Saturday, July 14, 2018

#TXLEGE: Teachers Union gives award to Straus


Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

The Association of Texas Professional Educators are the primary teachers union in the state and exist for no other reason than to demand MOAR MONEY for the status quo.

This speaks for itself:



Friday, July 13, 2018

Grandstanding Gohmert's Political Theatrics


"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."
Phillipians 4:8

We finally got a chance to watch the Louie Gohmert clip from yesterday's Congressional hearing:



Having now watched the exchange, we're struck by its phoniness.

Everyone's being insincere.  The Democrats are being insincere.  Strzok is being insincere.  But, unfortunately, Louie Gohmert is being obviously insincere.

This is not to excuse Strzok's conduct.  Strzok's conduct is reprehensible on both personal and professional levels.  But Strzok's personal conduct wasn't relevant in the context in which Gohmert brought it up.  Gohmert's comment was a gratuitous personal swipe designed to pander to Fox News.

Gohmert's comment accomplished nothing.  It hardens existing tribal identities without putting forward anything of substance.  The only people who should welcome Gohmert's comments are Fox News' advertisers.

Bottom Line: Cheap emotional catharsis might generate ratings for Fox News, but it'll rot your brain over the long run.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

#TXLEGE: Seriously, you can't find $15 million to cover this?!?


"Then Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe of many colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly."
2 Samuel 13:19

The awfulness of the system for reporting rape and sexual assault is a subject about which this author has only recently become aware.  Addressing it will be one of our top priorities next session.  In the meantime, this Texas Observer article about the rape kit testing backlog is a must read:
In Texas, about 20,000 backlogged rape kits were identified in 2011. Since then, lawmakers have passed a range of laws and provided new funding to address the backlog. All but about 2,000 of the kits have been processed. But new kits have piled up in the meantime, and there’s no comprehensive total of how many have accumulated. (A new law passed last session requires the Department of Public Safety to implement a tracking system for sexual assault evidence by next year.) With insufficient state funds, Texas lawmakers are now asking private citizens to crowdfund efforts to clear the backlog. A law authored by state Representative Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, last session allows Texans to donate to rape kit testing programs when applying for or renewing a driver’s license. The measure raised nearly $250,000 in its first five months, but a Dallas Morning News editorial in June notes that an estimated $15 million is needed annually to test kits; Neave’s program is expected to raise only about $1 million per year.
Seriously...$15 million?!?

That's it?!?

The state of Texas currently spends northwards of $127 BILLION per year; surely we can find a measly $15 million to cover something this important.

Heck, we could cover this amount simply by abolishing film subsidies.

Bottom Line: As far as the state budget is concerned, this is not a lot of money; we can find it if we make doing so a priority.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Turns out O'Rourke is just your typical Good Ol' Boy Texas Politician


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

We'd missed this story from when Robert Francis announced his candidacy last year:
Just weeks before Rep. Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (D., Texas) officially launched his Senate campaign, he sold property valued at over $1 million to a wealthy El Paso family that has donated thousands of dollars to his political campaigns.

O'Rourke, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, announced last month after weeks of speculation that he would challenge Republican Ted Cruz for his Senate seat in 2018. The previous month, O'Rourke prepared for the campaign launch by unloading valuable property that his family had owned for more than three decades.

The Imperial Arms apartment complex, owned by O'Rourke through Imperial Arms LLC and valued by him at between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000, was sold on February 27, 2017, according to legal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The recipient of the building was Patricia "Isha" Rogers, who has contributed thousands to O'Rourke since his first run for Congress in 2012 and has already given him $2,500 this cycle.

Also contributors to O'Rourke are Rogers's sister Dede Rogers, who has given $11,500 including $5,000 this cycle, and brother Jonathan Rogers, who has given $5,100.
Shady real estate deal between incumbent elected official and a campaign contributor...that's pretty Texas.

But here's the kicker:
"I've known them for a really long time," O'Rourke said. "Her dad Jonathan Rogers was mayor of El Paso when my dad, Pat O'Rourke, was county judge in the early 1980s, so I've known her since we were kids."
Exqueeze me?!?  Baking powder?!?

You're saying that the son of a former county judge (and current U.S. Congressman) made a shady real estate deal with the daughter of the former mayor of the largest city in said county?!?

