to question about whether or not its dead.
    • Socialized education has "an accountability system."
      • Something something "no accountability, no taxpayer responsibility."
      • Author's Note: Deliberately obfuscates the fact that accountability in the marketplace comes from the fact that parents can choose to obtain services from a new provider.
    • Blah, blah, blah...MOAR SPENDING!!!
    • Something something 5.3 million children....something something "fix" the current socialized education system before exploring any sort of creative solution.
    • Long discussion of STAAR tests.  Huberty is not a fan.  Duly noted that Huberty wants to impose arbitrary government "accountability" standards on parental choice while gutting accountability for the existing socialized education system.
    • "Your responsibility as a chairman is to protect your membership" from taking a public position on an issue about which the voters care.
    • "I think that the [socialized education] system we have has produced fruitful results."

    McRaven cries UNCLE over Houston Land Grab!!!


    "There is a way that seems right to a man,
    But its end is the way of death."
    Proverbs 14:12

    Confession: We really, REALLY enjoyed this one....
    Chancellor McRaven ends plan for UT project in Houston

    AUSTIN – University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven announced today that he is ceasing any additional efforts to launch a UT project on land it purchased in Houston last year. McRaven’s decision was based on his concerns that the project was overshadowing the extraordinary work under way on the 14 campuses of the UT System and he did not wish to do anything that could detract from the advancement of UT institutions and their presidents’ visions. Consequently he advised the Board of Regents that any further efforts on the Houston project would be stopped immediately.

    “I accept full responsibility for the lack of progress on this initiative. I am grateful to the Regents, my System staff and the university presidents for their engagement over the last year,” McRaven said in a memo to Regents’ Chairman Paul Foster.

    “I also offer my deepest apology to those members of the Houston Task Force who selflessly dedicated countless hours to develop a bold vision for the future of UT’s investment in Houston. I am incredibly appreciative for their support and friendship throughout this process. While we will not implement this plan in Houston, I am confident that some of the great ideas that emerged from the Task Force will be worth considering on other UT campuses,” McRaven added.

    McRaven also recommended to the Board of Regents that the UT System real estate office develop a plan to divest the System of the land. Noting that it will take time, McRaven emphasized that the plan will be executed in a manner that protects the System’s investment in the property.

    McRaven thanked the regents for their support and expressed his enthusiasm for working with them on many opportunities ahead.
     We attended the media availability this afternoon and got audio:



    Highlights:

    • "Divesting" Houston property in "thoughtful, methodical process."
      • "Protecting our investment."
    • Goal was to produce an "Institute for data science."
    • Don't expect to lose money on property.
    • No timeline on selling the property: "The main approach will be to protect our investment."
    • "I was not able to develop a shared vision."
    • Threw in the towel the past couple days.
    • "I certainly think so" re: continued Board of Regents support.
      • Author's Note: We spoke to a source following the event who pointed out that McRaven signed a three year contract when he was originally hired...in which he is now in year three...which means there's a face saving way for them to get rid of him in a year.
      • Author's Note II: Just to be clear, the source to which we refer in the previous note never served on the Board of Regents...so it's not who you think.
    • "We are through with our expansion into Houston."
    • "I wasn't able to get the stakeholders necessary."
    • "Minor environmental issues."
    • "We've closed on most of the acreage."
    • "We're going to develop a plan and I'll submit it to the Board of Regents." re: selling the property.
    • They've spent somewhere in the mid-$20 million range so far.
    • Houston task force report being presented to the board later this week.

    Following the media availability, we caught Senator Whitmire at another event who told us "I'm very pleased" about today's news.

    Finally, this report in yesterday's Statesman couldn't have helped.

    Bottom Line: OUCH...............................................