Now THAT'S Texas!!!

[Note: This author hadn't previously known that Robert Francis' father had been County Judge.]

Bottom Line: Never, ever, ever forget that the primary political activity in the state of Texas is to grease the skids for shady real estate deals by the politically favored.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Liberal donations pouring into campaign getting fleeced by out of state vendors


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

Shot:
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), seeking to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and land one of the year’s biggest midterm upsets, is back in Los Angeles on Monday to raise campaign cash.

He’ll be at the home of actress Nancy Stephens and director-producer Rick Rosenthal for an evening reception, with ticket prices starting at $250 per person. Those who contribute $2,700 per person or raise at least $5,000 earn a spot on the host committee.

....

O’Rourke has trekked to L.A. at least two other times for fundraising events.
Chaser:
In 2016, Revolution Messaging was breaking fundraising records for Bernie Sanders.

Two years later, after a period of rapid growth that embodied the rise of the ascendant left’s “political revolution,” the award-winning digital firm is in a state of upheaval.

In interviews with 23 current and former employees, staffers described Revolution Messaging in grim terms: The firm, they say, is “in a tailspin.” It’s “spiraling.” “In crisis.” The work culture is “toxic” and “volatile.” There’s a “fear of retaliation,” “a lack of value for employees.” There’s “confusion,” “unease,” and “anxiety.” It’s “paranoia city.”

“People feel the ship is sinking.”

....

Before this month, the firm’s largest remaining client, according to former staffers on the campaigns team, was Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Last Friday, he left Revolution Messaging for a competing firm.
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That got us wondering.  So we checked Robert Francis' most recent campaign finance report.  Updated data will be available next week, but we have data through the end of March (aka. the end of the primary period.)

It was interesting.

[Note: The process of taking screen shots is extremely tedious.  So we only collected a relevant sample.  Each of these vendors has gotten significantly more than the screenshots we pulled.]

D.C. based digital advertising:


California based field team:



[Note: You've gotta be some kinda stupid to think you can win an election anywhere in Texas with an out of state canvassing team.]

D.C. based fundraising consultant:



We didn't feel like collecting screenshots, but it's also worth pointing out O'Rourke has several DC, NY, and CA based campaign staff.

And for all of these expenditures, how did O'Rourke fair in the primary?!?

Oh yeah:


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In fairness to O'Rourke, he does not seem to be personally living large off of the campaign.  While there are a few nights at high-end hotels, most of his accommodations are book through Expedia.  He's mostly flying Southwest.

-------

Bottom Line: Robert Francis appears to be a poor investment for anyone except a few vendors in locations far from Texas.

Monday, July 9, 2018

#TXLEGE: On property taxes, several good proposals.


"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

With property taxes once again likely to be a major issue next session, several good proposals exist:
  • The Governor's proposal -- Governor Abbott's proposal would require local governments to obtain voter approval before they would be allowed to raise taxes over 2.5%.  Furthermore, the governor wants significantly more ballot transparency for bond elections.  Finally, the governor wants to create super-majority requirements to pass bonds!!!

    Pros: Covers all forms of local governments (school districts, cities, counties, special purpose).  The ballot transparency stuff is something we've been advocating for years.  SUPER MAJORITIES FOR BOND ELECTIONS!!!

    Cons: Doesn't 'cut' taxes in a top-line sense (although, the resulting income growth will probably mean a bottom-line cut as a percentage of household budgets.  Difficult to pass politically (Because it's so wide ranging, invites wide ranging opposition).  Rural R's and their taxpayer funded lobbyists will scream to high heaven about the alleged costs of special elections -- BS argument but simple talking point.
  • The TPPF Proposal -- TPPF's proposal would implement a strong spending cap at the state level and use the resulting savings to "buy down" school district M&O taxes over time.

    Pros: Because you're giving Rural R's and D's something they want (more state level education spending), it's more difficult for them to oppose.  Because this would only impact school districts, other forms of local governments likely to stay on sidelines.  Direct cut to biggest item on most people's tax bill.

    Having the state pick up a bigger share of the education spending tab is also the simplest way to move from a property tax to a consumption tax.

    Cons: Because it only covers school districts, won't stop cities, counties, and special purpose districts from consequently jacking up their own spending.
  • The "Steve Toth" proposal -- During convention week, former (and likely future) State Rep. Steve Toth testified in front of the legislative priorities committee in favor of ABOLISHING APPRAISAL DISTRICTS and taxing properties at the price of sale.

    We didn't know this until we heard Rep. Toth's testimony, but apparently Texas appraisal districts cost taxpayers over $1 BILLION a year in direct operating costs; thus, in addition to the tax cut for homeowners, abolishing apprasal districts saves significant money on the spending side.

    Finally, as someone who regularly participates in the battles around gentrification in a major urban area...allow this author to politely, but firmly, suggest that a serious effort to abolish appraisal districts would be VERY well received in the African-American and Hispanic communities in the major urban areas.  Woe unto the Democrat who might oppose such an effort.  In light of the #WalkAway movement, this is a point to VERY seriously consider.

    Pros: The biggest potential tax cut of all.  Possible SIGNIFICANT political upside.  Basic Fairness.

    Cons: Impossible to predict the unintended consequences of a shock to the system of this magnitude
    .
Politically speaking, some form of the TPPF proposal is probably the easiest to get to the Governor's desk (although a serious effort on appraisal districts could take off like a prairie fire).

Bottom Line: It's way to early to know where potential votes may lie, but any of these ideas would be a significant step in the right direction.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Poll: 28% of Texas Voters Have "NEVER HEARD OF" the Sitting Attorney General


"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children."
Hosea 4:6

Mike Bacelice is an establishment Republican pollster.  He recently polled the November general election.  Most of the results were about what you'd expect.  But one ASTONISHING finding stood out:


Four years into his term, 28% of Texas voters have "never heard of" Ken Paxton.

How is that possible?!?

Love him or hate him [Note: Obviously, this website LOVES him], Ken Paxton is constantly in the news.  He's not a low profile Attorney General.  Yet, apparently, 28 % of Texas voters have "never heard of" him.

Furthermore, think about these numbers in light of the pending criminal case.  Obviously, this website's opinion about that fiasco are well known.  But it's still an opportunity for the general public to build name recognition.  Yet, even in light of the criminal case, 28% of Texas voters have "never heard of" Ken Paxton.

Bottom Line: If you want to understand why society is in the state in which it currently finds itself...the fact that 28% of Texas voters have "never heard of" a major statewide elected official would be a good place to start.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

#atxcouncil: Audit petition campaign is moving forward


"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
Leviticus 19:11

From the Texas Monitor:
A political action committee, Citizens for an Accountable Austin, is underwriting a drive that has gathered nearly enough signatures to ask voters on the Nov. 6 ballot if they favor an independent audit of all city government functions.

Based on the results of similar audits in several states, cities and school districts, Austin could find savings of between $150 million and $400 million, said Michael Searle, treasurer of the PAC and head of the petition drive.

Petition crews have gathered more than 17,000 signatures and Searle said he expects to present at least the necessary 20,000 to the city clerk by about July 10, in plenty of time for the names to be validated and to put the audit question on the ballot. Please see the blueprint for the audit here.

The idea of a third-party audit of city departments including the city’s energy and water utilities has long been popular with voters, including a level of bipartisan support unusual for such a high profile issue in Austin.

“Conservatives may see it as an opportunity to reduce taxes and liberals may see it as an opportunity to free up resources for important city investments,” Searle told The Texas Monitor. “There may be a way to do both.” 
Bottom Line: This is so desperately needed....

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

#TXLEGE: Trib's Midwives Article Illustrates Need for Medical Scope of Practice Reform


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

The Trib has a long article today about the role midwives could potentially play in alleviating Texas' maternal mortality challenges.  The whole thing is worth taking 15 minutes to read.  But here's the relevant section for policy:
In Texas, midwives must have oversight from a doctor before they can see patients, and physician groups around the country have lobbied state legislatures to block bills that would give midwives more autonomy, claiming they don’t have the required skills to handle high-risk pregnancy complications like postpartum preeclampsia or hemorrhaging.

In the United States, midwives can provide women with services such as contraceptive and nutrition counseling, prescriptions and labor and delivery care. They try to help women have low-risk pregnancies by assessing their health and making sure they can safely give birth outside of the hospital. They also help women prepare for natural births — giving birth without being induced or needing a cesarean section.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives has touted the benefits of midwifery, including reduced rates of labor induction, reduced use of anesthesia, lower costs for both clients and insurers and increased satisfaction with quality of care.

....

Kelli Beaty, executive director for the Association of Texas Midwives and a midwife in Midland, said most midwives believe Texas is a good place to practice but “there’s not a lot of mutual respect” between doctors and midwives. Building relationships with doctors can be difficult since many are not homebirth friendly, are wary of midwifery in general and territorial about the type of care they should be allowed to provide patients.

“There’s not a lot of integration,” Beaty said. “There’s a lot of areas in Texas that have populations that exceed the physician availability, so people are beginning their pregnancy care later and later ... there could be midwives who could fill in the gap.”

Licensed midwives in the state have also expressed exasperation about a 2015 legislative change that moved them from being regulated by the Texas Department of State Health Services to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation — the same agency that oversees laser hair removal businesses, electricians, podiatrists and tow truck operators. Midwives complain that the agency doesn’t have the expertise to properly oversee them, particularly when it comes to understanding various medical terminology. Certified nurse midwives are overseen by the state’s Board of Nursing.

Beaty said the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and midwives are beginning to work together to address some of those concerns. The agency held a series of listening sessions for midwives in recent months and is working on changes to licensing and the complaint review process.
Followed, of course, with the same 'health and safety' drivel you always hear:
Moss Hampton, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa, said he doesn’t “want to sound like I’m bashing midwives” because he believes they have a place in maternal health care.

But he said midwives don’t have the same level of training for independent practice as doctors and should have more clinical training. Licensed midwives must have at least a high school diploma or GED, take midwifery courses and complete a clinical apprenticeship. They then have to pass the North American Registry of Midwives exam to be licensed in Texas.

“There's just situations where the midwife maybe thinks it's better to do it one way than the obstetrician,” Hampton said, adding that doctors are typically the caregiver that gets sued if something goes wrong with a birth. “If the liability was spread equally, I don’t think people would be quite as concerned, but the obstetrician is responsible for the situation if something bad happens ... I think that’s where people get concerned.”
We've written before about "Scope of Practice."  The short version is that you allow non-physician medical personnel (eg. Nurse Practitioners, Midwives, and Physician assistants) to perform routine medical procedures that are currently restricted by law to licensed physicians.  This increase in the supply lowers costs while freeing up licensed physicians to care for genuinely medically serious patients.

The problem, unfortunately, is the so-called Texas "Medical" Association.  As stated above: Increasing medical providers decreases the cost.  The Texas "Medical" wants high health care costs.  That's how a cartel makes its money.

Meanwhile, Texas' politically induced shortage of health care providers (including midwives) continues; this is especially a problem in rural areas.

Bottom Line: This is a textbook example of an incumbent industry using the force of government to restrict competition....

Monday, July 2, 2018

#atxcouncil: Several thoughts following a DEEPLY Alarming meeting last Thursday


"A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."
Proverbs 28:16

We attended the late night/early morning portion of last Thursday's SUPER-marathon council meeting.  Several disturbing things occurred.  In chronological order.

-------

The Bond:

Troxclair says it best:


[Note: Ora Houston also gave strong remarks against the Bond, but she didn't pull the video.]

Highlights:
  • Regular people can't show up to testify at city hall.
  • Putting $$$ into subsidized government housing, at the expense of street repair, is a "strategic mistake."
  • "This bond is going to have a tough time in my district."
  • "The more bonds we pass, the more we raise taxes, the more people can't afford to stay in homes the already have."
  • "The best way to help everybody...is to reduce the tax burden."
  • Robin Hood arguments about school taxes are irrelevant as long as the city refuses to hold up its end of the bargain.
  • Voting No.
Obviously, she's right.  Subsidized government housing raises housing costs for anyone who doesn't receive a subsidized unit.  The mechanisms might vary, but it's an undeniable fact that this bond will lead to higher housing costs AND higher taxes for the average Austinite.

Unfortunately, that reality doesn't matter to advocates of this bond.  This is part of their national agendaLocal consequences be damned.

Worse still: The other side has a deep bench of socialist patsies to blockwalk and canvass.

In other words: This bond is going to be VERY difficult to defeat.  It can be done.  But it's going to take a lot more work, and require much more creative messaging, than previous bond campaigns.

-------

Eminent Domain for the Montopolis Negro School:

This is a land use/historic preservation case that's been percolating in this author's neighborhood for the past year.  We haven't been following it super-closely, but we were in the council chambers when they decided to move forward with eminient domain on Thursday night.  From the Statesman:
Unable to agree to a purchase price for the site of the former Montopolis Negro School, Austin will move forward with plans to take it through eminent domain proceedings.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Friday — in the 13th hour of a 16-hour City Council meeting — council members unanimously voted to file an eminent domain lawsuit against the owner of the former school’s property at 500 Montopolis Drive. The city has proposed paying $362,000 for the 0.85-acre tract of land.

....

Austin Stowell of KEEP Real Estate was unaware of the property’s historic significance when he bought it in 2015 and first proposed demolishing the building. He changed those plans to include preserving the schoolhouse as part of a mixed-use development.

“Should a building that’s being offered for private preservation be on the taxpayer’s budget list?” his wife, Stephanie Stowell, asked the council Friday. “Not only for renovation of the structure, but maintenance and future programming. If the city feels it appropriate to take our property away via eminent domain, we deserve market compensation.”

To seize property through eminent domain, the city must show that the property is for public use, that no other property could fulfill the desired use and that it will provide adequate compensation to the owner.

The city’s effort to acquire the Montopolis tract likely easily meets the first two requirements, said Bill Peacock, an eminent domain expert at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. The argument will be whether the city’s proposed $362,000 compensation, based on an appraisal, qualifies as a fair estimate of the property’s value.

“The problem with eminent domain overall is government agencies that don’t like the price someone wants for something in market negotiations just go to the fallback of eminent domain,” Peacock said.

....

The former Montopolis school is one of the last surviving structures among 42 segregated, rural schools that Travis County operated for black children when Austin schools refused to enroll them. Built in 1935 on land donated from St. Edward’s Baptist Church, the Montopolis school replaced one on Bastrop Highway that dated to 1891.
In other words, the city didn't want to pay what the property was worth, so they've decided to take it instead.

-------

Props to Caleb Pritchard of the Austin Monitor:

LOL, pretty epic:



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Economic protectionism in Medical Transportation Services:

This was a seemingly minor item that anyone who wasn't in the council chamber over another issue would have missed.

Item 113:
Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance on first reading regarding the application submitted by Republic EMS, LTD. for a non-emergency medical transfer franchise under City Code Chapter 10-2.
This was an opportunity to expand consumer choices in this sector; it would have made this heavily regulated sector modestly more free-market.

Unfortunately, council voted no.

Of course, all of the incumbent transportation providers supported and applauded council's actions.

**SIGH**

-------

Soccer Stadium:

They finally got to it...at about 1:20 in the morning.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose the current proposal.  But the biggest one is that Austin shouldn't allow itself to be used as leverage to play the stadium extortion racket against another city.  Yet, that's exactly what's happening with Columbus Ohio and the Crew.

We testified to such:



Highlights:
  • Against fast tracking stadium/for open bidding process.
  • Standard arguments about corporate welfare being bad.
  • Two really bad aspects of current proposal are deal-breakers just on the impact on Austin alone.
    • 80 year lease term
    • Long term property tax abatement.
  • "What really disappoints me, and what really leaves me just saddened by this entire process, is that Austin is being that scumbag city that is trying to steal someone else's team."
  • "What has Columbus Ohio ever done to us that we are trying to steal their Crew?!?"
  • The Columbus Crew are one of the iconic franchises of MLS and their fans don't want them to leave.
  • "I don't see why we should stab Columbus Ohio in the back."
  • The "business model" [Note: if you can even call it that] of MLS is a ponzi scheme.
  • There is a very good chance Major League Soccer will cease to exist over the next decade.
    • Note: Having had another chance to research it after Thursday's meeting, our suspicion is that the league will be in A LOT of trouble once its current TV deal expires in 2024.
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Bottom Line: Thank goodness they're not meeting for six weeks....